Life on the plains is unforgiving, and so is 1923: It kicks off the new year by killing one — or is that two? — main characters and putting bullets in two more.
An hour that begins with a happy homecoming and trip into town turns into a bloodbath, courtesy of the angry sheep herders. Kind of makes Spencer and Alexandra’s night fighting off lions and hyenas in Africa seem like a day at the spa in comparison, no?
Read on for the highlights of “The War Has Come Home.”
LOVE AMONG THE LIONS | Let’s handle the Kenyan portion of the story first. Spencer and Alexandra are all set up at the railroad camp. While he gets the lowdown on the spotted hyena that’s been attacking the workers, she’s waking up in their tent with a very satisfied smile on her face. After Alex dresses, she and Spencer talk about how breathtakingly vast Africa is; he mentions how there’s a spot nearby where he’s seen a child’s footprint from a very long time ago, molded into rock. “Show me,” she says.
So they drive out to the location, passing practically the entire cast of The Lion King on the way. When they arrive, they have a very cute conversation in which he asks her if he can call her “Alex” instead of “Alexandra” — especially because the former will be more expeditious in case a wild beast is heading her way — and she agrees, joking that his request was so long-winded, “I won’t hold my breath for a proposal.”
Spencer literally stops in his tracks as she clarifies that she means a marriage proposal, and she’s kinda joking, but he suddenly gets very serious, saying, “I’ll ask right now.” Then we get this delicious bit of dialogue:
ALEX| I don’t hear a question.
SPENCER | Marry me.
ALEX | That’s a statement
SPENCER | It’s a demand.
ALEX | You Americans are brutes.
SPENCER | Yes, ma’am.
They kiss, very wrapped up in each other, and I’m simultaneously happy for them and EXTREMELY worried they’re going to get ambushed by a passing hippo or something. And that fear proves warranted on the drive back to camp, when they’re gazing into each other’s eyes so lovingly that they don’t see a charging elephant until it’s nearly upon them. After some defensive driving on Spencer’s part, the creature knocks over the vehicle. Spencer manages to shoot and kill the elephant, saving their lives, but the car is toast. Spencer tells a dazed and bleeding Alex that they can’t walk back because it’ll be night soon, so they’ll have to do the next best thing: Take refuge in a not-all-that-tall tree nearby and hope no animal notices them before morning.
Problem is, as Spencer points out, the elephant’s carcass is tantamount to a “14-ton dinner bell,” and both lions and hyenas come in the dark to feast. Eventually, a lion notices Dutton and his lady, kicking off a horrifying cycle of Spencer shooting, animals dying and Alex screaming. In the middle of it all, a caravan of cars approach — help from the railroad camp. “We’re here!” Alex hollers, attracting their attention. The men help hold back the animals for long enough to get the pair down. “You will my fianceé?” Spencer asks Alex as they leave. “We’ll talk about it in the car,” she replies, sounding utterly DONE.
On the ride back, she confesses that looking death in the eye kinda sucked, and she doesn’t ever want to feel that way again. He says that used to be the only way he could feel anything… “until I met you.” GUYS, IT’S BEEN LIKE 48 HOURS SINCE YOU MET. Chill. She orders him to find a new job. Then they talk about how they’re going to have more sex when they get back to the tent, but they give themselves a head start right there in the backseat — much to their driver’s chagrin.
BANNER CREIGHTON PLOTS HIS REVENGE | Now to Montana, where Cara, Emma and Elizabeth are delighted to see that the men are home early. After their initial warm hellos, Jacob mentions to Cara that he’s got to go into town the next day to talk to the sheriff about everything that’s happened with Banner Creighton and his sheep herders. When she laments his leaving again so soon, he suggests, “Why don’t we all go to town?”
Over at the Creighton house, however, Banner returns and summons some friends to come to his aid. When his wife wonders what happened to leave him so bloody and horse-less, he mutters, “The f–king Duttons happened.”
