‘1923’ Episode 1: Recap And Ending, Explained: Who Is Spencer Dutton? Why Is Cara Writing Him A Letter?

Yellowstone” reached the popularity of a scale where there are now two spin-offs produced and directed by Taylor Sheridan himself. “1883” and now the brand-new show “1923” cover the cowboy genre, and the history of the Dutton family and their legacy is extensively covered in both the prequels. Though 1883 focused on the story of how Dutton owned the ranch when they reached America, they named it Yellowstone, and it became part of their life and legacy going forward. “1923” is an extension of 1883 as the Dutton family goes from the 19th century to the 20th century right after World War I, starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, Sebastian Roche, Isabel May, and Darren Mann.


Spoilers Ahead

What Is ‘1923’ Episode 1 About?

Episode One, “1923,” begins with the murder of a supposed intruder on the ranch as he is being chased and killed by Cara Dutton. The voiceover by Elsa Dutton at the beginning of the show explains extensively about the violence and its history in the Dutton family, how it followed them from Scottish Highlands to Dublin to America. The Dutton family is known for seeking out places for them to take care of their cattle and other animals on the ranch. Violence, killing, and salvation come naturally to Dutton, which was well established in “1883” and “Yellowstone” as well. Elsa explains how her father, James Dutton, raised his sons and how many of them lived long enough to see what the 20th century had in store for them. Spencer Dutton is in Africa after his stint with the army, living the life of a hunter who helps kill wild animals in Africa. Spencer kills a lion with the help of two locals by his side. Meanwhile, back in Montana, Jacob Dutton now runs “Yellowstone” after James, his brother, and James’s wife passed away. Jacob takes care of the ranch with his wife, Cara, and they also help with James’s kids and raise them as their own. Jacob and Cara are well-meaning members of the family who want nothing but the best for everyone, especially James’ kids.


Jacob Dutton and his men are facing the biggest crisis of their lives. Locusts have not only ravaged their grasses and as an extension of the calamity, the cattle on their ranch died because there was no grass for them to be fed, which puts Jacob Dutton, his family, and the rest of the ranchers in a spot. The same matter is brought up by many other ranchers who face the problem of locusts. A biblical omen for them, Jacob and other ranchers hope for locusts to be a temporary problem, and that they will change their direction towards other neighboring states. Cattle on the ranches is the only way the ranchers and cowboys have survived so far. If the cattle die due to a lack of grass on their land, it will create major financial and logistical issues for all of them residing in the town. The dynamics and economy of the state would change. On the other hand, Banner Creighton and a group of sheep herders are accused of crossing from their land with their sheep to another without any permission. Jacob Dutton, who also works with the state, sits on the trial where Banner is put in front of the panel as an accused. Banner presents his case for a while when the verdict goes against him. Banner is angry at Jacob for not understanding his predicament. Just like Jacob and other ranchers, Banner has lost his grass to locusts but cannot take his sheep up on the hills for fear of them being eaten by bears or, worse, killed by cowboys. Banner is upset to see no support from other ranchers regarding the matter. All he wanted was to save his sheep from dying of starvation, which made him take the step of crossing into another ranch for their survival. Banner physically intimidates Jacob, only to be stopped by other state authorities, asking him to back off.

Teona, an Indian native girl studying in the convent, is brutally assaulted by a nun, who also happens to be her teacher for saying ungodly things. The nuns at the convent brainwash the kids into forgetting about their native roots and embracing Christianity. Teona is harshly punished not just by the nun but by the father who runs the convent for speaking up against the authority figure in the class, which might lead to others speaking up and rebelling. The convent forces them to live a certain way by embracing their religion forcefully, and Teona dreams of breaking away from this system. Teona knows people who left the convent but never really wrote to them, and she wonders if any of them are alive. The Indians were close to nature, and their lifestyle was also rooted in it. The convent is out there to preach Christianity and the Christian way of life, making sure that this is embedded in the minds of the kids from the Indian community with the hope of erasing their history and legacy.


‘1923’ Episode 1: Ending Explained – Who Is Spencer Dutton? Why Is Cara Writing Him A Letter?

