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"One Less Mule"

Season Number: 3
Episode Number: 6
Airdate: September 7, 2013
Director: David Straiton & Deran Sarafian
Writer: John Wirth & Lolis Eric Elie
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"One Less Mule" is the sixth episode of the third season of the AMC series Hell on Wheels.


The episode opens with the Swede grooming himself in preparation for his baptism. As Mr. Dutson baptizes him in the river the Swede attacks and drowns him and his wife when she comes to help. Ezra runs away in panic as the Swede shouts he will find him.

On the railroad, Bohannon struggles to move a dead mule off the tracks when he notices Louise Ellison arrives with Durant and many other wealthy looking men. "One less mule, one more jackass," Bohannon comments on Durant's arrival. Louise acts oddly and quickly leaves when pressed about whether she has anything to say to Bohannon. Durant exchanges veiled threats with Bohannon before introducing Ulysses S Grant, the victorious Northern general and the next President of the United States. Bohannon, himself a former Confederate soldier, refuses to shake Grant's hand, though Grant breaks the tension with a joke. Durant then presents Bohannon with an injunction, explaining that he is to cease all railroad activities while the Board of Directors (major stockholders in Credit Mobilier) review Bohannon's ability to execute the duties of Chief Engineer. As Bohannon leaves angrily he is followed by a stranger, who attempts to draw his pistol before being apprehended by Elam. Elam goes through the stranger's belongings and find he is Jasper Prescott, the brother of a man Bohannon killed in revenge. Elam orders him to leave and sees him off on a train.

Meanwhile Bohannon faces a trial, which he denounces as a "kangaroo court." He attempts to leave but decides to stay after Durant presents him with an article in the New York Tribune written by Louise Ellison, claiming he is a murderer. While Durant delves into Bohannon's past, Bohannon angrily announces he killed the men who killed his family and that Grant should be on trial for war crimes. Senator Metcalfe springs to Grant's defense but Grant intervenes and announces they will take a ten minute break. Ellison asks Bohannon about what he said in the courtroom, but Bohannon refuses to explain to her, leaving her confused and doubtful. The trial resumes, and numerous witnesses testify against Bohannon, including Elam and Louise (though reluctantly and only because Durant's questions force them to portray Bohannon negatively). Although Elam testified against him Bohannon writes a contract that will allow Elam to keep his job whether or not Bohannon is on the railroad or not. The Board then calls for a vote on whether to remove Bohannon from his position, but Grant and another prominent Senator do not want to vote yet. Senator Metcalfe angrily confronts Durant in private, claiming that Durant promised Bohannon would be out soon and that his son-in-law would be the next Chief Engineer. Durant responds by saying he has a new plan. He has written up a statement that claims Bohannon did not commit the murders and allows Credit Mobilier to deny Bohannon's involvement in the killing. Though this would allow Bohannon to keep his job Durant claims Bohannan will not sign it out of his code of honor and would rather resign. As expected Bohannon refuses to sign the statement because it is untrue and resigns his position, going to the bar to get drunk immediately afterward.

Elam, convinced he has a bright future ahead of him as Chief of Police, proposes to Eva and she joyfully accepts.

Durant meanwhile celebrates his victory by getting drunk in his quarters with Miss Ellison as his guest. He questions why such a prominent journalist is forced to live out in the West in a place such as Hell On Wheels. She claims it is because she follows the stories, but he states he already knows that she had romantic feelings for the New York Tribune's editor and that she was excommunicated for it. She angrily leaves and arrives at the bar, where a drunk Bohannon buys her a drink and dances with her before kissing her. She asks why he did that and he explains it was because he is drunk. He retires to his train-car to use the bathroom and spots Jasper Prescott, who had secretly returned, trying to sneak into his car. He ambushes Jasper and finds out who he is and that he is there to kill Bohannon. After Bohannon realizes he cannot talk Jasper out of it he shoots him and returns to the bar, where Major Bendix is attempting to impress upon General Grant the importance of phrenology. General Grant annoyingly dismisses Bendix before asking Mickey for a better beer. Mickey tells him they ran out of the good stuff and Grant disappointedly sighs. Bohannon invites Grant to the bar where he uses his relationship with Mickey to get secret good liquor. Grant and Bohannon drink, and Grant laments his inability to drink in public because the public does not want a drunk as President. Bohannon tells him it may be best not to run, but Grant says it is too late. Bohannon invites the General on a "snipe hunt", an excursion to go out and drink in private. The next day Grant and Bohannon go out together to drink. Grant tells Bohannon he wants him, not Durant (who he describes as a "shifty sack of shit") to build the railroad. He claims he wants it built to Cheyenne by the time he is elected and if he does he will pull some strings to have Bohannon appointed as Chief Engineer permanently. Bohannon asks where Cheyenne is, and Grant tells him he used his authority to have the town of Durant renamed to Cheyenne, something that brings Bohannon great pleasure.

The next day the railroad workers get ready to catch the train to the new campsite. Sean McGinnes attempts to get on the train but is refused entrance by Bohannon, who claims that the train is for employees only and fires Sean on the spot. He then exchanges a farewell nod with Grant, something Durant spots and is visibly troubled by. As the train leaves Durant and Bohannon glare at each other while Sean stands alone on the platform watching the train leave.

The Swede meanwhile dresses in the Dutson's clothes and begins to travel to Fort Smith by himself, leaving the dead Mormons in the river.




  1. Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon
  2. Colm Meaney as Thomas Durant
  3. Common as Elam Ferguson
  4. Christopher Heyerdahl as Thor Gundersen
  5. Jennifer Ferrin as Louise Ellison
  6. Robin McLeavy as Eva
  7. Phil Burke as Mickey McGinnes
  8. Ben Esler as Sean McGinnes
  9. Kasha Kropinski as Ruth

Guest starring


Featured Music[]

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One Less Mule