The tale of Broke Jaw Ranch is becoming a tale of two brothers. One remains the loyal son of Jeremiah Otto, faithfully guiding the needle of the colony’s moral compass north. The other’s sense of humanity has been tainted by the brutal world, transmogrifying his core self into something unhinged. The biblical and literary nods of their saga, such as Alicia’s underground “Bible study” where she’s “turning water into wine” and her remark about “the circles of hell” draw further parallels to stories like the parable of the prodigal son and (depending how their relationship progresses) Cain and Abel, both of which see siblings at odds. But the political elements of season 3 place their dueling relationship within a new context.
“Teotwawki,” referring to a survivalist phrase for the end of the world, begins with Jeremiah’s preparation video and the words, “Our country is ablaze. If only our ancestors could see the chaos of modern America.” Jake and Troy have different approaches to that concept. The former is more compassionate and works toward the betterment of this new country and its citizens, while the latter is the product of those who felt forgotten by an America filled with “feckless fiddles” for politicians.
In the second scene — a funeral for Charlene, who fell trying to see Alicia, Jake, and Luciana safely to the ranch — Madison seems to foreshadow further friction between the successors of the Otto empire. “Travis, he was our compass,” she tells a crowd turned sour by their presence. (The people brand the ranch’s latest refugees as “The Unprepared.”) We’re still learning what the void he left behind means for her and her children, but the loss of their compass puts a spotlight on the Ottos’ compass. As Troy fans the flames of frustration by promising to take revenge on those who shot down their helicopter, Jake is there to quell the heat. “We can’t afford to lose ourselves. We’re more than a mob,” he says, which begs the question: What would become of the colony if its beacon of hope should be snuffed out? What would become of Troy?
Seeing the brothers along this journey are the Clarks. It’s not surprising Alicia finds more kinship with Jake and Nick pairs off with Troy; Madison’s remark to Nick about Travis’ death suggests she still sees him as a lost boy and his sister as the cherished child. Alicia herself, though, is adrift after killing Andres and witnessing Travis falling from the chopper, and Jake seems to be looking for something hopeful to grab on to after losing Charlene.
Nick, as much as he would hate to admit, has more in common with Troy. Both believe what they do is for the greater good of their family, but they are treated as less than. Luciana wants so much to leave the ranch when she’s deemed fit for duty, and Nick is keen to agree as he, too, is an outsider. It’s still frustrating to watch Nick continue to make reckless choices as he goes hunting in the woods with his tormentor in the dead of night. But Troy’s attempt to catch his prey off guard brings out more of Nick’s darker tendencies, and the younger Otto son says they can be friends now.
(Recap continues on page 2)
Beyond Jake and Jeremiah, the Clarks are the only ones who’ve seen Troy’s true nature, and it’s the threat of that exposure that also threatens the sanctity of the ranch. As Madison remarks to Alicia, the people would likely forget their hangup over the Clarks as foreign “freeloaders” if they knew what Troy has been doing beyond their borders. Jeremiah is quick to forgive his son because he was an alcoholic father in the old world who left Troy to find comfort in his older brother. He doesn’t want to take away his purpose in this new world, but it may still be stripped.
Alicia is invited to a late-night Bible study, a smokescreen for the alcohol and drugs the teens of the ranch consume around Jeff, a severed walker head kept in a bird cage. As the homemade hooch starts to take effect, she casually refers to the “worse” things Troy has done. “You can’t rely on the Troys of the world,” she says. “Sometimes you have to handle your own s—.” Alicia might as well replace Troy with Trump; the colony placed its blind trust in the Ottos, but tension is beginning to rise, and they may realize soon enough that their country’s officials are hiding something. For the time being, the Clarks will maintain Troy’s cover, and Madison, in showing her initiative, volunteers to join a search party for the ranch’s missing group.
Off in another part of the terrain surrounding the Mexican-American border, Victor arrives at his destination, a dam, where he’s looking for a man named Dante. Here, water has become “the currency,” and this mystery man spearheading this business empire is someone from Victor’s past. Although they seem to have a jovial reunion, Victor’s comrade soon threatens to toss him over the side and into a pile of walkers, all of which used to be men and women who had no place in Dante’s new world order. Dante believes Victor took from his former lover, Thomas, but he opts to throw him in a cage so he can work off the debts owed instead.
In his cell, Victor sees a familiar face — Daniel Salazar, Ofelia’s father, who was thought to have died in the fire that consumed Celia’s estate. Showrunner Dave Erickson told EW at the time, “We don’t see Daniel burn, and that’s intentional. I think what’s important at the end of the midseason is that it’s the impact on Ofelia and the rest of the characters that Daniel’s gone.” Now he stands offering Victor water, reminding him of a promise he made to be his guardian angel. These two have been at odds in the past. While Victor may have offered his yacht as a sanctuary, it’s Daniel who can save him now.