Well we’re drawing close to the season’s finale and this episode reminds us of that perfectly. The atmosphere is really getting heated up in anticipation of the final clash and many old players have come back into play. On the one side Jarris is back in town, delivering Hearst a message, while Wu comes to Als aid. And as both sides get reinforcements, even if some greater than the others, the camp still goes about its daily life.
For the time being, until his own lines are greatly strengthened, Al is trying to „learn the way of church-mice”. Hearst on the other side has already started his assault. And how better to start it, if not by means of the newspaper :). In other words poor Merrick received the magnates harsh reply for his audacious act of publishing the Sheriff's letter. And while he will convalesce, the rest of the tribe will probably seek seclusion from Hearst's army that tramples everything in their way (including Wu :) ). The only ones who decide to remain unwavering to the new changes are of course, Bullock and the Earps. It was nice to see some gun play and as always it was a treat to see Bullock take someone by the ear into custody. Timothy truly plays his part excelently, his fearlessness being amazingly convincing: „You tell your men to interfere… Give me a reason to do what I want!”. – His severe gaze and his determined gestures truly give his character dimension. It’s sad to see the Earps leaving though. I was finally getting used to them and they would have made a nice team with Bullock in the upcoming campaign against Hearst. However, it was nice that Bullock took their side in „the fair fight”; if their ways do part so soon at least it is with a smile that they take their leave. It was also nice to see Johnny outsmart Al for once - his reward for it was of course a punch – whether it was the result of challenging Al’s authority, or simply because Johnny seemed ludicrous in his enthusiasm of fathoming Wu’s message, that I am not sure of. Either way, it was hilarious.
Among other key events of the episode, I would like to recall the moving of the school. I found their trip through the street really nicely filmed. A glint of innocence and peace surrounded by forces of destruction. The camp seemed peaceful for a brief moment, even as Hearst loomed from his high balcony.
Aunt Lou receives the dreadful news of her sons death and her reaction, as well as how Hearst handles the situation, are very interesting. For the first time Jane seems to truly relate to Joanie and perhaps she will finally give up on drinking. Though that’s wishful thinking.
Perhaps the highlight, or at least the most original moment, was the amateur night, throbbing with color and joy. Al on the other hand was busy working, which may or may not have been an excuse not to participate at an event that he sees as being beneath him. Nevertheless, there was an obvious desire for him to join those people outside, to let go of his pride and his worries, a desire that breaks through by means of his marvelous ballad at the end – one that however is witnessed only by an inanimate trophy. Or perhaps the ballad can signify more than simply this. Perhaps it is symbolic in the context that the towns people, for one of the first times, are not spending their evening in the Gem Salloon, but some place else. Civilization and order is slowly settling into the camp and Al's old ways are coming to an end. In this way of seeing things, the "unfortunate lad" in the ballad may very well be Al. A marvelous ending.