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The Morning After

I love surprise twists at the end of an episode! Walker’s “Search and Rescue” took the long, winding trail to tell the story of how the Davidsons and Walkers looked past their differences and worked together to save their lost teens, but it was the side trails that led to the most interesting story destinations. 

Title Thread: Search and Rescue

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While the obvious search and rescue mission was recovering Stella and Colton, Walker’s family and friends each pursued their own treks toward something they needed or desired.  Paired off in twos, heeding the wisdom of doubling up for any long exploration, each duo searched and eventually found resolutions to the journeys they have been on all year:

  • August and his new friend, Rieger, branched off the main trail, searching for fresh starts in unexplored relationships.
  • Trey and Cassie both searched for ways to move forward as they searched for new apartments, “closing up chapters” of their pasts and starting over in new places to live. Curiously, they also took part in the literal search and rescue mission, volunteering for the helicopter response team. They are really cute together in scenes (as friends). They balance each other’s strong personalities well, and give each other a place to fit into the plot.
  • Liam and Ben took another step toward each other, searching their hearts to explore whether they were “officially dating” and if they were each ready to commit to a new relationship. They decided to “rescue” each other from the traumas they each need to leave in the past.
  • Cordell and Larry went down the path of searching for Miles, following clues that eventually led them to a startling rescue.
  • Liam and Dan inched toward a détente with each other, both searching for and discovering the truth that will rescue the Walkers from their exile. In the process, Liam and Dan will also be rescued from the toll the past year had taken on their reputations and character.
  • Dan and Denise moved further down their diverging paths. Surprisingly, it was Dan who chose to search for integrity, honesty and truth, putting distance between himself and his wife (and her family).

Colton and Stella’s hike facilitated August’s, Dan’s, Liam’s, Trey’s and Cassie’s journeys of self-discovery and/or cooperation. It also endowed the episode with the beautiful scenery of Hill Country State Park, providing beautiful backdrops of scenic overlooks and running streams. It was an ambitious undertaking for the storyline.

The hiking story wasn’t without its tripping hazards, though. Many small details accumulated to the point of making the search and rescue scenario less authentic. I was really invested in everyone’s anxiety about the danger they faced, and it was exciting to have Trey and Angela involved in a helicopter extraction, but the details of the rescue repeatedly threw me out of the context of the story. Let’s take a short detour to look closely at “the little things” that were needed to suspend disbelief.  

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First, strike one against Stella and Colton’s relationship when they dare each other to recklessly climb a loose rock face – especially after we’re told Stella isn’t a novice hiker (she mentioned that she went hiking with her mom, and Abby reiterated Stella knows the rules about staying on trails)! In addition, Stella’s phone wasn’t fully charged before embarking on a day-long hike, and she didn’t bring a portable charger as an emergency back-up. August acted responsibly, and falling into a stream is easy enough to do on slippery rock, but did he really feel helpless and in danger in those shallow, small “rapids”? Maybe he doesn't know how to swim?

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As far as the adults’ response to Stella’s call, Liam eventually called Cassie for ranger rescue, but no one ever called 911. Wouldn’t there have been a chopper crew (or fire rescue or park rangers) on standby that would have responded faster than the Walkers and Davidsons coming from home; or Trey, Cassie and Angela driving in from a bar? Liam’s dramatic “Colton might not have an hour!” warning asked us to believe time was of the essence.

Angela: We're all volunteers. A lot of ex-military like you. The Bat-Signal goes up to all rescuers, and whoever's available gets to work. Disasters. Missing children. Swift water rescues. You name it, we do it. And pretty damn well. Well, unless you aren't up for it. I can get you a name tag and a welcome gift when we're back [More daring people to do dangerous things!].

Are you telling me Austin doesn’t have a professional 9-1-1 response team? With the myriad of emergency response shows on the air, not the least of which is 9-1-1: Lone Star, which takes place in Austin, reality is an expectation if not a requirement to make these situations look intense versus scripted. Angela’s introduction even reminded us of actual search and rescue teams:

Angela: [I] split time between them and flying for Austin Rescue. You... heard of us?

