Monday, August 8, 2016

Hope You Are Having A Great Summer!

Hi everyone:

I hope you are all having a great summer prepping and enjoying life, because I sure have!  I have been traveling,  carrying out various home improvement projects, and re-working some of my prepping goals  -- basically just taking stock of where I am and what I want to do.  Some of my activities include:

Home Maintenance.  I made sure my furnace filters were clean and clear (my HVAC system uses a pair of permanent filters that must be cleaned every few months) and scheduled a yearly service on my HVAC system.  I purchased a new pressure washer and pressure washed all the concrete patios, porches, walks, and driveways on my property.  I still need to repaint the wood on my sun porch.  More one why in a minute. 

Personal Maintenance.  Continued working out when I could to build strength.  Personal achievements were making it 5K on a treadmill.   I also had routine doctor's appointments to check blood work, etc.  as diabetes runs in my family and I wanted to monitor that as I am approaching a certain age. 

Skills Maintenance.   Increased my practice with firearms and researched more on shooting fundamentals.   I am happy to say that my work with rifle platforms and handgun platforms has improved markedly.

Supply Maintenance.  Inventoried supplies I have accumulated and rotated out old stock.   I had been a little lax in this department.
This is a house on fire, floating down the river.

Spiritual Maintenance.  My home state of West Virginia was subjected to massive flash flooding in late June, and as part of my church relief team I spent time in the town of Clendenin, West Virginia handing out relief supplies as part of the volunteer effort. There is still a massive amount of cleaning up to do. Some parts of the state received two months of rain in 24 hours.

The biggest challenge I faced this summer was a physical condition that hampered my mobility.  I was diagnosed with psoas tendonitis of the left hip.   This inflammation of the tendons of the hip is painful and takes up to three to four weeks to recover from.  The psoas muscle, for the uninitiated, is used in virtually every movement of the hip.  As soon as my hip was feeling better I came down with a pretty bad upper respiratory infection as well, so I was out of commission for four weeks or so.  This slowed me down, but I am back up to full speed now.

I could have used my down time to review Fear The Walking Dead,  but honestly, the second season has not grabbed me like the first season did.  Much of the characterization that was developed during the first season was jettisoned and the show meandered through the first seven episodes.  I may go back and do a "best of" preparedness lessons learned during the first part of the season, but at this point I simply don't feel like writing seven reviews on disappointing episodes.

Alternatively, I would recommend Containment, a limited series on the CW network that follows an inner city area of Atlanta after a disease outbreak forces it to be walled off in a cordon to stop the disease from spreading.  It has some of the usual Hollywood tropes (people with guns are either gang bangers or racist rednecks, government conspiracies, etc.) but watching a quarantine area slowly devolve into chaos is an eye opener.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Some More Random Thoughts on The Walking Dead Episode 616

Here are some more random thoughts and items that I omitted from my review:

Negan has basically set up a feudal system. He is the lord, and the Saviors are his vassals. The peasants, or other colonies of survivors, work the land and feed the vassals and the lord. His New World Order is really the Old World Order. It's what Europe defaulted to after the fall of Roman civilization.

Like I said in my review, Rick is probably the biggest threat Negan has faced. Team Rick is well-armed, combat-proven, and utterly ruthless when confronted. The Saviors were totally unaware of Alexandria, and were taken by surprise when Rick attacked and wiped out an outpost of 30-40 people, plus hunted and killed the survivors, plus the recon team sent to retrieve the survivors. Add to that their motorcycle recon team was turned into a bloody smear on the pavement, and that even when they killed Denise they lost 4-5 guys and yet another road recon team to Carol, and you can see why Negan is concerned.

So he put his own recon teams out, and I am sure they have seen Alexandrian vehicles driving to Hilltop, so he knows they are working together. They have also done a close recon on Alexandria's perimeter (the Saviors in the truck identified Carol as being from there because the car and knew exactly where it was located). Negan put together this major effort to get Alexandria under his thumb because they are a threat. Right now Negan has numbers and organization, but if Rick can find other settlements being coerced by Negan and get them to work together ... then the game is up for him. His own people have to be whispering about the boogeymen from Alexandria. That speech he gave in the final episode was as much for the Saviors as it was for Team Rick.

It's not just about getting Alexandria's stuff. It's about stopping an insurgency before it begins.

That being said, I wonder where all the walkers are during his confrontation with the Alexandria gang.  My guess is that they had outward facing perimeter security to deal with walkers, and since the quarry has been emptied the walker concentration seems a lot lower in the area.

Armor:  Use it or not?
Finally, it was interesting to see the two survivors Morgan met are wearing makeshift body armor made out of sports equipment and motocross protective garments.   I am surprised no one  thought of that before.   Cut resistant Kevlar gloves are standard wear in industrial settings like sheet metal shops and machine shops.  Kevlar clothes have been on the market for a while now for motorcycle enthusiasts.  You'd think at least the bikers like Daryl would be privy to such information.

For that matter, from a survival standpoint, how advisable would it be for preppers to invest in cut-resistant clothes for post-disaster clean-up, or even body armor in case of armed encounters?  Many preppers already use plate carriers as load bearing vests for tactical gear. Ballistic plates are available commercially from vendors liker Infidel Body Armor  and AR500.  The question that we must ask is, does the cost and weight of body armor get outweighed by our perception of the likelihood we might need it?  Would we rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it?

My Fear the Walking Dead review will be posted later this week.   Until then ...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reviews for the last four Walking Dead episodes are now posted

Thanks for the patience.   I have been busy doing "stuff and thangs" in real life, but I am now up to date.  Links to all four reviews are posted below to prevent having to scroll through the blog:

Episode 613: The Same Boat

Hope you enjoy them!

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 616: Last Day On Earth

Episode 616: Last Day On Earth

***

Negan's Henchman: You made it.  Welcome to where you're goin'.


