In the fifth episode of the third season of the FX original series Reservation Dogs, the elder uncles Brownie, Bucky, and Big decide to take out resident rez dog nerd Cheese on a fishing trip and teach him some manly skills.
After the gang’s punishment at the hands of the aunts, Cheese has been holed up in his room and is just playing video games. When the episode opens he’s playing some zombie slaying game on a sweet Oculus VR rig.
Concerned for her adopted grandson, she urges him to hang out with his friends. Especially when they come by asking about him. Cheese implores his granny to tell them he’s sick and she obliges.
But it also prompts Granny Irene to call her friends to come and make a day of “Nephew Rescue” so Cheese can at least get some sunlight and fresh air. So Big, Brownie, and Bucky all drag out a reluctant and bewildered Cheese for a day of manly outdoorsy stuff which mainly consists of fishing by the lake.
Reservation Dogs season 6 episode 6 recap
The healing of Cheese and the uncles in Reservation Dogs season 3 episode 6
I know, I know, this ugh situ makes me think that slaying zombie nuns would have been a better use of my time. Still, Cheese perks up when Brownie gives him a machete and an old wartime helmet and gives him the task of blazing a trail through the woods so they can get to the lake.
This episode is mainly about drawing out and giving dimension to the most withdrawn and nerdy character among the Rez dog gang. At first, he’s content to just be led around by the uncles.
For example, in both the camp setup and fishing methodologies all three men have their own opinion of what’s best. Big likes to sleep in a tent, but Brownie likes to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag so he can fully take in the stars, while Bucky strings up a hammock to avoid the ground critters.
The fishing activity that afternoon consists of Big and Brownie using rods and bait. But Bucky leans more towards the traditional way. He uses something called “drunk root” with a powder that stuns the fish and allows him to catch the slippery guys using only his hands while they’re dazed. Looks like Bucky’s method works best as he catches a big one in no time at all.
What this episode of the uncles taking Cheese on a much-needed fishing trip is really all about is the “rescue” of one whom the community has spotted to be in a state of trouble, averting catastrophe by bringing the person back into the arms of the community and its care.
Remember in season one the trauma of the rez dogs was all about how they could have rescued their friend Daniel had they only identified it early enough before he committed suicide.
This season’s episode two is about the rescue of Bear by the former Okern resident Maximus from the desert. These parallel themes of attempts at rescue or failure to rescue overlap and reveal other dimensions as the season progresses.
There is a point here where Cheese, who is at first underwhelmed by the analog activities of his uncles almost to bored tears (slaying zombie nuns versus fishing? C’mon!), eventually teaches his elders a thing or two about how his generation’s new POV about challenging norms of sensitivity and masculinity can also serve to heal their own trauma.
With male bonding firmly cemented over a meal of freshly caught fish cooked Bucky style (poor Big, he should have listened to Bucky about that hot sauce!) and some synchronized tree pissing, Cheese takes his uncles into a confessional story circle. Something he learned from his days at boarding school.
Passing each other a “talking stick” he leads the elders into an exercise of talking about anything and nothing. Which, in the end, leaves all his uncles in tears, making it the most useful exercise of the day.
As a reluctant Big, on Cheese’s prompting, tries to articulate his current feelings, he suddenly breaks down and confesses that he’s really been keeping in his guilt over the accident that killed Elora’s mother.
“As men we are taught not to recognize those feelings,” Big said, uncorking his unverbalized guilt. “I lost two friends and I put that all on myself.”
With the floodgates opened, Brownie and Bucky feel comfy opening up about their guilt over their friend Maximus, also saying that Cheese reminds them of him. His grandmother Irene’s move to avert what happened to Maximus led her to call the three uncles for this day trip.
“I don’t think he knew that he could rely on us,” said Brownie.
“I should’ve known because we’re just men,” added Bucky. “We make mistakes and we don’t know shit.”
As men of indigenous communities, the intrinsic devices of belonging to a tribe and identifying a suffering member of that tribe used to be a built-in fail-safe for group survival. But as the trauma of being occupied and subjugation came on these mental health and spiritual healing devices fell into disuse.
Cheese makes a promise that he will rely on his friends as well as his uncles and not go the way of Maximus. Not only did Cheese’s exercise heal the spiritual wounds of his uncles it also taught them to challenge the prevailing masculine model they’d been taught.
In fact far better exemplifying the same “decolonization” that Brownie urged Cheese to do with his video games and perpetual stimulation.
Wiping away their tears they decide to head over to the field and watch the sunset. But first Cheese decides to call his friends to come over and join them.
With Bear, Elora, and Willie Jack (who is apparently Wilhelmina Jacqueline!) having brought over Sacred Sonics drinks, three generations of the Okern rez enjoy a magnificent sunset.
Two more things I took away from this episode…
• Big might really have seen a family of Bigfoots (or is it Bigfeet?) when he was a teenager when he was sneaking out a porn mag to wank to in the forest.
• It was a nice touch to see how Bucky, who was an aspiring scientist as we saw in the previous episode, had pursued some botany albeit by growing his own vicious strains of ghost peppers and jalapenos.
You can watch seasons one to three of Reservation Dogs on HULU