So much happened in this week’s episode of “Walker,” Bar None, that it feels impossible to recap it all. So instead, I’ll try to trace the twists and turns that the main characters – and the plot – took in 42 jam-packed minutes of television.
The main evolution belongs to Cordell himself, and it’s the evolution I’m enjoying tremendously. He starts out the episode defensive about the accusations of use of excessive force against him and the upcoming evaluation he’s set to undergo. He’s still falling back on the rationalization that the guy he attacked provoked it, as well as the privileged assurance that “everyone knows” that judges protect “the white hat”.
He shrugs off the systemic bias with a “that’s how the system is” comment. This is all familiar from discussions we’ve all been having in the real world about qualified immunity and racism, but it’s powerful to see the white male law enforcement lead embody the problems we’re actually facing – and over the course of the episode, not only evolve and adopt a different perspective but also challenge some toxic masculinity tropes along the way.
I think a lot of people are surprised that “Walker” is doing what it said it would, and isn’t afraid to go there. Showrunner Anna Fricke and Jared Padalecki have both said this is what they intended, but the show actually making it happen is satisfying to watch.
The other evolution we see in Cordell is his slow and painful progress in accepting Emily’s death and feeling the conflicting emotions that loss has brought. His struggle plays out against the metaphor of the Side Step itself, Emily’s favorite place that holds so many of Cordell’s fond memories of her.
Walker stayed away from it and his family and friends to avoid those painful memories, as many of us are tempted to do when a loss feels overwhelming. At this point, the structure is failing, the foundation unsteady and unable to be an effective support – just like Walker’s coping strategies. He’s just not ready, at the start of the episode, to see it.
In the opening scene, Walker makes a flippant toast to a stuffed boar head on the wall of the Side Step, which takes us on a flashback to six years ago and Emily (Gen Padalecki) gifting him the boar’s head as the world’s strangest birthday present.
Hoyt (Matt Barr) in the past: Denise the deer.
Cordell (deadpan): It’s a boar.
You get the feeling Emily really was a bit crazy – and also that was something Cordell loved about her. I’m not a big fan of stuffed animal heads, let alone on walls, so this was not my favorite part of the episode, but I have to give the show points for being a little quirky. Quirky is good.
In the present, at the Side Step, Geri (Odette Annable) gives Cordell his mail, including the life insurance check from Emily’s death. They all realize it’s been a year, but Walker is determined to ignore that significance, although Stella and August want to honor their mother by doing her favorite thing – going camping. Cordell is planning to do it, for them, but refuses to acknowledge the emotional impact the anniversary is having on him.
Walker: It’s just a normal day, no different than any other day.
Denise the boar’s head falls off the wall.
Walker: Denise! You just had to make this about you…
The metaphors in this show are a tad on the nose, but Jared’s delivery of that line was so funny, I laughed out loud.
Geri informs Walker that she’s selling the bar, that she’s had a million offers from developers and it needs more work than she can do. He protests, but she says “it’s time.” Selling the bar equals moving on for Geri too. She’s ready, but Cordell is not.
Despite Walker’s insistence that it’s just another day, his level of upset at the thought of the bar being sold is a pretty good indication that he’s far from chill about it. Anniversaries of loss are always difficult. One of the things I’ve learned as a therapist is that sometimes we’re not even consciously aware that it’s a loss anniversary, yet we feel the impact anyway. Feeling raw emotionally is sometimes a clue that it’s the anniversary of losing someone or something, because we’re unconsciously aware of that loss.
Walker goes so far as to declare the place a crime scene to get rid of a developer interested in buying it. Geri is pissed, accusing him of being in denial – and not just about the bar. She says she needs a fresh start, implying that maybe he does too.
Walker won’t hear it though. He insists he’ll fix up the place himself.
The metaphor holds, Walker wanting to throw his time and energy into constructing even sturdier walls against the awareness of his loss, telling himself that he can do that and have them hold a while longer. Maybe forever. Geri is skeptical.
Geri: Emily was the handyman, I’ve seen you swing a hammer. I know it’s hard, I know you don’t wanna face it, but it’s time.
One of the toughest things about grief and loss is that we don’t all grieve in the same way or on the same timetable. Some feel better by expressing their feelings and being supported, reaching out to others. Others want to just DO something, avoid “going there” too much for fear of being overwhelmed. Geri and Walker are grieving in a different way, on a different timetable. She’s ready to move on; he’s not.
I also like that the show repeatedly mixes up gendered expectations, Emily the one who can wield a hammer or drive a stick shift. Later in the episode, we’ll see similar challenges to gender role expectations with both Abilene and Stella, which is the kind of generational change that really does happen.
