Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 210: 18 Miles Out


Rick (to Shane): "It's time for you to come back."
Synopsis:  Rick and Shane take Randall out to leave him to his fate, only to nearly get killed when their conflict erupts in violence;  Beth hovers between life and death as she considers the future and the grim struggle for survival that lies ahead.

18 Miles Out finally brings the Shane vs. Rick conflict to a head.  A week has passed between the events of the previous episode, and Rick has decided to let Randall, their former assailant, live.  He and Shane drive 18 miles out to an abandoned municipal complex where they plan to leave the young man tied up but within crawling distance of a blade and some basic supplies for survival.

Randall gets dropped off ... until he admits he knows Maggie.
On the way to the drop-off, Rick pulls off and he and Shane have a frank discussion about the latter's questionable decisions and his romantic pursuit of Lori.   I am not going to go into detail regarding the discussion except to comment on the way Shane, when confronted, confesses to it all: shooting Otis at the high school to survive, his love for Lori, and his regret - which seemed very genuine  - that he betrayed and hurt his best friend.   Rick forgives him and tells his partner that from now on Shane needs to consider Lori, Carl, and his unborn son off limits.   He also tells him that he, Rick is in charge, not Shane, and that the only way they move forward together is if Shane accepts that.  With the matter seemingly settled, the journey continues.   Rick and Shane find the complex they are looking for, kill a couple of walker zombie deputies (who noticeably have NOT been bitten) and prepare to leave Randall behind.

That is, until Randall shouts out that he went to high school with Maggie and knows Hershel Greene, which means he knows where the farm is, and knows how to lead his group back to the farm, which compromises the group's operational security.  Rick and Shane eventually get into a fight regarding whether to kill him or not and end up inadvertently releasing a small group of walkers from a nearby building.  Neither man has a firearm, having lost them in the fisticuffs, and thus have to run for their lives.  Shane ends up trapped in a bus, and Rick dispatches three zombies after finding his Colt.  Randall gets lose and joins in on the zombie-killing carnage.

Preparedness Observation - Assuming

We're all wondering what the CDC guy told Rick back in Season One?  I think that he told him the virus has mutated and everyone has it.  No matter how you die, you still reanimate.  My proof lies in the foreshadowing with the two deputies with no bite marks, and the fact that back in Episode 9, when Rick shot the two guys in the bar, he made sure to put a bullet in each of their heads.

Richard Marcinko, founder of Seal Team Six, wrote a book on leadership several years ago where he talked about the sin of assumption.  There are various religious connotations to that phrase, but Marcinko was talking about strategic planning and operational procedures.  Marcinko stated that assuming things are always going to be the same way just because they always have been the same way is a recipe for failure.  We must adapt to changing conditions or perish.   I have a feeling that Rick Grimes is keeping that little secret because he knows how devastating to his group's morale it will be.

As preppers we have to understand that things might change, and change drastically, when a crisis occurs.

Meanwhile, Back at the Farm ....

Beth is talking and pretty much tells Maggie she wants to kill herself.  Andrea says they should let her make the choice, but Maggie and Lori will hear none of it.   Andrea and Lori also have a conversation about some of Lori's choices and how everyone she loves most is still here but everyone else has had to bury their dead.   It's a standout performance from the actors that makes you realize while people still have confidence in Rick, Lori isn't exactly a favorite among the group.  Ultimately Beth chooses survival, but only after trying to cut her wrists with glass.

Shane Gets A Dose of his Own Medicine

Shane pushes the door shut while awaiting rescue.
Back at the drop point, Rick is tempted to leave Shane to his fate.   For a moment it looks as if it he is going to pile Randall back in the car and take off.   Then he sees the bodies of the two deputies and changes his mind.  With Randall driving, Rick shoots several walkers at the bus and Shane jumps out of the back door and into the open window of the Hyundai.  Once safe, they toss Randall back into the hatchback and drive back to the farm.  Rick admits they will probably have to kill the boy, but he just can't do it without having thought it through some more.   Shane still thinks its foolish to keep him around, but bows to Ricks judgment.  After all, the guy just saved his life.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 210:
  • Operational security and keeping your bugout location hidden may force you to make some tough choices - like whether a skinny kid lives or dies.
  • Leadership has to be well-defined in group survival, and everyone has to accept it.
  • Never commit the sin of assumption.
  • Be careful when you write someone off; someone may do the same to you.
  • Be ready for all seasons.   During the episode Rick commented that the group had to get ready for winter, and before the zombies showed up they scavenged 20 gallons of fuel and the weapons of the dead officers at the county compound.  They need to get serious about raiding pharmacies and grocery stores to get supplies into a safe, warm location before winter's cold causes canned food to freeze and burst.  They need warm clothes, shoes, and MORE ammunition.  Point of note:  there was a fire truck at the compound.  I hope they thought to look for fire extinguishers, fire axes, and a neat little entry tool called the Halligan bar.  Not only is it good for getting into buildings, it could be a heck of a melee weapon.   See Adrian's Undead Diary, a zombie fiction online journal, for some examples.
A final note:  Shane said that when the zombie outbreak started, it was just a couple of weird stories on the news, and within two weeks the hospital was being overrun as depicted in the sixth episode of the first season.  You'd like to think that maybe things would have held together a bit longer than that.  It also means that there should be a lot of supplies laying around as most people were probably overrun fairly quickly. 

