Season Three, Episode Two: “I Am Not the Fine Make You Take Me For”
Note: each writing will spoil the episode in review but will not discuss any future episodes.
A drunken hooplehead all but haunts Al Swearengen’s dreams — or, at least, keeps him awake — as the drunk stumbles outside Al’s balcony and mutters the title of the episode; he’s “not the fine man you take me for” due to wasting time and money. That doesn’t quite fit with the idea of Al Swearengen that we know, so it’s an odd thematic choice to have this as opening dialogue. But it is rough sleeping anyway for Al as he knows that George Hearst is bound to answer him in one way or another now that Al let Hearst know that only he, Albert Swearengen, controls what happens in his saloon. It’s an expected and reasonable demand from Al or anyone, but George Hearst is the kind of character that doesn’t take well not to being in control. He’s not the type of man some may take him for, perhaps.
What transpires, then, is an odd and perhaps too confusing cat-and-mouse between the two men. Hearst sends his Captain Turner, a gruff asshole sort, to deliver a drawing to Al at the Gem. It takes a second, burn Al surmises that it’s a picture of the Gem with marks to note where Hearst men will be stationed at some point. Letting Al know ahead of time allows Al to feel a false sense of power (which Hearst later uses against him), to get his revenge for unsolicited murder in his joint, and to make appearances that Hearst is willing to let it all go. In actuality, Al and Dan murder the pair who provoked and shot the Cornish worker the previous morning. Letting another two of Hearst’s men go gets Hearst to know the score. It also sends the message to Al that Hearst could’ve done more had he wanted. Like I said, confusing. The biggest point is that Al will allow the speeches to proceed that night, which shows us, the audience, that he feels he’s gotten his payback.
In Alma Garret Ellsworth’s new home, she lies bedridden. The Doc looks her over and informs her that she must have an abortion in order to live. Later with Trixie’s help, Doc performs the operation, but before he does, Alma asks that Seth be left with her affairs were something to happen to her during the procedure. Ellsworth, obviously offended as anyone should be, goes for Sheriff Bullock. Alma gives Seth the feeble excuse that she rather not have Ellsworth deal with Hearst if something happens to her due to a troubled past between the two of them (Ellsworth once rescued stranded Hearst miners in a gold claim that collapsed and Ellsworth noted shouldn’t have been dug in the first place). Bullock and Alma absolutely still have feelings for one another in case we didn’t already guess, feelings one would assumed were buried deep enough at this point, but who’s to say where it will all head with her whisper to him that she “regret[s] nothing.” The worry in Timothy Olyphant’s quick glance in the direction of her house when he hears of her struggles says aplenty, too. And in dealing with some of life’s mysteries, who knows what the experience of losing a baby will do for Alma and Ellsworth’s marriage that was only a marriage in name.
At the Bella Union, Joanie continues to check on the prostitutes and a recovering Cy Tolliver. Joanie breaks down, lets Cy know that she is depressed to the point of suicide — of course, she doesn’t use the terminology of depression in that day and time — but her life would lead anyone to such depths. She’s been sexually, physically, and mentally abused throughout her troubled past. Cy Tolliver doesn’t do much more than perpetually manipulate her. Now she’s rudderless, but she refuses to come back to her old life at the Bella Union, no matter how good she is at it and no matter how much Cy tries to convince her to stay there again. Who’s to blame her?
Luckily, Joanie does get a kind ear and some great advice in the form of Charlie Utter. In a beautifully innocent and well written scene, the two stand vigil outside the Ellsworth house (per Bullock’s request). Charlie tells Joanie that his old friend Wild Bill was a great man. She agrees in the little she had seen him. Charlie lets her know that Bill dealt with a lot of self loathing, too. This is a great example of how the people in day-to-day life deal with so much more than anyone realizes. Joanie and others would do well to keep that in mind. With her conversation here and helping Lila through an overdose, it’s likely she’s had a bit of a breakthrough.
The only thing that George Hearst seems to focus on is maintaining or garnering all the gold that his pockets can hold. In a blend of the final shots, Hearst has Al over to his newly installed veranda, which he “built” by smashing through his hotel wall. (Another example of just doing whatever the hell he wants.) Hearst reconfirms that Swearengen can certainly control the Gem Saloon — it does belong to Al, after all — but that he will not allow Al to say no to his attempts on buying out Alma’s large gold claim, second only to the Hearst operation. To pay for his refusal of help in the matter, Al suffers a damaged hand, likely losing a finger or two in the bloody process as Hearst slams a hammer on his hand while the larger Captain Turner holds Al to the ground.
It’s no wonder, though many questioned it at first, on why Gerald McRaney was cast as George Hearst. Hearst still has a certain affability despite the sinister power monger that lurks underneath. (More and more of the sinister side slips leading up to his final scene.) Note how McRaney has Hearst say to Charlie Utter in the hotel that it is getting warm. That doesn’t seem like a man who is evil. However, when he’s not getting his way, the evil of the man creeps through; sometimes without even raising his voice. McRaney’s gritted teeth and frustrated tone carry as much weight as any screaming madman would do and strikes as much fear.
For the first time ever, Al Swearengen is up against a foe that he cannot outsmart nor out play. He doesn’t even act accordingly when he’s told that Captain Turner has a gun on him, but maybe that’s too little, too late at the time. Overall, though, it’s a frightening moment for both Al and the camp as a whole. The disease of George Hearst, of unregulated capitalism, is fully in the body now as Hearst shows Al what seems like only a portion of his menace. No one stands in the way of Hearst, no matter what type of man anyone takes him for.
- Is that Seth and Martha actually flirting over their morning tea? I suppose it is seeing as to where it led.
- “Ask the fella made them X’s if he hires out for portraits,” says Al. That’s some vintage Al Swearengen commenting on Hearst’s bullshit game.
- Jane’s speech to the kids about scouting for Custer ends with a much better lesson than their notes from the previous episode: listen, and you won’t get scalped and don’t look at yourself too much in the mirror. Good advice for anyone.
- Granted, we are talking 1870’s medicinal care, but six weeks does seem like a long time to convalesce from any type of injury that’s not mortal. As it turns out, Cy’s bedridden state may have been in part a ruse, though a long one, in order to get Andy Cramed to shiver in fear (I say only to get Andy to be afraid because Cy doesn’t shoot him when he has the chance.)
- Whoa, boy. Playing the part of a Shakespearean fool, E.B. Farnum’s speech is little more than a few anti-Semitic jokes! Turn out the maniac Bullock, indeed.
- Speaking of speeches, Seth Bullock’s speech for sheriff, to a crowd who couldn’t care less, allows him to admit that even on its worst day, Deadwood is still the place he would choose to live. It’s flavored with a slight melancholic tone, which fits with his worries over Alma and the problems arising with Hearst. It’s only a matter of time before he and Hearst butt heads over Alma’s claim since Alma is now bedridden. As we known, Seth Bullock does not like being told what to do, especially by someone who is looking to best his former lover. (Cue the final image of Mr. Russell.)
Quote of the episode:
Al Swearengen: “Change ain’t looking for friends. Change calls the tune we dance to.”