“The Weep of Surrender” is a slower paced episode as several characters reach a crossroads and agonize over how to proceed.
This recap of 1883 season 1, episode 8, “The Weep of Surrender”, contains spoilers.
In Elsa’s obligatory opening narration in “The Weep of Surrender”, she mentions how what remains of the traveling party play home whenever they’re forced to stop for more than a day or so. And, of course, they inevitably need to move on, packing their home away and taking it with them. There’s no permanence on the trail – no home. Unless, of course, you’re a native, in which case the entire unending landscape is home. Beyond lust and excitement, this is what attracts Elsa to Sam and the rest of the Comanches. They belong to the land, and to each other, and to their rich culture and traditions. They’re free.
1883 season 1, episode 8 recap
Elsa is fascinated with freedom. Whereas most – like her father – seek the pot of gold that supposedly sits at the rainbow’s end, she’s content with the rainbow. And perhaps she’s right since there never seems to be a pot of gold to be found anyway. Yet she’s a young woman, barely 18, and other than recently hasn’t quite experienced the true hardships and perils of a life in which she isn’t under the close protection of her mother and father. Elsa’s decision to go her own way, or at least go her own way several months in the future, is one of the crucial turning points of this episode, which offers several turning-point crossroads moments as the journey grinds to a halt for long enough that several lingering issues, resentments, and conflicts have time to catch up.
In short, the party has stopped for long enough that they’re not keen on getting going again, especially since nobody can agree on what the best direction to take is. Shea thinks the immigrants should change direction to Denver, but James is adamant about staying the course to Oregon, and the immigrants ultimately side with the latter. They might be useless, but they’re committed to their goal, and everything they have lost in the meantime will only be worth it if they get where they were initially going. After a rather dour goodbye with Charlie, Shea contemplates leaving the group behind, but he’s swayed to stay by Thomas, who has in turn been swayed to stay by his new relationship with Noemi. The general sentiment is that they’ve got this far together, so despite their differences, they might as well see the journey through.
It’s only Elsa who’s happy where she is. She spends most of “The Weep of Surrender” with Sam, hunting a buffalo and eating its heart, and deciding to get married and remain with the Comanches, or at least return to the Comanches after accompanying the rest of the group to Oregon. James and Margaret make jokes about Elsa falling in love with any man she meets, and it’d be easier to write her arc off as that, but there’s a more complex development at play here of a woman being encouraged by hardship and loss to forge her own path – to “pick herself up”, which Margaret laments it’s her job as a mother to do. Elsa has had no choice but to grow up, into a cowboy, into a woman, into a warrior’s wife and a warrior, and now she feels she’s grown she wants to make her own decisions.
She chooses Sam, ultimately, but the decision isn’t as easy as that. She still feels enough loyalty to her parents and the travelers to see the journey through to the end, while Sam can’t leave the land of his people in fear that it won’t be there when he returns. So, temporarily, they part ways but swear to return to one another eventually. Whether either will be able to keep that promise remains to be seen.