Alicia, Victor, and Luciana tell Al their story.
“Buried” marks the day that changed everything, but even that might be a little too dramatic to say.
It’s the day Alicia, Luciana, and Victor will always remember — not because war broke out between the stadium and the Vultures, not because the food supply ran out, not because Madison was forced to submit to Mel. This is the day these three survivors made decisions to stay and fight for their way of life. It’s that decision they’ll always remember as they now sit in the back of Al’s van with Nick’s corpse lying between them.
Al, feeding her deep-seeded compulsion to film everything, had been off to the side capturing moments of Lucy stabbing Nick in the head to prevent him from turning, Alicia killing the walker that used to be that El Camino hipster named Enis, and Victor laying his jacket over Nick’s face. Now they sit in front of Al’s camera as John takes the wheel. She wants their story, as much of it as she can get. So they start with that day they “could have stopped all of this from happening.”
It began like any other day under the watchful eye of the Vultures. In the parking lot, their enemies feasted on their newly scavenged stock, while the people inside the stadium had to stretch their food rations with cattle feed. They still believed things would turn out okay for them.
Madison had started thinking outside of the box for locations the Vultures might not think to scavenge, like bowling alleys and water parks. So they split off. Victor went with Cole, Nick went with Lucy, and Alicia went with Naomi. “Going on runs that day, that was our first misstep,” Victor says in the present. Though, that warning isn’t as ominous as it seems; the Vultures don’t infiltrate the stadium and sabotage their supplies or anything like that.
Cole continued trying to get to know Victor as they looked for viable plants in a dusty cacti greenhouse, but all he got were more quippy remarks. It was only after their rummaging about drew out walkers with cactus needles stuck in their cheeks that Victor’s closed-off shell began to crack. Pulling Cole to his feet with needles in his arm after the attack, Victor felt fear and concern. Nick and Lucy, meanwhile, pulled up to a library. He claimed they need to get books to build their own collection at the stadium so people have something to stick around for. Lucy then realized he’s really doing this for Charlie. She promised to help her, just like Nick helped Lucy learn the truth behind the Colonia. She just didn’t think this was the way to go about it. As Lucy bluntly points out in the present to Al, they never did sway Charlie in the end.
It’s during this story time that John reveals a bit more about his backstory to Morgan. He used to be a police officer and knew an alcoholic. Rye whiskey was this man’s poison of choice. It was only after a close call in an incident involving a stolen garbage truck that he decided to give up alcohol, but that only lasted a week. John says Morgan, though their meeting has been the stolen garbage truck in this scenario, won’t be enough to get him to stay. John wants Morgan to be there to meet Laura when they reunite, but he says he’ll only stay until Nick is buried.
Picking back up with these confessionals, it becomes Alicia’s turn. She recalls heading to a water park with Naomi, who picked out a car from the abandoned lot and noted they should take it back because it has good mileage. Though, there weren’t keys to be seen. Alicia acknowledged Naomi’s apparent automotive insights, but she shrugged off the suggestion that she’s some kind of expert. The park was littered with the bodies of bludgeoned walkers. Patches of moss sat on the surface of the water, more dead hobbled around in the pools, and Alicia and Naomi looked up to find someone had made a fort at the top of a water slide. After cutting through a couple of walkers, Naomi recalled a time she came to a park like this with her family and ate churros.
Riding back home with plants for the community, Victor let Cole know what’s what. He is into him, it’s just that he didn’t want Cole to realize the kind of person he is. The kind of person who keeps what may seem like just a piece of rock with him at all times to remind him of the person he doesn’t want to be. And yet, Victor still is that person in a lot of ways. Instead of going directly back to the stadium, he drove Cole to an abandoned parking lot where he had stockpiled supplies — including food — in a car. Cole remarked these goods could help the stadium, even if it only means keeping everyone going for one day. Victor kept them as his escape plan. He felt things going south and so he asked Cole to leave everything behind and hit the road. (This, by the way, would be how many times Victor would have betrayed Madison?) Cole told him that’s not something he could do, and departs for the stadium by himself.
