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The Morning After

Well, that was interesting, in a “What just happened?” sort of way. Walker’s 2.05 “Partners and Third Wheels” was as confusing as the title, with personal relationships going awry at river banks, bars, ranches and crime scenes. Bottom Line: it was a really bad day to go on a date in Austin! Let’s see if we can sort through all the “third wheels” who tagged along or otherwise thwarted romantic intentions and family dynamics in Walkerland, and connect how all these complications added to the mysteries and character growth of this season’s stories.

Title Thread: Partners and Third Wheels

Does it seem to you that everyone would have been better off if they stayed home and did their chores? At the end of the day, broken dates, broken hearts, and in August’s case, nearly broken bones were all that came of everyone’s efforts to find or fix their personal relationships. Unraveling all the interwoven dialog and scenes, I compiled a list of the “third wheel” interpersonal triangles that were in play in this episode:

Cordell, Geri and Grief Group Guy

Cordell, Geri and his old girlfriend, Denise Davidson

Bonham, Abby and Trey 

Micki, Trey and Garrison

Murdered guy, his brother and the thwarted partnership with a business rival

Cordell, his brother and Denise

Captain James, his new girlfriend and Cordell

Captain James, his new girlfriend and her old boyfriend

Stella, Todd and 3rd wheel August

If we consider these in their order of importance to the story, Cordell’s awkward mishaps are the most interesting.  Why hadn’t he yet cleared up things with Geri?? He couldn’t wait to text her that they should talk and that the tryst she seemingly blundered into between him and Denise was “not what you think” yet he didn’t follow up that panicked plea with a phone call or drop-in visit? He didn’t see Geri at the Side Step (which he seems to go to every evening) and blurt out a quickie, awkward explanation about him and Denise “performing” to catch a crook?

Cordell: For what it's worth, you called it, too. I have been... keeping things to myself. Timing's always off.

Geri: Well, people make time for the things that matter to them.

Captain James: She's not wrong.

Cordell: Hey, Geri, you know, I should've...

Geri: Hey, Cordi. There's gonna be a time to say it all. Maybe just not tonight.

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(LOVE her jacket!)

Geri was absolutely right. She and Cordell need to have a heart-to-heart talk to sort out if their interest in each other is as lifelong friends or potential life partners, but breakup-bad-timing-day was not when they should have attempted such a delicate exploration of feelings. There’s really no excuse why Cordell didn’t relieve Geri’s embarrassment and hurt feelings after she saw his and Denise’s ‘affair.’ That was one of my “Really??” moments. He always seems deeply interested in Geri when they’re together but he second guesses himself when they’re apart.

Geri: When I saw you and Denise last week at the ranch, I was somehow mad. I wasn't mad at you. I was mad at myself.

Cordell: Please, no, listen. Denise and I, we were on a sting, all right? And we had to pretend-- I had to act like there was some romance between us.

Geri: Come on, Cordi. I have known you a very, very long time. Can you really tell me that it was all pretend? No, no. See, you can't. So it's history. And that's fine, it's fine if it still means something to you. You know, I'm gonna forever question your judgment, but it's fine.

Geri’s observation that Cordell has lingering feelings for Denise adds credibility to Liam’s argument that Cordell repeatedly chooses Denise’s opinions over those of his brother, but I’m not convinced a teenage crush would carry over decades later – and it seems Cordell’s feelings for Denise are just as confusing to him as they are to me. Their relationship was abruptly cut short by the circumstances of the barn fire and subsequent blame fest. That left Cordell without any closure or clarity about the true nature of his relationship with Denise. It seems he’s exploring that now, though, which I guess is a healthy pause to address emotional baggage from the past. 

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Geri’s insights about Cordell helped her recognize that she, too, was holding back. Recognizing the stagnation in her relationship with Cordell, Geri got mad at herself for not sharing her feelings with him before it was too late. Now that he’s smitten with Denise, Geri decided to try connecting with “someone new” rather than hang onto the past and act like a third wheel around Cordell.

