Monday, March 7, 2016

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.

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