The next day, the Duttons and their ranch hands clean up nice and take the buggy (and several horses) into Boseman. As they pass a storefront, they learn that electricity will soon be run into the valley where they live, and the women marvel at the washing machine and refrigerator that the salesman says can make their lives easier. I could write a book about how the men scoff at the idea of “convenience” but the appliances would largely make women’s lives easier, but we’ve got bigger sheep to shear in this episode. Just know that it made me extremely huffy.
Jacob visits the sheriff and gives him the lowdown on what went down in the mountains. The lawman expressly forbids him from any more impromptu hangings, saying they don’t need a range war with the sheep herders. “Range war’s already begun,” Jake counters. When he’s done, it’s too late to go home. So the Duttons all spend the night at a hotel… unaware that man across the street is clocking their every move.
‘I’M WORTH THE WAIT’ | Jack, Elizabeth and a bunch of the cowboys hit a speakeasy for some gin rickeys, bee’s knees and Charleston dancing. The night ends hot and heavy for the young, betrothed couple, who make out in the hotel hallway until she gently pulls away, saying, “I promise, I’m worth the wait” before ducking into her room. As Jack is panting in her wake, she apparently has a change of heart: She reopens her door, and he enters.
He finds her undressing near the window, and they both admit they’re excited and nervous before they get down to business. Though Jacob joked in the premiere about babies and timelines, it doesn’t seem like these two have, uh, tended each other’s crops before.
A ROUGH RIDE HOME | The next morning, Cara wakes to find Jake shaving in the bathroom. They have a conversation about how women shaving their legs is “all the rage now,” and it segues into her sharing her opinion that “greed will be the thing that kills us all,” but it’s also a sweet, loving interaction between people who’ve been married for 44 years and still genuinely care for each other. (Side note: His saying it’s a “pleasure and a joy” to listen to her babble was my favorite part.)
As the Duttons leave town, even though Zane thinks a few cowboys should stay with him and the buggy, Jacob has the cowboys ride on up ahead. So when the family travels through a clearing and suddenly comes under gunfire, they’ve got nearly no backup. Elizabeth is the first to get hit when a bullet rips into her abdomen; Jack is next, taking one in the shoulder. Jacob yells for everyone to get out of the wagon while he and John Sr. return fire.
What follows is chaos. Everyone but Elizabeth hops out, and she starts screaming when the horses spook and take off at a gallop with her still in the buggy. Jack rides after her and jumps from his mount to the wagon, getting those horses under control before anything worse can happen. He carries her to hide behind a boulder with Cara, Emma and the rest of the family. There’s more shooting — with Cara firing right alongside her husband — before Banner drives up in a car and pulls what I think is a tommy gun from the backseat. “I’m a man of my word!” he screams before he lets loose, hitting Jake and John as Emma and Cara run.
Zane and the cowboys hear the fighting and arrive in time to pick off most of the remaining shepherds, save Banner, who drives away. Cara runs to Jake and finds him bleeding from several places. Then Emma approaches and Cara tries to stop her from seeing John Sr.’s lifeless body, but she can’t. And that’s when Cara sees one sheep herder who escaped, limping away from the clearing.
She follows him with her gun; we’re back at the moment that kicked off the series’ premiere. He begs her to think of Heaven. She tries to kill him but needs to reload. He also tries to reload to kill her, but she’s faster. After he dies, she screams.
IS JACOB A GONER? | The non-wounded manage to get the wounded back to the ranch, where Jacob and Elizabeth are laid out on tables as their injuries are assessed. Jacob grits out that there’s no use in trying to save him — “I’ll not quit!” Cara cries — and stresses the need to bring their nephew back from Africa. “Spencer must come home now,” he whispers. “You get him home.” She nods gravely.
Soon, a doctor and nurses arrive and shoo Cara from the room so they can work. So the stunned matriarch takes paper and a writing implement outside and composes a letter to Spencer. His brother is dead, his nephew has been wounded, and by the time he gets the note, she writes, his uncle likely will no longer be with us. “This ranch, and your legacy, are in peril,” she writes. “Whatever war you fight within yourself must wait. You must come home and fight this one.”
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you think Harrison Ford’s Jacob is dead? Hit the comments with your thoughts!