“This is our third day here, the longest we’ve stayed in one place since the journey started. One trait all animals share, people included, is no matter where we are or where we wish to be, if we’re there longer than a day, we try to make a home of it. But the plains are not for home building. Not enough resources. No shelter. The plains are for vagabonds, wanderers, and cowboys. Their home is a saddle. The sky is their roof. The ground is their bed. What’s lacked in material comfort is regained in the knowledge that they are always home. To them, the journey is the destination.
“Should they find gold at the end of the rainbow, they would leave it there and seek another; choosing freedom over the burden of the pot. I haven’t thought once of Oregon. No dreams of the ocean or snow-covered mountains. I only dream of the journey. That is all. No gold for me. Just the rainbow.”
Ready to embrace the freedom of her narration, Elsa joins the men to round up a wild herd of mustangs under Sam’s (Martin Sensmeier) command. The bond between these two grows stronger, as Shea tells her father “That girl’s starting to ride like a Comanche.”
But the look on the patriarch’s face is far from approval.
“That is a compliment, James,” Charlie (Taylor Sheridan) reassures.
It may be, but James already knows where this is going.
‘1883’ Season 1, Episode 8: SPOILERS AHEAD
Back at camp, Sam’s fellow Comanche laughs as Elsa rips her pants from riding as well as she does. Sam translates.
“He says you ride too good for white-man-pants,” Sam smiles. “He’s right.”
Elsa retreats to the Dutton tent to mend her trousers where her mother, Margaret (Faith Hill) teaches her how to double-stitch the rip. Her mother offers a dress as another solution. Elsa’s response? “I’d rather wear a bean sack than be choked by another dress.”
As they continue, a heated discussion breaks out between James and Shea. Charlie warns of winter’s coming, and Shea knows if they continue on into the thick of it he’ll lose every immigrant pioneer in his charge. His solution, then, is to change course or take them back to Denver. But James can’t believe what he’s hearing.
“That ain’t up to you,” he tells Shea, biting hard into the old captain over deciding these people’s fate without so much as asking them. But Shea would rather see them alive, regardless of the destination. James, however, sees them as free as himself.
“Do you want to go to Denver?” Elsa asks her mother. But Margaret knows there’s no changing his mind. And she knows that no matter where she and her daughter end up, it’ll be right back to “a woman’s role” in the 19th century; no matter what James wants for them both.
“You know why he lets you run wild, don’t you? He knows dresses are your future,” Margaret tells her daughter. “No matter where we go you’re wearing dresses and sweating over a garden. And raising babies, and swallowing every dream you’ve ever had. ‘Cause that’s all the world wants from you. We may find some place where we can hold the world off for a while. But they’ll find us there, too, and bring all their rules with it.”
Fates Change, Parties Split, Destinies Decided
As the day rolls on, Shea and Charlie have invited more Comanche to camp to trade. They’ll need more provisions no matter which way they head.
Teepees dot the landscape, and Sam speaks a Comanche woman on behalf of Elsa’s patched pants. She receives a full measurement and tailoring as her fellow pioneers trade to prepare for winter. But what’s made for Elsa outshines all else: a brilliant pair of lightning yellow chaps, Comanche tassels, fringe, and all.
“Got you some chaps!” Wade (James Landry Hebert) smiles at her. “It’s official, you’re a cowboy now.”
With this, Charlie says his final goodbye to Shea after a hearty lesson in “barbed wire,” the “twisted strands of wire with blades as sharp as a knife.” It’s the one fence cattle won’t cross, and settlers will soon carve the country into little rectangles. Then that freedom Charlie cherishes is gone, so he’s moving on; forever outrunning the shackles of society.
Back at camp, Shea gathers the immigrant pioneers, asking their leader, Josef (Marc Rissman), to translate for him. There, he lays out their new options: stop short in Fort Laramie or head back to the fertile valleys of Denver.
“No Oregon?” Josef asks. And every European’s heart is broken.
But Margaret and James aren’t having it. “We’re not stopping,” James tells her. Through this, he gives the immigrants a choice: follow Shea, or follow him. Sparks fly between the two leaders, with Shea furious.
“You’re going to kill them all,” he tells James.
Through Josef, the immigrants choose to follow the Duttons, and Shea walks off into the distance.
The Fates of Elsa Dutton and Shea Brennan
Lying in the grasses with Sam, Elsa is faced with a similar choice. Does she ride on with her family, or stay free with his Comanche people?
A short discussion is enough to seal her decision. And she chooses to stay. Elated, Sam takes off to offer something to her father.
“For what?” she asks.
“For you,” Sam smiles.