Trey: The search and rescue outfit? Yeah. Of course I've heard of you.

It seemed unrealistic that Cassie and friends were the most available professional or non-professional rescue team. Then, they didn’t seem at all worried about urgency as they needed time to drive to the airport, gear up, then walk casually to the helicopter while they flirted/bantered about name tags and welcome gifts. Liam’s concern about Colton’s life and death situation was all but forgotten, marking time from August's 4:00pm missed meet-up, to the sunset take-off, to the dead of night arrival at a location where Liam and Dan would have directed them to go. I’m glad Colton wasn’t bleeding out because that was a slow rescue response!

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Then would they really have chosen Trey to repel from the chopper, given he hadn’t been checked out or trained in that specific rescue corps? Once found, Colton wasn’t put in a basket or neck collar, despite having fallen down a cliff, and he wasn’t brought immediately to the helipad of a hospital. Instead, more time was wasted bringing him back to the heliport.

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Returning to the main trail, the purpose of that deep dive into the primary plotline of the episode wasn’t to take away from the climactic lessons and revelations of the episode. Rather, it was to point out that minor adjustments to the writing and directing of the episode would have translated into a spectacular episode. That’s been a consistent downfall of Walker’s episodes. They come so close to perfect, then fall short because of unrealistic details.

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This particular episode may be a get out of jail free card, though. It was a complex logistical production, and a great deal of the script and direction had to be changed at the last minute to write Jared out of the filming after his serious car accident. Knowing that behind-the-scenes challenge, I want to compliment the seamless additional time given to the rescue, the Davidsons, and the other supporting plots. I’m willing to use a fandom hand wave to overlook imperfections if they were in fact caused by frantic rewrites and production changes. The final episode was still fun to watch, with twists in the final moments that made the long wait for answers worthwhile.

The Past is (No Longer in) the Past

Miles is not only alive, he’s with Cordell and the Captain back in ranger HQ! Cassie was right all along! I truly didn’t expect that mystery to be solved so easily (thumbs up to Walker’s tendency to mercifully move plots along quickly)! It was wonderful to have her vindicated, and to have Captain James admit he learned from his past mistake of not believing Cordell’s instincts, which doubly complimented Cordell as a ranger:

All right, you know I don't like to admit that you taught me something. But you did last year. I learned that if one of my best Rangers has a gut instinct about something, I should never completely close that door.

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I’m also elated someone acknowledged their part in adding to Cordell’s isolation and psychological trauma after Emily died:

Captain: I know, I know, you want to tell Cassie.

Cordell: Or at least understand why we aren't. [My favorite line in the entire episode. I’m going to use this in the future to clarify my intentions when questioning others’ actions]

Captain: Look, the spiral that I saw you go through, that I helped put you through? I don't want to kickstart that with her if this is just false hope.

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This time, Larry believed his rangers, and worked the lead of monitoring the suspicious actions of Miles’ former captain.  I’m sincerely happy for Cassie, and look forward to unraveling the mystery of Miles’ disappearance. The guys who shot up the RV had bullet proof vests, which isn’t standard operating procedure for hired goons. Perhaps Miles uncovered corruption within Captain Fenton’s organization, or a local policing group (tied to Northside Nation?).

I’m also elated that Liam was finally supported in his accusations against the Davidsons! He has been the lone voice in the wilderness all season, up to and including this episode when his father asked him to stop challenging the outcome of the (rigged) race.

Bonham: Why didn't you come to me with this saddle business first?

Liam: Cordi and I didn't want to... give you false hope if we couldn't deliver.

Bonham: Well, hell, your brother's wrapped up in this?

Liam: I’m sorry. I…

Bonham: Your heart's in the right place, son, it's just that we don't need this acrimony.

With Dan now siding with the Walkers, the family may echo the captain’s admission that they were wrong in the past to not believe the instincts of one of their own. Aside from the thrilling (and I hope not the repeated reference to “false hope”) chance that they’ll get their land back, Liam has to be so relieved to have been right in pursuing his suspicions. Like Cassie, no one believed him until now, when deceit is finally replaced with truth.

Liam: Yeah. And this is gonna sound selfish, but leaving the DA's office and dealing with all this land deed, it hasn't exactly been my year. I wouldn't hate putting a point on the board with my family.

Notice he said, “with my family” not “for my family.” Liam has been embarrassed and criticized all year. His redemption parallels Dan's redemption, as poignantly noted by Dan's line, "Will one person just believe me when I speak?" Both of them need this win. Cordell’s ability to successfully represent his family will also be vindicated, so it’s a win all around for the Walkers.

Dan being the defector from the Davidsons was also a shock! Denise’s words last week, “to blood”, now appear to have foreshadowed that Dan’s tie to the Davidsons isn't as strong as Denise’s.  Did you see any signs that Dan was searching for his heart? From spying on the Walkers, to killing a cohort by shooting him in the back, to forcing an immunity deal, Dan certainly wasn’t the obvious choice as an ally.

Liam: You know that that race was your lifeline to stay in a family that didn't even want you anymore. So you figured: criminal, liar. Why not just throw "cheat" into the mix, and you'd get the guest house?

Maybe Dan kept trying to do the right thing? He got his son concert tickets and always tried to be a good dad. He supplied the smoking gun against Serano (albeit to save his own life), and he swallowed his pride to accept Bonham’s help on the ranch. Still, I never saw his redemption coming.

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Then, Denise was at the bottom of the list of people I suspected rigged the race! I thought it was, in order of likelihood, Dan, Gale, Colton or Bonham (by accident when he cut his finger). I was certain that Denise was behind the Northside Nation gang, and she certainly didn’t hide using her office to harass either Liam or the Walkers. She agonized over Cordell’s guilt of (supposedly) starting the barn fire yet she still arrested Bonham for murder. She is also giving Geri the cold shoulder, blaming her for Marv’s death. Is it possible that Denise started the barn fire? Has she been so traumatized by an accident when she was a teen that she’s desperate to make things up to her family by reinstating their fortune and status?

Denise’s integrity and motives are back in the limelight after taking a backseat to Dan’s crimes. But… she never admitted to Dan that she cut the saddle. Maybe the “recognition” he saw in her eyes was her realizing that her mother cut the saddle! Is Gale actually the guilty one? The whole Davidson family is seriously "messed up". Will Dan end up being the family member who stands up for what’s right? That would certainly be a twist!

Lastly, Stella and Colton’s race was the second time these two families goaded each other into a foolish race, resulting in someone ending up on the ground, hurt.

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Colton: Why? You afraid of a little climb?

Stella: Oh, it always has to be a race between our families, huh?

Colton: Oh, so now this is a race?

Stella: The fastest one there. I'll even give you honors.

Again, a Davidson threw down the gauntlet and a Walker took the bait, but this time it was a Davidson who got hurt. Nice reminder that the competition between the families hasn’t quite ended.

Perfect Dates… and Perfect Couples

There was a curious study of dating within “Search and Rescue”. Ben and Liam’s discussion of dating each other was so circuitous, I needed to listen to it all a second time to understand if Ben was being witty, disarming or critical of Liam:

Liam: Does that make it an official date?

Ben: We're grading on a curve, William. I met Lucas when we were 16.

Liam: Oh, you are so not ready for this, and it is so charming.

Ben: I'm sorry, what's that?

Liam: Oh, not in a judgy way, it's just you seem like a man of few long relationships that likes to stretch what the definition of a date is… A number of things came out wrong in this conversation.

Ben: What gave it away?

Liam: I'm sorry, it's just my head. I'm just... I'm in a million places right now.

Ben: Well, I don't think I'm gonna hear anything about your dating life till you tell me whatever's going on.

[later] Liam: You know, one of these days we're gonna have a date that doesn't involve an audible or a make-up.

Ben: Or a legal brainstorm.

Liam: Or anybody being judgy. Well, me being judgy. I seem to do that with people. It's something I should work on.

Ben: Well, part of you is right. Am I ready for something serious? Almost certainly not.

Liam: So I get to take back that apology.

Ben: No. No, let's keep it on the table for the next time you screw up. I'm also saying you're just as much of a mess as I am.

Liam: You know, in this moment, I do feel quite messy.

