For a minute there, I thought ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ might go a whole episode without showing any zombies. I’m not sure if that would be a disappointment or a refreshing break from formula. Ultimately, it’s a moot point because the show found a way to shoehorn one in at the last minute.
The pirates from last week’s episode kidnapped Travis and Alicia. Their leader, Connor, cooks Alicia a juicy steak and puts on a show of being a nice guy as a way of welcoming her to his team. (Why exactly Connor is so interested in Alicia or immediately trusts that she’s a willing recruit is never explained.) The pregnant girl, Vida, is a lot less friendly and steals the steak the moment Connor leaves the room.
Both Connor and Vida leave Alicia alone in the room unguarded. Although the main exit door is locked, she’s able to easily get out another way and run up to the deck of the boat, only to discover that it’s dry-docked on shore. Her wannabe boyfriend Jack finds her there and warns her to get back before Connor finds her, because Connor is a big stickler for his procedures. Alicia begs to be allowed to see her stepfather.
Meanwhile, the rest of the show’s heroes have retaken the Abigail and killed most of the pirates. Reed, the biggest dickhead of the bunch, is alive but still impaled on the sharp tool that Maddie stabbed him with. This hasn’t at all lessened his desire to be a raging asshole. Salazar tends to his wound just enough to keep him breathing. Reed says that Connor is his brother and will come looking for him. Salazar isn’t intimidated. Chris, who’s clearly in the process of turning psychotic, asks to stay in the room when Salazar leaves. Salazar tells him to stand guard outside the door, and not to engage with Reed.
Strand is recuperating from his hypothermia. Luis is annoyed that he now has to deal with all these extra people. He tells Strand that he doesn’t have enough cash to get them across the border to Mexico. He still hasn’t gotten the message yet that money has no relevance in the apocalypse. Luis is especially enraged when Maddie turns the boat around to follow after Connor and rescue her family. Strand defuses the situation by promising to give her half a day. After that, they need to head to Mexico, one way or the other.
Connor assigns Alicia to man the radar and track promising boats that might make good hijacking targets. Jack shows her what to look for. Alicia freaks out when she identifies that the Abigail is already on its way back to base. She of course assumes that Reed is still in charge of the boat, and that he couldn’t possibly have had enough time to drop her mother and friends on shore as Connor promised. In a panic, she begs to take a boat and go look for them. (Does she really think Reed would dump them in the ocean without killing them first?) Jack, who’s a total pushover, agrees to help her sneak out and will go with her.
While Alicia gets treated nicely upstairs, Travis is locked in a cell in the bowels of the boat. Lest we wonder why Connor bothered kidnapping him in the first place, Travis gets a surprise visitor. It’s Alex, the plane crash survivor from Episode 3, and she is monumentally pissed off that Strand cut her raft loose. The boy she was with, Jake, succumbed to his injuries and she had to put him down before he turned. When she was rescued by Connor, the first thing she did was tell him about the Abigail. (That’s how the pirates knew everybody’s names.) For some reason, she blames Travis for everything that happened to her and specifically asked that they bring him back to her after taking the boat.
Chris ignores Salazar’s orders and talks to Reed, who taunts him about what he’ll do to Alicia as soon as Connor rescues him. Nick pulls Chris away. Chris blames himself for freezing when the hijackers came aboard. He moans that he should have shot them. Nick tells Chris that he would have reacted the same way in the situation, and that Reed is just trying to get in his head. (Of all people, how is the junkie the only person on the boat with any damn sense anymore?)
Jack brings Alicia down to see Travis, who tells her to escape and leave him behind.
Connor radios the Abigail, expecting to talk to Reed. Maddie picks up, tells Connor that Reed is still alive, and offers to make a trade – his brother for her family. Connor agrees.
Almost as soon as Maddie gets off the radio, a gunshot rings out. Chris shot Reed in the face. He claims that Reed was about to turn, but I doubt anyone except Maddie believes that bullshit. Fortunately, Chris is an idiot and failed to hit Reed’s brain. He indeed does turn into a zombie. Everybody panics, except Salazar. He has an idea.
(Weirdly, when alone with the body, Salazar hears a voice saying, “Don’t take the gun” but can’t find anyone talking to him. Is he hearing voices in his head? This is not addressed again in the episode.)
Salazar ties up Zombie Reed and cleans him up a little, then puts a bag over his head. Nick offers to make the trade, but Maddie refuses to let him leave the boat. She’ll take the zodiac raft and do it herself.
On shore, Connor likewise puts a bag over Travis’ head, for no reason at all, really. I guess it’s a good thing that both sides have watched too many P.O.W. movies.
They meet on the docks. Despite all the growling and gurgling noises he made on the boat, Zombie Reed is conveniently silent as Maddie shoves him toward his brother. Connor in turn releases Travis. He pulls the bag off Reed’s head and… Oh my god, his face is shot off… AHHHH, stop biting my arm, bro!!! NOOOOOO!!!!!
Maddie and Travis have to fight off one of Connor’s goons but eventually get onto the raft. Alicia also uses the chaos of the situation to make her own break for it. Jack begs her to stay with him, but she ditches him anyway and has a nice little family reunion with her mom and dad as they get the hell out of there and motor back to the Abigail.
We’ve had a season and a half of this show to get used to the fact that the main cast of characters are, by and large, a bunch of numbskulls who continually make terrible decisions. In particular this week, Maddie’s mother-hen routine putting herself in danger to spare her junkie son (who has actually proven that he can handle himself) grated on my nerves. I suppose it’s very fortunate that their first serious human threat turned out to be a group of even bigger idiots. Connor’s instant trust in Alicia makes no sense at all for someone who has supposedly thrived as the leader of a band of pirates. And boyfriend Jack is absurdly naïve.
Salazar’s plan to use a zombie in a prisoner exchange is something that could never possibly work outside the confines of a TV show whose writers need to contrive an excuse to resolve the situation. The way that scene played out is laughably implausible.
If I liked anything in this episode, it’s the return of Alex as a wronged woman bitter at her betrayal by our supposed heroes. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of her. I wouldn’t mind if she kept popping back up to make trouble now and again.