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'Little Bird' Recap: Episode 3

Daniel Hautzinger
Patricia and others sit in a court room
Patricia isn't even allowed to speak at the court hearing where her children are officially taken away from her. 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 approaches Adele outside her home, and Adele ushers her children behind her. She’s upset that Esther followed her home and tells her to leave. Esther gives her a phone number to call, hoping that in a less official setting Adele might share some memory about Esther and her siblings before they were adopted. Adele takes it and tells her to never return to her house.

Adele was there when the court finalized the separation of Esther/Bezhig and her siblings from their mother, years ago. Adele’s partner, Jeannie, testified against Patricia, arguing that the children were thriving in foster care and pointing out that their father, Morris, was no longer in the picture – he’s doing badly in the hospital. Patricia’s attempt to hide Dora from the social workers is portrayed as inhumane punishment.

The judge doesn’t even allow Patricia to read the statement she has nervously prepared. All of the white people rush out of the room when Patricia begins to wail, with only her father Asin left to comfort her.

When Patricia, her remaining son Leo, and Asin go to visit Morris, he is unresponsive. Patricia tells him she tried to get the kids back. She’s so sorry she failed.

Back at her motel in the present day, Esther sees a family donning regalia for a powwow and starts to talk to them. The father immediately recognizes her as another Native person and asks where she’s from – but she doesn’t know. He tells her “Bezhig” means “number one” in Ojibwe.

In her continuing search for her sister, Esther goes to the police station and requests any documents on Dora. She gets back a list of charges against Dora, and asks for any way to contact her. After pushing, the police share an address from one of the incidents where police were called, warning that it’s in a “rough” area.

Esther goes to the apartment building and knocks on the door of the address she was given. A neighbor asks her why she’s there, and Esther explains that she’s looking for Dora. The kindly woman says Dora moved about two years ago, and invites Esther in for tea. She explains to Esther with a laugh that the police incident happened when a jealous man tried to rough up Dora for working the streets and she beat him up instead, throwing his stuff out the window. She suggests trying a nearby outreach center to find Dora.

Two women at the center do know Dora, although they have struggled to keep track of her. She was getting her GED, and now might be working at a bar down the street.

Esther goes there and orders wine, immediately setting herself apart from the other clientele. She then asks her server if she is Dora. When she tells her that she is her sister, they both hug and cry.

When Dora sees Esther’s rental car, she asks if Esther is rich. Esther scoffs, but there is obviously a large gulf between the two women and their upbringings. Dora gets mad when Esther mentions that she was worried when she saw police charges against her, but the sisters reset and Dora invites Esther to her house to meet her partner Doug.

Doug is polite and solicitous of Dora, who is pregnant. He makes them dinner – he wants to eventually own his own restaurant. Esther tells Dora that she saw Dora’s adoptive family, the Muellers, and Dora says F them. Doug explains that Dora pulled herself up; she’s been through a lot, but has come out stronger.

When Esther tells Dora that her adoptive brother said he misses her, Dora storms off and tells Doug to get Esther to leave. Doug reassures Esther, telling her to leave a phone number. Dora will come around.

Dora’s adoptive brother is the reason she was kicked out of her home, and that her once good grades dropped. He was interested in her and would visit her in her room when their parents were out of hearing. Eventually their mom found them and threw Dora out of the house, calling her a whore and not even letting her grab any of her things.

Patricia’s life was also changed in an instant. Now, having lost three of her kids, she leaves Leo with his grandfather to drive to the house she once shared with Morris and her children. Now it is empty; only she and Leo are left. She drives to an overlook and yells into the sky.

Eighteen years later, Esther finds herself stopping at that same overlook. When she returned to her motel after being kicked out by Dora, she cried. But then the phone rang: it was Adele. The social worker recommended that Esther visit the Qu’Appelle Valley, specifically the Long Pine Reserve, for… sightseeing. Esther got the hint and drove out there.

Now she finds herself crying on the same overlook where her mother mourned her loss, years ago.