We’re somehow already on episode 5 of Walker’s first season, and starting to feel a little bit like we’re getting to know the characters. This episode, however, let us get to know someone else a little – Walker’s undercover alter ego, Duke. It was an interesting glimpse into what those ten months were like for him when he was gone, and just how deeply he lost himself in this other persona. If I look at that from my psychologist perspective, it seems like Cordell wasn’t ready to adapt to the loss of his wife, so he threw himself into an entirely different world. Became someone who hadn’t been in love with Emily and hadn’t lost her; someone who could immerse himself in another romantic relationship way before Cordell himself was ready to do that, even if he was ‘pretending’ some of the time. It’s not the healthiest coping strategy for grieving, and it had a negative impact on his family, but it’s becoming a little clearer why Walker stayed away all that time and just how deep he was in. Interestingly, the always perceptive fandom noticed that Padalecki covered up his crown tattoo that he shares with Supernatural castmates Jensen Ackles and Jeffrey Dean Morgan when Walker was undercover as Duke. It’s all about identity in this episode.
The episode begins “Four Months Earlier” at a rodeo, Walker in a ball cap and looking a little scruffier than usual as things like calf roping go on. The attractive blonde woman in the photo August developed (Twyla Jean, guest star Karissa Lee Staples) comes on to him, saying she’s worked up the courage to introduce herself.
It seems like he’s had long enough to prove himself in some way, with Walker commenting that they’re keeping him sidelined so he doesn’t embarrass any of them. At that, one of the guys (Clint) challenges him to a sort of rite of passage – riding a bull for ten seconds.
Clink: Whaddya say, Dick?
Walker: It’s Duke.
Twyla proves herself in his corner by cautioning him that the bull has a cracked rib, so not to squeeze with his knees. At least I think that’s what she said – the audio in this show is still uneven at times.
We don’t actually see Walker (or his stunt double) riding the bull, and this is a little off topic, but I was distracted during this whole scene by my own feelings about rodeo. Sorry, I know this is a show based in Texas, but why is anyone riding a bull with cracked ribs? Or at all, for that matter? That’s neither here nor there, I know, but my feelings got in the way of what was intended as an indication of Walker’s success.
Jared Padalecki live tweeted the episode while dealing with floods and electricity outages in Austin, rescuing chickens and inviting neighbors into his home while the neighbors had no power or water.
Jared: BTS: I rode that bull for four minutes. But we had to cut those shots for timing sake. We even traded places.
I laughed out loud.
Back to “Present Day” and Walker freaking out about August texting Twyla (without knowing who he was texting) and her texting back. He seems on the verge of a panic attack and dunks his head in a sink full of cold water to calm down.
Padalecki in real life understands what it’s like to cope with anxiety, and he does a great job portraying that here. (The chapter he wrote in the book Family Don’t End With Blood talks about his own personal experience with anxiety and depression and his real life coping strategies).
He tells the kids at breakfast that he has to go out of town briefly, and Stella immediately looks upset.
Stella: That would be a no for today, then?
She’s wearing her soccer jersey; her father insists that he’ll be there at her game.
August: (bitterly) Unless he leaves town.
Uh oh. I can already see where this is going. That fragile progress Walker made with his son last episode is easily overturned as soon as August fears his dad is on the verge of abandoning them again.
Walker isn’t amused. He grounds August for taking the phone, saying it was boxed up for a reason. I have to admit, taking that phone was an odd thing for Augie to do. The character sometimes reads as confusingly young and naïve. Wouldn’t the teenage son of a Texas Ranger know better than to plug in one of his dad’s phones and text some random person? For that matter, wouldn’t Walker have deactivated the phone instead of leaving it lying around in a box? Hmm.
At any rate, August and Stella are still not trusting their dad to stick around, and that’s realistic. Children are more sensitive to perceived abandonment than anything else, and with their mother gone, their dad is all they have in terms of a parent.
Walker drives a little ways out of town then gets out and strips to the waist, changing shirts and putting on a cross on a chain and slapping on some (bad) aftershave. His change from Walker to Duke gave a grateful fandom some gorgeous shots of shirtless Padalecki in the Texas sun. (Screencaps and gifs of that scene took up half my timeline the next day. Not complaining).
Jared livetweeting: Oh no, it’s back! #DadBod
Micki and Trey start their day with banter, Trey asking if she’s told Walker about his new gig yet, and her wishing him luck for his first big game day as the new soccer coach. Things go downhill when Trey says he looked into flights to Vegas for them to go visit his mom. Micki has mommy issues, and immediately bristles.
