“The Death of Mary Collins” was a wild return back to the world of Walker: Independence and one that I was very excited to see. From death threats to sibling reunions and horrific racial violence, this episode covered just about all the bases and did a good job setting up the plotlines for the remainder of the season.
This episode had one main plot with a couple of small side plots that were all fairly isolated from each other so I’ll be covering them one at a time.
Let’s start with the one I found most intriguing, both as a fan and a researcher: Calian’s plot.
In the time since we last saw him, Calian has gotten back to his roots and spent a lot more time with his tribe. He’s feeling much better about his life and his chief thinks his time away from Independence has done him some good.
But all is not well as they find a recently put-out campfire not far from their tribe. Calian thinks a fire so near the camp could be dangerous and advises his companions to go back with a warning. Then, he hears a noise in the nearby bushes and sees a figure running away. He runs after it in a flash.
Calian searches for the source of the noise (and possibly the fire) without much luck until an attacker jumps on him. Though Calian is bigger than his attacker, she is faster and they’re pretty evenly matched. Eventually, the mysterious woman get’s Calian on his back with a knife to his throat and asks if he is going to kill her or help her. This is as confusing for him as it is for us.
She lets him up and introduces herself as Topsannah. She says she is here to help him, but he’s (rightfully) skeptical of that claim.
Side note: Topsannah’s actress appeared on Walker in 2.14 during the blindfolded obstacle course!
She takes him to a burned-down village where her people used to live. She tells him that the government came to them and told them they needed to move, that their land was very valuable and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her tribe was being forced to move, but the people building the railroads didn’t think it was going fast enough so they came and razed her village to the ground. It’s a story Calian knows well, having lived it once himself. She knows of how his sister was taken away, as do many others it would seem.
He offers her sanctuary among his tribe, even though the Apache and Comanche do not have the best history. She appreciates the offer (though she is insulted that he made her speak Apache for so long when he could speak her tongue just as well) but warns him that the men who destroyed her village will be coming for his next. He needs all the allies he can get.
Perhaps it is time for Calian to return to Independence….
Next, let’s talk about Kai’s plot.
This one starts when Hoyt enters his restaurant during a trip to town; Lucia has some alterations to pick up while he’s doing the shopping. While he waits for Kai to get the items together, he notices an envelope with a lot of money in it and tells Kai he’s got a big tip. However, Kai is not happy to see the money.
He explains to Hoyt that it is fake money, or “Hell Money”, and having a bunch of it delivered in a red envelope is a clear death threat. Hoyt is, naturally quite curious about how sweet Kai got a death threat so Kai explains his history with the Tong and the girl he tried (and failed) to save.
Hoyt knows the Tong aren’t an enemy you want to have and advises Kai to run away. He makes a comparison between Kai’s current situation and his father fighting at the Alamo. Staying and fighting may have been the brave thing to do, but it took Hoyt’s father’s life. Running away is the smarter choice and Hoyt is happy to help him out with that plan.
Side note: “Take it from a boy who never knew his father.” Hoyt at some point you need to quit breaking my heart. It can’t take much more.
Hoyt offers up his old runaway horse, Cordell, who is still stuck in the sheriff’s corral. His (rather comedic) attempts to get Cordell out are interrupted by Gus, who’s here to fill him in on the development with Abby’s sister. While they talk, Kai sneaks over to the other side of the corral to tempt Cordell in his own way, which works pretty well.
Side note: CORDELL THE HORSE!!!! *insert Return of the King meme*
Later that day, we see Kai preparing to ride Cordell out of town. Before he leaves, he looks around at the place he calls home, the town that accepted him, where he’s started to build a life for himself. He doesn’t want to leave but he doesn’t have much choice. Before he goes, Kate stops him and they have a quick conversation and make some plans for the future, something else encouraging him to stay in Independence. But, Kai steels himself and rides off into the sunset for his own sake.
Or so we thought.
The next day, Kai is brushing Cordell’s fur outside his restaurant where he is approached by Hoyt, who is surprised to see him. Kai explains that, even though running away might be smart, he loves this town and everything he’s built here too much to leave it behind. After he offers Hoyt his beloved runaway horse back, Hoyt offers to help him come up with a plan to fight back against the Tong.
Side note: I love their friendship and I hope we get to see more of it. I really want to know the origins of their relationship and how they got to be close enough to plot Death Threat Escapes together.
