1x01. "Milfay"

written by Daniel Knauf
directed by Rodrigo Garcia

original airdate: September 14, 2003
running time: 57 minutes



Printable Version 1.1 - September 29, 2003; 27kb
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A fast and frightening series of images. A man wearing a tuxedo running through a cornfield, pursued by another man, heavily tattooed -- one tattoo, on his chest, is of a tree. In a diner, the man dressed in the tuxedo sitting in a booth across from a man wearing a WWI uniform. A ring with a Masonic seal. Tarot cards, including Death and The Magician, reversed. Mourners escorting a wooden coffin. A snake charmer. A dead sheep. A woman screaming, her clothes being ripped. A young man with bloody stumps for legs. A clock that reads 2:25 with the pendulum ticking rapidly back and forth. A World War I soldier ducking an explosion. People standing under a tree. And more.

Ben Hawkins opens his eyes.

It's 1934 in Oklahoma, The Dust Bowl. Ben is a fugitive from a chain gang. He has come home to be with his mother, Flora, as she dies. She gasps and wheezes as Ben tries to touch her. "No...," she pleads with him. He slumps to the floor and, then, she's gone. He buries her outside, but while doing so, a bulldozer emerges from the dusty winds.

BULLDOZER DRIVER: "You're trespassing."
BEN: "This is my place."
BULLDOZER DRIVER: "This place is the property of First Merchants Trust. Now you've been warned. Law's on its way."

A truck pulls up nearby. Inside are Samson and his right-hand man Clayton Jones, a.k.a. Jonesy. They make a bet. Samson says the bulldozer will squash Ben Hawkins, but Jonesy disagrees. Because Jonesy interferes. He climbs out the truck and makes an offer to the Driver to get the Hayseed, meaning Ben, off his back. Since the Driver can't very well squash the boy without ruining his bulldozer, the Driver lets Jonesy try. Jonesy approaches Ben, who threatens to flatten the interloper with his shovel. Jonesy sees that Ben is merely trying to bury his mother. Also, he sees that the boy has shackles around his ankles. Despite that, he offers to help dig.

The carnival members have gathered around Flora's grave and are singing the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee." Ben looks around at the strange folk. Among the carnies are Samson, a dwarf and leader of the carnival, the conjoined twins Alexandria and Caladonia, and the bearded woman Lila. In the trailer painted "Apollonia ~ Queen of the Gypsies," the young and beautiful Sofie, averts Ben's gaze. The singing stops and, as if on cue, the Hawkins homestead is demolished. Samson's good to go, but a woman named Ruthie encourages him to take the young fugitive with them. Samson refuses, saying that they've "got nothing open" and they're "down to tater-shucks," but suddenly, Ben collapses. Samson relents and they carry Ben off, just as police sirens can be heard in the distance.

It's a bright and sunny day in beautiful Mintern, California. Brother Justin Crowe, a Methodist preacher, is giving a sermon to his congregation. His sister, Iris, sits at his side. He preaches about the great plagues of Egypt, drawing comparisons between them, and the epidemic of sandstorms in middle America. What are they if not evidence of God's fury, he asks. Harbingers of the Apocalypse? He reminds his parishioners that they are blessed because they live in the Promised Land, but that "the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away." As he ends his sermon, everyone stands to sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," but one woman makes a hasty retreat for the exit. Iris appears and grabs the woman, preventing her from leaving.

Elsewhere, Iris leaves the woman alone with her brother. The woman tells Justin that she came from Tulsa to pick cantaloupes, but no pickers were needed, so she currently resides at the large camp by the highway. She tells him that she has come to his church the past three Sundays to worship, and Justin tells her she's always welcome. The woman introduces herself as Eleanor McGill and as the two shake hands, Justin reaches into her sleeve and pulls out the silver coin Eleanor stole from the collection basket.

ELEANOR: "I didn't mean to take it."
JUSTIN: "Eleanor, I see you in my sermons. And you pray so hard, you break my heart. But my words, they wash over you like water over a stone."
ELEANOR (weeping): "No, no."
JUSTIN: "We all, each of us, carry within us the seeds of our own salvation, and our own damnation."

Then, Eleanor covers her mouth. She begins to gag. Justin wheels back in horror as the woman vomits up a stream of silver coins. Eleanor is justifiably afraid, but Justin shouts at her to kneel with him and pray. She vomits up more coins. And then more coins. Justin takes Eleanor into his arms and looks around him. The coins have vanished. Standing in the doorway, Iris has witnessed to the entire event.