Cordell and Emily walk silently into the night, side by side. Tears well up in their eyes, sharing together for the first time the secret that Emily’s killer is still walking free.
Fade to black, with the audience feeling the weight of their emotions.
Fade in on a flashback of Cordell visibly upset, waiting to identify his wife’s body just hours after she is murdered. He nods that he’s ready and his partner pulls back the sheet, revealing a beaten and ghastly white Emily. Cordell collapses to the floor in grief.
Well done, Walker. The tears you provoked last week were just the primer for the opening scene this week. Jared’s acting is once again the foundation for an excellent cast and story.
The action and answers provided by “Rule Number 17” truly were worthy of a mid-season finale. On the surface, it concluded the mystery surrounding Emily’s death, ending with a new suspect being killed during her confession. Cordell, Liam and the Captain believe they have solved the case – again. The Walker family feels Emily got justice and they can move on with their lives - a sentiment that Emily herself seemed to endorse with her peaceful smile. Geri has been cleared of suspicion, plus she is free from the gang’s extortion of her debt and from having her bar forcibly used to launder illegal monies. Cordell and Captain Larry James, Cordell's former partner, have cleared the air between them and seem to have repaired their friendship. Liam has come to terms with his break up and is imagining a new future for himself. Everyone feels safe. Everyone is beginning to heal.
Was it that simple?
Secrets and Lies
Liam: We ended it like gentlemen. I'm good. Honest. I just enjoy being able to help out.
Honesty and truth, or rather the absence of both, has been a prominent theme for the past several weeks, as relationships and events splintered people apart. When everyone was at their worst, they hid their confusion and pain by saying they were “fine.” This week, after truths started to be revealed and the situation became more dangerous, family members at least recognize that they are not “fine” so instead of lying, they all try channeling their worry, rage and reawakened grief into tasks around the house – chopping trellises, sealing granite, practicing the piano, teasing your sibling.
Bonham: He's sure in a state, isn't he?
Abeline: Well, with Cordell out there doing God only knows what, it's a lot for all of us.
Everyone knows that no one is “fine” or “good” but there is also nothing they can do but wait.
Bonham: No, there's nothing good about this.
Everyone wants to learn the truth to satisfy all their questions.
Bonham: How about the kids? They know?
Abeline: I told him that they need to hear it from him. The truth.
Micki: I remember 17.
Abeline: Well, they always go off the rails a bit when... they're worried about Cordell.
Cordell and Larry are on the move, hunting down a new lead on Emily’s killer. It turns out Geri has the same need to act. She’s come to pay back a debt but when she hears her friends are staking our suspects, Geri wants a piece of that action.
Geri: I have a gun. I'll be fine.
Cordell: You're not bringing a gun in there, Geri. No, you're not going in there.
Geri: She was my best friend! I found her. I closed her eyes. I want the truth as bad as you two do.
“Bar None” and “Rule Number 17”
Whether the prime suspect or the insider undercover, it turns out Geri is the lynchpin in the investigation so she volunteers to “spy” (remember the “I SPY” thread a few weeks ago?) on the gang. Her bar seems to be the reason she’s involved in the whole mess.
Geri: I'm here for a buyout. This makes us square on The Side Step loan.
Oswald: You're holding up table play, babe.
Geri: You're being awfully casual with $25K in front of you.
Oswald: That's 'cause you ain't sellin' the bar. Especially not to the ranger.
The bar’s importance to the gang is intriguing. Cordell wants Geri to use it to probe the gang’s connection to him (i.e. “the ranger”) so it’s mentioned repeatedly.
Cali: Wow, look at him. Telling a small-business owner she can't sell her own bar.
Cordell: Geri, hang back a beat. And then keep trying to find out why this ranger is such a problem to sell the bar to, okay?
Geri: You're really gonna tell me I can't sell my bar and then piss off? What do you have against the ranger? It's clearly something personal, so what is it? Is it the wife?
Oswald: Geraldine, let's just chalk it up as another reason to steer clear of a Ranger looking into our finances.
