Monday, October 26, 2015

About my friend Matt ...

Last weekend we lost one of the best men this world had to offer, my friend, Matt.   Matt and I were about the same age, and shared a lot of the same personality traits.   He was always quick with a joke and the most loyal guy I had ever met.   Whenever I needed help with something, he was there.  He was going to help my build my first AR rifle, but I kept putting off getting the rest of the parts.   Now we will never get to work on that project -- part of the legacy of a good life cut too short.

He was a devoted father to three outstanding young men, two of whom are in college and one who is a junior in high school, and simply adored his wife.  They are heartbroken, and should be.  Matt was bigger than life. 

He passed away after  a seemingly routine surgery -- a day procedure.   I talked to him Friday night on the phone.  Saturday morning, two days after the surgery, he died at home.

His loss has ripped a massive hole in the hearts of all who knew him.   There is so much more I want to write, but I simply can't.  The pain is too raw, too near the surface right now.   Maybe someday.

Until then, I would ask my readers to pray for his wife and children.   They need it so much right now.

Thanks for letting me share.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 603: Thank You


Episode 603:  Thank You


Glen (to Rick over the radio, echoing the first time they met):  Good luck, dumbass.

Synopsis:  The horn at Alexandria is still blowing, drawing the back half of the herd that way.   Rick's small crew races ahead to figure out a way to get back to the settlement and draw the walkers back to the intended path.  He runs ahead to get to the RV used in a previous blockade while the others keep going for home.   Along the way, several members are injured or taken by walkers and the group is forced to hide in a pet store.  Glenn and Nicholas are trapped by walkers, and Michoone and two others barely escape.  Rick gets the RV into position to draw the big horde, but is forced to fight of some Wolves escaping from their attack on Alexandria.  The RV then refuses to start just as the Walker herd makes it to his position.  Michonne, Heath, and one other wounded survivor manage to make it back to Alexandria.

Thank You is one of the most harrowing episodes to date, because no matter how hardened our warriors leading the fight are to the rigors and horrors of this world, no matter how refined their skills, there are simply too many walkers to destroy with the resources at hand, and the crew falls apart because, put simply, none of the Alexandrians trust Rick.

The episode begins with Rick's side of the road crew running to get ahead of the pack of walkers.   They pause for a moment to catch their breath, and Rick tells Daryl, Sasha and Abraham to stay the course with the original plan and draw as many walkers as they can away from them.   Daryl is not happy about it.

The Rick-tater in his natural habitat.
Rick then tells his team that they are gong to have to make for the town while he doubles back, gets the RV used to buttress one of the barricades that channeled the herd away from the town, and uses it to draw the pursuing herd away from the others.   He passes command to Glenn and Michonne, and tells them to keep moving, but know that some of them are not going to make it.  Heath overhears this and gets upset, but there is no time to waste.  One of the Alexandrians, who blames Rick for the whole mess (and he would be right) is attacked by a walker and dies.  Rick takes his gun and food while the rest of the group watches.  The horn stops, finally, and the group parts ways, each to continue its part of the mission to save the town.

Glenn and Michonne are leading the group when a small pack of walkers attack.   The Alexandrians panic, and one named Sturgess fires wildly, hitting a guy named Scott in the leg before man-screaming and running away.   Nicholas again freezes up, and a walker bites another man, David, on the shoulder. Meanwhile, Daryl abandons the original mission to get back to Alexandria, leaving Sasha and Abraham alone.  

Glen and Michonne's group try to find a working car, as they now have a man wounded in the leg and a woman with a bad ankle.  Nicholas admits it was the area where he and Aiden abandoned four others in their crew to their deaths, and while they are searching, they find walkers feasting on Sturgess.   They retreat to an abandoned pet store and formulate a plan.    They decide to set fire to a feed store nearby to distract the herd so they can escape.   Rick is still running for the RV, and kills a trio of walkers.   They have now lost contact with Tobin and the other crew from the other side of the road.  Rick cuts his hand in the fight.

Back in the pet store, Annie and Scott, the two injured people, argue that they should be left behind because they are slowing the group down.   Heath refuses to hear it, and says they don't leave people behind.  He and Michonne then have a pointed conversation regarding Rick's comments, and Michonne points out that he's never been covered in so much blood that you didn't know if it was yours, a walker's, or your friends.  Despite his experience on runs, Heath has never witnessed the brutality that Team Rick has in its travels.

Rick gets to the RV and races down the road to head off the herd, while Michonne and David, the man bitten on the shoulder, exchange a conversation in which David asks her to take a note for his wife of three months, Betsy.  Michonne refuses, telling him he will get home to say goodbye.  The street outside is filling with walkers, and suddenly, walkers in a back store room of the building begin pounding on an interior door.  Michonne kills them, but the walkers outside hear, and they are forced to flee.  Annie falls and is consumed by walkers.

Nicholas and Glenn's last stand.
Glenn and Nicholas reach the feed store after killing a walker who was one of Nicholas' old crew,only to find it already burned to the ground.   They race down an alley as the main herd piles into town, and get trapped in a dead end.  They climb on top of a dumpster, where Nicholas, in a final, desperate act, tells Glenn "Thank you,"  then shoots himself, causing he and Glenn to tumble into the crowd of walkers.  Glen is shown hitting the ground, then screaming as walkers begin feasting.  The way the scene is shot, though, it's hard to tell if they are feasting on the body of Nicholas on top of him or Glenn himself, and there is no wide shot to reveal the results, either.

