Monday, March 7, 2016

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 612: Not Tomorrow Yet


Episode 612: Not Tomorrow Yet


Rick (to himself more than to the assault team):  This is how we eat.

Synopsis:  Rick talks Alexandria into raiding Negan's compound, and despite reservations voiced by Morgan, the group moves forward.  Abraham breaks up with Rosita, and then moves out of their house. They come up with a workable plan, and use Andy as a decoy with the guards to get inside.  The war party eliminates most of Negan's men, but they don't know which one might be the leader.  Maggie and Carol are captured by escapees from the facility, who contact Rick and demand they release a captive.

Carol is baking cookies again, after scavenging acorns and supplies from the pantry.   She delivers cookies to Tobin, and the two flirt.  While she is making rounds, Rick and the group return from the Hilltop and tells Carol to gather everyone at the church so they can discuss the deal they made with the Hilltop.

He explains the deal they made, and that the Saviors need to be dealt with, anyway, because eventually they would have found Alexandria and made the same demands.   Low on food, and fighting to defend their perimeter, they would not have the initiative.  Morgan argues that if they are so sure they can win, they should contact the saviors, have a show of force and demonstrate that they can do it and avoid bloodshed.

Look at the flowers, Tobin.
Carol is having a crisis of conscience.  She is keeping a log of all she has killed - 18 people in total. She is smoking now, after chastising a now-dead Alexandrian about the habit.   She joins Tobin on his front porch, where he admits that she scares him.  Many feel that she is a mother figure, but he feels something else.  They kiss.

Maggie tells Glenn she is going on the mission, but that she will stay with the cars and safeguard the rally point.  How many watching just knew that wasn't going to happen?  Meanwhile, Abraham breaks up with Rosita and tells her that when he met her, he thought she was the last woman on Earth.

"You're not," he simply says, and walks out.

Denise and Tara discuss the situation, and Tara tells her she loves her.  Denise says she will tell Tara that when she returns.   Tara is clearly struggling with the parallels between what they are doing now and what happened with the Governor.   After the assualt, Tara and Health are leaving on a two-week extended supply run as previously scheduled.

The assault team leaves the next day.   Andy has provided detailed intelligence on what he knows of The Saviors' compound, and they decide to use Negan's previous collusion to bring back Gregory's head to free the hostage he took in the last episode.  The group spreads out and finds a walker that looks somewhat like Gregory, severs the head, and kills the brain.

While looking for the walker head, the group separates and they begin contemplating their mission.  Heath and Glenn have never killed another human, and both are struggling with the coming slaughter.  Rick tells Father Gabriel that there's no turning back from the mission now, and asks him why he still wears his priest's clothing.  Gabriel replies that he is still who he was, and besides, it will be harder for their enemies to see him in the dark.

Grabriel is making a startling transformation.  He is now a warrior priest, someone who is still a man of God but realizes he cannot stand by idly while his flock is at risk. It is an interesting juxtaposition and a real study in a character arc.  It might feel a bit rushed, but I think it's a great evolution in the character, and Seth Gilliam portrays him with an amazing calm and resoluteness.

Rosita and Carol argue about Morgan.  They all agreed to keep Morgan's secret with the captured Wolf from the rest of the group, but Rosita is incensed that he spoke out against the attack in the meeting.   Carol defends him, saying he doesn't want to kill, and they should respect him for acting on the courage of his convictions.  Later, though, Carol confronts Rick about Maggie being on the team, saying she doesn't need to be there.  She tells him she will stay with Maggie to guard the rally point.

Andy loses his head.
Rick decides they should attack a couple of hours before dawn.  Jesus picks the best walker head that looks like Gregory out of three, but remarks the nose is different.  Rick punches the head in the nose and tells Andy he can tell the Saviors he broke his nose in the struggle.

That night, Andy drives up to the Saviors compound with the head.  Negan's guards, who are clearly
low-level thugs who don't think for themselves much, don't question why Andy is traveling at night, and don't really search him.   One of the guards goes to get Craig, and while he is inside Rick kills the one guard with a knife, silently.  When the other guard emerges with Craig, Michonne slays the other guard.  He doesn't even have time to notice the first guard is missing.

This is something that Rick and Michonne are the very best at, and why their pairing is so formidable.  They still have their humanity for each other, but are capable of dialing the violence dial up to 11 without showing remorse or pity.

