Monday, November 5, 2012

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 303: Walk With Me

Spoiler Alert!!!

Bruce Banner/The Hulk (in the Avengers movie, referring to Loki, but applicable to this episode):  That guy's brain is a bag full of cats.  You can smell crazy on him.

Synopsis:  The Governor is revealed, and at first seems like a reasonable guy just trying to help people.  This wins Andrea over, but Michonne remains unconvinced and is intent on leaving as soon as possible.  The Governor's true colors are revealed when he ambushes a group of refugees and later retreats to a study filled with aquariums hosting decapitated heads. Suddenly Shane seems dispassionate and reasonable.  Oh, and Daryl's brother Merle is back and working for the Governor as his right hand man.  Get it?
It is noteworthy that this is the first episode not to feature Rick Grimes.  This is a Michonne and Andrea episode and reveals the new main antagonist of the series, the Governor.   The episode opens with our pair of heroines, pet walkers in tow, investigating a crashed Army helicopter.  They find the crew dead or mostly dead, and the wreckage still smoldering.   Two SUVs drive up, and the occupants move through the wreckage site, killing walkers and securing the area.   Andrea and Michonne watch as the group rescues the lone survivor and drive knives into the skulls of the other passengers who are deceased.    The ladies haven't yet realized that everyone is infected and no matter how you die, you reanimate as a walker.  Michonne's pets get agitated and start making noise, so she decapitates them.  Then Merle -- yeah, that Merle -- shows up behind them and the girls are captured.

They are taken to the Woodbury community where they are treated for their illnesses and meet the head of the community - the Governor.  He's just a guy trying to keep everyone alive and "take back what's ours."  He informs them that they are guests and can leave whenever they wish.

The community seems ideal.   Battery banks have been installed in houses and are charged via solar panel or generators to provide power;  there is hot water, medical care and a security wall that no walkers have been able to penetrate.   Whenever a group of them ventures too close, guards with surpressed weapons take them out.   Scavenging runs go out regularly.  A strict curfew and light discipline (exactly the opposite of the farm environment last season) keep the number of walkers at night to a minimum.

While Michonne and Andrea convalesce, the governor meets with Milton, his science guy, regarding
The Governor: his elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.
the walker pets recovered from the crash site.  Milton theorizes that they were camouflage and cover.   The arms were removed so they would not grab, and the jaws removed so they would not bite.  Once they are incapable of eating, they lose the desire to eat, and since the Michonne and Andrea were traveling with walkers, they were not attacked.    The Governor is impressed.

He also interrogates the chopper pilot, who is fighting for his life.  He was part of a National Guard unit that was holding its own until someone inside turned and they had to evacuate.   The helicopter was on a transporter truck, and there are other survivors holed up off the highway waiting for him.  The Governor promises to bring them in.

The Governor finds the National Guard troops and ambushes them, killing them in cold blood and stealing their equipment.   Then he returns to Woodbury and tells the residents that the troops were already dead, but that they will use their equipment for the good of the community.

The episode ends with the Governor retreating to a private study. There he gazes upon a stack of aquariums filled with decapitated heads, including the heads of Michonne's pets the head of the helicopter pilot.


The Governor is doing a lot of things right preparedness-wise.  Woodbury has a secure perimeter, a competent guard force, practices noise and light discipline, and has restored basic services.   That's the surface.  Beneath the facade of civilization, however, lurks a dark heart intent on garnering power and controlling the survivors of the enclave.  Most living in Woodbury seem happy with the arrangement.  The guards and the Governor do the dirty work, and they reap the benefits.  All that they have to do is not question anything.

Merle and the other guards seem completely loyal to the Governor.  They are willing to ambush and kill soldiers, murder wounded, and do whatever he says.   That is never good.   While every group must have a leader or small cadre of leaders, blind obedience is a dangerous thing.   The guy saves heads for a hobby for crying out loud.

It makes the viewer wonder whether the group Randall was with last season came from Woodbury.  If not, then there are two rogue groups of bad guys out there.

Other than that, I didn't see much worth discussing preparedness-wise.  I admired the efficiency of the Woodbury enclave.   I abhor the psychotic leader and his guards.   This is going to be interesting.

Next week:  Glen asks, "Can't we have just one good day?"  Has he been paying attention?

Preparedness Review of the Walking Dead Episode 302: Sick

Spoiler Alert!!!

Lori:  What are we gonna do, get lawyers, file for divorce, and divide our property?   We have food.  Hershel's alive.  Today was a good day.

