‘1883’: Full Recap of Season 1, Episode 9, ‘Racing Clouds’

by Jon D. B.

A catastrophic misunderstanding ups the stakes for 1883 Season 1‘s penultimate episode, creating one of the most gripping episodes in all modern television.

“I had convinced myself of the world’s ambivalence towards its inhabitants… Until I came to this place. This place doesn’t want inhabitants at all. Every plant is inedible. Every creek bed is dry. Though only September, snow covers the mountain peaks. Winter can’t wait to have at us. Can’t wait to join with the land and run us off or kill us. If land can have emotions, this land hates. It hates us. And everyone can feel it.”

Winter is coming. And as Elsa (Isabel May) watches the land revolt, so is its wildlife. A rattlesnake strikes Risa’s (Anna Fiamora) horse, spooking them both. Risa hits the ground hard, convulsing. As Josef (Marc Rissman) tries to tend to his wife, the viper strikes his leg, too. But far worse has happened up ahead.

Shea (Sam Elliott), Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), and James (Tim McGraw) come upon a Comanche camp made up of the traders they encountered before. Or it was. Every soul – all women and children – is dead. “Whoever did this did it for sport,” Shea spits before shouting at James to stop with his horse. Their horseshoes are now all over the crime scene. “Whoever sees this now is going to think we did it,” the old captain curses.

As the wagon train comes to a stop, Colton (Noah Le Gros) cuts tends to Josef’s bite wound by cutting to relieve the pressure (a sometimes proper way to deal with a venomous snake bite), then sucking the tainted blood from the wound (something wildlife experts do not recommend). His wife, Risa, is tended to in their wagon and she’s far worse for wear.

They both need a doctor, desperately. Fort Casper is their best bet to find one. But whoever murdered the Comanche camp has to be found and dealt with or the whole wagon camp will be lost to revenge-seeking tribes.

‘1883’ Season 1, Episode 9: SPOILERS AHEAD

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

James, Shea, and Thomas head out to find the outlaws, while Margaret (Faith Hill), Elsa, Wade (James Landry Hebert) and Colton stay to defend the camp. But Cookie (James Jordan) isn’t waiting around to be slaughtered, and takes the remaining immigrants with him to Fort Casper. Margaret and Elsa hash it out, but Wade thinks they should follow for strength in numbers. Reluctantly, the Duttons agree. And Elsa puts on the dress we see her take an arrow through in the opening montage of Episode 1.

And for Fort Casper the others ride.

Meanwhile, James, Shea, and Thomas come upon the thieves. But they’re no ordinary thieves; they’re a banding of self-appointed “Wyoming Deputies” who murdered an entire camp of Comanche men and women to bait the men of their tribes. The worst of the human race, James is itching to gun them all down. Shea gives them a chance to explain, but after a few seconds of horridly racist spat, our three heroes pull their pistols and gun the scum straight form their horses.

“Y’all swing wide. I’m gonna run straight at em,” James snarls. And in a matter of minutes, the entire band of villains are gunned down.

“You ain’t do deputy, you ain’t no judge. You ain’t no f*cking jury. Those folks weren’t no thieves. You the thieves. And you gon’ die for it,” Thomas declares before shooting the last one dead in the plains.

Back at the desecrated Comanche camp, the indigenous men finally find their slaughtered women and children. They ride like the wind.

Racing Clouds Come for Scattered Souls

“The dress felt like a prison built just for me, choking me by the neck and digging into my underarms. Flattening my breasts against my ribcage. It disguises everything that makes me a woman from the glares of jealous women and rapacious men; as if their lack of self-esteem and willpower should be my only concern. I will never live in that world again, where the weak would rather guilt the strong than become strong themselves. No, I will stay in this world. This world doesn’t care what the weak want. This world eats the weak.”

Soon, flashes of Elsa’s horrifying Episode 1 opening come true. Cookie’s wagon burns as he’s shot to death multiple times by vengeful Comanche. And then they come for Elsa.

Riding back over the ridge, Wade and Colton circle the wagons preparing for attack. But Elsa can’t bring herself to to lead the Comanche to her camp. Instead, she makes a hard left, leading them away from her wagon train. It’s a lost cause, though, as the Comanche split and come for everyone.

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

The horrors of battle ensue, and Margaret fires James’ rifle to try and save her daughter. A few of the warriors are taken down, but eventually… War catches up to Elsa.

Back at the slain Comanche camp, James, Shea, and Thomas return to find no wagons. They ride off to find their kin, and back at the burning wagon from Episode 1, Elsa awakes to the Hell that is the Wild West.

We’ve seen this before. We know how it goes. Comanche warriors chase down and scalp every immigrant pioneer they can catch as Elsa watches in horror. She runs for the gun of a fallen warrior, but she’s stopped as she readies the pistol.

“You speak English! How can you do this?” she screams. And the Comanche arrow pierces her stomach.

‘1883’: The Fire of Elsa Dutton

Before she can be gunned down, Elsa screams the words her Comanche husband, Sam (Martin Sensmeier) taught her. This catches her captors off guard.

“You fight like Comanche! What is your name?” the Indigenous warrior facing her asks. She tells him “Lightning with the Yellow Hair” in Comanche. And the warriors ride off, leaving her in tears.

