Episode Number: 22, according to broadcast order. Airdate: May 14, 1995. Director: Brad Turner. Writer: David Levinson.
Guest Stars: Michael Berry (William) / Yvan LaBelle (Spiritchaser) / Eric Keenleyside (Doyle) / Richard Sali (Coughlin).
Other Titles: In German: "Zwischen zwei Männern" ("Between Two Men").
Winter is fast approaching, and with the fall campaigning season finished, French and Indian war parties have returned to their northern forts. The soldiers and colonists are preparing their supplies for the long winter, and life is returning to normal at Fort Bennington. Captain Taylor Shields is checking the fort’s payroll, Elizabeth and Hawkeye are gathering wood, and McKinney and Peevey are checking the goods in the trading post for new customers. The trading post door opens, and a dwarf Indian enters, his face painted with strange symbols, carrying a medicine stick reserved for shamans of his tribe. He is followed inside by a furtive figure, dressed in what was once a handsome civilian coat, weskit, leather pants, and moccasins, but his head and face are concealed by a blanket.
McKinney and Peevey, surprised, watch as the civilian walks over and picks up a bar of soap from the counter. When they ask what the two strange men want, they do not reply. McKinney tells them to leave if they won’t buy anything, and moves towards them, but the dwarf brandished his stick menacingly at him. The person with his face concealed suddenly speaks in English, confidently saying “I don’t think you have any right to do that, young man…..you see, I own this establishment.” So saying, he throws back the blanket, and there stands William Shields, alive and well. There is a thud of dropped wood, and William turns around to see his wife Elizabeth and Hawkeye, standing in the doorway. “William?” Elizabeth says weakly, as if her mind will not believe it. “Yes, my love, I have made it home to you,” William says triumphantly, gathering her in his arms and swinging her around, but there is no joy on her face, only shock and bleak despair as she stares unbelievingly at Hawkeye.
While William bathes in a tub of hot water, enjoying the long awaited pleasure of washing off the caked grime and unpleasant memories of what he has endured at the hands of the Huron, Elizabeth, unsure of herself, brings him towels, but cannot stand beside him for long. She goes outside, seeking Hawkeye, who is packing up his traps. “How are you?” Hawkeye asks. “Terrible,” Elizabeth replies in a voice full of depression; “with all the rumors of the last few months, I had steeled myself for the news of William’s death, and I should have spent more time preparing for the possibility of his return.” Hawkeye tells her that it is nothing short of a miracle that William has returned whole in body and mind. “Miracles are not always a blessing,” Elizabeth says. As if she has made up her mind, she says that she must tell her husband of her feelings for Hawkeye, and turns to leave him, but he stops her, and begs her to give William time to adjust to returning home. “Let him get used to his life again,” Hawkeye says, and she reluctantly agrees to wait.
Taylor approaches them, his face full of questions, and they assure him that William is alive and inside. He goes inside to see his brother standing by the hot tub, dressing in his clothes, and Taylor greets him hesitantly, unsure of what William will say. But his brother does not give any manner of blame, and the two embrace warmly, all the time watched closely by the dwarf. William introduces Taylor to his small friend, Spiritchaser, as one who has helped him back to civilization and his family. Taylor nods his thanks, and William mentions that he was a better guide than the two men, Doyle and Coughlin, who Taylor hired to guide him, but let him be captured. In a flashback, we see Taylor arranging for William to be led into the hands of the Huron. But William does not seem to reproach Taylor, to his surprise and relief.
Later at dinner, William and Spiritchaser indulge their appetites in a welcome home meal, while Taylor, Hawkeye and Chingachgook, eat slowly, watching William. Elizabeth, her appetite gone, just picks at her food, and her gaze moves from William, her husband, to Hawkeye, her secret love. William is told that Hawkeye and Elizabeth had tried to rescue him and succeeded in blowing up the French fort, but the French had taken him away, only to give him back to the savages. Taylor remarks that it is amazing they he was not killed, and Spiritchaser says that the Huron were amazed at his bravery. When Elizabeth, haltingly, asks if they tortured him, William tells them that the Huron tied him to a stake and hurled tomahawks at him. “The minute I saw what they were planning, my entire body turned to stone, and the closer they threw, the more frozen I became,” he admits. Spiritchaser finishes the story, telling that the Huron were so impressed that they cut William loose and carried him around on their shoulders. They toast his bravery, and William’s return home. Looking at his wife, William remarks that Elizabeth looks so much at home here now, rather than she was when they first came to Fort Bennington, and Hawkeye and Chingachgook tell how they tried to help her adapt to the woods.
William asks Taylor what happened to the men who had abandoned him to the Huron, and in more flashbacks we see the death of Doyle and Coughlin, so that only Taylor knows the truth of the matter of his brother’s capture. “I am sure they found their just reward, as I hope happens to all people who have betrayed the trust of others,” and Taylor, Hawkeye and Elizabeth cannot meet the implied accusations that seem to arise in his words.
