HomeArts & EntertainmentTV & Showbiz'Reservation Dogs' Season Three Brings Everyone to Tears

‘Reservation Dogs’ Season Three Brings Everyone to Tears

This post contains spoilers for this week’s episode of Reservation Dogs, “Frankfurter Sandwich,” now streaming on Hulu.

A fascinating thing happens in the first scene of “Frankfurter Sandwich.” As Cheese’s adoptive grandmother Irene encourages him to leave the house and spend time with Elora and the others, she calls him “Chebon.” This is the nickname that Maximus insisted on being called by during the events of “House Made of Bongs,” where we learned that he and Irene were part of the same friend group as teenagers. But it’s also a piece of Indigenous slang, which can either mean, simply, “man,” or be used to describe someone as an immature or foolish young man.

But as the episode continues, it becomes clear that Irene’s use of the term is not a coincidence. She, Bucky, and Brownie all have their old friend on their minds as they watch Cheese pull away from the other Rez Dogs. And thus begins what Bucky dubs “Operation: Nephew Rescue,” where the two male elders and Big(*) conscript Cheese into joining them on a camping and fishing trip in the woods.

(*) Though Zahn McClarnon could play a lot of ages within a 20-25 year span, he’s a fair amount younger than Wes Studi and Gary Farmer, and Season One’s “Come and Get Your Love” already established him as a pre-teen in the mid-Eighties. Even with no personal attachment to Maximus that we know about, he likely comes along because he feels invested in Cheese, and because the reservation does not have an overabundance of older male role models. (Assuming you think Big qualifies.) 

What follows is alternately ridiculous and lovely. Every culture has its own tradition of wise men who are also incredible fools, and that’s very much on display here. Brownie offers an inspiring speech about the unique nature of the land they’re camping on, then follows it up by ripping a big fart. Bucky, of course, begins invoking quantum physics, in ways he may understand but that elude Cheese. And Big, when he’s not making himself sick while ignoring Bucky’s advice about his homemade hot sauce, is going on about Bigfoot(*). Yet within this ridiculous story, there’s an emotional truth that even Cheese understands: “Sometimes, we need to cry, even if we don’t know it.”

(*) This sets up another of this season’s hilarious mid-credits scenes (see also Big and Bev’s continued gross flirting in “Friday”), as we see two actual Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) urinating in the woods, one of them attempting to start a sword fight in the same manner Cheese did earlier. 

Eventually, the episode’s subtext becomes text, as Cheese — borrowing a ritual he learned during his time at the group home last season — gets all three of his companions to open up. After Big cries about a friend he lost, Brownie cites Maximus by name, acknowledging how he, Irene, and the others failed him nearly 50 years ago.


“His name was Maximus,” Brownie explains. “And your grandma, she saw you were pulling away, like him. And something happened. We didn’t believe him. He needed us, and we turned our back on him.” Soon, all the adult men are weeping, in a way that is simultaneously ridiculous and poignant, and they inspire Cheese to call his friends to watch the sunset with them.

This is both a beautiful episode and a surprising one. When Maximus first appeared, he seemed like a one-off character. Now, half of this final season so far has been about him in one way or another. Perhaps, now that the kids have achieved catharsis over the loss of Daniel, the plan for this last year is to draw a closer link between previous generations and the one we’re watching? Or maybe the writing staff simply fell in love with Maximus after he was first introduced, and they couldn’t resist visiting him again and again. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to complain when the episodes about him have been this great.

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