1x03. "Tipton"

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

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


Sofie looks out the window of her trailer and informs her mother that the morning revival has ended. Apollonia tells Sofie that Ben needs help. Sofie asks what kind of help. A knock at the door. Ben starts to ask Sofie if she'd drive him-- Yeah, Sofie says. They'll meet in the Chevy. She hands him a sheet to hide under. As they drive down a country road, Sofie asks Ben what's so important about Mrs. Donovan. "Family business," Ben replies. As they pull up to the Donovan house -- the house from Ben's dream -- a ghostly image of Scudder and the woman appears on the porch, then disappears. "Love Me or Leave Me" plays faintly for a moment. They step onto the porch and Ben knocks at the front door. A servant, Walter, answers. When he recognizes Ben as the miracle-man, he tells Ben that Mrs. Donovan has been waiting for him.

Becca Donovan is lying in her bed, coughing and dying. She asks Walter to show Sofie to the kitchen for some lemonade, and beckons Ben come closer. Ben shows Becca the photograph of Scudder: "The Gentlemen Geek."

BECCA: "Crazy old bird..."
BEN: "When was the last time you seen him?"
BECCA: "Oh, long time ago. Fifteen years, or more. Old Hack Scudder and me. We got thick as thieves, we did."
BEN: "... You heard from him since?"
BECCA: "Just dreams. You know that. Sent you one about me, Ben Hawkins."

She is the woman on the porch from Ben's dream. Becca tells Ben that she knows about his gift, for Scudder had it also. But there's rules. To give life, life must be taken from something else -- and there's no way to predict from what. With that, Sheriff Donovan comes bounding into the room, demanding that Ben get out of his house. Ben complies.

On the way back, Sofie asks Ben who Mrs. Donovan was. "She was my grandma," Ben lies. Fed up with the cryptic nonsense, and still upset about Ben's run-in with her mother, Sofie stops the truck and demands Ben get. Ben does and Sofie nearly runs him down. After he calls her a "Crazy damn bitch!" she backs the truck up and tells him to get in. He stubbornly refuses and sits down on the side of the road. Meanwhile, Samson has another straw house and he's wondering where his headliner is. He tells Lila to get Schmidt ready in Ben's place. This crowd won't notice the difference. Much later, Sofie is still parked on the country road and Ben is still sitting on the ground. But when Sofie notices Ben is starting to shiver in the cold, she's the first to break the silence. She asks him for a cigarette. He asks to drive.

The revival has begun. Stumpy and the crowd clap and sing to "When the Saints Go Marching In." Schmidt sits on stage, made up in a tuxedo to look like Ben. Samson, Lodz, Lila and Jonesy are again observing from the back. The music ends. Stumpy asks who is need of Christ's healing power and several people stand up and raise their hands. Stumpy picks a young woman in the back. She hobbles toward the stage with the aid of two canes and introduces herself as Verna. She's actually Stumpy's daughter, Dora Mae. Stumpy asks "Verna" what misfortune befell her and she says that she "got runned over by a thresher." An over exaggerated amount of blood runs down her horribly mangled leg. But Dora Mae says she thanks God every day for sparing her life. The crowd whoops and hollers. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord! Stumpy asks the young girl if she's ready to be healed, when Sheriff Donovan shouts "No!" from the back of the tent. In his arms is his dying mother. He and the crowd demand that Becca be healed instead.

Then, Donovan realizes Schmidt is not the healer Benjamin St. John. Samson and Jonesy look around irritated and apprehensive. They've been exposed. When suddenly, Ben walks in. He tells Donovan to set his mother down. They rest her on the ground and everyone looks on silently. Becca gasps and wheezes. Ben leans in close. He whispers to her, begging for her not to die, because he needs to know the rules. He doesn't want to hurt anybody, least of all, it seems, Sofie, who he spots watching from the sidelines. But despite the risks, he reaches out to lay his hands on Becca, a woman with ties to his family and past. She gasps. "No. Don't touch me. No." Ben asks her where Henry Scudder went after he left her. "Babylon..." she replies. Then, she dies.

The rousties are loading the last of the trucks as the carnival makes its final preparations before departing. Samson approaches Ben and asks the boy what he was planning to do if Becca hadn't stopped him. When Ben doesn't answer, Samson informs him that the price of his ad-libbing is latrine duty. There will be no more headlining for Ben. Samson yells for the carnies to start the trucks.

JONESY: "Where we headed?"
SAMSON: "Stay on 54. Pick up route 66 to 27 south."
JONESY: "Through Texas?"
Samson nods.
JONESY: "That's gonna take us awful close to Babylon."
SAMSON: "No, it's gonna take us to Babylon."

Samson and Jonesy pull out, the remaining trucks following. The carnival leaves Tipton and heads out into the night....