Hawkeye and Chingachgook leave to return to the Delaware camp. There they speak of Williams’s return, and Chingachgook says that it is not good that he has returned, not for Hawkeye, or for Elizabeth. When Hawkeye says that things will work out, Chingachgook tells him that Spiritchaser is a follower of the evil black arts of the woods, and that a shaman like him would not involve himself with a good man, like William used to be. “There must be something dark within Shields, as well,” says Chingachgook, and Hawkeye begins to fear for Elizabeth.
In their bedroom, William, still fully clothed, watches Elizabeth in her nightdress as she prepares for their first night together for many months, slowly brushing her lustrous dark hair. In their minds’ eye, each remembers the tender moments of William’s last night before he went off with Doyle and Coughlin. William had told her then that he had been very happy with her, but that if something happened to him, she should always remember that fact. Elizabeth finds herself uneasy under his steady gaze, and feels herself ashamed when William tells of the memory of her that sustained him during the uncertain months of captivity, and the sadness when he thought he might never lie down next to her again. He moves close and strokes her bare shoulder. She wants to move away, but to her surprise, he tells her now that the moment is here, he is not prepared for it, and asks her for time to realize that he is with her again. To her amazement, he begs her to forgive him if he sleeps in the woods for a while longer, and secretly relieved, Elizabeth says that she understands. “Sleep well,” she says, ashamed at her feelings of repulsion and betrayal, that she does not love him anymore.
The next day, McKinney tells Peevey that he has a plan. The boys should work harder to show William that they are more responsible than Elizabeth for the success of the trading post, so that they may stay on. And, if William decides to take Elizabeth and return home to Virginia, they should ask him to buy the store, paying him off with their profits. Peevey is disgusted with what he considers to be the stupidest plan ever proposed by McKinney, and swears he will have no part of it, but McKinney persuades him to try.
Elizabeth meets Hawkeye early at the Delaware camp, and both confess that neither slept at all. “I don’t know what to do,” she tells Hawkeye, and says that William slept outside the fort last night, though it was not her idea. “We have to discuss what we are going to say,” she tells a reluctant Hawkeye, who does not agree, since she is married, and says he was wrong to become involved with Elizabeth. “We did nothing wrong” she says with a throb in her throat. “Then why couldn’t either one of us look him in the eye last night. My parents taught me one thing, that if something feels wrong, it is,” Hawkeye tells her. “We can’t control how we feel,” she says in despair. “No, but I should have tried harder,” he replies. Realizing that Hawkeye will not do anything to help her persuade William to release her from her marriage, she leaves, vowing to make him understand, to Hawkeye’s dismay.
In their camp, William and Spiritchaser talk about whom at the dinner last night was unfaithful, or had betrayed their trust. Spiritchaser says he cannot tell who had done so, but that the air was thick with treachery. Perhaps from all of them, William says, and says that he must find out whom. Then he will balance the scales, and get his revenge for the pain he has suffered at their hands. “But I have learned to deal with pain. We will see how well any of then can withstand it, and for how long, before they finally die,” Williams muses, to Spiritchaser’s delight.
Back at Fort Bennington, McKinney and Peevey put their proposal to William, and to their great surprise, he agrees to think about letting the boys buy the trading post. He then goes to see Taylor, and asks him about the prospect of the war being won, and what would happen when it is finished. Taylor tells him that there are still riches to be had here, but William accuses him of not obtaining the promised trading licenses, to Taylor’s disgust, the same very argument that led to Taylor’s scheme to have him captured and killed by the Huron. William tells Taylor that he wishes to learn how the trading post is doing in Elizabeth’s hands, or if anyone took advantage of him in his absence, including Elizabeth. When Taylor asks what leads him to believe that any such liberties occurred, Williams mentions the furtive glances between Hawkeye and Elizabeth at the dinner. Taylor says that he could neither support or that anything happened between the two, and William leaves to seek out Hawkeye for the truth. Taylor realizes that he too may be found out, and plans to kill William.
Hawkeye is surprised at William’s finding him in the deep woods, and William tells him that his captors were so impressed at his courage that they taught him to follow trails, to survive in the woods, and skill with knife and gun. William thanks Hawkeye for taking Elizabeth under his wing, to teach her the same skills, and Hawkeye uncomfortably says that she was a good pupil. “So the two of you spent a great deal of time together,” William says, and Hawkeye cannot deny the fact. “Enough time so that you…..grew close,” says William with an accusing tone in his voice. “I consider her a friend,” Hawkeye says matter-of factly, “and she does you,” replies William, and leaves Hawkeye with a menacing glance.
That night, Taylor goes to his brother’s camp to kill them by setting fire to their wickiup after he has barred the entrance, but unknown to Taylor, only Spiritchaser is inside. Hearing Spiritchaser’s death screams, William, who was in the woods, sees Taylor leave the camp after the deed, and realizes that his brother is truly one of his betrayers.
