Last week’s “Walker,” the third episode of Season 2, dug deeper into the themes of grief and loss that the series has tackled since the pilot, tying those themes to those of hate and resentment that have become clearer in season 2. The episode opens with Cordell sleeping on the couch in the midst of a nightmare, tossing and turning as he sees flashes of that fateful night in the Davidson’s barn with Denise long ago. The two teenagers are sitting there together with a lantern when they suddenly have to run out, leaving the burning lantern behind. Cordell wakes up, distressed.
What’s even more distressing is we immediately jump to the perspective of the creepy Walker family’s spy, watching intimate family moments – Augie and Stella on the couch, Bonham and Abeline working on a puzzle, Stella in a bathrobe (creepier still). Geri sleeping on a couch too, Colton and Stella bandaging the wandering horse’s leg, Denise’s husband lurking around. Liam on the phone talking to someone about “tying it back to Serano”. The whole scene is shot with creepy music that makes it seem like something bad is about to happen – very well done, in other words.
It’s actually two guys listening in, and when they hear what Liam says about them being onto Serano, they immediately realize “the boss is toast”. One wants to cut and run, one wants to find another buyer for their surveillance setup since the Walker family, he notes, collects lots of enemies. (Ouch)
That ominous background runs beneath everything else going on, although the episode overtly is about a chili cookoff, Abeline using their Gran’s original recipe and a $10,000 prize up for grabs. There’s a sentimental reason Abeline wants to win, which I totally understand. (I love Abeline so much – she’s not perfect by any means, but I can often so relate to where she’s coming from). (Did you catch Jared/Cordell snacking on a pepper?)
Cordell’s on edge after the nightmares, overreacting when August leaves a towel too close to the pot of chili on the stove and it catches fire and yelling at his son.
Abeline: Cordell. It’s fine.
Bonham goes after his son to talk, immediately knowing what’s wrong.
Bonham: When did your nightmares come back?
Jared Padalecki and Mitch Pileggi did an incredible job with this scene as Cordell describes the horror of his dreams.
Cordell: I can’t move….can hear him screaming, crying for help…until he’s not…
It’s also a vivid description of what PTSD can feel like, and how destabilizing it can be, not just with sleep but with the rest of life and close relationships.
Bonham reassures his son that he did nothing wrong, but Cordell feels guilty about the Davidsons’ losing everything, and that the outcome is a ‘world of hurt’ between the two families. I have come to love this character so much – he has such a good heart, much like Padalecki himself. Cordell wants to invite the Davidsons to the big Harvest Festival event, although Bonham doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
Cordell: Daddy, it’s the right thing to do.
I love the dynamic between father and son, Cordell’s “Yessir” and Bonham’s gruff but so very evident caring, for all his family. He may be gruff, but he actually doesn’t shy away from talking about his feelings or encouraging his children and grandchildren to talk about theirs. It’s his modeling and Abeline’s that allows Cordell to do just that.
Meanwhile, Stella and Colton are still trying to figure out what to do about their rescued horse – and getting along a lot better. Neither of their parents are okay with keeping the horse, or with the two of them being friends. Colton has a soft heart though, saying he knows what happens to injured horses, and Stella agrees.
Also meanwhile, Micki is struggling with coming out from undercover and Trey is struggling with how he can help her – and fearing he’s losing her.
Trey is now a guidance counselor, which is a bit mystifying since I teach in a Masters program that trains people how to be school counselors and it requires that education usually, but okay. He picks up some food for the Harvest Fest while he talks to Micki, uneasy after their conversation.
Jared Padalecki live-tweeted some of the episode with us and wondered if we all caught the “Supernatural” shout-out “Sam’s BBQ”. I love when “Walker” tosses in some Easter eggs.
Cordell, determined to try to make things right between the families, drives over to the Davidsons, where Gail is doing some planting with help from Dan. I know Gail’s the ‘bad guy’ right now, but there’s a nice scene where she asks if Colton is seeing someone and corrects herself when she assumes and asks ‘what’s her name’ to ‘his or theirs’, saying she’s still trying to learn. I give her credit for that – and the show credit for all the little ways they’re trying to get it right. Those little things make a difference.
Things are still cold as ice between the Davidsons and Cordell, but he persists in inviting them to the Harvest Fest.
At first Gail is reluctant, but when it becomes clear that Abeline is in the chili competition, she can’t resist throwing her hat in the ring. Cordell’s guilt prompts him to make sure that she indeed can enter, even after the deadline has passed, but Dan is still angry, saying ‘this family is everything to me.’
Cordell: Family IS everything, so maybe you and I aren’t so different.