Elsa then walks off to find her family, the arrow still piercing her torso.

“I felt no pain. Perhaps it was the fever of the fight. But it didn’t hurt. I thought of pushing it through. I thought better of it. As my father would say, ‘The one good thing about problems, is they’ll still be problems later. Don’t have to deal with them right away.'”

Alive, she is found by her mother, Wade and Colton. Colton rides through the aftermath of this accidental slaughter, finding a sole survivor. There, he finds Alina (Amanda Jaros) half-scalped and barely alive… but running. Out of pure mercy, he shoots her in the head as she runs for him in a horrid fury.

Colton digs her a grave with the only tool he as, a plate. Back at camp, Wade and Margaret remove the arrow from Elsa’s stomach the only way they can – by cutting off the arrowhead and ripping the shaft backwards through her. Margaret puts her Civil War nursing skills to use as Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) is on hand to cauterize Elsa’s wounds. And she’s laid to find rest and heal in the Dutton wagon.

Forever Cursed: Duttons and Indigenous Paths Cross

Eventually, the Indigenous warriors find James, Thomas, and Shea. James rides directly for them, pistol drawn. He lets their leader know the bandits who killed their families are taken care of. But the tension is palpable after the slaughter of both Indigenous and immigrant camps.

Pictured: Coverage of the Paramount+ original series 1883. Photo Cr: Emerson Miller/Paramount+ © 2022 MTV Entertainment Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“Do I still have a daughter?” James asks. No answer comes, and he readies his pistol. “Do I?”

“No more fighting today,” the warrior replies. “Their tracks led from the bodies of my family. My wife. Children. My mother. We made war on your people. And your daughter stopped it.”

“How did she stop it?” James asks.

“By being the best warrior at all,” he replies. “There are surgeons at the fort. Take her there. And pray. I’ll pray, too.”

With the warrior’s blessing, the Dutton patriarch and the Indigenous warriors part ways with James’ only hope for his daughter’s survival the surgeons in Fort Casper.

Death Rules ‘1883’

Elsa awakes in her wagon, and her father is watching over her. She catches him up on everything, and he tells her the truth: if she gets an internal infection, it’s all over. So they’re heading for the fort to make sure she’s mended. James puts his daughter to sleep, and the world moves on.

As night rolls in, Shea finds Colton still digging Alina’s grave. He’s torn to pieces over having to take her life.

“You did the right thing,” Shea tells him.

I know!” Colton screams. “But… It don’t feel right.”

“Don’t do that. You made a decision. You did what you thought was decent. Was it decent? Who knows. What the hell is decent out here? What’s the gauge? You’re the gauge. You made a decision. Now stand by it! Right or wrong, you f*cking stand by it,” Shea replies. “I’ll find you a shovel. And help you use it.”

Back at camp, Margaret lets James know their tiny son, John (Audie Rick) is fine. And Wade lets James know how bad Elsa’s arrow wound was. “But she’s young. She’s strong,” he reassures her father.

“I know,” James replies. He takes a walk with Margaret, and he needs to see the arrow. He needs to know if his daughter is going to live. Margaret hands her husband the arrow, and it’s filthy. He knows how this ends. And he’s gutted.

‘She’s the light of my life. And she’s my soul. But she’s going to die.’

“She’s the light of my life. And she’s my soul. But she’s going to die,” James sobs.

Margaret smacks her husband. “How f*cking dare you!? I will not lose a child!” Margaret weeps.

“She is going to die. And it’s going to cut us in two. If we don’t accept it now, she’s going to die in some fort, with some doctor, who’s gonna cut her open so bad she can’t see straight. And we will have robbed her. She needs to see every sunrise. And every sunset. And we will lie to her. We will tell her she’s fine. And we will let her look at this world with those big dreamer eyes… Until they can’t see no more.”

“Then what’re we gonna do? She’s gonna be another cross on a trail that we don’t visit. Ten years from now, it’s just gone!” Margaret cries.

“Our wagon drives over… Where we bury her is where we stay. That is our home.”

“Not here. Not in this place.”

“No. Not this place. I will find a place. By God I will find a place,” James promises his wife. And together, they accept Elsa’s fate – and their own.

‘That’s when I knew… I was going to die.’

Speaking with Thomas, Shea makes sure that Noemi is alright. And she’s made it through, just like Thomas.

“You get tough or die in this country, that’s for sure,” Shea smiles.

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

But as Elsa wakes back in the Dutton wagon, she looks like death. But her parents do everything they can to help her feel alive. James saddles up Lightning for her, and she gets on her horse.

“I looked at my father, looked past his smile. Saw his worry. Saw something deeper. As if he were already in mourning. As if I were already gone. I felt different, too. Felt as though my soul had been dislodged from… Whatever cavern in our chest the soul is lodged to. It felt loose; disconnected. I looked out at the sagebrush, the colors looked different. Sharper. Looked up at the sky, the clouds seemed to race above us as if new laws applied to time and space above me.

“I looked back at my father, and I studied his eyes. Looked deep into them. That’s when I knew… I was going to die.”

1883 returns for the Season 1 finale next Sunday, February 27 exclusively on Paramount Plus.