Al, his injured hand wrapped in a bandage, is looking a little worse for wear. Trixie comes into his office to give him the latest news – including Alma Garrett-Ellsworth’s meeting with Hearst today, at Alma’s suggestion – and to badger him about turning into a recluse. Did Hearst get to him, she wants to know. Their argument is interrupted when the stagecoach rolls in, bearing a suited Mr. Wu, closely followed by a private wagon train. An British gentleman in fairly fancy clothes looks right up at Al and tells him, “I am barely speakin’ to you!” Al rolls his eyes as Trixie wonders who the new arrival is. He’s in the company of a fat, pretty woman (the mama hooch dancer from Carnivale) and an older fat woman – they must be show people of some sort. Hearst comes running out of his hotel to hug a fat black woman, also arrived on the stagecoach; “Hearst’s meals are about to improve,” mutters Trixie. Al sends her away with orders to keep reporting to him. She leaves, satisfied.
Alma is wrapping up a physical check-up with Doc Cochran. They are both thrilled with her rapid recovery but her mood changes from glee to paranoia much faster than usual. When he asks if she’s taking the medicine he left for her, she defensively insists that she poured it out. I think she’s lying. I think she’s using the laudanum again to dull the pain of losing the baby. We’re going to see Addict Alma again, mark my words.
Heart’s newly arrived cook is Aunt Lou, and she gives him a world of grief over his living conditions. They reminisce about how much they liked Missouri but, when he tells her that these hills may hold the richest find he’s ever seen, she figures she’ll do just fine here. Wu checks in with Al: he’s been to San Francisco collecting Chinese mineworkers for Hearst. Wu and Al strategize a bit and confirm their alliance.
At the Ellsworth house, Ellsworth and Alma are fighting because of her upcoming meeting with Hearst. He doesn’t like the idea at all, but if she’s going to go through with it, he says she should just set her price and be done with it: Hearst does not appreciate his partners trying to set terms. Ellsworth is referring to the contract Alma painstakingly drawn up. She won’t be dissuaded from meeting with Hearst, however, and her husband insists on accompanying her. This won’t go that well.
Jack Langrishe is the fancy British fellow who arrived this morning. He knew Al from back in Virginia but Al is still pretty cagey around him in front of other people. This cast isn’t big enough that they need to add more? Still, he seems like he may prove entertaining. The actor is so familiar looking – it’s driving me crazy. [Ah, yes: IMDB tells me he’s Brian Cox from only eight million movies (Rob Roy, Braveheart, Rushmore, Super Troupers, X2, The Bourne Identity etc., Red Eye, Zodiac )... no wonder he’s so familiar.]
Alma and Ellsworth arrive for their Hearst meeting. Hearst is charming, Alma is gracious and Ellsworth is tense, rude and scarcely able to control his anger. Things deteriorate quickly as Ellsworth starts to unravel. Alma reschedules. Down in the thoroughfare, Ellsworth tries to forbid her from meeting again with Hearst. Her spine goes ramrod-stiff and she brings her full snooty against poor Ellsworth. He doesn’t have a chance – she’s not about to let a man tell her what to do. I bet even Bullock wouldn’t have been able to.
Speaking of Bullock - he is interviewing two crying Cornishmen at Charlie’s freight office/jail: a friend of theirs fell into a mineshaft and died, having his legs cut off (I think – it’s tough to tell with their accents and it looks as though Bullock is having nearly as much difficulty as I am). The dead Cornishman was trying to organize the workers and these two fellows think Hearst’s men killed him on purpose. Bullock starts to make some connections: first the Cornish murder in the Gem, now this. He goes to the hardware store, slowly working himself into a fine temper about Hearst’s arrogance, and decides to put him on notice (whatever that means) for all the Cornish deaths. Bad idea, Bullock.
Trixie is at Doc’s and he questions her about Alma’s unusually changeable moods. He can’t finish the conversation, however, because he has a coughing fit and ends up spitting something nasty into his cupped hands. Trixie seems equally horrified, concerned and disgusted, but he sends her away. Upset, she goes to the hardware store and tries to explain her worries about Doc’s health. She can’t articulate her anxiety, however, and ends up snapping at the hapless Sol.
Al is giving Jack Langrishe the walking tour of the camp. When they get to the new part of town, Al points out Alma’s place as the residence of the second richest strike in camp. Jack wonders what kind of plays she favors (show people – told you!) and Al smacks himself on the forehead, “Christ, she told me and I fucking forgot.” He goes on to editorialize a little: “Goes through her men like Sherman to the fucking sea.” This makes both Mr. Mouse and me laugh and Jack raise an eyebrow. As they circle around, Al starts to get worked up about Hearst, ranting and railing about his nemesis. Jack stops him, pointing out all the staring campfolk, and gently says that this is not the initial impression he would like to make. Al bites his tongue and they part company.
