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

Down in the cut, the men are having a messy time of it. The trench is muddy and ankle-deep with water. Psalms, working beside Elam, says, "I'm gonna buy me a double hot soak! And liniment! And a bottle of whiskey that don't burn going down!" Elam can't take it anymore. "We ain't getting paid," he says. He drives his shovel into the ground one last time and leaves it there. He says he's going back to camp. Cullen rides up on his horse and tells him to get back to work, but Elam says he's worked for free his whole life and he's not doing it anymore. "Get back in that cut," Cullen says. Elam stands his ground. "Get down off that horse and put me back in that cut." Cullen looks tired, but gets off his horse, saying he doesn't want a "slave uprising." Everybody's stopped working by now to watch. Cullen, for all his Northerner wife's abolitionist teachings, is still stuck pretty firmly in his slave-owning mentality. He says, quietly, that Elam is a field hand who thinks he's a houseboy. This could have gone either way up until that point, but a line's been crossed. Elam's friend Psalms accused him of something similar not long ago, but it sort of had the opposite effect. That's why it's important to know your audience, folks! Elam challenges Cullen to a fight. Considering Cullen could hand him over for Daniel Johnson's murder at any time, this doesn't seem like the best possible move, but what's done is done. Cullen grabs him by the lapels of his vest and gives him a shove. All the various cut crews abandon the trench and rush over to see the fight.

So far, it's mostly just grappling and nobody's thrown a punch yet, but the jeering crowd catches Doc's attention. He excuses himself from his picnic. "Mr. Bohannon!" he calls out in a booming voice. Even in the grip of a brawl, the men have no choice but to come to attention. "I hired you to run these men to build my railroad, not to wrestle in the dirt with your former chattel!" Cullen explains that the lack of payroll is to blame. Doc tries to look innocent. "Who told the men there was no payroll?" he asks. "I did," Cullen admits after a pause. Doc shouts down to the men that the payroll is on its way and merely delayed. As for Cullen and Elam, Doc suggests they settle their differences after work in a "pugilistic match." Murmurs of approval go up among the crowd. Then Doc adds ten cases of whiskey to sweet the pot and the murmurs turn into raucous cheers. Cullen and Elam eye each other warily.

Now we come to the Men Getting in Touch With Their Feelings part of the episode. Joseph and the Reverend are en route to their meeting with Many Horses when, looking for a subject of conversation, Joseph comes up with, "I didn't know you had a daughter." "Well, now you know," the Reverend says. His tone doesn't invite further inquiry, but Joseph doesn't let that deter him. "Why don't you ever speak of her?" The Reverend says nothing, so Joseph presses on and asks if he really means to send her away. I hope the show lasts long enough for Ruth and Joseph to fall in love; that would test the Reverend's religious attitude towards Joseph. By way of answering, the Reverend says, "Jesus said, 'If any man come to me and not hate his father, and hate not his mother, and his wife and his children and his own life, then he cannot be my disciple.'" I'm no religious scholar, but I don't think Jesus meant you had to be an asshole to your kids. Just, you know, love your calling more. Joseph thinks for a second and then grumps, "I don't think I have enough hate in my heart to be a good Christian." Hee. While they've been chatting, a figure has been following them through the trees. A young man steps out in front of them, bow and arrow at the ready. Two others join them. One of them is Many Horses. "Black Moon," he greets his son. It's nice of them to speak English so we the viewing audience can follow along without subtitles. He casts a disdainful look in the Reverend's direction. "Why have you brought this man to our sacred place?"

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Hell on Wheels

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