1923 season 1, episode 1 recap – does Spencer survive the leopard attack?

By Marc Miller
Published: December 18, 2022 (Last updated: January 25, 2024)
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Taylor Sheridan’s latest branch on the Paramount+ money tree, 1923, is an exciting setup for another promising new series. This time he has the star power that is equal to his storytelling abilities.

We recap the Paramount+ series 1923 season 1, episode 1, which contains spoilers.

Taylor Sheridan‘s latest branching off onto the Paramount+ money tree is an exciting setup for another promising new series. This time he has the star power equal to his storytelling abilities. The new series opens up with a man being gunned down with some bullets in the legs. While he desperately tries to put some bullets into his revolver, Cara (Helen Mirren) comes up with a shotgun aimed square at his chest. The man talks about mercy, and Cara scoffs at him. That’s when she tries to fire her rifle, and there are no shells inside. As both desperately try to fill their weapons in a game of who can shoot the other (I didn’t coin that title yet), Cara fires one deadly round into him.

Cara then lets out a scream of anger.

1923 season 1, episode 1 recap


Spencer Dutton (Brandon Skenlar) is not hunting big game like bears or wolves in beautiful Yellowstone, Montana. He is in the Bush of Africa pursuing a flesh-eating lion picking off wealthy British adventure seekers thinking they are too important to die. No, this isn’t the Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer vehicle, The Ghost and the Darkness. It’s 1923, the latest prequel growing off the Taylor Sheridan money tree that never seems to die. And when Spencer waits, one would think it a bit too long for the lion to sprint out of the weeds and leap directly in the direction of Spencer. Alas, when his two mates hear his rifle go off and come up on the giant beast lying on top of him, he is alive, and the lion is not.

Spencer’s next stop is Nairobi, where a leopard the size of a sofa is sniffing around some more British tourists. The manager wants to keep the patrons near the river and goats in the camp as bait. Yet, Spencer doesn’t want humans by the river. No, he doesn’t care about the dangerous crocodiles and hippos — Spencer thinks only human bait will do. Why? Because once these wild animals get a taste for human flesh, nothing else will suffice.

Teonna Rainwater

Three large buildings with multiple floors sit upon open fields where members of the Christian faith are colonizing a large group of indigenous girls, no older than 16 at the most. The Nun teaching the class, Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle), makes Sister Mary Stigmata look like Mother Teresa and repeatedly beats Teonna Rainwater (Aminah Nieves) with a ruler. Why? For not retaining the information from the lesson the day prior. Or the fact Teonna doesn’t remember what she was taught that day. Maybe it was her youthful disregard for the Nun’s omnipotence or just plain, classic overt racism.

Either way, Teonna retaliates. She pushes Sister Mary down, and all her anger comes pouring out. The young woman beats the Nun with her fists and leaves her as bloodied and bruised as her wrists. When the two are brought to the headmaster’s office, a priest by the name of Renaud takes exception to the treatment of Teonna. The priest has the sister recite a prayer while having her hands placed on the desk, and he beats her hands with his own version of school corporal punishment. He takes a makeshift paddle, short and round at the top, and strikes her wrist a dozen or so times.

However, just because Father Renaud doesn’t show the Sister mercy doesn’t mean he will show the same for Teonna. In fact, a theme in almost all of Sheridan’s works is the lack of compassion as a rule. He cannot let it go for fear of students thinking there is no discipline or rules. Renaud has the young girl put her hands against the bookcase, assume the position, and beat her so severely with his weapon her legs bleed for the entire day.

Jacob and Cara Dutton

Locusts and drought have ruined the grass in Yellowstone. Of course, Jacob is deputized, and there is a meeting between the cattlemen and sheep herders. A man named Banner (Jerome Flynn), who appears to be the latter’s spokesperson, objects to the Dutton family owning most of the land and will not let their sheep chew on their fine grass. Jacob (Harrison Ford) tells him his family fought for that land… does Banner want to fight for it? (The answer is no, no, you do not).

The only thing to do is try and move the herd up the mountain where the fresh grass lays. However, bears and wolves who would love to take a bite out of the Dutton’s prized cattle lie in the weeds, just like in the African bush. So, that would be a strike against when answering the question, does Jacob move his herd up the mountain? Jacob and his family have a meeting with their fellow cattlemen and will hear them all together because of power in numbers, and move them all up the mountain.

Unfortunately, that means Jacob’s nephew, Jack (Darren Mann), has to postpone the wedding to the sweet Elizabeth (Michelle Randolph) for a couple of weeks. She doesn’t take it well, and Cara is there to soften the blow and teach the young girl how cattle always come first. Cara “slow” plays, flaming the young love by telling her she shouldn’t see him now. Of course, now that Cara has convinced Elizabeth to hold off on the wedding and not see Jack, it only makes her want to see him more. Alas, their engagement is still on.

Ending Explained

Two things happen at the end of the premiere of 1923. One, as the Duttons drive the cattle up the mountain, Jack is the first to reach the summit. He sees thousands of sheep chewing on the grass. (We saw Banner and his fellow herders, the night before, cut the fence and let his livelihood onto the Dutton buffet). As Jack looks down the mountain, a man on a horse is holding a rifle in his direction. One shot is fired, and the screen cuts to black before we know if anyone was hit. Is Jack dead? We have no idea right now.

Lastly, the second significant development is that Spencer has laid a trap for the leopard. Unfortunately, a leopard grabbed a female British tourist using the fields as a bathroom. The big game cat drags the poor woman’s lifeless body on top of a large tree branch. That’s when Spencer shoots the leopard dead center and kills him. However, he is alerted by his team that there is a second leopard involved in the hunt. When Spencer turns around, the leopard leaps directly in his directionIs Spencer dead too?

The camera then cuts to black.

What did you think of 1923 season 1, episode 1? Comment below.

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