1x03. "Tipton"

story by Henry Bromell; teleplay by Daniel Knauf
directed by Rodrigo Garcia

original airdate: September 28, 2003
running time: 49 minutes



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A procession of mourners exits a building, among them is Reverend Tom Goyer, and several men, who are carrying a wooden coffin that is embossed with a cross. As the men load the coffin into a wagon, a truck drives by. The townsfolk stop and watch as the carnival rolls into Tipton. On top of one of the trucks is Ben Hawkins, who looks down and sees the mourners and the wooden coffin. He has dreamt this...

At the carnival grounds, Samson rattles off a list of supplies for Jonesy to pick up in town: "beans, lard, flour, milk and sugar." He hands Jonesy money and orders Ben to go with him. As they drive into town, Ben asks Jonesy if Tipton's a good town, but Jonesy says they've never worked it because the carnival's off the regular circuit, and has been ever since Ben showed up. While Samson barks orders to the rousties, he's approached by an old acquaintance, the town's current sheriff, Lyle Donovan. To Samson's surprise, Donovan tells him that he can't set up the carnival.

LYLE: "I can't let you set up. I'm sorry, it's just the way it is. I gotta look after my people."
SAMSON: "Your people? What the hell you talkin' about Lyle?"
LYLE: "These people barely got a pocket to turn out and I'm not gonna let 'em get shook down by no carnies."

Samson argues that he runs a clean operation, but Donovan refuses to listen. In town, Jonesy barters at the Farmer's Market for supplies while Ben's attention drifts toward a truck across the street. The side of the truck is painted "Big Sky Farms." Ben reaches into his pocket and pulls out the photograph of his mother, Flora, standing in front of a truck -- also marked "Big Sky Farms." Suddenly, a young girl cries "That's him!" and Ben turns to see Maddy Crane, the crippled girl he healed in Milfay standing with her grandmother. The grandmother runs to Ben, crying how Ben touched Maddy and made her walk. The impoverished and sickly residents of Tipton begin to surround Ben, putting their hands on him so he might heal them as well. Ben struggles to get away. Jonesy, seeing the commotion around Ben, angrily tells the boy to get in the truck.

Mintern. A banner is raised over the neon sign for Mr. Chin's. It reads: "Dignity Ministry. Come Worship With Us." Eleanor stands outside Chin's, handing out programs to the migrants as they enter, shouting for others to come worship with Brother Justin. Inside, Justin and Iris lead the congregation in a rendition of "Old Time Religion." When the singing ends, Justin preaches. He tells the congregation that there were people who laughed at their mission and said that the migrants believed God had abandoned. But Justin proclaims that the migrants have strengthened their faith because they have less and his sermon is met with more applause, cheering and singing. Afterward, Justin is greeted by city councilmen Ned Munson and Val Templeton. Munson remarks to Justin that city hall is impressed with the ministry and would be honored if the reverend would give them a nickel-tour. Justin consents, although Iris has her doubts about the strangers' intentions.

Jonesy begins to tell Samson what happened in town, but Samson isn't interested. Jonesy looks around and sees that the carnival is no closer to being set up, rather the tents are being disassembled. When Samson breaks the news, Jonesy looks at Ben... and gets an idea. In town, Samson meets with Reverend Goyer. Samson tells Goyer that he hasn't been in the carnival trade since his troupe came across a young healer by the name of Benjamin St. John, and that they'd like the reverend's endorsement to hold a revival, profits to be split 50/50 with Goyer's church.

That night, the revival is underway, although Sheriff Donovan still considers the show a "clip-joint" and threatens to shut them down. Samson tells Donovan that they'd both answer to a higher authority: The Bill of Rights, then he greets Reverend Goyer who arrives, noticeably excited about the revival. Goyer tells Donovan that the "old-time evangelism" is just the thing to stir up the spirits of the depressed residents of Tipton, and Donovan can't argue with that. Backstage, Lila is getting Ben ready for his performance when Ruthie and Samson approach. Their reaction to seeing Ben all groomed and dressed in a tuxedo is one of shock, for the boy closely resembles... Hack Scudder. Ben looks at himself in the mirror and refuses to participate. Samson tells him that's not an option.