1923 recap: Aftermath
The opening seconds of 1923 this week, wouldn't look out of place in a slasher flick. Following last week's brutal attack on the Duttons, their kitchen is bathed in blood. Pooled, dripping, and smeared, it's seemingly covering every visible surface. Let's recap episode 4, "War and the Turquoise Tide"!
A distraught Cara (Helen Mirren) scrubs away the recent, painful reminder of the escalating range war, while head cowboy Zane (Brian Geraghty) arrives for his marching orders. He suggests wiring the letter she penned to Spencer, as mailing it might take months. But Cara doesn't want to risk word getting out of her family's vulnerability. She insists he mail the letter and not speak of the attack or the weakened state it's left them in.
Meanwhile, Jack's (Darren Mann)wound isn't keeping him from sitting with a shotgun by Elizabeth's (Michelle Randolph) bed. His bride-to-be is feverish, but seems to be on the mend. Her mother – who also lost her husband in the attack – arrives with plans to cancel their wedding and move her daughter back east. Jack protests, earning him a hard slap from Mrs. Strafford, which in turn earns her a harder smack from Cara. Elizabeth expresses her wishes to still marry Jack and remain at the Dutton ranch, while her mom is given the boot by the Dutton matriarch.
Outside, John's (James Badge Dale) widow Emma (Marley Shelton) – still numb from the attack that left her husband with a bullet through the eye – takes his body to the private Dutton cemetery. She begins digging a grave near the resting place of his mother, 1883's Margaret Dutton (Faith Hill). The episode's grim opening moments also offer a peek at Jacob (Harrison Ford), who's unconscious in bed, covered in bloody bandages and breathing with difficulty.
Things are looking much brighter when we catch up with Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) and Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer). The new couple are living their best, Blue Lagoon-rivaling life on an apparently secret, tropical paradise in Africa. There's lots of sun, sex and hopeful talk of the pair's future.
Back in Montana, Banner (Jerome Flynn) and his men are planning their next move in the wake of their ambush on the Duttons. They hardly escaped the skirmish unscathed, and are now just an army of three. But Banner has a plan to rebuild his forces and take the ranch. He meets with Donald Whitfield (Timothy Dalton), a wealthy, powerful man who apparently loves taxidermy as much as gold-mining. He's also a sinister sort, agreeing to provide Banner the funds to carry out his plan, but also promising to skin the sheepherder's wife if he's betrayed.
Despite the graphic threat – which also includes having Banner's children buried in their mother's skinned hide – he agrees to Whitfield's terms. He wastes no time striking at the Duttons again, stealing their cattle and leaving a few dead cowboys behind. When Cara learns of Banner's latest crimes, she goes to Jacob's bedside looking for guidance. The near-death rancher wakes, advising his wife not to retaliate until Spencer returns from Africa.
Cara also keeps up appearances at the town hall Livestock Association meeting. She attends on her husband's behalf, under the guise he's in Wyoming hunting the cattle thieves. She also calls for the formation of a police force to address the ranch war in a lawful manner. Upon getting the needed votes for her proposal, she adjourns the meeting like a boss. Outside, Banner calls her out for lying about Jacob's absence. She responds by spitting in his face and threatening to kill him slowly. She also expresses gleeful enthusiasm over Banner's eventual meeting with her nephew Spencer.
The episode also catches us up on another war, the one simmering between boarding school student Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves) and her ruler-wielding nemesis Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle.) Without digging into the gruesome details of the physical abuse the young girl continues to suffer, we'll say it's enough for her to finally reach her boiling point. Upon applying war paint-like ash to her face, Teonna fills a pillow case with a literal stack of bibles. She then beats the nun with the sack before suffocating her. For good measure, she also takes the ruler Sister Mary was so fond of weaponizing and brands it into her face.
Back in Africa, Alexandra's helping Spencer chase away his demons. Specifically, she's reading through letters Cara had mailed him while he was in the war. Spencer had previously ignored them, believing the hope they offered would mentally weaken him and lead to his demise. But with Alexandra's encouragement – and a big bottle of booze – the pair dive into the reams of notes. After a night spent catching up on the correspondence, they come to the last letter – it's the same one Cara wrote last episode, just after the family was attacked by Banner.
As Spencer absorbs the painful news of his brother's death and the other attacks on his family, he asks Alexandra when the letter was written. "Three months ago," she responds.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.
In this Yellowstone prequel starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, the Dutton family fights to hang onto their ranch during the rise of Western expansion, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.