Trey: I know you and your mom aren’t great, but…
Micki: The mother part sounds loaded.
She snaps at him but then comes back and apologizes, asking if they can talk about it later. Once again, I enjoy the healthy relationship dynamic going on with these two.
When Micki gets into work, Capt. James introduces her to Tessa Graves (Blythe Howard), San Antonio FBI
Tessa is not Walker’s biggest fan.
Tessa: So you’re the good partner?
Liam is there too, and together they catch Micki up on Cordell’s undercover operation, Tessa critical that it took him ten months to complete it. He ultimately identified four people as part of the Rodeo Kings gang – Clint, Crystal, Jaxon and Twyla Jean, who worked for a bank as the inside woman.
Tessa: Walker knew Twyla…intimately…
We also find out that Liam refused to put his big brother on the stand, which would have blown his identity and put his family at risk. At the end of their last job, the $300K vanished and Walker was one of the last people to be seen with it.
Tessa: He went dark for long stretches. This morning Duke made contact with Twyla – we have a wire on his phone.
She thinks they might be meeting up to get the missing cash and then leaving town, but Micki doesn’t buy it (and of course neither do the viewers).
Micki: Has anyone asked Walker about his side?
Liam also disagrees, pointing out that Cordell hated who he had to become as Duke. If he’s undercover it’s a last resort, Liam insists, maybe to get Twyla away from Austin and protect his family.
It’s nice to see the people closest to Walker refusing to buy into that narrative.
They watch as Walker knocks on a motel room door, and Twyla greets him and pulls him in.
Twyla: I’ve missed that aftershave.
They kiss passionately, she pulls his shirts off and unbuttons her dress, and for a minute it looks to Supernatural fans a lot like that Sam/Ruby intimate moment from a long time ago. (Look, we Supernatural fans remember those moments, what can I say?)
“Duke” stops her, though, saying they can’t “do this right now.”
And calling her “baby girl” which did not help the fandom calm down.
Duke: We can’t be seen together, it’d be worse for you than for me.
Twyla points out that he texted her, and says she needs to get out of town and needs his help, after looking everywhere for the missing money.
Duke stalls with “we always think better with whisky and garlic bread, right?”
Padalecki does a good job of letting us see just how reluctant Walker is to engage in this deception, though. As soon as Twyla is tucked under his chin, he closes his eyes, steeling himself to go through with it.
Also this show never fails to make me hungry and craving something mentioned. Garlic bread, anyone?
Twyla and Duke drink, eat garlic bread, and then she puts a song on the jukebox and they slow dance. (I’m not sure how this fits with his “we can’t be seen together”, but…)
The scene melts into a flashback, Duke and Twyla getting to know each other, him commenting that it’s strange that Clint robbed her and then she followed him to a bar to become friends. She counters with that Duke only seems happy when he’s on top of a bull.
Duke: I lost someone… my brother. He was my best friend. We traveled the country together. Going from town to town. He always had my back. I’m not trying to replace him, but you and that bull are the only things that hold a candle.
Me, a Supernatural fan: (sobs forever)
The Supernatural references in Walker are generally subtle, so that wouldn’t stand out to someone who hadn’t watched Padalecki’s former show, but for those of us who are Supernatural fans, it sounded so much like Sam and Dean Winchester. Padalecki’s tearing up saying it and I can’t help but think that he’s missing Dean Winchester too. Knowing that Sam really did lose his brother just three months ago on that show, brought a flood of emotion I wasn’t expecting.
I appreciate those references so much; knowing that Jared still thinks about Sam and Dean makes it easier somehow knowing how often I do.
Twyla (clearly not a Supernatural fan): Every girl’s dream, to be compared to a dead guy and a bull.
Back in the present, Micki joins the gang at the bar, undercover with an earpiece. She sees Jaxon heading for Walker and Twyla, armed, so she ignores what’s in her earpiece and surprises them by grabbing Jaxon’s gun and then outing Twyla for having one in her back pocket.
Micki (using the alias Adriana, which we’ll soon find out is her mother’s name): Didn’t want you thinkin’ Duke came without backup of his own. Why don’t we all get honest about what we’re doing here?
They all put their guns on the table. Duke insists he doesn’t have the $300K; Micki gets right on board and suggests they pull off another job to get the money back, the last one that Clint was planning. There’s a tense moment when Twyla tries to put Micki on the spot asking about Duke’s safe cracking friend, but Micki comes up with Hoyt and pulls it off.
Adriana: Hoyt, that dummy couldn’t crack a safe to save his life. Shame he’s back in lock up. You want $300K, this is the option on the table.
