Monday, September 21, 2015

Preparedness Review of Fear the Walking Dead Episode 104: Not Fade Away

Spoiler Alert!!!

Travis:  You could have notified his wife, sir.
Lt. Moyers:  I'm not a social worker.  That's your job Mister Mayor.

Synopsis:  The military protective occupation of the East Los Angeles area has been going on for nine days, and people are starting to lose patience with a lack of news, a lack of medical care, and a lack of necessities.  The surrounding area has been evacuated.   Chris is on the roof documenting the events and sees a light flashing in a house across the valley.    He tells his dad, who dismisses it.   Lt. Moyers, commander of the military detachment, tells the neighbors things are being brought under control, and the military brings in rations for the people but little else.   Nick seems to be overcoming his addiction, but in reality is stealing an old man's morphine.  Alicia discovers her neighbor's suicide note, which forces her to grieve for her boyfriend, while Travis runs around the neighborhood and tries to act a liaison for the citizens.  One man who has caused problems for the military is "detained" when he attempts to drive his car out of the perimeter., and Madison sneaks though the fence to discover that the military has killed ordinary civilians in addition to the infected.  A doctor arrives to treat and triage those with medical conditions, including Nick, who Liza mentions is a recovering addict.  The military arrives and takes Griselda and Nick, and as Travis goes to the roof to gather his thoughts, he sees the muzzle flashes of automatic weapons in the house where Chris saw the signal light.

Not Fade Away is a lot less about the impending horror of being eaten by zombies and much more about the lack of control the survivors feel as the military takes over the day-to-day lives of the community.  Chris provides some expository dialogue at the beginning as he films the soldiers and the fence they have erected around the area for their protection, and documents the Army trucking in cases of Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs, to feed the civilians.   He notices a light flashing in a window in a house across the valley, and records it with his camera.

Travis, meanwhile is on a morning run around the neighborhood, as if nothing is wrong -- either that or he remembers Zombieland's first rule: cardio. He seems to have been appointed the unofficial liaison between the military and the civilians.   Madison is trying to hold the house together, but Liza is off treating sick people, and the Salazars are keeping to themselves in Alicia's room.   It's tight quarters, and she is feeling the strain.   She and Travis hide in the garage to spend time alone.  Alicia, who seeks solace in her now dead neighbor's house, finds her suicide note.   She grieves for her dead boyfriend, and uses a makeshift tattoo setup to permanently inscribe the heart he drew on her arm as a memorial.

Lt. Moyers, the commanding officer of the infantry unit, insists things are getting better, and the infected are being contained, including reading a prepared statement from his commanding officer.  The problem is that the facts on the ground disprove his confidence:  power is only on for part of the day, there has been no medical care delivered yet, and everyone has to boil the water before drinking it.  Phones are down, there is no communication from outside, and no word as to where the other civilians have been evacuated.   (On a side note:  why did the Army evacuate everyone else but this community?  That is a LOT of people.)  Lt. Moyers explains the complainers are the lucky ones, and they should "relax, count your blessings, be nice… so I don’t have to shoot you.”

Moyers enlists Travis to help with a neighbor,  who is cracking under the strain of trying to maintain a facade of normality for his kids.   Travis talks him down and gets him to submit to a military health check, averting a crisis.  Soldiers were poised outside the home to subdue him if he did not comply.

Ofelia is working on her own brand of military-civilian fraternization, beginning a relationship with a soldier in the detachment to try to obtain medical supplies for her mother, whose injured leg is now infected. She is not successful.

Madison, meanwhile, wants to know what is happening outside the wire, and sneaks through the perimeter fence to explore the surrounding neighborhoods.  She finds dead infected in the streets, accompanied by non-infected persons who were gunned down as well.   She is forced to hide from a roving patrol, and is confronted by the fact that all is not as it seems with their military "protectors."

Liza has been busy caring for people in the neighborhood, including a man named Hector who is on a morphine drip.  What she doesn't know is that Nick is sneaking into his room and stealing the morphine by starting an IV between his toes.  Dr. Exenar, a doctor "from the government" arrives to conduct the health screenings, and takes Hector away, along with his wife.  She explains to Liza she knows she is not a doctor or a nurse but that she has done well for the community.   Exenar tells the Salazars that Griselda's leg needs surgery, and that Daniel can go with her to the medical facility.