And now, it’s time to discuss the main event: The McKenzie Sister Reunion.
This plotline kicks off with Hoyt returning to town after a few weeks of helping Lucia and her mother around the ranch. He’s happy to help them out but he’s gotten a bit bored so, after picking up some supplies, he heads to the hotel to check on Kate and Abby, who are working steadily on the case against Tom. Since he’s out for the time being, healing from his stab wound, they’re free to search and investigate without sneaking around. It helps that Augustus has joined their troupe and can use his badge to get them information they wouldn’t have access to otherwise, no matter how many objections Hoyt might have to his involvement.
Unfortunately, they’re no closer to making a real case against Tom. Even with Augustus’ help and Kate’s detective skills, they’ve got no evidence or even a motive. All they have is Abby’s witness statement, which Abby is more than willing to provide despite Kate’s concerns about her safety.
Side note: Abby admitting that it would’ve been easier to let Tom die instead of helping him but that wouldn’t be real justice so she saved him is just- perfect. I love that about her. Her adherence to her moral code is admirable.
Side side note: Augustus knows a judge from his old military days and I can’t help but wonder if those are Civil War military days or Buffalo Soldier military days. Or both?
Next, Augustus returns to the sheriff’s office and is surprised to see Tom there. Tom is happy to be back but seems a little disappointed that Augustus hasn’t caught the man who stabbed him yet. Augustus points out that they had no evidence or witnesses to the incident besides Tom himself and he hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with details.
Side note: Tom seemed very jealous of Abby and Gus working together without him and I’m kind of in love with that.
But there’s no time to dwell on that because a fine young lady from Boston by the name of Charlotte McKenzie has arrived and she’s looking for the sheriff. She knows he sent the telegram about Liam Collin’s death but she’s very worried for his wife, Mary Collins, who happens to be her sister. While Tom is enthralled by her tale of woe, Gus is very confused and concerned for Abby, who has picked this exact moment to head for the sheriff’s office. He makes an excuse about checking with the Western Union to see if any telegrams were sent to Boston recently, in case Mary had sent communication after all, and leads Abby away, but not before Charlotte catches a glimpse of her.
Later, Tom brings Charlotte to the hotel, where Kate has already been filled in on everything and quickly takes over their new guest’s living arrangements. She sets Charlotte up in the room she’s been sharing with Abby. Abigail is there waiting for them and Charlotte rushes to hug her. Abby is less happy to see her.
Side note: Abigail using Liam’s special nickname for her as her new identity is very sweet. They were so happy together.
She and Kate quickly fill Charlotte in on everything that has happened so far, leaving the poor woman in shock. She insists that Abby come home to Boston, where it is safe, and use some of Father’s money for a proper investigation. Abby point-blank refuses any help from her sister or her father and leaves to go do damage control, leaving Kate in charge.
Outside the hotel, Tom is organizing a search party for Mary. Abby and Augustus conspire to go see his judge friend, but Tom interrupts them to give them special tasks. Abby is to go fetch Miss McKenzie to inspect the ruins of a burnt covered wagon not far from the town and Augustus is to search for the man who attempted to kill him with Tom’s new, helpful descriptions: a circle tattoo on his hand and a single, silver spur on his boot. Abby offers to go in Charlotte’s stead, to give the poor woman time to rest, but Gus is not lucky enough to receive an invitation. With that, the merry sheriff’s office band split off on their adventures.
At the site of the covered wagon, Tom makes a few observations about their missing widow: she played the piano and she was well educated. A lot like Abby. And they had a lot more in common too, based on Charlotte’s description of her: she was passionate, opinionated, and strong-willed among other things. Abby deflects the comparisons with “Clever women are more common than you think.” Tom then points out that Independence can be seen at the top of a nearby ridge and Mary may have headed there; Abby disagrees, saying Mary may not have felt comfortable in a town full of strangers. Though she’s doing her best to throw off Tom’s trail, we get the sense that he suspects something about her.
They decide to leave the wagon site, but before they do, Tom thanks Abby for saving his life. She’s shown more concern for him than his family ever did and he wants to show his appreciation. Abby tries to shrug off his compliment and starts heading back to town.
