Trauma in a barn is where Supernatural ended and where a hugely formative chapter of the Walker family life started. "Barn Burner" delivers some explanations, surprises, and a few head-scratchers, but all-in-all, it’s a good installment in what’s shaping up to be a solid second season.

The episode starts with Cordell sleeping on the couch, having a nightmare. We don’t find out why he was sleeping in the living room in his own house, but we do see his dream, which is of the night of the barn fire. He’s in the barn with Denise, there’s a lantern, and later he sees the barn on fire.

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Then we see Surveillance Guy watching and listening. They overhear Liam’s work call. The value of the information they’re gathering doesn’t escape Guy #1 and Guy #2. Guy #1 is considering shutting it all down and wiping the information since Serano was captured and they work for him. But Guy #2 thinks he can find a buyer. Fast forward, and Guy #2 says he found a buyer ‘who hates the Walkers as much as Serano.” Once Guy #1 finds out who the buyer is, he shoots his companion, presumably to keep all the money for himself.

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The annual Harvest Festival and Chili Cook-Off is being held at the Side Step, and this local event is a big deal. Abbie and Liam are using Abbie’s mother’s recipe. For some reason, winning really matters to Abbie—the degree of competitiveness seemed odd. Auggie puts a towel too close to the stove and it catches on fire. Still reeling from his nightmare, Cordell puts out the fire and yells at Auggie. He realizes that he’s overreacted, and goes to sit outside. Bonham joins him, and Cordell says he can still hear Marv screaming in his dreams. Then he says he wants to invite the Davidsons to participate in the cook-off as a gesture of goodwill. Bonham is against it, but Cordell insists.

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Colton and Stella debate what to do with the injured white horse, since neither set of parents want to adopt it. 

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Back in the office, Micki is writing up her report. Trey calls and wants to know when she’s coming home. She won’t say.

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Cordell goes to see Gale and Dan to invite them to the cook-off. They initially decline. Dan goes on a rant about how Cordell stood them up at the family meeting, which is odd since Denise knows for a fact it was because Cordell was doing his job on a bust, official Ranger business. Cordell doesn’t stand up for himself and point that out, which also seems strange. Dan and Denise are getting a divorce, but Dan seems rabidly invested in the family he’s leaving. Gale changes her mind about participating. Dan makes a comment about family and Cordell confirms that family is everything and adds, “Maybe you and I aren’t so different.” He’s trying so hard to find common ground.

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Abbie and Liam talk as they make chili. She says that Liam and Denise are like ‘bathtubs and toasters,’ a rather morbid way to observe that they really don’t get along. Then she suggests that Liam might need a change. Huh? He just relocated from New York City and changed the focus of his law practice less than a year ago. 

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Cordell announces that he let Gale Davidson enter the chili contest even though the entries were technically closed. Abbie is really angry. She says she ‘won’t let Gale go after my boy again’ meaning the lawsuit long ago targeting Cordell. I’m not sure what kind of vengeance she thought Gale might inflict over chili. 

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Both Dan and Abbie seem unreasonably over-invested in things that don’t matter (the meeting and the chili contest). Why is the mother of the bar owner where the contest is being held even entering the contest Cordell is judging? 

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Trey brings brisket for the chili and asks Cordell about Micki. Cordell reminds him that it takes time to switch off being in undercover mode. Trey saw combat in the army—he should know this. Why does he keep putting Cordell into the middle of his relationship with Micki? Cordell also invites Micki to the cook-off, and tells her that he understands what it’s like to come back from being undercover.

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The festival/cook-off seems to be a big success, with live music, games, and lots of contestants. Cordell brings some chili over to Geri at the bar, and mentions a memory of Emily. Two women who looked like college students ask Geri if Cordell is ‘available’ and she first says he’s married and then revises the comment. Trey and Micki greet each other with a big hug, and he reminds her that he loves her and that nothing will come between them. It’s clear she’s hiding something. 

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Then Liam is carrying a pot of chili and Dan intentionally runs into him, spilling chili and nearly starting another fight. Denise challenges Abbie to throw in another five thousand dollars to the prize money to up the stakes. 

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Trey tells Micki he’s ready to listen. She tells him she’s angry that he came to Del Rio and jeopardized their operation, that his heart was in the right place but that he shouldn’t have done that. (Trey has a military background. He should have known better.) Then the band plays the main song from the mix CD Garrison made for her, and Micki runs away.

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Abbie goes to talk to her, and asks who Micki is pining for. Then she advises Micki to ‘be completely honest with yourself. Do what’s right for you.” Abbie wonders whether there would be so much bad blood now if she handled things better in the past. (Breaking an engagement for a guy she just met was bound to cause problems.)

