The last few Longmire episodes may have left me seeing red, but ironically this week’s installment “Tuscan Red” has me closer to tickled pink. The episode was really firing on all cylinders, featuring a case of the week AND subplots that all tied into the longer arc of the sheriff’s election.
When the burned body of a Native American man is discovered on the reservation in what appears to have been a house explosion due to methane gas, it leaves Durant in a bit of an uproar. (Ruby nearly gets trampled—which is just WRONG. You can’t hurt Ruby!!) Walt is forced to keep some order and make some tough calls, potentially endangering his likability as the election approaches, when the Cheyennes call Newett Energy on the carpet for the methane leaking due to fracking.
Like most of the show’s weekly cases, it turns out there’s something else entirely going on here and the man’s death turns out to be far more personal than political.
The great thing about this week’s plot though is that it manages to bring in a lot of plot threads and familiar faces—some expected, some not so much—during the investigation. Officer Mathias (Zahn McClarnan) makes a welcome return since this is a reservation crime, and of course, whenever there’s controversy, Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) seems to be involved.
But Vic’s husband, Sean (Michael Mosley), who works for Newett Energy also suddenly turns up again as public enemy #1, and Vic gets to ride to his rescue by fake-arresting him for his safety. (And hey, it’s pretty fun to hear the former Starbuck talk about fracking, too.) Their relationship seems as strained as ever, with Sean still being jealous of Walt’s place in his wife’s life.
The repercussions even twine nicely into the subplot of Branch and Cady finally reconnecting. Even as Branch also worries about this controversy damaging his election chances, he doesn’t hesitate to take a chance to get close to Cady again. They have a cute opening scene where she roars through his speed trap for a ticket, just to get a chance to talk to him without the small town taking much note of it as anything other than business. There’s actually quite a bit of levity for the first time in a while, with Cady dancing at the Red Pony, and a drunk Cady and Branch having a laughter-filled water hose fight on her front lawn. (I’m sure the neighbors didn’t notice that shrieking.) Things inevitably go horizontal, with shirts being ripped open and half-naked breakfast cooking the next morning. But then they take a turn for the serious once more when Branch notices Cady reaching for a beer at 7 am. She confesses that she’s stressed because of the situation with her mom and reluctantly confides in him about the murder.
The closing scene between Branch and Walt, where he lays the info out on the table and insists that—despite Walt being pretty awful to him still—he won’t use the information against him, because he’s more concerned about Cady’s welfare. Aww.
He suggests Walt keep a closer eye on his daughter, and it’s nice to see the show continuing to walk a careful line there, maintaining that despite his flaws, Branch is still a man with integrity, who will work hard (tracking down the red paint used on the body to all those stores!) and certainly cares a great deal about not hurting the people he loves and respects.
So even though the status quo ultimately remains intact with regards to the election (there’s no indication that anything that transpires might actually shift public favor away from Walt or that there is any big shakeup in the works), I appreciated the potential for it to go kablooey and how cohesive this one felt from start to finish. Next week, the election finally happens, but it looks like something big is gonna go down that’s not on the ballot!
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.