Alicia and Naomi, meanwhile, were able to wade through walker-infested walkers and climb directly up the water slide to the fort, except the surface became slippery and difficult to maneuver, so Alicia ended up dropping her knife in the pool. Once on top, they found a fortified shooter’s nest with a AR stocked with ammo. As Alicia examined the weapon, two walkers surprised them, knocking them both down another slide and onto a platform clogged with walkers. Alicia fell second, but when she did, she took the gun barrel with her and used it to fend off the dead. This, we see in the present, is the weapon she’s been wielding. The sharpened edge didn’t come until later, Alicia tells Al.
They found a stock of medical supplies back in the fort, but Naomi asked Alicia to look through binoculars so she could grab what she needed and slip away. She, too, felt it was time to keep moving, but Alicia found her later trying to drive away in that car she spotted earlier on an empty fuel tank. You’re either with us or you’re not, she told her, but Naomi didn’t feel like she could be with another group only to lose them. So, Alicia helps her find gas.
Nick and Lucy thought about leaving, as well. After finding a walker with slit wrists in the library, Lucy found a book of maps. She didn’t want to end up taking her own life like that, so she suggested they open a random page and go to that place to make a new life. “I never should’ve opened that book,” she tells Al. More dramatics.
Back at the stadium, Madison spots Mel waving to her. She goes down to find him grilling hotdogs. He reasons they don’t have any more condiments, since that’s what people go through first when they’re trying to smother the taste of grosser foods they need to survive. Mel reveals he and Enis are brothers who lived at a cattle ranch in the country with a few other families. Wildfires kicked up around the area, and Madison predicted he and Enis knew what was coming and couldn’t convince the others to leave in time. She told him her offer to join the stadium’s community and work together was still open, and he extended her the same courtesy with his offer to join the Vultures. Madison declined, but she was shook when Mel told her the real ending to his story: He and Enis convinced the ranch they could survive it. They were wrong. They were the only ones to make it out alive.
It becomes clear here that Mel doesn’t see himself as a villain. He seems to be genuinely giving Madison fair warning. But then you remember someone like Enis, who revels in the misery of others.
In these flashbacks, Naomi further stoked Alicia’s concern. She told her of her days working as a nurse in ICU, where she learned quickly which people would make it and which would not. She told Alicia to talk to Madison, warning that the stadium won’t last. In the end, Alicia, Victor, and Lucy all decided to stay and fight to make their home a better place. Spurred by the lone maple syrup bottle in the backseat, Victor came back with the supplies he stashed away, claiming to have found them with Cole on the run. Alicia convinced Naomi to come back and start an infirmary, while Nick and Lucy decided instead of fleeing, they would go to the location they found on the map and go there to scavenge for seeds and fertilizer. They came back to run the plan by Madison, who agreed that long of a trip was necessary. This is the moment where everyone agreed they could’ve talked Madison into finding another place to live.
In the present, they come to the burial site for Nick. But they soon realize Alicia, Victor, and Lucy weren’t being entirely honest. They instead dig up a secret stash of weapons and ammunition they hid to go take revenge on the Vultures. Alicia had found a piece of paper on Enis’ body that tipped them off to their meet-up location. They tease Al to join them if she wants to see firsthand how their story ends, though John implores her to stick with him in his search for Laura. It becomes a competition as to which of these people has the better story for Al to record. Al sides with the trio, but first Morgan guilts them into burying Nick’s body.
As they’re piling the supplies into the van, John spots a familiar backpack. It belongs to Laura, he says, and he goes in to find the familiar white-handled revolver wrapped in cloth. Another flashback reveals Naomi holding the same backpack. She is Laura, she just never told John her real name. Lucy says not many people made it out of the stadium alive before Alicia adds more bluntly, “she’s dead.”
Victor starts making a snide joke before Lucy tells him to shut up. Instead of taking Alicia’s bait to join them and take out the ones who did this to Naomi, John asks to be left alone. Morgan agrees to stay with him while the others ride toward the Vultures. Al promises to find out what happened to Naomi and to come back for them.
“Buried” is a solid chapter with some forward momentum and moments to help fill in the gaps, also serving to make the villain more complex. Mel doesn’t seem like a bad person, so what could the Vultures have done to bring out the bestial need for revenge from within Alicia, Nick, Victor, and Lucy? But by the end of it, all this intense talk of the day that could’ve changed everything seems to only mask a lukewarm subplot on its way to more unveilings.