Monday, February 11, 2008

Deadwood recap - “A Constant Throb” (S3E10)

The dropping: Someone shoots at Alma and everyone in the camp who we like rushes to her aid (by which I mean practically every character except Cy, E.B. and Hearst). Al figures out that the shooting was never intended as murder but instead as intimidation tactics and a scheme to flush two of Hearst's particular enemies - Ellsworth and Bullock - into the open. A message is sent to Cheyenne to hire some guns to try to even the odds. Best of all, we get to see the old Al again, the Al of action and not just puppet-master Al, as he ruins yet another carpet in his office while opening the throat of one of Hearst's Pinkertons.


Doc is tending to a petulant Cy, pissed off because Cy broke open his wound again when it was healing. Cy says he was examining himself for pus; Doc calls bullshit and I think it happened when he was intimidating Joanie Stubbs the other night. Jack Langrishe swings by Shaunessey’s boarding house looking for the woman who danced like a gypsy at his Amateur Night. He hires her into his theater company. Again, why are we wasting time with these actors with only two episodes left after this one? As it turns out, this other woman, Mary (Langrishe’s lover? another member of the theater troupe?) whom we’ve seen occasionally around camp, does not like that he’s hired this new girl and she decides to leave camp, upsetting Langrishe. Also, the other two women in the theater company don’t like the new hire much either. Who cares? Aunt Lou serves a meal to Hearst and Jarry; Hearst tells her he’ll let her know when the freight office has received Odell’s remains. Aunt Lou sort of grunts at him.

Meanwhile, Alma Garrett-Ellsworth is walking down the thoroughfare to open the bank for the day when suddenly she is shot at! One bullet hits in front of her and another hits the wall behind her. Both Charlie and Al rush to her aid, scooping her up and into safety at the Gem, telling her to “keep her fuckin’ head down.” Al orders Adams to stand guard at the schoolhouse in case someone tries for Sophia. He tells him to send Trixie to the Gem too. Hearst, Jarry and E.B. stroll out onto the boardwalk to take in the excitement. Looking over his shoulder at Hearst, Al assures him that Alma is fine and that this is not out of the ordinary – and Hearst himself is perfectly safe.

Al sits a gasping Alma in a chair inside the Gem and barks more orders: Charlie is to send a telegram to Bullock (who is off campaigning outside of camp?) asking him to return at once, but to use generalities otherwise “that maniac will come back shootin’.” Johnny shows Charlie the back way to the telegraph office. Al asks Alma if they might review the recent events in his office out of the interested eyes of the topless Gem whores (and anyone else who might be snooping around). Unable to catch her breath, Alma says that she needs to remove her corset. Al, with a gesture to said topless whore, says no one in his joint will mind that sort of thing. Alma visibly stiffens her spine and goes upstairs with Al.

Al pulls out the good whiskey and pours both of them a shot, hoping to snap the shocked Alma out of her daze. It works. Trixie arrives, looking absolutely gorgeous for a change – sleeping with Sol must agree with her - and Al leaves Alma in her capable hands. He sends someone to fetch Tom Nuttal and tells Dan, “Cheyenne’s off!” Dan is pissed (“Pack, unpack, re-pack!”): he’s all gotten decked out in his best clothes for the trip. Placatingly, Al tells him to send money to bring whomever he was going to fuck [in Cheyenne] here. Dan grumbles that “who I was going to fuck won’t come by coach – makes her puke.” Aw – does Dan have a girlfriend? Next, Al sends Dan to fetch Ellsworth, knocking him out and dragging him here unconscious if that’s what it takes to make him come quietly. Al doesn’t want Hearst (assuming that’s who had Alma shot at) to know that the attempted shooting had any effect on anyone.

