The Morning After
Well, that was intense, in a “What just happened” sort of way. “The One Who Got Away” solved several of the mysteries posed in season one, effectively bringing closure to the story of Stan’s corruption and attempted assassination. The show is now free to focus attention on season two and the next target in Texas’ tangled infiltration of crime and abuse of power.
Title Thread: "The One Who Got Away"
Cordell: There's the boss himself, Serano.
Capt. James: Hey, who's the other guy?
Cordell: Micki, who is that? Who's that other guy?
Micki: It's the one that got away.
First things first. We have to agree on the name of this episode! Oddly, The CW’s preview synopsis didn’t list the name of the episode! That’s highly unusual. Without knowing its significance, I noticed the omission before the episode aired. Their promotional clip was titled “The One That Got Away”,
…but CW’s identifiers during air time listed the title as “The One Who Got Away.” It was even more bizarre that the title phrase became a point of contention within the episode.
Cordell: I mean, what was this thing about the... "the one that got away"?
Capt. James: Actually, she said, "the one who got away."
Cordell: The one-- Are we doing this right now?
Capt. James: I'm just saying what she said.
Why would the writers expend precious story time calling attention to a specific phrase? In fact, Capt. James was wrong. Micki clearly said, “that got away.” Her sentence was grammatically correct because she began with “It’s the one.” “It” refers to a thing, which should be reflected back with “that.” The episode’s final title is also grammatically correct, though, because it refers to Garrison, Micki’s ex-fiancée. Strictly speaking, a person should subsequently be referenced as “who” not “that” in a sentence. As an editor, I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t see this common error, so it really jumped out at me in the dialog. Was this just a case of a studio editor correcting grammar at the last minute?
One possible reason for this word discrepancy and trivial character debate is that the writers used their forum to raise awareness of proper English usage. Last week, my review offered a 5th grade geography lesson. This week we’re covering grade school English grammar. Captain James even mentioned elementary school!
Micki: Oh, I'm sorry. Am I being lectured by the poster boy of withholding information?
Capt. James: Excuse me, third graders.
Doubtful that these lessons are the primary purpose of network prime time television, I am left wondering if the point of Captain James’ observation goes deeper that grammar tutorials. My “Threads” review of “They Started It” hypothesized that “perceptions” would be a recurring thread this season. In fact, Captain James’ perception of what he heard was wrong. He was so sure of himself, he defended his opinion as indisputable fact.
I believe this will become extremely important as the season progresses. The Davidsons and the Walkers have different perceptions of what happened 25 years ago. Their conviction to their version of history has fueled their feud for decades. Hatred born in differing perceptions.
Micki: Nothing's changed.
Garrison: Some people never move on, I guess.
I suspect the season will slowly peel back many mistaken perceptions until the truth is left. I’m excited to watch that process unfold as they have piqued my interest in the events surrounding the barn fire.
Denise: Watching you walk out of that fire...
Cordell: Yeah. Yeah. Probably not a great memory. Maybe something we should, uh, deal with.
When left unresolved, the past always comes back to haunt you.
The Past is (Not So Much) in the Past
So if “They One Who Got Away” is Garrison, let’s talk about Micki’s secret past. Much of her conversation with her ex revolved around their differing perceptions of their relationship long ago.
Micki: Garrison, why am I not surprised that you're somehow wrapped up in all this?
Garrison: You always said that I was destined for a life of crime. I didn't really want to disappoint you.
Micki: Well, you did. 14 years ago. Always was one last job, and it didn't matter how dangerous or selfish. You know that's why I left.
Garrison: Funny how life brought you right back here, huh? Together again.
For most of their reunion, Garrison relentlessly stirred up the past he shared with Micki.
I never hurt anybody physically. But I feel like I need to be forgiven for the emotional damage that I've caused.
Bumping off his own people is a sure-as-shinola sign that Serano thinks the walls are closing in. But it started way before that. Since Austin. [To Micki] Felt like I... just got the sky all wrong. I miss our drink and ink nights.
Garrison: The key to everything that you want is just inside, though.
Micki: Inside the same church we were supposed to be married in?
Garrison: Same church you left me waiting. A heartbroken young man of 19 stood right here, pining for his one true love.
I waited half my life for you to come back. You can wait a half an hour for me.
Whether Garrison's romantic allusions were sincere or were meant to throw Micki off her game is unclear, but they set up several important relationship parallels within the story. First, their broken-off teenage romance paralleled a past interest Cordell may have had in Denise when they were also teenagers. Denise then abruptly left Cordell (when her family moved away), and now they are "together again" "half his life" later.
