The title of this week’s episode supposedly refers to anticipating being attacked—which can be prudent, or overly defensive, depending on the situation. Oddly, I couldn’t find any history on the saying, even when I searched Mexican dichos. So I don’t know whether it’s just obscure, untranslated, or was made up for the episode.
Can I just say that the entire Walker clan would be better off with grief counseling? Because they’re not doing a bang-up job healing on their own. At least this week, everyone finally admitted they weren’t okay, which is progress.
Rather than keeping to the order of events in the show, I’m going to group storylines together, which makes it a little easier to comment on them.
Let’s start with Stella and Auggie. We see them walking into school, on the first day back after the shootout at the ranch. Auggie tells Stella “No one’s going to get it except you and me.” She doesn’t want to talk about the events with anyone, but Auggie is enjoying finally being noticed by people who previously didn’t know who he was. “Our life has screwed us up so many times—why not take advantage of one tragic thing?” Both statements had a real Winchester ring to them.
While Stella shuts down questions, Auggie holds court in the lunchroom to a crowd of new admirers.
Stella goes to sit with Bel, who gets up and leaves. Later, when Auggie is doing his audio-visual work, a loud noise gives him flashbacks of the shootout, which he self-diagnoses as PTSD.
Stella confronts him, and he tells her that she wasn’t a good friend to Isabel because Stella was too focused on Trevor, so why does she expect Bel to be there now for her? Of course the school PA system was somehow turned on, so the whole school heard the fight.
Later, Stella apologizes to Bel and says she was a ‘terrible judge of character and a bad feminist’.
Okay, time out! Getting Isabel's parents deported is a big deal, and Stella’s apology sounds like she stood Bel up for lunch. Since Trevor did the right thing in the end, I don’t know that Stella was so much a poor judge of character as she was in complete denial about the circumstances that doomed their relationship. And it’s being a bad feminist to have a boyfriend? Since when is it impossible to have both friends and a significant other—as well as an independent mindset? (If her comment was meant to be the female version of ‘bros before hos’, there’s some unaddressed toxic masculinity in that statement to be reckoned with.)
Checking in with the elder Walkers, Bonham and Abbie go to meet with a doctor about Bonham’s cancer. It gets off to a bad start because he disses the doctor for being too young. Bonham won’t talk, so Abbie asks questions and the doctor asks Bonham if he wants Abbie to leave—odd since Bonham brought her with him. That struck me as offensively patronizing on the part of the doctor. Without Abbie, he and Bonham would have stared at each other in silence. Since Bonham waited a year, the treatment is more aggressive and the symptoms are worse. He declines treatment again.
Later, Bonham and Abbie go back to the fancy hotel lobby where they first met—when she was supposed to be celebrating at her own engagement party and ended up sleeping with Bonham. (Rule breaking runs in the family.) He tells her that he doesn’t want to burden her with taking care of him. She gets in his face about how “giving up would be the death of me” (another Winchester-like sentiment) and that she has no regrets. They agree to renew their vows and make a fresh start. She’s already reserved a room for them to spend the night, like they did the first time. Bonham agrees to get treatment.
Now let’s rewind and look at Cordell’s storyline.
Cordell and Liam talk about being worried about each other. They both downplay what’s wrong. I guess the Side Step has been sitting empty, since Cordell is just now getting around to reading up on how to run a bar, and later says he hasn’t hired anyone.
We know the Walkers are well-off just given the ranch and the houses. Cordell obviously isn’t worried about not being paid for two months, and they’ve been unconcerned about buying a bar, renovating it, and then letting it sit for at least a couple of months, racking up costs but not taking the steps needed to turn it into a business that could cover expenses—if not turn a profit. For a show that wants to talk about privilege, none of these things get mentioned, although most people wouldn’t have the means to make the same choices.
While Cordell is hanging out at the Side Step by himself, Micki stops in. Turns out that Cordell and Trey text each other a lot. Micki’s birth mother, Mercedes, knows to find Micki there. Mercedes tries to tell Micki that she did look for her and was scammed. Micki is really harsh with her, and Mercedes mentions the ‘four stones in hand’ saying, suggesting that Micki is poised to respond to an attack even if that’s not the situation. Mercedes leaves, and Micki warns Cordell to stay out of it.
