1923 episode 2 recap: Spencer Dutton meets his match

Brandon Sklenar in 1923
Brandon Sklenar in 1923 (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for 1923 episode 2, "Nature's Empty Throne."

When we last left 1923, Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) was coming face to face with a leopard and Jack (Darren Mann) was getting shot at by sheep herders. We thankfully don't have to wait long for either situation to be resolved in episode 2.

Starting off in Africa, Spencer fights off the leopard, but it unfortunately kills one of his companions. When his wound is being treated by a doctor at the camp (he is well aware of what infected wounds can do if not properly treated; RIP Elsa), he threatens the man who hired him for not accurately telling him there would be two leopards and then not showing the proper respect for his fellow hunter. Spencer says the only reason that he isn't killing the man is because he needs a ride back into Nairobi.

For Jack, the shot missed him but killed his horse. As the sheep herders close in, Jacob (Harrison Ford) and the rest of the cowboys arrive and surround them. Jacob pistol whips Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) and tells him they are going to give his sheep to the reservation and says he'll do what he promised if Banner ever grazed on another man's land again. Banner doesn't believe he'll hang him — it's the 20th century after all — but Jacob proves him wrong. He strings them up on their horses and leaves them to die.

Harrison Ford in 1923

Harrison Ford in 1923 (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

Later, he tells John (James Badge Dale) and Jack by a camp fire he hopes a few of them do make it. When Jack asks why, Jacob says the greatest threat to their ranch isn't anything nature can throw at them, it's other men. He explains the best way to protect themselves is for people's fear of them to be greater than their greed. He wants whoever survives (Banner managed to) to tell the world what happens when they cross a Dutton.

Elsewhere, Teonna (Aminah Nieves) continues her fight against the reform school. She pushes the envelope with Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle), until she speaks in her native language. Sister Mary hits her, but Teonna hits her right back. However, there is no equal punishment this time. Teonna is thrown into a wood shed and kept there all night, catching a fever. After being released, she is being treated by another nun who starts to molest her, but Sister Mary intervenes. It's not to rescue Teonna, though. She tells her it is her mission to kill the Indian in her, but if Teonna hits her again, she'll kill the rest of her too.

Hopefully, someone is soon going to be on the way to help Teonna. We see Teonna's grandmother speak with the superintendent on her reservation, petitioning him to help get Teonna to come live with her. However, he doesn't seem to care and tells the grandmother she needs to go through all these hoops to officially become Teonna's guardian.

Aminah Nieves in 1923

Aminah Nieves in 1923 (Image credit: Emerson Miller/Paramount+)

Back on the Yellowstone, Cara (Helen Mirren) and Emma (Marley Shelton) sit out on the porch. Emma notes Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) is singing and practicing her dancing for the wedding. She comments that Jack is going to have his handful with her and their children. While they don't come right out and say it, they hint that Elizabeth is already pregnant. Cara describes Elizabeth's energy as gasoline and that it's something that is not going to wane in future generations (we see the proof in that with Beth Dutton).

Zane (Brian Geraghty) drives the sheep to the reservation, offering the herd to the indigenous men they meet as a gift. Though they are at first skeptical of the gift, and Dutton in general, they accept it and tell Zane to thank Jacob, giving him a knife to pass along.

Meanwhile, the cowboys find a good spot to graze the herd and leave a few cowboys there to tend to it. Jack shouts with joy that they're heading home, which is particularly exciting for him as he and Elizabeth's delayed nuptials can now take place.

The rest of the episode is spent in Africa. Spencer is resting up at a hotel in Nairobi, where he is approached by a young British woman, Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer). They have an immediate connection, as she has a fire and a spirit that Spencer can relate to. However, she is engaged. Spencer has his own plans on the horizon as well, as he is hired for another job to hunt a hyena.

Alexandra's engagement dinner is held that night, but she is clearly not thrilled with her fiancé. She runs into Spencer again, teasing that perhaps he'll whisk her away with him on his latest adventure. Spencer says she wouldn't like his, to which Alexandra responds, "don’t bet on it," before she has to return to her fiancé.

The next morning, Spencer is about to head out when he sees Alexandra, preparing to leave with her group. They can't take their eyes off each other until Spencer's car starts to drive away. Alexandra decides to chase after him and despite Spencer's protests that it is going to be dangerous, she is committed to running away with him.

Spencer and his almost assured tragic story is the early breakout of 1923, though the rivalry between Jacob and Banner is certainly setting up for some big things to come.

New episodes of 1923 premiere on Paramount Plus on Sundays in the US and Mondays in the UK. 

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Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.