Dru: Now, I know you're old friends, but I think your hand's on my date, man.

Geri: Oh, is this a date?

Cordell: Date?

Dru: Maybe 30% was grief, sure, but 70% was first date awkward, fun sparkle. Am I wrong?

Cordell: You know, uh, I'm gonna leave y'all alone. Uh, yeah. To new people.

This was a welcome light-hearted moment amid all the talk of grief over lost loves. Geri didn’t consider her meet-up with Dru a date, but he stated in no uncertain terms that he was making a move on her. That made her a 3rd wheel on her own date, Cordell a 3rd wheel as far as Dru was concerned, and Dru a 3rd wheel to Geri and Cordell’s history/budding romance hand holding. Girls and guys can be just friends, Dru, but no one can blame you for not knowing where you stand with Geri!

The Past in (Not So Much) in the Past

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In a nice parallel, Micki is doing the same thing as Cordell in trying to sort out her feelings for a close relationship that broke off suddenly years ago.

Micki to Liam: Seeing Garrison after...such a long time... and not being able to save him... Yeah, didn't really make me feel good. Certainly not best of the best.

Micki to Cordell: I think it took until today with Willa for me to even... begin to understand what I've been feeling about Del Rio and... Garrison. It feels good to... begin to articulate it.  That's been really hard to do. But, um... I've always tried to be the best of the best. I never thought about why I wanted it so badly.

I could really have used one more sentence from Micki’s self-realization! How did leaving Garrison drive her to be the best of the best? Did she have to prove that she was better than him, or was she trying to prove to herself that she was so good at being good, she would never succumb to her feelings for him and return to become his partner in crime? That was key to the story, yet we’re left wondering about a central motivation for Micki! We might have learned more when Micki explained it to Trey, because she finally felt able to sort out her thoughts, but Bonham’s innocent blunder of mentioning Garrison to Trey short circuited that long awaited conversation.

Trey spending the day with Bonham and Abby was as odd as Geri’s “date” (that she didn’t know was a date). Do you buy that a “grown man with a casserole” would tag along to be a 3rd wheel (as he put it) on a fishing trip between a much older husband and wife because he was lonely, depressed and had nothing better to do with his day? Is he being positioned as another of the Walker’s lost-boy adoptees (remember Hoyt and Stan)?

Bonham: We're going fishing. That's always a good getaway.

Trey: Yeah. Yeah, sure is. You know, my pops used to take me fishing. I mean, he even bought me a fancy rod one year. Our best talks were always out on the water.

Bonham: You got plans this afternoon, Trey?

Trey: No. No, no, no. Look, I don't want to... I don't want to be a third wheel.

Bonham: Well, tricycles still get you places.

Maybe as an adopted son Trey will want to take over Walker ranch one day? Curious that he was along when the senior Walkers were exploring property and discussing retirement. (Meta spoiler alert) That would give him a great place in the story when Micki leaves (which we know is inevitable given Lindsey Morgan’s departure from the show).

Now, because of the ‘good talk’ Dad Walker and Trey had, Trey is terribly upset with Micki. She asked for time to sort out her feelings, and Bonham repeated that patience is the best strategy, but Trey seems unreasonably out of patience. All he knows is that she’s a mess after her undercover operation - but that should be all he needs to know until she’s ready to open up. Garrison is the third wheel in Micki and Trey’s relationship until she is able to deal with that history. Since he’s dead, Garrison isn’t a tangible threat to Trey, but love, guilt and regret are messing with Micki’s mind. I love Trey but I’m totally with Micki on this one. Give her space, Trey!

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Not being ready to move on is what got in the way of Captain James’ love life as well – that, and Cordell’s ill-timed curiosity about Jillian’s classic Mustang.

Cordell: Hey. Where's Jillian?

Capt. James: She left.

