Last week’s “Walker” was titled ‘Search and Rescue’ and it was appropriate for multiple story lines. Directed by Austin Nichols (who was on the show in the last season), it was a fast-paced episode that didn’t have any down time. As Jared Padalecki recovered from a serious car accident, Cordell’s role was light, but there were plenty of powerful performances by the ensemble cast.
The main rescue is of Stella and Colton, after their first date hiking in the state park goes south. The two have a teasing competitive dynamic that works to make the relationship believable, but it sends Colton scrambling up a cliff side to try to get to some flowers after Stella sets it up as a race. He hits his head on a rock on the way down and is disoriented and bleeding – and for most of the rest of the episode it’s a race of a different kind to keep him conscious and get them some help.
Stella manages to call Liam and leave a seven-second message before her phone battery dies (poor planning for a hike, Stella, and I feel like your hike-loving mom taught you better than that!). So everyone knows they’re in trouble and the feuding families temporarily put aside their differences to try to find them.
Earlier in the day the feud was going full force – Liam went to the Davidson ranch to confront Denise and Dan, accusing them of cutting Cordell’s saddle strap. Bonham’s leather detailing knife went missing about that time, and they’ve finally caught up to what viewers have assumed for a long time. I’m still not sure why it wouldn’t be obvious that the saddle strap was cut immediately when they examined it, but at least they finally got there. Dan is furious at being accused, insisting he didn’t do it, but Liam storms out.
Dan and Bonham had been working well together, but the accusation ends that relationship, Dan saying “It means a lot, what you’ve done for the ranch, Bonham.” He holds out his hand to shake and Bonham doesn’t take it.
Bonham: Mr. Walker’s fine.
He angrily embeds the ax in a block of wood and walks away.
Dan rarely gets a break even when he’s trying, honestly.
Now that the kids’ lives are at stake, however, the feuding families manage to work together to find them.
Abilene: Whatever’s going on with our families, those are our kids out there. Divide and conquer?
They agree, but Liam reminds Dan – ALL the kids, Dan.
Dan: Yes Liam, all the kids. I’m not drawing lines with our families!
Augie abandons his own hot hiking date to look for his sister like a good brother, then falls into a rushing river and is washed over a waterfall just as Dan and Denise find him in their search for Stella and Colton. Dan doesn’t hesitate, leaping into the water himself and pulling August to safety. Denise is also concerned for his safety and I’m happy the show is still able to show the human side of the Davidsons even if they are going to be painted as villains. Keep it gray, show!
Eventually, Liam and Dan find Stella and Colton, but they’re at the top of the cliff and the kids are at the bottom. Liam impulsively starts trying to climb down, but Dan pulls him back to safety. The two come up with a plan to rescue Colton.
Props to director Austin for some beautiful shots; both of the rushing river and the Cliffside, showcasing Austin’s diverse landscapes, and for the tension in the scene of August in the water – I was genuinely afraid for him. (It might also be remembering that time I went over a little waterfall while tubing on the Delaware and got stuck underneath the rushing water in some kind of eddy, unable to get out. NOT fun!)
Meanwhile, Cassie and Trey play darts and she introduces him to her friend Angela, who’s part of the actual Search and Rescue team that flies a helicopter for the local hospital. And is good at darts. Trey and Cassie are both needing to start over in a way, including finding a new place to live. Trey’s not sure he’s ready for another relationship, even if Angela seems like she might be.
Cassie gets a call from Liam to come help, and she says she can do one better – Trey, Cassie and Angela all suit up and take the Search and Rescue helicopter to the state park. It’s inexplicably suddenly dark and takes a very long time to get to another part of Austin that can’t be far away, and it’s also inexplicably got some very dramatic music playing which I could do without – I am not a fan of the loud music montage feel of scenes like this.
Or the odd little homage of a guy on his lounge chair playing his boom box, hat blown off by the helicopter taking off. Just let me feel the tension of the moment, I don’t need it underscored!
Cassie picks this moment to confess that she’s afraid of heights, but she goes anyway. When they find Stella and Colton, it’s Trey who descends the rope to help. Stella, who has spent hours keeping Colton awake and conscious, runs to Trey, overcome with relief. (Again, I wish this scene had allowed that emotion to happen organically, instead of with the dramatic music).
They harness poor Colton up and into the helicopter, which I was skeptical about. He was barely able to stand – is he going to be able to hang onto that rope and stay upright while they pull him into a helicopter?? Luckily he makes it, and he’s put into an ambulance.
