After an episode without any of them, most of the original cast return to Fear the Walking Dead this week (those still alive, anyway). Though they’re still broken up into small groups, both the characters and the plot for this part of the season seem to be coming together.
The Big Rig Crew
Morgan, June and their new friends drive to mile marker 21 in search of the guy named Quinn, whose radio call to them got cut off when he was attacked by Purvis the zombie (though they don’t know that yet). They find no sign of him. Even the defaced mile marker sign has been cleaned up. June anxiously radios to him over and over without response. Sarah, Wendell, and Jim get tired of waiting. Jim is especially antsy and asks if he can have a gun. Wendell scoffs at him, and demonstrates his own badassery when a Walker creeps up behind him and he dispatches it with spring-loaded spikes from the back of his wheelchair.
Unbeknownst to them, the sneaky Walker is Purvis. Even without knowing that, however, they immediately recognize that the writing on his face is pretty damn weird. June calls out on the radio again, and this time gets a response of growling zombie noises, followed by Crazy Dreadlock Lady babbling some incomprehensible nonsense. Morgan recognizes the voice as the woman he encountered at a charity box and tries to talk to her. Not only does she know his name without him ever telling her, she demonstrates that she’s been watching Althea’s tapes in the stolen S.W.A.T. truck and knows a lot about his backstory. Crazy Lady says that their charity boxes just make people weak and warns them that they better stop trying to help people. She’s clearly out of her gourd.
Morgan and June want to round up all their friends before Crazy Lady can get to them. Althea finds some journals in the tractor trailer from “Polar Bear,” the truck’s former owner, and is fascinated. She wants to get this guy’s story.
Despite the urgency of the situation, Morgan insists that the truck still top periodically to drop off charity boxes. At this point, it’s an act of defiance against Crazy Lady. In addition to the “Take what you need, leave what you don’t” note, he also leaves instructions for what radio channel he can be reached at.
Strand & John
In the aftermath of the storm, John and Strand find themselves stranded (no pun intended) at a ranger station when all the ground around their small patch of land is flooded. The cabin has a small stash of food, so Strand feels that things could be worse. He’s content to stay there until the flood waters recede. John is much more eager to get back to June as soon as possible. He chops down some small trees and builds a raft. Strand, who’s rather pissed at John for dragging him away from the comfort of his mansion on this ridiculous mission, informs him that he won’t be joining on the trip. He’ll just stay and wait for John to bring back help.
John’s first attempt to leave fails miserably when his raft immediately sinks. Worse, an alligator in the water tries to attack him. He scares it off by shooting at it, but the gator becomes almost comically persistent through the rest of the episode, racing toward him like a torpedo as soon as he so much as dips a toe in the water. Even when Walkers stumble into the lake and it chomps down on them, the gator is never satiated and never tires.
While looking for another alternative, John comes across a crashed pickup truck with a camper shell on the back that he thinks would make a much better raft. The problem is that the truck is dangling precariously at the top of a hill and has a Walker in the driver’s seat. Because John is still recovering from his gunshot wounds, he recruits Strand to reluctantly climb up and pop the shell off. In the process of this, Strand becomes distracted at the sight of a bottle of champagne in the front seat. He wrestles with the Walker to get to it, and their commotion causes the truck to roll end-over-end down the hill. Amazingly, not only does Strand survive unharmed, so does the champagne. The Walker is killed by a tree branch through the skull.
After building the new raft, John convinces Strand to join him after all. Salvaging the truck’s battery and horn, he rigs up a distraction to keep the gator away from them. The sound of the horn will draw Walkers to the water, which will occupy the gator while they row across the lake.
This plan seems to work until they get about halfway across the lake, at which time the truck battery dies and the horn stops. As if realizing that it’s been tricked, the Gator finishes scarfing down a Walker and heads directly for the raft. It slams into the bottom of the raft a couple times, causing a big leak. John wants to swim for the opposite shore, but Strand tells him that it’s hopeless and they have no choice but to return back to the island. John reluctantly follows him.
Upon returning to land, John seems defeated. He eats the last candy in his pocket that he’d been saving for June.
While searching for Charlie at a library, Luciana comes across an old man trapped in crashed car. He says his name is Clayton (Stephen Henderson from Fences and The Newsroom). He’s injured and Luciana can’t pull him out of the car. He has internal bleeding and the pressure of the car pressed against him is the only thing keeping him alive.
Once she comes to terms with the fact that she can’t save this man, Luciana asks if there’s anything else she can do for him. Clayton says that he would love one last beer before he dies. Luciana gives him a walkie-talkie and sets out on a quest to fulfill his dying wish. This doesn’t go well at first, and Luciana almost gives up on it until she comes across one of Morgan’s charity boxes with a bottle of Jim’s beer inside. It’s practically a miracle.
Luciana returns to Clayton just in time to give him the drink he requested, and the look of joy on his face is all the reward she needs for her effort. Nonetheless, he tells her about some notebooks in the back of his car that he says may be of use to her, and we realize that Clayton is the trucker “Polar Bear.” His wish granted, he promptly dies.
Not realizing who left the box, Luciana radios out on the frequency from the note to say thank you. She’s shocked when Morgan replies.
Gunning for Trouble
Absent for most of the episode, Alicia and Charlie make an appearance at the end as they find another of Morgan’s charity boxes and contact him on the radio. Before they can arrange a reunion, Crazy Dreadlock Lady interrupts their transmission to tell Morgan that she’s very disappointed in him. Sarah then reports from the cab of the semi that she sees the S.W.A.T. truck coming up fast behind them. Unfortunately, the rig can’t outrun it. As Crazy Lady pulls up beside the tractor trailer, Morgan realizes what she’s up to and yells for everybody to hit the deck. The Crazy Lady then opens fire with the truck’s machine guns and we close out on a cliffhanger.
If I wanted to nit-pick, this episode has a bunch of plausibility problems. The way the alligator (which is never seen on camera beyond a shadow under the water) behaves is pretty silly and unrealistic. The simple matter of geography also makes no sense. If Morgan and his crew were driving from Mississippi back to Texas, how did both Luciana and Alicia find charity boxes he’d left along the way before he got to them?
Although Crazy Dreadlock Lady seems a bit more dangerous now that we understand what she’s up to, we’re still left with the fact that she’s just one person. How hard could it possibly be to take her out? Even a badass like Negan on the franchise’s flagship show needs an army at his command to pose a serious threat. This lady has nothing but one Walker she keeps on a leash and a truck with machine guns that will run out of bullets and gas sooner or later. Big deal.
I’m willing to let those issues go. I actually enjoyed this episode quite a bit. It has a number of good character-building moments and some humor, and the cliffhanger promises more excitement next week.