Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deadwood recap - “The Catbird Seat” (S3E11)

The dropping: According to wikipedia, sitting in the "catbird seat" means having "an enviable position, often in terms of having the upper hand or greater advantage in all types of dealings among parties." Well, it seems like Hearst has that here: he's got way more gunmen than Al does; he's got ringers in to fix the sheriff vote against Bullock; and he's intimidating the hell out of Alma to get her to sell her gold claim to him. Al hopes the 150 secret Chinese laborers Wu has up his sleeve will help even the odds a little. And Trixie uses every weapon in her arsenal (and I do mean every) to avenge a friend.


Bullock is meeting with Sol and Charlie (and Trixie) at the hardware store to lay out the requirements for summoning him back from Sturgis, where he and Harry are shortly headed for campaigning – apparently Deadwood is a county and not just a camp? Al, having just arisen from his bed of fornication with Dolly, sees this assemblage of persons and is outraged that Bullock et al. would meet without him. He heads over to the hardware, sniping at the whore: “Just because I like you hefty doesn’t mean you couldn’t lose a few pounds.” Merrick accosts him en route with a new article to read: the article insinuates that Hearst was behind the attempt on Alma Garrett-Ellsworth’s life. While he is perusing the article, Al gets a telegram from Blazenoff, the subject of which pisses him off even further: the telegram is from Hawkeye, claiming to have already hired 23 guns who are on their way to the camp. Al doesn’t believe that enough time has passed for that incompetent Hawkeye to do such a thing.

At the hotel, E.B., still in his back room, finally wipes Hearst’s spittle off his face and vows to fuck Hearst up. And then, ugh - why are they wasting my time with these actors when this is the penultimate episode? I can’t be bothered with any of it.

Al and Jack Langrishe meet each other in the thoroughfare and Jack accompanies his friend to the hardware store. The group decides that any sort of further Hearst shenanigans will be enough to summon Bullock’s return. Uneasy, Bullock rides off to Sturgis. In the meantime, a new Pinkerton rides in to let Hearst know that his second batch of “bricks” has arrived. Hearst asks if the Pinkerton knows where to find the tent of “the man [he wants] killed first.” The man answers in the affirmative and heads off to do the boss’s bidding.

Aw, it’s Ellsworth and his dog! Ellsworth feeds the dog as he tries to figure out how to continue his dealings with Alma and Sophia. They are so cute (Ellsworth and the dog, I mean, not Alma and Sophia). I must say, however, that I DO NOT LIKE HOW OMINOUSLY THEY ARE FRAMED IN THE TENT OPENING. This show is amazing with story, rich dialogue and great characters, but subtle it ain’t. The dog hears something and looks to the back of the tent. Ellsworth looks too: it’s the goddamn Pinkerton, aiming a gun right at him. Ellsworth takes a deep breath (as do I), knowing what’s coming (as do I), and the goddamn Pinkerton shoots him in the head. Ellsworth falls to the ground, dead, and my heart is broken.

At the Gem, Al is trying to read the rest of the morning paper in peace but Merrick is hovering, hoping for more feedback on his article. Annoyed, Al tells him the article is plenty good and will do the job of irritating Hearst until he can figure out whom to shoot at next. Merrick asks if Al has any idea who that might be and Al says no, but he guesses they’ll all find out soon.

The folks are gathering in Sturgis, awaiting the sheriff candidates’ speeches. Jarry is there, keeping an eye on things. Harry makes note of all soldiers who are bivouacked in town; Bullock hears him, and goes to speak with one of the soldiers loitering about. It’s Sark from Alias/Adam from Heroes! So darn cute! Bullock asks him why the soldiers are here since there are no Sioux about. Sark/Adam asks if he should go find some and bring them back with him. Bullock is annoyed at not getting a straight answer and snarls, again: “Why are you here?” Another soldier (not so cute) pipes up: “We’re here to vote. Gonna exercise a franchise.” Bullock figures it out quickly: “They told you yet who you’re going to vote for?” Nope, not yet.

Back in Deadwood, a wagon is bringing Ellsworth’s body through the camp to Doc Cochran. Alma sees it and gasps, crying. She drags Charlie over to see; Al, on his balcony, also sees the wagon go by. Ian McShane’s expression here is just lovely: anger, concern and sadness, all in a split second. Across the way, a smug Hearst is noticing everyone’s reactions. Al hurries downstairs and tells his boys that Hearst has let his dogs loose - time to wire the sheriff. Charlie brings the sobbing Alma back into the Gem; she shouts that she wants her child and he runs off to fetch Sophia. “Oh, what did I do to him?” she cries, “What have I done to that poor man?” Al thinks they should go upstairs and get her a drink, saying, not unkindly, “You didn’t fuckin’ shoot him. And don’t be goin’ off into fuckin’ hysterics, okay?” This cuts through Alma’s shock and she is able to take his arm to go upstairs. I really like how Al and Alma interact together.

Outside, Trixie sees the wagon with Ellsworth’s body go by, her face screwing up with rage and sorrow. E.B. observes her from the hotel. She pulls her little derringer from her stocking and rips open her bodice. Breasts bared, she storms into the hotel and E.B. totally redeems himself for all his past weaseling. He absolutely gets what Trixie is doing: he understands that her breasts are bare so people won’t notice her face or the gun in her hand. He starts to make a fuss of his own, distracting Hearst’s men in the lobby so Trixie can get by them unnoticed.