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 209: Triggerfinger

    Spoiler alert!

    Hershel (to Shane): "Do us all a favor and shut up."
    Synopsis:  Rick, Hershel and Glenn have to fight their way out of town after confronting friends of the men Rick killed.  Lori gets herself out of a jam.  The group is split over a new arrival.

    There are so many times I wanted to cheer during this episode; then there were other times I was unnerved at the Machiavellian manipulations on display.  Triggerfinger is at times full of sound and fury, but the quiet beats of the story when guns aren't blazing make for some compelling television.   How much preparedness information will we be able to glean from the screen? Let's take a stab at it.

    Hi, I'm Glenn, but my friends call me The Load.
    Rick is becoming harder and more heartless in this world of no quarter.  He killed the pair at the bar in the previous episode, but he hesitated to kill the other who showed up looking for them.   There are a few reasons why he would do so;  he'll kill when he has to, but he realizes there are precious few enough living humans to go around.   Also, having just seen Glenn, a.k.a. the guy who stands with a shotgun and does nothing while his friends are being threatened by thugs, freeze up in action might make one think he was the only gun that was going to be in that fight.  I tend to think it was the latter.   Rick would never call him on it directly, but the way Glenn refused to look at him after the shooting told the tale.  He knows he screwed up, Rick knows he screwed up, and now Rick has doubts where previously there were none. 
    Hershel, in the meantime, has made his peace with his earlier reluctance to kill even walkers and grabs a weapon to defend himself.   He doesn't always agree with Rick (witness the look he gave Rick when the deputy tried to deescalate the standoff outside the bar)  but he knows what needs to be done.
    This gets back to the survival mindset.  In a survival situation, you have to consider paths of action that you might not take in normal times, and in Hershel's case it appears he has followed and old saying from the foothills of Appalachia where I grew up:  you might as well get to doing it, because you've got it to do.  My grandmother told me that right after my grandfather died.  Family members were going to take turns staying with her and she turned them down. She was a strong woman.
    In a survival situation, there can be no doubt.  You have to be able to count on the other members of your party to follow through.   Anything else could spell doom for the entire group.  Weapons training is not the same as combat, just as putting down walkers is not the same as shooting real people.  In a real-world situation where you have to defend yourself, unless you are trained and experienced in such situations, you are going to freeze, if only just a little bit, and do that "not me, not now, I don't want to do this" debate in your head.  Shane and Rick need to teach these folks how to cover each other and clear urban terrain.

    You can't go wrong with face.
    Outside the bar, it's Walkerpalooza.  The gunshots have attracted a large crowd of walkers (the town seems infested now) and one of the gunmen, wounded by Hershel, ends up being consumed up close and personal.   Another falls from a roof and gets impaled on a wrought iron fence, and the third bugs out in a truck.

    Rick wants to try to save the dude on the fence, while Hershel, who has just witnessed walkers take down the other thug he shot, suggests shooting him so he won't have to endure being eaten alive.  Rick talks him into attempting an amputation, and the group is assaulted by walkers until finally Rick turns and yanks the leg off the stake in a fit of desperation.

    I have some real qualms about Rick wanting to save the guy. I realize that every life is precious now, but this guy was shooting at him a few seconds before.  Then again, this was the Rick who went back for Merle Dixon ...

    While I'd like to think I would try to save the guy, in my heart of hearts I probably would have shot him in the head and jumped in the truck.  Sorry, but this was a three way battle between walkers, thugs and our intrepid band of heroes, and I know who I am rooting for.

    Really?  Are you that stupid?
    On the other hand, I was almost rooting for the walkers out on the highway.    Lori has some serious issues.  Not only does she take off without telling anyone, she takes no backup, and doesn't know where she is going.  She has been taken care of for so long in this environment by Shane and Rick that she forgets just how dangerous the world can be.  

    That being said, she drops the two walkers who attack her pretty quickly, including using the old blade in the eye trick pioneered by Andrea and the good ol' .38 round to the head trick pioneered by ... just about everyone else.  It's nice to see that another female besides Andrea can take care of herself.  I just wish she'd think a bit more before she did stuff that put her in positions like this.   Preparedness isn't just buying guns and food;  it's about saying "what if" and avoiding situations that could be life threatening as well.

