Rivalries and romance intensify as the party faces a difficult decision before moving forward.
Warning: This is an overview of Episode 108 of 1883, so there will be scads of spoilers here. We strongly recommend that you not read this if you have not yet watched the episode on Paramount+.
Shea and James disagree about what direction the party should take, Elsa pledges herself to Sam, and Thomas makes a fateful choice about his relationship with Noemi. What are we to make of this? Here are our five takeaways from “The Weep of Surrender,” Episode 108 of 1883.
Takeaway No. 1
This was only a matter of time. Shea (Sam Elliott) and James (Tim McGraw), two Alpha Males, have long been moving toward the point where the latter would try to usurp control of the wagon train. So it came as little surprise when each man addressed the immigrant pioneers with a different proposal: Shea wanted to detour to Denver to avoid the harsh winter, figuring the travelers were not ready for such a challenge; James insisted they should press on to Wyoming, and from there to their planned destination of Oregon. Josef (Marc Rissmann) and his fellow immigrants opted to follow James. One might question why they would follow someone who (unless James has been hiding something from us) has never made the journey before, but there you go. Shea responded stoically, as is his wont, and prepared to ride off with Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) into the sunset.
Takeaway No. 2
However: Thomas chose to remain with the wagon train — and with Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi). Shea took this in stride as well: “Well,” he responded, even though it was obviously his heart was breaking into a zillion pieces, “free country.” (Damn, but that Sam Elliott is a great actor!) But Thomas wanted Shea to stick around as well. “I ain’t never asked you for nothing,” he told his longtime friend and companion. “But I’m asking you now — don’t leave us, Cap’n.” (Damn, but that LaMonica Garrett is a great actor, too!) So Shea changed his mind, though not without warning James about what a heavy responsibility the usurper was shouldering: “You’re gonna have to lead ‘em. I’ll guide ‘em, and protect ‘em. But you lead them.” James indicated he could live with that. Time will tell whether he, Shea, Thomas, Noemi and all the others have made the right decision.
Takeaway No. 3
Meanwhile, Sam (Martin Sensmeier) and Elsa (Isabel May) continued to grow closer as they helped round up some wild mustangs for members of the party to ride, and collaborated on a buffalo hunt that concluded with Elsa ceremonially eating the heart of her first kill. After that — well, of course, they were ready to commit. Naturally, Margaret (Faith Hill) disapproved of her daughter’s decision to spend the rest of her life away from “civilization.” (To be fair, however, Margaret didn't make it sound like “civilization” offered much for free-spirited women during an earlier discussion with Elsa.) But James was unexpectedly equanimous — or at least a hell of a lot less upset than he was back when Elsa was involved with the late Ennis (Eric Nelsen). “I guess she’s gonna fall in love with every man she meets until one of them sticks,” he told Shea, only half-jokingly. Another consideration: Elsa agreed to ride with the family to Oregon before returning to happily-ever-after with Sam (who, curiously enough, was totally agreeable to this extended engagement period). “Let’s hope,” Margaret told her husband, “she falls in love in Oregon.” “With the pattern she’s established,” James replied, “she’ll fall in love again by Nebraska.“ Margaret laughed, but she did not disagree.
Takeaway No. 4
Sounds like they’re continuing to tone down the salty language that has turned off some — many? — viewers. Seriously: There was nary an F-Bomb to be heard from anyone this week. Even Cookie (James Jordan) has started watching his mouth around kids. You probably still couldn’t in good conscience describe 1883 as family viewing, however. And we suspect there will be plenty of incentive to cuss as we wind down to this season’s final two episodes.
Takeaway No. 5
Which raises the unavoidable question: Just what will happen at the end of what presumably (but maybe not certainly) is only the first of many seasons for this Yellowstone prequel? If you recall, Episode 101 began with a flash-forward of a savage Indian attack on a wagon train — maybe this one, maybe not — and Elsa getting an arrow through her gut as she struggled desperately to remain alive after all other palefaces in sight had been killed, or were dying. Of course, we know James, Margaret and young John make it to Montana, based on the flashback that started Yellowstone Episode 408. But should we assume everyone else (including Elsa) is expendable? Surely series creator Taylor Sheridan (who cameoed again here as legendary rancher Charles Goodnight) wouldn’t have all the other characters endure so much, and travel so far, only to cut them down in a climactic slaughter. Or would he?