Season 5, Episode 5
Elixir of Life
Unexpected violence strikes during the festival of Tin Hau Don in Chinatown. Cullen confronts The Swede. Durant involves Maggie in his latest scheme.
Cullen removes his boots, rolls up his pants, and wades into San Francisco Bay. As he stands in the surf, a corked bottle washes up against his leg. He fills it with seawater and smiles.
At the San Francisco train depot, Cullen walks past passengers and Chinese loading crates of food, fireworks, and decorations. Tao dispenses third class tickets to fifty new Chinese workers.
Cullen boards the first class car and sits next to Chang. Chang explains that the fireworks are for the Heavenly Empress Festival -- his men are far from home and long for China and its traditions. Cullen says, "Never was much for tradition." Chang declares it a Western notion "that the past can be forgotten." Cullen asks Chang about his business with The Swede, and Chang suggests Cullen should "make Thor Gundersen part of your past."
When they arrive back in Truckee, Cullen informs Chang that the railroad is now handling payroll, with Tao overseeing.
In a Laramie hotel room, Louise stares at a bottle of pennyroyal. She's about to open it when the train whistle blows and breaks her trance. Outside, Mickey welcomes new Irish workers and spots Maggie Palmer arriving in town.
Louise alerts Delaney to the fact that Samuel is a U.P. spy. Upset, Delaney unintentionally reveals that he's working on "a bridge twelve miles long across a lake of brimstone."
Mickey leads the new workers to the Parlor House where the whores wait outside. He and Eva give their sales pitch for the brothel and the saloon. As the men leave, Eva yanks Josie aside, slaps her, and pulls one of the men's wallets from her cleavage.
In Truckee, Cullen is watching a snake oil salesman when Phineas and The Swede pull up in a wagon. Cullen calls to Phineas, who looks to The Swede for guidance. The Swede nods and Phineas approaches Cullen. The snake oil salesman, Bartholomew T. Gibbons, aims his pitch at The Swede and offers "health and well-being beyond all bonds of expectation" for only $2 a bottle. The Swede turns and informs the gathering crowd that eternal life and salvation are free for Latter-day Saints.
Inside the rail office, Cullen grills Phineas about The Swede's dealings with Chang and warns Phineas against "buying The Swede's stock." Phineas stands firm in his support of Brother Gundersen.
In the opium den, The Swede uses Chang's recent change in "circumstances" to negotiate the price of "rice" down. He reminds Chang that they share a common enemy -- Cullen -- and says, "Sooner or later the devil makes us all pay. This time he has chosen you."
Cullen watches as Tao teaches the new tunnel workers.
In the barn, The Swede tells Phineas he's had a vision, brought to him by the Angel Moroni, that Phineas is to be the new prophet. Phineas's acceptance of the angel's message is the test that will prove him "worthy of this new, exalted role." Phineas nods. The Swede reveals his gun cache with the explanation, "Some in Salt Lake City will accept this revelation. Some will not." He hands Phineas a rifle.
Durant tries to sell Laramie land to rancher Bill Budill when Maggie Palmer interrupts. She informs Budill that Durant is "as crooked as a Virginia fence, and you're a fool to buy what he's selling." Budill abruptly leaves and Maggie, furious, tells Durant that her property in Cheyenne is now worthless. Durant offers to explain over dinner. Maggie picks up a handful of dirt and hurls it at him before storming off.
Louise comes to Eva for help with an abortion.
Cullen warns Tao that Chang won't stand by as they take over his domain. Tao invites Cullen to be their guest for that night's Tin Hau Don festivities.
Dressed in evening clothes, Cullen brings the bottle of seawater to Janie Strobridge. He asks her to keep it safe until he needs it.
Cullen makes his way through the Chinese celebration to the opera house where Chang is giving a toast. Chang praises Tao for ending the strike, then in English proclaims, "Let old grudges and rivalries melt away with the winter snow."
Eva begins to treat Louise with slippery elm root: "Goes right, in a couple days you'll be in the family way no more."
Psalms brings Durant money to buy Laramie land, quoting Durant's own line that land bought today would be "worth ten times what it cost tomorrow." Durant tries to dissuade him, but Psalms stands firm. He exits the office holding a land deed, and the Freedmen cheer.
A line of johns waits for service at the Parlor House. Mickey warns Eva, busy dealing with Louise, to restore order or he'll bring Shea back.
In the midst of the Chinese celebration, Tao pulls Cullen aside. He sees the way Cullen looks at Mei, "and if I can see, Chang can see." Cullen protests, "It ain't like that." Tao continues, "Mei can never be a woman, do you understand? Never."
Outside, Mei watches as Janie hugs Cullen. Mei hands Cullen an unlit sparkler and lights it with her own. Their eyes meet. Cullen's expression hardens and he tosses the sparkler to the ground, extinguishing it in the mud. As he turns to leave, one of Chang's men intercepts him -- Chang urgently requests Cullen's presence.
Chang tells Cullen about his "rice" business with The Swede.
Over dinner, Durant advises Maggie to buy all the Cheyenne land she can. Once Laramie prices have skyrocketed and Cheyenne prices have bottomed, he'll declare Cheyenne again the railroad hub and they'll both profit "astronomically." Maggie suspects Durant wants to get "almost caught." Durant tells Maggie to stop denying that they're both "insatiable animals." They eat.
Inside the Mormon church, Cullen holds The Swede at gunpoint and orders The Swede to show him the rifles. The Swede dips his hands in the rice crates and pulls out nothing but rice. Cullen does the same. Cullen pushes The Swede against the wall, demanding to know where the guns are. Phineas interrupts, aiming his own rifle at Cullen. Phineas instructs Cullen to put his gun on the ground, but Cullen points it at The Swede's head. The Swede says Chang lied to Cullen about the rifles: "Mr. Chang has you chasing wild geese." Cullen drops Phineas with a rifle butt to the forehead and rushes out of the barn.
Gibbons makes his way through the festivities into the Chinese opera house where he asks specifically for Tao. Tao rises to greet him, and Gibbons shoots him twice in the chest. Mei rushes to Tao, dead on the floor. Cullen runs into the opera house, but it's too late. Cullen accuses Chang of orchestrating the murder, but Chang points out that it was committed by a white man: "Pity the only witnesses were Chinese."