Michonne's group runs into a dead end as well, and David is unable to climb up to the top of the fence and is killed by the walkers, spraying Heath with blood as his body is consumed.  Michonne, Heath and Scott escape, and stumble through the woods.  While crossing a creek, Heath sees his own blood-soaked reflection.  He realizes Michonne is right; he hasn't been to the edge like Team Rick has.  They get the Alexandria's gates, and realize the settlement has been attacked.

Michonne gets her sword on.
Rick arrives at the designated place with the RV, but cannot raise Glenn on the radio, but gets hold of Daryl to tell him he will have the breakaway herd back on track soon.  He tells them they have to continue the mission and trust Alexandria can defend itself.   While he is waiting, the Wolves who Morgan let escape in the previous episode attack him.  He kills two of them in the RV with his pistol and then kills the other three sneaking up the side with the AK-47.  He finds a jar of baby food in one of their pockets, and knows that Alexandria is now under attack.

Daryl rejoins Abraham and Sasha, but when the herd arrives at the RV, Rick is unable to start it.  Thousands of walkers are appearing out of the woods, and he is defenseless and trapped.

Preparedness Discussion

Thank You underscores the need for physical fitness and conditioning in preparedness.  There is a lot of freaking running in this episode.   I mean a lot.   Rick runs, Glenn runs, the whole crew runs.  It seems like Rick runs for at least a couple of miles to get back to the RV.  I have let my own physical fitness suffer over the last six weeks as I have confronted a busy work and personal schedule, but I have resolved to get back on track after watching this week's The Walking Dead. Everyone should be working to increase our physical conditioning.   Start slow, and work your way up.  Take a brief walk every day, or join a gym and hit the treadmill.   You may not have to outrun a walker herd, but what if your car breaks down in an area without cell service?  You may have to walk quite a while to get to find help.  For that matter, proper exercise mitigates the risk of health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

On the road again ...
That being said, running in the woods the way the crew was, whether they have proper footwear or not, is a mechanical injury waiting to happen.   There are hidden rocks, stumps, holes and vines that can conspire to make footing treacherous.  If you are being chased the way our characters were being chased, you really don't have a choice, but know that every step is fraught with a potential for injury.  Proper footwear can help.  Invest in quality walking shoes, trail shoes, or boots, depending on the terrain.  If you travel for work and usually wear dress clothes, keep a set of street clothes, with quality socks and shoes good for walking, in the trunk.  That way, if you do have to abandon your car in order to find help, you can do so without crippling your feet.

Another shortfall with this group was a complete lack of cohesion.  Once things went south, the Alexandrians and Team Rick immediately fell into discord, with some of the Alexandrians blaming Rick, while others decided to stick with the mission.   The emergency of the walker herd escaping had not allowed them to work together in order to function as unit, and the decline in morale and effectiveness is telling.  As preppers, we should be working with like-minded people to form a supportive network.  The lone-wolf approach is a myth.  No one can do everything and cover every possibility in a field so wide and so diverse.  People with different sets of skills and abilities can make a positive difference in a survival situation, but you should plan on making that happen now, before a disaster.   If you plan on working on tactical skills, now is the time to do it when you can laugh about your mistakes and go to the local Arby's instead of doing it for the first time when your life is on the line.  No one becomes a talented shooter overnight, or learns how to move tactically is a team in a few hours.  It takes practice and good instruction.

Speaking of which, the inability of so many small groups in this show to set adequate perimeter security is simply stupefying.   Looking back, I realized that through much of the series it was Daryl and Abraham doing this job.   Without them around, Rick should have been more mindful of this and ensured the crew was facing outward and scanning for threats on there rest break.  Daryl, likewise, most likely would have seen the small heard coming before they were on the group.  Simply put, where Team Rick's members each had a particular skill set that complimented group survival, the Alexandrians do not, to their detriment.

Finally, I have to address the apparent death of Glenn.  I have watched the scene several times now, and I just don't know from the way it was shot if that is Glenn being munched on, or Nicholas lying on top of Glenn serving as a zombie buffet.  Even if it was Nicholas, it's hard to see how Glenn could survive it, because once they are done with Nicholas it's time for some Glenn munching.  Unless he manages to somehow crawl under the dumpster I don't see it happening.  It's a tragic end to a great heroic character.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 603:

  • Increase your physical fitness with regular exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise.
  • Always understand when moving through broken terrain with speed comes the potential for injury.  Invest in proper footwear and make sure you keep good walking shoes in the trunk of your car, just in case.
  • Invest in creating relationships with like-minded people and working together to solve common problems.  One might focus on how to stay secure whether on the move or in a static position, so that your resources and your lives are safe.
  • People with critical skills are going to be incapacitated or be unavailable in a crisis, so cross-train and learn another person's job in the group.  