Of course he doesn’t. He finds Mercedes crying in her car after Micki leaves. They go to get food, and Mercedes tells him that she started getting letters from a woman who claimed to be ‘Nina’ and knew all the right details. They corresponded, and eventually ‘Nina’ asked for money to pay for surgery. Mercedes came up with the cash—a hardship—and when she found out she had been scammed, it was ‘years of sobriety gone’. Unfortunately, Mercedes burned the letters, but she knows the address. Cordell says he’ll unofficially take her case to find the scammer.
The address turns out to be an abandoned house. Cordell tries to jump the fence in broad daylight and gets caught. Although the cops recognize him, they still arrest him because he was attempting to trespass. He ends up in jail.
Micki visits and delivers a lecture on privilege. She’s actually really nasty about it, and leaves him in jail instead of getting him out. Now I’m confused—privilege would be a guy getting away with trespassing because he’s white and usually a Texas Ranger, not getting busted for it. (Considering that he didn’t even get over the fence, I was surprised that they didn’t just issue a warning.) So I don’t really get how her anger connected with the situation.
The writers have made Micki increasingly brittle and sharp-tongued. She continually pushes Trey away when he tries to get her to talk, and her attitude toward Cordell often crosses the line into insubordination. She is disrespectful and downright rude, the rookie who is constantly telling off everyone around her, including her superior officer. She knows what Cordell’s been through, and still assumes the worst. While I really liked Micki at the start of the show, this new bad attitude is getting on my nerves.
Micki is angry that Cordell ‘meddled’. Fair enough. But she’s also angry that one of the other employees bailed him out. How long did she think he needed to sit in jail to atone for not doing any actual harm?
As it turns out, one of Cordell’s friends has found out that the house hasn’t been occupied in decades, but the mail was forwarded to a PO Box. Micki and Cordell meet with Mercedes again, and Cordell helps figure out what year the letter writing started, because Mercedes’ memory isn’t clear. She realizes that the old house was very close to a place she used to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and thinks someone from NA (who would have known the details from listening to her share with the group) was behind the scam. Micki agrees to go with her to size up the other attendees, and makes it clear to Cordell he’s not invited along. (Once again, she’s unnecessarily rude when he’s been helping.)
At the meeting, she and Mercedes pretend not to know each other. Micki tells a story about money and a missing sister. Mercedes talks about wanting to reunite with her daughter.
The leader uses the ‘four stones in hand’ saying, which Micki immediately notices. The leader, Joy, tries to get close to Micki and invites her to lunch. Micki asks Cordell to break into Joy’s house to see if he can find anything to tie her to the scam.
Cordell picks the lock on the front door (apparently having forgotten everything Sam Winchester ever knew about breaking and entering). This time, he doesn’t get arrested. He randomly searches, then figures out that the air conditioner isn’t working and finds a cache of letters hidden inside. (Have the writers ever been to Texas? Air conditioning is non-negotiable. Hide things in the freezer or the oven, but keep the AC working!)
He then sticks around to read the letters. At lunch, Joy offers to be Micki’s sponsor at NA and to help her find her ‘missing sister’. When Joy leaves, Micki lets Cordell know and he narrowly avoids getting caught.
Micki, Cordell and Mercedes attend another NA meeting Joy is leading, and Cordell says, “my addiction is breaking the rules” and that he’s seen what it does to the people around him.
Meanwhile, Joy’s past scam victims file in and accuse her, as does Mercedes. Micki arrests Joy who is unrepentant, and cops come in to take her away.
Mercedes can’t leave with Micki—she needs to go to a real NA meeting so she doesn’t relapse. She tells Micki that she was “trying not to let you down” (shades of Supernatural).
Micki agrees to work on their relationship. She waits for Mercedes and they talk after the meeting. Micki shows her the letters Cordell recovered and says she didn’t read them. Instead, she asks Mercedes to send them to her now so they can start over. (Huh? Why? That makes no sense—especially given recent issues with Post Office delivery problems. Was that some attempt at being weirdly poetic?)
Immediately afterward, Micki lectures Cordell on how he wants to live his life as a civilian with the privileges of a Ranger. Huh? She asked him to break the law and search Joy’s house without a warrant (at personal legal risk since he doesn’t have his badge). Not only would that make the letters inadmissible as evidence, but when Cordell hands her some he removed because they were addressed to her, Micki doesn’t refuse—although it’s clearly tampering with evidence.
