This week’s episode is mostly dominated by the crime of the week and it’s hard not to see it as a bit of lost potential as we get close to the end of the season. With only two episodes left (next week A&E will air a rerun—the season finale airs August 12), there still seems to be lot more to learn about the Denver flashbacks, plus there’s the Cady & Branch bombshell yet to drop, as well as that little matter of the election.
But we get only a few “breadcrumbs,” as Henry would say, on those plotlines this week and instead plunge into a fairly predictable cult story. That may sound like an oxymoron, but there’s surprisingly little weirdness to this basic mystery, and it would have been nice to see some sort of twist outside of the usual crazy religious polygamy angle. A local convenience store owner is killed after a scraggly-haired, barefoot girl runs into his store claiming people are after her. The storekeep, Ellis, calls the Sheriff’s office, but a car pulls up and the girl runs off again. Ellis quickly scribbles down part of the license plate before following her and, sadly, meeting his demise.
For the first time we see Ruby out of the office and at a crime scene. The dispatcher is notably upset over the death of Ellis, a friend. Lorraine Stephens was wonderfully affecting on Friday Night Lights, and it’s nice to see her get some emotion to play as she struggles first with Ellis’s death and then with writing his obituary, as the man had no family. These scenes also underline that as much time as the show spends focusing on outside forces of evil coming in and corrupting Absaroka (the mob, foreign pot growers, Mennonites, etc.) it’s so much more powerful when the victims and criminals are local townsfolk.
Unfortunately, the search for the killer this week takes us to a neighboring county where Walt continues to toe that morally gray line between what’s right and what’s just. He and Vic make a strong tag team, intimidating and basically blackmailing for information that could help crack the case. It’s not quite a good-cop, bad-cop routine, but close enough, and it showcases how well the two of them can play off each other in an interrogation. That’s a staple of most procedurals, but a novelty for Longmire, since Walt is such a lone wolf most of the time. But he seems to be coming around to relying on his deputies a bit more this episode.
Another dynamic duo develops when Walt sends the Ferg out to “track” the missing woman with Henry, who apparently is not just Standing Bear but Part Bloodhound. (Intriguingly, when Walt asks Henry when’s the last time you tracked anything, we get a short flashback to the Denver highway, and Henry observing Walt from a car.) The bubbly Ferg makes a fun counterpoint to stoic Henry, as he points out that he learned plenty of skills in Outward Bound, leading to this exchange:
Henry: “Ferg, do you realize tracking is a solitary journey?”
Ferg: “Oh!” slight pause “My pod leader? He said it was a conversation between man and nature.”
Henry: “A conversation you are interrupting.”
But the Ferg’s skills come through as he identifies a crystal that’s not native to the area. Henry proclaims the crystal a breadcrumb, and eventually it leads them to a building with a few rabbit hutches. Except it’s not just bunnies in the cages, but a baby!
There’s a few crumbs thrown towards the election this week, as Branch rightfully gets to rib Walt about not reading the paper (we all love a good Sherlock Holmes, but the sheriff really should brush up on his current events), and, yet again, not having a cell phone. (Maybe Verizon will be the official sponsor of the show next season?)
The case takes another turn after Walt listens and agrees to Branch’s idea (shocker!) that they offer a cash reward to try to find out the whereabouts of the missing young mother. Though it turns up a lot of riffraff, the idea pays off, as a man steps forward to say his wife was the girl’s midwife two months previously. She doesn’t want to talk, but eventually reveals that she was abducted and had a generally harrowing experience delivering the baby and was threatened with stabbing if she told anyone about it.
Walt does a little stakeout of the rabbit hutch building and finds a girl who claims to be named October and says the missing girl is called April. The surly October claims the baby didn’t belong to April but to their whole family, which she describes as a loving community of brother and sisters, an “incredibly beautiful thing.” It should be noted that these sisters are named after each of the months, which gives new meaning to the term Calendar Girls. Yup, she is drinking the Kool-Aid for sure. Walt lets her go, much to Vic’s chagrin, in hopes that she’ll lead them somewhere.
Meanwhile Henry’s still tracking when he comes upon a fence with a clear No Trespassing sign, and of course, goes right on in. He’s arrested by private security cops (one anyway, Henry lays the other one out with a good strong punch) who turn out to be with the energy company, as he’s on their land.
This is the first episode in a while where we don’t get to see Walt punch someone out actually. But it’s not skimping on the action. Cady’s on hand this week to liase with Social Services and basically coo at the baby a lot. (Someone’s biological clock is ticking pretty loudly!) And when the unstable October tries to steal the baby, Cady nearly gets stabbed for her trouble. Thankfully Branch, who was sort of stalking her to pathetically ask why she won’t pick up her phone when he calls, rushes up and stops it, punching October out, but then in his concern for Cady makes the rookie mistake of simply turning his back to the girl. She runs off, and Vic who’s been keeping an eye on her, comes barreling after October and gets nailed by her getaway car, somersaulting up and over the hood of the car. (Kudos to stuntwoman Tammie Baird for a righteous fall.) It’s impressive both technically and because it’s yet another reminder that Vic’s tougher than your average TV lady cop with perfectly coifed hair, pantsuits, and heels. Let’s just say Mariska Hargitay’s and Stana Katic’s stunt doubles (if they have them) aren’t taking those kind of hits.
Even with an ice pack to her noggin though, Vic’s right back at work and managed to get the full license plate number of the car while she was sailing over its hood. It finally leads us to our culprit, who is creepily meditating under a creepy mural in true cult leader fashion. He’s poisoned himself and stashed the girls somewhere, but Walt makes him toss his cookies by literally sticking his finger in the guy’s mouth. Ick. Though this would have been a classic moment to turn to Branch and ask “You still want my job?”
Walt makes a pretty lucky “deduction” based on the creepy mural that the girls must be tied to the nearby train tracks. Yeah, I don’t even know how. Of course, Walt saves the girls at the last possible second as a train hurtles their way, and the episode ends with Ruby’s heartfelt, now finished obituary of Ellis.
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Tara Gelsomino is a reader, writer, pop culture junkie, and Internet addict. You can tweet her at @taragel.