Micki’s resurrected memories of leaving Garrison because of his life's criminal trajectory also parallels why Cordell had to leave behind his undercover girlfriend last year. Lastly, Garrison’s tragedy set up Micki to be as bereft at watching him die as Cordell was after watching Mrs. West get fatally wounded and his undercover family get arrested.
Remember last week when Trey said it was okay to take a minute to get your head together? I hope he believed those words because Micki left him anxiously worried about her while she took a minute to get drunk, reeling from everything that happened. Maybe her grief will help her realize how judgmental and condescending she was to Cordell a year ago when he had to transition from caring for criminals back to real life. He did the exact same thing in the back of his pickup truck in a public park, while his family waiting for him at a welcome home party.
The Del-Rio Situation
Aside from parallel storytelling and possible foreshadowing between Micki/Garrison and Cordell/Denise, and between Micki and Cordell, "The One Who Got Away" partially answered larger questions raised last season (which were reiterated in last week’s "Threads" review): “Who’s behind the shooting and placing Cordell in the crosshairs?” and “Where does Northside Nation’s grip on Austin start?”
Garrison: I have evidence of every crime Serano committed. Money laundering, drug trafficking, and ordering that hit in Austin. I advised him against it. I thought it would just bring too much heat on us, but he was paranoid. He said that the whole operation was about to get taken down….
Capt. James: What about Austin?
Garrison: That's when Serano started getting paranoid. After you arrested Stan. [to Cordell] That's why he wanted to take you out. You were a thorn in his side and all of Northside Nation.
Cordell: What does Northside Nation have to do with it?
Garrison: Serano runs the Northside. Stan Morrison worked for him.
Cordell and Stan were both targets of the sniper attack because Cordell was too tenacious in his pursuit of the truth about Stan’s role in the Northside Nation. The man pulling Stan’s strings was Serano, identified by Garrison as the leader of the Northside Nation. I’m suspicious Serano wasn’t at the top of the hierarchy, though. When Cordell referred to Serano as “the boss himself”, were the writers telling us the truth or lying, just as Garrison at first lied about the Austin attack?
Denise: Mr. Murphy, we'd be willing to make you a deal if you tell me one thing: Who was the Austin sniper?
Garrison: Matt Phillips. Aka Spider.
Micki: What? No. That's not possible… he wasn't a killer. And he was trying to get out. And he had problems with his vision.
Garrison: That's probably why he missed. Another botched job in a growing list of screw-ups. It's probably why Serano killed him. Look, I liked Spider, too. I did. But... it's the truth.
Secrets and Lies
Garrison began by naming Spider as the Austin sniper, but when Garrison was cornered and knew he had been caught, he confessed the real truth:
Micki: Why have you been lying this whole time?
Garrison: Spider was hired to kill Stan Morrison and any other Ranger who got in the way. And you were right. Spider was getting soft. He got cold feet, so I took the job for him. If I didn't, somebody else would, and they wouldn't miss.
Micki: Did you miss on purpose?
Garrison: Yeah, but I can't do that this time. Serano said he'd kill you if I didn't go through with this. You're gonna have to stop me, Micki. Next shot won't miss!
So Garrison was the sniper on a hit ordered by Serano. That brings closure to season one’s cliffhanger. The larger question remains, though. Where does Northside Nation’s grip on Austin start? Is Serano was the kingpin or did he take orders from someone else? Someone is still spying on the Walkers. When Garrison listed all of Serano’s crimes (above), he didn’t mention anything about surveillance so it’s likely there’s yet another boss that needs to be found.
Since the parallels between Micki’s and Cordell’s undercover experiences were so strong in this episode, let’s look there for a clue to the next criminal they have to chase together. For example, if Ranger Ramierez’ past romantic interest (Garrison) is now a criminal, maybe Ranger Walker’s past romantic interest, Denise, is also a criminal.
Denise: I am well aware of Thomas Serano. His drug ops caused plenty of havoc up in Thalia where I last worked. Managed to avoid prosecution on any felony charges.
Well, that’s suspicious! Since Micki had to stop Garrison, do you think Cordell will have to stop Denise (and/or that she might be killed in the process)?
Liam: I feel I need to point out that my brother may have been a target in the shooting three months ago, so his presence in Del Rio is a concern.
Denise: Okay, while I appreciate your concern, Counselor, having spent a considerable amount of time undercover, Ranger Walker has a unique perspective on undercover operations. I have to say he's our best shot… We need to identify who this informant is and find out if he can be trusted.
Denise was unexpectedly anxious for Cordell to stay in that dangerous situation, and she clearly wanted to learn who the mole was in Serano’s organization.
