Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 402: Infected

Spoiler Alert !!!! 

Rick:  I know what to do!

Synopsis:  Patrick, who awoke in the cell block shower as a walker, attacks a man in his cell and starts the chain of violence inside the prison.  Casualties are heavy before order was restored, and the two girls in the last episode who were naming the walkers lose their dad.  Carol agrees to care for them.   Hershel, Doc S and the rest of the group surmise that Patrick died of some sort or respiratory super bug and now everyone has been exposed.  The pigs are getting it, too, so they have to be destroyed.  Karen and another survivor are symptomatic and placed in quarantine.  Meanwhile, Rick resists swinging back into the action, but is forced to lead a reaction force when the walkers nearly overrun the perimeter.  Someone has been feeding rats to the walkers in that area, and Rick uses the live pigs to lure away the herd. He gives Carl his gun and straps his own back to his hip, symbolizing that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot escape the horrors outside. Michonne is injured and is forced to hold Judith while being treated, and becomes emotional while holding her.   Tyreese makes a grisly and shocking discovery.

Oh, and Bob had only one scene this week, which is good because he couldn't get anyone killed.   He also didn't seem to do a lot to help either, thus certifying his status as a load.

Karen burned before she turned.
Tyreese and Karen are getting cozy in the library, and Tyreese tries in vain to a) sing well and b) get shack up for the night.   They part, and Karen narrowly misses being Patrick's first victim in the bathroom.  He is instead lured to the cell block by the sound of snoring, and begins the process of turning a heavy sleeper into a meal by ripping out his throat and nibbling on the rest.  That person then reanimates and the pair move to attack the rest of the group.  By the time it is over, twelve people are dead or dying. 

Hershel, Doc S (the only thing I heard him called with any regularity) and Bob discuss the situation and come to the conclusion that some sort of super flu virus or other contagion has gotten loose in the prison.  Rick shares that one of his pigs died, and he saw a dying boar in the woods.   Hershel remarks that ducks and pigs are "how these things usually get started" thus confirming part of my analysis from the last episode.

As a friend of mine would say:  blog validation, baby!

This is Bob's one and only appearance this week. He was in that cell block, but neither killed walkers, nor carried bodies out.   He is a former Army medic, but he lends no first aid .  He didn't get anyone killed, though (unless he was the one who did the two patients with symptoms at the episode's end) so that is an improvement.

While the council is discussing the issue, they hear Karen coughing in the hallway.   She is quickly isolated, as is David, another survivor, in Cell Block A - Death Row.   Also, one of the victims makes Carol promise to raise his two daughters, Lizzy and Mika,  as her own, just before they put him down.  The older daughter, Lizzy,  wants to do it, but loses her nerve.   The girls run outside while Carol completes the job, and she later confronts Lizzy about it, calling her weak. Lizzy goes off about Nick, her pet walker at the fence being dead.  Mika, tells Carol, "she's messed up, not weak."  Later Carol and Lizzy share another moment at the fence, where Carol forces her to admit it is her dad she is upset about, not the walker Nick.

Daryl and Rick have a conversation while digging graves for the dead survivors, and Daryl urges him to get back into a leadership role, but Rick resists, insisting that the kind of calls you have to make as a leader led him to a dark place, and took his son along for the ride. 

While this is going on, Michonne is getting first aid from Beth due to an injured ankle she suffered trying to come back to the prison to help.   She is forced to hold baby Judith for a moment, and in that moment becomes very emotional.  There is some foreshadowing in her discussion with Beth.  Mika was only half right.  Everyone is messed up, not just her sister.

In the meantime, walkers are assaulting a particular part of the fence.  Daryl, Tyreese, Rick, Glen,

Daryl hopes Rick comes back to lead soon.
Maggie,and Sasha run to kill them, but there are too many.  The outer fence begins to buckle as the herd presses relentlessly forward.  Rick takes a look at the pig pen, and he says he knows what to do.  He and Daryl use a truck to get outside the fence and toss the pigs, which are now a disease risk, to the walkers after first slicing a leg to cripple them.  It's a powerful scene.   Rick has invested so much time into building something, and now has to destroy what he cared for to save the others.   It's at that moment he apparently realizes the can no longer hide from the world outside the fences.  It's superbly acted by Andrew Lincoln.

Then there is Carl and Carol.  Carl knows she has been teaching kids how to defend each other from walkers, and she doesn't want Carl to tell his dad.   She confronts him as he is making crosses for the dead, and Carl, to his credit, throws it back in her face.   He tells Rick after the walker threat is abated.   It was heartening to see that Rick and Carl's relationship has been repaired to the point that they can have this conversation, and that Carl trusts his dad.  Rick decides not to stop her, and after burning the pig pen, hands Carl his gun and straps his to his hip.  It's another emotional scene as Carl, realizing his dad needs some time alone, leaves him to grieve the destruction of part of his work at the farm.