Synopsis: Well, here we are. Maggie is ill, and the group must make a road trip to the Hilltop's doctor because of the silly plot contrivance that got Denise killed in Twice as Far.  Rick, Carl, Sasha, Eugene, Aaron, and Abraham move out in the RV, but find themselves thwarted at every turn by the Saviors, who seem to be everywhere.   Meanwhile, Morgan finds and treats Carol, who has seemingly lost the will to live.   She is shot by the Savior survivor from the truck ambush, but Morgan breaks his code of not killing and shoots her assailant.   They meet another group of friendly survivors, who offer to help Carol.  Rick and the RV team are backed into a corner and forced to proceed on foot carrying Maggie, but are captured by the Saviors.   Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, and Rosita are pulled from a truck and forced to join them.   Negan, the leader of the Saviors, appears, and after a long speech about how they all now work for him, uses his bat, Lucille,to kill one of the group. 

The episode opens with light streaming through holes in the wall of a dark room, coupled by the sounds of breathing and voices, presumably from someone being held captive.   Meanwhile, Morgan continues searching for Carol and finds a horse with a saddle -- perhaps the one the unknown man was looking for in the previous episode.  He mounts up and continues moving forward.  meanwhile, the Savior survivor from the road ambush continues tracking Carol as well.

A dirty, disheveled man flees through the woods, pursued by the Saviors.   They catch him and the leader of the group tells the new captive that his people at the library had to die because the broke Negan's rules and fought them.   They then beat the man on the ground.

Back at Alexandria, Maggie's condition is deteriorating.  Carl is urgently packing weapons into his bag, because he and Rick are planning to take Maggie to the Hilltop for medical care, because, you know Denise is now dead (Folks, that one contrivance has killed the back three episodes for me).  Enid begs to go to help Maggie, and confronts Carl about why he wants to go.  She accuses him of wanting to get into a firefight with the marauders.

"If you don't come back, how am I supposed to live with that?" she asks.  It's a curious question, given that Carl and Enid, at least on screen, have not been shown to be that close of late.  More on this later.  He locks her into a closet and then goes outside, where Rick is loading more bags into the RV.  Sasha, Eugene, and Abraham insist on accompanying him as security.  As Rick works on the RV, Aaron joins the party.

A long range scope on a short barrelled rifle - okey dokey.
Just before leaving, Rick and Gabriel review the security measures for Alexandria in the event of a Savior attack:  guard posts are manned and ready, and cars are positioned for a quick getaway.  Drivers have been pre-assigned to each one, so that if they are forced to abandon the settlement, the survivors can make a quick getaway.   A rally point has been designated, and Gabriel's first priority is ensuring the safety of Judith.  It's an impressive amount of planning, much better than the pathetic escape plan from the prison in Season 4, but it's a shame it had to come to this.  A little more recon on the Saviors might have allowed Rick to better understand the nature of the threat and developed a better strategy.

Morgan finds Carol lying across the stoop of a building behind a wrought iron fence.  The secures the horse, clears the inside of the building, which appears to be the library referred to by the Savior captive earlier in the episode, and treats a knife wound to her abdomen.  She tells him to go back and let her go .  He tells her that they will stay for the night, but then they will return to Alexandria.

The Saviors drag the beaten man on the road.  He asks why they are doing this, because everyone in his group at the library is now dead.  The leader tells him they are going to make an example of him for someone else.

The RV is on the road, with Maggie lying in the back.  Rick assures her the doctor will be able to help, and that "as long as it's all of us, we can do anything."

Pride goeth before the fall.  Rick still does not understand the nature of the threat and how dangerous the Saviors are to Alexandria.  They have numbers, weapons and organization.   He is committing the sin of assumption -- assuming that just because things have always been a certain way, they will stay that way. If he's not careful, he is going to get everyone at Alexandria killed.  Just then, Abraham runs into a Savior roadblock -- the one where the Saviors are holding the captive as an example.

Rick’s group steps out of the RV. Rick puts his hands up and offers to make a deal. “Give us all your stuff,” the leader commands.  He also explains that they will have to kill one of the group as an example, but then they can "move forward."  Rick refuses before getting back in the RV to turn around.

“What if it’s the last day on Earth for you?” the leader asks before Rick leaves. “Maybe you should be extra nice to those people in that RV. Because you never know.”  Rick tells him to do the same, and the man says there are plenty of ways for Rick to get to where he's going.

As the RV retreats, Eugene finds an alternate route that offers more visibility to spot potential ambushes.   The group moves out to follow the new road, but encounter and even larger gang at the next roadblock.  They back away as the Saviors fire warning shots.

Carol tells Morgan that she cares about the people at Alexandria and would kill to protect them, but she no longer wants to.

“If you don’t want to kill, or if you can’t, then you have to get away from them. You do not get both."  She tries to get him to leave, but he tells her she can come back from this.

Conga line!
The RV encounters yet another roadblock: this time, a line of walkers chained together across the road. The group gets out to investigate. Aaron notices that one of the walkers has two of Michonne’s dreadlocks stapled to it, and Sasha notices Daryl’s crossbow bolts embedded through another walker’s chest. Saviors fire at them from the woods. Rick cuts the chain, letting the walkers loose. They pile into the RV and drive forward.  Rick notes they were firing at their feet, which means they really wanted them to go through the roadblock.  The Saviors are funneling Rick into the direction they want the group to go, shaping the battlespace by playing a game of chess, and so far they are thinking about five moves ahead of Rick.  They hit another roadblock and are forced to turn back again.  Maggie is growing weaker and feverish, and Rick is becoming increasingly desperate to figure a way through the gauntlet.

In over his head, Rick is.
The RV then encounters a giant wall of logs blocking the road.  The Saviors drop the captive beaten man over an overpass from a chain and hang him in front of the group.  The logs erupt in flames and the voice of the man from the first roadblock tells them to hurry, because they have to get to where they are going.  This took a lot of work, planning, and execution, as well as manpower and heavy equipment to accomplish.   Again. more on this later.  