The assault team infiltrates the building and fans out, taking down a room at a time and killing the occupants asleep inside with knives, silently.   Glenn makes his first human kill, and when Health hesitates, he kills Heath's man as well.  Glenn took the burden so Health wouldn't have to and become dehumanized.

Tara, Jesus, Andy, and Craig wait outside in the car with Gabriel. Tara tells Gabriel about her time with the Governor, and only told Denise she loved her to avoid discussing misgivings about the mission.  Gabriel asks if she really does love her, and Tara says yes.  Jesus then tells her she knows what she's fighting for now.

Rosita is working on some anger issues.
Abraham and Sasha are working room-to-room when a Savior discovers them.  They kill him, but not before he pulls the fire alarm.    Maggie and Carol hear the alarm outside and rush to the compound, which is a very bad move.  No one is expecting them to reinforce the assault. They are supposed to guard the rally point where the cars are parked for their escape.   What if the team was forced to withdraw and break contact, and needed covering fire?   Team Rick has a ton of warrior ethic, and they can mow down walkers, but they are still not as well trained as Abraham and Rosita with their military experience.  By moving inside to reinforce the attack they also run the risk of being shot by their own people in a blue-on-blue incident.

Jesus and Gabriel decamp from the car while Tara takes Andy and Craig back to the Hilltop to fulfill the deal.  The pair go inside to help while Team Rick engages in a close quarter battle fight with the surviving Saviors, who are now awake and armed.   Aaron stabs a Savior in self-defense, while Tara and Gabriel take down Saviors who are fleeing the compound.   Heath and Glenn find the Savior armory while trying to elude some of the defenders, and shut the door behind them.  Quickly, Glen and Heath grab weapons of the racks (two FAL rifles!)  and fire through the door, killing most of the Saviors outside.  Jesus kills a survivor.

Rick is not as successful as he hoped.
The fight is over, and when the team emerges into the open,  they find a small parking lot. Heath and Tara, who has returned to the scene, depart on the scavenging mission.   Meanwhile, in Alexandria, Morgan welds a gate for a new prison cell.   Michonne wonders whether they actually killed Negan.

A savior tries to escape on Daryl's motorcycle, and is shot.   Rick and Daryl are interrogating him when a female voice comes up on the Saviors' radio, telling them they have captured Maggie and Carol (see my comments above).

Overall, Not Tomorrow Yet is a tour de force in action storytelling, and is well-executed in terms of the attack.   There are a couple of muzzle sweeps across the backs of teammates along the way, but the technical people who advised the production on CQB tactics delivered.  Greg Nicotero doesn't waste a frame in his directing, and the narrative is taut.  I do question how stupid the second guard had to be not to notice his compatriot was missing, but I am willing to overlook that possible hole simply because the Saviors are too darn cocky.  They seem to assume everything is going to go their way.

Preparedness Discussion

The preparedness discussion is pretty simple for this episode.  Assuming you are faced with the same
situation, are you willing to pull the trigger on another human being?   Some may argue that, like Morgan suggested, Team Rick should have talked to Negan's people first. That wasn't going to work.  First, Daryl killed a bunch of the saviors with an RPG.  Then, Rick saw Negan's sadism on display at the Hilltop.  Finally, if there was any doubt, the guards' actions with Andy showed they were thugs who wholly joined Negan's cruel crusade of terror.

Still, killing zombies is one thing, killing humans is another.  Rick, Daryl, Carol, Abraham, and Sasha have done the majority of the heavy lifting in that respect for much of the series. Glenn and Heath's dilemma and moral struggle provide a welcome insight into the dark places one might have to go.

Next, if you do have to pull the trigger, are you trained to do so?   Too many of us preppers spend inordinate amounts of treasure buying firearms and ammunition, but how many of those guns are safe queens that never even make it to the range?  Find a range that offers tactical training and get some quality time in with certified instructors.

