'1883' Episode 4 Recap: The Pioneers Make a Deadly River Crossing

The latest episode of 1883 on Paramount+ once again took more lives of the pioneers attempting to travel north in 19th century America.

The limitations of the time period were on display, as something modern day viewers take for granted proved deadly for the travellers in 1883. The river crossing was built up to in recent episodes and now the Duttons and the travelers finally made it, but with dire consequences.

Our series narrator Elsa Dutton (Isabel May) once again explained how the unforgiving terrain will attempt to take lives, but she enjoyed a personal victory during Episode 4 of 1883.

The River Crossing Death Toll

Episode 4 of 1883, adequately titled "The Crossing," focused on just one storyline—how to get everybody, their animals and their wagons, across the river.

Another complication was added to the task when Josef (Marc Rissmann) explained to Shea (Sam Elliott) that many of the European immigrants can't swim because it was illegal back in their home countries.

So much so that anyone who drowned would have their dead bodies whipped before being buried.

Although James Dutton (Tim McGraw) initially agrees with Shea and Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) that he'll set off in the morning with the group to cross the water, James decides to move his own family and possessions across first in the dead of night.

He carries his son John across first on his horse before Margaret (Faith Hill) leads the wagon across. Though the tension is ramped up, she makes it across with relative ease.

The next day, Shea once again reads the riot act to all of the travelers, informing them they need to lighten the loads of their wagons in order to cross the river. Many are hesitant but eventually part ways with their weighty wares. When they leave we see pianos, wardrobes, ornaments, tables and chairs left behind.

The crossing is ominous for many as they can't swim. Individuals go first, led by James and Margaret who hold a rope for them to cross with. Thomas' words ring true when he says "cool heads cross rivers, hot heads drown."

This is certainly the case when it comes to crossing with horses and wagons.

1883 Episode 4
James DUtton (Tim McGraw) leads the river crossing in Episode 4 of "1883" on Paramount+. Paramount Network

Elsa plays Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the abandoned piano and before she's brought to tears by the beauty of her own ability, the song provides the score for what turns out to be a deadly river crossing.

We just see flashes of the events, with Thomas diving after one woman who's dragged away by the current, and Margaret grappling with another who struggles to get to the surface. Margaret wades back to the shore and is crushed after losing a member of the group.

Later Elsa and Ennis lead the cattle safely through the water and we see that the wagon that fell away and drowned someone had a vase floating nearby. This implies they didn't lighten the load as much as they could have.

Though we just see one woman floating in the river, the survivors are digging three graves, presumably for the people they lost during the river crossing.

Budding Romances

Elsa may have ended the episode in tears playing the piano but before that she was on Cloud 9 after enjoying her first kiss.

After more flirting, she and Ennis finally lock lips while they're on top of their horses. Unfortunately for them, James was watching on but he eventually gives them both his blessing. Via voiceover, Elsa says kissing is silly when you think about it, but she can't wait to do it again.

Elsewhere, Thomas has his own admirer. Noemi the Romani widower joins him and feeds him in the middle of the night just to watch him eat.

He warns her off, telling her she wants nothing to do with him, but she corrects him, reminding him that men don't know what women want. Later on we see them riding together preparing to cross the river.

1883 returns next Sunday with Episode 5 launching on Paramount+ on January 16, 2022.