‘1883’: Full Recap of Season 1, Episode 7, ‘Lightning Yellow Hair’

by Jon D. B.

1883‘s Episode 7, “Lightning Yellow Hair” forges a strong bond for Elsa while throwing the worst nature and man has to offer at her family.

“The best way to know if land is truly undiscovered is to seek words to describe it. When you can’t, you know it’s virgin land. Untouched by our dirty hands. To see it is to be silenced by it. Made speechless by its endless uniformity… One must read the sun and stars like a sailor to navigate this place. We’ve seen nothing but grass for over a week. No grass, no birds. No snakes. Not even a lizard. And no evidence the human race still exists. But the plains are littered with bones.

“The dirty man of hand can go unnoticed in a city. because his dirty hand made the city. But in this place, where innocence is a mineral in the soil, the filth of our touch is an apocalypse.”

A week has passed for Elsa (Isabel May), her Dutton family, and their fellow pioneers since Episode 6. Texas is long behind. Now, 1883 rides on into Comanche land. And any travelers must pay a tax.

‘1883’ Episode 7: *Major Spoilers Ahead*

As the wagon camp settles into the plains, their cook (James Jordan), referred to only as “Cookie,” lays down the law of his cooking. His fondness of a certain four letter F word, however, stokes the fury of Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill) as she slaps the cursing right out of his mouth. It sets a lighter tone; but Episode 7 won’t keep it long.

Before it does, we see Elsa laying eyes on their Comanche stewards for the first time. And the younger indigenous man of the duo is as captivating as they come. This is Sam (Martin Sensmeier), and he takes a liking to Elsa as fast as she does to him.

After spotting her horse, Lightning, Elsa explains how he got his name – which leads to a race in front of the whole wagon camp. Wade (James Landry Hebert) is all about it, and shepherds the horserace, which Elsa handily wins by letting go of her reins and letting Lightning run free.

“I think you’re the lightning,” Sam smiles to the victor. “Lightning with the Yellow hair. That’s what I’ll call you.”

As for “Sam,” it is the name of the man who killed his wife. “So I killed him and took it.”

Pictured: Martin Sensmeier as Sam and Isabel May as Elsa of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The two bond over their lost loves – and their taking of the men that did it. Without thinking, Elsa cuts a long strand of her lightning blonde hair, giving it to Sam.

“You need a better knife,” he smiles, and gifts her his own beautiful Comanche blade for winning the race.

‘Are you happy?’

That night, Elsa and her mother share a tender moment as they try to sleep beneath the open sky. “Are you happy?” Elsa asks Margaret. The matriarch is not happy with their journey, not at all, but “in this moment” with her family, she says, “I am very happy.”

As Elsa ponders the clouds above, Sam braids a gift from her hair. He warns Shea (Sam Elliott) of the perils ahead, and the wars brewing all around them. Many bandits and an “angry sky” await Shea’s wagon camp.

“Take them to Colorado. Better for them there,” Sam tells Shea, something the old captain wishes he could do. But Colorado is not what Shea promised these pioneers. Or himself.

The Comanche move on to get ahead of an angry sky. And the cook has done the same. He knows better than to stick around. As for those left behind, “they’re going to have to get tough or die,” Shea tells Thomas (LaMonica Garrett).

As morning comes, James (Tim McGraw) wakes his daughter so they can get ahead of the storm. Elsa awakes to find the gift Sam made her: a horse figurine braided from her lightning yellow hair.

But there’s little time to appreciate it. The sky opens up, and a horrific storm blows in.

The Storm of a Lifetime

Shea frantically moves to get the immigrant pioneers off their wagons. James moves to unhitch all the horses to let them run free. And as they do – a mighty funnel cloud spits out a tornado, and all hell breaks loose.

In one of 1883’s most powerful sequences, a massive tornado ravages their company. Wagons are torn apart like straw in the wind. Elsa, Sam, Wade, and Colton (Noah Le Gros), try to beat the storm as she lets Lightning ride free. Sam hunkers their group down under a hillside, gripping Elsa close as she screams for her life. But as she clings to him, she’s overcome with the urge to kiss him. And kiss him she does.

The two share a wildly passionate kiss beneath the tornado, and as quickly as it came – the storm rolls on.

