Monday, November 21, 2011

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 206: Secrets

Warning: spoilers below!
Carl (to his mom): Everything’s food for something.

Synopsis:  Hope dims as the group is running out of places to search for Sophia; Andrea finds her place in the group, and in Shane’s pants; we learn why secrets in a survival situation never stay secrets for long;  and others in both Rick’s group and Hershel’s group start defining how THEY want to live.

Secrets is an episode that really ratchets the tension between and within the two groups;  Hershel plainly sees that letting the others stay is NOT going to work for him, while Rick and Lori are determined to convince him otherwise.  Glen proves that he would never earn a government security clearance, and Dale confronts Shane (SOMEBODY needed to) about what really happened to Otis and about the fact the he saw Shame almost shoot Rick in the back.

There’s been a lot of expressed disappointment in some online forums for what has been perceived as the “soap opera nature” of the second season.  I can see why people might hold that opinion.   Walker attacks have been less frequent, and the group’s safe haven at the farm, even if temporary, has given the characters the breathing space to start thinking about … other things.

Personally, I think the show is living up to its premise.   We in the preparedness community have to learn to form relationships and partnerships with others to survive any truly long term situation (see my comment in a previous post regarding this issue).  Many of us have families who taught preparedness early and often, and have formed bonds with fellow preppers for mutual support.  Some have purchased locations where a whole group of like-minded individuals can go if things go south and survive as a community.

The characters of this show have not had that luxury.  These are people of different backgrounds, abilities and temperaments thrown together by circumstance and who are forced to survive from day to day against a relentless enemy who will not tire, will not rest, and will not offer even the slightest chance of survival unless they focus and work together.   Given the relative safety of the farm, why is it surprising that they would revert back to old habits and preoccupations with the walker threat abated?

Leaving the drama aside, there are some preparedness lessons this week we should all take to heart.

Time for target practice.
1.  Everyone should become familiar with firearms and how to safely handle them.    There has been another debate raging in online forums regarding how firearms are handled in this show.   Some view the show as anti-gun rights.  It is my opinion that while there have been demonstrated reasons for controlling the firearms (Andrea’s attempted suicide at CDC and shooting Daryl by mistake come to mind) the time to teach everyone in the group firearm safety is here.   They have the breathing space and the time to make it happen.  Firearms are essential to survival in a hostile situation.

By the way, I am taking it on faith here that they managed to find some more ammunition for target practice by scavenging during their excursions from the farm. There are a variety of weapons there, and I'd have to assume that Dale and T-Dog found more.  There are just too many firearms in the United States for there not to be a bunch left in the abandoned cars on the Interstate, and with billions of rounds purchased every year, there has to be ammo as well.

2.  Outside of a secured area, there is no such thing as safe, even if the area is familiar and well-traveled.   Glen and Maggie make another trek to town for pharmacy supplies, and in an inattentive moment, Maggie is almost killed by a Walker behind the counter.  If not for swift action on Glen’s part, she would have died.   Everyone assumed the town and pharmacy were clear.  Their surging sense of normality is going to get someone killed.

That being said, some of Hershel’s group is starting to realize what this world has become.  Patricia, Jimmy and the others volunteer for target practice with Shane, and Maggie moves from taking offense at calling the zombies in the barn “walkers” to using the term by the end of the episode.   A near death experience will do that for you. (Minor plot nit:  how did the Walker get into the pharmacy?   Did someone leave the back door open?)  They are finally beginning to see the world as it is; Lori has become so immersed in its darkness that is all she can see.   It’s an interesting dramatic contrast.

Speaking of which, Andrea really should not have walked away from Shane the way she did.   When members of the group move outside the fence, they are in enemy territory.  Shane was being a jerk, but I am convinced he is the Saul Tigh of this series.  He’s an emotional mess, and he can’t go three feet without antagonizing someone, but he GETS IT DONE.   

Andrea gets her gun on.
3.  Tactical training is important.  Shane and Andrea proved that when assaulted by walkers in the subdivision.  Shane is using the search to teach Andrea how to move tactically through a house and how to move as a unit.  When they exit the final house to a street littered with walkers, Shane communicates how he wants to handle the situation and executes it.  He covers his partners back and gives her the room to become confident on the trigger. The only problem I have is that he didn’t “cut the pie” on the corner coming out of the door next to the driveway all that well (30:32 is the time index if you are watching the Itunes download).  Also, here is another nit for the direction of the episode:   they enter the house, and inside the door is an open floor plan.  There is a garage in front of the room to the left (facing into the house like Shane and Andrea).  They proceed through, find the walled off area, go down some stairs to a basement level, where there is apparently a second garage with the door half open.   How many cars did these people own, and why was their Mustang parked in the driveway with all that space? I know, it’s a TV show …

4.  Drywall won’t stop zombies.   Or bullets, for that matter.    The family that attempted to make a stand in their house had dry-walled off their back hallway in an attempt to hide from the walkers but didn’t do anything to reinforce it.   Some two by fours nailed across the opening would have been of immense value.  If you are looking at staying in your house for a long-term emergency, give serious thought to hardening it against attack.  Some ideas:
  • Plant thorny plants beneath windows intruders might use on the ground floor.
  • Reinforce the strike plate that holds your door deadbolts in the wall by replacing the supplied short screws with longer screws that will anchor it deep into the wooden door frame.
  • Get a security system with a battery backup.
  • Create a “safe room” where the family can gather as a last resort.
  • Consider storm shutters that roll down over your windows. 
  • Have a supply of sandbags on hand to fill and place a layer around outside walls at strategic points when the stink hits the fan.   Typical home construction materials will NOT stop a high velocity round.  News sources are replete with accounts of accidental firearms discharges in which the bullet passed through an outer wall, went through the wall of another house, and struck someone.

5.  A leader of a survival group must use the skills of EVERY person.  I agree with what Maggie said to Glen to an extent.   He showed leadership and planning skill on multiple occasions in the first season.  He’s not in your face like Shane or a lone wolf like Daryl.   He needs to reassert himself. Hopefully his speech to Lori was the beginning of that.

Loose cannon:  Shane taunts Andrea.
6.  You cannot ignore problems and hope they go away.  Shane, despite his value to the group, is a loose cannon and he must be dealt with, whether Rick wants to or not.   Dale might have confronted him for his own reasons (I think Dale is sweet on Andrea, and it was obvious what she and Shane were doing out on their own) but he was dead accurate about the deputy’s character.   Shane would like to be Rick, the one everyone looks to, but he’s not, and every time he gets the chance to show his leadership skills, he makes a questionable call.  I like the way this scene played.  Dale refused to back down even though Shane threatened to shoot him. 

Likewise, Rick finally knows about the pregnancy, and Shane and Lori’s affair.   I think his calm reaction to the news that his best friend was knocking boots with his wife is one of the most incredible acts of forgiveness I have seen … for now.   He already knew in the back of his mind.  I wonder how he will address it with Shane? 

Finally, the secret of the barn is spreading.   Dale confronts Hershel, and Hershel responds with an interesting question.   It seems he has his own doubts about what happened to Otis. Here’s an interesting question as well:  if Hershel said for the rest of the group to stay Shane had to leave, would Rick force him out? 

7.  Finally, cooking or heating your home with auxiliary sources can be dangerous.  The family who tried to hide in their home succeeding in burning themselves alive in the garage with either a cook stove or liquid fuel heater.   Make sure you follow ALL directions for safety if you have such devices for emergency or camping use.

Next week: The crap finally hits the fan as the walkers in the barn become general knowledge, and Rick makes a final plea to Hershel to let them stay.  

Editor’s note:  I am experimenting with changing the format of the reviews and I am working to make them more of a bullet list than a narrative with a bulleted summary at the end.   If you have any preferences, e-mail me or leave a comment.


  1. great review, love the Saul reference. agreed with nearly every point right up until #7. i didnt take from it that it was the family that had burned nor that it was accidental. i thought they had firebombed the zombies in the garage intentionally. perhaps i need to go back and watch that scene again. thanx for providing these reviews.

  2. Awesome down and dirty reviews...keep them short and simple...not too long, but not too short...well done! Angelofwar from ZS

  3. Hi anonymous:

    I drew my conclusion from the fact that there were corpses lying on a burned out mattress. It was my impression that they were asleep when it went up.

  4. I'm really enjoying these reviews, nice blog... Didn't realize that the home occupants had burned themselves with cooking...
    Again, good review.

  5. Hello...Im a quasi prepper/Walking Dead fan and Backpacker etc...
    This Spring I did a nearly 600 mile section hike on the AT. If youre interested I'll share my experiences learned both in preperation and during my actual hike in how to lighten your pack.