Ben: Then we're on the same page. That's perfect.

I think that was sweet. They ended up saying they’re perfect for each other because they are “a mess”. But accusations about Liam being “judgy” and Ben waiting “for the next time you screw up” really made their relationship confusing to me.  Then Bonham added to the let’s-criticize-Liam day:

Liam: Uh, you know, just saying a knock might have been helpful.

Bonham: Well, when you want privacy, you might want to pick someplace a little more intimate than your brother's bar. Is this how you treat your dates?

To me, Liam and Ben’s body language was saying one thing while their words were saying another. The point was that they want to give it a go with each other (i.e. “rescue” each other), knowing they’re fighting the odds. They were being honest, which is a moral Walker likes to promote.

Ben and Liam’s concerns also parallel the Romeo and Juliet doomed relationship pursued by Stella and Colton. They also talked about the definition of dating, concluding that they were “perfect” for each other.

Stella: I know this isn't a normal first date.

Colton: No, no, it's perfect.

[later] Colton: Most memorable first date ever.

Stella: I think your memory is gonna be a little spotty on this one.

Both of these complicated relationships call back to Cordell and Twyla, and Cordell and Geri. Were they friends who never really got the dating thing figured out but they still hooked up (in multiple definitions of that phrase) briefly? Poor Cordell never got past “day zero” in his relationship with Twyla. They were ultimately “cursed” as a couple (the word Colton chose to describe his relationship with Stella).

But maybe Cordell’s brother and daughter’s respective love lives are good omens for Cordell and Geri. They are both a mess. Geri can be judgmental (always running away from someone saying or doing the wrong thing, in her opinion), and Cordell has trouble saying the right words because his mind is always on a million things. Yet maybe like Ben and Liam, and Colton and Stella, Cordell and Geri are perfect for each other. I feel the thread of dating is more symbolic or deep than I’m uncovering right now, but Cordell’s parallel is the most obvious foreshadowing for such a blatant theme of the episode. What do you make of it?

Honesty and Admitting Your Mistakes

While the purpose of the dating thread may be sub-textual, a more obvious thread in “Search and Rescue” was being honest with yourself and with others. Walker likes to exemplify the virtue of admitting your mistakes, and being humble enough to apologize for your actions. “I’m sorry” was said seven times in the dialog as a reminder of this kindness:

August: I'm sorry, I really have to go find my sister, mostly so I can kill her for this.

Stella: I'm fine. I'm just... I'm really sorry about all this.

Bonham: Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.

Liam (to Ben): Yeah, uh, I'm-I'm so sorry.

The most powerful apologies, though, were when the intention to apologize was clear, but the words were too painful or difficult to utter. Liam and Dan’s recognition of how they brought out the worst in each other was a defining moment for them, and a valuable example of how people might heal themselves and their relationships with others with humility, ownership and honesty. Note that the results of the race wouldn't now be in contention if Bonham was allowed to continue his internal dishonesty and denial, "trying not to think about it."


Cassie: Well, bar games aside, it sounds to me like you're at a crossroads.

Trey: No, it's not like that.

Cassie: Mm. Isn't it, though?

Trey: My lease is up at the bungalow and I need a new apartment. That's pretty straightforward. Not to mention I think somebody here might be projecting. You're still living out of that motel off Lamar, crossroads.

Cheap hotels and crossroads. I’m sorry, but certain words will forever scream Supernatural at me. Or is it just me?

The Last Word

It’s exciting to have the setbacks and frustrations of the entire season come to a climax that will surely reinstate the Walkers’ good name. Along the way, their extended family of Geri, Cassie and Trey are also finding their answers. That’s what a feel-good show should do – remind you of justice, fair play, integrity and honesty. Maybe Dan found his conscious because Liam, Cordell and Bonham swallowed their pride and did what was right. Liam and Dan were courageous enough to apologize for their respective parts in fueling the feud. Miles was found because Cassie never stopped believing in him, and herself.  Despite its “don’t look too closely” flaws, this was a feel good, exciting, redemptive episode – and I’ll take more of that anytime these days.

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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts  
Screencaps courtesy of The CW