Ree regains consciousness. She is in extreme pain; she can taste blood in her mouth; she can feel that she has soiled herself and is missing two teeth. Two women stand over her, talking about how she must be “crazy” to have come to Thump Milton’s. Ree sits up, insisting that she isn’t crazy. Her teeth are on the ground beside her, and she places them in the pocket of her grandmother’s coat. Merab approaches Ree calmly, telling her that she was “warned,” and asking why she wouldn’t listen. “I can’t just listen,” Ree says. She realizes that she is being kept in a barn; when she surveys her surroundings, she can see several other figures—men—standing by the door.
Ree’s total decimation in the face of such extreme violence is difficult to watch. The acts perpetrated against her were designed to inspire shame and revulsion, and the insistence that she’s “crazy” designed to discredit and even further undermine her search for truth. Even in her weakened state, though, Ree insists that she will not give up, and by placing her teeth in her grandmother’s coat, she shows through visual metaphor that she still is prepared to attend to her familial duties.
Megan crouches next to Ree and Merab and asks: “Whatever are we to do about you, baby girl?” Ree suggests that Megan kills her. Megan tells her that idea’s been said already. “Help me,” Ree says. “Ain’t nobody said that idea yet.” The crowd at the door parts, and Ree can tell that Thump Milton has entered the barn. He approaches Ree and grabs her chin, “inspecting the damage.” He tells Ree that if she’s got something to say, she should say it now. Ree pleads with Thump Milton; she begs for his help in proving that her father is dead, for the sake of her brothers and her mother. Thump Milton does not answer her, but stands and leaves the barn.
Ree continues to beg for help, unable to understand why it’s continually been denied to her. Thump Milton’s long-awaited arrival then seems to signal that a point of deliverance has come at last; she has finally gotten to the man who might be able to answer her questions and solve her problems, once and for all. His silence, though, confirms that even after being subjected to extreme violence, Ree is still not, in his view, worthy of the information she so desperately desires.
Ree lies down, sick and exhausted, covered in her own blood and excrement. She can hear the men by the door talking; a truck is pulling up, and it is Teardrop’s. One of the men goes to get a gun—“I ain’t standin’ here naked when [he] walks in and sees [his niece] beat silly.”
Teardrop’s arrival inspires fear even in Thump’s men—however violent and terrifying these people are, they have a match in Ree’s fearsome “savior.”
Teardrop enters the barn and asks who was responsible for beating Ree. Merab insists that no man touched her; that she herself and her sisters are responsible for Ree’s condition. Thump Milton returns, and tells Teardrop to explain himself. Teardrop insists that he never asked after Jessup or went looking for him, and that though “what Jessup [did] was against [their] ways,” Ree should not be held responsible. He tells Thump Milton that he has come to collect Ree and take her home. Thump Milton asks Teardrop if he’s “willin’ to stand for [Ree.]” Teardrop says that he is. “She’s now yours to answer for,” Thump tells Teardrop, and instructs his men to put Ree in Teardrop’s truck.
Teardrop implies that if Ree had been beaten by men, he’d have to—and be able to— physically retaliate; because Merab and her sisters delivered the beating, though, he cannot. Thump’s reappearance and his conversation with Teardrop reveal that Ree is really the only one in the dark as to Jessup’s transgressions and his resulting fate. Teardrop assumes responsibility for Ree here, a tremendous act that holds a hallowed weight in this community.