Nick pulls his weight, two rival families unite, and the hotel faces its biggest challenge yet

By Nick Romano
September 12, 2016 at 03:50 AM EDT
Richard Foreman Jr/AMC
  • TV Show

Based on the episode title, this week introduces us to Pablo and Jessica — or rather, their lasting effect on the survivors. Although neither actually make an appearance, they haunt the colony and hotel, but not as much as the show seems to suggest.

Continuing the pattern of filling in the gaps, we take a brief excursion to the past to see how Madison and Victor escaped the walkers in the bar. Decaying hands reach toward them in front of the counter as Victor shouts to make their way to the lobby. But that’s easier said than done. After hearing Alicia’s screams from afar, Madison ducks down into what looks like the kitchen in the hopes of finding an escape route, but a crawler walker is close behind.

She can’t find safe passage, but finds a way out by stabbing the creature with a broken bottle and slathering her and Victor in its blood. To Victor’s disgust, they are able to walk out into the lobby and barricade door, aside from one slip-up maneuvering over the bar. They start their search for Alicia and Ofelia, but find the truck they rode to the hotel is missing. Pointing out that “the dead don’t drive,” Victor presumes the girls drove away to safety, but Madison isn’t willing to accept that.

The pair run across to the next building over, and though the front door is locked, they climb up to a balcony through the construction scaffolding. The building is empty, as far as they can tell, so they catch their breath on the stairwell, where Madison explains that leaving is not in Alicia’s nature. Victor sticks with his stance, arguing she would if it meant surviving. He notes that she’s self-reliant, and Madison concedes, “Yeah, I made her that.”

They somehow managed to get to this point despite being drunk on tequila shots, something Victor now finally acknowledges by insisting Madison take a gulp from the water bottles he found. Soon they hear repeated knocking at a door upstairs that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a walker. As they get closer, they hear shouting, which they recognize as Alicia’s voice. Now we’re caught up to where we last left the characters: Madison embraces her daughter, and Victor asks Elena and Hector in Spanish, “Who the hell are you?”

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Since we last left Nick at the colony, he’s seemingly been grappling with what Alejandro said about putting the community in danger by going off on the drug dealers. He sees the little girl who lost her father to the walkers beyond the wall crying on the street as an old woman comes to her side to console her. Holding a can of powdered milk, Nick walks into the hospital and finds Alejandro on the upper level.

He admits he screwed up the trade and wants to make amends. He suggests a way to buy the colony more supplies: Using the powdered milk, Nick wants to dilute the oxy they’ll trade with the dealers. That way, they’ll have more to trade for water and the dealers will hopefully be too consumed by their addictions to know the difference. “You’re a pharmacist. I’m a junky. Trust me,” he says.

A Breaking Bad-style montage ensues and shows Nick creating the new-but-not-improved oxy pills, and Alejandro is ultimately impressed by his “limited but refined skill set,” as Nick puts it. Though he’s apparently had an about-face when it comes to Alejandro and his beliefs, Nick still mentions this will offer the colony hope.

NEXT: Two households, both alike in dignity…

While that’s about to go down, Nick continues tinkering with Alejandro on the pills. Taking a breather, he asks the pharmacist about the seemingly miraculous circumstances surrounding his walker bite. He mentions Luciana gave him the basic details about how he didn’t turn afterwards, to which Alejandro admits she was testing him. “You don’t believe I was bitten?” he asks. Nick responds, “I don’t believe in miracles.” Alejandro likens the acceptance to taking a leap of faith, something Nick also has trouble with.

Now facing Oscar and his mother-in-law, Ilene, Madison and Victor are trying to persuade the other hotel guests they need each other. While they plan on rationing what they have and scavenging for what they don’t before their food supplies dwindle, Madison says there’s opportunity to make a lasting life at the hotel. The guests haven’t seen the outside world since the outbreak occurred, so Madison, someone who has, suggests they utilize the fertile land for crops. But first they have to clear out the dead.

Oscar and Ilene demand “the woman,” Elena, has to leave if they’re to offer their assistance. Madison comes to her defense, saying she did what she thought was best for everyone at the time. Ilene, still grieving, blames Elena for her daughter’s death, while Madison says it was the sickness that did that.

Madison warns others will eventually find the hotel, and they may not be as willing to compromise or cooperate. This brings to mind the tyrannical soldiers from season 1, as well as Connor and his pirates, but Ilene and Oscar still don’t offer assistance. As Madison and Victor walk out of the room, Oscar at least says they can have the hotel keys.

