A Week Later
Walker’s “Champagne Problems” was a vast departure from the hatred fueled feud that has driven the Walkers’ story this season. In fact, there was so much love, happiness and reconciliation in this episode, I watched the entire show with trepidation, waiting for the inevitable bomb, literally or figuratively to go off, ruining everyone’s celebration. I admit that expecting disaster is a personal bias in my life right now, but I’m wondering how many other viewers also had trouble trusting that Cordell could actually have “a good day” without something blowing up in his face. The same could be said for Abby and Bonham, Liam, Stella and Augie, and maybe even Cassie.
The Past is (Not So Much) in the Past
Liam: You're Cordi's new partner. It's kind of a package deal. You're family now. And you're welcome.
Cassie’s a relative newcomer, but she’s a true member of the Walker family in that she’s trying to recover from a string of disappointments and losses that all relate to betrayal of some kind. Her history extended back a bit further in this episode, to the months before she came to Austin and latched onto Cordell as a stabile influence in her life.
Cordell: Uh, hold on a second. Let's back it up. You have a brother? And he lives in Austin? Uh, how am I just finding this out?
Cassie: Well, you know what, didn't really come up between the, "Hey, get in the trunk," and the, "Oh, no, I've made a traumatic discovery about my partner," so...
Cassie’s troubled past caught up with her at the most unexpected time (remember that bomb I was talking about that blows up good days?). While lightheartedly helping her new friends (and probably some of the only people she knows in Austin) prepare for a big party, her “dark and murky” pain surfaced in the form of a chance reunion with her brother. Suddenly, Cassie was reminded that she had some serious unfinished business she needed to face. The details of Cassie’s unresolved grief gave us a curious parallel to how Cordell handled Emily’s death.
Liam: Don't know what happened between you and your brother Ben, but I do know about brothers and trauma. I don't know what things happened, or how Miles figures into any of this, but what I can say is that when Emily died, I mean, Cordi disappeared. I mean, he was gone gone, you know, and I went to him when he was undercover, just to try and get real with him 'cause I was afraid he would never come home. There was just this world of hurt between us that would've torn us apart...
When his life partner died, Cordell threw himself into his work, spurred on by a corrupt boss who was anxious to be rid of a tenacious ranger and his suspicions. After Lucas’ death, Cassie equally threw herself into the investigation of her partner’s death/disappearance, a pursuit that was similarly being thwarted by a seemingly corrupt boss. Just as Cordell “disappeared” leaving his children alone to process their mom’s death, Cassie ran away from her family, leaving her brother alone with his grief. But when confronted with their grief abandonment, both rangers turned around to face their past. It was incredibly hard for Cassie to own her feelings, but she pushed through to the other side of her pain. That took courage.
Geri, on the other hand, is still running away. She is a ship without a home port right now, bouncing between the Davidsons and the Walkers looking for her identity. Running away seems to be her coping mechanism. When her bar got tangled up with a gang, she ran. When Hoyt asked her to marry him, she ran. When she became confused about her feelings for Cordell after their kiss, at the concert, and now again after seeing him talking to Twyla, she ran - all three times.
Geri to Abby: I may be a Davidson now, but I am still a Walker through and through.
That’s an interesting contention to explore. Do the Walkers run away from their troubles? Cassie is now a “Walker” and she ran away very much like Geri did.
Cordell didn’t so much run away as he was pushed away by his boss and his family not supporting his beliefs about Emily’s murder. When his job was done, he shouldered all his responsibilities and is trying to make up for lost time. Liam left Bret behind in New York, but Liam was more pulled away from Bret by the circumstances of Stella and Augie needing him. When Liam lost the DA election, he left his job, but again, his boss made his situation rather untenable so he was more or less pushed out. When he went to the mountains and chopped wood to clear his head, it was more his family not believing his suspicions about the Davidsons and their land dispute that pushed him into solitude. So is Geri fitting into the Walker pattern of being pushed away by Cordell’s actions or is she running away on her own rather than dealing with her fears and past traumas?
Geri: I've been so worried about what being a Davidson means. But what I'm realizing is that I want you both in my life. The Davidsons, all you crazy Walkers.
Contrary to Geri’s statement that she wants to be both a Davidson and a Walker, it appears that right now she is neither. The Davidsons are mean and vindictive, and Geri hasn’t ever stooped to that level to hurt others. The Walkers are welcoming and inclusive, but Geri seems unable to accept that they keep opening their hearts to strays – including Twyla.
Cordell: you know, all the family's gone through, lately, a lot of losses, with the ranch and uprooting the family...
Abby: Uprooting? Our family, our marriage, it's not a ranch, son. Tonight, I'm remembering... Marriage is something you grow. And something we grow. Through the dark and murky and through the daybreak. It's us. It's always us. And it's all of us. … we choose each other every day. And 40 years ago, we planted a promise that grew with everyone we welcomed into our family. Everyone we loved along the way. So when I look out at all of you, I do not see a family uprooted. I see a family thriving.
