The rodeo comes to Durant in this week’s Longmire, and plenty of folks are taking the “Ride ’Em Cowboy” directive to heart. Secret affairs are the theme for this episode, for both major and minor players alike in a somewhat lighter, more comedic installment of the drama.
We open to some dancing and drinkin’ at the Red Pony intercut with the brutal beating of a man in his home. But before we can even tell what’s what, it cuts to Vic and her mysterious husband (Pan Am’s Michael Mosley) having a private party of their own when the phone rings. Hubby doesn’t want her to answer, but in true Vic fashion she picks up and blurts, “I’m having sex with my husband Ruby, what is it?” Walt needs her, so off she goes, much to hubby’s chagrin. (There’s also a cute shoutout to the books when Mr. Vic adds “You know I think I’m finally getting used to you as a blonde.” Maybe now people will stop grousing about Sackhoff’s hair color? Nah, probably not.)
She shows up at the Red Pony only to find out that “the situation” she needs to take care of is giving a soused Walt a ride home. But then Ruby calls with reports of a break-in and the “fun” really begins. It’s a nice change of pace that the victim this week is merely badly injured and not dead. Of course, Walt and Co. still have to investigate, as the victim is unconscious for a good while and claims no memory when he does wake up. The red herring this week is a missing painting from the scene of the crime of Custer’s Last Stand worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There’s a fun turn from Shawn (Southland) Hatosy as a cocksure bronc rider and former employee of the victim, who may have wanted revenge or may have been sleeping with the man’s wife. A witness tells the Ferg that Julia Sublette was holed up in a hotel with another man while the crime happened. We won’t give it all away, but suffice it to say this week’s crime-doer comes a bit more out of left field than most, but there’s also a big twist in the reveal that keeps things fresher than expected.
Also fun, the reappearance of Bob from the pilot episode (the witness Walt coerced into talking with a six-pack of Rainier) as a rodeo clown who climbs into Walt’s truck to sleep off his drink, thus provoking a rather funny scene where Walt goes apeshit and drags him out of the truck. And speaking of cocksure men, we begin to get an idea of why Vic and her husband fight all the time, when he comes after her at work demanding to know where she’s been. (Granted it’s been eight hours since she left, but he still comes off like an asshole, with an awful big chip on his shoulder about how much time Walt spends with his wife.) After the Morettis leave, Bob opines that he didn’t even know she was married, leaving Walt to intone knowingly that “we all have our secrets.”
Indeed they do, as we learn the next day when Lizzie (the fainting, flirting blonde from episode four) confronts Walt in front of both Vic and Branch at the rodeo about that phone call she got from him last night. Busted! Lizzie bats her eyelashes and invites him to leave her a message next time, while Branch smirkingly points out that drunk-dialing doesn’t work so well now that they’ve got newfangled technology like “Caller ID.”
Actually, Vic is none too pleased that Branch knows Walt was drunk and fishes for info by asking her about it back at the office. She calls him on wanting to use that info against Walt in the election (“Walt Longmire was drunk, and I’m Branch Connally and I approve this message.”) and whacks him in the arm for good measure. But then realizes the only way Branch could have known about the drinking was if the victim’s wife (who noticed Walt’s intoxication at the crime scene) told him. Hence, Branch must be her mystery lovah.
It’s a good guess, but turns out Vic’s barking up the wrong (family) tree. Julia was getting it on with Branch’s papa, Barlow (played by the excellent Gerald McRaney). Walt pays him a visit and it’s clear there’s no love lost between the men. (Barlow is almost as delightfully snarktastic as his brother Lucian, it should be noted.) But though he fesses up to the affair, he disdainfully dismisses the idea that he could’ve beat the woman’s husband as a “sappy” notion Walt has that there’s deep feelings there. Barlow also accuses Walt of trying to get leverage over him so he won’t “use what he has” on Walt in the election campaign. Hmmm.
If Papa Connally is ruthless, Branch is proving far less so. We finally get a glimpse of the deputy’s true colors in a nice pair of scenes this week. When Cady threatens to break things off because she’s sick of lying and feeling guilty all the time, offering that maybe things would be different if he wasn’t running against Walt, Branch earnestly offers to quit the race instead. Someone might want to buy him a copy of “She’s Not That Into You,” however, as Cady seems far less conflicted on ending things. Then he and dear ol’ Dad take a horseback ride through very gorgeous scenery as Barlow rails on at his son to use the drunk info to his advantage, stop being such a boy scout, do justice to their ancestors who built this damn state, etc., as if he’s a stage mom on Toddlers and Tiaras. I half expected him to yell at Branch to have “Pretty Feet!” too.
Our boy, however, rises to the occasion and opines that while he thinks he’d make a good sheriff someday, he could still stand to learn a few more things from Walt first. (He sings his boss’s praises, and Barlow sasses “Gee, why don’t you just marry him!” Heh. Now that would be a secret affair!) I figured a change of heart would be coming, since Branch is one of our regulars, and if he ventured too far into villain territory, it wouldn’t make much sense for Walt to keep trusting/employing him. But it’s nice to get confirmation here (the timing seems especially good as we enter the final stretch of the season) that there’s more to the deputy than slick arrogance. Bailey Chase’s quiet earnestness in both scenes hit just the right note.
When Branch insists he won’t use the drinking, Dad threatens that he’s got something else he can use and Walt’s “not as pure as you think.” Dun dun dun! Actually, this reveal would have been a bit more powerful if they hadn’t already tipped this card in the earlier scene with Walt. Anyway, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out what exactly he’s got on Walt, because there’s no flashbacks this week and no allusions to what might have happened in Denver at all. Instead, in the Walt’s growth department, we get some development on the sheriff hopping back in the saddle.
As Walt and Vic investigate the Sublette home and find several happy pictures of the married couple stashed in a drawer, Walt wonders if Chris was also having an affair, then questions why people cheat. Vic says wryly that “Cheaters have a way of rationalizing what they do. Sometimes you just realize you married the wrong person.” This leads to Walt’s touching confession that he felt like he was cheating on Martha with the phone call to Lizzie, which is why he hung up. Vic insists his deceased wife would’ve wanted him to be happy. Henry repeats that sentiment a bit less . . . well, sentimentally. When Walt comes to the bar and asks him to use a cattle prod on him, insisting it’s part of him trying to solve a crime, Henry refuses insisting he’s trying to punish himself. He curtly tells Walt that while his wife died, he did not and that “It is what it is.” Apparently Walt really hates that phrase, because he ends up calling Henry a judgmental prick and does in fact get a jolt from the cattle prod after all. It seems it does the trick, though; the episode closes out with Walt and Lizzie meeting up for a drink at the Pony.
Catch up on all our Longmire content here.
Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.