First things first, there’s some business to go over. I’ll admit, my theory last week about how zombie Pervis was the guy who started the whole truck stop “take what you need” trail of boxes was wrong. I see it, I hear it, I own it, I’m adjusting. “Polar Bear,” as Sarah and Wendell refer to the real guy, is actually played by actor Stephen Henderson, the man Luciana stumbles upon and seeks to help — which brings us to the common threads between the stories this week…
A lot of people are in need of some redemption. Luciana, Morgan, June, Sarah, Wendell, Polar Bear, and Victor (though he’s currently doing very little to admit as much) have all done things that they’re not proud of, and are facing a dilemma: should they put themselves in harms way and do the right thing, or do nothing and avoid the danger?
June and Morgan are both trying to leave their past lives behind them by trudging forth on a new path of helping others. Sarah and Wendell have been guilt-tripped to do the same. They call back June, Morgan, and Al, who’ve been out searching for Quinn, to the truck when Pervis, with all his facial markings, stumbles on their path. June is still trying to contact Quinn over the walkie, but the mysterious “Filthy Woman” (again, that’s the name given to Tonya Pinkins’ character on the press site, not mine) responds instead. We hear Walker Quinn’s gargling snarl, and she informs the group that she made him strong again. Morgan recognizes the woman’s voice. She already seems to know his name and “a lot” about him, which leads Al to surmise that she has the SWAT van with all the tapes inside.
According to “Filthy Woman,” the boxes Morgan has been leaving along the road make people weak. The assumption is that people will rise to face challenges when presented to them, but they can’t learn to overcome if they’re given handouts like the boxes. She knows that Morgan used to be someone who survived on his own and was made stronger for it, in her eyes. She then warns that if Morgan stops helping people, she won’t have to do what she needs to do to make him strong again. She’s a complicated character, but there’s a lot we still don’t know about her. For now, all her motivations seem… convenient. Morgan is trying to help people, and that makes her mad! Humph.
Victor’s dilemma is the storm itself. He and John ended up marooned at a ranger station after losing their car to a flash flood. John has since been crafting a boat from chopped-down tree trunks to try and cross the watery trench. Victor would prefer to remain at the station with what food rations he has than return to the world, and he’s even less inclined to help John when they find a giant alligator is lurking in the water, devouring anything that moves — including walkers. (Apparently, the CGI budget in this episode is relatively low because we only see the top of the gator’s head for a few seconds.) John mentions that the gator doesn’t have fear anymore: food (e.g., walkers) easily wander into its path, and its bigger predators have been wiped out. The fear, as the “Filthy Woman” might say, has made the beast stronger. Does Victor perform the selfless act of helping John reach safety in the face of such danger, or does he keep himself as the top priority?
Colman Domingo, by the way, needs better dialogue. “Early bird kills the dead”? “I drink to forget”? Coupled with his Broadway style of over-enunciation, it feels unoriginal and overacted. I would love to see him with better material.
Luciana literally says she has things to make up for, just so it’s clear. She goes in search of Charlie, tracking down the address labeled in one of the kid’s library books. She doesn’t find Charlie, who’s really with Alicia, and instead finds Clayton (a.k.a. Polar Bear), who crashed his car into a telephone pole during the storm and has been bleeding out ever since. She tries to help, but the car is the only thing keeping his body together.
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Luciana asks if there’s anyone who might be looking for him, and Clayton says there’s only one person and it’s someone he doesn’t want to see, which brings me to my next theory. Maybe this person is the “Filthy Woman.” Sit with it, chew on it, digest it. In the meantime, Luciana realizes there’s a way she can help Clayton, and that’s by fulfilling his dying wish of drinking one last beer.
Morgan, too, is determined to find the other members of his displaced group, even as Jim, Sarah, and Wendell start pressing him for information about what the “Filthy Woman” meant when she referred to his past. The confrontation leads Morgan to threaten to take the truck away if they don’t drop it, as well as a moment that genuinely made me LOL (as they kids say): Sarah pulls out a knife as a warning move, but Morgan swiftly maneuvers the shovel in his hand as a staff to knock the weapon away. That’s enough to sway Sarah to go along with his plan.
Luciana, meanwhile, is about to give up on her mission when a pep talk from Clayton helps her keep going. He explains how he took a job that took him away from everyone he knew — driving trucks — and then made it his mission to help those people around him when he realized he made a bad career move. Luciana then finds a box Morgan and June left on the road. Inside is a beer. She even finds an ice pack in a med kit to keep it cold. In addition to offering the cutest, most grateful old man expression, Clayton, in turn, gives her the rest of his journals to show where he stashed supplies.
After Clayton dies, Luciana gets on the walkie and turns to the channel labeled on the box to thank whoever left the supplies. Morgan, at the last minute, had added another note to the cardboard saying anyone who needs help can talk through channel 4. So Luciana reunites with some of her group.
John and Victor aren’t having as much luck. After the wood boat fails, John suggests they use the roof of an overturned car as their new raft and use Victor as a noise distraction for the gator. Victor goes in to retrieve it, but, being an alcoholic in the zombie apocalypse, he’s distracted by the wine bottle in the passenger entrance, and the walker inside ends up propelling the entire vehicle towards the water. The reason Victor drinks so much, he says, is to forget the fact that he doesn’t have anyone left to drink with him. John’s there to get him out of his funk, and they put a new plan in place: they’re both going to row across the water together and use the car horn John extracted from the vehicle as their noise distraction.
That plan doesn’t work out because the alarm loses juice just as they’ve made it to the center of the water. The walkers the sound drew in as bait for the alligator then wander off, leaving them as the only food option for the beast. An attack on their makeshift boat leaves it taking on water, and they’re forced to shoot at the gator and abandon ship. Victor goes back into the ranger station to drink away his woes, and John looks like he’s following suit. He sits soaked on the beach and eats a piece of licorice stashed in his pocket. June had given him the candy, and he planned to give it back to her when they reunited.
Well, maybe the others aren’t doing so well, either. Charlie and Alicia find another box on the road and phone into the same walkie channel. When it looks like they’re about to reunite, too, the “Filthy Woman” chimes in over the walkie to fulfill her earlier threat: “I gave you a chance.”
Alicia and Charlie are forced to listen as the SWAT van drives up behind Morgan’s truck and opens fire on them. “I told you, I’m making you strong,” she says before letting the bullets fly. “You lose people, you lose yourself.” We know they’re not dead — there are moments from the trailer we haven’t seen yet — but the ending reminded us we haven’t seen this kind of action in a while. More please.