Finally, if you are forced to take action like Rick and his team are forced to do in order to survive, make sure to recon your target well in advance.  I would have felt much better with an extended two- or three-day recon of the area to figure out how many people are in the compound, determine possible escape routes personnel might use, and lay ambushes outside the building to keep anyone from getting away.  The personnel securing the rally point need to stay in place and do their jobs, trusting that the assault team can handle unexpected contingencies.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 612:
  • If a person attacks you with potential lethal force, they have defined your relationship.  If you attack them first, you have defined the relationship.  Make sure you are ready to pull the trigger before you are faced with the situation.  Otherwise, you are a liability.
  • Get some tactical training.  Owning 42 AR-15s for a family of three is a waste.  Invest in tactical training and replacement parts kits for a few high quality guns.  Also invest in ammunition, because without it a gun is just a club, and not a very good one.
  • Your training should take into account planning and executing operations.   Follow the plan and make sure that you play your part appropriately in mock drills.  Now is the time to learn while you can laugh about it and go to the local McDonald's afterward.
 Next week:   Rick has to handle a hostage situation, and Alicia Witt comes on board as a female Savior with an attitude.

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 611: Knots Untie


Episode 611: Knots Untie


Rick (covered in blood after killing Gregory's Hilltop assailant:  What?

Synopsis:  Jesus' escape from the jail cell has repercussions within Alexandria, as he explains that he is part of an already established community that trades with other communities for resources.   He offers to take them to Hilltop to prove it.   The groups heads to Hilltop, which is built around an historic mansion.  The leader, Gregory, is a pompous blowhard, but trade negotiations are starting when a Hilltop group returns from meeting with "Negan's men."  Hilltop must pay a tribute to Negan in the form of resources, but the Hilltop tribute is not enough according to Negan, so they kill one person and take another hostage, then order the hostage's brother to kill Gregory or lose his brother.  Rick and company intervene and kill the would-be assassin. then agree to take care of Hilltop's Negan problem in exchange for half of what Hilltop has produced, including a cow.   The group heads back to sell it to the Alexandrians.

Poor Abraham has a problem.  He is hung up on Sasha but still dating Rosita.   While on patrol with the former, she informs him she is switching shifts with Eugene from now on, and they won't be working together.   Later, he is in bed with Rosita, who has made him a necklace from the cracked brake light from the fuel tanker truck.  While she showers, he thinks of Sasha.

Maggie is working on getting Alexandria's gardens up and running, but things are moving slowly. 
They are living on reduced rations, and things are getting tight.   She and Glenn see Abraham and Denise run toward the townhouse with the makeshift jail cell, and go to investigate.   Jesus is gone.

Jesus sits on the steps in Rick's house, waiting on Michonne and Rick to get dressed.  Carl finds him an puts a gun to his head, and Jesus tells him he's waiting on his "mom and dad" to come out.   The pair emerge from the bedroom and assure everyone that Jesus just wants to talk.   Jesus informs them he is part of the Hilltop community, and that they have crops and livestock for trade.   His job is to find new settlements to trade with, and he has already cased the Alexandria community. He offers to take them to the Hilltop to prove his word, and Rick agrees.

As Daryl gets the RV ready for the trip, Denise gives him some homemade oat cakes as a gift.  Rick and Carl discuss the events with Michonne, and Carl assures him his is fine with the development.   He tells his dad he is not going to Hilltop, but will stay home to guard Alexandria.

During the drive, Abraham asks Glenn if he and Maggie were trying to get pregnant, using one of the best lines of the series:  "When you were pouring the Bisquick, were you trying to make pancakes?"  Glenn explains that they are trying to build a community and babies are a part of that.

The group comes upon an overturned car, which Jesus recognizes as coming from Hilltop.  The group fans out and searches for survivors while Maggie guards Jesus.   They find the Hilltop people and kill a small pack of walkers.  Jesus explains that most of his people are not fighters.  One, in fact, is a doctor, and Glenn asks if there are any prenatal vitamins in the supplies they retrieved.  Harlan, the doctor, used to be an obstetrician, tells them they hit the jackpot.

Jesus leads the flock.
Freddie, one of the Hilltop survivors, says when he thought he was going to die he saw his wife's face, which leaves Abraham wondering who he might see in that moment.

They finally arrive, and find Hilltop to be built around an old historic house.  Everything is as Jesus described, including the fact that the group has run out of ammunition for its firearms.  They meet Gregory, who orders Rick's group to shower before meeting them.  Rick, clearly annoyed, tells Maggie to meet with Gregory, as "he shouldn't."  When Maggie and Gregory meet, he offers to let the Alexandrians work at Hilltop for a share of provisions.  He also makes some generally unsavory advances toward  her, which she turns down.  She points out the Hilltop is low on ammunition and medications, which Alexandria might be able to part with.  Gregory appears insulted and breaks off negotiations.

