Thursday, August 20, 2009

Remote Rewind: Murder on the River

As difficult as it was, both physically and emotionally, for Michaela to climb Pike's Peak and say goodbye to her friend, nothing could have prepared her for the emotional ride she was about to take. Any history student can tell you about Gen. Custer and his intolerance toward Native Americans and how it ultimately led to his demise at Little Big Horn. But before he held his "Last Stand," he carried out his massacre tradition in the Battle of Washita. The latter is where this outstanding 2-hour episode of Dr. Quinn focused its story.

After sending the Cheyenne women, children and elders away to what they thought was safety, Michaela, Sully and Cloud Dancing find out that Custer is planning on intercepting them on their journey. They set out to warn Black Kettle and his fellow Cheyenne, but come upon a horrific sight as they reach the Washita River: bodies everywhere. The women, children and elderly are all brutally murdered on the banks of the river. Bodies are shrewn about and children lie as lifeless as dolls. Cloud Dancing's own wife is among the dead and he tragically mourns her lifeless body. Flanked with a sense of hopelessness and despair, Michaela frantically searches for survivors, but finds none save for a tiny infant shielded under the body of a young Cheyenne, No Harm. As a baby, No Harm's mother shielded him and he survived and now he did the same to save one of the youngest members of his tribe. It was devastating and moving and made even more so by the show's decision to withhold a musical score and allow the scene to unfold in silence.

After they return to Colorado Springs with the young orphaned baby, Michaela goes back to work as if nothing happened. She tends to patients at her clinic and rebuffs anyone who wants to be a shoulder for her to cry on, but the weight of what she witnessed and the toll of the lives lost catches up with her eventually. First, she has a difficult time sleeping. She finds herself scrubbing the floors and medical supplies at the clinic during the wee hours of the night. Then, she begins to shut people out and snap on a dime. It finally comes to a head one morning at the homestead. Brian gives her a hard time and she flies off the handle. After, she runs out to the barn and begins frantically sweeping. Sully runs out to see if she's OK and hears her devistating sobs. He decides to give her some space and time to come to terms with the tragedy.

Eventually, Michaela spends some time with Cloud Dancing. He helps her mourn and move on from that horrific day along the Washita River. By the end of the outing, she seems better, but forever changed. But then again, so are most of us who witness along with her, the total devastation that was done to the Cheyenne. A difficult episode to watch and shoot (according to both Jane Seymour and Joe Lando, the hardest of all the episodes), but an important one. And, an important furthering of Michaela's emotional journey before she walks down the aisle and never looks back.

Feeling nostalgic for Dr. Mike, Sully and the rest of the residents of Colorado Springs? Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series is now available on DVD

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