I don’t at all blame Geri for wanting to get to know the Davidsons. She is, after all, related to them by blood for better or worse. She should explore what that means. But she seems to be seeking a clear answer when in fact most of life happens in the gray. Abby was both right and wrong for keeping Marv’s secret. The Davidsons can be good within their own family while still being untrustworthy troublemakers to outsiders. Geri can be a Davidson daughter and a Walker girlfriend at the same time, but she needs to figure out who she is herself, and who she trusts at their word.
Trust and Secrets
Geri to Gale: I’m glad we’re trying
It may be ungenerous to say this, but Gale’s invitation for one-on-one mother/daughter time seemed overbearing. They had just returned from a "girls' trip" together! Is Gale excited and anxious to make up for lost time with her daughter, or is she purposely trying to dominate Geri's time to pull her away from the Walkers? Then her sweet speech expressing understanding for Abby and empathy for Geri seemed suspiciously self-serving. If I just learned that she was my birth mom, I would desperately want to see the best in her, as Geri is doing, but not being in that situation allows me to say that I don’t trust Gale at all.
Gale: Why don't you come on by tonight? I'll pull out some family recipes and, you know, read you in on some secrets….
Gale: Secret to brisket is to get a good sear before it slow roasts.
Gale: Okay, you get the spices I'll get the pot, and, uh, we'll swap secrets, all right?
What secrets does Gale have that she will only tell Geri once she’s sure Geri has chosen the Davidsons over the Walkers?
Too Many Choices
Geri is stuck in the confusing aftermath of the last time bomb that destroyed her reality. Like Stella, she is "at a fork in the road" and can’t decide which way to go.
Stella: We’re here because of a turning point… I don't know what the future holds, but like Mawline said, the universe gave me options. But I have to choose.
Stella can’t go to both the local and cross-country colleges. She has to choose. She probably also needs to choose either Todd or Colton as a boyfriend, although time may decide for her as they break up to go off to their universities. Cordell may also have to choose between Geri and Twyla (for overplayed drama), although he should be able to have both as friends, or one as a girlfriend and the other as a platonic friend. Time may also decide for him, as Twyla seems to want to press the matter.
So the show is setting up the premise that Geri must choose between being a Davidson and a Walker. But like all the other supposed “choices” that must be made, Geri could get what she said she wants and be a part of both families - if she has the courage to be her own person. More likely, though, time, also referred to as "fate" several times in the episode, will choose for her. Either the Davidsons will reveal that their intentions toward her can’t be trusted and she'll be left with the Walkers, or the opposite will happen and Twyla may unintentionally push her away from the Walkers and to the Davidsons.
“You were never mine; Only in secret...” - a line in Twyla and Duke’s song.
Cordell: Twyla trusted the wrong guy, and it backfired and snowballed. She's paid for it already. She doesn't need to pay for the rest of her life.
Reconciliation was clearly a theme of Cassie and Ben’s story. Abby and Geri also reconciled at last. Twyla reconciled her feelings for Cordell, seeing that he was more himself than she previously gave him credit for when he was undercover as Duke. Cordell made it clear that he was choosing not to rekindle their dating relationship, but he was at peace that he and Twyla were again friends so theirs was a reconciliation story as well. Abby and Bonham’s anniversary celebration was a testament to weathering the hard times and making love prevail, so the central event of the episode was another example of “happily ever after.” All these examples may be foreshadowing that Geri and Cordell can get past their “world of hurt” and reconcile. Perhaps Liam’s anecdote to Cassie about him and Cordell was also a message of hope for Cordell and Geri.
However, there was one phrase that flies in the face of all the positivity that was superficially the theme of this feel-good episode.
Cordell: Divide and conquer.
Liam: Divide and conquer.
Augie: Divide and conquer.
Liam: Divide and conquer, remember?
Is that what Gale is doing? Is she trying to pull Geri away from the Walkers as an ultimate, knife in the back victory? She used her grandson to get the lantern as evidence against the Walkers. It’s not a far cry from that to using her newfound daughter as the ultimate leverage to hurt Cordell and Abby. To make matters worse, would Colton pull Stella into the Davidson’s vortex, further dividing the Walker loyalties?
Time Will Tell
Honestly, there were so many ‘morals of the story’ in “Champagne Problems”, it’s impossible to predict which ones were foreshadowing, which ones were misdirects, and which ones were wishful thinking!
We’re here because of a turning point
We choose each other every day
A world of hurt that would have torn us apart [but didn’t’]
Through the dark and murky, and the daybreak
How generous they are with their love and friendship
You show up for the people who mean something to you
I’m glad we’re trying
The champagne was clearly flowing in this episode, but the celebration wasn’t without its problems – or ominous warnings. We may all have theories as to where this will lead but there certainly wasn’t enough evidence in this episode to give away the ending! I should accept “the win” (as Ben put it in a callback to Supernatural) and bask in the joy of Abby and Bonham’s, Liam and Ben’s, Cassie and Ben’s, and Cordell and Twyla’s good days.
Instead, I find myself bracing for the blast wave of drama that is headed their way, because Sideways was the movie the writers chose to have Cassie doubly mention to us. Besides, Geri is being very gullible and unpredictable, she doesn’t have a good track record of maturely resolving conflict… and I just don’t trust the Davidsons. Cordell’s life is never easy.
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