    Lori's disappearance leads Shane on a one-man rescue mission (as only Shane can do) to find her, and he lies to her and tells Lori that Rick and crew are already back at the farm.  This leads to a confrontation between the two that reinforces a couple of points for me:

    • Way back in the series premiere when Shane asks Rick how he and Lori were doing, it wasn't just idle curiosity.  He wanted her back then, even before the dead starting walking around eating people.   And all his sexual conquests were ultimately worthless because the one woman he wanted he couldn't have.  
    • Lori still has unresolved feelings for Shane and she doesn't want to deal with them.
    What does this have to do with preparedness?  Not much on the surface, but it is a direct result of a dysfunctional group dynamic caused by supposedly intelligent people making very bad decisions the pressure of a survival situation.  And that has everything to do with it.   These characters need to start thinking about the repercussions of their actions in a world where the snap of a twig underfoot could make the difference between life and death.  There is a mental state called normalcy bias, and these people have a bad case of it since coming to the farm:

     The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.  ~ Wikipedia

    Daryl has done the oh so smart thing and retreated way from the others, moving his tent away from them and withdrawing from even Carol.  Sure, he's tough, but he has to sleep sometime.  Ask Ed Peletier about that. Actually, you can't, because he was eaten by walkers while sleeping in a bloody tent.

    The group's cohesion is further strained over the decision to bring Randall to the farm and treat his leg, then send him on his way.  Fans wondered what would happen to the group after the search for Sophia was over, and now we know.  Whatever force of hope that bound them together in the hunt for Sophia is long gone.  Things are falling apart, and no one appears able to step up to put the pieces back together.  In fact, Dale is actively helping things along by his continuous (and cowardly) attack on Shane's support in the camp.  The poison pill he fed to Lori in the last episode finally bore fruit at the end of the episode this week, when Lori, in a scene reminiscent of Macbeth, tries to convince Rick he has to get rid of Shane, because Shane will never stop coming after her.  It was unnerving to watch her behave in such a ... conniving way.   She channels into Rick's protective instincts and what is probably his unspoken yet understandable desire to confront his friend about carrying on with his wife in his absence.

    No good is going to come of this.  

    Preparedness lessons for Episode 209:

    • Groups of people have to stick together in a survival situation and be able to count on each other when the chips are down.
    • Just owning a gun is not enough.  You have to have the will to use it to defend yourself and other, and have training in its tactical application if possible.
    • DON'T GO OFF BY YOURSELF.  There should be a group of three minimum when outside the fence.  
    • Normalcy bias can kill.
    • Sometimes group cohesion unravels because of the stress of the crisis; sometimes it is by design. You need to think hard about how to prevent it.  Either live together or die apart.
     Next week:  More walkers, Maggie threatens Andrea, and Shane and Rick finally have it out.

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 208: Nebraska

    Spoiler alert!

    Rick (to Hershel): “This isn't about what we believe anymore.  It's about them.”
    Synopsis:  The camp divides into Shane vs.  Rick, with Shane getting an early lead on the balloting.   Sophia's death hits home; and the show sets a record for the shortest guest star stint in television history.

    Nebraska picks up right where the last episode left off, with Rick killing a zombified Sophia and the group shocked by the discovery that she was in the barn all along.  There are two themes here that merit the attention of those who are preparedness minded.  First, in a crisis situation there is a good chance that someone you care for is going to get injured or possibly die.  Secondly, despite this tragedy, you are still in a survival situation and survival activities must continue.
     For Hershel and his family, the "Barnmageddon" massacre of the walkers is a wake-up call.  While Maggie has seen the light regarding the true nature of the undead, the rest of the group blindly followed Hershel's belief that somehow they could be restored.   Only Shane's action of shooting a walker multiple times without any discernible effect is able to convince them that these people are no longer people.   

    In any disaster, especially a long-term one, there will be a tendency on the part of some to assume that eventually life will return to normal.  Most of us believe emergencies are short term.  Ask the city of New Orleans about that.   Katrina and the resulting levee failures ripped the guts out of a major metropolitan center in the United States, and the area still has not fully recovered.  
    On the day this episode premiered, I woke to find the the water shut off in our house.  I quickly realized the cold had frozen the pipes and over the course of the next ten minutes, using a hair dryer, I was able to thaw them and get the water going again.   I had addressed this problem previously by adding an electrical heat tape to the section of pipe prone to freezing and had wrapped the pipe with foam insulation.   For whatever reason a portion of the insulation had come undone and been pulled away from the pipe.    Once the water was flowing I repaired the insulation issue.   Then I began to think about how easily the expanding frozen water could have caused the pipe to burst, and my minor inconvenience would have been a major problem coupled with and emergency call to a plumber.   I also realized that my stored water was outside in my outbuilding and probably frozen solid.    And what if the water outage was caused by a city pipe bursting due to the cold?   I need to take a serious look at this side of my preps.