In Hearst’s rooms, Jarry (ugh) is rambling on and annoying Hearst to no end with his weaselly sucking-up. At one point, Hearst even thinks Jarry is hitting on him – which doesn’t go over well at all. All this yammering is boring. I think Jarry is pretty much just saying that Yankton will back Hearst’s play. Hearst says fine, now go the hell back to Yankton and make sure the elections go the way I want. Hopefully that will be the last we ever see of that twit Jarry.

Joanie watches as Charlie relieves Adams in the guarding of the schoolhouse. She likes seeing him there better than Adams. After a bit, she and Jane go and relieve Charlie in case he’s needed elsewhere. They’re very cute, standing there with Jane’s rifle and Joanie’s little derringer. Richardson shows up at the Gem with a note pinned to his shoulder: E.B. wants to know what’s going on. Al tells the messenger to tell his boss “nothing’s going on.” Richardson thinks he can remember that. When Tom Nuttal arrives, Al says he figures they’ll all just hunker down for a while and pours Tom a shot.

Hearst is giving Barrett his orders: take Ellsworth out when he shows up all outraged at the attempt on his wife’s life, but keep the main force in reserve for Bullock when he shows up all outraged at the attempt on his former mistress’s life. Barrett says okay and leaves.

Back at the Gem, the fellas are brainstorming. Al thinks that this near-shooting of Alma was the same thing as Hearst setting Captain Turner to fight Dan: to scare people because if he’d meant to lay waste to the camp with his amassed forces, he’d have done so already. Dan thinks that this means perhaps he should actually go to Cheyenne to hire back-up. Al says no, he doesn’t want to fight 25 v. 4, Dan being his fifth and worth ten of any of Hearst’s men. The sheriff is “no fuckin’ slouch [with a gun] either, if he ever gets back.” They finally decide to send a telegram to Hawkeye (Al’s unreasonable distaste for Adams’s friend notwithstanding) to hire the Cheyenne guns. Al then decides that Alma should complete her walk to the bank to show Hearst she is not intimidated.

Ellsworth finally comes to in the Gem’s back room from where Dan put him, knocked on the head, unconscious and tied up: “What the fuck’d you hit me for?” Dan tells him the story, starting with, “Well, there was some completely no fuckin’ damage done gunfire taken at Miz Ellsworth, fore and aft.” Ellsworth freaks out, shouting that he’ll kill that cocksucker Hearst. Dan calms him, pointing out that Hearst’s shooter missed Alma on purpose to bring Ellsworth (and probably Bullock) running so’s Alma’s two men could be killed. As Al will put it shortly: Alma was bait, not quarry. I am impressed that Ellsworth can calm down enough to see the logic in this.

Al proffers his finish-your-walk idea to Alma. She is at first terrified at the prospect, but then comprehends Al’s point. I may not like Alma very much but she’s pretty fearless when it comes right down to it, I’ll give her that. She meets Ellsworth downstairs at the Gem as she gets ready to finish her walk. She requests that her husband join her later at the bank, asking him not to go after Hearst. Once again, he is no match for her. She walks out, head held high. Al and Ellsworth watch her from the Gem’s front door; Hearst watches her from his perch on the porch; the Pinkertons watch her from the boardwalk. As she makes her way down the thoroughfare, she is slightly comforted seeing Adams, Dan, Johnny, Charlie and Tom Nuttal all keeping an eye on her too from various vantage points in the camp. She makes it to the bank uneventfully.

Hearst is pouty about this and sends Barrett to Al with a note. The note basically says, in fairly innocuous language, that Hearst thanks Al for his rescue of Alma and he offers some of his men to help guard her until the sheriff gets back. After reading the note, Al invites Barrett up to his office while he composes a response. Dan and Adams trade teensy little smiles as Barrett goes upstairs.