Next Week:  Morgan does some introspection, staff twirling, and body burning.  Sounds like a party!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 602: JSS

Episode 602:  JSS


Spoiler Alert!!

Morgan: We don't have to kill people.
Carol: Of course we do!

Synopsis:  The Wolves, a predatory gang of scavengers encountered by Morgan, Daryl, and Aaron last season, attack Alexandria.  They have only blades, but inflict heavy casualties because most of the town's best defenders are away.  A new doctor, who was a medical doctor but diverted to psychology, is introduced, and  Carol is forced to reveal her true nature to keep the others alive.  Morgan arrives in time to help, but refuses to kill any of the attackers.  The assault is repulsed, but with heavy losses, and Enid, who is sure the settlement cannot be defended, jumps ship.

JSS opens by recounting Enid's backstory on  the road with her parents, who are killed by walkers while trying to hot wire a car, forcing her to fend for herself.  Along the way, she draws the letters "JSS" in the dirt, on windows, and on her hand.  She gathers supplies along the way, killing walkers when she has to and at one point eating a turtle raw to survive.  She arrives at Alexandria, and almost turns away, but in the end opts for the protection and human contact the camp seems to offer.

The action picks up in the present in Alexandria, and Carol is cavorting with other housewives in  the pantry.  She remarks that the group is starting to run low on staples, and that she is going to use some less popular ingredients to make dinner.  Carol has something of a following among the women because of her ability to whip up tasty meals out of unlikely ingredients.  Ms. Neudermeyer, one of the women, expresses that she could make homemade pasta if someone could find her a pasta maker.  Carol remarks that she could show Neudermeyer how to make it without the machine, but she would not be allowed to smoke in her house, because as she says "it's a disgusting habit."  When she returns to the house, she finds Sam waiting on the porch and tells him his dad was a bad man and he's gone, so get over it.  Dale Carnegie she is not.

Jessie is at her house, in the kitchen, and calls to Ron so she can give hime a haircut.  He is angry over his dad's death and angry that his mom is defending Rick.  Jessie points out that Pete abused all of them, and Ron has permanent damage to one shoulder because of it.  

Maggie is playing damage control with Deanna.  She suggests to Deanna that expanding the wall to encompass a new garden area to make the settlement more self-sufficient.  She urges Deanna to take the reins of leadership to help fulfill her dream - and her husband's - of a new start for everyone.

Denise is not ready for prime time.
Tara and Eugene enter the infirmary for aspirin and meet Denise, a psychiatrist who has a medic al degree but has but has never practiced as a doctor, who is unsettled in her role as the lone health provider for the settlement.   Pete refused to work with her, and she is trying to get up to speed.

Carl sees Ron and Enid embracing, and Enid sees him, but Carl does nothing about it and continues to walk his sister.  Gabriel approaches him and explains that he is sorry for what the told Deanna, and that hew is now ready to learn how to survive, the way Carl tried to teach him at the church last season.  Carl at first says no, but then agrees to help.

Back at the house, Carol puts in a  casserole and sets the timer at 45 minutes, and watches Neudermeyer  smoking in her yard when she is suddenly attacked by a disheveled man with a machete.  She springs in to action, and moves outside to defend the settlement.   Maggie and Deanna hear screams and watch as a Molotov cocktail sails into a watch tower and engulfs a sentry in flame.  Several attackers scale a wall and being to attack people with bladed weapons.

Carol: from casserole to assassin in seconds.
Chaos erupts and several Alexandrians are murdered, while some are taken prisoner in chains.  Carol tells Carl to defend the house, while she goes to the armory to secure weapons.  She then saves a mortally wounded Alexandrian but has to stab her in the head to keep her from coming. 

Carl convinces Enid, who is ready to bail on the community, to stay and help him defend his sister.  He also tells her "don't say goodbye." she has clearly become important to him.  Enid begins to tell him about how the community is too big to defend, with too many blind spots.  She says, "that's how we ..." but Carl cuts her off.  What was she going to say?  Is she one of the Wolves?

Spencer is in the lookout tower taking shots at the invaders, but not hitting much, when a semi truck barrels down the road toward the gate.  He riddles the cab with bullets and it crashes before doing much damage, but the horn is stuck and blaring.  This is the same horn heard by Rick and the crew during the last episode.  He makes his way down from his perch to silence the horn.

Trip, Ron.  Please.
Ron is out in the community, trying to get home, and is about to be killed when Carl shoots his attacker.  Carl urges him to join him inside, but he sees Enid standing on the porch and refuses, instead heading home.

Meanwhile Jessie and Sam are hiding in a closet after they hear glass break.  Jessie goes to find Ron, but is attacked by a female raider with a "W" on her forehead.  Jessie is knocked down, but gathers herself before the Wolf can use her own gun on her and stabs her to death with the hair-cutting scissors.  Ron arrives in time to witness her savagery and regards his mother with shock and revulsion.