The final scene brings to us another hammer blow, as Tyreese heads to the makeshift isolation ward with some flowers for Karen and finds nothing but blood in the cells.   He follows bloody drag trails to an outer courtyard to find Karen and David, the other symptomatic survivor, have been murdered, and the bodies burned with gasoline.  There is now a murderer in their midst.

Preparedness Discussion

The lack of an armed fire watch leads to the needless deaths of twelve people.   It was a stupid, stupid way for people to die.  All it would take is a couple of people each night in the cell blocks with guns to have stopped this. More people are probably going to die of the flu, and that will put the rest of them at risk.  

Modern society has insulated us from the reality that in the United States, diseases like cholera, influenza, polio, etc.  took enormous tolls on the population.  The Third World still contains places where infectious diarrhea is a real killer of infants and children.  The Spanish Flu pandemic killed millions between 1918 and 1920.   Anything that cannot be cleaned with bleach should be burned. Sanitation and hygiene in a post-collapse scenario as depicted on The Walking Dead is paramount, and I was hoping this season it would be addressed.  The producers have done so in spades.  As preppers, we sometimes overlook this area.  If the toilets stop working, how do you dispose of waste?  If the water stops running from the tap, how do you collect and purify it, and how much do you need to clean?  What chemicals or other natural products can you use to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces?  The groups scavenging supplies should look for bleach, buckets and mops that can be used do sanitize Cell Block D and everyone should be taking a bath as water collections allows.   The group has set up water collection from the roof downspouts (a nice touch by the production crew) so some water could be boiled for safety and then used to clean everyone and everything suspected of being exposed or contaminated.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all.

Their outer perimeter security needs some serious work.   Apparently Glen and Maggie should not be on watch together as they are too busy canoodling to notice a person walk to the outer fence with a flashlight and feed rats to the walkers to lure them to the prison. For that matter, the fences need to be fortified with more bracing and perhaps a second fence of logs stacked horizontally between two upright logs buried vertically in the earth as another barrier that would help brace the chain link.   Also, more breastworks like the ones near the gates should be erected in front of the weakened section to keep walkers away from it.   Producer Greg Nicotero has said publicly that the initial design for the season called for a moat, but that the crew found quicksand on the site and had to abandon it.

The lack of security at the quarantine ward was more understandable.  The two patients were locked in cells.  They were not a danger, but apparently someone decided to take no chances.   No one heard gunshots, so either they were killed by blunt weapons or with suppressed firearms.  Hmmmmmm.  Who owns suppressed weapons?

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 401:

  • Simple mistakes like not setting a watch can get you killed.
  • Hygiene is important.   Learn how to disinfect and clean contaminated surfaces and how to minimize your exposure to waterborne illnesses like cholera.
  • Fortify your perimeter.  Make sure all locks on doors or windows are in good repair and working order.  Consider a safe room or area to flee to in case of a break in, and have a means to defend yourself while waiting on police officers to arrive in case of a break-in.  Consider landscape changes like addition fencing or planting bushes under windows vulnerable to a break-in.
  • Know who you are surviving with and what motivates them.   You don't want to end up like Karen and David.
Next week:  Tyreese is out for blood.   Just like the walkers.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Where are the rest of the Season Three Reviews?

Simply put, real life got in the way.   I plan on doing capsule reviews of Episodes 304-316 of The Walking Dead as I can, along with a host of new content.

Until then, enjoy Season 4.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 401: 30 Days Without an Accident

Spoiler Alert!!!

Carl:  When can I have my gun back?

Synopsis:  Life at the prison has settled into somewhat of a routine.   The prison population has grown, and Rick has handed over leadership to a ruling council that governs the burgeoning community.  He is now working at becoming a full time father to Carl and Judith in an attempt to pull himself back from the brink of madness and deprogram Carl.  Daryl has become a bit of a celebrity, and the group’s food needs are being met by additional scavenging runs and the farm.  There are glimpses of the horror outside, as a supply run results in the loss of supplies and the death of one of the crew.  Walkers are attacking the fences, forcing “fence cleaners” to go around the perimeter and sweep them out.   Rick encounters a woman in the woods who is clearly around the bend, and one of the teens dies mysteriously and wakes up in the secure area as a walker. 

