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?

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