On the brink of war, a few days can feel like an eternity
A lot happens this week, and until we get to the Noah/Rosalee part of the episode, the show makes it easy for the audience to understand what’s going on. But the episode is split into the perspectives of various characters — Cato, Elizabeth, Harriet, Noah/Rosalee — over the span of a few days.
Thankfully Cato is the first perspective in this episode, because after last week’s ending, you’ve got to know what that weasel is up to. And I have no problem calling Cato a weasel, because as the episode opens with this going through all the nooks and crannies of Georgia’s boarding house, Cato obviously looks like he’s taking glee of all this subterfuge and plans of eventual betrayal. He sees certain things as he snoops, things like Georgia doing her make-up (turning on the lightbulb in his head that tells him she’s passing for white). He effortlessly moves through the boarding house, passing by an Elizabeth who obviously doesn’t realize anything’s amiss and even ends up in Georgia’s office… where he’s greeted by Harriet, sweeping up. So if Cato’s two steps ahead of everyone in the boarding house, the exception to that rule is Harriet, as she’s instantly suspicious of him (though he says he just wants to thank Georgia for all her help) and is even smart enough to give him the name “Minty” when he asks her who she is.
Cato also knows how to sneak out of the house, as he returns to give Patty Cannon a briefing. The episode reminds us that Patty is half-vile human being, half-absolute fool as she tells Cato that the woman sweeping floors couldn’t possibly be “the most notorious slave stealer there is,” even though she matches the description of Harriet Tubman. And Patty’s getting impatient waiting for him, thinking he’s getting too comfortable in a safehouse, thinking he’s planning to run up north with the rest of the cargo. So Cato grabs a blade to cut his own wrists, so he can take that back to the boarding house and look vulnerable. “I’m right where I want to be,” he tells Patty. “And I’m staying in that house until we get what we need.”
At the house, it’s unfortunately Elizabeth who tends to his wounds. “Unfortunate” because if anyone’s in the headspace to get conned by Cato right now, it’s definitely Elizabeth in all of her frustration and guilt and anger. Actually, according to Elizabeth, it’s the “fear” that’s the prevalent feeling. “It’s the only thing that’s been constant since they shot John,” she tells him.
And then we get to the part of the conversation that’s supposed to be justification for Cato, but given everything he’s done and continues to do, it doesn’t matter anymore. As Elizabeth says the fear can only go in or out, Cato tells her exactly what to do with it: “Pull it in. Then push it out. Get so scared you got to scare them back. Become the monster that came to eat you.” Yes, that’s how Cato justifies everything he does. Devi sure knew how to pick ’em, huh? Never mind that this speech doesn’t actually fit for someone who’s pretending they just attempted to end their own life.
At night, Cato wakes up and sneaks out of bed, seeing Elizabeth head out in the process. He follows her into the woods… and all of a sudden there’s a horse stable on fire and Elizabeth’s in it, passed out. The next scene is Cato bathing in a river, telling Patty and her boys “we got two days.”
So here’s where things get confusing, because in order to better understand the plot from slit wrists on, you need the Elizabeth side of things.
Earlier, Cato heard part of a basement argument between Georgia and Elizabeth, but the only relevant part to him (and the only part we understood) was that Rosalee and her family would return at week’s end. From Elizabeth’s perspective, we get context: One of her kidnappers walks into the boarding house, trolling her and telling her she’s just as dumb as her husband was. She slaps him, which is great, but she’s obviously shaken from that. That is what the argument is about with Georgia, as Elizabeth sees this as a reason to take action and make sure that man and his kind never come back… and as we know, Georgia is a not about that life. She much prefers safety, which is why she passes for white in the first place. “It’s because a sense of safety transforms the spirit.” And retaliation only threatens the runaways’ safety. It’s easy to understand where Georgia’s coming from, but at the same time: Oh, Georgia. War is on the horizon, girl.
Then we have Elizabeth find a bloody Cato, and we know what happens there. But as for the stable at night, it turns out to belong to the kidnapper who harassed Elizabeth. When he steps out, she sets it on fire… but the harasser’s young son doesn’t know that his father’s not there, so he runs in to save him… and Elizabeth runs in to save him, passing out in the process. She wakes up in the back of a wagon, the implication for the audience being that Cato saved her. But the boy was badly burned, and to that, Georgia gives Elizabeth a piece of her mind. Unfortunately for Georgia, Elizabeth is too far gone, completely agreeing with John Brown’s (and even Cato’s) rhetoric that love, hope, and rage won’t win this big fight: “total and unforgiving” fear will.
So Georgia straight up tells Elizabeth that she’s dangerous if she truly believes that and kicks her out of the boarding house.