The episode opens with Rick heading out to the farm in the prison yard.   He has given up leadership to a council comprised of Hershel, Glen, Carol, Sasha, and Daryl, and devoted his time to growing food for the group as well as getting as far away from the violence as possible.   He no longer carries a gun or allows Carl to carry one.  He is focusing on being a father and a farmer.   Hershel has to convince him to take a gun when he goes outside the perimeter to check game snares for deer, etc.  He find a freshly buried gun in the garden, and throws it in his wheelbarrow before he and Carl notice one of the pigs seems to be sick.  He also keeps noticing a walker on the fence that looks different somehow.  It has been bleeding from its eyes.

In the meantime, Carol and Daryl discuss the upcoming supply run.   The council has divided scavengers into crews, and on this day, the Gold Crew (I presume named after the U.S. Navy’s alternating Gold and Blue crews for fleet ballistic missile submarines) has its hands full clearing the fences of a serious zombie buildup.  The zombies are bunching up into areas and threatening to overwhelm the perimeter without constant culling.  Daryl also has a bit of a fan following as the leader of the runs that have rescued so many of the newcomers, including Patrick, a teen survivor and buddy of Carl.

Daryl leads a crew out of the wire to a store with Sasha, Tyreese , Glen, a newly arrived Michonne (who has been off hunting the Governor) and newcomers Bob Stookey and Zach, Beth’s boyfriend.  We never hear Zach’s last name.   He might as well be wearing a red shirt.

This man is going to get people killed.
The run goes bad when Bob (a.k.a. Carl Jr.) has a liquor shelf fall on him, drawing the attention of walkers on the roof of the store.  They died when a helicopter crash landed on top of the building.  The weakened structure collapses under the weight of the zombies, and suddenly it’s raining walkers.  The group extracts Bob and gets out before the whole roof collapses, but not before Red Shirt Zach is bitten and killed.

Carl and Patrick happen upon a group of younger kids at the fence at the prison who are naming the walkers like pets, which makes Carl livid.    Patrick, who has a crush on one of the girls, follows them to story time, but excuses himself when he begins to feel sick.  Carl sneaks in and catches Carol teaching the kids about how to use knives for self defense.

Rick is in the woods checking snares when he spies a feral pig lying sick on the ground.  He hides when what he thinks is a walker approaches it but she turns out to be another survivor, henceforth known as Creepy Clara, who is camping nearby with Eddy, her husband.  They are from the U.K. and became trapped in Atlanta when the airlines were grounded at the outbreak.   She leads him back to her camp where she attacks Rick to feed him to Eddy, or more precisely Eddy’s head.  Eddy turned and she kept the head because she could not bear the thought of being alone.  She then kills herself saying you cannot come back from the bad things you have to do to survive in this world.

The episode wraps with Daryl informing Beth about Zach.  She doesn’t cry, and says she’s just glad she got   In her cell is a sign that says “30 Days Without An Accident.”  She removes the three.  Bob’s a little shaky from the close call, and Patrick heads to the bathroom in the middle of the night and succumbs to some sort of illness.  He turns on the shower floor, with everyone appearing to still be asleep.  Blood has poured from his eyes.
The is the person Bob got killed this week.  Poor Beth.

Preparedness Discussion
Dramatically, this season opener is a rather muted departure from the action we are used to seeing on this show.  Six months have passed since the Governor’s assault, and things are kind of settled and secured.  The episode has a complex A-B-C plot line, and, despite being relatively light in action, sets up a myriad of little plots that should pay off in upcoming episodes.

The security situation is much improved.  The prison yard has been reclaimed, a new fortified gate has been installed, and the fences reinforced.   The group has obviously accumulated addition firearms and ammunition (probably from the presumably defunct town of Woodbury and its slaughtered strike force) and melee weapons are placed in strategic positions to ensure easy access.   They are being smarter when outside the wire as well.   A few days before the events of the episode they found a large retail store filled with walkers.  Rather than trying to take them hand to hand or abandoning the supplies, the crew placed a boom box playing music powered by car batteries in the distance, and drew the walkers out.  Since them the walkers have wandered off, leaving the store seemingly ripe for the picking. 

For what it's worth, here is my proposed Rocking the Zombie Apocalypse Mix for drawing out walkers (chosen strictly for the ironic titles):
  • Down With the Sickness - Disturbed
  • Bits and Pieces - The Dave Clark Five
  • Helter Skelter - The Beatles
  • Welcome To My Nightmare - Alice Cooper
  • Kind Of A Drag - The Buckinghams
  • Staying Alive - The Bee Gees
  • The End - The Doors
I like some of the attention to detail here, but I am driven to distraction by the maddening lack of attention for firearms and weapon details.  Bob Stookey's M-4 clone rifle has no rear sight.   Daryl's shiny new crossbow, picked up last season, still has no sight.  There is no way Rick's iconic gun has any ammo left.  He should stick to the Glock (which makes me wonder if they ever found the mags and extra rounds Shane stashed in the product-placed Hyundai in Season 2).