Before he can, he spots a herd of bison. “Buffalo,” Elsa smiles, and Sam teaches her the Comanche word for bison. “I teach you how to steal horses. Now I teach you how to hunt, Lightning With the Yellow Hair,” he smiles.
Elsa takes down her first bison, and Sam shows her the way of his people. Carving out the beast’s heart, he chants as she takes a bite from its heart. Sam does the same, and they are bonded. Their faces covered in blood, they return to camp triumphant.
“What have you done?” Margaret asks her daughter.
“I killed a buffalo,” Elsa declares through frightful happiness. But she’s not the only one who has to choose between what she’s always loved, and what she’s always wanted.
Shea returns to camp, asking Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) if he’s all packed up to leave as Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) watches. “Ain’t gonna do it,” Thomas replies. “I promised her I’d see her all the way to Oregon. That’s what I’m gonna do… It’s gonna be hard enough without you. I ain’t ever asked you for nothin’,” he tells Shea, “but I’m asking you now. Don’t leave us, Captain.”
Before he can make a decision, Elsa rides up, asking where Shea is going. “To Oregon, honey. With you.”
“I ain’t going to Oregon,” she replies. “I’m staying here.”
‘1883’s Dutton Family Faces Their Biggest Obstacle
At the Dutton camp, James and Margaret discuss their “feral” daughter, and the difference between being a “dreamer” like Elsa and James, and a “believer” like Margaret. As they do, Sam shows with a gorgeous jet black stallion.
“It’s for you,” Sam tells James.
“Why is it for me?”
James yells for his daughter. “Are you aware of what he’s asking?” She is, of course.
“Take the horse, daddy.”
Margaret won’t “allow it,” but Elsa reminds her she’s “18-years old.” Both the law, and she, say she can allow it. Elsa walks off into the night with Sam, and they consummate their union.
“I understood my mother’s worry. My choices made no sense in her world, where customs and prejudice rule where law cannot reach. There will be customs and prejudice here, too, I’m sure. But they were born of this world, and belong here. To import the traditions of the place you fled, the place that failed you, is to condemn the place you seek to the same failures.”
Back at the Dutton camp, Shea brings James a peace offering he know he’s gonna need; whiskey. They mend their differences over a drink, discussing both their fates and Elsa’s. Through this, Shea tells James he doesn’t trust the immigrants to survive, but somehow he sees this in James. He decides to travel with the Duttons, but it must be James who leads these pioneers. “I’ll guide and protect them, but you have to lead them.”
The two men agree, forging a new path together.
‘I Barely Recognize You…’
By the river, Elsa bathes in the waters and her own smile.
“I barely recognize you,” her mother tells her.
“I barely recognize me, and I’m happier for it. What’s the worst that could happen to me, momma?”
The two women discuss love, and Elsa does her best to persuade her mother that she knows what she’s doing.
“All I ask, without a ceremony, is say vows before God so this at least has a chance,” Margaret asks her daughter.
“He saved my life. Twice. He saved your husband’s, too. I don’t need God’s permission to love him. God sent him,” Elsa replies.
Through their discussion, we learn that Oregon is still in the cards. But not the same way by any means.
Decisions made, the pioneers ride on. Thomas teaches Noemi how to steer her horse while Shea does the same for other immigrants. Cookie (James Jordan) offers a lesson in food to the pioneer children, and Sam teaches James how to break in a horse using the waters of the river. Margaret gives her tiny son, John Dutton (Audie Rick) a lesson in “spirit,” something that remains to be found in 1883‘s 5-year-old that bears a sacred Yellowstone name.
And Elsa lies under the stars with Sam.
‘1883’ Returns to Reality
But it is time to say goodbye. For now. Elsa promised to see her family through their journey. Once it is complete, she will return to Sam right where they are now… In June. When the flowers bloom.
As Sam rides off with his people, Elsa’s heart pours out furious love for Sam. He is pulled to it; sparking a powerful speech through the language of his tribe. Their souls are now one.
Elsa returns to 1883‘s wagon train, tears rolling down her face.
“I felt their eyes move over me. Felt their pity and disapproval. And it meant nothing to me. The only thing that mattered was riding away. Just as I was riding away from him. As I pondered the new journey before me – making it back to him – they watched the tears run my cheeks. And I let them. I didn’t turn my face or wipe them away. Tears became control. Sobs and weeps are little surrenders. And I will surrender nothing to the pain. Tears may flow, but I will not weep. I am the wife of a warrior now. Which is to say… I am a warrior. And warriors don’t cry.”
“We’re wasting time.”
1883 streams exclusively on Paramount Plus.