Synopsis:  This is the first knock-out punch of the season, and may be the best episode of the series.  Hershel's life hangs by a thread; the newly discovered inmates become a threat; and someone is watching the prison.

Sick picks up right where Seed left off, in the prison cafeteria.   Five prisoners have survived there, and Rick's impromptu amputation of Hershel's bitten leg is still fresh on the floor.   A confused scene follows where the Rick's group retreats through the walker-ridden corridors to the cleared cell block with Hershel on a cart.

T-Dog, Rick, and Darrell confront the prisoners.
Once he is stabilized by Carol and Lori, and Rick strikes a deal with the prisoners.  The isolated group has no idea of what has happened outside the walls or that everyone has been infected with the walker virus.   It's a rude awakening.   Rick decides to  help the prisoners clear a cell block of their own in exchange for half the food in the prison pantry.   Tomas, the leader of the prisoners, keeps trying to assert his dominance as the prison leader, and Rick and Daryl have a discussion over whether they will have to deal with him.

The combined group expedition proceeds, and the prisoners learn the ropes of killing walkers.   One of the prisoners, Big Tiny, is wounded by a walker, and  Tomas violently murders him before he shows the first symptom. When the group moves into another part of the prison to clear it,   Tomas tries to murder Rick by tossing a walker into him.   Rick has had enough, and once the walker threat is neutralized he murders Tomas with a machete chop to the head.   He then chase down Andrew, another prisoner who tried to attack him, and locks him in an isolated prison yard full of walkers, presumably sealing his fate.

Rick makes Oscar a deal he cannot refuse.
In the cleared cell block.  Hershel is handcuffed to a bed and ministered to;   Lori has to perform CPR to revive him at one point.  Carol realizes he may die, and goes off to find a female walker with Glen to kill and practice a C-section on so she can be ready when Lori goes into labor.   Someone watches her from the tree line.

Rick, T-Dog, and Daryl lock the two surviving prisoners, Oscar and Axel, in another cell block and tell them if they see them on their side of the prison, they will kill them as well.  The cell block is littered with corpses of prisoners who were flex-cuffed and shot in the head execution style by the guards when the prison was overrun.  Axel and Oscar knew the occupants of the cell block, and are horrified by the discovery.

The episode ends on a high note.   Hershel regains consciousness, and Rick and Lori have discussion which indicates their may be a thaw in their icy, broken relationship.  Lori is clearly remorseful for her role in pitting Rick against Shane, and for betraying Rick.


Sick is one episode that brings to the front the importance of freedom and self-reliance as keystones to preparedness.  I was struck by just how powerless the prison survivors were; isolated in the cafeteria, cut off from the world, and at the mercy of whomever had control of the prison.   I sometimes come across posts in online discussion boards by people who intimate that they are procuring weapons or material that may or may not be illegal in their jurisdiction in order to further their preparations.  Number one, if it is illegal, it is illegal.  Whether you agree or not, a law is still the law and you should live within it.   Number two, how are you going to look out for your family when you get arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to prison?

Rick's interaction with the prisoners is another interesting example of the group dynamics within survival situations.   Some preppers are working with groups of like-minded people in their communities to create formal groups for mutual assistance.   Some are working with groups to create multi-family survival retreat communities.  Preparedness is a group activity, whether it is a single family, group of families, or whole community.  We should be seeking like-minded people and educating those around us as much as possible.   By forging those links before a crisis occurs, we at least know who we can count on to help us and participate in survival activities.

Rick has no such luxury. This group has been ad hoc from the beginning, and now they are faced with having to deal with convicts of a questionable nature.  Whenever we are approached or are approaching an unfamiliar group, we should always use extreme caution.  Do not give out more information than necessary -- when Tomas asked how many were in Rick's group, Rick simply said, "too many for you to handle."  That also goes in the aftermath of a crisis when help arrives.  After Hurricane Sandy, warnings went out to residents in New York that criminals were donning utility worker uniforms and trying to gain entry to homes.  That later turned out to be a hoax, but the threat was there.  Certainly, there was looting in the New York area.

Also of note in the group survival arena is that Carol has been cross-trained by Hershel in first aid and midwifing, and that is a tip all of us should take to heart.  What's the use of one person knowing how to start a fire in the group if that person dies or is separated from the main body?  Cross-training should occur in as many areas as possible.   I really dislike that Hershel was injured in Seed.  Your only qualified medical personnel should never be on the front lines.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 302:

  • You cannot protect and help your family from a prison cell.  Don't violate the law or your moral compass.
  • Use caution dealing with strange groups.  You should be forming bonds before the crisis occurs.
  • Group members should be cross-trained to the extent possible in essential survival skills.