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The cook-off comes down to Gale vs. Abbie (of course it does). Cordell picks the Davidson chili. (Why is he the only judge? He isn’t impartial.) Gale gives a weird thank-you speech and brings up Marv, says they are going to use the winnings to start a horse rescue. Then she says Colton has ‘single-handedly’ cared for the injured horse when ‘others turned it away’. The whole speech is unnecessarily provocative.

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Later, Abbie tells Cordell that she knows he threw the contest. He says that the Davidsons lost everything the night of the barn fire, and everyone sided with the Walkers. He talks about the Davidson’s pain, public humiliation, shame and grief. He says he remembers more about that night from his dreams and blames himself for leaving the lantern in the barn. He cries, and Abbie consoles him. Of course Surveillance Guy and Dan see and hear the whole thing. 

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At their apartment, Micki hangs up the painting Garrison did of the church. It’s tense between her and Trey, and when he asks about the artwork, she freaks out. Then she says that she loves him and appears to initiate going to bed with him.

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Back at the Walker ranch, Cordell straightens a painting and may have noticed the recording device.

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Thoughts and questions

I’m still wondering why a broken engagement forty years ago is such a big deal. Lots of people have broken engagements and failed marriages in their past and it doesn’t ignite a decades-long quest for vengeance. Usually, they reframe and move on, often even coming to view the disappointment, in hindsight, as a good thing that led to new opportunities. 

Marv might have been embarrassed by the broken engagement, but he still married an upwardly-mobile professional and his family remained wealthy landowners. Was there something more than Abbie herself that he thought he was going to gain by marrying her or into her family—an advantage that Bonham gained? If so, then the family rivalry went back farther than the broken engagement.

Likewise, I’m not sure why there was a need to take a lantern into the barn. Most barns had electricity twenty-five years ago, and the Davidsons are wealthy enough for electrification not to have even been an issue. Why did Cordell and Denise take a kerosene lantern instead of a flashlight? Both of them grew up on farms and would have known the danger. And how did the lantern tip over in a seemingly empty barn to set the fire? If the flames had ignited dust, there would have been an explosion, not just a conflagration.

I’ve already pointed out a bunch of things about the chili cook-off that don’t make sense. Why did it matter so much to Gale and Abbie? Why was Abbie even entering given the huge conflict of interest? Why did Cordell think that letting the Davidsons win a chili contest would make up for what happened before? Why does Dan care when he’s divorcing Denise? Why did Gale make a scene with her thank-you comments?

Cordell refers to the Davidsons’ “pain, public humiliation, shame and grief.” Marv’s death would have accounted for the pain and grief, but where did the humiliation and shame come in? Was that because they tried to sue a young teenager (Cordell) and lost and the community judged them badly for trying to destroy a boy’s life over an accident? (If so, then they deserved the censure.) 

Why does Dan hate the Walkers so much for something that happened long before he married Denise—especially when he’s on his way out? What did Serano think he was going to overhear by bugging the Walker house? Both Cordell and Liam have positions that require confidentially and discretion—they aren’t supposed to be discussing cases in detail. Was he hoping to get blackmail material? Why focus on Cordell instead of Captain James or someone higher up?

What’s the big deal with the injured horse and why can’t two wealthy, land-owning families foster it until they can find a permanent refuge? They already own other horses—one more is not going to beggar them over the hay budget. Depending on the price of hay, feeding a horse for a whole year costs less than $1,000. A quick Google search turned up twenty horse rescue farms near Austin alone. Surely people with deep community roots would know this. And why did Gale go out of her way to cause trouble with the horse comments at the cook-off? 

For as self-righteous and judgmental as Micki was when Cordell came back from his much longer undercover stint, she isn’t holding up very well when it’s her turn. She’s avoiding loved ones and drinking too much, exactly like Cordell. Yes, she witnessed Garrison’s death—a former fiancé she ditched fifteen years ago—but Cordell had listened to Emily die over the phone. 

The way Trey keeps involving Cordell is strange, because Cordell isn’t allowed to tell him what he wants to know. Micki is right to call Trey out on jeopardizing her case because he felt insecure, and he should have known better. But Micki’s sudden nostalgia for her criminal ex-boyfriend from half a lifetime ago seems overblown. Even if she wanted to keep the painting for old times’ sake, hanging it in their apartment is not a good step toward healing.

There have been four broken engagements so far in Walker—Geri turning down Hoyt, Abbie jilting Marv, Liam breaking up with Bret, and Micki leaving Garrison at the altar. Is there a deeper meaning, or are the writers in a rut?

Despite all the questions, I still enjoyed the episode and thought the pacing and focus were good. This season is getting off to a better start than last season, and I hope they can keep up the momentum. As always, Jared and the cast delivered a great performance.

What did you think?  Please share your thoughts on the episode below!

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Screencaps by Raloria on LJ