    She's not dead dead, she's mostly dead.
    But I digress.   The Greene clan now gets to mourn properly for people they should have rightfully capped and buried long ago.  Hershel's wife and stepson are among the bodies, and just as Dr. Greene's step-daughter goes to her mother to mourn her, we get the meaning of the "Double Tap" rule from the movie Zombieland; never go near a hazard, like a supposedly dead walker, without lots of caution and the proper equipment, like a gun. 
    On the other side is Team Rick, who have had more brushes with death than they care to remember.   Glenn tells Maggie that they've lost people before, but that losing Sophia is different.   In a way, I understand that.  Sophia and Carl are the only "kids" left.  If the children can't be kept safe, can the safety of anyone be assured?  Carl's matter of fact statement regarding Sophia being put down is a chilling testament to just how hardened this group has become to death and gore.  Is it any wonder that Hershel regarded them with caution?  Is it any wonder that he wants Shane away from his family?

    Shane, T-Dog, and Andrea do their grisly dirty work.
    While the characters deal with the implications of the actions at the barn, T-Dog and Andrea point out that these folks ain't gettin' any deader, so the mess has to be cleaned up - Annette, Shawn and Sophia get graves, while the rest of the bodies are burned in a pyre.   (Point of note:   Lori mentions more walkers could have heard the gunfire.)  Once again we see Shane just getting stuff done, all the while defending his actions to Dale and Carol. 

    The graves are dug, the service, awkward yet poignant, is held, and the bodies of the other walkers are burned.  Hershel and Rick both have their own crises of confidence as Rick realizes his snap decision to leave Sophia in the woods led directly to her death and Carl's shooting, and Hershel realizes that there will be no cure, and that the world as he knows it has ended.  Hershel seeks solace in self pity and the bottom of a bottle, while Rick occupies himself with finding Hershel to help Beth who has collapsed post-massacre into a catatonic state.  (Another side note:  my son believes she got scratched when her mom - now a corpse - attacked her.) 

    There is a fundamental problem with how the survivors retreat into separate corners after the service; sure some people need space to grieve, but in a situation like this, someone should have been watching Hershel and Carol to make sure they didn't slip off.   Hershel is the only darn medical help anywhere to be found, and they left him alone?  I guess it could be chalked up to everyone tending to what happened and what needed to be done, but Hershel Greene is maybe the most rare commodity left in this post-Apocalypse world.
    Rick gets his Shane on.
    And it is still a dangerous world.   Lori plays walker-tag and ends up flipping her Mercury Sable driving into town to find Rick by herself without knowing where she is going and without telling anyone where she went, thus creating yet another  missing person to find. Rick, Glenn and Hershel run into two nefarious refugees, Dave and Scrawny Tony.  These two pump the trio for information about where they are holed up, how many are in their party, and whether they have room for more refugees.   Rick and Hershel obviously see right through the nice act and stonewall the pair, noting how disrespectful and vulgar they behave.   The tension builds, with the strangers maneuvering around the bar to cover Rick and the others without actually pointing a weapon at them, until Rick gets the drop on them and  shoots them first.  It's an act of violence that shocks Glenn and Hershel and shows just how far Rick is willing to go to protect his own now.
    Here is a scenario all preppers have to face:  at some point, you may have to defend yourself against people who mean to do you harm, take your resources, and pee on your body when they are done.  I once heard a commentator remark that in New Orleans  it took only four days for a major U.S. city to descend into anarchy, and how we would like to think the veneer of civilization is a little thicker than that.  How far are you willing to go to defend your family, your neighbors, and your resources?  If you think prepping is just about stocking guns, ammo, and food, think again.  It's a mindset.  It's a determination to defend your right to live and survive even when all the odds are against you.
    If you are looking for a lot of hope, you won't find it in this episode except for the fact that Maggie admits her love for Glenn to him right before they leave the farm to find Hershel.  Glenn has always been a scrappy survivor.  Now he has something to fight for, and I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

    Preparedness lessons for Episode 208:
    • Realize what your most precious resources are and take steps to safeguard them; this includes people with valuable skills.
    • Realize there is a good chance that someone in your group is going to be injured or die;  you have to work to prepare yourself for that eventuality and work on dealing with it before it happens.  It could be something as simple as making sure everyone stays busy to take their mind off the person for awhile until the emergency is resolved and people get the change to grieve outside a survival situation.
    • The emergency is just one thing that puts you in danger.   Rogue groups can be more dangerous.  Treat all meetings with strangers as potential hostile encounters.  Approach with caution and use someone in an overwatch position to cover you.  Think, if Glenn had been hidden behind the bar instead of poking around listening to Rick and Hershel, maybe that scene could have ended with the newcomers still alive.
    • When discussing matters with strangers, practice operational security - a topic about which Glenn knows nothing.  During the bar scene he was an open book.