Geri: You know what I heard? Nation did it. Right? You. She got killed because of NSN.
Oswald: Now, why would you need to know that?
Geri: Because you're telling me I can't sell my bar.
Just in case we didn’t hear that the bar was key to unraveling the tangled web that tied together the Northside Nation and Emily’s death, Cordell and his former partner reminded us how the rules of their relationships were forged in bars.
Larry: If Rule 14 is applicable, maybe, uh, Rule 17 should be, too.
Cordell: I know you always have my back. But a lot has happened since we wrote down rules on a bar napkin.
Cordell: It's the original.
Larry: That's the rule napkin? Yep.
Cordell: The bar napkin with the partner rules.
Even Larry’s feet were “barking” at him!
Why is the Side Step bar so important? Cordell buying the bar from Geri was the big emotional conclusion of the “Bar None” episode. In remembrance of Emily, keeping their old haunt in the Walker family was August’s idea.
Cordell: We know about the money laundering. About what you did in the bar you sold to my children!
Despite the bar being the stated pivot point of the investigation and an emotional tie between Geri and Cordell, the episode ended with me still wondering why it was emphasized so much.
Was the sole reason Oswald didn’t want a ranger owning Geri’s bar because he wanted to continue using it to launder the gang’s drug and gun money? That’s logical but it felt unfinished somehow. There was almost too much emphasis on it. The bar is synonymous with Geri in that it was her tie to the gang, to friendships with Walker in the past, and to Walker’s family’s future (through the children). Was emphasizing the bar’s nefarious connections a veiled reference to Geri’s complicated entanglements?
Oswald: Geraldine, Ranger's a problem for me. And I'll become a problem for you if you don't back out of the sale. It's probably best just to let sleeping dogs lie. Especially if you got to put 'em down yourself. Once in the desert... was enough. Do you get what I'm saying?
That sounded like Oswald was confessing, but he ended up with a solid alibi, so was he referring to the person he was talking to – Geraldine?
If Geri unknowingly took a loan from the gang, and that same gang was coercing her into laundering their money, do you think she would be naïve enough to cross them by running supplies in a desert at night in their territory? Cordell said he doesn’t believe in coincidences, and there sure are a lot of intersections between Geri and NSN. It’s possible that “Rule Number 17” and Larry having Cordell’s back closed out all the mysteries surrounding Emily’s death, but I’m not feeling at all settled about the whole thing.
Nothing Is As It Seems
“Bar None” (1.06) and “Fine is a Four Letter Word” (1.08) drove home the theme that nothing is as it seems. Emily’s case has been replete with misdirection and false confessions. "Rule Number 17" continued the deceptions.
Cali: What are you offering?
Larry: What are you selling?
Cali: A recorded voice memo from that April 10 game. Oswald talking about the Ranger's wife.
Cordell: Does he admit to it personally?
Cali: Look, I need to know there's some sort of... I don't know... security detail in my future.
Cordell: Done. Does he admit to it personally?
Cali: I also have some... illegal gambling arrests. Wipe 'em.
Larry: Yeah, we'll make it happen.
Cali: Okay, then yes. I have it on my phone.
First Carlos and now Cali convinced the rangers they knew something about the case but it turns out both suspects were lying. Carlos was being paid to take the fall for the crime. Cali said it was Oswald but he has a verifiable alibi so she lied. He can’t be Emily’s killer.
What I haven’t worked out yet, then, is why Cali called attention to herself by saying she had evidence she didn’t have. Was she just stalling for time, hoping to get away because she suspected someone who was arrested would eventually implicate her as the murderer? She had a second gun that she wasn’t afraid to use so maybe she thought she could shoot or kill her way out of custody?
Cordell: You... You were there. That night, at the border. You were at the medical examiner's office. It was you. You... killed my wife.
But did Cali actually confess to Emily’s murder?
Cordell: Why? You at least owe me that.
Cali: [She was] crossing over our routes. We weren't expecting company. We hit a pothole. Busted a crate of painkillers. Got out to check the damage. Just five pills, spilled on the ground. But there she was. Had her phone out. Looked like a talker. I guess that's why.