Denise rides with Colton in the ambulance – he gives Stella a weak thumbs up. Her family embraces Stella, and Angela compliments her on doing a great job taking care of Colton and tells her that she can ride with the Search and Rescue volunteers any time – and so can Trey. (I think Angela would definitely be up for that, and who can blame her?)
Trey and Cassie talk again about their moving on, and Trey says he’s found a new place. He suggests Cassie check it out too, and she immediately echoes half of the fandom who have wanted these two to be roommates for a while now. He shuts it down, but she teases him that it’s happening as she leaves. He looks around the house he shared with Micki, coming to an acceptance of the end of that relationship, then signs the lease.
One of my two favorite scenes of the entire episode is in the aftermath of the ambulance taking Colton to the hospital, as Liam stalks over to Dan, huddled under a blanket and attempts some kind of awkward reconciliation.
Liam: Listen, Dan…
Dan: We were never meant to be friends, were we?
They lament about the hands they were dealt, joking a little about it. Liam says he threw that first punch, that it could’ve been different.
Liam: Thank you, really, for today.
He goes to walk away and Dan answers.
Dan: You know, I might’ve goaded you into that first punch…
Liam: Oh, now he admits it…
They both laugh, and it made me smile. Keegan and Dave have a lot of chemistry and I find myself rooting for their awkward friendship. Both actors are so good that I want to see more of them interacting, and I love that there’s a part of them that grudgingly respects the other even as they end up arguing most of the time. Hey, it’s a trope, what can I say?
My other favorite scene was Liam and Ben, also somewhat awkwardly trying to figure out if either of them are ready for another relationship, and finally concluding that they are both a mess. They also have a lot of chemistry, but in a romantic way, and when they finally kissed I think I might have said yay out loud. It’s great that the show has a character who’s gay, but I’ve said for a while that he needs to have the same romantic scenes that the other characters do – that’s when representation really makes a difference.
I’m rooting for Liam and Ben so hard, and the music works in this scene, echoing what’s happening between them. Keegan Allen is excellent here too, ambivalent and anxious about being hurt again, but clearly attracted to Ben. Matt Pascua is equally good, investing Ben with both flirtatiousness that’s never over the top and thus realistic, and also the ability to show Ben’s sensitivity and serious side.
Bonham and Abilene interrupt them and that’s also awkward but kind of cute too.
Bonham: Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt… you want privacy, you might wanna pick somewhere more intimate than your brother’s bar!
He teases Liam about being a better boyfriend, and it’s kinda heartwarming – and entirely normalizing, and I am here for it.
They’ve come by to say that Dan wants to talk to all of them, and he joins them a few minutes later.
Dan: Denise threw the race. She cut the saddle. You were right. I’m just here to help you guys get your home back. I’m starting to think we’re the bad guys here.
We’ve seen Dan confront Denise about what he knows, and her beg him to stay – so we know what this is costing him. He wanted his marriage and his family badly, and she offered it to him, though knowing why would surely have made it meaningless I suppose.
Bonham holds out his hand to shake Dan’s, the thing he wouldn’t do before.
Bonham: Let’s have a drink.
The story wraps with Cordell and Captain James, who have been investigating a tip from Rita, Miles’ wife. They arrive at the field where the seemingly abandoned Airstream trailer that we saw the shadowy (bowlegged) figure in before is standing. James keeps watch while Cordell knocks, then opens the door and goes inside. A minute later, he tells James that he’d better come in too – and then some mysterious men show up and start shooting at the trailer, blowing the windows out.
The scene cuts at that and we don’t go back to it, which was weird – instead, the episode ends back at the station, Cassie joining James and Walker there after the captain called her. Cordell shows her his white hat, with a bullet hole through it.
Whoa. Close call. Which hit a little hard knowing that Padalecki had just had a close call in real life.
Walker: You might wanna take a seat.
A voice says “Hey Cassie” and she turns.
This episode probably had to be revised a bit to shoot around Jared Padalecki’s recovery, hence the unexplained inability of anyone to get through to Cordell on the phone so he could join the search and rescue for Stella and Colton. Keegan Allen really stepped up and anchored this episode, his scenes with Dave Annable and Matt Pascua were the most compelling ones for me.
I’m in the minority, I know, but I’m kinda dreading the fallout of finding out Denise really is the bad guy here. What will that do to Colton and to Geri and to Gail maybe even? I hope at least they make it messy and nuanced a more in the grey than the black and white. Fingers crossed!
New episode Thursday night on the CW with “Walker” 2.19 A Matter Of Miles!