Monday, September 28, 2015

Preparedness Review of Fear the Walking Dead Episode 105: Cobalt

Spoiler Alert!!

Strand (to Nick):  You're not just an addict, you're a heroin addict. That's the gold standard.  Don't sell yourself short.

Synopsis:  The military has a plan, and it really sucks.   Ofelia attempts to force the soldiers to return her mom, prompting her soldier boyfriend to intervene, and take her home before she is subdued by force.  Her dad takes him prisoner and tortures him for information.  Madison protests, but does not stop it.   In the meantime, Travis goes to Lt. Moyers to try to convince him to let those taken come back, lest civil unrest in the safe zone occur.  Liza is inculcated into the medical hospital groove, where anyone with a bite is sent one way and anyone without a bite is sent another, and holding cells contain anyone who has been detained but not obviously sick.  Griselda has had her foot amputated, but is in septic shock and is spiraling toward death.   Moyers takes Travis on a patrol to the medical facility but it is cut short when the soldiers go to rescue another unit in trouble.  A pitched battle results, and Moyers doesn't come back.  The other soldiers see it as their chance to cut and run, and drop Travis off back at the house before heading home to find their loved ones.  A newcomer saves Nick from death, for a price, and Liza finds out the horrible truth about the dead when she is forced to stop Griselda from becoming a walker.   Ofelia finally understands what her dad did in the El Salvadoran civil war, and is horrified.   Whatever Daniel's methods, he gets results.  "Cobalt" is a code name for the military's withdrawal from the Los Angeles area, set to occur at 9 a.m. the next morning, complete with the massacre of the remaining civilians in the medical center -- humane termination.

Cobalt begins in one of the military's detention facilities, where Strand, a smooth operator and confidence man, works Travis' unstable neighbor Doug into a breakdown.    Once he has been removed by the guards, he starts working on the other person in the cage -- Nick, who is suffering from withdrawal again.

Ofelia confronts the soldiers guarding the safe zone, demanding the return of her mother.  The soldiers are about to subdue her by force when Cpl. Adams, with whom she'd been involved in a previous episode, intervenes and escorts her home.  This causes some dissension in the ranks, as the soldiers, who have families of their own, begin to question their orders and lose confidence in Moyers.   Adams is captured and held by Daniel Salazar when he gets home in the Tran's basement, and begins to threaten him with torture.   Madison finds out about the plot, and pleads for them not to do it, but does not intervene.

Travis, meanwhile, is fighting with his son Chris over what to do, and decides to talk to Moyers and attempt to get the people back.  Moyers resists, explaining that the doctor has final say, but relents with Travis infers that people in the zone are going to stop cooperating and start resisting if there is not some accounting for the eleven missing people.

Travis tries his hand a shooting  .... not.
Moyers orders Sergeant Castro and his team to get ready to escort Travis to the medical facility, but the sergeant asks to be relieved from the duty, as his men have been on their feet two days straight.  The officer doesn't care, and orders him to mount up anyway.  They stop en route to eliminate a walker in a doughnut shop with a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle, and the officer tries to get Travis to pull the trigger.  Travis can't follow through, so Moyers kills the walker instead (Side Note:  I am not an expert by any means, but after some research I think the effects department fell down on this one.  That corpse shouldn't have a head left if it's hit by a .50 caliber round, and it's not like we haven't seen way more graphic stuff in The Walking Dead).  They are interrupted again when another unit radios a distress call after finding a nest of walkers in a local library.   Eight soldiers, including Moyers, enter the building; three come out, and Moyers is not among them.  The whole time, Travis hears the screams and panicked cries of the soldiers over the radio as they fight a losing battle.  The surviving soldiers decide to desert their posts to check on their families and drop off Travis back at home.

Nick, who is feverish and weak at the detention center, is about to be hauled off when Strand manages to bribe a guard to leave him there.   The new player has a role for Nick, and sees him as having a unique set of survival skills that will help them both on the outside.  Strand has a key to the cell and is planning an escape.

That's gotta hurt.
Daniel continues to torture Adams for information, especially regarding the meaning of the word "Cobalt" he keeps hearing over Adams' radio.  Adams tells him of one incident in which there was a walker outbreak in a nearby arena, and because the soldiers couldn't tell who was a walker and who wasn't, the soldiers bolted the doors shut and left all 2,000 civilians inside to die.  Ofelia finds her father using his razors to peel skin off of the soldier's arm, and is horrified.  Daniel confesses to Madison that she always told Ofelia what happened during the war, but never told her his part as a government interrogator. 

