Season Three, Episode Six: “A Rich Find”
Note: each writing will spoil the episode in review but will not discuss any future episodes.
The sheer dismissiveness that Charlie Utter utilizes to disarm and anger George Hearst, a man so accustomed to the world bowing to him since he became a rich man, is a joy to behold in the open scene of “A Rich Find,” the midpoint of season three. Charlie, a likable character, first prompts Hearst to introduce himself and feigns ignorance on who he is. (If you really want to piss off the important people in life, act like you have no idea who they are.) Charlie often calls him “George,” rather than the “Mr. Hearst” other people in the camp have so often said. In a final act of wonderful snobbery, Charlie uses the dead Cornishman in the cell next to Hearst to prod him further. Hearst upon release blatantly takes the knife from the dead man. In one brazen act, he says, “That’s my knife, I had him killed, and you can’t do anything about it” without saying a word all the while looking Sheriff Bullock spitefully in the eye. Gerald McRaney takes this episode to the next level by playing Hearst as more angry than he’s been since arriving in camp: his friend and confidant Captain Turner is dead, he’s been symbolically bested by Al Swearengen via that fight that caused Turner’s death, he was unceremoniously arrested in shame by Bullock, and he’s yet to buy the last gold claim of Mrs. Ellsworth so that he can turn the camp into a company town. And from the looks of things, Hearst is thinking of bringing in hired guns to get what needs done.
Speaking of Al Swearengen, he makes an early visit to the Bullock house (calling himself “Albert” once again; it has a hilarious ring to the ears!) where he again lets Bullock that the time isn’t right to go after George Hearst. Some of the best scenes of the series has Al meeting with others outside of the Gem, like Seth and Alma, a credit to such fully formed and fascinating characters. However, it’s unclear what Al has in mind in terms of timing, but he’s said this multiple times to various others. He does make the case that Hearst will be more well armed and ready after being insulted, which could force them all out of camp for good. No one wants that. Al then goes to coach Silas Adams on how to act towards Cy Tolliver, which basically is a deception wrapped in more deception — Silas is to act as though he knows more about the Bullock and Hearst arrest incident but he’s not willing to share that information; Silas is also to act that he won’t turn against Al. Charlie Utter makes the argument for striking first — a lesson he’s learned from years with Wild Bill — since Bullock has already drawn first blood in the war by taking Hearst to jail.
As for Cy Tolliver, his plan is to have Leon give Mrs. Ellsworth some particularly strong dope so that she overdoses and dies, paving a clear way for Hearst to own her gold. It would also pave a path for Tolliver to be Hearst’s top dog, perhaps with more money involved. So he takes the fact of Alma’s drug usage to George Hearst — clearly against Hearst’s instructions that they meet with Al’s subordinate as well, as the powerful man makes clear — but Hearst doesn’t want her killed just yet. He’s happy to have the knowledge, but his plans are more involved than her death as of now. That’s well and good for Leon in some respects because he’s already charged into the bank to let Alma know that he’ll no longer be her supplier. It prompts Trixie to confront him, with a small gun no less, and then confront Alma to let her know that she is very much aware that Alma is using again. It gets her fired (or gets her to quit, depending upon whom you believe), and Trixie takes the news of her lack of employment as well as Alma’s drug abuse to Al. Now that everyone is armed with the knowledge of Alma Ellsworth, she becomes an obvious chess piece for the remaining episodes. Hearst here espouses the classic trickle-down belief that if the wealthy and authoritative are served well then the results will flow down to the less fortunate. It’s bullshit, but McRaney plays the notion with such menace, who’s to say that they wouldn’t succumb.
The biggest plot thread that begins anew in “A Rich Find” hearkens back to the title of the episode when Aunt Lou’s son Odell arrives to camp. It’s an opaque arrival: first, it’s alluded that he may not be her son at all. Next, he somehow came to camp without having known that’s where she would be. He just appears. In all likelihood, he had a guess that George Hearst was mining in Deadwood and that’s really whom he came to see. As he hints at, he has been in Liberia and knows of large amounts of gold there. This immediately piques Hearst’s interest despite being pissed off that Odell has been welcomed in without his approval, and he requests that Odell dine with him. When Odell doesn’t come promptly for diner, some things emerge. Aunt Lou sends General Fields for him with a stash of money for Odell to leave camp soon. She’s in a panic. Even the mere mention of gold to George Hearst, apparently, puts a man in danger of death. Aunt Lou gives a knowing look as soon as Odell brings up the Liberia possibility. She scrambles to find her son before he meets with Hearst, but has no luck. He’s in Hearst’s control now. How many else will be?
The episode wraps with two intriguing and sad scenes: Bullock and Al are to ready the camp elders to decide their next moves — this, after Al decides to back off hiring guns from Cheyenne because he thinks Hearst will win and turn the camp into a forest — and Jane’s drunken state gets worse as she rants, raves, and vomits in the streets, emblematic of the decline of the camp to come. A lot of threats hover above the episode and some of them have to come to fruition. Jane, speaking to Joanie as Joanie helps her, ends the episode with a clear warning: “You’re putting yourself very much in danger, my friend.”
Danger definitely looms.
- E.B. has been used for everyone’s own purposes, but he does have some loyalty still to Al. He takes Cy Tolliver’s bribe to Al and lets Al know that he’s supposed to report to Tolliver on George Hearst. Everyone has an angle that they’re trying to play.
- It’s an odd and short aside that Blazanov admits melancholy to Merrick because the recently killed man reminded him of his murdered parents. What it does is allow Merrick to repeat one of the larger themes of the season when he expresses, “We are swept up, are we not, by the large events and forces of our times?”
- Note that the actors trope doesn’t appear in this episode and how much that improves the storylines.
- Richardson’s simplicity allows him to be an easy conversant with all other characters as Hearst finds out in this episode. When Hearst alludes to what Richardson knows of his arrest the night before, Richardson just says that all he knows is that his stomach hurt!
- Alma and Ellsworth’s marriage does not look promising, which is just plain sad.
- Okay, Steve’s indignant rants are getting a little much at this point. Granted, Michael Harney is giving a good performance, but we get it. Steve is ignorant and racist and awful. His use in this episode does little. Never was a more boneheaded statement made than when he tries to warn Tom to look inward for the answer to his problems! Plus, he does find out that he shares a last name with General Samuel Fields.
- Jane and General Fields’ pairing is always welcome.
- Also about Calamity Jane: another sign that she’s deteriorating is that she’s pissing herself even when not drinking. It’s a pitiful sight.
Quote of the episode:
Jane, to General Fields on if she should be seen with an African-American man in public: “Question I wake to in the morning and pass out with at night: What’s my popularity with my fellow white people?”