Unfortunately for Cordell and his good intentions, it’s not going to be that easy for the Davidsons to give up their decades-long resentment and the anger that’s fueled by their loss and grief. These are the deeper themes I watch the show for, so I’m glad that this episode explored them more.
Making chili in the kitchen, Abeline and Liam are adorable together, mom suggesting that maybe it’s time for a change if Liam isn’t enjoying working with the new DA (Denise).
Liam: On the other hand, I’ve been shot, branded, nearly blown up – I didn’t go through all that to have Denise Davidson run me out of town.
Cordell’s news that Gail is entering the chili cookoff does not go over well with his mom, however.
Abeline: She’s only entering to stir the pot.
Liam: clears throat awkwardly
These actors are all so good, and those little nonverbal moments are always my favorites.
Abeline is still angry that Gail blames Cordell for her husband’s death, and I love seeing protective mom come out. Molly Hagan is just so good!
Abeline: And I will not allow her to go after my boy again.
Cordell promises he’ll see to it.
Abeline: I hope you do, son. Or I will.
Ooooh, mama bear!
The friendship between Trey and Walker takes a hit this episode, unfortunately. Walker is in the awkward position of knowing a bit more about how Micki is doing and what her experience undercover was with Garrison, but he can’t tell Trey. Trey is worried and desperate to know what really went on, and he’s understandably angry that his friend won’t tell him. It’s a terrible set up, and I hate seeing it take a toll on the two of them when their friendship was just getting deeper.
To his credit, Walker is honest with Trey, saying it’s not his place to be in the middle of them. It’s just not what Trey wants to hear right now.
Behind the surveillance set up, the bad guys find a new buyer who hates the Walkers as much as Serano does. As soon as he has the info, one bad guy shoots the other. No honor among thieves and all that.
Later, shady creepy Earl meets with the new buyer, who turns out to be Dan – which I guess is not too surprising at this point. Earl says that his wife is one of the people on the surveillance tape, and hmmmm.
At the office, Walker talks Micki into going to the Harvest Fest, though she easily sees through him that he’s trying to get her back with Trey.
(I appreciate their banter about the correct pronunciation of picadillo versus Walker’s ‘gringo’ attempt)
Walker: That’s what I said!
Micki: Is it??
Padalecki and Morgan have created such a great dynamic between Cordell and Micki, and I really enjoy watching it. She tells him to stop meddling.
Cordell: I hate it when you’re right.
He also tells her that he probably knows better than anyone what she’s going through, acknowledging her loss.
Cordell: But please, I speak from experience here. Do not blame yourself, because then you’ll lose sight of who you are.
Micki: I hate it when you’re right.
Cordell: Doesn’t happen often!
Padalecki invests Cordell with so many subtle nonverbal facets that tell us about who he is – the way he ducks down to get on Micki’s level when they talk, for example. Micki agrees to come to the Harvest Fest, and the show went all out on decorating the Side Step for the fest and the season.
The Harvest Fest itself is a fun montage at the Side Step, Geri the proud manager, Bonham getting dunked by his grandson in the dunk tank. They’ve got live music which feels so very Austin, and Gail and Abeline dish out their chili as people vote for their favorites and there’s dancing and drinking and lots of smiles (though Denise’s husband keeps glaring at the Walkers across the chili bowls).
Geri and Cordell share a drink and some banter and some little Emily memories.
Cordell: Keep this drink safe?
Geri: I’ll drink it! What?
Two young women ask Geri if Cordell is available and she at first says no, he’s married, then corrects herself to say he’s not married anymore. The two young women make their way over to Cordell as Geri watches. Hmm. Complicated.
Micki reunites with Trey with a big hug, but as hard as he tries to say and do the right thing, she’s reluctant to open up to him.
Trey: I’m not everybody. I’m the man who’s literally been to war with you, and there’s nothing that’s gonna come between us. So, are we good?
Micki takes a drink and says yes and tries to just go right back to normal, playing a game of darts and suggesting if he wins that what he gets is “oh, you know…” with a flirty look. But as soon as Trey walks away, Micki’s face falls.
Trey reminds Micki that he’s ready to listen when she wants to talk about Del Rio, and she gets honest with him about how angry she is that he came down to Del Rio and jeopardized the operation – but that she knows his heart was in the right place, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters to her the most.
They start to share a tender moment, admitting he was reckless and apologizes and she says they’re okay. At that moment, the band starts playing the song that Garrison put on the mix tape for her. Micki runs out, leaving Trey upset and confused. Walker tries to console him but won’t tell him anything, and Trey lashes out.