Even though his actions directly led to catching a scam artist and helping Micki reopen communication with her mother, Micki doesn’t express gratitude nearly as loudly as she scolds, blames and judges. (I guess he’s right when he says she’s family—the rest of the Walkers treat him the same way.)
So she’s okay with him breaking rules as long as she benefits from it? We keep hearing Cordell blamed for rule-breaking, but time and again we’ve seen him play by the book when it counts. He didn’t go off on his own to bust the North Side Nation, even after finding out they were responsible for Emily’s death. He didn’t shoot Clint, although the situation went well beyond self-defense. And when he does break the rules, the scripts show it’s to benefit someone else, and often solves the problem, so the writing doesn’t exactly reinforce the ‘rule breaking is bad’ concept.
Everyone in this show breaks the rules, all the time. Emily broke the law delivering humanitarian supplies to the border. Liam and Captain James didn’t have official sanction to re-investigate her death or to go to Mexico tracking the laundered money. Stella breaks rules and laws in every episode without adult censure, no matter how bad the consequences are. Auggie’s broken his share as well. Liam lied to Bret to break their engagement, which is a breach of trust. Abbie broke her marriage vows (and her previous engagement) and Bonham beat up her ex-lover. Micki fought in an illegal boxing match—attended by Captain James—just last week. Everyone loved Hoyt, the self-proclaimed outlaw. So why is it only wrong when Cordell breaks rules?
Back at the ranch, Cordell is by the fire pit making plans to hire staff. Micki apologizes for being ‘too hard’ on him. Ya think? (As his trainee, being hard on him is not her responsibility.) She admitted in the last episode that she had a ‘grudge’ and was being passive aggressive, but knowing that didn’t keep her from lashing out again in this episode. Does everyone not realize that Cordell was just as traumatized by the shootout as the rest of the family, and that he’s still not healed from losing Emily?
Liam joins them, and Cordell admits that he needs to accept that his life won’t be what it was before, and that Emily helped him keep work and family in balance. Now he’ll have to figure out how find that balance himself and discover who he’s supposed to be ‘on this side’ (of her death). He says it’s time for moving on, and they agree that there’s always tomorrow for trying again.
This whole season, Walker has been a show about false narratives. The cover-up about Emily’s death was one big example. So was Cordell’s undercover persona of Duke, which kept coming back like a zombie that wouldn’t stay dead. Some of the other major examples included Micki finding out about her real birth mother, Clint blaming Cordell for Crystal’s death, Liam lying to Bret about the reason for the breakup, and Geri’s use of the Side Step to help launder money. Hoyt’s whole life was a series of false narratives. The Walker clan stuck to a false narrative that they were dealing effectively with grief until everything fell apart.
In this episode, Auggie avoided dealing with trauma by playing the hero, while Bonham created a series of rationalizations for not confronting his illness. Micki seems to transfer all her anger about everything onto Cordell, finding a reason to blame him on the flimsiest of excuses. Stella remains clueless about how much harm her actions have caused. Everyone blaming Cordell for breaking the rules (while flagrantly disregarding those same rules themselves and/or benefitting from what Cordell does) is an especially disappointing and damaging false narrative.
Given how uneven the writing is for the show, I can’t tell if the whole false narrative undercurrent is intentional or not, or predict whether it’s leading up to some big reveal of an important truth at the end of the season. It could just be me, looking for patterns in inconsistently written scripts and seeing something that isn’t there.
I’m also tired of everyone being willing to use Cordell to solve their problems while constantly telling him how broken he is—and simultaneously shaming, blaming and criticizing when he has tried to work through his grief. He’s not allowed to inconvenience anyone or make anyone uncomfortable by not being at full capacity or full emotional equilibrium as he grieves and recovers from trauma.
Cordell’s natural tendencies to protect and help are taken advantage of over and over again, without gratitude or an appreciation of what the effort costs him. That the people taking advantage are those closest to him—family, friends, and partner—just makes the situation worse.
Cordell is flawed and struggling, wounded but still fighting. He’s a damaged hero, doing his best in bad situations, and he deserves to be recognized as such.
As always, Jared and the cast turned in a great performance.
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Wonderful Screencaps by Raloria on LJ; Article Illustrated by Gail and Nightsky.