Yellowstone ‘1883’ Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: “The Crossing”

In 1883 Season 1, Episode 4, titled “The Crossing”, the Brazos River poses the deadliest threat to our group of fearless pioneers. Written by Taylor Sheridan and directed by Christina Voros, Episode 4 begins with Elsa (Isabel May) swapping seamstress Alina (Amanda Jaros) for reasonable pants. Her father James (Tim McGraw) has melted all their gold into jewelry to hide their possessions while they’re on the trail, and Elsa is only too happy to trade with the treasure in disguise. Elsewhere, James, Captain Shea (Sam Elliott), Thomas (LaMonica Garrett), Wade (James Landry Hébert) and Josef (Marc Rissmann) make plans to cross the Brazos River. After some arguing (“This line is getting contagious,” Shea says) the men decide that James will help transport people across the river, Thomas and Shea will oversee the transport of the wagons, and Wade will bring the cattle to the rear.

James decides to go thug and cross that night instead of morning with everyone, and he’s shocked to meet Ennis and Elsa kissing! After a heartfelt father / daughter conversation, James, Margaret (Faith Hill), and John (Audie Rick) wade through the Brazos, a feat much more difficult than expected. Back at camp, Shea has nightmares about his experiences of the Civil War, which makes him even more worried about the next day’s crossing. Nearby, Thomas and Noemi (Gratiela Brancusi) approach the fire while Josef and his wife Risa (Anna Fiamora) decide to give birth to a child. Their peace is interrupted the next morning when Shea orders travelers to lighten up their wagons, which become bogged down with heavy furniture and even a piano.

The crossing of the Brazos river is chaotic. As James and Margaret help the people cross by setting a lead line from one side of the river to the other, Thomas is on hand to catch the pioneers who are starting to drown. Unfortunately, they cannot save them all. Many people are drowning, cars are badly damaged, property is ruined and travelers are becoming more and more desperate. At one point, Margaret is even pulled off her horse by a drowning settler and is forced to fight the man to save herself. The background music for this heart-wrenching scene is a version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” performed by Elsa for Ennis and Wade on the abandoned piano. The haunting melody seems to symbolize a farewell to her once civilized life and an acceptance of the wilderness that surrounds her. As the group digs graves for the recently deceased, Elsa observes in her narration: “No matter how much we love her, the earth will never love us back.” She is not wrong.

Let’s break down the 5 most important moments from Episode 4 that will have repercussions throughout the season.


When Shea asks Josef if his people can swim, Josef tells him that swimming is illegal wherever they are from. He adds: “Where I come from, they whipped the bodies of the drowned before they were buried. Josef asks Shea what Oregon is like, and Shea replies, “It’s worth the risk if that’s what you’re asking for.”

When they are alone, Shea comments to Thomas, “It takes a lot to surprise me, Thomas. These people, they’ve never been allowed to think for themselves. They can hardly think. The fact that they’re not heading to Galveston, begging their way to a boat to get home, shocks me. It shocks me that they haven’t stopped yet. Thomas replies, “I don’t know why these people would want to go home. The house sounds like hell. When Shea notices that the hell they know might be better than the unknown, Thomas retorts, “It’s because you’ve never been whipped.” With this exchange, Shea begins to understand what motivated this unlucky group to travel to the West, even if they were unprepared.


After receiving permission from James to woo Elsa, Ennis wasted no time in setting the charm. As he bumps into Elsa singing the old living room song, “Beautiful Dreamer”, to put the cattle to sleep, he is utterly mesmerized. With a sweet little note, he makes her continue her song as he sits on his horse next to her. Overwhelmed by emotion, he kisses her in the moonlight! When he begins to apologize for his impatience, Elsa implores him to “do it again”.

Unfortunately for the two lovebirds, James sees them kissing as he goes upstairs to tell Elsa the family is crossing the river tonight. When she insists on staying with Ennis to watch the cattle and help move them the next day, James tells her, “The herd is not going anywhere with you two trading dinner.” As he starts to leave, Elsa follows him to ask if he’s mad at her. James replies, “Why would I be mad? I can’t treat you like an adult when it’s okay with me and like a child when I’m worried. Your mother… that’s going to be another story. Looks like Elsa is having a difficult conversation in front of her.


As he promised, Thomas watches over Noemi and his boys at their campsite. Noemi offers Thomas a stew, which he refuses at first but takes after she insists. As she lovingly watches him eat, Thomas grows uncomfortable and tells him, “Marrying a black man won’t solve your problems, Ma’am. It’s going to create a whole bunch of new ones. When Noemi remarks that it’s a free country and the government can’t tell him who to love, Thomas sadly responds, “Your government said you can’t swim. I can’t protect you. Damn, the government can tell you who to love and how to love them. They shouldn’t, but they can.

When Noemi suggests they go somewhere where the government can’t tell them, Thomas observes, “Ma’am, you don’t want anything to do with me. I am too old. Too anchored in my habits. Don’t like to talk. I like to sleep outside and bathe in the river. That’s not what a woman wants. Noemi tells her that men have no idea what women want, and Thomas can’t dispute that. Obviously at this point, Noemi wants to watch Thomas eat, and he does so. It could be the start of a romance between these two lonely souls.


Shea tells Josef to order his people to leave the heaviest things off their wagon so they can cross the Brazos more efficiently. What follows is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in Episode 4. Josef tries to comfort Risa, but she yells at Shea, “We’ll come to Oregon with nothing.” How can we make our life without anything? Despite their understandable hesitation, the pioneers emptied their wagons of their precious possessions, leaving stoves, furniture and other antiques on the trail. The only person who doesn’t obey is a musician who took his piano for a living after the trip was over.

When Josef and the man refuse to sacrifice the instrument, Shea firmly declares, “No, he’s not a musician! And you are not a carpenter. You are pioneers, and that’s all you are until you get there. You have no house, no job, no farm; you have the trip. Knowing that he is right, Josef tries to reason with the man who is afraid of becoming a beggar. Furious at his stubbornness, Shea growls, “These are his choices: he unloads his cart, or he returns to Fort Worth, or I burn his cart to the ground.” Said him. “Josef can only hug the man as he cries. Sacrifices like this happen regularly along the Oregon Trail.


As Margaret, James and John prepare to forge the Brazos after dark, James tells Margaret that he loves her, adding “I just want you to know that.” Margaret responds sarcastically, “Now I’m nervous. As James takes John with him on their horse, Margaret drives the cart through the tumultuous waters in a stressful sequence. Exhausted, Margaret said to James, “It’s harder than you said. James replies, “I told you it was going to take everything we had and more.” Distraught, Margaret said, “You should have explained what all this meant. “

The next morning, Shea, Thomas, and the group meet James and Margaret at the Brazos River. Shea observes, looking at the scared people, “Hopefully these people will stay patient. Cold heads cross rivers, hot heads will drown. Sure enough, lives are lost and property destroyed as men struggle to get settlers across the river. Later, Margaret nearly drowns when she is dragged off her horse by a drowning woman and is forced to fight back. The crossing sequence ends with a bloody Margaret screaming in anguish on the river bank.

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