Colm Meany as Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant - Hell on Wheels _ Season 5, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Michelle Faye/AMC

Season 5, Episode 10

61 Degrees

Cullen's nitroglycerin experiment provides an explosive backdrop for the railroad life in Truckee. Durant's plan turns deadly.

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Full Recap

Cullen and Mei lie in bed after spending the night together. Sunlight streams through the curtains and the train whistle blows. Cullen sits up and winces. Mei gingerly strokes the scar on his thigh and asks what happened. "Long story. That's all over now," he says. They begin to kiss again but stop when they hear footsteps outside. "It's dangerous to be doing this," Cullen says. "I know," Mei replies. They continue kissing.

Cullen rides up to the mouth of the tunnel. Huntington and Jim are both surprised to see him back. Huntington is furious that they've been working 24 hours a day and are still falling behind Durant, thanks to Cullen's "disobedience." Cullen has a solution.

Cullen slides a cargo train door open, revealing crates containing the components for nitroglycerin. Jim orders Cullen to put everything down -- it's too dangerous to use and Cullen doesn't know how. Cullen says that's what Jim is for.

Cullen tells Jim he only has to mix the first batch and train the Chinese how to do it. Jim protests; nitroglycerin is unstable and requires finesse to make. Cullen gets him to agree to just one batch.

In a shed, Jim mixes clear liquids and tells Cullen how he learned to make nitroglycerin. He reveals that his own instructor misjudged one step and "disappeared into a red mist." "It's the last thing my left eye ever saw," Jim adds. He hands some of the nitro to Cullen. "Every breath you take with this in your hands is a challenge to God," Jim warns.

In the tunnel, Jim shows the Chinese how to set up blasting caps. Mei translates.

In Laramie, Maggie awakens next to Durant after their tryst. Durant asks her to marry him, but Maggie laughs at the idea and starts to get dressed. "It's a racket. I've tried it," she scoffs. Besides, now that Cheyenne is the railroad hub, she has to get back to her hotel. Durant suggests she hire someone to manage it, but she'll only agree if Durant promises no more schemes. After some blustering, he does. Maggie comes back to bed, but their embrace is interrupted by an angry crowd outside. It's led by Jack Nobles, one of many enraged ranchers who feel swindled and want their investment money back.

Louise watches the ranchers march Maggie and Durant through town to the railroad office. Inside, Nobles pulls a gun, ordering Durant to open the safe and remove $50,000. Durant resists, so Maggie does it instead, revealing a mostly empty interior. "The railroad never keeps cash on hand," Durant explains. Nobles refuses to leave "without restitution of one sort or another," but allows them two days. Once he's gone, Maggie asks where the money is. Durant reveals that his schemes have left him penniless. Maggie warns him they'll be "hip deep in blood" if he doesn't find a way to pay the ranchers.

In Chang's opium den, Stagecoach Mary trades the red tile she found on Matt Keane's body for two gold eagles. On her way out, Mary expresses interest in Wai-Ling's dress -- the one given to her by Mei.

The ground shakes as a blast blows dust out of the tunnel's mouth. Cullen and his crew, watching from afar, are impressed. They move inside to clear the rock. Cullen marvels that the chunks are twice the size of the ones they get from black powder. One worker pulls an unexploded nitroglycerine canister out of the wall. Cullen screams, "Don't touch that!" but it's too late. The worker is vaporized; others around him blown to pieces.

Back in Huntington's office, Jim explains how unpredictable the nitroglycerine charges can be. Cullen intends to proceed as planned, with himself and Jim sweeping the tunnel after every blast to avoid a repeat disaster. Jim refuses and walks out. Huntington says Jim has just made himself "a very expensive redundancy."

At the parlor, Eva pushes through a crowd and into Tess's room. Tess is sitting on the floor, Major Bendix measuring her skull with calipers. Bendix owes Eva $12 for Tess's time, but since he doesn't have the cash Eva demands "something in trade." She takes the wild Indian pony that previously caught her eye.

In Mickey's office, Durant proposes an elaborate fake kidnapping designed to extract $250,000 ransom money from the railroad board. Durant will pay Mickey $25,000 for organizing the scheme.

Mei watches Cullen closely as he prepares nitroglycerine. Cullen bars the door and throws Mei on the table. Their love-making rattles the bottles.

Cullen tells Jim that he'll be fired if he doesn't follow Cullen's orders. Jim holds fast -- staying alive for his family is more important than the railroad.

Louise joins Delaney in the saloon to interrogate him about Durant's situation, but a drunk Delaney instead reveals that his wife has filed for divorce. Louise advises Delaney to leave town and go home to Abby. Delaney insists that Durant needs him there.

Maggie brings Durant $5,000 from selling her cattle. Durant tells her to buy it back -- he's gotten the money he needs from selling his personal Union Pacific stock shares.

Recruiting Shea for the kidnapping ruse, Mickey is adamant: "No one dies."

Huntington fires Jim in front of his family. "I was your only friend," Jim says pointedly at Cullen. Cullen doesn't respond.

Huntington plays a game of Go with Chang in the opium den. Chang suggests Huntington expand to China after the railroad is complete and proposes an exclusive shipping contract with Sze Yup.

Cullen rides out to the Strobridges' car as they're packing their things. He's found a live charge on the wall after a blast. Jim refuses to help, but advises Cullen to set another fuse next to it and blow them both -- using "two Jakes you don't mind losing."

Alone, Cullen examines the live fuse inside the tunnel, then carefully prepares to drill a second hole next to it. Hobbled by his leg, he drops the tools. Mei picks them up. She insists on helping, and Cullen allows it.

The men gather at the tunnel entrance after the stray fuse is detonated. Light streams through a small hole at the back. Cullen uses a sledgehammer to widen the hole. From the other side of the wall, a Chinese worker reaches through to shake Cullen's hand.

Louise enters Durant's private car, surprising Durant and Delaney on their way to New York. She interrogates Durant about his deal with the ranchers, refusing to leave as Durant becomes increasingly agitated. The train slows to a stop and a masked Shea bursts into Durant's car. When Shea smashes Louise's face with his gun, Delaney lunges at him. Shea knocks Delaney to the ground, then shoots him in the head as Louise screams and Durant groans in horror. Shea turns his gun on Louise, but Durant commands, "I'm the one you want! Take me." Shea leads Durant out and drops the ransom note in Louise's lap.

Cullen walks through the Strobridges' empty car. The only thing they've left behind is the bottle of ocean water Cullen brought back from San Francisco.

Cullen brings the bottle to Mei's tent and sits on her bed. "I've lost everybody I ever had," he says softly. They're interrupted by Chang ringing the bell on Mei's tent, delivering her father's payment. Chang is surprised to see Cullen exit the tent ahead of Mei. Cullen orders her to have the men trained on nitro before week's end, then brushes past Chang, who hands Mei the bag of money. Mei grunts, turns back into her tent and closes the flap. Chang watches Cullen walk away, processing what he's just seen.