Spencer works his way down to the truck and opens it to find a walker inside.  He is contemplating how to kill it when Morgan arrives and does it for him.  They kill the horn, and he senses Spencer is too frightened to be of much good.  Morgan heads inside alone, as Holly, one of the Alexandrians, is rushed into the infirmary, forcing Denise to go to work. Tara and Eugene stand guard while she works.
Jessie doesn't like it when there is no tip.
Morgan confronts one of the wolves and tells him to leave.  Carol, disguised as an attacker., kills the man.  Morgan tells her they don,t have to kill anyone. Carol disagrees.  Deanna and Maggie link up with Spencer, who safeguards his mom in the truck.  She knows she is of no use in a fight, and would be little more than a potential hostage inside.  Maggie heads in to help.  

Morgan and Carol part ways as Morgan saves Gabriel and captures a Wolf.   Carol arrives at the armory, teaches Olivia how to fire a weapon, and leaves with a bag of guns and ammunition.  She doubles back to Morgan and shoots his captive Wolf, then hands a gun to teach man.  Morgan gives his gun to Gabriel.  Elsewhere, Rosita and Aaron take down more Wolves looting a house.

Morgan encounters a group of five Wolves and holds them at bay with his staff, telling them to leave and that if they keep choosing this life, they will die. A wolf replies that he didn't choose.  He is one of the Wolves Morgan encountered on the way to Alexandria and allowed to live.  The Wolves retreat, but the one the Morgan knows retrieves a gun from the ground.  Morgan shuts the gate.

Morgan and his trusty staff want to give peace a chance.
Carol takes a moment to consider to consider the cost of the attack, growing emotional while standing over Neudermeyer's body, and Aaron finds his old pack, dropped at the walker trap he and Daryl encountered, and realizes he led the Wolves to their door.  

Despite Denise's efforts, Holly dies.  Denise asks Tara, Eugene and Eric for a moment alone, and Tara reminds her to destroy Holly's brain before she reanimates.   Maggie, Deanna, Rosita, and Spencer are patrolling, and surveying the damage.  Maggie tells Deanna the settlement survived.   Deanna looks upon the dismembered bodies of the residents and observes that not everyone did.   Spencer asks Rosita if this is how the world is now outside, and if so, how does she go on, to which Rosita replies that you have to make sure you are fighting for something worth dying for.

Carl finds a note from Enid that simply says,"Just Survive Somehow."  She is gone. The timer dings, and he removes Carol's casserole.  In 45 minutes, the settlement of Alexandria has been changed forever.  Morgan encounters the other Wolf he fought outside Alexandria, and he taunts Morgan for letting him live.  Morgan subdues him.  Later, Carol and Morgan pass on the street, refusing to acknowledge each other.

Preparedness Discussion

JSS is a powerhouse episode that packs tons of action into an hour that also showcases little character moments.  It answers some questions but leaves others begging to be answered.   For instance, by the subtext and what is not said, it seems to me that Enid is aligned with the Wolves.  She spent a lot of time outside on her own, and she disappears right about the same time the Wolves retreat.  Could she have been a mole, sent out to find a camp the Wolves can then raid?

Likewise, Aaron finding his old pack with all the information the Wolves needed to find Alexandria demonstrates the necessity of operational security (opsec) in a collapse or extended disaster scenario.  If rule of law collapses and essential services grind to a halt, people will become desperate for resources.   Expect people, who normally would be constrained by the prospect of facing justice, to take actions they normally would not in order to survive.  The people you think you know may not be as trustworthy as you think when the chips are down.  How well do we really know people?

As preppers, we face day to day opsec requirements.  We want to bring more people into the fold, so that others are prepared to face emergencies, but at the same time, we need to face the fact that people don't need to know everything about our preparations.   Even casual visitors to our homes could find out more than we want them to know.  There are some steps safeguard against this:
  • Decentralize your preparations.  Use food-safe storage containers to keep foodstuffs hidden in out of the way spots that are cool and dry, like under beds or in spare closets.
  • Don't showcase your preps more than you have to and never be precise about just what you have on hand.
  • Never let anyone but close trusted family know where things like firearms and ammunition are stored.
This episode illustrates another concept of human behavior -  the sheep, the sheepdogs, and the wolves.   If you have seen the movie American Sniper, Chris Kyle's father drives this point home to his young son.  In life, you are either a sheep, someone who does not protect themselves and relies on others, a sheepdog which protects the flock of sheep, or a wolf which preys on the sheep. JSS hits this theme in a not-too-subtle way.   The bad guys are actually called wolves for crying out loud.  

I was actually yelling at the screen at one point as I watched Wolves run up to the more sheepish Alexandrians and slaughter them with simple knives, axes and machetes.   The previous episode made it clear in the wake of Rick's assumption of the lead security position that everyone was to be armed in the compound.  Likewise, there were supposed to be armed security patrol within the compound.  It looks like it took too long to get everyone on board and the settlement is paying the price in terror and lives.  I cannot imagine a scenario where I would cower in terror as someone attacked me, but then again, someone hasn't attacked me with an axe or machete.  I may pee my pants. I hope I will never have to find out.

And how about the storekeeper hiding in a closet with a room full of guns she could have used for self defense?  I think that about sums up the defensive capabilities of the original Alexandrians.