As confessions go, this one would never get her convicted. Did Cali actually pull the trigger? She didn’t say she did. Who’s “we”? One or more other gang members, obviously, but who? She’s also doesn’t really know the motive for the murder. Spur of the moment trigger happy rashness is believable but the whole story could just as easily be a complete fabrication that popped into Cali’s head when she was stalling for time. Have the rangers caught the right person this time? She didn't recant her story when it looked like Cordell might kill her for revenge, so was she guilty or just more afraid of the gang than him?
Captain James and Cordell were so anxious to catch Emily’s killer, they hastily convinced themselves of multiple suspects’ guilt. First it was Carlos, then Oswald, now Cali. It’s extremely curious that Geri killed Cali before the rangers could take her in and get more details from her.
Was Geri’s lethal shot of the Northside Nation woman an act that saved Cordell or saved herself? Cali pulled a derringer (am I right there?) from literally up her sleeve and was about to shoot Cordell. Geri’s arrival at precisely the right moment to surprise and save everyone was miraculously timed. Was she hanging back, hesitant to reveal herself unless absolutely necessary, or was she hiding, waiting to see if a fellow gang member was going to implicate her in some way?
I’m satisfied that Cali didn’t know Geri, because she told Geri she had evidence and was willing to sell out the killer.
Cali: Hey. I know about April 8. Tell your Ranger friends I want to talk.
If Geri had been with Cali on the drug run, she obviously wouldn’t tell Geri that she wanted to squeal. The way Cali befriended Geri at the card table also attests to the women not having met before. Walker recognized Cali from the medical examiner’s office so Cali was present after the murder, but that doesn’t prove she was present during the murder. Nothing has been how it seems for this case, so maybe Cali wasn’t the murderer at all. Maybe she made up the whole scene just to stall for an opportunity to escape. If so, Geri could still have been part of Emily’s murder.
Why was Geri frantically wiping blood off of her jacket before joining Cordell at the medical examiner’s office? If she had just found her best friend dead, why would she try to hide the blood? Wouldn’t she anxiously, immediately, run over to embrace Cordell, seeking comfort and safety? Wouldn’t she want to blurt out all the details she knew to help catch the killers still wandering around in the desert? Cordell said Geri didn’t see anything because she and Emily had separated, but that doesn’t explain Geri trying to hide the blood.
These loose ends suggest two possibilities:
- Geri witnessed the murder. She knew it was Northside Nation who killed Emily, she could identify the murderer, and was afraid to come forward because of the whole debt/money laundering business. If this was true, she would now be free to give a complete, honest account of that night – which she isn’t doing.
- Geri was involved in the murder directly. In killing Cali, she gave the rangers a new person to blame, closing the case a second time.
There is a third possibility:
Geri: Just ask what you're gonna ask. Do it. Did I kill Emily? Is that what you want to know? No, I didn't kill my best friend! And if I knew who did, I'd kill them myself.
Did Geri execute Cali after jumping to the same guilty conclusion as Cordell and Captain James?
I’m not yet convinced of Geri’s innocence, then or now.
Walker: Talk about your clean sweep.
Larry: Yeah. Not the arrest we were hoping for. Yet, anyway.
Cordell: Yeah, well, I wasn't expecting to solve this in one night.
With such prominent threads this season as secrets, lying and things not being as they seem, Walker’s instincts may still be serving him well.
Captain James: You got Emily and Geri working the border for humanitarian aid. NSN works the border moving drugs and guns. And Geri's cleaning their money? Maybe Em figured out what Geri was mixed up in, and just... And became a loose end.
But then again, I was wrong about Captain James being a co-conspirator, so I might be inappropriately applying Supernatural’s multi-layered plot writing to Walker. A colleague keeps telling me that Walker is a more simplistic series than Supernatural and things ARE always as they seem. What do you think?
Speaking of Supernatural, SPNFamily Easter eggs have been found in too many episodes for it to be our imagination or unintentional coincidences. Instead, it appears that Jared is winking to his beloved fans each week! "Rule Number 17" was no exception.
