Thursday, October 17, 2013

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?

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