Look at Spencer's poor marksmanship.   He has shooting experience, but all of that was probably with walkers.   These guys move fast and fight back.   When the human body has been stressed to this degree, the results are unpredictable.  Some people pee themselves.  Some just shut down and pass out.  Some people react with courage and valor.  The military trains individuals to overcome the natural reaction to shut down and run away and instead to fight.  Typically humans fight to the level of their lowest standard of training.  Fine motor skills are nonexistent and gross motor skills are impaired.  Tunnel vision and other adrenaline effects occur.  There is just no way to predict how you would respond.

I have to address Morgan's "don't kill the guys with machetes" mantra.   It's admirable, but misguided.  If a person comes at you with the intent to kill you, they have defined the terms of your relationship.    There is no time to ask why, or what, or how.   There is only time to react, and your reactions will be dictated by how you have trained.   

Finally, Deanna shows real leadership by showing the best thing she can do is get out of the way.  She has no way to contribute to the defense, so she sidelines herself, not out of fear, but out of necessity, for the good of the group.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 602:

  • Practice operational security.
  • Be a sheepdog, not a wolf or a sheep.  Make caring for and safeguarding others your mission.
  • When you are put in a stressful, fight or flight situation, you will perform how you trained.  If you haven't trained, you will not perform.
  • Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself.  Know the legal self defense statutes in your jurisdiction and understand your rights -- and your responsibilities.
  • The best way to lead sometimes is to let others do it.  You may not be the best person for the task.
Next Week:  Rick runs, gets sweaty, and kills walkers.   What's not to love?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Toilet Paper: You don't know what you got 'til it's gone

I found an interesting Amazon Deal of the Day in my news feed this morning:  Angel Soft two-ply tissue, 80 rolls, for $49.99.  Not a bad deal, especially if you have Amazon Prime for free shipping, and it got me thinking about little comfort items we never seem to think about when prepping.

We have paper bowels and plastic cutlery for eating in a grid down situation when washing dishes might not be possible, and we have tons of paper towels and trash bags in our house, but when I started looking at toilet paper, we were pretty low.  Assuming we were bugging in and the toilets still worked, we had enough for perhaps seven days.   I made a note to get some more, and indeed I may be taking Amazon up on this deal.  That's a lot of wiping right there, and it sure beats a magazine page.

If you have females in the house, how about feminine hygiene products?   Do you have enough to last or is it usually a regular on the shopping list? Many times there are discount coupons for those items in local newspapers or online.  If you are the man of the house and you are the primary prepper, do some research and figure out what products the women in the house use, discreetly, then stock up.  You will be their hero.

What about everyday items like shampoo, soap, and razors?  Going to the other end of the house, how is your supply of laundry detergent looking?  Sure there are people who make their own, but if you aren't into that, why not stock up? We're not prepping  just for the end of the world.  What if there is an economic crisis that disrupts the supply chain and the products you want simply are not available?

What other items are sometimes left off your prepping supply list?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 601: First Time Again

Editor's note:  Commencing with this review, all episodes will receive a score from zero stars (should never have been on TV) to five stars (this episode changed my life).  I am going to be adding a bit more commentary regard plot, acting and theme going forward.   My preparedness content will not suffer, but I wanted to go in a slightly new direction.

Episode 601: First Time Again

Score:  ***1/2

Spoiler Alert!!!  

Morgan:  Michonne, back when you were in that place, where I lived, did you take one of my protein bars?
Michonne: No.
Morgan:  See, I could've sworn there was one more peanut butter left ...
Michonne: That's how it is isn't it?  You always think there's one more peanut butter left.

Synopsis: The fallout from the tragic events of the Season 5 finale play out, as Deanna begins to trust Rick completely in all security-related matters for the Alexandria community, but some members of the community -- Carter, a man who helped build the walls, and Ron, Jessie's oldest son who hates Rick for killing his abusive dad -- are not on board. Morgan begins to fit into the community, but challenges Rick to be the man he was when he woke up. In the midst of burying Pete out side the walls, Morgan, Rick, and Ron, who followed them, discover a herd of thousands of walkers trapped in a quarry by semi-trailers. The road to the quarry is crumbling under the trucks, and to prevent the herd from being unleashed Rick devises a plan, with help from Deanna and Carter, to divert the horde into the opposite direction. Carter plans a mutiny but it is cut short and he agrees to work with Rick. The problem is that the road is more eroded than thought, and the day they arrive at the quarry to conduct a dry run, the ground gives way and the walkers get out. Rick decides to go through with the plan right then, over Carter's objections. Carter is bitten and Rick is forced to kill him to silence his screams, but everything is working until a horn begins sounding in the direction of home, drawing them toward the community.
First Time Again is a massive, complicated episode, so bear with me. The story is told through a
series of real time scenes coupled with flashbacks broadcast in black and white as an homage to the comic book and to help the view keep track of the action. The device works, but I think a straight storytelling might have been better as the impact of last season's finale is somewhat blunted by the disjointed narrative.

The episode opens with Rick at the edge of the quarry explaining the plan to take care of the walkers and discussing team assignments. The road at the top of the quarry gives way, and Rick gives the go order early. Carter protests that they are not ready, and Rick tells him to head home because it's happening whether he likes it or not.

