Longmire selects some of the best music to punctuate scenes that require no dialogue. Kaleo's mournful “I Can't Go On Without You” plays as Walt (Robert Taylor) gives Dr. Donna Monaghan (Ally Walker) a phone call. The camera’s eye segues from bullet holes that have ventilated Walt's house to Donna reading a paper, “The Psychological Effects of Violence.” She notes, with apprehension, the “Cowboy” is calling but doesn't pick up. In just a little over a minute of screen time, we see the strain of the relationship played out before the opening credits. Kudos to director Adam Bluming for haunting, poignant filmmaking.
Cady Longmire (Cassidy Freeman) is looking to open an office on the Rez to show she means business in helping the Native American population. Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) has employed her to start a legal-aid center, giving her $750,000—which a distrustful Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips) wryly observes is $745,000 more than the tribal casino checks handed out. The idea of a white knight riding in to help the disenfranchised is not looked upon favorably by the Cheyenne community.
Cady, whose heart is in the right place, decides paying utilities and rent for office space will project that she means business and begins looking for meaningful ways to give back. While leaving Four Arrows Casino, she happens upon a 10-year-old Olivia Parr (Hannah Nordberg) sitting by her lonesome in a car. Olivia’s father Vincent hasn’t returned, and Cady calls her own dad, Walt Longmire, for help. (Oh, I’m keeping track for you, Officer Mathias. This is your jurisdiction after all, and they have conveniently ignored you yet again!)
“What kind of sleazeball would bring his daughter to a joint like this?” “King of all Instigator’s” Malachi (Graham Greene) muses aloud to Walt, who, at that moment, is looking at Cady, still having a hard time swallowing the fact she is working for Jacob. Walt drives Olivia home to find the girl’s mom, Melissa Parr (Anne Dudek in what could be an Emmy Award winning performance), passed out in the car inside the garage. Upon regaining consciousness, she claims that sleeping pills must have hit her hard.
The dysfunctional family is in store for another hard knock: a few hours later, Vincent’s body is discovered 20 miles away on the other side of the county, close to the Chrysalis Mobile Home Villa—he had been run over. In his pocket, they find a Four Arrows Casino napkin with the number 503 written on the back. Investigating, Victoria “Vic” Moretti interviews a man, with perhaps the best recall of all time, who implicates Melissa as leaving the scene of the crime. But Ferg’s inspection of her car’s undercarriage seemingly supports that she didn’t murder her husband.
Jacob wants Henry to snoop around The Red Pony more to find a second business ledger with the real numbers that would explain what Malachi is up to. Jacob suspects a company called Manifest Destinations is a front for a criminal organization that is siphoning away money from the casino. Henry takes the opportunity to question Jacob’s own intentions that the business mogul insists is to the well-being of the people by improving the infrastructure of the community. I know Jacob has been shady in the past and isn’t above taking a little from the till himself, but I honest to hell believe he’s well intentioned when it comes to his heritage.
Vic vs. Donna. Dios mio! That was a knuckle-biting pressure cooker watching those two “circle” each other while engaged in verbal jiu-jitsu. I understood both points of view but ended up ultimately siding with the good doctor: she’s deserves some time to regroup after the hell she went through, and though Vic has the high moral ground in that Walt deserved to have Donna return his phone call, in the end, it is none of Vic’s business.
I like the Longmire standalones best, and “Chrysalis” was the first outstanding episode of Season 5—thanks, in part, to the terrific Ms. Nordberg playing Olivia. From struggling to wake up her mom with a cold shower to breaking down at the news of her father’s passing, this actor grounded every scene she was involved to maximum effect. (I see she has a small part in the upcoming American Pastoral movie based on the Phillip Roth book. Will be looking forward to that even more now.)
I also appreciated the little flourishes in this episode, like The Ferg (Adam Bartley) trying to take a picture of a nurse he has a crush on and Vic eavesdropping on Walt’s phone call to Donna for professional advice. Vic knows the underlying motive in reaching out is to try to reconnect with his all-too-brief ex-girlfriend; I didn’t see a jealous Vic in her reactions, rather a caring friend worried about her coworker getting hurt again.
“Chrysalis,” written by Tony Tost, is why Longmire has some of the most enthusiastic fans. This episode is worthy of their devotion.