At the hospital, Liza finds Griselda, who has been isolated in a fenced in pen with other terminal cases; she is feverish, delirious, and ranting to someone regarding the state of her soul and the world. She passes, and that's when the doctor informs Liza that all the dead come back to life now, and the brain must be destroyed to stop it.  They use a captive bolt gun, normally used to euthanize cattle, to stop the process by shooting a bolt into her head.

Travis returns to find Daniel finishing up his work, and confronts him.  That's when Daniels orders Adams to tell them all the truth.  "Cobalt" is the code word that authorizes the withdrawal of all military forces from the Los Angeles basin.   The remaining civilians will be left behind, and those who are in the medical facility will be "humanely terminated."  Cobalt will be implemented the next morning at 9 a.m. 

Liza gets a crash course in being a doctor.
Meanwhile, Chris, who has teamed up with douche bagette Alicia, spends the entire episode not rescuing his mom after complaining to his dad that Travis didn't do enough.   They instead go to an abandoned upper scale house, put on rich people clothes, and trash the place ... you know, because they had a rough childhood.   On the way home, they see the military trucks loaded with supplies pulling out of the encampment.

Daniel goes to check out the corporal's story about the arena, and finds the doors chained and walkers inside just as described.  He now has no reason to doubt the young soldier's story.  The military is pulling out, and his wife and Nick are on a time clock.  He doesn't know his wife is dead, so his urgency is palpable.

Preparedness Discussion

This episode is a satisfying payoff from last week's all setup episode Not Fade Away.   The wheels are in motion that will ensure the eventual destruction of the safe zone and the deaths of everyone inside.   Once the military withdraws, the walkers will probably return in short order, and as we know from The Walking Dead, fences alone cannot keep them out.   The military, instead of pushing back into L.A., is abandoning it to the walkers.   While the evacuation of the surrounding neighborhoods has lowered the risk, eventually people are going to start dying again, and once that happens, the cycle will repeat itself.   The federal response to the crisis has reached its nadir, and the desertions of the soldiers begin, because eventually people will want to care for their own families as well.

The situation has turned from a bug-in at a secure location to a bug out because the military is withdrawing its protection.  Moyers said at one point there were 12 safe zones set up in the area.   My suspicion is that the military was ordered to set these up, just in case the situation went out of control, so that they could serve as live bait to cover the evacuation.  The group now needs to be ready to implement their initial plan to get out of the area.  Let's hope all their stuff is still packed.

I wrote last week that skills trump gear.  Make sure you develop skills that would be in demand in a long-term survival situation.   Liza is in demand because she is a nursing student and a quick study.  Nick is in demand because he knows how to scrounge and find what he needs to survive.  Remember, he knew where to find the shotgun a couple of episodes back. Conversely, Alicia, who previously was the golden child, really doesn't know how to adapt to this new world, as a finely tuned postmodern sense of irony and sarcasm aren't in demand in the Apocalypse.  Likewise, it's hard for Chris to fulfill his dream of being a douche bag social revolutionary when society no longer exists.   They could have searched the abandoned house for food, resources, and weapons, but instead booze it up and break stuff, because there's NO RULZ!

Travis is struggling to hold onto his humanity, but Moyers has a point when he criticizes his inability to pull the trigger -- he eats their food and relies on the soldiers to protect them, but can't do the dirty work himself.  Perhaps that is why he bought into the military's line for so long.  If they are there to provide protection, he doesn't have to do it himself.  I am wondering if he is going to survive the finale.

Madison, meanwhile, has no problem compromising morality to achieve a goal.   She is clearly the stronger of the two.   She and Daniel are becoming a formidable survival core around which others can orbit.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 105:
  • When you place your fate in the hands of the government, expect to be let down.  Every part of the federal bureaucracy is bloated by its very nature.  The people working in it are trying to do their jobs, but at some point they have families and lives as well.
  • Develop and extra skill set you can use to trade for services or goods in the event of a long term scenario.
  •  If you are in a survival situation, make sure everyone is doing something useful that aids continued survival.
Next week:  Liza tries to negotiate an escape for Chris and her ex-husband as the walkers begin encroaching on the safe areas.   Looks like the merde is finally about to hit the ventilateur.

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