That night, the jittery neighbor Travis calmed earlier goes missing, and the next morning Travis finds his car down near the perimeter fence. He confronts Moyers, who says his men were forced to detain him and that notifying the family is not his job. Travis mentions the lights Chris sighted in the demilitarized zone, but the officer seems to take little interest in the matter.

Madison confides in Daniel Salazar what she saw outside the wire, and Daniel relates that the
A view to a kill.
situation echoes some of the savagery that marked the El Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s.  He tells her to keep her son close, and asks that she takes care of Ofelia if he does not come back from the hospital.  Madison goes to find Nick, and discovers him going through Hector's house for more drugs.  She beats the crap out of him in frustration.  Later, he and Alicia share a moment of comfort, but it is cut short when military escorts arrive to pick up Griselda.  Daniel is not allowed to go with her, and in a twist, Nick is cuffed and taken away.  Liza agrees to go with Exenar and help at the medical facility, and the whole clan is left shaken by events.  Madison blames Liza for Nick's detainment,  and the episode ends when Travis, sitting on the roof with tears in his eyes, sees the muzzle flashes of automatic weapons in the house where Chris saw the light signaling earlier.  He finally realizes that the military cordon is not what it seems, and that things are never going to be normal again.

Preparedness Discussion

Episode 104 underscores the need for communications capabilities independent of the internet and conventional broadcast outlets. The community is totally cut off and dependent upon the military for news of the outside world.   Imagine the difference if just one home possessed a ham radio set with a skilled operator.  This has opened my eyes to an overlooked part of my preparations and highlighted my vulnerability in this area.

Then again, the radio may have gotten confiscated on the first day.  The saddest part of this episode is the total ineptitude of the military in civilian affairs despite years of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, or maybe because of that experience.  Lt. Moyers, the commanding officer of the troops, is prosecuting this operation as if he is overseas in a non-permissive environment instead of on his own soil.  There doesn't need to be a show of force because the civilian population is already on your side.  No one is planting IEDs in the road or planning ambushes -- yet.  If he keeps antagonizing the locals that might change.  I hope this is not the way our military might respond in a peacetime humanitarian mission here in the United States.  This is less of a protective mission and more of an occupation.  How long will his troops stay on mission and continue following his orders?   It just goes to show that your supposed saviors might not be all they are cracked up to be.

Liza is the catalyst for much of the action in this episode, as she proves her worth by providing medical care to the sick and injured.   She is able to use her admittedly incomplete medical knowledge and the meager resources at her disposal to jury rig, improvise and adapt them in a non-conventional way to keep people from dying.  It is not her gear, but her skills, that benefit her and it's proof that skills trump equipment in many instances.  It would pay preppers to remember that.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 104:

  • Obtain the equipment and skills in your own home or in your network of prepper friends to communicate through ham radio or other less conventional methods. 
  • A protection camp can be a detention camp depending on who is in charge -- and you don't get to vote.
  • Skills trump gearInvest in getting training in first aid or marksmanship instead of buying another gun or a redundant piece of equipment. 

Next week:  The situation deteriorates at the hospital, and the troops begin to question their orders.   No good can come of this.


  1. Don't give Liza too much credit .... she sold everyone out and takes a deal to better herself by heading to the death camp to "nurse" ....

    1. I see Liza as going one of two ways ... Either she sold everyone out or she went along to take care of Griselda and Nick because she felt responsible. Her comments about having a son to care for make me think the latter but we shall see.

    2. At this point I see Liza as having acted in innocence and ignorance. She still trusted authority, something I stopped doing at a young age.

  2. Liza I believe had NO idea as to what would befall her charges, the bed-ridden guy, Ofelia's mom and Nick. The military likely (I may have missed it) asked who in the neighborhood had "medical issues" and needed medication, with her thinking the authorities were there "to help" offered up info assuming necessary items would be provided. If I remember correctly Ofelia asked her suitor Cpl Adams about the promised meds that were not forthcoming, it's a case of "good intentions" going awry thanks to fear, misinformation and a corrupt system.

  3. I honestly think next week you are going to see the fragile equilibrium of the zone break down. These national guard troops have families too. They are going to start thinking about going home.