Carter:  Glad there's red on that shirt.
An Alexandrian moves a truck from the lower entrance, Daryl jumps on his bike to lead the walkers in the desired direction through a gauntlet of abandoned cars that channel the herd down one road. Sasha and Abraham jump in a car to meet him at the first checkpoint, and Glen takes off with newcomers Heath and newly rehabbed Nicholas to handle a small herd in a tractor store that could pull the bigger group in the wrong direction. Morgan, Michonne and Rick race to the next danger point, an intersection where the the team has erected a wall to force the walkers to turn right.  The groups send up flares to draw the herd's attention.  The race is on to get the walker herd out of the area before they can turn and attack the Alexandria settlement.

That's just the first three minutes.  See what I mean?

Note:  this recap won't be exactly as depicted on the screen, but it will be close.  Flashback and current scenes will be combined as needed to weave everything together.

Flashback:  Deanna is still are the location of the fireplace meeting at the end of the last episode where Pete killed her husband, and Rick shot Pete for the deed, sitting next to her husband's pool of blood and considering her hands, which are drenched in Reg's blood (there's a bit of symbolism for you).  Father Gabriel approaches, and she tells him he was wrong about Rick.  He agrees. Abraham carries the bodies of the two dead men to the graveyard for burial the next day, and gets drunk sitting there regarding Reg and how a good man can still die senselessly.  Jessie is at home with her sons, trying to make sense of what happened right in front of her, but her oldest son, Ron, is inconsolable.

Rosita is seeing to Tara in the infirmary when Nicholas and Glen stagger in wounded.  Glen and Maggie embrace, and he claims they were jumped by walkers outside and the bullet wound from Aaron's gun was a ricochet.   He covers for the man who tried to kill him, showing mercy when he could have burned him.  Eugene enters, and is overjoyed to find Tara awake, and she says he is freaking her out and Noah needs to protect her.  They have to tell her that Noah was killed on the run on which she almost died.

Enid is sitting on a patio roof, and Carl climbs up to sit with her.  She takes his hand, which Ron witnesses from the shadows.  Cue music for Ron to do something stupid in 3 ... 2... 1...

Rick and Morgan are discussing his arrival in the improvised holding cell Rick was just released from in a matter-of-fact manner.  Rick seems to be apologetic.  He doesn't take chances anymore, and Morgan was not in a great state of mind when they last met.  He tells Rick the former deputy was right, that the world wasn't over and that people can come back from the edge.

The Present:  Abraham and Sasha are speeding down a narrow lane lined with abandoned cars, taking out the odd walker along the way.  Other Alexandirans run  behind them, firing more flares. 

Flashback:  Daryl is fixing his bike outside Morgan's house/cell.  They discuss the implications of the trap that almost killed Daryl and Aaron, and the men with the letter "W" carved into their foreheads who attacked Morgan.  Rick decides to fortify the perimeter and wants to stop the recruiting missions to the outside, but Daryl disagrees.  Rick says people out there will have to take care of themselves. 

The Present: Abraham wants to know if she still wants to die, but she doesn't.  She says attempting to do something this big is trying to live.  They arrive at the first checkpoint marked with red helium balloons and Daryl acknowledges he is almost there, slowly trailing an army of walkers behind him.

Flashback: Morgan is practicing with his staff, and Rick asks where he learned it.   Morgan says a friend taught him after their last meeting.   Lennie James and Andrew Lincoln are amazing in this scene.   Morgan says they have to get to know each other again.

Eugene is manning the gate for Holly, who had to use the bathroom, when Heath, leader of a long range scavenging run, arrives and convinces him to let him inside in an hilarious exchange.  Josh McDerrmitt, who plays Eugene, has a deadpan delivery that is comedy gold. Heath, and his teammates Scott and Annie, departed before Team Rick arrived, and they have no idea what has transpired.

Rick explains the situation with Alexandria and that the original inhabitants had never had to survive.  Rick tells him he will have to talk to Deanna.  During this conversation, he sees father Gabriel and Tobin digging graves for Pete and Reg.  Rick tells him they will not bury Pete, a killer inside the wall, and Deanna backs him, telling him to take him outside down the road a few miles.  Ron is watching from the forest.  As Rick and Morgan load the body into a car, Rick explains he had no choice.  Morgan reminds him they have  cell, and they he, Rick, and everyone that has had to survive are all killers.

The Present:  Morgan, Michonne, and Rick arrive at the next choke point -- an intersection blocked by cars and a wall to force them into a right turn.  Morgan questions Michonne about swiping a peanut butter protein bar the last time they met.  It's a very funny bit delivered with complete conviction by those involved that adds needed comic relief.

Flashback:  Ron, Pete's son, has tracked Morgan and Rick to the burial location.  Rick wants to just dump the body, but Morgan starts digging a grave.  He tells Rick that isn't who he is.  Rick hears the sound of a large herd, and they investigate, where they found the quarry in the opening.   There are thousands of walkers there, and more falling into the pit every day.  Cue Ron, who is being chased by more walkers and nearly runs off the cliff until he is tackled by Rick.  He and Morgan dispatch the walkers.  Ron wanted to know where his father was to be buried.  Rick explains he is not prepared for the outside world, and that he will teach him, but right now they have to get back.  He and Morgan realize that the reason the settlement has remained safe is because the walkers are trapped in the quarry.  Rick realizes he was not caring enough to consider the feelings of Pete's family, and helps Morgan bury Pete.  You just know Ron is going to do something really stupid soon.