They agree, but there’s one thing Adriana has to do if she’s going to be part of the Rodeo Kings.
Flashback to the night before their last heist, Crystal and Clint singing karaoke in the bar, Cordi meeting clandestinely with Liam in a back room. He’s stressed; does the face dunk thing again.
He tells Liam that he needs to go to Capt. James and tell him to make the arrests that night, that the Rodeo Kings can’t finish the job tomorrow because Clint and Crystal are talking about ‘going down shooting’. Liam insists he needs them to put one foot in the bank, so he can put them away for real.
That little exchange, and Liam’s confession of guilt at the end of the episode, were some realistic touches that gave a little insight into just how stressful doing an undercover job like that must be, constantly walking the line between not blowing your cover and not getting innocent people killed. It also let us see more of the Walker brothers working together, which is a dynamic I hope we see more of.
Back in the present, Walker thanks Micki for “backing this unspeakable jackass sight unseen”.
Micki: Oh, I saw a lot.
Cordell leans in to shout into her earpiece to let everyone know he knows they’re listening.
“Adriana” admits that not being Micki for the day is kinda exhilarating. Then it’s time for Adriana to show her stuff – riding the mechanical bull. Because Micki is damn good at just about everything, she even beats Walker’s time on the bull.
Also, you go, Lindsey Morgan!
Unfortunately, the celebration is cut short by a car pulling up – one that Cordell recognizes. It’s August and Ruby; he’d told her he was scared his dad was leaving again, and Ruby had encouraged Augie to “give him an earful.” While that might sometimes be decent advice, again I would think that August would understand the danger or interrupting his Texas Ranger dad in the middle of a case, especially when he’s clearly undercover. I guess his anger and fear of abandonment are overruling his common sense?
August: I knew you were lying to me! We’re not good enough for you, are we? You’re a coward who abandoned us twice.
Walker tries desperately to get them to leave, afraid they’ll blow his cover and put all of them in danger.
Walker: You don’t know what you’re messing with, take your girl and get outta here, kid!
August: If I never see this guy again, it’ll be too soon.
They drive off, leaving Walker looking agonized.
Stella also has a tough time at the soccer game that Walker doesn’t make it to, looking around again and again for her dad in the stands. Ouch. After the game, Coach Trey tries to ask her what’s wrong, but she pushes him off, saying “they gave you a whistle, but you don’t know me.”
She capitulates surprisingly fast though, which was a bit unrealistic, telling him that her mom was a big deal in college soccer and her dad said he never missed one of her games at UT.
Stella: I threw myself into soccer because – this is so stupid — but I thought that it would bring him back or whatever. Like make him come home.
Trey: And he still isn’t here. I’m sorry. But you’ve gotta decide, who are you playing for, yourself or your dad?
The Rodeo Kings foursome grabs a stash of guns. Micki surreptitiously squeezes Walker’s hand, saying that August will forgive him.
Walker to Jaxon: You’ve got a lot of bullets…
Jaxon: What did Clint say? Go big or go home.
Walker’s got a bad feeling about this. We see a flashback of that last robbery, as the police show up and a gunfight ensued. A wounded Crystal takes the money bag and drives off, mortally wounded, and says to Walker: Tell Clint we’ll always have one last dance.
Then Walker is ‘captured’, ending his undercover stint.
Walker has an epiphany in the present: Wait, stop! I know where the money is, it’s in the juke box at the bar. We don’t need to rob a bank.
Twyla immediately knocks Jaxon out and holds a gun on Duke and Adriana, ordering them to the floor and to count backwards from 50. As they do, Micki looks over at Walker.
Micki: Oh, I don’t like that smile…
Walker: Like August says, if he never sees Duke again, it’ll be too soon. Let’s give my boy what he wants.
The ending is an elaborate plan that goes like clockwork. Walker confronts Twyla as she finds the money in the jukebox; they dance while she holds a gun to his side, which was… odd.
Twyla: I thought it’d be you and me, splitting Jaxon’s share, but I can’t shake the feeling there’s something behind those eyes that’s never quite gonna let me in.
Perceptive, Twyla Jean.
The cops show up and she tries to run with the money, but is apprehended. Walker makes sure she sees Duke get caught too, leaping the fence and yelling about “going big” as Tessa shoots him (in the bulletproof vest).
He face plants into the swimming pool and she gasps and is led away.
As soon as she’s gone, Liam runs to his big brother, calling his name and helping him out of the water in a scene reminiscent of countless scenes in Supernatural. Instead of “Sammy!” he’s yelling “Cordi, Cordi!” but it hits much the same.
