Elsa is embracing the life of a cowgirl even more along with Sam, Thomas, and Shea. Episode 8 of 1883 starts with all of them chasing a herd of wild mustangs directly following the aftermath of the storm. Elsa is already starting to ride like one of the Comanches. Not only that, but she’s starting to howl like them. Sam is teaching her the way of their people and Elsa has found a new purpose and new happiness after losing Ennis. Ennis taught her about love but Sam is teaching her about power within herself.
The cowgirl rips her pants and is told she rides too well for white man’s pants. Back in the wagon, she is sewing her pants just as Margaret walks in. Her mother tells her she can always wear one of her dresses which is met with annoyance and immediate refusal. However, Margaret knows that dresses are her future whether she chooses to admit it to herself or not.
Margaret reveals the true reason why James lets her run wild and free and wear pants instead of dresses. So why does he let her ride with the cowboys instead of learning from the rest of the women? Because that is a time that will be short-lived, so he lets her live out her happiness now, but he knows dresses are her future. To tend to gardens, and get married, make babies because that’s how the world is, and what it expects from her.
1883 Episode 8 recap: The Shea and James saga continues
Shea and James are once again not seeing eye to eye. Shea knows these pioneers won’t survive on foot in the winter. He thinks taking them to Denver is the smartest play right now, but James doesn’t hesitate to tell him it’s not his choice to make. He needs to ask these people what they want. Shea often puts too much in his hands because he thinks he’s right, and even though he is right more often than not, he doesn’t have to continually carry the burden on his shoulders.
James is not about to turn back around and he’s not going to Denver. Though he’s not sure exactly where he wants to go he knows he doesn’t want to go there. Margaret knows there’s no sense in trying to change his mind, she trusts her husband and her wants and needs are often put on the back burner for her husband's dream. She doesn’t seem upset about it. It’s just a part of life she has grown to live with. Love tends to let you oversee some things. And a truly healthy marriage is learning which battles to choose.
No matter what direction they take the caravan they will need provisions. The Comanches help in that aspect and they all trade with each other. Elsa has even made some chaps so now she won’t have to worry about rips anymore.
1883 Episode 8 recap: It’s the right way or his way
Shea gives the Europeans the option of either going to Denver and being there in six weeks or going on foot to Fort Laramie and having to cross the South Path in the winter. But that is not the dream the immigrants had in mind. James is not stopping and lets them know he is going north. They are more than welcome to come along but they have to keep up and earn their keep. He’s not going to coddle them as Shea did. There’s no time for that and they have to learn for themselves. Josef decides they will go north with them too because land is not free in Denver and they don’t want to wait until spring to head west again.
As Sam prepares to leave, Thomas nearly begs him not to go. It’s hard for him of course but they can’t survive without him. He promised Noemi he would get her to Oregon and though Shea’s pride is busted it was also his dream to go, for his wife. At that moment, Shea really needed the reminder and changes his mind. Unfortunately, Elsa lets Shea know she’s hell-bent on staying.
1883 Episode 8 recap: Why must she fall in love with everybody?
Sam already wants to offer James something for Elsa. She doesn’t want to leave in the morning already smitten with the warrior, but before that happens Sam teaches her to hunt buffalo. It’s an exhilarating moment for Elsa and you won’t find a cowgirl like her ever again. Together they hunt and eat the heart of the buffalo.
James and Margaret have a talk by the fire about Elsa. She can only deal with one dreamer at a time and now she will have so much work to do with Elsa to get her civilized again. Just by looking into Margaret’s eyes, you can see the sense of dread she has. She’s losing her daughter and doesn’t know how to rein her back in. James is very nonchalant about it but quickly they are interrupted by Sam who comes to offer his horse for his daughter’s hand.
Margaret cannot believe James is allowing this, but James knows there is no use once Elsa has her mind set. His wife desperately pleads for James to do something, anything. He never fathomed he’d lose his daughter so quickly, but Elsa thinks she is a full-blown woman since she turned 18. Nothing anyone says will matter much and James doesn’t want to lose her completely by pushing her too far now. There’s too much at stake.
Despite James and Shea not seeing eye to eye they share a moment of clarity by the fire. He offers him some whiskey knowing he needed it over his daughter's judgment. “I guess she’s gonna fall in love with every man she meets till one of them sticks,” James tells him.
Shea knows the pioneers don’t trust him anymore, and he doesn’t trust them to make the right choices for themselves. Because they seem to trust James in his eyes he wants to hand the leadership over. It’s not that James trusts them so much but he trusts their desire to see it through. They are his people to lead now. Though Shea will continue to guide and protect them. He also advises that he will too have to trust Elsa.
Margaret tries to get through to her daughter but Elsa slams back that she is a hypocrite. She was merely 17 years old when she fell in love with her father. It’s only different because she says it is. Elsa says she will ride with them to Oregon. But she will not stay. She thinks God sent Sam to her and promises to visit them but she will come back in the Spring and make a home with Sam. James believes it would be better to see her once in a while than never at all.
“That’s where she gets it from.” It is a line Margaret has used on James many times. What drives Elsa is that she’s a dreamer and she flows with the spirit of the wind. James made her that way, it is why she’s the way she is. James is not inclined to disagree but knows Margaret is selling herself short. “The way she loves she gets that from you,” James tells his wife in response. It was a compliment Margaret needed to hear at that time after feeling very little connection to her daughter anymore.
1883 recap: Kah-Myk-Kun-Tun-Nah
Sam’s land is with Quanah Parker south of the Wichita Mountains. He will build her a house if she desires but he doesn’t think she’d like it. He makes a promise to James that he will bring her back if she ever changes her mind about him. But he fought for this land too hard to leave it. “Maybe one day you’ll find land to belong to and you’ll know what I mean.” Those were words the next Dutton generations would live by and the reason they still fight with all they have to keep what they built today.
Elsa screams I love you in Comanche as Sam is riding away. It is looked on as both surprise and confusion but also pity from the pioneers and her family. But there is no time to grieve. Elsa quickly wipes her tears away and tells her father they are wasting time. Winter is coming and there’s no need to fuss over her pain again. The show must go on so she can get back to the future her heart desires.