You may be cool, but you will never be Daryl trolling a pack of walkers on a bike he built by himself cool.
 The Present:  Daryl is dragging the walkers behind him.   Sasha and Abraham pull out ahead of him, and the convoy head out.  Glen, Heath and Nicholas arrive at the tractor supply store, and decide to force open a door, let a couple of walkers out at a time, then close it back so they don't get overrun.   Health is unsure, but Nicholas tells Heath that Glen knows what he is doing; he and Aiden did not.  It is good to see Nicholas has lost all of the false bravado and is now willing to learn, like Father Gabriel.  There is a security roll-down door inside, so they are forced to go to the front and break a floor-to-ceiling window and take the walkers as they emerge.  Things get dicey, but Nicholas, who has initially been ordered back out of the way, comes in and saves the day.  Rick and his team use flare pistols to shoot flares in the direction away from the barricade, and the herd makes the turn.

Flashback: There is a group meeting at Deanna's house, where Health explained he saw the quarry
The battle of the Tractor Works.
earlier, but there were only 12 walkers in it.  Someone had made camp inside and they had all died and turned. Rick proposes leading the herd out of the area in the opposite directions, but Carter argues that maybe they could reinforce the road.  Rick replies that the next rain could cause the road to collapse completely. Carol, who is still playing Suzie Homemaker, voices her support, and Deanna approves Rick's plan, while asking for volunteers.  Gabriel asks to help and is turned down by Rick flatly.  Carter doesn't believe Rick, and calls him on his earlier erratic behavior, but Deanna silences him. There is a subtext where Glen tries to warn Nicholas not to volunteer, but he does it anyway.  Carter makes him run through the plan again.  As Rick goes through the plan, Eugene suggests building the wall at the turn, to address Carter's concerns.  He helped build the walls, so he can help make it strong.  They have the raw materials, they just need the design and building team. He agrees to help.

The Present:  The barricade is taking a beating but holding.  Rick's team continue to fire flares in the direction of the turn.  Zombies are hitting the wall, smashing their heads, and getting trampled.  The herd moves on.

Flashback:  The team is building the wall, and things are going smoothly.  Rick is leading from the front, digging, and he trades a look with Jessie.  Daryl tells Rick going out and finding people as Rick wants stopped, is taking care of ourselves.  Carol and Rick trade a conversation, and he instructs Carol to stay back and get a feel for the community when they execute the operation.  She tells Rick Deanna may be in charge, but Rick is the real power now.  Maggie and Tara now know the truth about Nicholas and his actions that got Noah killed and nearly ended Glen.  Tara is furious, but Maggie points out Glen has chosen to forgive him and help him.  She is going to follow his lead, because it is the same thing Glen did for Tara outside the prison, and now Tara is one of the most important people in Maggie's life.  Tara agrees to not say anything to the group.  They both lost sisters, and now have become an ersatz family.

 Morgan gets a drink of water from Carol, and Morgan asks if she was a cop.   She asks why, and he points out she is always watching, and always ready to handle things. Gotcha, Lady MacBeth.

Abraham saves the day.
The Present:  Some of the walkers are distracted by a mylar blanket in a tree, so Abraham bails, kills a few, grabs the blanket, and circles back to the car and dives back  in, satisfied with a job well done, at which point Sasha questions his sanity, especially after he casually discussed being covered  in gore when Pete was shot.

Flashback:  The crew  is erecting the wall.  Rick pays his respects to Deanna for Reg's demise, and Deanna wants to know what else they can do to remain safe.  Walkers emerge from the woods, and Rick orders Carter and the Alexandrians to take them out, but they on on the verge of breaking and running when Morgan runs in, prompting the rest of the crew to attack.  Morgan points out he supposedly doesn't take chances anymore.  Rick is not happy.  Carter is cleaning out his pants and is having none of it.

Later, Eugene is in the store, and overhears Carter plotting to kill Rick and trying to get others to get involved. They catch Eugene, and Carter has a gun to his head, when Rick, Daryl and Morgan walk in and stop him.   Carter is going to "take his place back from Rick" but Rick disarms him and Carter tells him it was just him, and he should leave the others alone.   Rick relents, and asks Carter to help them and each other survive. 

The Present:  The herd moving along, and Glen and Ricks group meet up.  Carter is there, and tells Rick he was right.  They shake hands.  They fan out to keep the walkers from leaving they road, but a walker stuck in a tree surprises Carter and bites his face.  He is screaming, and Rick is forced to kill him to silence him while the rest of the crew fire their guns and herd the walkers back.

Flashback: At the settlement, Rick invites Morgan to stay with him.  Morgan tells him his act of mercy with Carter displays Rick's true character. He tells him he is still the man he met in King County.  Rick confesses he wanted to kill him, because then he wouldn't have to worry about what Carter would do next, because the man should already be dead.  Rick considers him dead anyway.

The Present:  Rick wants Morgan to head back, but Morgan wants to grab Carter's body.  They end up leaving it, and move out to catch up with the others.  The plan is to hand the group off to Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham in a few miles and let them lead the herd further out.