In the nearby town, Morgan goes outside to kill a walker hanging from an antenna assembly, killed like the man at the wood roadblock.  He kills it, but returns to find Carol has fled.  He grabs the horse and searches the town, but she has been shot by the wounded Savior that has been tracking her.   He says he plans to watch her die slowly, and she taunts him, attempting to goad him into killing her. Morgan intervenes and tells him to drop the gun, but is forced to shoot the man, breaking his code.

Carol is given short shrift.  And bullet wounds.
This is probably the most interesting moment of the episode in terms of real drama:  Carol is in the same mental condition as Morgan when he was captured and helped to recover from his trauma at the cabin in the woods, and Morgan was forced to kill again.   The implications of this aren't even briefly considered by the story, however, because the man who was searching for his horse earlier in the day appears with a friend and offers to help Carol.  If this wasn't a season finale, the whole episode could have focused on the aftermath of this scene, but we can't here, because NEGAN IS COMING!

The group in the RV is contemplating their next move, with their fuel running low and a mechanical issue beginning to degrade the camper's abilities.  Eugene points out that the Saviors are looking for the RV, and probably would not expect them to travel on foot.   He volunteers to continue driving around in the RV as a decoy while the rest of the group proceeds on foot through the forest carrying Maggie on a stretcher.  The plan fails, as the stretcher team is surrounded by dozens of Saviors, and Eugene is already there, captured, beaten, and on his knees.   They are surrounded by over a hundred of their enemy, and are forced to surrender.

Inside the dark room, the voices of Rick and the Saviors are heard, the door opens, and the room, which is the back of the van, is flooded with light.   D pulls Daryl, who has been shot, Michonne, Glenn, and Rosita from the back and forces them to their knees with the others.  

My name is Negan.  You killed my men.  Prepare to die.
Negan steps out of the RV with his trademark weapon Lucille.  He explains to Rick (he knows Rick by name; more on that later) that the Saviors  are in control and they now work for him.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan delivers a slick, smarmy performance that is mesmerizing, but I think the speech went  a little bit too long.   He explains that he doesn't want to kill anyone, but because Team Rick has killed so many of his men, "Not cool," he says, that he is going to kill one of them with Lucille to teach them a lesson.   Rick has totally lost his control at this point, and realizes just how much he has underestimated the Saviors.

Negan's uses Lucille to beat one of the group to death, but the victim's identity is not revealed.

Leaving aside the issue of the cliffhanger, this episode is hampered by the fact that the whole plot is propelled by the death of Denise and the illness of Maggie.  If Denise had not been killed off, she could have treated Maggie at Alexandria.   That Negan was going to be introduced was a given, but we could have found a much more believable way to get there.


Preparedness Discussion

There have been critics of how the Saviors could be so all knowing as well.  We know from previous episodes that the Saviors know the terrain, and have the location of Alexandria pinpointed.  They probably know by now that the Hilltop and Alexandria are working together by now as well.  All they have to do is set up an observation post (OP) on the road that leads to Hilltop and watch movement along the route, something well within their abilities.

The question becomes one of how did they know the Alexandrians were traveling to the Hilltop on that day, on such a very important mission.  The answer is pretty simple - there is a mole in Alexandria.   Someone is feeding the Saviors information.  It's the only way it makes sense.  My money is on Enid.   She is the one who gave Maggie the pickle jar and then took her guard shift at the wall.   Shortly thereafter Maggie became sick.   Enid could have easily dropped a not over the wall on guard duty letting the Saviors know that the Alexandrians would shortly need to leave for the Hilltop thanks to her poisoning Maggie.  Remember her abruptly cut off discussion with Carl in JSS?  At the time I thought she was working with the Wolves.  What if she was working with the Saviors?  She tries to get Carl to stay at the settlement, and when he won't, tries to go with him.  She seems to be strident to the point of desperation during the exchange, so perhaps she knew what was coming and wanted to keep Carl safe. 

The Saviors have a master strategy of ratcheting up pressure and and slowly cutting off avenues so that Rick and his team are forced into a ground of their choosing, thus shaping the battlespace.  What does this mean?  From Wikipedia:

Battlespace is a term used to signify a unified military strategy to integrate and combine armed forces for the military theatre of operations, including air, information, land, sea, and space to achieve military goals. It includes the environment, factors, and conditions that must be understood to successfully apply combat power, protect the force, or complete the mission.
In other words, by shaping the battlespace, Negan is using the terrain, his forces, and the weaknesses of the opposing forces to ensure a victory.

Why is Negan doing this?  He is fighting a strategic war.   Rick is fighting a running tactical battle.   The key as to why he was willing to invest so much to run Rick to ground lies in his speech.  He perceives Rick and his group as a danger for "killing more of my guys than I am comfortable with."  Not only has Alexandria evaded detection until now, but they have the knowledge and combat skills to pose a serious threat.   They have taken down one Savior encampment, killed many more of his men than probably any other foe, and are working with another settlement to thwart Negan's plans.

The Saviors have more numbers than any other single group in the area, but if Alexandria can convince other survival settlements to work together, it can at least partially negate that advantage.  Since the Saviors don't really produce anything, but rely on terror and intimidation to extort supplies from other colonies, once that happens, it's game over for Negan if he can't get what he needs from other people.

The Saviors' "Operation Alexandria" was not implemented to just to show Rick who was the boss.  It was carried out to put down the start of a rebellion against the Negan and his group.

Rick and his group are simply to good at surviving for Negan not to address in some way.  Rick's first instinct is to kill the Saviors who oppose his group.  What if, instead of going on a raid to kill the Saviors, he had proffered up something that would have allowed the Hilltop folks to get Craig back and satisfied the demands of the rogue group.  Since they know where the solar panel factory is, they could have had Eugene put together a solar array with batteries and and the controller to hand over to the Saviors in lieu of Gregory's head.  The Hilltop people could have handled it, thus keeping the Alexandria's existence secret and allowing the group to do a proper recon.

Then again, the Saviors may have killed Craig anyway.  Eventually, Rick and his people would have had to fight, but at least they could have done more to shape the battlespace in Alexandria's favor.