Next week:   Hi, I'm the Governor.   I am totally not a spooky dude.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, The Media, and Personal Responsibility

This morning I am watching Fox News to get the headlines.   I really don't like the mainstream media.  As a former journalist, with a Master's Degree in the field, I find the blatant bias on display at the national level glaringly obvious,  almost to the point of absurdity.

Case in point:   This morning, the discussion centered around the lack of fuel for cars and generators in New England.   Most of the gas stations are either out of fuel for the pumps or the power is out to the pumps.   People are standing in line for hours for gasoline to run generators.   Aid is slowly trickling in.

At one point a guest commentator sitting in for Brian Kilmeade says, "Why can't they just get generators and bring them to the gas stations?"

 Not a bad idea, actually.  This would allow commerce to resume and allow people to get the fuel they need.

 "Or why can't they just bring in filled gas cans and hand them out to people?"

You have got to be freaking kidding me.  Why should FEMA be responsible for giving everyone fuel for their generators?  What kind of crap is that?

New Jersey residents fill a gas can.  Just one.
There are legitimate needs in New England.  Rescuers are still fishing bodies out of the water.  People are without food, power, water and sanitation.   Communications are down.  The infrastructure took a real hit, and it's not going to come back overnight.  It never does.  The region needs help to recover from the storm, and that help is coming.  Repair crews, prepositioned, have been swarming into the area.   Water is being pumped out of the low-lying areas of New York City.  Medical aid is coming in to help the swamped health care system.

But it's NEW ENGLAND.  You get bad storms EVERY winter.  If you have the forethought to purchase a generator, why would you not purchase and store fuel as well?

On June 29, 2012, a massive storm called a derecho swept through my state and left most of it without power.  We were caught off guard.  There was little or no warning of the storm.   People went for up to two weeks without power.  We learned, and we knew what we needed to do if something like this happened again.
Much of this preparation by myself and others paid off when Sandy came ashore and the rain and flood event in the Northeast became a snow event in our area.   Areas of my state saw over 30 inches of snow.  But unlike the derecho in June, residents had warning and were prepared this time.   And our power grid, much of which had to be replaced in June, suffered much less damage and is being repaired much more quickly, because the power company learned lessons as well.

Preparedness is, at its core, the personification of the concept of personal responsibility.   If Hurricane Katrina showed us anything in 2005, it was that if you are waiting for someone to come rescue you, you are going to be waiting for some time.   You need to take responsibility for your own wellbeing and safety.  The people at the New Orleans convention center discovered this.  So did the people at the Superdome.  Remember all those wonderful tearjerker news pieces showing starving babies in those places?

Which gets me to what really infuriates me about Fox News.  STOP.  Stop jumping up and down like an organ grinder's monkey and doing the same garbage the left-wing media did to George W. Bush.   We get it.  You don't like Barack Obama.  I'm not a fan either.  Now STOP IT.  You aren't helping.  You are either for individual freedom and the responsibility that comes with it or you aren't.  Your principles and what you tolerate should not change depending on who's occupying the White House.

Keep in mind that everyone knew this storm was coming, just like Katrina in 2005.  There was time for people to get out or be transported out if they did not have the means.  After all, it is the Northeast,  and many people, especially in New York, do not have cars and depend on public transit.  Some even chose not to evacuate when ordered to do so.  They should be the last in line when it comes to getting aid, and not one rescue worker should not be put at risk saving them.  You have a God-given right to be stupid.   Don't expect the rest of us to bail you out when you act stupidly.

Then there are towns that won't accept help from out-of-state electrical crews because the workers don't belong to a union.  That isn't a joke.  Read all about it here.

I really hope the people in the towns that turned down help wise up and vote those jokers out of office.  If you can't fix it yourself, you'd better be willing to accept the help you're offered.  Perhaps the media will cover that, but probably not.   After all, bashing local politicians and their short-sightedness and mismanagement of a crisis is not as sexy as bashing a sitting president.  Ray Nagin, anyone?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reviews Delayed But On the Way

The reviews of Episode 302 and 303 of the Walking Dead have been delayed due to attending some family matters and the Hurricane Sandy super storm.     I have been without Internet and cable service for the last several days and hope to have them up in time for the Sunday episode.

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those in the Northeast who have lost so much.