Pea Ridge, Arkansas. March 1862
Troops moving through the woods. A battle breaks out. They’re out of their depth. Bass is on horseback, watching everyone before him get blown to bits or shot straight through the head. It’s the 11th Regiment. A commander played by Shea Whigham’s character George Reeves speaks eloquently given the circumstances, gives Bass a rifle and says he will follow him and he will fire.
After some hesitation, Bass does just that, taking out several men with his laser precision shooting. Another regiments rides in, taking the Union soldiers on directly. They appear to be Indians, but they’re more likely white men. Yep. Barry Pepper’s character Esau Pierce slices a man’s throat, takes his scalp, and sings to the heavens.
Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas
Someone tells Bass he killed the wrong side. Bass replies that he’d rather be shot in the face than in the back.
Many were killed, especially from the colored ranks. A commander gives a semi-rousing speech that God favors the confederacy, but George Reeves respectfully brings up a significant error in judgment. The supply train arrives in four months.
The man chose not to take the counsel of his men and told them to leave their wagons behind to take advantage of their swift flight and goal of surprise. They marched fast only to find themselves outflanked, outmaneuvered, and now outsupplied. The general admits it was his oversight.
As the two begin to speak, Bass tells Esau that he saw him.
The conversation didn’t go well. The general dismisses the major, and George takes Bass with him. They pack up and leave.
While riding away, they pass a black man being pulled by ropes.
By the time they land and make a small camp, George pulls a gun on Bass as he walks to get grass for the horses. The man wonders if Bass takes him for a cowardly deserter. No, sir, he’s Master Reeves through and through. George was sent away on sick leave, apparently. Sick of seeing his face more like. Bass plays the game to get George to settle down. This isn’t the same kind of relationship seen in 1883.
Bass would like to learn to read so he could study the Bible. George says he’s not going to the good part of heaven with all the twinkly lights. He’ll go where there’s nothing. Only white folks go to the big dance, boy.
Grayson County, Texas
They arrive at a large mansion. George goes inside, screaming for Rachel. He didn’t even give her time to respond from the recesses of the house before assuming there was nobody there.
When Bass goes to the barn, there is a woman asleep. It’s his wife, Jennie. They kiss. His homecoming isn’t so bad.
Is the war over, Jennie wonders. It is for him, Bass says. They make love.
George is screaming from the dark for Bass. Jennie wants him to be hers forever.
While Bass was off doing whatever, George was thinking that Bass would walk away before he gave him a chance to walk away Scott free. Bass is confused about how he can walk out of here Scott-free.
After his heroics in battle, he’ll set him free tonight. That’s his promise. The trick is that he must beat his master at cards. Since Bass can’t read, it seems difficult for him to win.
But he can read the cards, so maybe he’s not as bad off as he thinks. As the cards have been drawn, George says God has been good to him. What lot has he given Bass? All Spades. Plain flush. The captain cheated. It’s a stacked deck.
Pushing that button wasn’t wise on George’s part. Now, they’re both fighting for their lives, and George doesn’t stand a chance. Something tells me that’s exactly what George wanted when he said Bass had to beat him.
Jennie wants him to run and never look back. He promises.
Bass runs into trouble pretty quickly. Three white men on horseback. As things begin to go south, Bass pops ‘em off before they even have a chance to point a gun in his direction.
Bass’s horse won’t go through the water, so he tells her she’s a good girl and takes off across the water.
Indian territory, March 1862
Bass has no shoes, so walking across the harsh terrain is doing him in. His feet are brutal. As he sits addressing the wounds, shots ring out. There are hunters cleaning a deer or something up yonder. They’ve long gone by the time Bass wakes.
He finds birds eating a snake and grabs what he can from the carcass for sustenance. He’s not doing well. He passes out in a field to be woken by a woman with a rifle asking if he’s a Seminole. Runaway, he says.
He wakes again on a table with a young child watching over him. He asks for water, and he brings him Owa.
Seminole Nation. April 1862
Bass finds the woman who saved him outside, shoeing horses. He thanks her. Her name is Sarah. This is his home for now, she says, despite the fact that he’s troubling her. The Seminole never surrendered or made a worthless treaty, so her people still live there, and they’re still free. But he did die in a white man’s war so that Curtis could be free.
Seminole Nation. July 1863
They make a deal that he’ll stay for a while and work for his living. Curtis teaches Bass how to fish with his finger. They’re like a family.
Turkey Creek Trading Post. May 1865
Bass and Curtis are doing their shopping when soldiers approach. White men, Curtis says. Bass says it’s OK. One of the soldiers needs someone to interpret. He gets the counter girl two dollars more than her inflated asking price, as well as a quarter each for him and Curtis to load the wagon.
Major Esau Pierce is in the wagon they’re loading. They get to talking, and Bass barely gets a chance to warn Curtis that a battle is heading their way, seemingly to free Esau.
Bass is down in the courtyard while the battle wages. Curtis aims the rifle at Esau, but Bass begs him to stop. What Curtis gets instead is shot in the gut by Esau.
Just don’t die, please, Bass says over and over. But Curtis did die, and Bass is partly responsible.
Bass apologizes for taking Pistol away from his home but promises that everything will be OK if they’re good to each other.
Grayson County, Texas. July 1865
Bass arrives at the Reeves house. It looks empty. His home with Jennie is also empty.
Mistress Rachel finds him there. She welcomes him home. George never thought he’d return, but Rachel always knew he would. George fancies himself a legislator now as if that could reclaim what was taken from them. He wants to know where Jennie went.
Fort Smith, Arkansas
Fort Smith is a bustling place. It’s full of shops and people. Black children sit outside eating ice cream.
Bass finds Jennie hanging laundry. She’s got a little girl with her, so Bass pulls back.
Later, she’s walking with the girl, and Bass approaches. I hope he treats you right, he says. She’s like, huh? She’s got no man but Bass Reeves. Say hello to your daughter.