Preparedness Lessons from Episode 616:

  • Practice operational security, but work on finding like-minded individuals you can forge mutual assistance agreements with.
  • Take a long, hard look at who might be your potential adversaries in a survival situation, and devise methods for dealing with contingencies through hardening structures and other defensive measures.
  • Don't underestimate the challenges of a survival situation. Real life has a way of burning through fuel, supplies, ammunition, and equipment in a way that cannot be fully understood until you have experienced it.
  • Always try to have an alternative to fighting.  Generally, in a firefight, lots of people are going to die.  Some of them will be people you hold dear.
Next week:  The Walking Dead is done until October, but Fear the Walking Dead is kicking into high gear.  I am actually looking forward to the second season, as at least people doing stupid things in a survival situation would make more sense at the beginning of the downfall of civilization.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 615: East

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Episode 615: East

***

Morgan:  What I believe, I'm not right. There is no right. There's just the wrong that doesn't pull you down."

Synopsis:  Carol encounters Saviors on the road, and kills most of them before fleeing on foot.   Her absence is discovered, and Rick and Morgan go out to find her.   Meanwhile, Daryl rolls out on his bike to track and kill D, the Savior who killed Denise.   Rosita, Glenn, and Michonne go after him.  They try to talk him out of his pursuit, but he walks off, and so does Rosita, who also blames herself for the doctor's murder.   Glen and Michonne are captured by Saviors.  Rick and Morgan track Carol to a farm area where they encounter a man beset by walkers.  He leaves behind a spear like the ones made by the Hilltop.  Morgan tells Rick to head back while he continues the search.  Maggie has Enid cut her hair, but begins suffering abdominal pain.  Daryl and Rosita infiltrate the camp where Glenn and Michonne are being held, but D surprises them from behind and shoots Daryl.

Carol hits the road and kills some Saviors.
The plot contrivances of previous episode come back to haunt us in East, where the death of Denise and Carol's crisis of conscience split the group and make them easy pickings for the Saviors.  We open on a car idling on the road with a bullet-smashed windshield and blood dripping on the pavement. Carol has left Alexandria, and has encountered a group of Saviors in a pickup truck. She tries to play dumb, but they know her car, with it's stakes pointed outward to trap walkers, came from the entrance to Alexandria, and tell her the town is only 12 miles away. It's clear the Saviors have been conducting a thorough reconnaissance of the settlement. She asks them to let her go but they tell her no, and she kills most of them with a gun hidden in her sleeve.   She tracks who she believes is the last survivor, who attacks her with a knife.  She shoots him and flees on foot.

Back in Alexandria, Rick and Michonne snuggle in bed.  Michonne gets dressed so that she can help Glenn and Maggie improve security.   She tells him Maggie is worried about an attack, but Rick is confident they can repel the Saviors.

Pride goeth before the fall.

Michonne joins Maggie and Glenn outside, where Maggie has collected part of their arsenal.   She suggests they disperse the weapons in caches only they know about to guarantee weapons access in case of an attack.  That way, the Saviors can't do to them what they did to the Saviors -- lock down their armory and prevent them from defending themselves.

HALLELUJAH!!!!  Someone has seen the light!

Daryl approaches the gates on his motorcycle.   He is going out to extract revenge on D for Denise's death.   Rosita tries to stop him, but he leaves anyway.  Glenn, Rosita, and Michonne drive after him, with Rosita leading them to the site of the ambush.

Tobin shows Carol's farewell note to Rick.  They confer with Sasha and Abraham at the gate and realize Carol took one of the cars recently placed to guard against walkers the day before, probably when the guard shift changed.   Rick and Morgan grab a car and pursue her.

Later, Maggie stops by the pantry to eat lunch before beginning a guard shift.  Enid offers to cover her shift so she can rest.  Enid hands her a jar of pickles as she leaves.

At the scene of Carol's shootout, a Savior survivor stumbles out of the truck and hides as Morgan and Rick approach.  They find Carol's tracks and set off for her on foot after stashing the car.   The wounded Savior follows behind them at a distance.

Rosita, Glenn and Michonne arrive at the spot where Dwight killed Denise. They find Daryl’s motorcycle hidden underneath some branches, confirming Rosita’s hunch that Daryl came back to kill Dwight. Rosita points in the direction that Dwight escaped, but wonders if they shouldn’t let just let him go and do what he needs to do.  They catch up to Daryl in the woods, but Daryl won't listen.  Rosita decides to join him, and the move off in pursuit of Daryl.  Glenn and Michonne turn back, but in the midst of holding a discussion in the middle of a forest filled with bad guys (because that is a good thing to do)  they are captured by D's Savior crew.

Daryl is on the warpath.
Rick and Morgan discuss Carol.  Morgan tells him he knows that he banished Carol at the prison for murdering two people, and how he would handle the issue today. Rick says he would thank her.  Morgan points out she was able to save the group at Terminus, and that people can come back.  They encounter a man at a farm swarmed with walkers in makeshift body armor, looking for his horse.  They try to question him, but he runs off.  Rick takes a shot, but Morgan spoils his aim.  Morgan tells him to go back and he will continue the search.   He confesses to the events regarding the wounded Wolf he captured at Alexandria, and that the Wolf later saved Denise, and Denise was able to save Carl.

Of course, if he hadn't taken Denise to treat the Wolf and just killed the dude in the first place, Denise would never have been in danger, but that way lies the madness of actual logic as opposed to Hollywood plot logic.

Someone is about to get an ouchie.
Rick returns to Alexandria to learn the party that pursued Daryl has not yet returned.   Maggie asks Enid to help her cut her hair, but collapses in pain as she is finishing.   They need to get her to Denise ... oh, wait.  They can't.  She will have to go to the doctor at the Hilltop, right as the Saviors are closing in on Alexandria.

In the woods, Daryl and Rosita creep up on the Saviors’ camp where Glenn and Michonne are being held. Glenn tries to scream a warning to Daryl through his gag, but Daryl is caught off-guard by Dwight sneaking up behind him. Dwight has a gun trained on Daryl’s back. He shoots Daryl. Blood sprays across the screen, with Daryl's fate left uncertain.  The fate of Carol is also left unsettled.

Preparedness Discussion

The overconfidence of Team Rick is its undoing, in the end.   They have become so accustomed to beating the odds that they really cannot conceive of losing or being beaten.  The Saviors are surrounding Alexandria, and are tightening the noose at every turn.  Rick still has no idea of the size and disposition of the forces he faces.   I feel this is going to bite them in the collective rear during the season finale as it does here.  While Daryl and Rosita move stealthily through the woods in combat mode, Glenn and Michonne do not and it gets them captured.   Survival situations are a full-time proposition.   You have to maintain your focus completely, especially if hostile forces are nearby.

Daryl never should have left.  Denise is dead.  He cannot change that.  He can help protect the others, but instead goes off on a rather selfish revenge errand, and pulls Rosita along with him.   Likewise, I question whether Rick should have pursued Carol. She wanted to leave and they have other priorities.

Finally, everyone is seriously underestimating the Saviors.   They have now managed to successfully ambush our heroes three times, killing one and taking four others hostage.  The crew taking Carol went down for the count, but all in all, the Saviors have numbers, and the Alexandrians do not.  Further, the Saviors have proven they are not above torture and murder to achieve their ends.   That means the four captives are now bargaining chips to use against Rick.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 615:

  • Don't overestimate your abilities, or underestimate your opponent's abilities.
  • If faced with a potential attack, consolidate your numbers and your position to maximize the potential for success. 
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to supplies.  Cache critical supplies as discussed in previous reviews in several locations to prevent a catastrophic loss.

Next week:  They have to get Maggie to Hilltop, and Negan makes his entrance with Lucille.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 614: Twice As Far

Episode 614: Twice As Far

**

Eugene:  Do you apologize for questioning my skills?
Abraham:  I apologize for questioning your skills.  You know how to bite a dick Eugene, and I mean that with the utmost respect.

Synopsis: The pantry shelves are getting filled with goods from The Hilltop, and two small groups go out on supply runs.   Abraham and Eugene leave on foot to check out a local metal shop, and Denise talks Rosita and Daryl into checking out an apothecary shop for needed medications.   Abraham and Eugene separate, and Eugene gets captured by D, the blond man who robbed Daryl in the burned forest, but who now appears to lead a gang of Saviors after suffering horrific burns to his face.   D and his group ambush the other party, and shoot Denise in the head with Daryl's crossbow.   Eugene bites D's crotch as a gunfight ensues, and the Saviors retreat after losing several men.  The group carries an injured Eugene back to the settlement, and later retrieve Denise's body for burial.    Daryl feels burdened by guilt over Denise's death, and Carol, having decided she cannot kill again, leaves Alexandria, seemingly for good.

Twice As Far begins with a series of tranquil set piece moments that seems to show Alexandria has reached an equilibrium of sorts:  food deliveries are arriving regularly from the Hilltop, guards, including Father Gabriel, make their rounds, and Eugene, whose mullet has been trimmed into a ponytail, is helping out guarding the front gate.   Carol smokes and fingers the rosary beads she found in the Savior safe house;  she and Tobin are now dating.

Rosita is taking the break-up with Abraham hard;  she is sleeping with Spencer, but it is clear she has regrets.  Later, when he approaches her about having dinner, she agrees, but is dismissive about it.

Morgan spends his days practicing Aikido while working to build a better jail cell with a metal door and cinder block walls int he basement of the brownstone.   He explains to an inquisitive Rick, "it'll give you choices next time."

Carol and Daryl have a discussion on the nature of the threat of the Saviors.  He has checked out his motorcycle and found the wooden figure D was carving when the met in the burned forest.  He tells Carol he should have killed him when he had the chance.   He asks Carol what the Saviors did to her and Maggie, to which she responds, "To us?  They didn't do anything.

These scenes are repeated several times showing that Alexandria is in a calm before the storm.  It's a rare moment of tedium for the survivors, one that will not last.

Denise, the surviving doctor, watches Abraham and Eugene leave on foot on a scavenging mission.   She is holding a page from a phone book and wants to go out on a mission of her own.   She asks Daryl and Rosita to take her to a nearby apothecary that might have antibiotics and other drugs they need.   They agree to go but tell her to stay behind; she tells them she is going to go, with or without them (this is simply ludicrous from a survival standpoint, but more on this later in the Preparedness Discussion).

The trio travel by truck until they are forced to move through on foot due to a downed tree.  Rosita suggests they take a short cut via railroad tracks, but Daryl insists on taking the road.   Denise and Daryl move off separately, while Rosita travels alone. This is not a good move.   There are so many dumb moves made by characters in this episode, in fact, that it seems what the group feared when they arrived at Alexandria has come to pass -- everyone has become complacent and careless.  They are noisy, separate into small groups that could be easily swarmed by walkers, and take the potential threat of the saviors less than seriously.   It leaves you shaking your head that the writers were this nonchalant with the characters and the plot.

The odd couple on the road.
Meanwhile, Abraham and Eugene walk into a local down and have a discussion on Eugene's new outlook.  It's more than a new haircut.  He has learned to use weapons, is pulling guard duty, and has been flirting with the women in the settlement.  Abraham isn't convinced he is ready for the world.

FYI, Eugene is my favorite character;  he's a big guy who's smart and knows how to use firearms.  He reminds me of a certain blog writer ...

Eugene and Abraham find a machine shop with a furnace, and Eugene proclaims he is looking for a
spot just like this to begin making lead bullets to help replace their dwindling stocks of ammunition. If they can cast the bullets, they can use spent shell casings, along with primers and gunpowder, to make new rounds of ammunition.  They are interrupted by a walker who was killed by molten metal poured on his head.  Eugene tries to kill it with a machete but cannot penetrate the now hardened metal (Game of Thrones Season One, anyone?), and Abraham is forced to intervene.  Eugene claims he didn't need assistance, and Abraham leaves, telling him to find his own way home.

Daryl, Rosita, and Denise find the apothecary shop, and Daryl pries the door open.  Denise
apologizes to Rosita for choosing Daryl over her and asks her who taught her how to use weapons. Rosita says it wasn’t Abraham. He was just one person in a long list of people who taught her a lot of things. They loot the shop of the drugs, and Denise retrieves a keychain with the name "Dennis" on it.  She investigates the backroom, and finds a badly decomposed walker in a leg cast.  An industrial sink filled with water and blood has a child's shoe protruding from it, and an empty play pen in the room suggests the walker, a parent, drowned her child in the sink in desperation to keep it from being eaten by walkers.  Denise flees outside, crying.

Their mission complete, they head back together on the tracks.   Daryl praises Denise for finding the apothecary shop, and the two discuss her brother Dennis and his brother Merle, noting similarities.

April Fool, Alexandria!
Denises insists on checking out a car with a walker inside because a cooler might contain something they can use.  She kills the walker and retrieves a can of orange soda from the cooler.  Daryl is angry she risked her life for a soda (but he is risking her life by having her outside the walls).  She replies that it was not about the soda, she was trying to help them.  She explains she had Daryl go with her because she reminded him of her brother and made her feel safe, and tells Rosita she wanted her to go to help her cope with being along for the first time in a long time.

“You’re strong, and you’re smart and you’re both really good people,” Denise urges, “and if you don’t wake up— “and just then a crossbow bolt from Daryl's old crossbow strikes Denise in the eye, killing her. D, the man who stole Daryl's bike, appears holding the weapon with a group of Saviors.  He is now horribly burned on one side of his face, and they have Eugene as a hostage.  They disarm the pair and order them to lead them to Alexandria.

He flew to close to the sun ...
Eugene claims they have a friend hiding behind some nearby oil barrels and they should kill him first; he uses the distraction to turn and bite D's crotch while Abraham begins killing Saviors.   Daryl and Rosita retrieve their weapons and return fire as well.  Several Saviors are down, and D, who has now freed himself from Eugene, orders a retreat.  Both sides leave to lick their wounds;  Eugene has been grazed by a round, and Denise is dead.

Afterwards, Rosita keeps watch over Eugene in the infirmary. Eugene wakes, and tells Abraham that he wasn’t trying to kill him earlier. Abraham apologizes for questioning his survival skills. Later, Abraham goes to Sasha's house and tells her he is ready for a relationship.  She lets him inside.

Daryl and Carol bury Denise. She watches Daryl pocket the Dennis keychain and take a drink of whiskey as he contemplates her death.

“You were right,” Carol says, referring to Daryl’s regret about letting the Saviors live.

Later, Tobin reads a note from Carol in which she writes that she’s leaving Alexandria. “I love you all here, I do, and I’d have to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t,” she writes.

Another day dawns in Alexandria, and  Rosita guards the front gate instead of Eugene. Sasha glances at Rosita from her post on the platform.

Morgan looks at Carol’s porch. The swing is empty.

Preparedness Discussion

The notion that Denise should be allowed to go on a scavenging mission when the group knows that there are walkers and more Saviors out there is simply stupid.  It's a horrible plot device used to drive later actions; that is, plotting simply for plotting's sake.  It drives the action for the rest of the story, and not in a good way.  The reaction to this development, from preppers everywhere, should have been something like this:


Denise is the only doctor left in the settlement.  She should never be allowed outside the walls.  She has essential, irreplaceable knowledge that cannot be duplicated easily.   If fact, in the event of an attack or incursion, she should have her own close protection detail that locates her and keeps her safe until the crisis has passed.   Denise cannot be replaced.  Instead, we get this ad hoc scavenging mission that finds needed medical supplies but gets the one person best qualified to use them killed.

Likewise, Eugene has irreplaceable scientific knowledge.   He repaired the solar arrays powering Alexandria.  He is tacking the issue of replacing finite ammunition.  He is the smartest guy in the room, for lack of a better term.  While he doesn't possess the specialized knowledge of a doctor, he knows a great deal about a wide array of subjects.  He is an everyman, a jack of all trades, and needs to be protected as well.

It's about time the subject of reloading ammunition was broached in the series.  While the downfall of civilization occurred rapidly, and no doubt there are still supplies of ammunition lying undiscovered in smaller, out of the way gun shops, private homes, retail distribution warehouses, and even military bases, finding it takes time and travel via cars.  Further, while stores may be cleaned out of ammunition, the reloading supplies would probably be untouched.    Reloading is a skill that requires time and effort to learn. It's not something you do on the fly with zombies at the door.   If they can find or cast the bullets and either make or find supplies of powder and primers, the Alexandrians can make their own ammunition.  They sure have been running through a bunch of it lately.  For the record, complete "bullets" are called cartridges or rounds of ammunition.   The bullet is the hard pointy part at the front. 

This brings us to the next topic:  where are all the automatic AK-47s coming from?  Rick has one, and one of the Saviors have one.  Automatic weapons are heavily regulated in the United States -- as I understand it, any automatic weapon made after 1986 cannot be owned by a private citizen.  Those made before that date may be owned by collectors, but those weapons sell for as high as $30,000.  They are rare.  Again, I am not an expert, and I welcome clarification, but the notion that everyone has a fully automatic AK or AR variant sitting in their closet here is Hollywood fiction.

The ARs are more believable than the AKs; the AR platform is the primary weapon of the United States military, and parts are fairly interchangeable between models.   I built my own semi-automatic AR from parts I ordered online and the help of a family friend a few months ago.  Conceivably, you can switch a mil-spec AR upper receiver to a military issue M-4 or M-16 lower capable of automatic fire retrieved from a military outpost and have a fully automatic weapon.  This would give the ability to use different uppers, with say Magpul forward furniture like Rosita's with a fully automatic lower. Abraham's weapon, a Vietnam-era M-16A1, is possibly a collector's item someone scavenged.

Finally, there is the issue of the Saviors.  They are working themselves closer to Alexandria, patrolling in an attempt to recon the community before pressing home an attack with their superior numbers.  This is where Alexandria's lack of hardened defenses becomes a glaring problem.  More watch towers are only a start;  they need battlements so they can move along the top of the wall and respond to threats, and the firing positions need to be fortified with sandbags and other protection.  All the lookouts are as of now are sitting targets.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 614:

  • Make sure that personnel in your preparedness group with essential, critical skills are not on the front line or put into unnecessary danger.  Have a plan to protect the human assets.   Cross-train the group so that essential skills are learned by several members to build redundancy.
  • Reloading should be a consideration for any preparedness group for long-term survival.
  • Harden your bugout location against attack.  You can use physical barriers, security systems, sentries, and patrols to guard against attack.

Next week:  Carol's crisis of conscience leads her to make a decision that will affect the entire group;  Daryl goes out for revenge and finds a whole mess of trouble.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 613: The Same Boat

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Editor's Note: Sorry this is so late.  Real life has been very busy in the last ten days; I have have been doing "stuff and thangs" around the house and at work.

Episode 613: The Same Boat

*****     

Carol:  We had to stop him
Paula:  Sweetie, we are all Negan.

Synopsis:  Carol and Maggie are captured by survivors of the raid on Negan's compound and trucked to a safe house, where they are interrogated for information.   Carol fakes being afraid in order to make their captors believe she is weak.   Eventually, they both escape, kill their captors, and ambush Negan's scout team who comes to help the others, burning them alive.   Rick and the assault team, who have tracked the group to the safe house, enter with their prisoner, who Rick summarily executes.  Carol and Maggie are shaken by the experience, and Carol begins to doubt whether she can continue to kill in a world owned by the dead.

The Same Boat is the episode that needed to happen after the gut-wrenching, brutal Not Tomorrow Yet. The group has headed down a morally ambiguous path, and it shows just how far the members have strayed from their principles when one of the bad guys points out that they massacred and entire survivor group.   Make no mistake about it -- Negan and his followers are very bad people.   They prey on the weak and suck off of them like leeches, using violence and intimidation to have their way.   That being said, what price have our protagonists paid to vanquish them?  The most bitter truth of the events that have unfolded is that Negan leads a much larger group than previously suspected.  Alexandria has hit him first, and hit him hard, but Negan has survived, and now the element of surprise is gone.  They have taken down a couple of outposts and some random biker guys, but now a war has been declared.  Negan has a much deeper reserve of troops and, I'm betting, firepower, than Team Rick.

Outside Negan's compound, an armed man ambushes Carol and Maggie, who are guarding the perimeter around Negan's compound.   Carol shoots him in the arm but spares his life.  Three more Saviors, including a fierce redhead named Paula, get the drop on the duo and capture them.  Paula is the one talking to Rick at the end of the previous episode.   Rick offers to trade Carol and Maggie for Primo, the man Team Rick is holding.    Paula tells Rick she'll consider it.  They then bind and put hoods over Carol and Maggie and put them in a car.   Paula radios for backup, and they head for a nearby backup location -- a former slaughterhouse stocked with food, weapons and gasoline.  When they arrive, walkers are in the building, and the Saviors clear the area while putting Maggie and Carol in a makeshift cell.  Maggie begins trying to cut her bonds on the corner of a wall while Carol finds rosary beads on the ground and hides them for later use.  (Editor:  I found out later this was the same set used in the movie Saw).

Breathe, Carol, breathe.
Carol pretends to hyperventilate.  Maggie acts concerned, unsure of whether it's real or Carol is pretending. She insists the Saviors take off the gag, which they do, and express their disdain at her weakness.   She prays with the rosary, and begs them not to hurt Maggie because she is pregnant.   She asks an older woman, Molly, who is already dying of cancer, not to smoke around Maggie, and one of the Saviors, Chelle, sides with Carol and orders Molly outside.

The male savior Carol wounded is still losing blood, and his arm is going numb, dying from lack of oxygen.  He becomes violent and threatens to kill Carol, but Paula intervenes, telling him they need the pair as insurance until their scout team arrives.  They are desperate to get out, as the weapons and food stashed in the slaughterhouse have been stolen by persons unknown, but they still have gas for the scout team's car.    They are out-gunned and out-manned if Team Rick manages to track them to the safe house.   The male savior, Donnie, goes after Carol anyway, and Paul knocks him unconscious with a strike from the butt of her pistol.

Carol thanks Paula for helping Maggie, and Paula calls her pathetic.   Rick radios in, asking about the trade, but the transmission is filled with static and hard to make out.  Carol also lets it slip that they attacked the Saviors because of what happened on the road with the biker gang, thus keeping the link to the Hilltop settlement a secret.  She says they had to stop Negan. Paula laughs and tells her "we are all Negan."  It sounds like the Saviors are the "Cult of Negan" and since they call themselves Saviors, I think think we can assume there is a Christ complex happening with their leader.

Note the bug out bags.
 Chelle interrogates Maggie in another room, where she states that she and Carol "are not the good guys."  Chelle has some sympathy for Maggie because she was pregnant and lost the baby, but rebuffs Maggie's attempts at sympathy.  She is also missing part of a finger because she was punished for stealing gas to go look for her boyfriend, who Daryl killed on his bike with the RPG.

Paula tells Carol that her boss was the first person she killed after the fall of civilization, because she was trapped at her job while her family was dying at their home.   She stopped feeling bad about it after she reached double digits, and Carol tries to make her feel guilty by saying she lives among killers; Paula responds by pointing out Carol is a killer, too.  They are all killers now.   It's a continuation of the same kill or do not kill debate that his been raging since Morgan arrived.   The only difference between Carol and Paula is that Carol still remembers every person she has killed and keeps a tally of them in a notebook.  She still has her humanity.  It's a powerful scene, superbly acted, that reminds the viewer how narrow the line is between self defense and casual brutality.