Cordell: She left? Thought she was gonna stick around for the night.

Capt. James: Did you? You called it, man. We talked it over, and yeah, she... She wasn't ready to move on. Probably on her way to Dallas right now to cruise with her ex.

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Cordell may have been the third wheel who unintentionally broke up Capt. James’ date, but, like Garrison, a guy who wasn’t even there was the real third wheel in Larry's relationship. Jillian’s feelings for her ex-boyfriend were clearly unresolved, given her quick departure when reminded of good times with him. Does Jillian walking away from a new boyfriend because of confusion over her ex-boyfriend parallel what’s happening to Micki? Maybe Jillian’s exit foreshadows Micki leaving to figure out what she wants from life.

Emotional Backlash

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Another person who needs to figure out what he wants from life is Liam. He is jealous and resentful of Denise, both because she’s a bad boss in his opinion, and because she has more credibility with Cordell than Liam seems to right now. He feels like a third wheel at work and with his brother. Liam confides his insecurities to Micki, who asks him to consider, “What’s William Walker going to do next?” That’s a good question. Liam is engaged, then they break up, then he reconciles with his ex-boyfriend, then they’re apart again. Sounds a lot like Jillian and Capt. James, Cordell and Denise, Cordell and Geri, and definitely like Micki and Garrison.

Liam’s career plans got hijacked by Denise and he’s lashing out at Cordell because of his frustration, but picking on Cordell is a weekly pastime for him. During this case, Liam blamed Cordell for the girl getting away at the construction site, when actually Cordell did the best he could with that silly, short obstacle course, car chase. Last year, Liam blamed Cordell for dwelling on his lingering doubts that Emily’s case had been solved. He and Cordell need to listen to each other more sincerely. They need to believe in each other’s instincts and support each other’s theories.

Liam: I'm gonna need to see this through for my office, so I'm gonna need you to listen to me more than you have lately.

Cordell: Okay, don't compound things, Liam. I did listen to you about the cameras, and it almost got you shot. So your hatred of the Davidsons is your own problem.

Listening and “I hear you” were threads again this week. In the end, the Walker boys agreed to act like brothers who respect each other personally and professionally, dropping the sibling rivalry that has marred their relationship thus far. 

Brothers’ rivalry carried to an extreme was the motive for the murder mystery this week.  In a cold case that paralleled Cordell’s experience with his wife’s murder, Willa, like Cordell, was the only person who kept bugging the authorities to look deeper and ask more questions.

Liam: Willa, why were you at the crime scene?

Micki: Willa... hey, we are trying to solve your father's cold case, so if there's anything...

Willa: Everyone's been trying for years.

Liam: We know that you're frustrated. I read in that report that you checked on this case every month. Why did you stop?

Willa: 'Cause no one had any answers. But today they dug up my father's body. Do you know what that was like for me? You think you want answers, and then you get the worst one imaginable. It was like I lost him all over again.

Micki: Yeah, I know you must be hurting. Twice-over now.

Why was it so easy to empathize with Willa, yet not see that Cordell went through the same thing?

Frankly, everyone in Cordell’s life still criticizes him and blames him for their problems.  Cordell apologized to Micki for not understanding what she was going through – even though I thought he was doing a superb job of supporting her. She and Liam commiserated at Cordell’s expense, comparing notes of why they thought he was incompetent.

Micki: How'd it go?

Liam: It was fine. Until Cordi decided to realize his NASCAR dreams and we lost the perp. It is infuriating to work with him.

Micki: Yes, it can be. Last week, he compared his playing house with Denise with what I did undercover.

Liam: Yeah, that's not really the same thing.

Last week, Micki made fun of Cordell’s “acting” while complimenting Denise’s performance. These two partners say they are close and have each other’s backs, but I’m tired of Micki’s superiority complex. Cordell feels she’s making him into a better ranger. Maybe that’s true. I would just appreciate some humility to go along with her condescension.