Bullock’s meeting with Hearst is not going all that well. Hearst gets defensive quickly and Bullock gets all up in his face. Both these men have terrible tempers but Hearst just seethes with power. Bullock knows he isn’t going to get any further here and leaves; Hearst just turns his back and ignores him. Some time later, Hearst pays a visit to Cy who is apparently still too incapacitated to leave the Bella Union. Cy is really no longer actually scary but only obsequious. Hearst has complete control of their encounter and makes Cy his bitch in short order. I actually feel a little sorry for Tolliver and that makes me angry. I don’t want to feel sorry for him. Yuck.
At the Gem, Dan and Johnny try to pump Al for information about his “dandy” buddy, Jack. Bullock stomps up in full glower and grumps that Wu needs to let him have access to the dead body in the meat locker. Al asks if the sheriff tried to gain admittance; Bullock replies, “He just said ‘Swedgin’ [in a dead-on impersonation of Wu] and barred my way.” Al wonders, “Do you have eyes to make your own cut?” And Bullock glares at him, “Are you gonna fuck with me?” The camera cuts to Dan who is trying to keep from grinning. I wonder if that little smile was scripted. They move on and Bullock mentions the latest death in Hearst’s mine. Al doesn’t want to make a move on Hearst now but Bullock reminds him, “Now is when he’s killing people.” “Oh, you think he’ll leave off soon?” Al snarks. Bullock is steadfast, insisting, “Tactics and timin’ ain’t the issue.” “The hell you say,” grunts Al. I love-love-love Bullock and Al as allies.
Oh shit. Alma is headed to her meeting with Hearst. She apologizes for the earlier “awkwardness” between her husband and Hearst. He is charming … for about three seconds until she reads her offer to him. She offers him a 49% interest in her mine in exchange for a 5% interest in his. There’s a lot more to it but I can’t pay attention because Hearst’s visage has undergone a horrific change; he actually seems to grow bigger. He is furious and offended and begins to raise his voice to her. He is a minority partner to no one – it is not in his nature. He shouts that he will name a price to buy her claim outright but she stands, brave or foolish or both, and says she will not hear it. Actually, she’s pretty frigging amazing right now, to be opposing him at all. He is very scary. Hearst looms over her, threatening her. He drops his voice to a whisper and she almost breaks, but then he steps back and she skedaddles from his room. Outside, Bullock sees her in the thoroughfare. She looks stricken and stares at the sheriff, but says nothing and runs – actually runs – away.
Alma makes it back to her home and by then has collected herself. She recounts her experience but is all bravado. Ellsworth is beside himself. They argue – it’s awful to watch because he cares about her so much – and he mutters, “I only wanted to protect you.” She snarls back at him, “You can’t.” Emphasis on the “you.” Bitch. Ellsworth leaves, so upset. I just know he’s going to go after Hearst and I just know that when he does, Hearst is going to kill him.
The Bullocks are having another awkward dinner with Charlie and Sol. Bullock is concerned that Hearst will make a farce of the elections. Charlie asks what the sheriff is thinking to keep that from happening. “Laws,” Bullock begins, and Charlie interrupts, exclaiming “Christ!” He don’t want no stinkin’ laws.
This time, Cy goes to the hotel to meet with Hearst. Hearst is horrible to him, but does for some reason confess that his own temper today almost brought him to “murdering the sheriff and raping Mrs. Ellsworth.” He looks pensive and ALMOST a little sorry about it, but perhaps it’s just the lighting in the room. Hearst says that he knows that making himself feel better in the short term [raping and murdering folk] is harmful to his long-term interests [gouging lots of gold out of the earth]. Cy sucks up to him and it’s really disgusting. You know, this may be the role of Gerald McRaney's life: he is evil like he has never been before.
Al and Jack take an evening drink on Al’s balcony, Al staring balefully at Hearst’s rooms across the way. He tells his friend that he wonders about himself, why he hasn’t made a play to slit Hearst’s throat yet. When he goes on to claim to have no ambitions for himself, Jack cries bullshit and says that Al would work to keep the camp, his own creation, from ruin or “in cinders.” Al turns back to watch the thoroughfare, saying, “I will if I have to. Avoidin’ it, if I could.”
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