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'Little Bird' Recap: Episode 2

Daniel Hautzinger
Bezhig in front of well-dressed adults, with a bow in her hair
Bezhig is dressed up and photographed to be advertised for adoption in the newspaper. Credit: Steve Ackerman

Little Bird airs Sundays at 6:00 pm on WTTW and is available to stream via the PBS app and at Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Esther is still wearing the dress from her engagement party when she wakes up. Her fiancé David calls and leaves a message – another, given that he has been calling all night, as a note left by Esther’s mother Golda relays. Esther goes into her mother’s office and looks through files until she finds one on herself and her adoption, containing a pamphlet, a birth certificate, and a newspaper ad from Regina with a photo of her as a child, back when she was named Bezhig. Esther takes the file, haphazardly packs a suitcase, and leaves.

When she arrives at the airport in Regina, in Saskatchewan, she tries to call her mother but just gets the answering machine.

Her birth mother, Patricia, also failed to reach her after she was forcibly taken from her parents eighteen years earlier. At night, Bezhig tried to escape the building to which she and her siblings were taken, but they were caught. Bezhig takes charge of the siblings, deflecting her sister Dora’s questions about their mom.

The police handcuffed Patricia to her sink after Child Protective Services removed her children, and waited outside for her husband Morris to come home. His son Leo managed to kill a deer on his first hunt, but Leo’s triumphant return home is ruined. Morris tells him to stay hidden in the truck while Morris goes inside.

Auntie Brigit is there with Patricia and explains that their children have been taken. Morris grabs an axe to free Patricia from the sink, then confronts the policemen. They beat him, handcuff him, and shove him into their squad car before driving away.

Brigit tells Patricia she has heard which building children are taken to – she can go try to get her kids back. For now, Leo needs her.

Esther still feels she needs her birth mother and family, eighteen years later. She gets a room in a motel in Regina and then goes to a social services agency the next day. Her adoption files are sealed, so she can’t see them, even to connect with the siblings she remembers having. She asks if she can at least learn where she was born: her birth certificate says Montreal, but she was advertised in the paper in Regina. That’s a falsified legal document.

The woman she’s speaking to gives her one thing: there’s a note on her file that her sister Dora Mueller wants to be contacted.

But Dora’s phone number doesn’t work, so Esther goes through the phone book and calls everyone with the last name Mueller. She finally reaches Dora’s adoptive mother, who says Dora ran off five years ago. When Esther asks for a photo of Dora, the woman tells her “Good luck finding her” and hangs up.

After Patricia’s children were taken from her, she went to the building where they were dropped off and banged on the door. The deer Leo killed was still in the back of her truck. But a woman told her to calm down and go to Child Protective Services.

There, Patricia meets with Jeannie and Adele, the social workers who deemed her an “unfit” mother. Adele is still uncomfortable and tries to offer sympathy to Patricia, but Jeannie is unmoved. The children’s hearing will be in a few months, she explains. Patricia no longer has a right to know anything about them, as they are currently wards of the state.

I will do better, Patricia promises. Jeannie tells her that she’d do best to try to hold on to the one child she has left, for now.

Patricia walks out of the office and calls the person watching Leo, asking her to bring him somewhere else, somewhere safer. The woman tells Patricia that Morris was brought to the Indian hospital and is not doing well.

Patricia visits Morris and learns that he continually slammed his head against the wall while being held by the police, who brought him to the hospital. The doctor hasn’t visited the hospital yet this week, but Morris is in bad shape. I’m sorry, he tells Patricia, before asking her to get the kids back.

Esther is equally determined to find her family. She drives to the Mueller house and knocks. A woman and young man answer. The man, Dora’s brother, is friendlier than his mom. He tells Esther to leave a phone number while his mom refuses to help. She says Dora was a good girl who turned bad. The brother objects, and she sends him inside. She then closes the door on Esther.

The brother comes out and tells Esther he’ll call her.

Dora was separated from her siblings once before. While Bezhig and Niizh were dressed up to take photos for ads in the papers, Dora was taken to a foster home. During the photos, Jeannie asked Adele if she was going to quit – many women do. Adele is considering it, being uncomfortable with everything. Jeannie tells her she just has to think, “I’m saving these kids from a life of poverty.”

Esther still has faint memories of her previous life, and of her siblings. She calls David from her motel room and tells him she wants to know what happened to her family. She didn’t tell anyone what she was doing because she didn’t want to be talked out of it. The last time she brought up pursuing her birth family, on her 16th birthday, Golda got very upset.

David is upset with Esther for leaving without a word, even if he doesn’t begrudge her for looking for her birth family. Esther tells him she’ll be home for a meeting they have with the rabbi ahead of their wedding. She asks him to tell her mother that she is safe, and she will call soon. Don’t forget you love me, David says sadly.

The next day, Dora’s adoptive brother brings a box of her things to Esther. He explains that Dora didn’t run away; she was kicked out after a bad fight with his strict parents. If you find her, tell her I still think about her all the time and miss her, he says.

In the box, in addition to a photo, dress, and school papers, is a business card for Adele at Child Protective Services. Esther meets her and asks her for information or memories, but Adele claims she doesn’t remember anything. Even if she did, she couldn’t legally share it with Esther. She is impressed by how “put together” Esther is, and is glad to see her doing so well, training to become a lawyer.

The building in which Adele works brings back memories to Esther of her adoption. She goes outside and sits in her car, waiting until Adele leaves. She then follows her home, where she sees Adele get out of the car and hug and kiss her two children.