Liam: Hey hey, it’s okay, she’s gone, you’re safe, they’re all safe. Hey, it’s over, Duke is dead.
They even say ‘hey hey’ like the Winchesters when trying to reassure each other (and themselves) that they’re all right.
Sorry, Supernatural flashback to Sam and Dean and brother comforting brother. Wet brother.
Anyway, Tessa admits that Walker was clean on this and that he retrieved the money and wrapped up the Rodeo Kings, better late than never. After she leaves, the Walker brothers have a moment.
Liam: Listen, back then, I should’ve listened to you. People died, you were way ahead of it…
Cordi: Stop, don’t. None of that is on you, that’s on Clint. Don’t ever forget that.
They hug, Padalecki so clearly now playing the big brother. It’s a nice moment. Give me all the brotherly moments, I’m used to them!
Later that night, Liam comes to see Capt. James, carrying Emily’s drone footage – which they both requested.
Liam: Something’s off.
Ah. The plot thickens.
Micki returns home and asks how Trey’s first game day was, and he allows that coaching is proving more meaningful to him than he thought it would be.
Micki: I made this for you. I’m happy to give your mom some particulars.
It’s a drawing of him in Las Vegas, and I really really love that Micki draws.
Micki: Moms are stressful… I think of the criticism. Adriana makes me feel small.
Trey: Tina doesn’t.
He asks if there’s a chance they’re in this for the long haul, and she smiles, saying ‘maybe.’
Meanwhile, Walker comes home to find a hurt and angry August.
August: If you really are leaving, you need to tell her, I’m not doing it for you.
Stella has Emily’s jersey, saying she’s going to change her number to her mother’s, clearly thinking about what Coach Trey said and what it means to her own identity development.
Walker: I’m sorry, August. I’m not leaving. It breaks my heart you thought I would.
He explains to Stella that her brother followed him, which would’ve been an impressive recon op if it weren’t so dangerous.
Walker: I had to yell at you to get you away from those people. I didn’t mean a word of it.
August: I did.
Walker knows that’s true, and he knows what he has to do.
Walker: Duke is over. It’s over. Because of you. Nothing inside or outside this box will ever keep me away ever again. Duke is dead but he still needs to be cremated. So whattya say we take this fake cowboy badass and light him up once and for all?
The family ritual puts the painful ten months behind them once and for all, along with the persona that Walker took on to avoid his own grieving.
August: What was he like?
Walker: He pretended a lot to be happy, to feel whole, to…
August: To be in love?
Walker: Yeah. He pretended there too. Help me say goodbye once and for all.
August lights the match, and the box burns as Walker hugs his kids.
As always, I like the emotional moments more than anything else in this episode. The undercover case itself and its primary players were a little over the top and I’m still not sure why it took Duke ten months to figure out what he did – maybe that’s intentionally odd though.
The episode had a lot to say about identity – Walker coming back to being himself perhaps more comfortably than before after giving up the avoidant alter ego of Duke; Stella starting to adapt to her mother’s death by identifying with her, even wearing her jersey; Micki struggling with her own mother’s influence on her, taking on her name as her undercover alter ego even though she tells Trey that she doesn’t want to see her.
I enjoyed the relationships and how they all evolved. The Tricki moments were warm as always, and I’m intrigued to find out more about Micki’s relationship with her mother, especially after chatting with Alex Meneses yesterday about the role – look for an exclusive interview here soon!
I like the way the Walker brothers are becoming closer and that they’re working together more, and I liked seeing Cordell’s obviously conflicted feelings about his time undercover and his alter ego, Duke. It’s both a practical and a symbolic move forward that he’s said goodbye to that fake person and has promised his kids to really be there for them – the real him, here and now.
There’s a lot of up and down and back and forth in this show when it comes to the family’s grieving. Sometimes I’m tempted to go come on, they’ve already had this out and come together again – but really, that’s not how it goes. Healing is not a one and done deal, it happens over time and people go back and forth between dealing well and barely dealing at all. It’s as though my own sense of frustration is mirroring that of the characters, as they keep struggling to get close again only to be pulled apart by the events of the past year in their lives.
This time, I think they made some significant strides. I enjoyed meeting Duke, but I hope he’s put to rest, for Walker’s sake. I’m sure the show can find some other reasons for Walker to take his shirt off from time to time…
The show has its first mini hiatus for a few weeks, returning on March 11. Looking forward to meeting the ‘real’ Adriana!
Caps by homeofthenutty
You can read Jared Padalecki’s chapter
“What Fandom Means To Me” in
Family Don’t End With Blood and and
his chapter on Supernatural’s legacy in
There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done