Al goes to visit Merrick and encourages him, despite the recent ransacking of his offices, to not give up his work. Joanie goes to Charlie to explain what had gone down between Wolcott and the three dead whores. It riles Charlie to, you know, BEAT Wolcott's ASS in the STREET. It is AWESOME! Al meets with Mrs. Garret, for the first time ever in the history of this show, and reveals Miss Isringhausen's true identity and purpose. Al and Cy call a meeting of the camp bigwigs, to discuss the Utter/Wolcott fracas, and how imperative it is to keep Hearst, via Wolcott, satisfied. They agree not to pursue Wolcott for the women's murders. (Mayor E.B. Farnum was left out of this meeting, to his extreme chagrin.) Al is thrilled that Cy seems to be losing control of the situation, and works on a scheme to keep it that way. Bullock and Mrs. G have a brief meeting, in which it is confirmed that he knows that she knows that he knows she's pregnant. Calamity Jane hits rock bottom, returning to camp after a bender in which she acquired a beating she doesn't remember. Wolcott uses Wild Bill's last letter to try and bribe Charlie for information about what Joanie knows about the murders. This show is going to be the death of me.
Al walks through a secret door into the upstairs level of Merrick's offices. "Did you know this fuckin' walkway connected us?" he yells down to Merrick, who is sitting among the rubble of his equipment. "Several of your patrons, in different stages of undress, have illuminated me," Merrick tells him. Al takes in the scene, surveying the wreckage. He asks what happened, here, and Merrick explains that because he posted, rather than published Yankton's notice on the claims, vandals have registered their objections by destroying his presses and "mounding" feces in the corner of the room. Furthermore, he gives Al the sad news that "the camp's new schoolteacher, a lovely woman, was so traumatized by what happened, that she left."
Al asks if it was Cy Tolliver who caused this to happen. "He didn't even trouble to deny it," Merrick answers, pitifully. Al wonders why Merrick isn't up and running again. Merrick tells him he's "in despair. The physical damage is repairable, but the psychic wound...may be permanent." Al actually looks on Merrick with what seems like genuine concern. He leans forward, thinking, and asks Merrick if he's ever been beaten. "Once," Merrick says, "when I thought I had the smallpox, Doc Cochran slapped me in the face."
As if to remind Merrick how that felt, Al backhands him across the cheek. Merrick looks up in surprise. "Stop it, Al," he says, quietly. "Are you dead?" Al asks. Merrick huffs that he's in pain, but that no, obviously he's not dead. Al says, yeah, he's not, and that he didn't die when the doc slapped him, either, and so, including this recent assault on his office, that's three "fuckin' damage instances" that didn't kill him. Merrick thinks on this.
And, here, sweet people, come perhaps the truest words ever spoken, put together in what might be my favorite scene ever to be shown on Deadwood. "Pain, or damage, don't end the world. Or despair. Or fuckin' beatin's," Al tells him. "The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you've got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back." With that, he stands and leaves Merrick with a serious look, and all the books in all the world couldn't lay out life's hardest lesson any more accurately. It's sad, but it's true, and if I said any more about it, I'd cry enough to fill the ocean with tears.
An absolutely grand piece of televised theater, that was. It left me breathless until I watched it for the second time and noticed that when Al says "three fuckin' damage instances," he actually holds up four fingers.