While U.S. Grant oversees a contentious meeting in Salt Lake City, Eva takes a harsh approach to employee relations.
Cullen Bohannon is torn between Durant and Huntington while The Swede encourages a coup and Eva deals with labor trouble in “False Prophet,” the Season 5 mid-season finale of Hell on Wheels. If you missed the excitement Saturday, here are the Top 5 things you need to know before the series returns next summer.
SUMMIT CONFERENCE: President Ulysses S. Grant himself (Victor Slezak) arrives in Salt Lake City to discuss the future of the Transcontinental Railroad with squabbling rivals. In one corner, we have Durant, who has been accused by Brigham Young of reneging on an agreement to run Union Pacific track on a route through Salt Lake City. In the other corner, we have Huntington, who has been accused of more or less the same thing – but counter-accuses Durant and Young of “corporate espionage” after they produce a Central Pacific map that Huntington didn’t want anyone outside of his immediate orbit to see. By the time Cullen walks into the meeting, tempers already have flared, and serious accusations have begun to fly. It’s all quite complicated, but what it all boils down to is: Both Huntington and Durant have set their sights on obtaining mineral rights in Ogden, and appear intent on cheating Brigham Young. Not surprisingly, Young isn’t very happy about this, because he’s counting on easy rail access to and from Salt Lake City for his Mormon followers to prosper.
REVOLUTION: When he isn’t making threats and expressing outrage while dealing with the would-be railroad tycoons, Young continues to belittle and excoriate his son Phineas. Which, of course, makes it all the easier for The Swede to convince Phineas that the unhappy young man should overthrow his father as leader of the Mormons. Fortuitously — for The Swede at least — Cassius, Phineas’ brother, tells Phineas about the current location of the Hatch family, the “apostates” now living apart from mainstream Mormons. (For the benefit of those who tuned in late: The Hatch clan includes Cullen’s estranged wife and child.) The Swede tucks this info away in the back of his head for future reference.
TERMINATION: Last week, we saw Eva’s gentler side as she nursed Louise back to health. This week? Eva is sick and tired of Josey’s insolence. And when she learns the red-headed whore has gone behind her back to meet with Mickey and his cousin Johnny, in the hope of taking over Eva’s job as saloon madam, Eva tells her impudent employee to take the next train out of the town. Josey unwisely fails to board the outbound train, and makes the even stupider mistake of going back to the saloon and telling Eva she won’t be going. So Eva pulls out a gun, shoots Josey in the gut, and then hovers over the dying woman to make damn sure another bullet won’t be needed. As it turns out, Eva is able to hold her fire. When Eva delivers the news of Josey’s demise — “We’re gonna need a new redhead!” — Johnny is peeved. But Mickey — whose feelings toward Eva, as we have seen, are, shall we say, complicated — takes it all in stride. “Get yourself cleaned up,” he tells her, indicating she should wipe the blood from her face, “and get back to work.”
NEGOTIATION: Hollister wants Cullen to tell Grant that Fort Bridger — where Hollister wants the final terminus to be located – is the spot where the Union and Central lines should meet. But Cullen knows Fort Bridger isn’t the best place for the terminus — even though Hollister would greatly profit from its being there. And besides, as he puts it: “I ain’t lying to the president of the United States.” Longtime viewers will recall that, a couple seasons back, Cullen met Grant before the latter set his sights on the White House, and the two men — despite having been on opposing sides during the Civil War — improbably became buddies. And now, Grant is willing to heed whatever advice Cullen offers. Durant, naturally, has another site in mind for the terminus — a choice that, just as naturally, would help fatten his bank account — and he actually tries to rehire Cullen. When Cullen reminds him that he said he’d never, ever, take Cullen back after he quit (at the end of Season 4), Durant magnanimously announces: “All is forgiven.” (A nostalgic touch: Both men harken all the way back to Season 1, when Cullen nearly got hanged — by The Swede — for a killing actually committed by the late, great Elam Ferguson.) Brigham Young does his own bit of hard-selling, offering to tell Cullen where the Hatches have settled in return for Cullen’s routing the railroad through Salt Lake City. In the end, however, Cullen disappoints just about everybody — except Grant, who admires the guy’s spunk — by suggesting no terminus should be chosen in advance. Instead, the Union and Central projects should proceed apace, in a race to meet at a spot to be determined at a later date. Grant agrees: The race is on.
ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER: Phineas launches his power grab by repeatedly stabbing his father. Trouble is, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once warned: “If you strike at a king, you must kill him.” Brigham Young miraculously survives the murder attempt — offering yet more evidence this is the greatest role that actor Gregg Henry has had since Rich Man, Poor Man — Book II (1976 – 77). The wounded leader’s loyal followers apprehend Phineas — but The Swede manages to slip away and ride off. (The mangy cur leaves his poor dog behind.) During the hectic hubbub, Cassius tells Cullen what he told Phineas and The Swede — i.e., the whereabouts of Cullen’s wife and son — and Cullen goes galloping off to prevent The Swede from harming his loved ones. As the episode ends, we see The Swede, looking not at all unlike Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster, stalking across a field, hellbent on reaching the innocents unaware of his ill intent. Cullen is rapidly approaching. But will he arrive too late — again?