Hell on Wheels
Bread and Circuses

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Tippi Blevins: B- | Grade It Now!
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Just Another Day at the Office

Previously: Elam took exception to Cullen calling him by his first name, rather than his surname as he does with the white workers. Elam made friends with the tattooed prostitute. The Swede extorted "protection" money from Sean and Mickey. Cullen chased down Sergeant Harper but failed to kill him. He blamed Elam because he's kind of a jerk. Lily hid the survey maps before she came into town, and pretended not to know whether or not her late husband had found a path through the Rockies. Cullen finally started acting like the boss he was hired to be after a shipment of black powder exploded.

Currently: Wes Studi's voice says, "It is good to make this sacrifice where the sun can look down and see you." Sorry, but I'm writing this recap at night. Oh, wait, he's talking about a Cheyenne ritual. A man in wolf fur leads a small group of men through the trees and onto the grassy plain. He waves a bundle of smoldering herbs. A young man in a loincloth and white body paint drags a felled tree behind him. "It is a great privilege to dance with the sun. The sacrifice will be hard, but you are strong and brave." The tree is anchored to a hole in the ground and leather straps are lashed to a fork at its top. "You will not give up, as I did not give up when my father brought me to this place." Wes Studi is Many Horses. He's wearing a feather-adorned buffalo head atop his own. He takes a knife, squeezes the flesh above his son's left nipple and makes a cut. The son takes a shaky breath but doesn't scream. I screamed a little bit for both of us. "Follow the sun all day and pray." The straps are hooked into the fresh wounds. "If you are strong and true, your sacrifice will be rewarded, and you will have a vision." The son leans back, the weight of his body pulling the straps taut. He shakes and prays under his breath as the other men leave. The haunting wood pipe music gives way to the twangy opening credits.

Remember that episode of the X-Files where the Jim Rose character was stringing himself up by the nipples with little fishhooks? He said, "If people knew the true price of spirituality, there'd be a lot more atheists." The guy in the teaser must be super-duper spiritual.

As Cullen makes his way through Hell on Wheels, everyone's uncharacteristically pleasant to him. Guys are smiling at him and tipping their hats and calling him Mr. Bohannon instead of Hey Asshole. Naturally, Cullen eyes all of this with wariness. He knows he's a jerk, so people being nice to him just feels weird and wrong. He walks along the track, his steps inadvertently synching up with the beat in the soundtrack. It's like he's a grumpier version of Tony Manero or something. Lily, waiting outside Doc's train car on a horse, smiles as he approaches. He tips his hat a bit, but keeps going. She clears her throat and he thinks she's chastising him, so he takes his hat off all the way and stops for a chat. "It's not your manners, Mr. Bohannon, it's your manner," she says. As evidenced by his blank stare, semantics are not his strong suit, so Lily explains why everyone's being so deferential to him: "Yesterday, when everyone was running from the disaster, you walked calmly in. You are their hero, Mr. Bohannon." She gives him a big smile like maybe he's her hero, too, but Cullen just looks about as uncomfortable as usual.

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Hell on Wheels

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