Elizabeth, not knowing what happened, is surprised to find William the next morning going over the ledgers of the trading post. He compliments her at having done so well in the wilderness that earlier had frightened her. She says that it is a beautiful place, and that she has made friends here, among them, the woodsman Hawkeye. William suddenly asks what she would do if he wished to take her back to Virginia. Elizabeth, knowing that her happiness is threatened, says that she loves her life here. William threateningly says that he could order her to go back with him, but then demurs, saying that orders were never part of their relationship. He then abruptly tells her that he not yet made his decision, and wishes them both to think further. She almost tells him of her true feeling, for Hawkeye and the love that they have found when they thought him dead, but William leaves. Taylor, helping himself to a congratulatory glass of wine, is shocked to see William still alive, leaving the trading post and speaking to McKinney and Peevey in the parade ground. His brother tells the boys he has decided to return to Virginia, and that the post will turned over to them, but not to tell Elizabeth. The boys are naturally delighted, and congratulate themselves, to Elizabeth’s unknowing amused.
Elizabeth goes to talk to Hawkeye at the Delaware camp, and tells him that William has left the decision in her hands about going back to Virginia with him. She says that she is in a quandary, and that William spoke so distantly to her, like a stranger. Hawkeye reminds that he has been changed by his ordeal. “All of us has changed, even you,” she tells Hawkeye…“what I need to know, is that if the things that you have said to me, if those feelings have changed?” “No, they haven’t, but when you make your decision, please make it because of the way you feel, about William, and not the way you feel about me,” he tells Elizabeth. She leaves, still unsure of what to say or do.
That night William decides to take his revenge, and sneaks into Taylor’s bedroom, and stabs him with a knife. He then goes to the trading post and awakens Elizabeth and tells her to get dressed, and ask no questions, that they must leave that very night. Surprised, she blurts out that she has no intention of going with him, she is staying, and tries to fight him, but he knocks her out and carries her out of the fort into the woods.
At dawn the next morning McKinney bursts into the Delaware village and tells Hawkeye that Captain Shields has been stabbed and that Elizabeth is gone. Hawkeye rides after them, following their trail. In the woods, while waiting for the sun to fully rise, William has tied Elizabeth, still in her nightdress, across a large altar-like flat rock. He tells her that Taylor set fire to the wickiup to kill him the night before, and that he is now dead. Clearly out of his mind now, William rants her that his mind is not what is was before, that there are times he can think clearly and logically, but then there are blank spaces, and he cannot remember days that he knows have passed. Elizabeth, struggling against her bonds, tries to tell him that the Huron torture has harmed his mind, but he cries that it was the Indian Gods that caused it to happen.
Appalled, she tells him that he is a Christian, that the Indian Gods have nothing to do with him, but he cries out that he must appease them, so that they can restore his mind to normal. “Just as Abraham offered up his first-born, I will give them that on earth which I value most, your love,” William tells her. “How can you do that?” a distraught Elizabeth asks, fearing the answer from her once kind husband. “By bequeathing the physical vessel….where your love…resides,” he says, drawing his knife. “My…heart” Elizabeth says weakly, in shock and anguish at what he plans to do.
“Stand away, Shields,” cries Hawkeye, and to William’s surprise and Elizabeth’s relief, the woodsman stands close by with his rifle in his hands. But William pulls a pistol and shoots Hawkeye down, then draws his knife to finish him off. Hawkeye is only wounded in the shoulder, and the two men struggle, while Elizabeth strains at her bonds across the rock. William begins to gain the upper hand against the weakened Hawkeye, when suddenly there is another shot, and William collapses in death. Surprised, Hawkeye looks up to see Elizabeth lowering his rifle. She has killed her insane husband to protect her beloved woodsman.
At Fort Bennington, Elizabeth goes to the post cemetery to put flowers on the graves of her father and her husband. She thinks about what has happened, of the lives destroyed, and what the future holds for those left now that this tragedy has ended. Taylor has survived the stabbing by William, but is being invalided out of the army because of his wound. Peevey and McKinney, their dreams of ownership of the trading post destroyed, have become mere assistants again. But for Elizabeth and Hawkeye, their relationship, which began as uncertain friendship and blossomed into unspoken love, can now be brought out into the open. Their future together in the wilderness that, despite the war, holds so much promise for happiness is spoken of by Hawkeye as the series closes: “ there are times when I despair of this war, and the evils that men commit against one another. But in my heart’s darkest hour, I look to Chingachgook and his tribe, and I am reassured as to the basic goodness of man. I can only hope that we whites will one day behave toward one another as my Delaware brothers do. As for Elizabeth, I am mindful of how far she has come, how much she has learned, and of how close we have grown to one another. And I know whatever future this magnificent wilderness holds, that we will face it together.”
All "Hawkeye" episode synopsis are © 2001 by Mark Meader for Wonderland.
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