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With a title like “World On A String”, I really should’ve known Walker's season 3 premiere episode was going to put me through an emotional ringer.

I’m going to be doing a scene-by-scene recap of this episode since there was pretty much just the one plot rather than an A and B plot.

Let’s dive on in, shall we?

Following a quick recap of 2.19 and 2.20, we catch up with Cordell as he’s dragged into the back of a van and driven away. We then cut to the end of the race back at the ranch house. After a few spare moments of joy, Stella realizes that Cordell is missing. Trey and Liam initially try to quell her worries. Cordell could just be hiding somewhere, trying to mess with them. Stella doesn’t buy it, but they brush off her concerns and go jogging back down the path to look for him.

Stella goes into the house with the hat she grabbed from the hitching post and tries to tell Abby about Cordell. But her grandmother is too busy setting up the party to listen and Stella doesn’t have the heart to interrupt her.  So, she turns to August instead and tells him what she knows so far.

Back on the jogging trail, Liam and Trey are discussing the possible reasons for Cordell’s disappearance. Neither of them really thinks that it’s a prank. Quite the opposite. Liam is immediately drawing connections to the shoot-out in Miles’ trailer, how close they came to killing Cordell that day. Trey argues that it might not be that direct of a connection but trails off when he sees a watch on the ground. Liam picks it up for a closer look and reveals that this watch was a gift from Bonham when Cordell first joined the service; he’s never taken it off. Trey decides it's time to call in Captain James.

Back at the house, Bonham comes in from a conversation with Dan Miller and asks Abby if they made the right choice giving him a portion of the land back. Abby insists that it was a good idea, a peace offering to smooth over the bad blood between their families. Bonham seems less sure about the idea but he’s not willing to argue it now. Then he asks Abby if she needs him to move the table out onto the porch. She says no, that she’s waiting for Cordell to come back to move it. Bonham does try to argue about this, but Abby shuts him down. She then speaks cryptically about how Liam and Cordell would often be afraid to leave the family behind for summer camps when they were kids but would never admit it. She glances at Stella and August, who are still talking at the piano, and we get the sense that she knows something is wrong.

We return to Cordell, who has been moved from the back of the van into a building. He’s limp in his captors’ hold as he’s dragged through the empty building, looking to all the world like he’s unconscious. But, once he’s in the cage, we see the slivers under his blindfold through his eyes. He listens in on the conversation between his captors. The one securing his ankle, who we later know as “Neo”, is concerned about how much time they have before they’re found out. His boss, Sean (the man who reconned Cassie on a date in 2.20), tells him it’ll be about 36 hours, maybe more if things go according to plan. He’s not too concerned on time though; he seems sure they’ll have enough of it to break in their new inside man. Neo is a little more nervous and says he needs to go get someone named Jenny, but Sean ignores him. They then leave Cordell in the cage and lock the door behind them.

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Side note: Cordell is a war hero? I sense flashbacks coming.

Once they’re gone, Cordell starts trying to find out where he is. Based on the natural light, he figures he’s somewhere above ground. The concrete floors tell him he’s somewhere industrial. That’s as far as his exploration goes before Neo returns and finds him awake.

Neo asks if Cordell knows why he’s still alive. Cordell recognizes his military boots and gives an army formal response: “Sir, yes, sir. Because you allow it, sir.” Once Neo realizes he can see under the blindfold, he starts trying to fix it. Cordell gets a bit snarky and points out the other senses he can use besides sight, like hearing to find a leaky pipe and smell of the antiseptic on Neo’s arm. Cordell asks if it was an accident or a warning. This earns him a few punches and the removal of his blindfold, not that he’s conscious enough to appreciate it.

Back at the ranch, Cassie and James arrive for the graduation party. However, they don’t walk in on the happy affair they were expecting. Everyone convenes in the kitchen and Stella finally voices what’s been going on: Cordell Walker is missing.

Immediately, Cassie makes the connection to the cabal that drove Miles into hiding before. She starts rambling off evidence and theories and James tries to take her into another room to talk privately. Stella won’t let them though. She says if they go, then everyone else will just start thinking the worst. It’s better to be honest and clue them in on what’s actually going on rather than letting their imaginations run wild. James is hesitant but he can’t argue with that.

Back in captivity, Cordell wakes up to the sound of a rather loud drop of water. He closes his eyes and tries to clear his head, only for memories to flood his mind. When he opens his eyes again, he sees Emily in the cage with him.

Immediately, Cordell starts apologizing for not being there for Stella’s graduation party. He promised her before that he would be there for his family and now, he’s let them down. But Emily isn’t listening and just tells him to look up. He eventually does and sees the origami swan being lowered through the vent in the ceiling. It drops right where he can grab it and he puzzles over what it could be. Emily offers a few ideas until he notices the knot pattern on the string, a code. 7500 is an Air Force code for a plane hijacking. He suspects there may be another prisoner being held in this building.

Side note: Did anyone else’s heart break a little when he started apologizing for being kidnapped? Because mine did. A lot.

Back at the ranch, Cassie and James start arranging for a ranger squad to look for Cordell. Then James gets the idea that they should have a team at the ranch as well and asks Trey to be the head of it. He can’t be a ranger just yet, but he can coordinate things on ground zero. Trey proudly accepts the role, and everyone splits off into their respective duties.

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Liam goes to talk to the kids. Stella is on the phone leaving a message for someone while August sits by the piano. August explains that Stella is leaving a message for Colton about what happened. Apparently, he and Geri are off on a trip to the mountains and it’s impossible to contact them directly. We also learn that Colton and Stella haven’t seen each other since the graduation ceremony at the school. It would appear that Colton has a few things he wants to work through on his own.

Behind them, James is assuring Cassie that they will find Cordell and that he understands this is hard for her after everything with Miles. Cassie admits to the similarities between both of her partners’ disappearances but that only steels her resolve to find Cordell as quickly as possible.

After they leave, August starts playing “When The Saints Come Marching In” on the piano. Liam joins him on the keys and Stella watches in the background. Unlike the last time Cordell was away, the piano doesn’t draw an outburst. I wonder what changed….

Back in the cage, Cordell is trying to speak to his fellow captive through the vent while Emily tells him to be quiet because if the person through the vent can hear them, the captors can too. Cordell understands that but he has no other way of communicating with this person and he has a lot of questions, mostly about why they were placed on separate floors like this. Then he asks why they’re even arguing about this and Emily reminds him that she’s just saying what’s going on in his head. Then we hear from the fellow prisoner as she tells Cordell to keep quiet. Before he can respond, Neo returns with two goons.

The goons put Cordell on a hook hanging from the top of the cage. Cordell brings up the antiseptic smell again and asks about the wound on Neo’s arm. “Bullet graze you?”/ “Like you don’t know.” Cordell smirks as he realizes that he got a shot off on the guy and he apologizes for missing, only to be rewarded with a cold water bucket to the face. Then the cattle prod comes out and it’s quite shocking for our dear Walker.

Emily makes herself known again and tells Cordell to ask about Jenny; she’s clearly important to Neo and it may distract him enough to stop. Cordell goes for it and, based on Neo’s reaction, quickly deduces that Jenny is his daughter. Cordell tries to connect with him through fatherhood but it’s not very successful as Neo just tells him to shut up. Then Sean joins them and he isn’t too happy to see the lack of torture. He takes the prod from Neo and turns it on him, forcing his sidekick to the ground. Sean will be taking over.

As Neo is dragged away, Sean tells Cordell not to worry, that he can make a new friend soon if he plays nice. That’s not happening anytime soon, so it’s waterboarding time for Walker. At least he won’t get dehydrated.

Back at the ranch, Liam has gotten changed out of his running clothes and is waiting pensively on the front porch. Soon, Ben arrives and Liam hugs him before he can even explain why he’s there.

In the next shot, they’re out on the running trail. Ben tries to get Liam to drink water while Liam is just concerned with finding clues. Ben rambles for a bit about how Cassie is a survivalist and they’d almost joined one of those challenge game shows together. But, when everything with Luke came up, things fell apart. Liam clearly isn’t listening to any of this and Ben apologizes; his rambling isn’t helping.

Liam then mentions how when he and Cordell were younger and Abby left Cordell in charge, his older brother would often play pranks on Liam. He’d pretend to be seriously hurt or missing to try and scare Liam. He always knew Cordell was just messing with him but he always took it seriously. After all, you never know.

Then Ben asks what time it is and Liam start to check on Cordell’s watch, only to find that the watch was stopped. His mind jumps to this being a clue, something intentionally done by Cordell that could fix the case. Then he starts to doubt himself; it could’ve been an accident or a mistake. But Ben tells him to trust his gut and call it in anyway. After all, you never know.

At Ranger HQ, James adds the watch time to the evidence board. Behind him, Cassie is going through pictures on Sean’s profile page, convinced that he’s connected to all this. Even if it’s flimsy, James is willing to take any lead he can get. After a failed phone call and a few minutes of swiping, Cassie finds a photo of Sean at his “workplace” and says she recognizes the mural in the background and the location. She also tells James that Sean said he sold sheet metal for work, likely the same kind of shady work that Miles had been investigating before he had to go missing. James takes that as a lead and they arrange to move out with a team. But, just as they’re leaving, they see Abby sitting in the atrium and James goes to talk to her.

When he sits next to her, Abby asks him what he thought it would take for Cordell to take a desk job. They both seem to know he never would, but they can dream. Abby knows he doesn’t have an answer because she’s asked him this before. She then reveals that she blamed him for Cordell going on the Rodeo Kings job after Emily died. James apologizes but that’s not what she came here to tell him. She says that she appreciates everything he’s done for their family and she knows he would move Heaven and Earth for them. But, for now, she doesn’t want to see him in her home again unless he has Cordell with him. He has more to say to her but Cassie pokes in to ask if he’s coming. Abby lets him go before breaking down in tears and starting to pray.

Side note: Is anyone else wondering what’s in Bonham’s Secret Sunday Sauce? And why even Abby doesn’t have the recipe?

Back at the ranch, it’s nighttime and a search party has been formed by rangers, troopers, local police, and members of the general public who want to help. Trey and Bonham seem impressed by the turnout as they walk up to the coordination tents.

Bonham mentions that he heard they found bullet casings near where Cordell disappeared. Trey confirms this and says they likely came from Cordell’s gun. At the very least, he got a shot off at them. But that doesn’t tell them where he is. Bonham asks if they really think they’ll find Cordell out here and Trey says it’s unlikely, but finding any clue at all would be helpful. He does want to bring up the morale of the team and suggests a pancake breakfast. Bonham thinks that’s a great idea and offers to help; it’ll help keep the family’s spirits up too.

Side note: How on earth did Trey and Liam not hear that gunshot?

Back in the cage, Cordell is looking more like a drowned rat than a ranger. His fellow prisoner speaks through the vent again and is more talkative than before. She tells him that they’re trying to break him and use him to replace Fenton as an inside man. Cordell asks her how she knows all that and she says that she’s a journalist; it’s likely that she uncovered the operation and had to face consequences. When Cordell wonders why they’re able to talk like this now, the woman claims that this is part of the breaking process. They want Cordell to have hope and then they’ll crush it by taking her away. When that happens, their captors will be there to pick up the pieces. Cordell doesn’t quite buy that but he doesn’t have time to question it because Sean is back.

Sean seems impatient for Cordell to break and join their ranks, and is irritated that it hasn’t happened yet. But he seems confident that Cordell will, eventually.

While the goons set up new methods of torture, the rangers get ready to break into where they think Cordell is being held. We go back and forth between shots of Cordell being hurt and the rangers moving through the building. But, just as we have hope that the cavalry will save the day, it turns out the rangers are in the wrong spot.

All is not lost, however, as Cassie spots a bag of peanuts. She thinks this may be a hint, a clue tying all this back to Sean because of a story she told on their date. James thinks she’s a little insane but she’s not backing down and insists it could be evidence. This eventually convinces him to get it run for prints.

Back at the ranch, Stella and August are playing a board game, but neither of them seems terribly invested in it. Stella asks the question they’re both thinking: What if this is the case that kills him? August doesn’t argue with her and brings up how back when Cordell was undercover, August would get nervous whenever Liam would leave the house in case it was to ID their father’s body. No one told them what was going on most of the time so they had to guess based on everyone’s demeanor if there was any bad news or good news or news at all. And now it’s happening all over again.

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Stella is tired of being babied and says she wants to do something. She can make calls or drive around; she can be helpful. August agrees and says he can too but she’s not having that. August is her little brother and it’s her job to protect him; he can’t be involved. August isn’t happy to hear that; she’s not any more qualified than he is to help, after all. When Stella argues, he says that she’s acting just like their dad and not in a good way. She’s playing the role of the selfish hero, sacrificing herself and forbidding anyone from helping. And who’s going to have to clean up her mess later? August is, just like Liam did for Cordell.

There’s more to say but they don’t have time for that because Geri and Colton have returned from their trip early. Apparently, they found a bit of signal so Colton could get Stella’s message and they immediately turned around.

The next day, Cassie is sitting and talking to an unknown figure about a recurring dream she’s had about being late for and missing a class because she couldn’t find it. In her dreams she wanders aimlessly, rushing to get to class but nothing she does works because she’s missing something vital. She draws an analogy between the dream and her current situation since the peanuts that she’d been so excited about turned out to be a bust. She feels stupid for being so stubborn about it now. Then we get a change in camera angle and see she’s talking to Abby. Abby tells her she’s not stupid for wanting to turn over every rock. There’s no shame in just "Knowing", especially not about something like this.

Just then, Liam pokes his head in with an update. One of the neighbors has a trail cam near where Cordell was abducted and there may be useful footage on the SD card. This gets Cassie excited again and she gets up to take it back to HQ.

Back in the cage, Cordell is still not doing well, though he is a bit drier, when he hears his journalist friend screaming a hospital code. Code Silver 10-32: gun in a hospital. This is how we learn that Cordell knows the location of several abandoned hospitals where he might be being held. The journalist also shouts that her name is Julia Johnson and she works for McMillan’s. As the last reverberations over her voice fade away, Sean’s replaces it and he informs Cordell that he’ll have a new friend very soon. The camera switches to a wide angle and we see that not even Emily is there and then the lights go out. Cordell is truly alone.

Back at the ranch, August and Geri are making cookies. August tells Geri that he appreciates what she’s trying to do but he wishes that she and the other adults wouldn’t baby him and Stella so much with what’s going on. It was one thing when they were kids but they’re bordering on adulthood now and they can handle it. Geri says she and the others understand that they’re older and they’ve definitely seen enough horrors, but no one wants to test the limits of what he and Stella can handle. She also points out that part of the distractions, like making cookies, is coping for the adults too. But she understands that August needs to find his own special way of coping.

Stella and Colton come in from outside and she recognizes the cookies they made as “Sad Cookies”. Geri asks Colton if he wants her to drive him home and he says that it’s okay; he wants to stay here at the Walkers. With Stella. If that’s okay. Geri doesn’t object and the two of them head upstairs, holding hands. Geri wonders aloud if what they’re doing is okay; they are technically adults, after all. Then we get a sweet August and Geri hug.

Side note: That whole interaction just makes me wonder what Colton and Stella were doing outside. Alone.

We’re now in Trey’s apartment. He’s mapping out the events and routes at the ranch when Cassie barges in. He knows he’s not technically a ranger yet but he’s trying to figure all this out. The way he sees it, it’s not as simple as the connection to Miles and Fenton; they could’ve taken him or James or even Cassie for that. These captors acted in a way specific to attacking Cordell, even picking a day where there would be a lot of vehicles in and out as the family moved back into their house so that they could enter the property undetected. Cassie agrees with him, even if it sounds a little crazy, and hands him a container of food so they can work and eat.

Side note: “You don’t even lock your door.” “Yes, but you still have a key.” I love them your honor. If I can’t have roommates, I’ll take this.

Back at the ranch, Abby is taking down the party decorations, much to Bonham’s surprise. She just thinks the moment has passed. Then Abby asks if this is it for their eldest son. Bonham is taken aback; he can’t believe she would even suggest that. He never imagined he’d have to worry about her thinking that way. She never has before. Oh, but she has. She’s always wondered. She’s just never spoken up about it before. But, there’s only so long that she can hold it in. This leads to a tender moment between the couple as Bonham realizes how much pain she’s shouldered alone for the sake of the family. Without another word, he starts helping her take down the decorations.

Side note: Did anyone else see ominous significance in them panning to the “Good Luck” banner?

Back in the cage, Cordell is sitting with Emily. He says that he’s not broken, but he’s thinking about the 36 hour time limit. Emily tries to keep his spirits up but it’s been a long and hard two days. Then he hears doors opening in the distance and Cordell starts to freak out. When Sean and his men return, Emily will go away. She can’t go away right now. He needs her. But she has to go. She reminds him that he’s not broken before she vanishes.

Side note: Cordell’s “Don’t leave me” wasn’t scripted! Just a little Supernatural Easter egg from Jared to us 😉

The door in front of him opens and two goons bring in Liam, bloody and bruised and blindfolded.

And on that delightful note, the episode comes to a close.

There are honestly so many things I could say right here but I’m still reeling a bit from this episode. It’s clear that Cordell’s captors are well organized and well versed in torture. They know all the right buttons to push and I have to wonder if they might succeed. I also have so many questions about Julia Johnson and what her role in all this is, not to mention what kind of trouble Stella is going to get herself into with her newfound vigilante attitude. Then, of course, there’s the matter of Cassie’s current mental state regarding Cordell’s disappearance and how that’s going to affect her job performance. And what of Cordell’s military history? What role does that have to play in all this?

All questions for next week, I suppose.

But what did y’all think of the season 3 premiere? Did anything surprise you? What was your favorite part? What do you think is coming next week? I look forward to reading the comments!

Catch up on Esther's detailed Walker Recaps and insightful Character Profiles, all found on Esther's Writer's Page