Side note: Everything about Tom’s tone and body language in this scene makes me think that he suspects or knows that Abby is actually Mary Collins.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Kate is filling Charlotte in on the latest Independence gossip. Charlotte is enthralled by these tales of her sister’s exploits, so different from the girl she grew up with. Kate is pleasantly surprised to find that Charlotte is nothing like Abby described. Charlotte isn’t surprised to hear that her sister would have a more negative opinion of her; they’ve been at odds for years over Charlotte not renouncing their corrupt businessman of a father.
Charlotte goes on to say that she’s very impressed with Kate. Kate brushes her compliment off. She’s just a woman traveling and finding a place to fit in and a person to be no matter where she goes. But her possibilities are as endless as the prairie. Charlotte admits that her options are far more limited in Boston. But she’s able to make do with discreet parlors and the like. Seems these two are getting along quite well.
Gus makes a quick stop with Hoyt at the sheriff’s corral to fill him in on the Charlotte situation and vent about being stuck on Murder Mystery duty. Hoyt offers a helpful tip and tells Gus that he saw a man with a tattoo like Tom described at the Side Step earlier that day. Gus is suspicious of his help but goes to follow up on it anyway; not like he has anything better to be doing.
Abby returns to the hotel room from her outing with Tom. Charlotte again implores her to come back home and use their father’s money to have security and do this investigation right; it’s what Liam would want. Abby snaps at the mention of Liam’s desires, which leads to the reveal that Liam was engaged to Charlotte first, news that is just as shocking for us as it is for Kate.
Abby is under the impression that Charlotte was only with Liam in order to control him with her money, which she objects to, of course. Charlotte then points out how Abby taking Liam from her made life more difficult for her as she was now unmarried and socially disgraced. Despite all that, she is here to help Abby.
Side note: “You wrote me off long before I met Liam” and “I could never be as perfect as you”. The sibling issues are deep with these two.
Kate steps in to try and smooth things over, reminding Abby that her sister came all the way out to the middle of nowhere to find her. Abby is still upset about the whole matter but agrees to accept her sister’s help on one condition: that she kills Mary Collins.
The best way to protect Abby’s true identity is to make Mary Collins officially disappear. Killing her off is the most effective way to do that. Charlotte, Gus, Kate, Abby, and Hoyt meet up outside of town to formulate a plan that will kill Mary Collins in a way that will convince Tom.
They decide the best way to convince Tom would be to plant a dead body and have Charlotte identify it as Mary. Hoyt has the solution to both of these problems: he knows the coroner keeps some Jane Doe skeletons in his basement and he doubled back to get Abby’s wedding ring from Liam’s first grave.
With a plan in place, the group disperses but Gus has Hoyt hang back. He went to the Side Step and saw no man like Hoyt described. Hoyt insists that he did see a guy with a circle tattoo on his hand but that he may have been somewhere else when Gus was at the bar. But there’s betting going on right now so they’re bound to see him. Gus decides to put that theory to the test and takes Hoyt with him.
In the bar, the boys split up with Gus wandering about the floor and Hoyt going up above to get a look at everybody. It doesn’t take them long to find the man with the circle tattoo and Augustus makes his move. A fight and chase scene ensues, which ends with Gus arresting the man, much to Hoyt’s pleasure.
Side note: Hoyt’s never going to let Augustus live this down, is he?
Later, Tom interrogates tattoo man in one of the holding cells. However, when he gets a look at the tattoo on his hand, Tom tells Gus that this isn’t the man who tried to kill him and that he’s to be let go. Gus, like us, is very confused but can’t argue with Tom.
Before any of us can dwell on this confusing conversation for too long, Abigail and Charlotte enter the office and tell Tom the good news: Charlotte thinks she knows where Mary may have headed!
The search party heads out again, with the whole gang this time, and they wander the Texas prairie with torches and lanterns to light their path. Tom isn’t sure about the eastwardly direction Charlotte has pointed them in but she insists Mary would’ve headed this way, toward her home. Behind them, Kate worries that Tom may pass up the skeleton they planted and wonders if they should break off early, which Gus shuts down; they don’t want to look suspicious.
Just then, Tom gets the idea to head for the Arroyo river as Mary likely would’ve been looking for water. Once there, it doesn’t take him long to spot the body and he calls Gus over to look. In the crowd, Charlotte acts the part of a grieving sister, telling Kate it feels as if she’s really dead. Kate reassures her that she’s not; she’s been reborn. They hold hands while Tom inspects the skeleton.