There’s another flashback to that birthday party six years ago, Emily bringing up that they need to make a will. What would Emily do, Cordell asks, if he died?
Emily: I’d marry Geri and I’d work at the Side Step.
Everyone who ships that: YESSSSS!
What would Cordell do, she asks, if she died?
Walker: My life would be over. I’d grow a crazy widower beard and drink myself blind and come back here every night to feel the faintest spark of joy that you brought me.
He laughs then and says he’ll also marry Geri and work at the Side Step.
She playfully kicks him and they end up making out on the pool table, to no one’s complaint.
Everyone who ships that: YESSSSS!
(Look, there are a lot of ships on this show and so far they are all for fun and it’s wonderfully therapeutic to see that!)
Also, everyone who remembers Sam Winchester’s “grief beard” when he lost his brother to an archangel’s possession: SOBS
As Cordell doggedly tries to fix up the bar, Micki arrives to warn him about her mother being in town – because Adriana Ramirez will be the psychologist who questions Walker about the use of excessive force and Micki knows that’s going to be a difficult conversation. One that Walker’s anger might make even more difficult. She attempts to prepare him for Adriana’s line of questioning, while he repeatedly attempts to avoid it.
Things get heated between them, Walker’s long-avoided rage and grief about losing Emily and Micki’s long-avoided resentments about her mother both boiling over – it’s essentially a conversation about both of their most hot button issues. She warns him that her mother’s psych evals can be career ending, that she’ll make him look guilty and get them to take his badge.
Micki personalizes all of it, believing that her mother is trying to punish Micki’s partner to show her daughter that she made the wrong decision in joining the Rangers. Meanwhile, Walker bristles at every mention of his anger tied to the loss of Emily, and he finally explodes (again).
Walker: Enough, all right? Let them come after my badge, I will be damned if I will let you make this about my wife!
Micki: You keep losing your cool… Violence, is that your default reaction?
Walker: Is that your thing, you act tough then run away? You run away to prepare for a hearing and avoid your mother? If you thought I was out of line, why didn’t you stop me? Your default setting is avoidance!
It’s the kind of conversation that doesn’t happen that often in this kind of television. Instead of a few brief sound bites and then cutting away to something else, this conversation goes on for quite a while – like it would in real life. Cordell and Micki are just getting to know each other, as friends and as partners, and they’re both stubborn in their own way, which makes for fireworks.
Cordell gets so distracted and enraged that he literally nails his hand to a board with a nail gun.
They both eventually calm down enough for her to pull it out, with me thinking ‘he’s no Sam Winchester’ because Walker actually reacts more like a human with a nail stuck in his hand and not Sam Effing Winchester, who can be tortured by Lucifer himself and keep going.
Just when Walker thinks he’s succeeded in propping up the Side Step, everything he’s hammered together falls apart, just like he’s (metaphorically) doing.
Walker: Fine, fine, you were right – this was about her! You happy?
He throws things around, momentarily overcome with rage. But when they’ve calmed down, they finally talk for real, both letting themselves be more honest with themselves and each other, Cordell saying that he failed (in putting those walls back up) and Micki understanding.
Micki: This is Emily’s place, and today was a tough day. It’s okay to be sad.
Walker: I’m not sad, I’m pissed. Pissed that the only time I don’t feel like crap is when I’m pretending to be someone else (Duke).
He admits he never actually felt threatened by the guy he beat up. That he pushed it with the guy because it’s unfair that he got to live while Emily is dead, and because he was pissed. This is some major evolution, because he’s no longer insisting on that rationalization that we hear far too often.
Micki reminds him (and herself) that you have to deal with feelings, not just push them away. Otherwise, he’s going to continue to be pissed.
Micki: And getting away with things, like taking it out on that Jordan guy…
Walker: … Is just gonna make it worse.
This is such an important point, and so relevant to what we’re confronting in our real life world. Getting away with things might seem like something good, but it’s actually not good for anyone. Not for the system that’s perpetuating injustice, but not good for the individuals who know they’re “getting away with something” either.
Micki admits that she failed too, not stepping in when she should have because it was easier to avoid it, just like she does with her mom.
Micki: I don’t want to face that she might be right about me. And honestly, she might be right about you. I wish she was just wrong sometimes…
Walker: You are your mother’s daughter, like it or not.
Micki: I don’t like it.
It’s a small moment of humor in the midst of a not-at-all humorous conversation, and both Lindsey Morgan and Jared Padalecki pull it off, just like they’ve pulled off the anger and the caring underneath.
Walker says he plans to plead guilty, and Micki says she’s proud of him.
I feel a little weirdly proud too – that’s a long way from “the system is rigged in my favor and that’s okay” place that he started this episode.
Trey and Adriana arrive and Walker immediately lashes out at Dr. Ramirez, accusing her of being the big bad wolf who wants to come after him to make a point to her daughter.
Adriana insists it’s not about rotten apples, it’s about a rotten system.
Which? Hmmm. Full circle to the conversation that started the episode.
Army medic Trey fixes Walker’s hand, so we even got some hurt/comfort going for whatever that ship name is. This episode has something for everyone!
Cordell at one point goes off because he thinks Trey is talking about his anger issues and using a metaphor when he says he’s lucky he didn’t hit anything structural because then there would be real problems that would be harder to fix.
Trey: I was literally talking about your hand, my man.
I kinda love Trey.
Micki also undergoes quite a bit of evolution in this episode, which introduces us to Alex Meneses as Dr. Adriana Ramirez, (Check out our interview with Alex here.) Micki’s semi-estranged mother. We see the contrast between her relationship with her mother and Trey’s, as he sends a selfie to his mom of the two of them taken with them in bed (though clearly that’s not obvious in the photo!) And yes, the Tricki ship was also well-fed in this episode.
Cue the doorbell and Trey’s assumption that it’s food from the “Olive Garlic” (lol) but instead it’s – Micki’s mother!
Trey (in a robe): Doesn’t look like you brought bread sticks…
Even more awkward is the amount of anxiety stirred up by her mother’s surprise visit, as Micki refers to her as “the manipulative PhD in my living room ready to twist every word I utter”. She warns Trey not to say a word, in fact.
Adriana converses with her daughter in Spanish about Trey, surprised when he responds in kind. So much for making assumptions based on people’s appearance!
Their relationship seems to be softening when Micki realizes that her mother is here to do a psych eval – on her partner. Micki is instantly defensive, saying that she won’t let her mother “play your mind games on my partner”. Gotta say, I was starting to feel like I needed to defend my profession by this point – psychologists generally aren’t out to manipulate you for nefarious ends after all! But there’s clearly some back story here that we haven’t heard yet. Alex alluded to that in our interview a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to finding out more.
After her knock down drag out heart to heart with Walker, Micki comes to the grudging realization that she’s been avoiding dealing with her feelings about her mother, and perhaps being a little too harsh on her. When she gets back to the house after helping Cordell at the Side Step, her mom and Trey are cooking dinner. She tells her mom that Cordell is pleading guilty, and admits that she may have helped him a little to come to that – and that her mom may have too.
Micki: Were you really randomly assigned to his case?
Adriana: Hell no. You think I’d pass up a chance to teach my daughter a lesson?
This time, they share a laugh – and some new understanding.
The other relationships on the series all have little bits of evolution too. Stella and August are trying to grieve their mom in their own way, determined to go camping as a way of honoring her. When their father takes off to try to save the Side Step, they’re determined to go without him. Abilene and Bonham swoop in to replace their dad, but Stella has made her own back up plan, asking Trevor to come along. Abilene isn’t thrilled, saying she thought this was a family trip. (Bonham correctly labels this later that Abilene was less upset that Stella asked Trevor and more upset that she didn’t ask her).
Stella lashes out when her grandparents insist they’ll meet Cordell at the campsite, saying he’s not coming, and why is she the only one who sees that?
Bonham: Stella honey, when’s the last time you took a deep breath?
Me: Oh that is always a sure fire way to calm someone down, Bonham. NOT.
Walker is still screwing up in the parenting department with his unreliability, and Stella is allowed to have her feelings too. I honestly don’t blame her for being pessimistic about her dad’s living up to his promises at this point, even though he’s clearly trying. His unresolved feelings and avoidance keep getting in his way, as they did in this episode.
On the other hand, Stella’s anger at her father and grief over the loss of her mother is providing a big push toward her relationship with Trevor, which seems fated to be a bad idea. (More on that later)
Trevor (Gavin Castalengo) upon meeting Abilene: So you’re the one I have to win over…
They all have a picnic, and Stella and her grandmother bond over fixing the truck which has started smoking ominously. I do really like the way gender roles are flip-flopped often on this show.
Stella: Why are you being harsh with Trevor?
Abilene: We’re just taking extra care with everything you’ve been through. I wanted to hold you a little closer, today of all days.
I relate to Abilene so much sometimes, as a mom. And Molly Hagan delivers those lines with so much authenticity.
Stella: I never meant to hurt you. But Trevor, he gets this, more than you think.
Stella says her goodbyes to Trevor, apologizing for the trip being a failure.
Stella: The trip failed, the car failed, even our game failed.
Trevor says he had fun, that he never had any of those things growing up. They share an almost-kiss, which is interrupted by Walker’s bad dad joke – which Jared Padalecki makes very funny indeed.
As Stella drags him away, he’s still protesting that he’s not finished threatening Trevor. I’m really glad Jared is getting to show off his comedic skills a bit in Walker, because he really is quite funny in an understated sort of way.
Abilene and Bonham send Trevor on his way, and he says he’s sorry if he said anything that upset them, that he lost his mom recently too. Abilene immediately softens, asking Trevor who’s cooking for him now and sending him home with all their leftovers.
Bonham: I spy a heart melting.
He and Abilene seem to be reconnecting too, Abilene noting that the camping trip doesn’t have to end just because the kids are gone, and Bonham teasing her that she gave away all their food.
The family story lines merge at the end, as they often do, with Walker setting up a camping trip with the kids right in the middle of the Side Step. It’s some nice symbolism of how you can grieve in a healthy way, not forgetting the person you lost or stop loving them, but by integrating them into new traditions and relationships. Walker is also continuing to face his own failings instead of avoiding them.
Walker: I failed this place, but I failed you two even more.
(The show occasionally goes a little over the top with lines like that, but Walker really does have an unfortunate track record with letting his kids down, so I’ll let it go).
He confides to the kids that camping actually wasn’t their mother’s favorite thing, but that she always said “Not all things have to be good for them to be good.”
After the kids are asleep, Walker imagines Emily there and apologizes to her that he couldn’t save the place. That he’s scared that it’s not the only thing beyond repair. She reassures him that yes, there’s some fixing to be done (referring not just to the Side Step) but that it takes time.
Emily: Not all things have to be good for them to be good.
Walker: That phrase makes no sense, babe.
She smiles and disappears. Walker’s speech to himself through imagining Emily has helped, though. It’s another nice bit of symbolism of how we incorporate the person we’ve lost and all that they’ve taught us into our lives going forward.
Walker calls his mom and makes a request – and in the morning, instead of avoiding his feelings about his wife’s death, Cordell puts on the table a skillet snicker doodle, the last thing that Emily made before she died, a little freezer burnt but…
Stella: The last thing she ever left us. It’s perfect.
That’s a lot of evolution there. It’s painful for Walker to feel that loss, and to share it with his children, but it’s a step toward healing for all of them. And a celebration of the woman they loved too.
Geri joins them and says she’s sold the place, that they’ll tear it down and build condos. Augie wonders why they don’t buy it with the life insurance money and fix it up, and Walker agrees. They’ll match the bid. And make sure Denise doesn’t go anywhere. Everyone seems happy with that resolution, Geri included.
At that point we were about three minutes from the end of the episode, but whoa, did we still have some plot twists to come!
Earlier in the episode, Captain James and Liam (Coby Bell and Keegan Allen) visit Emily’s convicted killer Carlos in prison, but he refuses to cooperate with them even at the prospect of having a new trial. The two men realize they need someone on the inside, and of course that someone is Hoyt. He agrees to help them, all smooth and easy charm once again, except he goes stone cold scary when they suggest he needs to question Carlos.
Hoyt: You put me in a cell with the guy who killed Emily? I will kill him.
Hoyt is getting more and more interesting. I wasn’t sold on the character in his first episode, but this more dangerous version who also clearly cares fiercely about his friends is intriguing. He figures out quickly that Carlos isn’t a drug addict, he’s getting a drug to treat his ALS and that’s why he was willing to take the fall, since he’s dying anyway. The question is, for who?
The last three minutes of the show are dizzying. First Liam and Captain James figure out that Carlos’ niece owns an art gallery that’s had some very large purchases, the money wired from a bank in Austin starting two days after Emily’s murder. It looks like hush money. And it’s coming from – Geri’s LLP for the Side Step.
We see Geri driving away.
At the same time, Micki and Cordell are walking into the building with Adriana, when an officer stops them.
Officer: Dr. Ramirez. I have a felony warrant for your arrest.
Also at the same time, Trevor visits his dad in jail.
Trevor: I met a guy from your rodeo pictures. That Duke guy.
Clint: That’s impossible, he’s dead.
Trevor: He’s not. He’s a Texas Ranger. And I think he’s the reason you’re behind bars.
When I say the plot thickens, I really mean it! I’m guessing none of the Walkers know who Trevor’s dad is, but Stella and August’s tendency not to fully grasp the danger of what their father does for a living seems like it’s about to come back to bite them.
Fans are greatly enjoying the way the mysteries are playing out on this show. A spoilery article just announced that the mystery around Emily’s death will be resolved by the end of Season 1, which I think is a good thing. Dragging it on too long ruins the suspense – but my guess is we’ve still got plenty of twists and turns before the season ends!
Now on to “Walker” 107 Tracks!