Carol explains Rick will kill Paula and everyone else if they do not make the trade.   Paula radios Rick to make the trade, but realizes Rick's transmission is much stronger than before, indicating that he is close by.  Paula contacts her scout team, who is only minutes away.   Carol is left alone during this time, and she uses the solitude to sharpen the crucifix on the rosary and cuts her bonds.   She finds Maggie, who insists they have to kill the Saviors.  "We can't leave them alive."

She's a shell of herself.  Get it?
They return to their initial holding cell to find the male Savior, Donnie has bled out and died on the floor and is turning into a walker.   They rig Donnie up to a pipe next to the door as a walker trap, and he bites Molly when she returns.   Maggie beats the injured Molly to death, and they move to find the other Saviors now armed with Molly's gun.  Paula discovers Molly's body and gives chase.

Carol and Maggie end up in a hallway populated by still active but impaled walkers, designed to slow down intruders and prevent the pair's escape.   Paula empties her weapon at them but scores no hits (this far into the ZA and she misses with every shot?) and Carol aims her gun at Paula and tells her to run. Maggie insists that she kill Paula, but a walker attacks, causing Carol to shoot Paula in the shoulder.   Chelle attacks Maggie with a knife, almost slashing her belly, and Carol immediately shoots Chelle in the head.

Paula asks why Carol acted so afraid if she was so capable.  "I was afraid of this," she replies, indicating that she didn't want to have to kill Paula.  They struggle, and Carol pushes her into an impaled walker that begins devouring her face.   The radio comes alive, and the Savior scout team reports they have arrived.   Carol imitates Paula and tells them to meet them on the Kill Floor.  The pair pour gasoline on the floor, and when the Saviors enter, burn them to death.  Carol confesses she has killed at least 20 people, and when Maggie urges her not to think about it, she says "I can't stop."

Come on Carol, light my fire.
Maggie kills the impaled walkers, including Paula, and meet Rick and the assault team at the entrance.   As Maggie and Glenn reunite, Daryl asks Carol if she is okay, she tells him no, and they hug as she breaks down.   Rick asks Primo if Negan was in the building they raided, and Primo says, "I'm Negan."

Rick shoots him in the head, saying, "I'm sorry it had to come to this."   The question is, did he mean it?

It's ironic that Carol, one of the principal members of Team Rick that warned against the group becoming weak behind the walls of Alexandria, is now a shell of her former hardened self.

Preparedness Discussion

These reviews have discussed the mentality of survival -- specifically, the willingness to take a life to save yourself or those dear to you -- in depth, so let's dispense with that issue.  Obviously Carol is having a real crisis of conscience thanks to Morgan's efforts.  She doesn't want to kill anymore, and neither does Maggie, but the latter is going to to what it takes to end the battle between the Saviors and Alexandrians once and for all -- or so she thinks.

What stands out in this episode is what the Saviors are doing right:  for security's sake, they have
multiple locations.  It becomes obvious from the radio chatter and location switch that the building the Alexandrians raided is not the only compound controlled by the Saviors.  Instead of a first strike master blow, Rick has achieved a Pearl Harbor.  Sure, he won the battle, but he has awakened, I fear, a sleeping giant in the Saviors.   There are a lot more of them than anyone thought, and they have dispersed around the area to hide their numbers and minimize risks.

The survivors of Team Rick's attack have access to a safe house where supplies have been stored in the event their primary building is compromised.  They have the presence of mind to store food, water, gasoline and other supplies there.  It's been raided, and by the time they get there nothing is left but the gasoline, but hey, that shows real planning -- something Rick has failed to do for over five seasons.   Alexandria needs a fallback position like this one.    The Saviors have communications protocols as well.  As soon as they realize Rick has one of their radios, they switch to an alternate frequency.

Finally, it is apparent, since a recon team is in the area to rescue the survivors, that the Saviors are aggressively patrolling the area.  This is a huge tactical advantage.  They have developed a knowledge of the terrain, are comfortable moving through it, and have defense in depth.  If the recon teams detect a threat, they can radio back for reinforcements or warn  the main position so it can prepare for an attack.   This keeps potential adversaries and walker packs away from their base.

Remember these?
All this takes a lot of people, and Alexandria doesn't have them.  They send out a few at a time scavenging for resources, but mount no real recon patrols to ensure their perimeter is secure.   The woods and abandoned buildings around Alexandria allow for an enemy to approach undetected, as the Wolves did.   The best thing to do would be find some bulldozers and dump trucks and push back the obstructions for at leas a hundred yards all the way around the wall, then haul off the debris to the walker quarry.   They could then dig an anti-vehicle trench that would stop a large truck from making a direct run at the wall, and put in some chain link on the close side of the ditch to slow down walkers and infiltrators on foot.   Then they could build fortifications like they had at the prison gate to further break up the attack.   It would be a lot of work, but there are plenty of heavy equipment pieces back at the shopping mall site.  I would start at the main gate and move around the perimeter.

As it is, Rick has started the war, and the Saviors are shaping the battlespace around Alexandria.  

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 613:
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket.  Have a bugout location, even if it is a friend's house or the house of a family member.  Get permission to stack some critical items -- food, extra water, clothes, medications, etc.  -- at that spot.  Pack a bugout bag, but orient it around spending a weekend at a motel of friend's house, not deep woods survival.  Most of the time you won't need to spear fish a salmon to survive an event.
  • Check your cached preps regularly to ensure nothing is out of date or has been tampered with.  The worst time to find out your canned food has expired is when you need it to survive.
  • Look for ways to practice defense in depth.  If you are bugging in at your house, how can you make it a hard target looters or robbers might pass up and head to the neighbor's house.  If you are bugging out and have purchased a separate piece of property, consider fencing, ditches, or other physical measures to provide stand off distance in case of some sort of attack.
 Next week:  Abraham and Eugene's bogus journey.