The clothes are worn away and the skeleton has been stripped of its meat, likely by animals, so it’s hard to say if it’s Mary. Charlotte then tells Tom to look for a ring; Mary never took off her wedding ring. It would have an inscription on it. Tom does a little digging and quickly finds the ring.
Mary Collins is dead.
Back in town, Hoyt, Kate, and Charlotte toast to Mary Collins. They ask Charlotte if she’d like to hang around and help out some more but she’s very happy to return to Boston and its indoor plumbing. When Hoyt leaves, Kate compliments Charlotte on her acting skills earlier and asks about the Liam situation between her and Abby. Charlotte reveals that her engagement to Liam was an arrangement; she had money and he could keep her secret. But then he fell in love; she can’t be too angry about that. They talk for a bit more, getting closer and closer all the while, before Charlotte gets up and holds her hand out to Kate, an invitation she doesn’t decline.
She takes Kate to a nondescript dressing room and they kiss. And then they do a little more than kiss.
Outside, Gus hands Abby the official death certificate with his congratulations. Or should he say condolences? Or maybe both. Regardless, it’s been a long day and Augustus is going to take Tom’s lead and retire for the night. As he leaves, Abby spots someone who looks like Tom walking toward her; that jawline is unmistakable. But, when the man lifts his hat and reveals his face, he’s not Tom at all. Abby is, understandably, shaken by this revelation.
Meanwhile, Tom has the man with the circle tattoo hanging from the rafters of the stables and he’s very curious to know who got the man to try to kill him. When the man doesn’t talk, Tom resorts to more violent measures.
Side note: Thank you to the writers for reminding us that Tom is a dangerous man and not just our poor little meow meow.
The next day, it’s time for Charlotte to leave Independence. Abby, again, declines her offer to go back to Boston. She still has work to do here. Charlotte understands and leaves Abby Liam’s ring as a parting gift. Whatever her relationship with Liam was, it’s nothing like what he shared with Abby. Abby is moved by this and apologizes for how she acted before. The sisters have their closure and Charlotte gets in her stagecoach to head home. But not before she gets a quick kiss from Kate.
Elsewhere in Independence, Gus tells Hoyt about a horse that went missing from the corral and that Tom said the man they caught wasn’t his attacker. Neither of them seem to believe it. But maybe they can work together to find out the truth.
Hoyt and Gus return to the hotel and Hoyt says he’ll be sticking around Independence. Lucia may still need him but he was losing his mind with boredom on the ranch. Kate informs Gus that he owes her money from their bet on how long Hoyt would last before he came crawling back and Hoyt is awfully offended they would put money on such a thing. But they don’t have much time to argue about that as Abby has entered the room and she’s here to deliver some disturbing news: she’s not sure Tom murdered her husband after all.
And, with that ominous note, our episode comes to a close.
Walker: Independence came back with a bang fitting for a wild west show. It was do great to see all our darlings on the screen again and find out what they’re going to be up to next. As always, there was too much episode in this episode and I’m left with so many more questions than I thought.
I loved the return of this morally ambiguous side of Tom and I’m curious to see where the writers will take that, especially now that Gus is onto his nefarious ways. I can’t wait to see these two dance around each other in the office.
Meeting Abby’s sister was an unexpected but welcome insight into Abby’s world and why she is the way she is now. I would like to see her again one day if there’s room for her (and not just for Kate’s sake).
Aside from Tom’s doppelganger, I’m most interested in Kai’s plot. I’ve been waiting for a Kai-centric episode ever since we heard from Amos Acorn and I believe we’ll be getting one soon.
I’m also curious to see where Calian’s plot takes us. Will he be able to find allies in Independence or will we be seeing other Texas Native tribes? Perhaps a mix of both? Whatever happens, I only hope the writers will continue to handle his storyline with delicacy and respect.
But that’s just my two cents. What did y’all think? Were you intrigued by this week’s mysteries? What did you think of Charlotte? Do you think Hoyt is being awfully insensitive leaving Lucia in the lurch by staying in town? Where do you see these plotlines going? Let me know in the comments! I can’t wait to read your thoughts!
Catch up on more Walker: Independence detailed Recaps, Character Profiles and historical context insights, all found on Esther’s Writer’s Page!