Garrison: Serano sent someone to destroy the evidence.
Was it Serano’s paranoia that precipitated the fire, or did Denise tip him off that a search warrant was about to find everything? Near as I can tell, all the evidence was destroyed, except maybe one charred folder (for “Winkler & Beck, CPA”. Out of a room of file drawers filled with folders, why did Micki pick out that file? That name hadn’t been mentioned before.). The rangers got nothing on the CI wire before Serano destroyed it, and the DA’s key witness was killed so it doesn’t seem like the rangers have enough to convict. We may have gotten some answers, but they just lead to more questions.
Serano: Hey, Cordell. I'll be seeing you.
Liam: Del Rio is in Val Verde County. It's not even our jurisdiction.
Denise: Which is why I'm headed there right now. To loop in their DA.. I want to be there, to make sure that nobody screws this up. We have the chance to take down the head of Northside Nation.
I find it curious that Denise immediately leaves for Del Rio as soon as she green lights Garrison Murphy giving them evidence that will convict the leader of the Northside Nation. Who is the ‘nobody’ she wants to oversee? Is she really concerned with supervising the arrests and jurisdictional issues, or is she concerned that one piece of a larger drug cartel is being dismantled so she must personally see to the transfer of power on the criminal side? Is she a good guy or a bad guy? Remember my theory that the Davidsons’ return to be a “thorn in the side” of the Walkers seemed a bit too convenient. Her presence in Del Rio, could serve to either dismantle or restructure the organized crime that Cordell has stumbled upon. Don’t forget that someone is still watching him. Serano was a shoot your way out of trouble kind of guy, not the watch patiently from the shadows mastermind.
Garrison: There's windows on the side of the building. It opens up to an old-school [note: School references again] records room. Kind of like the room at the end of Indiana Jones.
Micki: Where do I look?
Garrison: Austin Eyes and Ears, Inc.
Maybe a reminder of the guy spying on the Walkers?
The Key to (Physical and Emotional) Freedom
August: You know, Coach Trey said that "your history with your partner holds the key." Maybe that's why he paired us together.
Finding keys was critical to all of this episode’s stories, both literally and metaphorically. The kids sought and found keys to their freedom. Garrison stole a key from a church to get into Serano’s and the Northside Nation files. Symbolically, we were told that Cordell was and continues to be a target because he is the key to unravelling the syndicate:
Garrison: I have a key right here that will tie Serano to a laundry list of crimes he has committed statewide.
Capt. James: You have a key? Hey, Walker, he has a key.
Cordell: Oh, he has a key.
Micki: Yes, he has a key.
Capt. James: Oh, great. What's it a key to?
The word “key” was used 16 times in the script. That’s more than enough to signal its symbolic importance to Walker’s mystery. Walker is the key – but why?
Stella: Shared history. Try locker 101. It's the military call code for poor communication.
The teens had to work with their enemies to get the key to their mysteries. Does Cordell need to work with Denise? Is communication between the Davidsons and the Walkers the key to learning the truth about both the barn fire and the crime syndicate in Texas?
Music was a curious sub-theme in this episode. August said, “Music is more my jam now”, Colton said he was interested in music theory, and Garrison gave Micki a mix CD.
Garrison: You can't even listen to my last sonic love letter?
Micki: Don't pull that. You did not make this for me.
Garrison: I made it thinking of you.
The key to freedom was in the Music Theory textbook. Maybe music will be important to the story in the future?
Time Will Tell
“The One Who Got Away” provided satisfying answers to many of the mysteries pursued throughout Walker’s first season. Micki’s past relationship with Garrison was thrust into the story suddenly, and didn't really have enough time to warrant her strong, dramatic reaction when he died - even as well acted as it was. Its importance, however, was in potentially foreshadowing a number of interesting paths for Cordell’s (and Micki's) future. Similar to the lingering doubts that hung over Geri last season, Cordell’s new romantic entanglement, Denise, isn’t above suspicion. The writing in this (and the prior) episode cleverly positioned Denise to either be the rational voice amid a crazy family and corrupt system, OR the skilled criminal eager to covertly bring down the Walkers after her family's prior tragedy and public disgrace.
As always, it was a pleasure to have Richard J. Speight, Jr. directing. His episode's are always visually engaging.
By the way, what’s with that random, injured white horse? Will he be the key to a Colton/Stella détente? Are the teens going to help the family resolve their differences and come together to find the truth? (Was the horse this week’s version of Denise, the boar, last week? What’s with the animal thread?)? Professionally and personally, Cordell’s life is full of duplicitous antagonists. I’m curious to see how this all works out.
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“The One Who Got Away” transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts