"“I had convinced myself of the world’s ambivalence toward its inhabitants until I came to this place. This place doesn’t want inhabitants at all. Every plant is inedible, every creek bed is dry. Though only September, snow covers the mountain peaks. Winter can’t wait to have at us. Can’t wait to join with the land and run us off or kill us. If land can have emotions, this land hates. It hates us, and everyone can feel it.”"- Elsa Dutton
Episode 9 of 1883, “Racing Clouds”, begins with the caravan back on the trail and quickly they fall into a dangerous company. Risa falls off her horse and lands near a rattlesnake. To save his beloved wife, Josef gets bit. Though he still tries to fight through the pain to get to his wife, it doesn’t look promising for either of them.
James, Shea, and Thomas don’t come across anything better on their end. The trio finds a group of Lakota women and children who have been murdered by horse thieves. Their teepees still burning with one woman laying naked on the ground. The men have their way with her after brutally murdering her family. James tracked around the horrific site trying to find some evidence of what caused this. Quickly Shea yells at him to stop. It was a rookie move to not stop him in the first place, but he’s getting old. Now he knows the Lakota warriors are going to think they were the ones behind this.
Colton sucks out the snake venom in Josef’s leg and Risa is in even worse condition. They will have to get to the Army fort quickly to have a chance of survival. It couldn’t get much worse than this. Or could it?
It’s a dire situation and there is one move to make. Find these thieves and bring them to justice then take the evidence back to the warrior husbands. From there they can do with them what they like, but it’s the only proof they will have that they are not the ones guilty of murdering their women. Otherwise, they will be found eventually on the trail and they do not have the numbers or experience to fight a tribe of warriors.
Shea tells Thomas the best option right now is to stay and wait for thieves. To murder them for the justice of the Lakota people and take their bodies back to their husbands. James wants them to wait for them to return but the cook is not about to wait around to be murdered. He says that anyone who doesn’t want to be Lakota bait should follow him to the fort. Now all that is left is Margaret, Elsa, and John standing there. Margaret asks Wade what he would do. He said he’d fought Indians before and he wasn’t trying to do it again. I do get where James was coming from but even he can be confident they could find the thieves and get back to them in time before the warriors do. Ultimately, Margaret decides they all should go to the fort.
Before heading out to the fort Margaret tells Elsa she will need to put a dress on. She of course fights her mother on it but she nearly begs her daughter to give her one less thing to worry about. Reluctantly Elsa listens to her and puts on a dress. Elsa is not all too happy with it but Margaret is. She marvels at her daughter's beauty and wished she had a mirror to show her. In all honesty, Elsa just wants back in her riding pants, but she appeases her mother for now. It may be temporary but Margaret enjoys it. Even in a dress, Elsa is nothing like any lady of her time.
1883: Can the tenacious trio come out on top once again?
James, Thomas, and Shea come up on some men who call themselves Wyoming deputies. They don’t even shed any guilt for killing the Lakota women calling them prairie magnets who are good for nothing else. Before their leader even gets another word out they are shot down by the trio. James runs full speed right at the rest of them and Thomas and Shay go wide shooting down the rest of the men with ease.
The Lakota men come upon the sight of their women ravaged and murdered and before long they catch up to the caravans cook on the trail. He is shot down with several arrows and is too outnumbered to fight back.
Elsa comes up on the scene and stares at the sight in horror, but now she is trapped between them and the rest of the caravan. Wade and Colton instruct them to turn back around quickly and huddle together inside the wagons. Elsa has no choice but to run in the opposite direction and lead them away from the wagons. Margret is left in a helpless position firing off rounds at the Indians to try and keep them off her daughter. She gave Elsa the best chance but this situation is about as bad as James could have imagined.
1883: Is Elsa Dutton going to die?
Elsa was knocked off her horse and finally arises from the fight. She knows she has to make some kind of move if she’s got any shot at having another breath or she will end up just like Ennis. Elsa grabs a gun off one of the pioneers that was shot down with the Lakota arrows.
A warrior comes upon and tells her not to do it but Elsa is not going to go down easy. And she’s not about to be taken and sold so she fires at the warrior who in turn shoots her in the abdomen with a tainted arrow. Standing there in shock Elsa speaks in Comanche and tells one of the Lakota’s that they aren’t the ones responsible for their family’s demise and that her father was out seeking revenge on the real killers.
"“I felt no pain. Perhaps it was the fever of the fight, but it didn’t hurt. I thought of pushing it through, I thought better of it. As my father would say, the one good thing about problems is they’ll still be problems later. Don’t have to deal with them right away.”"- Elsa Dutton
Margaret was in tears knowing Elsa would need a surgeon at the Army fort. Everyone is now left with the havoc that the Lakota brought upon them. Death was all around and one woman was shot and scalped. She was in so much pain she didn’t know what to do with herself and Colton shoots her in mercy. In the end, it was Elsa who ends up saving her father and everybody else.
Thomas, Shea, and James came up on the warriors and are informed it was Elsa who saved him because she was the best warrior of all. He then reveals to James he should take her to the fort with doctors and pray for her too.
By the time Elsa wakes up, she sees the man she loves the most, her father. She doesn’t feel any pain as her body is most likely in shock. James tells her it doesn’t matter how much pain she feels it matters if she gets an infection. Elsa tells her father she is fine but only time will tell. Colton has been working for hours trying to dig the grave for the scalped woman and beating himself up for killing her, even though he thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Shea tells him he needs to stand by his decision, right or wrong.
James now knows this was the cost of it all. He speaks to Wade and asks him how bad is it. Wade knows the arrow had to have clipped her liver. Given that she is young and she is strong there could still be a slim chance. James walks with Margaret, both of them shaken up by the events. Margaret is trying to remain as positive as possible but James has seen enough death to know better.
“And she’s the light of my life, and she’s my soul, but she’s gonna die,” James tells his wife which is met with a heavy slap. She’s not ready to hear that.
"“She’s gonna die and it’s gonna cut us in two, but if we don’t accept it now she’ll die in some fort with some doctor doping her up so badly she can’t straight. Then we will have robbed her. She needs to see every sunrise and every sunset. And we will lie to her, and we will tell her she’s fine. And we will let her look at this world those big dreamer eyes, ‘till they can’t see anymore.”"- James Dutton
James tells his wife that their wagon riding days are almost over, and wherever Elsa takes her last breath is the place they will call home. Margaret replies not this place, not here, it would carry far too many bad memories. The one highlight of this episode is surely Faith Hill’s Emmy award-winning performance (or should have been) Hill was insanely phenomenal in this role and stole this episode.
Margaret carefully helps Elsa up offering her to ride up with her in the wagon. The back of the wagon in a laying position would tear her apart. Instead, she chooses to ride her horse alongside her father. The one place she was born to be. James is in utter pain himself watching the pain his daughter is in to just get on her horse. Elsa already knew by the look on her parent's faces that the odds aren't in her favor..