Upstairs, Trixie pounds on the door, calling for Hearst. When he opens the door, she’s got her skirt hiked up and he can’t help but stare at her nekkid lady parts. As he’s distracted, she shoots him with her tiny gun, but only hits him in the shoulder – not the eye, as I’d been hoping. He’s still hurt and slams the door in her face. Upon hearing the gunshot, the Hearst lackeys rush upstairs as she comes down, unimpeded. E.B. continues his show, calling out, “Did someone interrupt your rendezvous? Did someone else attack him?” and Trixie gives him a grateful look. As she leaves the hotel, however, E.B. can’t quite help himself: “Cover those things!” Hee. She does cover up and drops her derringer into a water trough so CSI: Deadwood can’t find it. Crying again, Trixie goes straight to the hardware store where she insists that Sol kill her, saying she shot Hearst but she doesn’t think she killed him: “If you don’t kill me, he’ll do for us all.” Sol hustles her over to Al’s by the back way.

In Sturgis, the telegram makes its way to Bullock. He stops mid-speech, reads it, and heads out, barely pausing to snarl at Jarry on his way by.

E.B. runs into the Gem, shouting that Hearst is dead! or at least shot by Trixie’s hand! Al doesn’t for a minute allow himself to believe that Hearst has been killed. Indeed that man is not: he is walking wounded down the sidewalk, heading to Doc’s. Al and E.B. see him go by and E.B. says, “I’m a dead man.” “You ain’t gonna be alone,” says Al. Sol finds Al and tells him that Trixie is in the back room of the saloon. “Your idea, bringin’ her here?” asks Al. “My idea, after she did what she did. Was that your idea?” barks an anxious Sol. Al nods pacifyingly, “All right,” and goes back to see Trixie, greeting her with an affectionate obscenity. (Folks, now we’ve come full-circle because in the very first episode of this brilliant show, we were introduced to Trixie after she has shot a man with her little derringer and Al has to fix it. That time he fixed it with a boot on her neck, but I think he’s experienced a little personal growth since then.) Charlie rushes into the Gem with Sophia in his arms. As he takes her up to her mother, everyone follows him up. Soon there is quite an enormous crowd in Al’s office, watching Alma and Sophia cry.

Joanie and Jane checking in over at the school, but Martha can’t tell them anything other than Charlie came to collect Sophia. They decide to stand guard over the schoolchildren, just in case. At Doc’s, Ellsworth’s body lies there as Doc attempts to dig the bullet out of Hearst’s shoulder. Hearst is toughing it out with a bottle, wishing Doc would use a little less enthusiasm. Hearst tells Doc that he had no ill will toward Ellsworth (liar!) and that he suspected that the bare-breasted woman who shot him was likely some “baud” with an affection for Ellsworth who suspected him (Hearst) of murdering her favorite john. Seems like Trixie’s “distract ‘em with nekkid lady bits” ploy worked. When Doc finally retrieves the bullet, he recognizes it as one from Trixie’s gun – because, remember, he dug her bullet out of the head of the fellow she shot in S1E1.

Al is translating the situation for us. If Alma wishes to keep her gold claim, she’ll have to leave camp for her own protection (N.B. her near shooting and Ellsworth’s murder). However, if she wishes to stay in camp, she’ll have to sell her gold claim to Hearst so as not to incur further losses to family and friends. Then Bullock comes in and Al quickly brings him up to speed. Bullock rushes up the stairs to Alma, Al snarkily reminding him twice that the child is with her (“I fuckin’ heard you,” grunts Bullock). Jack asks Al if the sheriff mightn’t offer a reason to Alma to sell her claim to stay in camp. Al replies that “reason ain’t his long suit” and the two cronies have a drink. In Al’s office, Bullock gives both Alma and Sophia a big hug. Doc comes to report on Hearst’s take on what happened to him. He wants to talk with Alma so Al interrupts the tender scene in his office and Alma comes out. She sits with Doc and it’s a long scene that I don’t really understand in which they discuss about the purported circumstances under which Sophia was found. The gist is that Doc wants Sophia to be able to say goodbye to Ellsworth and Alma finally agrees.

Everyone else just hangs out in the saloon, then, waiting for whatever will happen next. Charlie doesn’t know what to do with himself and hovers uncomfortably on the stairs for a while until Jack makes an overture, offering him some whiskey. Charlie then sits at a table with Dan and Adams. They offer him a drink and tease each other a little, and thus bridges are built. Too late, of course, because this damn show is almost over.

As Alma, Sophia and Bullock come downstairs, Al’s brain is still churning. He reasons that if Hearst really wanted Alma dead, she’d be dead. Since her husband has been killed to try to force her to sell, for the time being – until she refuses Hearst again - both she and Sophia are probably safe. Alma comes up and shakes Al’s hand, thanking him. He’s a little discomfited but still gracious. He sends Bullock off to keep watch over Alma, saying that he thinks her life is safe but that Hearst will try to get her to sell. Also, he warns the sheriff against jeopardizing the “tranquility of [his] own hearth.” God, I hope Bullock listens. I hate the way he gets all moony over Alma.

Jack compliments Al on the dexterity of his machinations but Al says he wishes he had Hearst’s superiority at arms. In his hotel room, Hearst is watching out the window, noting that the camp is galvanized for action. He muses that he “ought not to work in these places. [He] was not meant to crush his own kind,” only to crush the color out of the earth. Well then, asshole, stop it! I am totally holding a grudge for Ellsworth. I loved Ellsworth.

A-ha! Mr. Wu has arrived to speak with Al. Al tells him that he wants Wu to go to Custer City and bring back the 150 Chinese men stashed there back to Deadwood. Wu is upset that Al has made him wait so long – he’s been ready for action for ten days. Al apologizes (!!) and promises to give Wu’s Chinese men guns so they can fight against Hearst. Wu thinks this is fantastic and heads off to Custer City, saying “Wu big man,” under his breath as he goes. The episode ends with a close-up of Al, having a drink at his bar, gazing out into the thoroughfare and pondering the battle to come.

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