The dropping: It's pretty much all about William's funeral and how everyone deals with this tragedy in their own way.
Al is out and about, coffee in hand, when he catches a whiff of something especially foul in the air. It’s Li, burning the bodies of the dead Chinese whores. Mr. Wu is so upset about this - must be time to go see Swidgen! Al finds Bullock, as the sheriff is finishing building his stepson’s coffin. Swearengen apologizes for the intrusion (seeming pretty sincere about it too) and tells Bullock that Jarry will probably approach him today: “Even under the circumstances he may try you to confirm that we’re allied.” Bullock tersely agrees to advance Al’s cause. Inside the house, Martha Bullock is washing William’s body as Bullock brings the coffin in. He’s afraid she’s going to leave Deadwood and go back to Michigan.
Back at the Gem, Wu is complaining to Al about that dastardly Li but Al decides he is not going to get involved at this point. Wu is frustrated – more so than usual – and doesn’t understand why Al won’t help him. Al’s position is that if Wu and Li battle it out and Li wins, George Hearst (Li’s backer) will think that Al (Wu’s backer) is weaker than he actually is. Johnny tries to keep up but pretty much everything happening in Al’s office is over his head. I totally know how he feels. Al sends the boys out firstly to bring Li back for a meeting, and then secondly to keep Wu safe.
Blazenoff delivers telegrams at the hotel to both Wolcott and Jarry. As he does this, Trixie stops by to apologize (not in so many words) to Alma for pushing her about answering Ellsworth. Alma appreciates this but looks bemused and then gives a far too long speech to Sophia after Trixie is gone. I’m bored and not paying attention. At the Bullocks’ house, newly preacher-ified Andy Cramed has stopped by to discuss William’s funeral service. Bullock and Martha are struggling to even speak with him - keep the service brief, Reverend – and insist that the burial be private. From the window Bullock sees Jarry heading their way. He meets the commissioner outside, saying yes, yes, Swearengen speaks as one with me, now get the fuck out of my face (again, not in so many words). Jarry gets the picture and skedaddles off to the Bella Union where he convinces Cy to cash a check for $50,000 – the payment to Al for Yankton’s claim on the camp.
Trixie returns to the Gem to find Al in a foul mood because all the Gem whores are weeping and wailing over William’s death. It strikes me as a little odd that everyone should be taking on so about a boy most of them never knew. But the death of any child is horrible and the death of the sheriff’s only son would be a really big deal in a camp this small. Trixie asks if the whores can go to the funeral. Al doesn’t care. Trixie asks if he’s going to go. “What the fuck would I want to go there for?” he snarls. Apparently there are some issues with funerals in his past as well. Calamity Jane is readying herself to take a bath under Joanie’s watchful and insistent eye. When she finally gets in, she jumps back up: “It burns my fuckin’ snatch!” which makes Mr. Mouse and me snicker. Then there’s a hairy armpit shot as she sits down in the tub. Damn you and your historical accuracy, David Milch.
Jarry finds Al and Adams at the Gem, saying that Bullock gave Al his proxy. Al is nominated for an Oscar as he says, “And as his proxy, I don’t do business on the day of my godson’s passing.” Oh dear. Adams scarcely contains a double take on that line. Jarry is a little skeptical and asks if Al is stalling in order to hear a better offer from Montana. “Leave here with your ghoulish fucking thinking,” outrages Al, going on to insinuate that while he won’t take more money from Jarry to favor Yankton, he will consider taking other things (elections, political pull, etc.). Again, Jarry is quick on the upshot. Preacher Andy Cramed swings by the Bella Union and Cy, not believing that Andy is not running a game, gives him a serious front wedgie (ouch!) and tosses him out on the street. I’m bored with Andy and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – I miss the crazy-eyed Preacher from last year.
Dan and Johnny have brought Li to meet with Al. Al proclaims that there will be no more body-burnings and no fighting with Wu on this day of William’s funeral. Li agrees, claiming that he is a civilized man. Al gives the boys permission to go to the service themselves, muttering “what the fuck would I want to go for?” at Dan’s questioning look. Wolcott finds E.B. at the hotel and offers to buy it from him. E.B. flees to the back room and goes a little crazy, paranoid that “the cocksuckers think they can take away everything.” You know, E.B. hasn’t been given very much to do this season, has he? Next, we get some insight into 1860s death superstitions, compliments of Dan, Johnny and Trixie: a dead songbird is a harbinger of more death; wearing new boots to a funeral is bad luck; and pouring liquor at the threshold will keep out evil.
The entire camp has gathered outside the Bullock home for the service, everyone dressed in his or her most-presentable attire. Preacher Andy begins to speak and good grief, is he a terrible public speaker. I really miss the Reverend now. Plus he goes on and on, not keeping it brief. Finally, Martha can’t take it any longer and starts sobbing. She breaks away from Bullock and dashes for the house, tripping on her skirts and falling, getting back up and scrambling inside. It’s awful to watch. She runs to William’s coffin and stares at him for a while. Then, after collecting herself, she goes back outside and takes Bullock’s hand, whispering to her husband that she wants to let the camp folk pay their respects. Slowly, sadly, people file through the house, saying goodbye to sweet William. During all this time, Al has been watching from his balcony. When he sees his flunkies returning, he ducks back inside so they don’t realize that he was watching.
Oh, this is lovely. Alma, Sophia and Ellsworth return to the hotel. As Ellsworth carries Sophia up the stairs (can’t she walk? Jeesh!), she tells him that “me and Trixie” picked flowers for William’s grave. He gently corrects her, saying he thinks “‘Trixie and I’ is how it ought to go.” Alma is behind them and she speaks up, touching his hand, “Yes, Ellsworth. Yes to the question you’ve asked me.” Amazed, he simply looks at her and she smiles at him. Then Ellsworth looks down at Sophia and they stick their tongues out at each other. Dan, Johnny and Adams find Mr. Wu at his pigpen and tell him that Al wants to see him. Wu is still pissed from before and gesticulates that Swidgen’s going to have to come to him instead. But the boys have their orders and hilariously pick him up and carry him back to the Gem for safekeeping.
At the Bella Union, Cy notices that Wolcott is looking a little wild-eyed. Never one to miss an opportunity to stir up trouble, Cy tries to provoke him. Wolcott is holding as tightly as possible to his self-control, however. Jarry pops in and Wolcott relays that Hearst is expected at Deadwood within the week. Is this what’s got him so worked up? From the doorway of the hardware store, Trixie watches Sol drive the Bullocks up to the cemetery. He nods to her and she turns to lock up the store. A-ha! Just when I was worried about the kindler, gentler Al: he gives another monologue while he gets a blowjob from that poor chubby whore. This speech is about his epileptic brother’s horrible death and subsequent funeral. As the whore works away on him, Al pats her head and then, distracted, asks, “Did you dye your hair?” It’s extremely funny that she is able to nod “yes” while her head bobs up and down. It was nice of him to notice, though.
Back at the Bullocks’ home, Martha is folding and refolding the clothes she’s packed into her steamer trunks. Her husband comes to the door, staring intensely at her. “Whatever will let us live?” he asks (or says, he’s pretty monotone). Bullock takes both of her hands in his and presses them closely to his chest, murmuring, “As we are now.” She just looks at him but I think this means she’s going to stay.
There’s only one episode left in Season 2 and if Al doesn’t kill someone, I will be very annoyed. It’s still some of the best television I’ve ever seen, but all this politics, talking and scheming has been a little slow of late.
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