Out in the hallway, Victor notes the mother won’t come around because “grief is driving her,” something that could foreshadow things to come in future episodes. Stressing the importance of their task, Madison says they’ll lose this new home if they lose any of these fights to come. Victor pauses for a moment, but admits when pressed that he had a home. He lost that when he shot and buried Thomas, so while he’ll help Madison clear out the dead, the hotel isn’t his home.

Back at the colony, Nick is examining his work and proclaims the dealers won’t be able to tell the difference. Keeping to his reliance on faith, Alejandro advises him to pray they won’t. Nick sets out to make the trade for more supplies, but Alejandro stops him to explain how he got bit in the first place. A boy about Nick’s age with a similar drug addiction had stolen from his stash many times. One day, while in an induced state, he was mistaken for a walker and thrown beyond their wall with the others. Alejandro went in to save him, but was attacked by the colony, during which he was bitten by a walker. Luciana brought him back to the hospital for treatment and waited for death to come, but it never did. The boy, on the other hand, died.

NEXT: “Meet” Pablo

Alejandro turns to Nick and remarks how he seems desperate to wander out in the world with the dead, even though it’s dangerous. He says he’s asking Nick to be “brave, but careful” because he wants him to return. Nick thanks Alejandro “for giving a sh-t” before seeing Luciana playing soccer with a group of kids in the street. As one of the players calls a foul when Luciana’s team scores — complaining they don’t have an adult on their team — he admits to Alejandro he used to play when he was younger.

Nick joins in and helps them score, but as he’s celebrating the small victory, a bloodied man with a gun slung over his shoulder runs to Alejandro. It’s Francisco, one of the men in Luciana’s party who helped find Nick, and he cryptically says, “Something happened. He’s in pieces.” Turning their attention to the conversation, Luciana tells Nick they found him…they found Pablo.

While making their way beyond the gate to trade with the dealers, Luciana tells Nick that Pablo was her brother, after Nick mistook the name for her boyfriend. Annoyed by his change in reaction, Luciana explains Pablo was also there for her, especially when their father died (before the outbreak) and then their mother, with whom they lost contact after she went south. Pablo went looking for her and would later help his sister make peace with their loss. Nick pulls Luciana into an embrace with an intimate cradle of her head, and though she chooses to walk ahead, it’s a clear sign of romance to come.

Meanwhile, Alicia and Hector are getting to work. He’s hesitant to open one of the hotel rooms to clear out the walkers, but she says if they leave them in there and one gets free, they have to start all over again. Alicia later helps drag the walkers’ bodies onto the beach, where her mother is tearing the straw out of the tiki stands. We see some of the hotel guests have chosen to help, which Alicia credits to Madison’s leading by example.

The women begin walking under the boardwalk and strategizing. They only cleared out one floor and there are three buildings total, with 17 floors each. Worrying they’ll need weeks if they’re to clear them out by themselves, Madison says, “We can’t do all this and then have some a—hole take it from us.” You can’t help but chuckle if you think about virtually any villain on The Walking Dead, ever.

Madison then apologizes to Alicia for leaving her to raise herself after her father died. “That’s on me,” she says, but Alicia claims she did nothing wrong. Their mother-daughter moment is cut short, though, as Alicia has an epiphany. Feeling the rough water on the beach and noting the riptide sign, she concludes they don’t have to go room to room to clear out the dead, but instead infers they can lead them out all at once and dispose of them in the harsh waves.

By the time we make it back to the colony, Nick has already made the trade with the dealers (off camera) and it went smoothly, since he helped ensure the ruse by sucking up and metaphorically cutting off his balls. “Better your balls than your head,” Alejandro notes, to which Nick says “surviving feels like sh-t.” To that end, Alejandro tries to ease the feeling by gifting Nick his own one-room house out of appreciation for his work with the pills and the dealers. “You’ve given the colonia a gift,” he says. “You gave us time.”

NEXT: The hotel plan pays off

Madison is now ready to execute Alicia’s plan. Elena informs the group all three buildings converge through a single hall, through which they will lead the walkers out onto the boardwalk. Before they all split up, Alicia tries to stay with her mother, but Madison says she needs her out in the boat because she doesn’t trust anyone else. Alicia tears up telling her mom how she encountered a walker she presumed was her. Madison makes a proclamation that should never be uttered by any character on this show: “You’re not losing me. I’m not losing you, not ever.”

