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.