The penultimate episode of the season started with a bang and barely came up for air as writer Sarah Nicole Jones scrawled another corker of a show that had me satisfied almost to the end.
Editor's Note: We feel free to put episode spoilers in after the jump, but at this point in the season, it's become almost all spoilers, so there's nothing left!
In “Counting Coup,” the David Ridges storyline comes to a close. The episode begins with Branch’s friend Travis Murphy (Derek Phillips) admitting to Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) and Vic Moretti (Katee Sackhoff) that he was offered money by Branch to change his story, and he lied because he feared for his life.
Simultaneously, Branch Connally (Bailey Chase) faces off with David Ridges (David Midthunder) on a narrow steel bridge. Branch has his gun drawn on the The White Warrior but can’t shoot. Ridges has psychologically outdrawn him and further messes with his mind: saying he has taken a part of Branch on three separate occasions. First time was with a feather when he took his courage. Second was in Branch’s dreams when he took his peace. Third was the photo that took his soul. The next and last encounter, Ridges warns him, he will take Branch’s life. Ridges then jumps into the water as the lawman fires away hopelessly missing his target.
Walt questions the Peyote dealer, who declines to press charges. Before he leaves, he burns sage in the sheriff’s office in a purification ritual, saying they are going to need it given Branch’s frame of mind. As Walt and Vic get ready to depart themselves, the Ferg (Adam Bartley) finally demands to be recognized and treated equally after Walt asks his deputy to make a telephone call. Walt angrily clears Branch’s desk with a sweep of a hand and moves Ferg’s nameplate over to the bigger desk, then tells Ferg to make the call he'd asked him to. If it had been me, I would have walked out on Walt, and I felt Ferg’s anger and surprise at the big man’s reaction. Tense scene and solid acting from Mr. Bartley.
Walt blames himself for not seeing signs of Branch’s deteriorating condition and for allowing the obsessed man to come back too soon. But Ruby (Louanne Stephens) sets him straight. All of a sudden, Branch runs into office yelling for Walt, excitedly telling him how he was face to face with Ridges. Walt says they need to talk about the peyote dealer. Branch blames Vic for ratting him out, and Vic shouts back that it wasn’t her. In a surprise move, Branch attacks Vic in front of everyone. Holy hell! I didn’t see that coming. Walt, with Ferg’s help, manhandles Branch into a cell. After Walt leaves, Branch wants someone to go back to the bridge to check out Ridges' car (he took the keys from the ignition). As soon as Ferg offers to go, Vic pipes in that she’ll do it, since Branch guilted her by saying she’d have to explain to Walt why she didn’t look into the man who tried to kill him.
While Walt begins tying up the connections between Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) and David Ridges, Branch’s father (Gerald McRaney) comes to get his son out of jail. Ferg is apprehensive, but when his own father’s construction business is threatened by Daddy Connally, he gives in. Branch’s father takes him home and locks him in a room. Branch, of course, escapes.
We find out that Henry’s (Lou Diamond Phillips) trial date is drastically advanced (does that ever happen?). Later, we also find out that Malachi (Graham Greene) is aware of this when he drops by The Red Pony. He mocks Henry, saying the ‘problem with Indians is they are always whining’ about their troubles, specifically listing out Henry’s troubles, including the trial date. How did Malachi know about the date being moved up? As Malachi’s leaving, he mentions that he still wants to buy the bar. We discover the trial has been moved because of witness availability. A deal is offered that if Henry pleads guilty, then he won’t get the death penalty. Cady Longmire's (Cassidy Freeman) counselor pal says that it’s a good idea and should be accepted. But Henry isn’t happy about it, because he’s innocent. Henry decides to take matters into his own hands, again. He phones Malachi, and as Henry prepares to torch the bar, he says he wants information on Darius or he’ll burn it down, because he knows Malachi needs The Red Pony to launder his dirty money. Malachi doesn’t immediately answer. And before you know it—poof!—Henry sets it afire. So now, he’s an arsonist, too?!
Walt and Vic arrive at a posh party to serve Nighthorse with an arrest warrant. In the clink, the businessman, looking for a deal, finally explains what happened with the Ridges suicide: he didn’t know Ridges was involved with Cady’s accident. And when Ridges came to him, he agreed, thinking he was helping a member of his community who just needed an edge. Sidebar: I liked that touch, and it gives Nighthorse some needed bonus points. He explained how Ridges used his own blood that he’d donated at the Rez clinic to coat the walls and then poured the rest on a deer carcass that was burned on the pyre. Ridges promised to leave the Wyoming area. But then Ridges killed Hector, and Nighthorse realized Ridges believes the superstition, saying he would touch Branch three times before killing him. Nighthorse says Ridges’ growing madness was making him unsettled. When Nighthorse finished spilling the details, Walt says no deal. Nighthorse yells from his cell that he doesn’t like Walt, but knows he’s a man of honor. Walt counters, saying the next time Nighthorse talks to Ridges, then, he will make a deal.
Okay. The ending. I have been following Branch’s hunt with mucho enthusiasm, more so than Vic’s stalker plotline (though that climaxed with the slam bang “Population 25”) and equaled clearing Henry’s name. Bailey Chase has turned in a performance worthy of an Emmy as he has become a paranoid shell of a man, ruthless in his conviction, and obsessed with locating his prey. But this episode he runs out of gas—literally. As a viewer, I’m invested in him finding and either killing Ridges or bringing him to justice. Him, not Walt. But that’s just what happened—Walt stabs the White Warrior as he jumps off his horse onto the fallen sheriff. It felt like an empty win. Ridges has been a wonderfully-sketched character from day one, and I just didn’t care for him being dispensed in an over-worn Hollywood cliché. Just me? But my main complaint is that I felt like I was on the road with Branch, pummeling the car out of anger, because I was so close.
Next week: the season finale! Wonder what Branch’s reaction will be to finding out the ‘dead man’ is finally, really dead.