The run crew.  Which one of these guys is a load?
I also appreciate the fact that structures are starting to collapse.  While many buildings such as brick office and school buildings might be intact for decades.  Strip malls with flat roofs might be particularly vulnerable to rot and collapse, especially one with a helicopter on it.   Some viewers complained that the roof just happening to cave in at that time was a tad unrealistic as walkers were moving around on it for months, but I would argue that the sound of Bob's liquor rack crashing caused them all to come to the same point at one time and put excess stress on the area in question.   I don't buy that it stayed intact when the helicopter crashed on it, but I am willing to suspend a little disbelief.   A simpler (and less expensive to portray CGI-wise) explanation would be that the military placed an observation post on the roof and everyone up there died when one of them turned.

Things are becoming a bit too routine.    The kids are losing their fear of the walkers. People feel safe enough inside the fence that most are not carrying weapons.   It is common knowledge now that anyone who dies for whatever reason will come back as a walker.  There are seemingly no precautions against this inside the cell blocks.

The military has a tradition called the "fire watch" inside barracks and other buildings.  This is carried out not necessarily by armed security, but by the people who live in the building.  The idea is to have people take turns on watch at night to ensure nothing bad such as a fire (hence the name) happens.   Each cell block should be closed at night, with an armed security element to ensure safety. Some extra food and water should be stored in each block for contingencies, so that if walkers breach the yard, those inside could hold out until the walkers moved off or were cleared.  It makes me wonder what precautions they have taken against fire as well.   I haven't really seen any extinguishers, and there have to be tons just lying around in abandoned buildings.

The survivors have focused on sustainability as well.   The entire prison yard is now a functioning farm, with crops, a pig pen, and beehives.  I particularly like the bee hives.  Once the sugar runs out, how are you going to sweeten something, right? Food doesn't sprout instantly, so this has taken thought and planning. Rick has become the main caretaker with Carl, and Hershel, ever the wise old man, is giving him tips on gardening.   There are gravity fed water tanks for showers in the prison cell blocks, and fresh food is prepared outside in a pavilion.

Too bad no chickens survived the Apocalypse.

Wild game is still available, and hunting and snaring are augmenting the protein sources they are finding on the runs.  All this points to the fact that this a community building here, not another Woodbury dictatorship.  People have a vested interest in the survival of the group.  I would like to see more on how they are purifying water and getting rid of solid waste (i.e., poop).  In a large group like this, sanitation becomes a huge concern. 

This brings us to our final concern - what in the world happened to Patrick?  He is fine at the beginning of the
Don't worry learning my name.  I won't be here long.
episode, then slouching an moaning at the end with no apparent wounds or exposure to walkers.   I suspect the answer lies in the dead and dying pigs.

 It has long been known in the public health system that influenza outbreaks are propelled by pigs.   You see, in China, pigs, birds like ducks, and humans live in close contact with each other.  The birds can give pigs influenza, but not humans.  Pigs can give the humans an influenza virus, though.  We get new strains of flu when birds pass on their illnesses to pigs, where the virus mutates, and then becomes infectious to humans.   That is why the vaccine for the flu changes every year.

So how does this apply to 30 Days? Either the pigs are getting sick with some new bug that killed Patrick, or the source of that zombie thing all the cool kids are doing nowadays has mutated in the pigs and gone either airborne or contact infection capable.  Now you can get it without a bite.   Scary.  I am leaning toward the latter.  Remember the eye-bleeding walker Rick kept noticing near the pig pen?  Patrick has clearly been bleeding from the eyes in the shower room.  Rick's pig is now dead as well.   Connection?  I think so.

Rick's struggle to come back from the dark place his soul lived in last year is a central theme as well.   It has been said that a crisis or survival situation always reveals one's true character.   In most instances, the crisis or disasters we will be faced with as preppers are short term in nature, and if you act like a jerk and lone wolf, expect blowback after it's over.   Rick has had to go to a dark place just to ensure his group's survival.  Hopefully no one is ever faced with such a choice.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 401:

  •  Never stop assessing and improving your internal and external security.  You should always have a watch of some sort at night to maintain safety and security, even if you have a fixed and secure position. Fight complacency.
  • The time to set up your network of like-minded individuals is now.  You need to decide how you want to run any community or mutual assistance group. Set up by-laws and a governing agreement.  You don't want a dictatorship.
  •  Invest in sustainability now.   It's easier to maintain a garden that to start one fresh after a long-term disaster. 
  • Have a plan and make preparations for maintaining hygiene and cleanliness to keep diseases at bay.  Understand how disease spreads and how to mitigate the risk. 

Next Week:  Hi, I'm Patrick.  Can I have your liver?