So many storylines, so little time. That’s what I was thinking while I watched ace writers Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny juggle Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), tasked with clearing Henry Standing Bear; the return of Vic’s (Katee Sackhoff) stalker and ex-lover; Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) breaking rules to find David Ridges; and a standalone plotline of a possible lone psycho-killer targeting kids in the wilderness. And they almost pulled it off in this fast paced episode.
In last week’s “Miss Cheyenne,” Branch discovered word of mouth evidence that David Ridges could still be alive after questioning a Rez clinic attendant. “In the Pines” opens in a surreal way with Branch (a determined look in his eyes) stalking about in the woods, killing a rabbit, making a fire pit, cutting off a chunk of his hair, slitting his forearm for a bloodletting, and then setting it all afire with lighter fluid. Freaky-strange at first, until we later learn Dr. Weston has informed Longmire that the test results will be in soon. Confused, Longmire asks what test, to which, Weston replies the samples of hair and ash that Branch brought in. Longmire confronts Branch, and Branch explains that he submitted his own samples of hair and ash in order to prove the DNA results can be positive for a dead man who’s actually alive.
The main plot revolves around several young adults in a wilderness program possibly being hunted by a killer. The group leader is found dead from a blow to the head (and with a pen in his neck from an impromptu tracheotomy by one of the program participants), and a young woman is discovered lying face-down at the bottom of the cliff. In a rather tepid action scene, Longmire rappels down the rocky cliff using rope and handcuffs, sees she’s alive, and so, he pulls her up onto his back, wraps her arms around his neck, cuffing her wrists together. Then he begins the trek back up the cliff with her. I was watching the show with friends, who told the big screen, “They must have a rescue helicopter. You’re not supposed to move someone who’s fallen like that.” I only added as an explanation, “Well, you know, it’s Absaroka County.” Later, when the killer is revealed to be one of the program founders, it just didn’t have the emotional impact of last week’s “Miss Cheyenne,” which also involved Longmire pulling a full confession from a killer alone in the dark. Not really that bad, but in a series that normally soars over routine revelations, this was average.
Finally, Ed Gorsky returns—well, kinda-sorta. A picture of Longmire and Vic at the motel (part of the case that took them to Arizona) is sent to Vic’s husband, Sean Moretti (Michael Mosley). He goes to Longmire under the guise of requesting a restraining order, suspecting that Gorsky sent the picture, but really, he wants to know if Vic and Longmire are having an affair. The sheriff sets him straight, but Sean’s still not satisfied. In an emotional scene, later Vic tells Sean that nothing is going on between her and Longmire. Then Sean conveys what bothers him about the photo: Vic looks happier in the pic with Longmire than she does in their matrimonial life. Then he walks out. Powerful and moving. Vic reveals to Longmire that the photo did indeed come from Gorsky, and she knows because of the writing on the back of the photo. It was an apartment number where they used to meet for their illicit affair.
Feeling confined, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) heads out for a walk down the road, but when his ankle bracelet beeps, he turns around. Still, the authorities alert the Sheriff’s Office, and Branch goes to check on Henry. In the patrol car, Branch sets Henry straight, not only on the rules of suspects on bail, but also to the fact that he posted $100,000 of the bail money. Branch’s purpose is to pump Henry for information on peyote dealers in the area. Henry refuses at first, but then gives some help. Later at the Red Pony, Branch is meeting with a man, and when he goes to pay for the drinks, Henry says to Branch that he believes he has already paid. In the final scene, a rogue Branch, with the help of his bar buddy (who seems confused by the unfolding situation), kidnaps a drug dealer as the man returns to his home.
An entertaining episode, not so much for the main action on the field as for all the sticky situations happening in the bleachers that are building up to a clattering din. Oh, I’m looking forward to what follows.