The last awkward interlopers to consider are the teens. Stella wanted to spend time with Todd, but she patiently allowed her brother to be a third wheel to create some “good memories” for him instead.

Stella: Augie needs good memories for a change. But I can't let this bro-out get all-consuming

Classmate: Hey, don't you guys live next to the Burned Luck Barn?

Stella: What, the Davidsons?

Ava: Yeah. Have you ever been? It sounds creepy, but you can make Todd go with you.

First, the teens throw a huge impromptu party at the ranch (no one had anything else to do that day??), showing a complete lack of good sense, then they think it’s a good idea to trespass on their family’s archrival’s property?? THEN August decides to climb onto the roof of a burned out building?? Seriously, do they not have any brain cells working at all?

Time Will Tell

“Partners and Third Wheels” was filled with parallel stories and lessons for the Walker gang, but I honestly found it was often “reaching” (as Cordell and Capt. James accused each other of doing). Liam wanted to be “half the lawyer” that Mac Lippey was (the murder victim), yet the guy’s professional and personal dealings got him killed. That doesn’t seem like a lawyer Liam should hold in such high regard. Mac’s brother killed him because of money, and professional and personal disrespect (Mac “insulted” Remy), but then Remy’s big deal fell through because he missed one meeting when legitimate car trouble stranded him in the desert?

Mac’s daughter adored him and patterned her law career after him, but then went outside the law and threatened to kill her uncle after years of frustration when no one would listen to her (parallel Cordell). What made Willa suspect her uncle? I didn’t hear anything that tipped her off to his guilt. She went straight to his house to kill him rather than sharing her evidence or theories with the rangers, who were specifically asking her what she knew? How did she suddenly find the gun? None of this was explained. Remy admired his niece but lied to her for years about killing her father (parallel to what Stan did to Cordell). The case was so confusing and tried to parallel so many stories, I needed a rewatch to understand what happened.  

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Every character in the series experienced a bad day of third wheel dates and thwarted plans, but again, some of the scenarios were really a stretch. Capt. James suggested that they double date with Geri but Cordell didn’t call her to see if that would work for her? What day of the week was it anyway? The kids and Trey were out of school, yet all the rangers, lawyers and construction office personnel were at work. Then Cordell and the captain were drinking at the bar like it was evening, but Liam and Micki were still interviewing witnesses. Willa confirmed it was the same day they found her dad and it was still light out, so I couldn’t figure out if it was a weekday or weekend. That really distracted me from understanding the timeline of events.

August found a Walker lamp in the barn decades after it burned down. That wouldn’t have been found by fire investigators? The fire sparked a law suit trying to assess cause and blame. Lawyers and insurance investigators wouldn’t have found that in their search for answers?

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This episode successfully made the point that Cordell needs to work on his skills as a brother and a boyfriend, but he continues to be blamed, then apologize, for his actions. He seems like a good father, a superb ranger and a loyal partner. Maybe give the guy as much credit as criticism?

It felt like "Partners and Third Wheels" was given the agenda of setting up a myriad of future events – maybe too many to fit into one episode. I mentioned many of the parallels in the story, but there were many more that I didn’t even touch on. Nothing that happened was particularly complex, but the volume of lessons to be learned made it hard to give pertinent details that made each situation believable. They were all good mirrors through which we could view past and current events of the main characters  - if you just kept up with the story and didn't pause to look too closely. 

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Then there’s the tease of the gun and the map:

Bonham: You know, my daddy used to say that maps say more than they mean to. Yeah?

Stella: What do you think this map is saying, Grandpa?

It’s definitely the key to something interesting. I’m sure all will be revealed in time. Maybe that’s when we’ll understand why all the relationships with partners and third wheels experienced such growing pains this week.  Letting go of the past, whether it’s habits, relationships or legacies, is often awkward and hard. All we can do it work every day to carve out a better future.

- Nightsky

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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts