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A new episode of Walker is here and “Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away” from it.

This episode was an unexpectedly light one in comparison to last week’s angst fest. Based on episode descriptions for future episodes, I doubt it’s going to stay that way, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Before we get into the meat of the episode, I want to cover the two side plots that brought a lot of the levity.

Let’s start with Liam’s equine therapy.

Last week, Bonham advised Liam to seek therapy to help deal with his issues rather than wait around for Cordell to heal with him. Liam’s taken part of that advice and sought out an equine therapist named Chelsea who was willing to meet him on his home turf (or, at least, next door to it). However, he still hasn’t let go of having Cordell with him. He invites Cordell to join him on his session over breakfast and is quickly turned down, much to Bonham’s displeasure. Liam is disappointed by being rejected by Cordell once again.

But Liam’s not going to let that stop him from having a good time. He meets Chelsea and her equine helper, Ol’ Kenny, for his first session and he feels ready. He’s very experienced with horses, having grown up around them and now working with them daily, and feels confident going into this. He ignores Chelsea’s advice to take some deep, calming breaths to clear away his “negative energy” and tries to approach Kenny, who is having none of it.

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Liam falls on his ass to avoid Kenny’s hooves and asks Chelsea what went wrong. She tells him that Kenny can sense his negative energy and doesn’t like it any more than Liam does. He needs to clear his mind and let that negative energy out. Liam's seems skeptical but there’s only one way he’s getting on that horse.

The next day comes and Liam still hasn’t managed to even get close to Kenny. Chelsea doesn’t offer any other words of wisdom except that Kenny can be quite stubborn. Liam says that this is just one more thing he wished he could talk to Cordell about. He recalls how after Cordell came back from the Rodeo Kings job, he needed to get recertified as a ranger but he had trouble clearing the equine portion of the exam. It was like he had this emotional block and the horse wouldn’t let him near it. Liam wishes he could talk to Cordell and get some advice. Chelsea gently reminds him that the whole reason he even called her was because Cordell doesn’t want to talk to him, not about horses and not about captivity. Liam may not like it but it’s something he needs to accept. Liam takes a moment to consider this and then asks if Chelsea has any sugar cubes for him. She hands some over with a smile and Liam finally manages to get close to Kenny.

When we see Liam again, he’s riding Kenny and he seems to be feeling much better. He’s smiling and bonding with his new friend and bribing Kenny with the occasional snack. Chelsea is proud of how far he’s come, but there’s something else on her mind and Liam can pick up on it. He asks if there’s anything she wants to talk about. She admits that her partner has received an amazing job opportunity…in Michigan. It’s a great opportunity for her and Chelsea couldn’t be happier for her, but it means moving herself and her therapy helpers with her. Meaning, this is going to be their last session. Liam is thrown by this; he’s finally starting to feel better and now it’s just going to be over? Chelsea tries to reassure him by promising to give him the numbers for some other equine therapists and encourages him to continue on this path. This does very little to actually assure Liam, but there’s not much either of them can do about it. That’s just the way life goes sometimes.

Side note: I have to wonder why Chelsea took on a new client if she knew she was going to be leaving soon. I feel like that’s just asking for trouble.

Later in the episode, Cordell brings some new horses to the ranch for Liam. He knows that Liam has been doing better with his equine therapy and he thought having some new horses to work with would help. Liam is speechless; this means more to him than Cordell realizes. The timing is perfect. His therapist is leaving but he can keep the practice going with these horses and start his own thing. It’s a big job but he’s excited to do it and he has all the help he’ll need right there on the ranch, once he gets Colton’s permission of course. Bonham seems unsure; it’ll be a lot of work. But Liam is convinced that Walker Rescues could be a success and Stella reminds them that Gale had allegedly planned to put a horse rescue on that property. Why not make good on that promise?

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Before they go back to the house for family BBQ, Cordell holds Liam back and apologizes for not being there for him. He knows Liam has been struggling and he wants to help. He can’t help in the way that Liam wants (by talking about what happened) but he can try to help in other ways. Liam accepts the apology. He knows now that he can’t just rely on Cordell to deal with this anymore; he needs to find his own path to healing. Things aren’t quite perfect between the brothers but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Next, let’s talk about Stella.

In the last episode, Stella decided that she didn’t want to go to college after all. She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life or if Sauber is even the right school for her. But, that leaves her with the question of what she’s supposed to do now. This is a question she’s confronted with at the breakfast table. After August expresses his frustration over not getting the bigger room he thought he would be getting when Stella moved out, Bonham asks what she plans on doing now that she’s not going to school.

With everyone’s eyes on her, Stella gets flustered and says that she wants to “help people” like her mother did. Cordell says that that sounds very good and noble but it’s not actually a plan. Luckily for her, he’s already made some plans for her. Geri has agreed to let her work at the Side Step part-time. Stella is not happy with this plan. She argues that he promised they were going to work on a plan together; he counters that this is the plan and her shift starts at 10. Besides, she needs to earn some money to undo all of Shannon’s mods on the mustang.

Side note: In Stella’s defense, she’s never really had to face the consequences of her actions before. I’m not surprised she thought she’d be getting away with this one. Happy to have Cordell prove her wrong though.

She takes August to school afterward and neither teen is in a good mood. Stella congratulates August on managing to go a whole car ride without saying a word and asks what his problem is. He says that her not going to college has thrown a wrench in his plans for this year. It was finally going to be his chance to shine. He was going to get the bigger room and get a chance to be his own person, have some of the spotlight. But she’s still here and he is, once again, left with nothing. A bit melodramatic but that’s hardly new with these two.

Stella feels bad about that and says that her not going to college hasn’t exactly worked out for her either. It was an impulsive decision and now she really doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be doing with her life. One could argue that that’s all the more reason for her not to be in college, but August has to go to homeroom so there’s no time to talk about that.

Side note: It’s okay August. We all wanted your sister to go off to college already. We feel your pain.

Later, at the Side Step, we tune in just in time to see Stella doing a whole lot of Not Working while she gazes forlornly at a group of college students working on their laptops. Geri notices her spacing out and calls her over to the bar to talk about her schedule. Cordell said she needed to have at least one weekend shift so she’s going to have to cut some of August’s hours. Stella voices her frustration that her dad is still treating her like a kid. Geri defends Cordell’s actions; they all know that bussing tables isn’t exactly Stella’s dream job but she needs to do something. Stella says that she’s only 18 and fresh out of high school; how is she supposed to know what her dream job is at this stage in her life? Her dad didn’t know what he wanted to do fresh out of high school. Then there’s Liam, who always knew he wanted to be a lawyer but has since abandoned that path to become a rancher. She wishes that she had some Walker footsteps to follow in, some sort of guide to show her what to do next. Geri reminds her of another, very important Walker who she could follow: her mother. Stella is a little confused. She knew her mother did social work but not much about her path to get there. Geri lets her in on a little secret: Emily didn’t start off knowing what she wanted to do.

Later, Geri fills in some of the blanks for Stella over a plate of Disco Fries. When she, Geri, Cordell and Hoyt were all in high school, the four of them would often ditch class to get a plate of this snack from the local diner. Stella knew her dad and honorary Uncle got up to a lot of trouble, but she had no idea her mother did anything like that. Geri says that Emily did her fair share of wild stuff; she was just smarter about it and avoided getting caught. She was good at it; she was good at a lot of things, actually. Emily’s talents and intelligence meant that there was a lot of pressure put on her, especially from her family. Her father wanted her to be a lawyer, so she also thought that was what she wanted. But tragedy struck with 9/11. It made her think about her life and what she really wanted out of it, and she decided corporate law wasn’t it. But, even after that, she didn’t just know she wanted to enter social work. It took her a few years to figure all that out as a matter of fact. Geri assured Stella that she didn’t need to have everything figured out right away; she still had time to figure things out.

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Feeling a lot better about herself and her life choices, Stella goes to pick up August from school. He asks how his day went and he gives a very angsty “It was school” and makes it clear he doesn’t want to hang around any longer than necessary. But Stella has a surprise for him. She brings out the Lucky Bobblehead and tells August she’s not going to drive him home. In a Walker family tradition, she’s going to let him drive while the bobblehead looks on. August is excited to finally get behind the wheel and revs the engine to get the attention of some of his classmates. Unfortunately, his attempt to look cool backfires when he can only get the car to inch forward. Should’ve been easier on the clutch….

And now, the part we’ve all been waiting for: The Main Plot.

The episode opens up on a federal horse corral. It’s late at night and the horses are a bit anxious. A mysterious truck pulls up and the people inside look on. The woman sitting in the passenger seat comments that the horses look a bit scared. The man in the driver’s seat, the leader, tells her that they are scared. They’ve been taken from their homes and separated from their families, all to make room for more cattle ranchers. It’s not right for them to be here. They deserve to be free.

Our horse thieves get to work, unlocking the corral and herding the horses into the trailer. Once the corral is empty, they drive off into the night. A barn hand jumps out onto the dirt road to try and stop them but they are not deterred and they hit him hard in the shoulder.

Finally, they reach an empty field and let the horses run free. With their good deed done for the day, they escape into the night.

The next day, it’s Cordell’s first day back in the office. At breakfast, he’s still pretending everything is fine and that he has no troubles and accidentally hurts Liam again. Bonham is tired of his attitude and follows him outside to have A Word with him.

He feels the need to remind Cordell that while he was trained to withstand torture in the Marines, Liam was not. He didn’t have the physical or mental fortitude for that and Cordell can’t keep pretending like he does. Cordell says he understands and clearly wants to leave this conversation but Bonham isn’t done. He gets what Cordell is trying to do, tamping everything down and ignoring it. He understands a little bit of what Cordell went through in the military, the things he saw, things he did…. Bonham gets it, he does. But Liam doesn’t and he never will. He just wants Cordell to be more mindful of that going forward. Cordell agrees and gets ready to start his day right.

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Pulling into the office parking lot, Cordell seems happy to be there after all his time off. However, the sight of the Texas flag sets off a flashback and leaves him rattled. He tries to shrug it off and heads into the office for his big welcome and Trey’s big day.

Before the big meeting, Cassie goes into James’ office at his request. He wants to talk to her about Walker. He’s not in trouble, but James wants to avoid any. After everything that happened with Emily and the Rodeo Kings job, James is worried about putting him back in the field too soon. He wants Cassie to keep an eye out and let him know what she thinks about it. She agrees just in time for the big announcement of Cordell’s return.

Trey is entering his last week of Ranger training. Because of his unorthodox entry, skipping over the seven-year Trooper requirement, he’s had a slightly different training than normal. To round it off, he’s being given a case of his own to lead. Serial horse thieves have been taking and releasing horses from federal pens. Since there isn’t enough evidence to arrest the perpetrators on Just Cause, they need to catch the thieves in the act. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there’s another hurdle: because federal facilities have been targeted, the rangers will be sharing jurisdiction over the case with various federal agencies. It’s a good opportunity for Trey to learn how to navigate casework with the feds. He will have Walker, Perez, and James as backup, but this is mostly his show. Also, if he messes this up, both he and James will be out of a job. But, you know, no pressure.

They arrive at the scene of the crime and it’s already crawling with feds under various acronyms. Trey is nervous and looks to his friends for guidance but they’re not giving him an inch. This is his show and he needs to run it.

First question: who is he going to talk to first?

Trey thinks he’ll talk to someone from the FBI first. James, Walker, and Perez express neutral uncertainty and he explains himself by pointing out that the FBI got there first so they would have the most information. After a few seconds, he realizes that they’re just messing with him and heads off into the field to talk to some feds.

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James, Walker, and Perez hang back and admit he made the right choice. Cordell doubts he’ll be able to get much out of any of the feds regardless, but Cassie points out that Trey has a lot of natural charm. He may very well be the most charming man on the planet. Then, Cordell recognizes the FBI agent that Trey has chosen to talk to as a stonewalling killjoy that he and James had the displeasure of working with many years ago. It takes James a second, but he recognizes the agent too and they tell Cassie the story.

After some time, Trey returns to the group with no more information than when he started. When Cordell and James fail to hide their amusement at the failure of his charm, he accuses them of setting him up for failure, but they rush to assure him that it was all a coincidence. James also points out that he didn’t walk away with nothing. He learned an important lesson: the Feds don’t always play by the rules. A good ranger needs to be able to adapt.

So, what’s the new plan?

Trey thinks for a minute then points out that there are still four facilities that haven’t been hit yet. Between the rangers and the various federal agencies, they would have enough manpower to cover all of them for a stakeout. James gives him the green light and Trey gets started on working his magic.

That night, the stakeout is not going well. There’s been no activity at the corral that the rangers are watching, nor any reports from the others.

While they wait in the darkness, Cassie points out that they’re doing all this to catch some criminals that aren’t, in her opinion, doing anything criminal. Trey points out that they’re breaking into a federal facility, which is very much a crime, and James agrees. Cassie counters that the act itself isn’t that bad. The alternative for those horses is to potentially get sent off to slaughter. They deserve to run free. James argues that these criminals could go through legitimate channels to get the result they want and they’ve chosen not to. That’s where the problem lies.

Cordell speaks up then, a far-off look on his face, and says that “Well, sometimes people ignore legitimate channels when conditions on the ground suggest that a different approach might be needed.” Cassie and James share a Look and she asks Cordell if he’s agreeing with her. Cordell snaps out of his minor trance and says that he’s just tired.

James takes his lead and makes the call that since it’s nearly sunup and there’s been no action anywhere, that they throw in the towel and come up with a new plan.

The next day, Cassie goes to James’ office to talk about the night before. They’re both concerned about what Cordell said and the way he said it. It was unnatural and very off. But, before they can discuss the matter further, Trey has an announcement about the case.

They follow Trey into the conference room, and he tells them that he managed to convince the other agencies to share the evidence they’d gathered so far with him. How? He’ll never tell. He wasn’t able to get much new evidence but there were two receipts for a coffee truck that was only a few miles from two of the previously hit federal corrals. He checked around and found that there was another one of these coffee trucks a few miles from another facility. He knows it’s a stretch, but he thinks there might be a better chance of finding their perps at the coffee truck rather than staking out every federal corral in the state for nights on end. James decides to trust Trey’s gut and they head out.

Next, we see Trey and Cassie on opposite ends of the parking area for the coffee truck. Over the comms, Cordell reminds them that they’re looking for a silver, late model truck with a stock trailer attached to it. So far, they haven’t seen anything but there are plenty of trucks and trailers to look at.

Then, Trey notices something. He sees a silver truck, late model, with a trailer that’s just the right size and style to hold plenty of horses. Cordell asks for more details. They need to be sure that this is the truck. Trey notices that the side mirror is broken. He recalls that the horse thieves ran into the barn hand with the truck and that lines up. This must be their truck. It’s time for the rangers to intervene.

The problem comes in when the owners of the truck suddenly show up. As a ranger trainee, there’s very little Trey can do on his own; he’s supposed to wait for the actual rangers. But everyone is so far away, and the perpetrators are getting ready to drive off. He urges them to hurry up but there’s only so fast they can move. The thieves are getting ready to drive off and Trey, against James’ orders, hops into the back of the trailer so as not to lose them. The thieves drive off with an unexpected passenger and the cavalry arrives just a few minutes too late.

At the newest target, Trey manages to slip out of the trailer and avoid detection by the thieves. He waits behind a fence for further orders. James isn’t happy that Trey’s done this but he listens when Cordell and Cassie say they think he can handle the thieves on his own. James gives him the green light to do what he think he needs to do.

Trey smirks and jumps into action. He shouts at the thieves to freeze and uses his gun as a threat. He shoots the tires to prevent the thieves from driving off and herds two of the thieves into the back of the trailer and locks it while the leader runs away on an ATV. Once he’s sure the others are secure, he gets on one of the horses and chases after the leader.

What follows is an exciting chase scene. Trey manages to keep up with the leader on the ATV, but there’s only so fast he can go. He signals to the rangers on the road to speed ahead and cut off the ATV while he keeps up the chase from behind. After some chasing, Cordell manages to steer the truck to block off the ATV and the rangers get out to make the arrest.

While Cordell and Cassie subdue the leader, James starts giving Trey a lecture. He tells Trey that what he did was insubordination. It’s unacceptable. Ranger trainees have been denied for far less. And he knows for a fact that Cassie and Cordell….would’ve done the exact same thing. Welcome to the team, Ranger Barnett!

Side note: “Insubordination is a cardinal sin.” *snorts* Sure Jan.

Later, at Ranger HQ, Cordell is waiting for Cassie at their shared desk. She asks him what’s up and he tells her that she was right. She asks what she was right about (there are so very many things she’s right about) and he tells her that he saw the Look she and James exchanged the other night. He wanted to be upfront with her and acknowledge that he’s struggling with his mental health, but he’s not letting his problems consume him, so she doesn’t really have anything to worry about.

He decides to share something else with her. He opens a duffle bag with a folded Texas flag in it and tells her it once belonged to a Sergeant Cooper. Cooper was a good man, his mentor, and his best friend. Cooper died in battle and that was the reason Cordell decided to trade in his uniform for a badge. He confesses that he’s never told anyone about this, not even his family. It’s something that he just tamped down and tried to forget about. Being in captivity brought it all back to the surface, so that’s part of what he’s been dealing with. Cassie appreciates what it took for him to tell her that, but also suggests that he take the flag to Cooper’s family. If the flag meant that much to him, it would mean a lot to them too. Cordell tries to get out of it, saying that it’s too complicated, but Cassie insists. It’s the right thing to do and she has his back.

Later, he knocks on the door to Cooper’s mother’s house and introduces himself to the woman who answers the door, mistaking her for Mrs. Cooper. The woman is actually a nurse who takes care of her. She says that Mrs. Cooper hasn’t been feeling that well but she would see if she was up for guests, and invites Cordell in.

Cordell slowly enters the home and looks around. He sees several photos and little mementos. It’s a side of Cooper he never got to see. Then he sees a photo of Cooper in what looks like the army tent we saw in the flashback, the Texas flag hanging behind him. Cordell walks closer and stares at the photo for a long time. Then, he sets the flag on the counter near the photo and quietly leaves the house.

Side note: Anyone else getting the sense that Cordell blames himself for Cooper’s death?

He gets back in his truck and Cassie asks how it went. Cordell stutters and says that everything went great. It was great talking to Mrs. Cooper. He no longer has weird feelings about any of this. Then, to distract Cassie from his lies, he says that he’s hungry and asks if she’s up for grabbing something to eat.

And thus, another episode comes to a close.

This was another great episode. The writers have really stepped up their game this season!

I’m happy to see Liam taking steps toward handling his mental health without waiting for Cordell to catch up with him. They will need to talk about things eventually, but he can’t wait for Cordell forever. Cordell bringing Liam those horses was probably my favorite part of the episode and it brought us the sweetest broment of the show so far.

I’m glad they finally gave Stella a job. She may not know what she wants to do with her life just yet but she won’t figure it out by sitting in her room all day. She needs goals to work toward and some real-life experience. I also liked the moments between her and Geri. We’ve barely seen Geri this season and having them bond over memories of Emily was really sweet. I hope we get more of that.

Cordell is clearly still not doing okay. I’m hoping we get to see more military flashbacks soon, especially in relation to Sergeant Cooper. I also hope we get to see him being more honest with his friends and family about what’s going on in his head. Lying to Cassie right after promising he would always be upfront with her is not a step in the right direction.

All in all, another banger of an episode and I can’t wait to see where the next one takes us.

So, what did y’all think? Are we happy to see Trey as a ranger? How do you think he handled his first case? Are Liam and Cordell ever going to talk about what happened in captivity? Does Walker Rescues sound like a profitable venture? Was the teen melodrama bearable? And did Stella make the right choice by staying out of college? Let me know in the comments! I can’t wait to read your thoughts!

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

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