'Hell On Wheels' recap: Playing the Numbers

hell-on-wheels-amc.jpgRemember those two guys who rode up on horseback at the end of the last episode? They tell Cullen that the boss wants to give him Johnson's job. They bring him to Doc's head of security, a Norwegian called "the Swede," who starts questioning him about Johnson's murder. Cullen soon realizes that the job offer was a ruse and he's actually being interrogated. When he refuses to cooperate, the Swede locks him up with a promise to hang him for the murder as soon as the gallows is free. (It's been a busy season for hanging.) Along the way, we learn that, like everyone else we've met thus far, the Swede isn't proud of some things he did in the past. He was a bookkeeper who figured out he could control people like he once did numbers. He's got a little mafia-style business on the side, extorting the entrepreneurs of Hell on Wheels for protection money. Cullen escapes from his prison, thanks to assistance from Elam and the Reverend, but instead of going on the run he pops by Doc Durant's office for a job interview. He confesses that he doesn't know about building railroads and reveals that he blew up one of Doc's bridges during the war. Miraculously, this adds up to a big job promotion for Cullen.

The subplots: Doc meets up with a newspaper reporter who's covering the survey team's massacre. Doc embellishes the story with sensational details in order to sway public opinion. He implies that Lily Bell was kidnapped and "sullied" by the Cheyennes. In reality, Lily is still on the run with those survey maps. She not only hides from a Cheyenne search party but sews up her own wounds using a bit of whalebone from her corset. Just when the Cheyenne finally catch up to her, she's saved by the recently baptized Joseph. Continuing the theme, we learn that Joseph also isn't proud of his past. Jesus may forgive, but Joseph is worried his new white friends won't.

The episode is about math and balancing the numbers and guilt and job interviews, but somehow manages to be much better than the premier. Stay tuned for the full recap.