Jacob and other ranchers decide to take their cattle uphill, looking for more grass to feed their livestock, which is the only option left for them. The survival of the cattle is a big deal for all the ranchers, especially for Jacob and his family, as they are the leaders to who everyone looks up to. Jacob convinces all the fellow ranchers about the walk uphill, which would take at least a week or two for them to carry out the job of feeding. Jacob and Cara’s nephew Jack is set to be married to Elizabeth Stafford, the daughter of another rancher, but the wedding is on the verge of getting postponed as all the ranchers are headed uphill to feed the cattle. Elizabeth is initially livid at the thought of her wedding being postponed but is convinced by Cara to look at the bigger picture in this scenario. The ranchers will always worry about their cattle, for it is their livelihood. Cara insists that Elizabeth, being a daughter of the rancher and marrying into a family of ranchers, should embrace the fact that, at many times, for the men, cattle and other livestock are more important than their marital status. Elizabeth and Jack make up, and both decide to wait for two weeks more.

Banner Creighton, on the other hand, out of desperation, walks onto another rancher’s leased land even when he is told not to. Banner wants to feed his livestock before they die, costing him his source of livelihood. Banner’s loss would mean other livestock owners would lose too, and there wouldn’t be anyone ready to hear their plea to survive in these tough times. Banner, with other sheep stock owners, cuts the fence and walks into grazed land as Jacob Dutton heads uphill with his herd of cattle, with other ranchers joining in to look for grass that has not been eaten by locusts. They feel confident about this expedition as they begin the journey. Jack heads uphill to see Banner Creighton’s sheep have taken over the land, and their man points a gun at Jack and shoots. It is not established if Jack was attacked unprovoked, and it is not shown if Jack died in the attack. Jack might have been seriously injured, but injuring or killing a member of the Dutton family would mean a full-fledged war against them for land and pasture. This brings us to the beginning of the show, where Elsa Dutton says violence follows her family everywhere. Cara is feeling restless as a week goes by, and none of them have returned from the expedition. To calm herself down, Cara begins to write a letter to Spencer Dutton, the eldest son of Jacob’s elder brother James. Spencer is currently in Africa living the life of a so-called bounty hunter, and Cara opens up about her predicament so far.


Spencer Dutton, far away from his homeland, is ravaged by the dreams of the war he was in. Spencer reaches Nairobi on an invitation from a British group out at camp wanting to get rid of a man-eating leopard. The British man intends to use a goat as bait, but Spencer makes it clear that wild animals that have once indulged in human flesh tend to hunt down only humans to satisfy their hunger. Along with his helpers, Spencer marks his territory by urinating around the tent to attract the leopard using the scent. The British group is joined by a couple who are unaware of the leopard out on the prowl to devour humans. At nightfall, the British woman is killed by the leopard when she is out to relieve herself. Spencer’s helpers realize there are two man-eating leopards out on the prowl to kill. Spencer kills the leopard that killed the woman, unaware of the fact that there is another leopard out there somewhere near him. He is shouted at by his helpers when the other leopard jumps on him. Spencer possibly survived the attack and killed the other leopard before realizing he must have been gravely injured by it. Cara writes him a letter to inform him how much he is missed by his family back home in Montana while he is on a hunting spree away from the bustle of his ranch life. Spencer isn’t willing to go back home yet, and Cara asks that question too in the letter. Spencer surely had some sort of fallout or wasn’t interested in taking care of the ranch after the passing of his parents. Cara believes she and her husband are the reason Spencer won’t come back home, but she also understands the fact that war changed him. His experience in the war is briefly explored in “1923” Episode 1, but more will be dealt with as the show progresses. The letter, though, makes it clear that she wants him back home helping them with the ranch rather than toiling away in the savannahs of Africa.


Jack Dutton possibly died in the clash between Banner Creighton’s men and the cattle ranchers. He was the first victim of the upcoming war between the two clans. This will force Jacob and Cara to ask Spencer to come back. Spencer most probably survived the leopard attack. On receiving a letter from his aunt Cara, he will probably head back to Montana to help them with ranch work and possibly with the clashes with Banner Creighton. Teona will surely plan something big to rebel against the convent and prove her identity is more important than any religious heretics out there trying to erase her past.



“1923” began with a banger of an episode where nothing is subtle or calm anymore. There is violence waiting to erupt, and it has been showcased rather fiercely by Taylor Sheridan, who so far has been successful in churning out brilliant and realistic westerns sans unnecessary drama. It is a delight to watch Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren being in their element, and we cannot wait to watch what the writers have for us with such stalwarts headlining the prequel series of a critically acclaimed “Yellowstone.”

“1923” is a Paramount Network show that premiered on December 18, 2022. The show will release one episode each week.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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