Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Preparedness View of the Walking Dead Episode 213: Beside the Dying Fire


Rick (to the group):  "This is not a democracy anymore!"

Synopsis:  A massive herd of walkers overwhelms the farm, killing Jimmy and Patricia and scattering the group into the woods; Rick comes clean with what Dr. Jenner told him at CDC, and that he killed Shane, causing Lori to draw away from him.  The group is on the run, without resources, and low on ammo.   A new character is introduced, and a possible safe haven is teased in the last shot of the season.

Newbie out front:  This walker did not die during the summer.
Beside the Dying Fire is the payoff episode many preppers were looking for because of vocal criticism of how unprepared the farm really was to repel walkers.  The episode opens with an group of small walkers following a helicopter in the distance.  The herd picks up members as they ramble across the countryside heading in the general direction of the helicopter.  They walk for days, weeks, and finally mill about in a patch of woods until the sound of Carl's gunshot draws them in.  This is literally an all-consuming herd.  It is also interesting to note that many of the walkers are newbies; some are dressed in warm clothes like jackets, sweaters, and vests.   They didn't die during the sweltering summer and it may be that Randall's group of 30 guys with automatic weapons met with an untimely demise, since Maggie said the herd came from the direction of the highway and Randall said his group was camped just off  the highway.  That would render the entire debate about killing the young man moot.

T-Dog, Lori, and Beth escape.
Rick and Carl are still walking away from Shane's body  while the rest of the group digests the fact that Randall turned without being bitten, and immediately are put to flight by the oncoming walker swarm.   They flee to the barn while the rest of the group arm up and try to herd the walkers away from the barn.   Rick and Carl set fire to the barn with walkers and themselves inside, hoping to distract the herd and warn the others.   Daryl has Jimmy drive the RV around to pick them up, but in the process the RV is overrun and Jimmy is consumed.   Rick and Carl escape the barn and make it to the house in time to save Hershel, who is on the verge of being overwhelmed by the attack despite having the largest shotgun magazine tube in history (he must have fired 10 or 12 times during one sequence before reloading.  Here's a tip:  directors need someone in the edit bay who knows something about guns).  Lori notices Carl is gone and freaks, and the girls agree they have to leave.   As they run to the truck where T-Dog (who was forced to leave Andrea and Carol surrounded by walkers) is parked, Patricia gets taken.  Carol is about to be consumed when Daryl rides in to pick her up.  Andrea is cut off after a dead walker falls on her.  Maggie and Glen retreat after almost being overwhelmed by walkers in Shane's Hyundai (where he hid the ammo the group now needs).

Eventually, the group returns in dribs and drabs to an ad hoc rally point - the car where they left supplies for Sophia.   Andrea retreats through the woods with walkers in trail. They mourn their dead. They also learn that Shane is gone.   The farm belongs to the dead now. 

The group finds some breathing space and begin to recount how Randall reanimated without being bitten, and Rick confesses that back at the CDC Jenner told him they are all infected; regardless of how they die, everyone will eventually turn.   Rick also confesses to Lori that he killed Shane, and that he wanted Shane dead to "end it."

Lori's upset reaction prompted a lot of  eye-rolling.   She is mad at Rick.  Really?  She set this in motion.  She has been whispering in Rick's ear about taking care or Shane like Lady MacBeth, and she screwed up Shane in the last episode and prompted his descent into madness.  I hope Rick finally sees her for who she is.

The rest of the group begins to openly question Rick's leadership, causing him to explode, tell them he killed Shane for them and offer them a chance to leave.  When no one does, he informs them that this is no longer a democracy and from now on he will lead as he sees fit.

Andrea runs out of ammo and goes hand-to-hand.
Meanwhile, Andrea is on her last legs in th woods, out of ammo, and out of luck.  She is about to be overtaken when a stranger kills the last walker with a large sword.  Oh, and the stranger, whose face is never shown, is dragging along two walkers with missing arms and mouths by chains.  The last shot of the episode shows a prison facility in the distance.


This episode did some things right and some things wrong from a preparedness standpoint. Rick's earlier decision to place the cars where they were easily accessible paid off, and the group did their best under the circumstances.  The attempt to herd the walkers was the right one;  they didn't have the ammo or the fortifications to hold off that big a horde.

 In other ways, the survivors' preparations were completely inadequate.   Two-way radios would have helped the group coordinate the defense.  They are plentiful and the local sporting goods store probably stocked them along with much needed ammunition. There should have been more standoff defenses, like a deep vertical trench to trap walkers that could have been constructed from a commandeered backhoe, and stout fencing close to the house to form a redoubt.   Likewise, there should have been supplies loaded in the cars and EVERYONE should have had a bugout bag.  They had no designated rally point; everyone just happened to show up on the highway. The cars should have stayed topped off with gas.  Given that they had collected a ton from the abandoned cars on the highway per previous episodes, that was a huge oversight.

They also could have done some more offensive things, like luring walkers into abandoned buildings in town before herd got there and burning them down like the barn.   They also could have dug some large pits with a backhoe near the highway, tossed in some wood, planted a boom box in there with the volume up, and once it was full dump in gas and light it.  The highway was the most likely avenue of attack. 

During the debate, Maggie remarks that no place is safe, and they could all be overwhelmed again by another herd.

Maggie:  "Look what happened with the farm.  We fooled ourselves into thinking it was safe."
Hershel: "We won't make that mistake again."

Finally someone realizes how poorly defended the farm was from the beginning.   Maybe Hershel's remark could serve as Patricia and Jimmy's epitaph.

Preparedness Lessons from Episode 213
  • Two-way radios are vital tools in a crisis situation.  
  • Without ammunition, a gun becomes a very expensive club.
  • Most people will stay in place when an emergency occurs unless there is a mandatory evacuation order from the government, i.e., during a hurricane or flash flood.   We should make our homes secure and safe as possible.  Sure, we could all go live out of a bugout bag for a week in the woods, but if we don't have to, why should we?
  • It may be necessary for us to bug out (leave home because it is no longer safe).  If that happens, every family member should have a bugout bag, even small children.  Keep at least a quarter to a half a tank of gas at all times, and store at least enough extra gas (if you can safely do so) to top it off without going to a gas station. For instance, my Toyota Tacoma four-wheel-drive has a 21 gallon tank.  I can typically fill it up from a quarter tank full with 15 gallons, so I store 15 additional gallons in five gallon cans in a secured outbuilding.
  • Drill your family or group on what to do in a bugout situation. They should know what to grab and how to get out of the house.  Designate a rally point on the property for everyone to meet in case of a fire, etc.
  • Have a rally point that everyone knows in case your family or group gets separated. If you can cache some supplies there in advance, it wouldn't be a bad idea.  How easy would it have been to throw some water, beans, rice, extra ammo, blankets and cooking utensils in one of the abandoned cars on the highway, covered the stuff with a tarp, and locked it up?  You could have gotten an SUV started, gassed it up, and hidden it to the side.  Cache the keys in a hiding place just inside the woods and you have a vehicle and supplies.

What's next?  Stay tuned as I post an open letter with preparedness tips to Robert Kirkman and Glen Mazzara next week!

1 comment:

  1. Hi everyone:

    I am going to try to do better replying to comments. I've just been covered up.