They chat a bit, Al even bringing out the good whiskey. Barrett tells Al that he’s not afraid of him and that Al “don’t seem halfway like a halfway bad fuckin’ person.” But he still doesn’t want to talk about his employer. Fair enough, says Al. And, in retaliation for being called a halfway nice guy, Al proceeds to kick Barrett many, many times in the balls and stomps on his ribcage a whole bunch for good measure. Actually, it’s in retaliation for shooting at Alma, beating up Merrick and harassing Wu in the thoroughfare. Barrett becomes less than a bad ass very quickly once Al starts beating him: he tells Al that Hearst has wired for still more Pinkertons.

Then, for some reason, we have to see Cy “interview” and hire a new Bella Union whore. She’s fancy-looking and he is, as expected, extremely unpleasant to her. Why even bother with this scene? Let’s get back to Al!

Ah, now that’s better. Barrett is lying on the floor, whimpering, while Al has a drink. Barrett says that Hearst already has twenty-five Pinkertons here, twenty-five more are coming, and there are about 100 men up at Hearst’s mining operations, ready to move on the camp. “Before or after the elections?” queries Al but Barrett says he doesn’t know. Al places Barrett’s pistol on a chair next to the injured man and walks out onto his balcony, observing Hearst across the way on his own balcony, looking impatient. Al goes back inside and slaps Barrett’s reaching hand away from the pistol. He calls for Dan and Johnny and then, without ceremony, he cuts Barrett’s throat – lots of bloody and gargle-y sound effects (Mr. Mouse has to look away). Al goes back out onto his balcony and cannot resist poking at an agitated Hearst, telling the other man that Barrett had delivered his message to Al and then scurried out the back of the Gem, heading to Bismarck. Al puts it on a little thick and I think Hearst, not a stupid man, figures out what happened to his man. Al walks back inside, points at Barrett’s body and grunts, “Wu.” Dan and Johnny are wrapping the body in the carpet it is lying on, Johnny noting that “This is the longest a rug has lasted so far.” Hee. And no kidding: Al hasn’t done a spot of decent violence since S3E2.

Bullock comes galloping back into camp and finds Charlie working on the packages at his freight office. The sheriff wants to know what is going on; Charlie looks like he’s not quite sure how to tell him.

Oh lord. Normally I like Jane and Joanie together but now there is a nearly FOUR minute scene whereby Jane rambles and rambles about some stupid dream she had. I can’t even begin to tell you anything about the dream because I am so bored with it. Focus, Milch!

Sol has joined the Bullocks for dinner. While Martha serves, it looks as though the sheriff is having some sort of a fit. He is twitching and bulging out his eyes (more than usual), clenching and pounding his fists on the table, making little grunts and moans. Clearly, he’s trying to keep a grip on his temper over what happened to Alma. Sol again demonstrates his genius at managing his friend: he starts telling him about some reordering and restocking scheme he’s come up with for the hardware store. It does the trick, distracting Bullock and bringing him out of his fugue of temper. Martha looks gratefully at Sol then folds her hands, saying to both of them, “Let’s give thanks.” Bullock stares at her briefly before bowing his head.

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  1. I'm so glad you did these recaps - I'm just going through season 3 now, as they are being replayed nightly on HBO. I find that sometimes I miss something that someone else might have caught or better understood, so these recaps are great :) Thanks for doing them!

    I agree about the actors storyline too - much as I adore Brian Cox, the whole thing is boring and pointless though they probably had a much longer arc planned for these guys that they didn't get to go through with.

    I have to admit that I really liked the scene with Jane and Joanie though. Jane's dream was really about her realizing and understanding that all of the things she's ashamed about (the things that really make her hate herself enough to drink like she does) happened on days when she did equally as brave things, thereby counterbalancing her supposed cowardice. It was like saying that even though she has things to be ashamed of, she has just as many things to be proud of and that she shouldn't forget it. I've still got two episodes to go, but I'm hoping to see a small change in Jane at that!

  2. Thanks for reading (and commenting!), Brianne. It just breaks my heart that this show was canceled - there were so many stories yet to be told. I'm saving my pennies to buy the DVDs ... but I'm psyched to know that HBO is rerunning them!