With Bear finally back (thanks to a certain mythical creature no one believes he actually saw), the question on everyone’s lips in Okern is: What are these runaways going to do now? The California trip Bear, Elora, Cheese, and Willie Jack took was a form of closure, a way to say goodbye to their friend Daniel. But the journey west didn’t really open up any tangible futures for any of them. So maybe they were always meat to come back, if only to confront the query that runs through much of “Friday,” the fourth episode of Reservation Dogs’ final season: What’s next?
For starters, lots of cleaning. No way were these teens going to get away from being grounded. And so, those four (and Jackie) are shackled with chores at the IHS clinic for the day by their respective parental figures who hope these wayward teenagers understand the consequences of their actions. It’s also an easy way for the show to give us an episode to breathe and settle back into life at Okern—and give the show’s ensemble a chance to shine in small vignettes throughout. So let’s follow along what happened with each:
Bear & Jackie
After getting an episode all to himself, Bear was more of a bit player this week. Emphasis on player, since that’s how Bev sees him as he gets along a bit too well with Jackie. Then again, Bear being charming (even while sounding like a fool full of stories of Deer Ladies, Star People, and conquistadors) is part of his appeal. He can’t really help it even when he and Jackie are just supposed to be sweeping the floors. That doesn’t stop Bev from nudging Rita into worrying whether there may be something happening between Bear and Jackie. (Bev is ready to babysit their kid, don’t worry.)
Cheese & Willie Jack
Tasked with cleaning up the not-so-tasteful but hilarious graffiti in front of the building (a dick with boobs, if you must know), Cheese and Willie Jack take the chore with the same lackadaisical sensibility they do everything else. Which is to say that while Cheese tries his best at wiping away the hard-to-scrub paint, Willie Jack opts instead to spend time with Old Man Fixico who, as ever, has set up his “Real Medicine” booth right out front.
Soon enough, though, both basically give up—especially once the two realize Cheese never did pick up the glasses that were supposed to improve his vision (a nice callback to “NDN Clinic,” from season one). And so, while Cheese wanders away to get his glasses (they look good!), Willie Jack decides to take a step toward imagining a future. Namely, she asks Old Man Fixico (who keeps noting he may not have too much time left; metaphorical rain is on its way, he says) to train her in his ways. She spends enough time alongside him; why not learn his trade? Cue her best line of the episode: “This is like Empire Strikes Back shit!” Because yes, Old Man Fixico is almost as oblique as master Yoda; he’s the kind who keeps giving the twins Stinkweed no matter what “Real Medicine” they ask of him, after all.
What is Elora to do now? Other than clean out the clinic’s bathrooms, that is. Which is what she finds herself doing when Leon begins selling her on the idea that she may soon be able to take over from his janitorial duties at the clinic. It’s a steady job, and he’s made a nice living out of it. What else is Elora doing, anyway? Wouldn’t she want to be the matriarch he needs at the clinic?
It’s true that she’s jobless and rather aimless. But Elora, now eighteen, has her sights on two different goals: going to school (maybe) and finding her father (also maybe). Is one an excuse to accomplish the other? Perhaps, especially since it’s by asking for her medical records that she finally gets the name of her (white) father: Rick (“What kind of fucking name is Rick?”) Miller. It remains to be seen whether making an effort to connect with her father after all these years will give Elora the sense of purpose she so craves.
But the search for it, as ever, is the point.
With the grief over Daniel no longer framing this season of Reservation Dogs and thus that California trip no longer serving as a narrative horizon, it’s clear this Sterlin Harjo- and Taika Waititi-created series is setting up a final run wherein our young protagonists have to now figure out what they want to make of themselves. For some, like Elora, that may require learning more about who they are and who they come from. But for all, it’ll require running up against the expectations and possibilities that are made available to them in Okern. In that sense, “Friday,” which focused just as much on the kids as it did on the adults around them and the life they’ve built for themselves, feels like a welcome pivot episode that’ll hopefully tee up the final few installments ahead.
- Hard to pick just one tee to single out this week because it’s truly a contest between Cheese’s NARUTO one, Mose and Mekko’s “I’m Too Sacred For That” matching one, and, of course, White Steve’s bingo prize, an old “NARDS (Native American Reclamation And Decolonization Symposium)” tee.
- “I think I’m an accessory to murder now, but that’s cool,” says Bear, proving once again his nonchalance is both his greatest asset and biggest weakness.
- Best random bit of the episode: Bingo shenanigans out front, impromptu funny optician TikTok dancing, or awkward but hilarious reception-set flirting? Hard to choose, right?
- Speaking of: After watching that post-credits outtake scene, wherein Jana Schmieding and Zahn McClarnon absolutely killed it with their flirty improv (the use of gum alone!), I’m going to need the show to release a full-blown outtakes reel.