Alicia then runs off with Hector out onto the street in front of the lobby. While he starts making noise to attract walkers, she turns on the music from her cell phone and the two lead a pack toward the converging hallway. Elsewhere, Victor teams up with Elena and the pair are running from room to room, propping the doors open with spoons so the walkers can come out. Madison, in turn, is in the lobby drawing out the dead by banging pans.

Madison, Victor, and Elena connect at the meeting point, but Alicia and Hector haven’t arrived yet. They look at each other as if to debate moving on — the walkers will soon be upon them — but after a brief moment of discomfort, they arrive on time. They all draw the walkers onto the boardwalk for the final phase of the plan as Oscar’s brother locks the door behind them.

Alicia catches her mom’s glance a final time before escaping with the others down a side staircase, and Madison continues herding the dead. While Ilene watches from her balcony, Alicia and Hector race across the beach to a raft floating on the water. At first, Hector has problems starting the engine, but they’re soon on their way towards the end of the boardwalk across the tumultuous waves.

They haven’t reached Madison yet, and she’s fearful they won’t. Unable to walk any further, she keeps looking over at the vacant water as the snarling walkers approach. But when all seems lost, she hears Alicia’s shouts, and Madison leaps off the boardwalk into the water — in slow motion, of course. As hoped for, the walkers mindlessly follow her path to be sucked in by the riptide below, while Alicia and Hector pull Madison into the boat safe and sound.

Nick’s day was less eventful. Night has fallen and he’s reading a Spanish dictionary by candlelight. He hears a knock at the door and finds Luciana, who’s having trouble sleeping — otherwise known as the oldest move in the book. Inviting her in, he explains he’s trying to learn how to talk to someone who isn’t her or Alejandro. So far he’s able to say, “You’re wearing clean socks,” and jokes he would’ve taken Spanish in high school if he knew the apocalypse would happen.

That’s when he reveals he has a sister, which surprises Luciana. “She was the golden child. She had a future,” he says, even though those who had nothing before the outbreak have repeatedly proven more adept in this new world, Nick included. Still, he hopes Alicia is alive, telling Luciana his mother was with her when they parted, but his father died long before.

NEXT: Nick helps Oscar let go

Cutting back to the hotel, Nick’s sister and mother are about to enjoy a massive feast with Victor, Hector, Elena, and the hotel guests who helped in the day’s task. Madison asks if they should wait for Oscar and Ilene, but the brother says he’s not ready for this. “Food will be here when he is,” she says. Victor asks Elena for the honeymoon suite’s room number and leaves, promising to be back before the toast.

He finds Oscar guarding the room, which holds his wife, Jessica. He recalls how they met at the University of San Diego, where it took him a year just to work up the courage to talk to her. Victor tries to connect with him by thinking of Thomas, but Oscar vows to never let him touch Jessica’s body. Victor agrees none of this is fair, but says it’s also unfair for Oscar to live like he is. The grieving husband fears he won’t have an identity without her, and while Victor admits he’ll never be the same, he says there’s hope that he’ll wake up one day transformed into the “someone” you become after a loss. With both men in tears, Victor implores Oscar to let him help Jessica.

The scene cuts back to Nick’s bed, where Luciana has fallen asleep. She wakes to Nick reading on the floor and prepares to leave, claiming she can’t stay because “people would talk sh-t” about their relationship. Before she can depart, Nick confronts her about how Alejandro said she was testing him. To this, she walks toward Nick and kisses him, the two falling back towards the bed.

As Luciana finds some sort of *cough* release in light of Pablo’s passing, so does Oscar. Victor uses a key card to open the suite and we can hear the groans of Jessica’s walker form as the door shuts behind him.

It seems clear what the story has been doing since the midseason premiere: setting up for another climactic moment that will perhaps reunite this dispersed family. Perhaps the “a—holes” Madison casually predicted might swoop in and take the hotel is Chris and his new group, as Travis’ son already has Madison on his hit list. Perhaps they could be the dealers, which could put them on Nick’s radar. Whatever it may be, something needs to happen, because these fleeting waves of tension aren’t building to anything particularly satisfying.

Ofelia is gone somewhere, somehow, but as a secondary character with a name as tragically flawed as Hamlet’s love interest, she wasn’t bound to be a lasting presence. Meanwhile, Madison’s shaky speech to Alicia was just a red herring, even though this episode could’ve perhaps benefited from a shocking death to shake things up. Maybe the season will yield one later on.

In any case, the bubbling stage is set for something to pop. Let’s hope it happens sooner than later. 

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