hell-on wheels-episode-501-post-cullen-mount-800x600

Season 5, Episode 1

Chinatown

Cullen Bohannon begins work in California, building east with the Central Pacific. Word on Cullen's family comes in from Salt Lake City.

Show Full Recap

Full Recap

Cullen strolls barefoot along a sandy beach, the surf washing over his feet as a light breeze blows. Naomi calls to him from a nearby hill, and sends William running down to meet him. Cullen basks in the beautiful family moment -- but not for long. The scene disappears as the breeze turns into a howling wind, and Cullen's daydream subsides to reveal Cullen and a group of Central Pacific surveyors clinging to a sheer cliff on a mountainside.

At the top of the mountain, the men look out over a broad valley. "Break out the whiskey, ya gypsies," says Shorty, one of the surveyors. "Bohannon's found the mother-whoring route to Utah."

Later, Cullen rides into Truckee, California. James Strobridge, the Central Pacific's foreman, invites Cullen to supper. They enter the railroad office, where Cullen tells Collis Huntington about his plan to route the railroad "straight through the coal fields of Weber Canyon" into the Nevada desert and all the way to Utah. "Straight down the throat of the Union Pacific," Huntington observes. "We might just have a shot at winning this race. " Huntington then tosses Cullen a bag of gold for "fresh Chinamen."

Before Cullen leaves, he asks Huntington if any telegrams have come for him. Huntington tells Cullen that it's only been a month, and assures him that he has ongoing business with the Mormons: "I'm sure Brigham Young will answer our inquiry eventually."

Cullen buys 50 workers from a restaurant owner named Chang, who offers wares from his rice shop and brothel. Cullen declines all but the workers.

As Cullen leads the workers away, a wagon pulls up next to the rice shop. Its driver: The Swede.

Cullen rides on a supply wagon ahead of the 50 Chinese workers, who trudge through snow. Tao, the head man for the Central Pacific's Chinese laborers, rides beside him, and explains that the workers have no experience because they come from villages devastated by rebels. "Men like Chang?" Cullen asks. Tao avoids the question, but Tao's son, Fong, says, "Mr. Chang bad man." Tao quickly shushes Fong.

Cullen moves to join the workers drilling a vertical tunnel into the mountain. Strobridge tries to stop him, but Cullen hops onto a pulley next to Tao and descends.

At the bottom, a Chinese worker injures himself, so Tao and Cullen take over. The workers exit as Tao and Cullen prepare the next blast. After Cullen lights the fuse, they begin to haul themselves up. As they reach the top, a bucket of granite sways and then spills. The falling rock knocks a kerosene lantern to the tunnel floor, where it smashes and ignites some kegs of black powder. Fong pulls Tao out of the hole just in time, but Cullen is caught in the explosion's shock wave and is blown into the air, landing on his back with a thud. As the dust settles, Strobridge gives Cullen a look, hands Cullen his hat back, and helps him off the ground.

After Fong mentions to Cullen that Chang steals half of the Chinese payroll, Cullen confronts Chang and demands that he stop skimming wages. Chang counters, "How we compensate those workers is Chinese business." Cullen threatens more visits if Chang doesn't pay the workers what they're owed.

Over dinner with the Strobridge family, Cullen tells Huntington about Chang's deception. Huntington argues that it doesn't concern them, but Cullen warns him that it eventually will: "Sooner or later, a beat dog bites."

In a Mormon tent, Brigham Young's son, Phineas, falters while saying grace over a meager meal. The Swede completes the prayer, giving thanks "for this time with our beloved companions — hunger, want and desolation." Phineas confesses to The Swede that his father has lost faith in him, and The Swede responds, "I believe in you, brother."

After dinner, Huntington hands Cullen a telegram he received from Brigham Young, revealing Young has banished Cullen's family from all Mormon settlements. It dawns on Cullen: "They could be anywhere. "

In his room, Cullen removes maps of Mormon settlements from the walls. He's interrupted by a knock on the door: It's Strobridge, who invites him for a drink at the saloon.

The Swede drives his rice wagon into a barn under cover of moonlight. Inside, he finds a snarling stray dog, who he quickly wins over with some beef jerky. The wagon is actually filled with rifles, which The Swede hides under the hay.

Chang complains to Huntington about Cullen's meddling, but Huntington insists that Cullen isn't going anywhere and that the two must get used to one another.

At the saloon, over cards and whiskey, Cullen tells Strobridge how he ended up with the Central Pacific. Chang arrives at the saloon accompanied by some of his henchmen, and asks to be dealt into the card game. As the three men talk, Cullen notices the henchmen leave.

At a Chinese social club, Huntington and his housekeeper Polly sit amongst a group of laborers watching a Chinese opera. Chang's henchmen burst in, grab Tao, and drag him into the street.

Inside the saloon, Chang asks Cullen if fate or luck has brought them to this point, just as Cullen hears a commotion outside. Cullen rushes out to find Chang's henchmen viciously beating Tao. A crowd gathers, but no one intervenes. Fong jumps in to help his father, but is quickly subdued.

Cullen fires his pistol into the air, then points it at the henchmen. They look to Chang, who dismisses them with a gesture. As they walk away, Cullen helps Tao to his feet. Chang nods at Cullen, then walks off, passing Huntington as he goes.

The next day, Huntington and Cullen butt heads over how to deal with Chang. Huntington believes the Chinese should be left alone, but Cullen insists Chang is going to be a problem for the railroad. Huntington is more concerned about another railroad problem, Durant's rapid progress with the Union Pacific, but Cullen is convinced Durant will self-destruct. Huntington asks if he has Cullen's loyalty. "I'm here, ain't I?" Cullen responds.

Outside, Fong tells Cullen that Tao is on the sick list after the previous night's beating. Cullen hops the train out to the cut as Chang watches.

In the Central Pacific railroad office, Huntington's office manager, Samuel, secretly sends a telegraph to Durant informing him that Cullen has found a route to Weber Canyon.

In the Union Pacific railroad office in Laramie, Wyoming, Durant reads the telegram. "Damn turncoat," Durant fumes. "Never trust a rebel."

Cullen mistakes a knock on his door for Strobridge, and opens it to discover The Swede and his dog. Cullen slams the door and grabs his gun. "It is a pleasure to see you again," The Swede calls to him.

After Cullen slowly opens the door again, The Swede thanks Cullen for "revealing the truth" — that Brigham Young is a false prophet and that he, The Swede, is really the One True Prophet. The Swede also says he believes Cullen is a devil sent to test him. Cullen responds, "Probably take a devil to finish this road. And you can call yourself whatever you like, long as you brought a shovel. Because this ain't the Mormon fort, you Swedish son of a bitch. You work for me. And I got a race to win." Cullen then slams the door in The Swede's face.