Jesus, Rick and Daryl are discussing the situation when a group returns to the Hilltop.   The team is returning from a mission to a compound run by a man named Negan.  Negan killed two of the group because their tribute payment to Negan was "too light" and hold another one, Craig, hostage until they deliver a message to Gregory.   Gregory asks for the message, and one of the men, Ethan, says, "I'm sorry," and stabs Gregory.

Daryl lends a hand and breaks an arm.
Rick's group intervenes, killing Ethan and saving Gregory.   Abraham is getting strangled by another man, and Daryl saves him.  He hears Sasha's voice as he is fighting for his life, and tells Daryl he is "better than all right."  As he stands, Rosita's necklace is left in the dirt.

While Harlan tends to Gregory, Jesus explains that Negan is the head of a group called The Saviors, who agreed not to attack the hilltop in exchange for half of the survivor's supplies.    This is the same group that attacked Abraham, Daryl and Sasha earlier in the fuel truck. Daryl offers to rescue Craig and wipe out the Saviors in exchange for food, medicine, and supplies.

Later, Gregory and Maggie reach  a bargain:  Alexandria handles The Saviors, in exchange for half the Hilltop's supplies.   Maggie points out that Negan will keep demanding more and more unless he is stopped.   The Hilltop people gather the supplies and load them into the RV, and get Andy, who has been to Negan's compound, to brief them on their enemy.

Harlan performs an ultrasound on Maggie and prints she and Glenn a printout of the image.   Glenn circulates the photo of the baby to the group, and Abraham looks at the photo and smiles at Glenn.

Preparedness Discussion

Knots Untie is an episode that expands the worldview of our main characters while teeing up the season's closing action.  It fleshes out the nebulous threat of Negan and The Saviors by illustrating the lengths they are willing to go to keep neighboring settlements under the thumb of tyranny. 

Establishing trade with the Hilltop will make the Alexandria settlement more survivable, and the Hilltop can use the protection.  Each community has something they can use for barter.   The Alexandria group is essentially acting as a paramilitary group for hire, and the Hilltop is paying them for protection from Negan's crew.

There are important prepper lessons to learn in this transaction.   Your prepping plan should include barter items that will help you make deals with other members of the community in  a long term economic or survival emergency.   Lists abound on prepper sites about what might make good barter items, but this is a sample, as found here:
  • Water purification tablets
  • Hand tools
  • Prescription drugs, painkillers, and antibiotics
  • Batteries
  • Coffee and tea
  • Toiletry items like soap, dental floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.
  • Condoms (et tu, Glenn and Maggie?)
  • Latex gloves
  • Plastic bags, plastic sheeting, etc.
Likewise, skills can be a useful barter item.  How many reading this blog know who to sew and mend clothing?  If you have tactical training and firearms, could your community be counted on to proved security or set up a security program with your neighbors?  can you fix pipes or electrical wiring?    All of these skills have added value in an survival situation where you can't just go out and buy a new pair of pants, or the community is under threat from someone like Negan.
Gregory:  not a negotiator.

Perhaps the best skill for bartering is the art of being able to barter.  Maggie proves her mettle as shepushes Gregory into a deal that favors the  Alexandria group, and ensures the group. Some people, like Gregory, are not good with confrontation.

I am not sure about the notion that our group of heroes is going to strike on a target preemptively.  Sure, Negan's men confronted Sasha, Daryl, and Abraham, but defending yourself is different from infiltrating an objective and killing people like Navy SEALs.

The whole Negan plot line is a metaphor for the events unfolding in the Middle East.  ISIS operates the same way that Negan does: it moves into an area, kills a bunch of people including elected officials to show it is in charge, and then demands Christians in the area do one of three things:
  • Convert to Islam
  • Pay a fine or tribute
  • Get beheaded
Sound familiar?   The show will be delving more into this moral dilemma, I am sure, but we might as well face it:  there are some people in this world that just need killing.  Perhaps it's a case of kill them before they kill us.  Certainly Alexandria has blood on its hands.  Maybe no one in this post-apocalyptic world is good anymore.

Preparedness lessons for Episode 611:

  • Store some items you can use for barter, especially medical or comfort items, that will make a survival situation easier to bear
  • Work on skills that would be useful in such situations - tactical training, shooting, sewing, carpentry, etc.
  • Remember the biggest ability you need to cultivate it the ability to negotiate

Next week:  Two tribes go to war.