Here is an excerpt from the Deadwood series season 1 episode 3 transcript:

(Street, Jack McCall is checking out the goods at Sol & Seth's tent.)

Seth: Look at that jackass.

Sol: Help you with anything?

Jack: I tell ya, he's bein' done a favor this exact moment. Or would you care to take a guess. A favor in this tent.

Sol: I'd guess it's you doin' one for yourself, Sir, considering quality goods.

Jack: Favor here's bein' done for Wild Bill fuckin' Hickok.

Seth: What are you talking about?

Jack: 'Cause if I'm out prospectin' in the hills, then he ain't gettin' his just desserts. At the poker table or otherwise. Don't ask me what I mean by the last part.

Seth: What do you mean?

Jack: And I said you'd do better not askin'.

Seth: Get outta here.

Jack: I'll buy this one. What's the price on that?

Seth: You ain't buyin' nothin'. (Jack turns around and sees Charlie)

Jack: I know you. Where I know you from?

Utter: Can't help you with that, partner.

Jack: You follow him around. (Laughs. Seth grabs him and runs him forward, tossing him in the muck) Hey!

Seth: That tent's shut to you. Don't come back there.

Jack: (talking to himself) Fuck you. Any plans I might've had to buy somethin', or prospect.

Can anyone explain to me what Jack was alluding to by

... otherwise ...


... At the poker table or otherwise. ...

  • 2
    I'm not going to answer because I don't know the show ... but it seems clear that "otherwise" means physical harm. He's saying that if he wasn't otherwise occupied he would be doing harm to Bill Hickock.... either by beating him at poker and taking his money, or doing him actual harm, perhaps even killing him. The fact that he evades what he means, indicates clearly to me that he means something serious and/or illegal. – iandotkelly Dec 15 '20 at 14:29
  • In fact, if someone knows western history, or has seen some other western movies and tv shows, they will know exactly what Jack meant, and why it might have been better to let Jack have what he wanted. So if somone is watching Deadwood episodes in order, or reading the transcripts in order, eventually they will figure out what Jack meant. With patience, the meaning will be clear. – M. A. Golding Dec 15 '20 at 20:53
  • This is so often the answer with questions from series ... wait and see. – iandotkelly Dec 15 '20 at 22:17
  • "or otherwise" is simply 'or anywhere else, any other time', in Deadwood's famed 'old American'. The later plot it back-references doesn't change that 'otherwise' is a sweeping term implying someone is miffed that someone else didn't get what the former thought they should. – Tetsujin Dec 16 '20 at 20:03

OK, I've figured it out. I will just leave this here, in case someone like me will stumble upon this question.

What got me confused in the first place, was misinterpretation of the phrase just desserts.

You see, I have interpreted it literary i.e. "fair sweet food" meaning some bounces or pleasantries, thinking Jack is referring to
Spoiler alert:

Bill beating him at poker big time, earlier that day

While in fact the phrase just desserts is equivalent to just deserts, which in turn means "getting what one deserves, especially a punishment or unfavorable outcome".
With that sorted out it is obvious, as iandotkelly and M. A. Golding said in comments to question, that Jack suggests inflicting physical harm to Bill by ... or otherwise
Spoiler alert:

This all makes sense, since later (in season 1 episode 4) Jack kills Bill, sneaking in on him from behind, while Bill is playing poker at the table.

  • Ermm… Dessert is a sweet dish, served after dinner. Desert is a big sandy bit like in North Africa, with camels. "Just deserts" is actually from a third word, deserve & has absolutely no connection to the first two. So, this ended up being a fairly simple English comprehension question, not a plot question. – Tetsujin Dec 16 '20 at 19:55
  • @Tetsujin, well, I did my (re)search before making my conclusion and posting an answer: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 6. Did you, before posting your comment? ;-) – Zaza Dec 27 '20 at 15:25
  • 1
    Well, what part of your research goes against what I said? "Just desserts" is not idiomatic English. At best it's a typo. So "just desserts" is not an 'equivalent' of anything. It makes the entire answer just an explanation of a typo in the original quote & has little to do with the 'or otherwise' part of it. I disagree with your actual interpretation of 'or otherwise' too. See my earlier comment under the question. – Tetsujin Dec 27 '20 at 15:48
  • @Tetsujin, indeed no part of what you said goes against my research. I've just read you comment unattentively and now I apologize for the arrogant tone of my response to your comment. – Zaza Jan 7 at 7:58

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