Jared called fans attention to the first nod:
Stella: It feels like you're going hunting.
Jared also “liked” that a fan noticing the checkered, flannel shirts that are becoming the Walker brothers’ favorite attire (I verified that Jared did, in fact, like Kati’s tweet).
Tension over lies between brothers leading to broment reconciliation, gun toting partners having each others’ backs, family being the core of a person’s strength, and Mitch Pileggi first as Sam’s grandfather and now as Cordell’s father are other obvious similarities between the two series.
Cordell’s toast to his family also sounded so much like a toast from another wise father to a family gathered over dinner, all deeply hurt by loss. John Winchester advised his family to put aside grief, be in the moment and enjoy their time together, just as Cordell suggested his family focus on the good things they have:
Tonight I don't want to think about things we've lost. I want to think about things we've gained. A bond that had been broken. Gratitude... closure. And, uh, and finally, uh... some peace.
Of course, the plotline of Jared’s character being grief stricken by the sudden death of the person closest to him, and him carrying on raising children without his beloved partner is a Supernatural parallel hitting a little too close to my broken heart right now. I’m finding it hard to forget how much Supernatural’s ending hurt because I feel that grief again every time Jared misses, sees or talks to the memory of his life partner.
Jared and Genevieve together again as on-screen lovers is another repeat performance that is greatly helping Walker’s chemistry. I noted in prior reviews how surprised I’ve been by the success of this pairing but it continues to work superbly for the series. As Supernatural fans, we’ve seen so much of what Jared and Gen have shared of their personal lives. Every time they’re together in a scene, I see Jared and Gen as well as Cordell and Emily.
Which brings us full circle to the opening act of “Rule Number 17”. When Cordell first sees his wife’s dead body, his overwhelming grief was palpable. Acting out that scene with his real wife in that condition?
I was in tears seeing Cordell’s grief but imagining Jared’s grief. That connection to the bond between him and Emily/Gen, plus all the other emotional bonds noted above with Supernatural, continues to pull me into this new drama.
To Jared’s credit, as one of Walker’s producers he is also weaving the idea of managing one’s mental health into the series.
August: No, and I've actually been... spending enough time in therapy with Dr. Jane, if that's all right.
Micki: You know, I've actually had my fair share of therapists, too.
Building on the foundation of earlier talks in the series, Micki and the teens had another open conversation about feelings.
Micki: She used to have this phrase: "No wrong feelings." The idea was... not right, not wrong. It's... just honest. Might be something you two want to think about?
August: All right, well, I hope Dad kills this b*st*rd. Everything that's happened, really, jail time is-is way too small for this guy. He needs to suffer like we did.
Stella: I don't feel that way at all. Honestly, when Dad told us, I was just like... "Really? We have to go through all of this again?"
Talking about emotions and getting professional help to deal with trauma has been mentioned in several episodes. I applaud that Walker is being used to normalize mental health issues and strategies.
Geri: You tell the kids yet?
Cordell: In time.
“Rule Number 17” wasn’t promoted as a mid-season finale, but it sure felt like one. Jared’s acting was stellar, as usual. He was backed up by Odette Annable’s compelling performance as Geri. Alternating between physical danger and emotional tension, the episode stepped up the pace of the series’ prior stories and provided believable (if not altogether convincing) answers to the mysteries they’ve been pursuing. Closing the loop on the events surrounding her death, characters repeatedly echoed exact words exchanged at the time of Emily's murder - about telling the kids, between Cordell and his partner the night they found Emily,
Cordell: I'm not going home... until whoever did this is on a slab of their own.
Larry: Um... That won't bring you peace, man.
Cordell: Yeah, I won't know until he's dead.
...then between Geri and Cordell: "I love you."
Perhaps everything is as it seems but would they really solve Emily’s death in just 9 episodes? As the opening teased, the closing song reprised, eight mentions of the word in the dialog reminded us, and Jared himself reiterated, I guess we’ll know…
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Script quotes courtesy of TVShowTranscripts