Rising into a new world with most of their possessions gone, Elsa smiles amidst chaos.

Amidst what’s left of the camp, James rises from protecting Margaret and their tiny son, John (Audie Rick). Thomas rises from Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) and her sons, but there’s not much to salvage. All but two wagons were lost.

Pictured: Tim McGraw as James, Faith Hill as Margaret and Audie Rick as John of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

In a heartbreaking moment, Noemi finds the mirror Thomas bought for her – but the glass is shattered. “We have lost everything,” she cries. But Thomas reassures her that they have everything they need in each other.

‘1883’: Bandits Run the Wild West

Elsa and Sam ride off to find their company’s horses, much to Colton’s lament. “I think I might’ve overestimated my appeal,” he laughs to Wade.

After the passionate pair find all their cowboys’ horses, Sam knows he must return to his people. With a smile, he rides off into the horizon, but not before he deems her “always welcome” in his land.

Afterwards, James finds his daughter. “I knew you’d make it,” he smiles.

The Duttons move to round up their cattle and horses. Success is found with the horses, but finding their cattle will invite a force every bit as destructive as the tornado.

The first tip towards the cattle comes as the cook returns over the horizon with his wagon. As he and Shea meet, he tells the captain that “six boys” are ahead rounding up the herd “about a mile back.”

“We don’t have six boys,” Shea growls. “We got thieves.”

He and Thomas move quick to gather their guns, and a full-on gunfight is on the horizon with James, Shea, and Thomas leading the charge. Elsa comes with, knowing the safest place is with her father.

Meanwhile, Margaret charges Wade and Colton with guarding young John with their lives. She then takes Colton’s horse to go find her daughter. “You guard my son with your life, you understand me?” she commands.

“Well, I see where the girl gets it,” Colton says of Margaret & Elsa’s Dutton fire.

‘Run. And Fan Out Wide!’

As Shea, James, Elsa, and Thomas find the bandits, Shea spots thirteen men. Outgunned, he tells their party to “Run. And fan out wide!”

Pictured: LaMonica Garrett as Thomas and Sam Elliott as Shea of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The men hunker down, drawing their lever-action rifles to pick off as many bandits as they can. But they’re surrounded, and Elsa finds herself pursued by three relentless bandits.

“I felt no fear. It simply became another race. We fear what we don’t know. I knew what would happen. I would win the race, or I would be killed. There was comfort in the simplicity of it. Even though I could hear hooves getting closer, I felt no fear.”

Sam finds her just in time, taking down all three men with his tomahawk alongside his Comanche brother. And Elsa knows she wants this man for her own.

Back in the dirt of the plains, Sam returns to fend the remaining bandits off Thomas, Shea, and James. But all three men get hit in the crossfire. In a gripping exchange, Shea removes a bullet from James’ hip by squeezing it out.

“Little souvenir for your son. The bullet that didn’t kill you,” Shea smiles.

Thomas has one in his backside, “a ricochet.”

“I think you used up the last of your luck, Thomas.”

But there’s blood on Shea, too, dripping down to his boot. He can’t find the wound. Thomas makes him turn around, and there’s a bullet hole in the front of his hat. A bullet grazed his skull, bloodying his snow white hair.

“Used up all your luck, too, Cap’n,” Thomas smiles.

Taylor Sheridan Enters ‘1883’ as Charlie as Episode 7 Wraps Up

In a shocking cameo, a rough rider and old acquaintance of Shea’s ends up fending off the last of the bandits. It’s show creator Taylor Sheridan himself as Charlie, a pioneer cowboy who’s out in the West “rounding up bandits and strays.”

He joins their party, helping round up what’s left after the tornado and outlaws. As they head back to camp, Margaret is still riding to find her daughter. She sees a figure on a horse, but it’s the last surviving bandit. “Gimme your horse,” he demands. But Margaret pulls her shotgun and shoots him off his horse before he can finish his next sentence. And she’s gutted by it.

“She wouldn’t speak when she got back to camp. Wouldn’t look at my father. Wouldn’t look at me. I heard her crying by the fire before dawn. I sat beside her and asked her what was wrong. She said she killed a man over a horse, and now John was the only hope our family has of reaching heaven.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell her there’s not heaven to go to. Because we’re in it already. We’re in hell, too. They coexist right beside each other. And God is the land.”