Four episodes into the series, and this was a never-a-dull-moment episode, with a more complicated case of the week and some excellent emotional beats too.
The opening is adrenaline-fueled from the start. Walker and Micki respond to a call about a shooting in an oil field and chase the shooter in his truck. They go against some ‘new regulations’ to stop him, Walker yelling to Micki to “bulldog it” and Micki doing some impressive driving to cut the guy off.
They find him unconscious and bleeding from a head wound. Micki notices his gang tattoos from the Olvidados gang before the ambulance arrives. The next day, Micki gets pulled onstage at the big press conference celebrating putting away a gang member, although she’s reluctant to take the podium, both because her partner isn’t there and out of an awareness of tokenism.
Micki refers to the spectacle of the press conference as a ‘dog and pony show’. It occurs to me that both Jared Padalecki and his former Supernatural costar, Jensen Ackles, have moved on to shows that are, in their own way, questioning the way our society works (and doesn’t work). The press conference on Walker turns out to be an example of media manipulation – not as spectacular as the interrogation of media and PR on ‘The Boys’ but the awareness is there.
Afterwards, Micki is confronted by a young girl accusing her of betraying her own people and not “doing her homework,” insisting Enzo (her father) was no longer a gang member.
Delia (Paola Andino): You betray your people!
Ramirez starts to wonder if she did go along too quickly with the party line; in fact, following her instincts eventually solves the case.
One of the themes of this episode is Walker still trying to get to know his new partner better. He takes note of former colleagues from the Police Department who have a nickname for her, Muskrat, complaining that she won’t even tell him her middle name. More on that later.
Walker’s re-integration into his family’s life also continues, as he and the kids move boxes full of their stuff into their new home. August finds a box of his dad’s old things and starts exploring, putting on the cap that’s in the box, trying to get in touch with the parts of his dad he feels cut off from.
Walker has an oddly strong reaction when he sees what August is looking at, yanking the box away and saying it’s just “old case stuff.” Augie, like the teenager he is, surreptitiously grabs a camera and cell phone from the box and hides them before his father takes the box. That night, he plugs the phone in and charges it up. Curiosity killed the cat and all that, but I don’t blame August for wanting to know more about the time his father was away. Obviously Cordell couldn’t share details of his undercover case, but you get the feeling he could have sat down and shared some of the past eleven months with his children who were feeling abandoned all that time.
Augie, with the help of Ruby, develops some of the photos that were in the camera – there’s one of a smiling, carefree looking Cordell, with a woman. Not August’s mother.
Secrets are another theme of the episode, because August isn’t the only one finding things. As he puts the box of old things away, Walker discovers more family secrets in the basement – a box of letters written to his mother. Not from his father.
In possibly my favorite scene, later in the episode, Cordell helps his mother label jars of her famous jalapeno jam. She says August has been asking “existential questions” about whether his dad is happy, and Walker has that same question for his mother, asking about the letters from Gary.
She says it was in the past, and Cordell wonders if his dad knows and if that’s why he was at one point sleeping in the bunkhouse. Abilene says it’s because he snores, but Cordell doesn’t believe it. She responds (appropriately) that they’re still the parents and they get to have their secrets – that she’s sure he and Emily didn’t tell their children everything.
Cordell smiles and agrees, saying that Emily used to snore like a bear cub.
The mention of his wife, the fond memories, and the quiet time with his own mother, bring tears to Cordell’s eyes.
Cordell: I miss her so much, Mama.
Padalecki makes that moment so vulnerable. The way he still calls her ‘Mama’, and the way she enfolds him in her arms, this big 6’5” man, who looks like a lost little boy as he clings to her and lets her comfort him. It made me extra emotional because it’s something Padalecki’s former character, Sam Winchester, so desperately longed for and never really got. Somehow that made me even more happy for Cordell.
I continue to love Molly Hagan as Abilene too; you can see how much she hurts for her son, how much she wants to console him and how much genuine empathy she has for him too. This family is flawed and imperfect and entirely human, and like the Winchesters, dealing with a lot of trauma and loss, but they sure as hell are trying and there’s a lot of love there. With my psychologist hat on, I appreciate the thoughtful way the show is exploring these complicated relationships, and the way the cast is making themselves vulnerable enough to portray all those conflicting emotions.
We know from another brief scene that things are not all peachy between Abilene and Bonham, and finding out that there was a Gary at a time when things weren’t going so well means that at one point they were even less peachy.
Stella keeps some secrets of her own from her dad, including her budding crush on the guy working at the stables where she’s serving her community service, Trevor (Gavin Casalegno). When Cordell comes by to check on her, Stella hides in a stall with Trevor, as mortified by her dad as every teenager in the entire world has been.
Stella: That dork is my dad…
Stella’s literal dance of joy later in the episode with Trevor’s follow on Instagram was also every teenager in the entire world.
This episode also gave fans more “Tricki” content, the portmanteau for Micki and her boyfriend Trey. Their relationship is refreshingly healthy, both of them sometimes getting distracted or not communicating well but both also able to own that when it’s pointed out and, perhaps even more importantly, to apologize for it and make amends. Lindsey Morgan and Jeff Pierre have great chemistry together, but they also have some great writing and characterization to flesh out this relationship – and no, I’m not referring to Pierre’s shirtless scenes (I’m not complaining about that either!) Trey clearly has plenty of understanding of what Ramirez is facing right now as a Mexican woman in the Texas Rangers, since he recently left the armed forces himself. When she confides that she felt like the Mexican “good guy” there to justify taking down the Mexican “bad guy,” he sees it differently.
Trey: If a little brown girl walks by, do you think she thinks that? Or does she see you and want to be you?
It’s a complicated question because both of them are right, and I like that the show doesn’t shy away from that complexity or asking those questions.
Trey gets a job during this episode and while at first Micki is so distracted by the Enzo case that she doesn’t give his interview and success the attention it deserves, when she realizes, she makes up for it. That kind of give and take in a TV relationship, with a willingness to take responsibility instead of getting defensive, is a rarity – and makes me really enjoy Tricki. He also is the biggest supporter of Micki’s creativity, encouraging her art and recognizing the significance of her rendition of “Lady Libertad”, an original comic creation which I loved, perhaps because it seemed so much like a fan creation. Fandom encourages that sort of creativity and self expression and identity exploration, but ‘real life’ often doesn’t. It does here, in the form of awesome (cape wearing) boyfriend Trey!
Trey frames her drawing as a gift, saying ‘You needed a hero, so you drew one, and then you became one.”
If that isn’t one of the benefits of fandom and finding heroes in media, I don’t know what is!
As Jared Padalecki live tweeted the episode, he tagged Jeff Pierre at this point, adding ‘Lady Libertad costume, I gotta try that sometime!’
It is indisputably an awesome costume. But, as we know, not all superheroes wear capes.
We don’t get to see Bret this week, but Liam and Cordi are getting along fairly well. Liam apologizes for bringing it up when he says that they arrested Carlos Mendoza for Emily’s murder in only two days, but Walker says it’s okay. (Probably not an insignificant tidbit of information though – and Liam finds out later that Captain James has mysteriously pulled some surveillance reports for Emily’s case just a few days ago. Hmmm).
Later, Liam and Stella meet with Isabel and her parents and he’s frank with them that they may be in danger of deportation. Stella feels guilty, blaming herself for getting them both in trouble. Isabel has a loving, caring family who we empathize with, and who just want their daughter to be safe. Liam cautions them that they have to do everything by the book, since if ICE shows up, they can detain the family indefinitely.
Isabel’s mom: Perhaps you and Isabel could stay out of trouble.
Stella and Isabel sure are paying a high price for that little bit of weed!
We don’t see much of Captain James either, though the ever-observant fandom noticed that when James celebrates with Walker and Micki at the bar, he once again drinks water. There’s clearly a backstory there that we haven’t gotten yet.
Walker and Micki grow closer and more trusting of each other as the episode progresses. Walker’s quest to find out Micki’s middle name continues for most of the episode, but he does eventually find out – along with her favorite barbeque and that she drinks bourbon. That’s because he does the smart thing and calls Trey. Ramirez reiterates that she has to be extra careful as the only female Mexican Ranger, but Walker points out that if they’re going to work together effectively, they need to trust each other.
Micki: I put up a fence because I can’t afford to screw this up.
I don’t know if that’s a deliberate reference to the episode’s title, but it works as one. The reference to not being fenced in goes both ways – Micki uses a fence as protection to keep others out that might mess up her chance of proving herself. Walker has some fences up too, keeping boundaries that are necessary with his children but also sometimes not knowing when to take them down and be vulnerable, show his own feelings so his children will be validated in theirs. Abilene and Bonham have some fences in between them as well, and Abbie doesn’t seem to want to take hers down any time soon. Stella and August too are doing what adolescents always do, trying to find that balance between letting your parent in enough to be supported yet leaving room for the independence all teenagers instinctively push for.
At the same time, there are fences that come down in this episode. Micki and Trey make a conscious effort not to let things get between them, and Walker takes his own down to take comfort from his mother and give comfort to his son. Micki and Walker jump over (or plow through) some regulatory fences to stop the bad guy, and later take down some of the fences between them with their trust in each other and those middle name nicknames.
The case itself is more substantial this week – sort of like the “monster of the week” episodes of Supernatural. Or maybe this case is more tied into the ongoing story arc than it at first seems. At first it seems like the show is suggesting that wealthy oil man Harlan was killed by Enzo the (former) Mexican gang member, but Micki finds out he really did seem to get away from gang activity, his daughter currently in med school. Then it seems like he might have been killed by his cold as ice widow or her two obnoxious adult children, but that also turns out to be not entirely correct.
Walker and Ramirez questioning the adult children gave me one of my favorite moments in the episode, when Jared Padalecki got to show off his excellent comedic timing. The woman (Katie Fountain) winks at Walker, and he startles and then looks back over his shoulder, like who? Me? (Though anyone who looks like Walker I think wouldn’t be quite so surprised to be winked at…)
The son (John Enick) is also sort of a jerk, finishing up their interview with “You got it, Ranger Rick” in what may or may not have been a subtle Supernatural Easter egg but at any rate was pretty funny since Walker apparently isn’t familiar with that cartoon.
Eventually Micki figures out that Enzo was actually not just a ranch hand but Harlan’s son (thanks to the resemblance she sees when she draws them, which was maybe a little hard to believe but also kinda cool). That leads to a different suspect, and one that tells a very different story.
Micki, despite still keeping her boundaries with Walker, asks him to go along with her as she follows her gut that something’s not right about the case, and he does.
Ramirez: Can we keep this one off the books?
Walker: Off the books is my middle name! Just kidding.
Actually it’s Beauregard, apparently. That is… quite a name.
And hers, we eventually find out (along with Walker), is Floriana.
That one is gorgeous, imho.
Also their department hacker lady was interesting, if her skills were a little too fast to be entirely believable!
Their intel eventually leads to retiring and beloved officer Shaw, who was having an affair with Harlan’s wife (which was also why she was cut out of his will and he left it all to Enzo). So it’s not the Mexican gang member or the morally questionable rich people, it’s “one of their own.”
Ramirez offers to ride with Shaw in his truck to get a confession. Walker definitely doesn’t like it, but he trusts his partner and knows she’s totally capable, so he follows behind. They make sure to have her phone on so he can hear too; Micki lays out what they know and Shaw pulls a gun on her.
Micki: Walker, bulldog it!
Once again that move comes in handy, as they get the bad guy.
Micki: Nice save.
Cordell: I got your back, Muskrat.
Their partnership, in other words, is secured.
Later, as they’re celebrating, she thanks him again.
Micki: Thank you for believing me when I said this case didn’t feel right.
Walker: I didn’t believe you, I trusted you.
Micki: Thanks Beau.
Walker: Don’t mention it, Flor.
The episode ends with an ominous scene. August has gone through the contacts for the phone he grabbed from the box and texts someone named ‘Twyla’ who may or may not be the woman in the picture.
(The Supernatural fans watching simultaneously had a melt down while this was happening, because ‘Winchester Auto’ is in the contacts too. I love that Padalecki and company have some Supernatural Easter eggs in his new show – it made my night!)
August later asks his father who the woman in the photo is and apologizes for taking the camera. Cordell says she was part of his undercover crew, that was a job and it’s done. But August is haunted by the fact that his father looks happier in the photo than he has seemed since he’s been back. Walker reassures him that he is happy to be home, just doesn’t always know how to show it. He finds a way then, though, saying that Emily wasn’t in photos because she was the photographer – so maybe August can be the family photographer now? Cordell pulls his son in for a one arm hug as they take a smiling selfie. Again, I like the way this show portrays family so much. August is a teenager, but his dad shows him affection as comfortably as Abilene shows her very grown up son. We don’t see that too much in media either, and it’s another subtle way to challenge tropes of toxic masculinity.
Later that night, Cordell comes into August’s room (which is admittedly a little odd – what teenager sleeps with their door wide open so their parent can wander in?).
Also my timeline: #@&*(*&% why is he as big as a door?
Cordell finds the undercover phone – with a message from the mysterious Twyla.
Duke Culpepper, are you fresh outta jail? Get down here. Urgent.
It can’t be good that the people from his undercover life now can trace him right to the Walker home, can it? The plot thickens.
The fandom had another meltdown with the teaser for next week’s episode, which sees Padalecki finally having that shirtless moment he said would be happening as he goes back undercover. I have a feeling next week is going to be one of the wildest episodes yet!
Jared Padalecki again live tweeted along with the East coast airing of the show, with lots of teasing for his castmates and a spree of likes and replies to fans who were left happily gobsmacked.
Gavin Casalegno (Trevor) tweeted too, replying to Padalecki’s tongue in cheek ‘stay away from my daughter’ tweet about his character: Come on, Ranger Rick, give me a chance!
We’ll see whether he does or not. Either way, I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode and some backstory on Walker’s mysterious time undercover.
You can read the powerful and personal chapter
that Jared Padalecki wrote (along with the other
Supernatural actors) in Family Don’t End With
Blood, info on that book and There’ll Be Peace
When You Are Done in the banner here or at: