At the tent city that has sprung up around the railroad construction, someone's put up a makeshift sign: "Hell on Wheels Population: One Less Every Day." Just one less? That sounds optimistic, honestly. The city's inhabitants are dirty, their clothes ragged. Men, women and children stare at their surroundings with dead eyes. This show could save a lot of money by reusing all the zombie extras from The Walking Dead. Joseph and the preacher pull up in a horse-drawn cart. Preacher man says he's going to build a church there. Two ladies saunter up to him, their breasts jiggling over the tops of their grimy corsets. "Better keep an eye on your flock, Reverend. We do our own share of convertin' around here," one of them says. She spits at his feet and gives him a saucy smile. So... they're mathematicians, right?
In his well-appointed train car, Doc Johnson is having a meeting with a couple of bewildered engineers. They've drawn up plans that will get the Union Pacific Railroad built quickly, and in a nearly straight line all the way west, but Doc emphatically rejects their plans. He smashes one guy's head to the table as he explains the finer points of bilking and milking: "In case you hadn't heard, this undertaking is being funded by the enormous teat of the government. This never-ending gushing nipple pays me $16,000 per mile, yet you build my road straight!" Colm Meaney is chewing up the scenery like a wad of tobacky.
From there we journey to the railroad survey team in the Nebraska Territory. It consists of a half-dozen or so grungy men and one perfectly groomed woman with clean, golden hair and eyebrows fresh from the spa. She's probably also Vajazzled under those petticoats of hers. She looks out over the grassy hills. "This land, it's bewitching," she says with a delicate English accent. "It hasn't changed since Lewis and Clark first saw it sixty years ago," says a man sitting near her. She sighs. "Do you ever wonder if our work here will be the ruin of all this?" she asks. "Progress comes with a cost, Lily," he says. She thinks the land is more beautiful without people, but he reminds her that there are plenty of people around. They're entering Cheyenne territory, he says. He also reminds her that they had an agreement that she would head home once they got into "hostile Indian territory." She counters with the other agreement they had, where she had promised to stay by his side as long as he was sick. He coughs weakly and joins her side. They sit together on Exposition Hill, nestled against one another in the shade of Clumsy Foreshadowing Mountain. She tells this man, her husband Robert, that she'll leave if he goes with her. But they've worked too hard for this to leave now, he says. Speaking of hard, she smiles coyly at him: "Robert Bell, are you hiding something in your trousers?" They kiss and snuggle, but Robert begins to cough again before things can get going. Lily looks sad.