Mr. Papagiorgio, your table is waiting. Google it.
Flashback:  Rick and Jessie have a conversation.  Her feelings are divided, and she tells him Ron told her what happened, and that he cannot talk to Ron light that or grab him.  She explains if its coming from Rick, he won't listen.  Rick wants to teach the family to learn how to use guns, but Jessie has already asked Rosita to teach them.  She wants nothing to do with Rick. She understands he means well, but they will never be together.

The last run-through showcases little character moments.  Glen tells Nicholas he is not ready but will be soon.  He thanks Glen. Abraham asks Sasha if she wants to die, and she says "no."

The Present:  Everything is proceeding smoothly. Then in the distance a horn begins sounding, drawing the walkers away toward the direction of Alexandra.  The group doubles back to try to stop the horn from sounding as the herd heads to the settlement.

Preparedness Discussion:

Wow.  There was a bunch packed into this episode, but it took a second viewing to unload all the action contained within it.   I really didn't like the flashback format.  It's okay in limited use, but less is more.   Just because you are the biggest show on television and can take risks doesn't mean you should.

Well, onto the preparedness review.   There is something to be said about Rick's strategy, because in a long-term survival situation, going static and hiding behind walls without patrolling will allow people with ill intent to walk right up to your fence/camp/stronghold unmolested. The amount of patrolling will depend on the capabilities and numbers of your group. This was a lesson the U.S. military learned the hard way in Vietnam. The units that patrolled and moved to contact outside their walls were more able to keep the Viet Cong and arm's length than those that went static and sent few patrols outside the wire.  If nothing else, it would provide an advance warning of a walker herd moving into the area.

What would a recon patrol look like in your personal life right now?   Here's an idea:  get a dog and take it for a walk daily, weather permitting.   It's a great way to meet neighbors and find out what is going on in the world around you.  Is there a police officer living there?  Who is the home owner's association president? Can you spot evidence of fellow preppers there, like a standby generator, a large garden, etc?  Can you count on them to come to your aid in an emergency? 

Also, consider a home security system, and make sure you use it, because having more people on the perimeter and patrolling inside is also a good idea.  A security system, used properly, serves that purpose.  Also, as I discussed in my review of Episode 402, at the very least there should be some sort of fire watch.  From what I have seen this community has zero capability to fight a house fire.  Every house needs multiple extinguishers and they need to try to find an abandoned fire truck just in case.  The houses in Alexandra are pretty close, and a single house fire could devastate the entire settlement.

Then again, how many people don't have proper smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes?  This reminded me to switch the batteries out in mine and double check the fire extinguisher I have on hand, and research the best place to house a second extinguisher on the far side of the house near the bedrooms.  Investing in an auto extinguisher for each car is a good idea as well.

Morgan is going to be good for Rick.  Rick has been playing fast and loose lately, assuming he is right without thinking through the consequences of his actions.  Did he assume that Ron and Sam, Pete's kids, were just going to shrug after he killed their dad?   Likewise, Deanna orders Pete buried outside the wall without thought as to how this was going to affect the overall group dynamic.   Jessie, Ron, and Sam all know Pete was no saint, but Jessie watched Rick shoot him in cold blood.    No good comes of this.  Rick has replaced Pete with Ron.

The conflict with Carter further highlights this.  I really think Rick would have killed him in the armory had Morgan not been there.  It all worked out, and Carter was a good addition to the herd team.  It was a shame he had to go so soon.  Ethan Embry is a great actor.

As a leader, he has to keep all the potential ramifications in mind when making a decision.  Solidifying his position in the group was a benefit of the Pete situation, but his methods left a lot to be desired and opened fresh cans of worms for all involved.

Finally, it's good to know that the group can be adaptable.  While native Alexandrians were taken aback by Rick's snap decision to go immediately when the road shoulder collapsed, his original team led them through it, and everything worked out except for Carter's untimely demise, which was his own fault for not keep track of his surroundings.   In a non-permissive environment it pays not to get tunnel vision.  He knew there could be walkers straggling in to join the main herd, but was caught looking the wrong way.

As preppers, no matter how ready we think we are, we can never be ready for everything.   We have all our preps in our house, and the house burns down.  Our planned bugout vehicle drops the transmission in the first mile.  The generator won't start.  We have to rise above unforeseen circumstances and ensure our adaptability and skills can overcome the situation.  Skills trump gear.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 601:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Walk around your neighborhood and get to know the people next door; if you have a bugout location with some neighbors nearby, get to know them.  A home security system can substitute for a perimeter guard in day-to-day situations, if you use it.
  • Be sure you are prepared for fire.  Get some extra fire extinguishers and have the numbers for fire, police and EMS programmed into your cell phone or posted in your house so everyone can see them.  Check your smoke detectors.  Have an evacuation plan and a meeting place outside the home.
  • Leadership consists of a constant weighing of all the options and making the best choice that offers the best probability of a positive result for all involved.
  • Things will go wrong.  Keep a level head, adapt, and overcome.

Next week: Walkers make it inside the perimeter, and Gabriel gets his own personal Jesus - Carl?