Trey: Man, you got one hell of a talent for callin’ out a problem and not comin’ up with one single solution.
Poor Walker. He’s trying so hard to play peacemaker for just about everyone, and it’s all backfiring on him spectacularly. Jared plays his frustration and guilt so well, and I really feel for him.
Abeline goes outside to talk to Micki, correctly interpreting that there’s a guy and just asking “what’s his name?”
Micki: His name is Garrison and we definitely had history, and now he’s…making me question my future.
Abeline: At the very least, be completely honest with yourself. If you’re not, the truth finds a way to rear its ugly head.
She feels like she should have handled things better in the past too.
I love this small moment between these two women and realize how rarely we get scenes like this on network television. Abeline is written so damn real, and Molly Hagan plays her to perfection. (Yes, I’m totally an Abeline stan, I admit it.)
The chili cookoff is more dramatic than Abeline wanted – we see Gail whisper something to her husband, and then he ‘accidentally’ runs into Liam carrying a big pot of chili, which spills all over him. A fight nearly breaks out, Cordell frantically trying to play peacemaker, but eventually they ‘settle it’ by upping the ante to make a financial bet of more money. I’m honestly not sure how that calmed things down, but Abeline is as competitive as Gail and so the two women agree.
To settle the cookoff, a blindfolded Cordell (popular in the fandom…) chooses Gail Davidson’s chili, which Abeline seems surprisingly okay with. That means the Davidsons get $10,000 – though everyone is a bit struck by the fact that she named her chili “the Barn Burner.” Ouch. Still too soon.
Gail is all too happy to take the spotlight on the stage and thanks the Walker family while also relating all the losses of the past too. Just as Colton and Stella walk up, she announces that they’ll build a horse rescue with the money, telling everyone that her grandson has been “singlehandedly caring for an injured horse”. She’s a schemer, this one!
Cordell and his mama have a heart-to-heart after. She knows he handed Gail the win but wants to know why.
Cordell: It was the right thing to do. The Davidsons, they lost everything because of that night…. The loss, the pain, it cuts you so deep, makes you sick. It’s something you can’t really understand if you haven’t experienced it. And everyone took our side, everyone.
He really understands the depth of their loss. Marv, Gail’s husband, Denise’s father. Their finances, their home, their land. Their friends. There was shame and humiliation. It’s such a vivid reminder that loss is always not just the primary loss, but so many secondary losses too, and that’s what makes it so devastating.
He doesn’t shy away from the part they played in it all, either. From what comes with power and privilege.
Cordell: And here we come, swooping up their land for pennies on the dollar so they have to leave town with a dark cloud of shame and grief hanging over their heads. I’m startin’ to think that we’re the bad guys.
Abeline says it was complicated, but it always is, isn’t it? And as Cordell points out, it’s not now. And then he gets real. He says that his nightmares are more than that, they’re memories. And as he tells his mother what happened, he tears up, his voice faltering as he pushes himself to go on.
Cordell: I remember taking a lantern into the barn…and leaving it there. I know I did, I know I did. So the fire, the barn, Marv’s death – it’s my fault.
Abeline: No, baby.
She drops to her knees and pulls her 6’ 5” baby boy into her arms, letting him cry on her shoulder like he needs to.
God, both Jared and Molly were so good here, and for me it all gets mixed up with the loving mother that Sam Winchester never got to have and how much I wanted that for him, for them. I started to tear up watching it live and I’m tearing up again now, watching it again to do this review. It’s probably my favorite scene in this series so far – raw and real and vulnerable.
Cordell clings to her, sobbing.
Abeline: It was an accident.
The creepy guy and Dan watch and I’m infuriated that they get to eavesdrop on such an intimate moment. The intrusion of it is horrifying.
Micki comes back to the home she shares with Trey, taking down a painting from the wall and replacing it with the one of the church while Trey brings her a beer.
Trey: Have a drink, relax. Do you really have to be doing this right now? Mad skills. Who’s the artist?
Micki: Can we not? Can we just not?
She says she’ll tell him what happened soon, and he says okay.
Micki: Trey, I love you.
Trey: Good, because I love you too.
Micki: And I miss you.
She pulls her hair down and walks him backward toward the bedroom. I just hope that the emotional walls will come down at some point, not just the physical ones.
In the pivotal last scene, Cordell is also fixing paintings – the one that’s always crooked. But he’s a Ranger and he’s smart and I love that. He sees the camera, but doesn’t let on and turns away.
And next week, it seems like all hell will break loose with 2.04 “Walker,” It’s Not What You Think!