1923 episode 3 recap: no time to waste for the Duttons

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

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for 1923 episode 3, "The War Has Come Home."

Unlike Yellowstone season 5's first seven episodes, things are moving fast in 1923, to the point where episode 3 saw the first battle in a war that is going to have ripple effects for not only this series but the entire history of the Dutton family.

The episode starts off with the Dutton men finally arriving back at the ranch after moving their cattle and dealing with the sheepherders. Because of the latter, Jacob (Harrison Ford) tells Cara (Helen Mirren) they need to go into town the next day. Banner Creighton (Jerome Flynn) has his own homecoming after barely surviving, though his is not so sweet. Bloodied and angry, he tells his son to roundup their allies.

In town, many of the Duttons get a look at the emerging technology of the 20th century, including a washing machine and a refrigerator. While they acknowledge the convenience of it, they laugh it off because they believe they'd just have to work more to pay for the things meant to make their life easier. Meanwhile, Jacob is blunt with the sheriff, a range war has begun between them and the sheepherders, and if he doesn't enforce law and order, Jacob is going to take care of things his own way.

As the Duttons spend the night in town, Jack (Darren Mann) and Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) check out a speakeasy. They find many people from the east have come to vacation in the park. Jack doesn't seem to be too worried about them, though it's the very thing his descendant John Dutton (Kevin Costner) is going to be railing against in about 100 years.

Though perhaps Jack was just a little preoccupied with the moment, as he and Elizabeth are caught in the throes of passion. Though Cara and Emma (Marley Shelton) have alluded Elizabeth may already be pregnant, this definitely feels like the first time the two of them have been together. Potential scandal, or just a misread from Cara and Emma?

Spencer (Brandon Sklenar) isn't waiting around like his nephew. After just meeting Alexandra (Julia Schlaepfer) in episode 2, the two have already run off together on Spencer's next job. The attraction between Spencer and Alexandra, which he shortens to Alex, is plain and clear, so it doesn't feel out of place when he so quickly asks her to marry him and she says yes. In awe of the beauty and history of Africa, Alex understands Spencer's view of not wanting to waste a moment.

Julia Schlaepfer and Brandon Sklenar in 1923

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

Their engagement bliss doesn't last long, though, as on their way back to camp they are attacked by an elephant. While Spencer manages to kill it, they are not out of danger yet. Other animals are going to come to eat the elephant and with night setting, they can't make it back to camp on foot. They climb a tree, but Spencer knows it's not big enough to keep a lion or leopard from climbing up.

Sure enough, a pride of lions comes for the elephant, soon joined by hyenas. When Alex screams, the lions see they have a chance for another meal and begin to go after them. Spencer tries to fight them off, but there's too many. It isn't until the group that hired Spencer arrives looking for them that they are able to escape.

Alex is rightfully terrified of her experience, saying she never wants to feel like that again. Spencer acknowledges until he met her that was the only way he could feel. Despite the brush with death, these two lovebirds still are head over heels for each other.

As are Jacob and Cara for that matter, as we get a sweet scene between the two the next morning in Bozeman that shows why they have lasted for 40 years (rounding down from the actual 44, as Jacob says). The family heads back to the ranch, with Zane (Brian Geraghty) and the rest of the cowboys riding ahead to be on the lookout for any trouble.

But that's the sheepherders were counting on. They bide their time and open fire on the Duttons in a valley. Jack is clipped in the shoulder and Elizabeth is shot in the waist. Jacob, Cara and John (James Badge Dale) take cover and open fire as the group of sheepherders ride at them. Thankfully, Zane hears the gunshots and doubles back, arriving just in time to help fend off most of the sheepherders.

Not all though, as Banner arrives in a car, carrying a Tommy gun. Jacob tells Cara to run but he and John are not able to protect themselves as Banner opens fire; both are hit. Banner then drives away. Jacob is severely wounded, but John is dead. In her rage, we see again the first scene of the series, where Cara tracks down and kills one of the assailants.

When they get back to the ranch, they treat Jacob and Elizabeth. Jacob, presuming he is going to die, tells them not to go to the sheriff, because that'll bring the vultures (bankers, thieves, etc.) to the ranch. Instead, he tells Cara Spencer needs to come home. Doctors arrive, but they don't seem too positive about Jacob's chances.

Cara, still in shock, writes a letter to Spencer, telling him that John is dead, Jack is wounded and, very likely, Jacob will be dead by the time he gets the letter. War has come to their family and they need him to come home to help fight it.

While we'd be surprised if Harrison Ford's run on 1923 were to be over after just three episodes (maybe he'll just be sidelined from his injuries moving forward), episode 3 assured us that is plenty to be excited about as this chapter in the Dutton's history unfolds. From Mirren's Cara to Spencer's journey to a true war for the land, it's been a fast-paced and enjoyable start.

New episodes of 1923 premiere on Paramount Plus on Sundays in the US, 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.