Last week’s episode of Walker, ‘Common Ground’, was an intense wild ride (literally) that left fans screaming at their screens and at one point exclaiming something along the lines of “oh shit”. That was me anyway!
I had a slightly different reaction to the episode than many people did, I think. Walker can sometimes be a little heavy handed with its good guys v bad guys, or at least it can seem that way, but in this case they’ve done an interesting job with the Davidsons in not being black and white. I really appreciate that about this show, and I do NOT want it to change, but it got in the way of my unfettered cheering Cordell on in the big race too.
The Davidsons are not your stereotypical villains who have nefarious plans to take over the world or poison the water supply or something. They are very human, and they’ve experienced some nearly unimaginable losses. Gale is scary because she seems like she’s capable of just about anything, including manipulating her own family members (though she clearly has her own trauma history impacting those manipulations). Denise has been more sympathetic, especially prior to this episode. We’ve seen Denise through Cordell’s eyes as who she was as a teenager and someone he cared about a lot. She’s being manipulated by her mother away from the more reasonable courses of action that she seems drawn to herself again and again, and it’s working like a charm, but she lost her dad in a tragic way, her marriage is on the rocks, and I can’t help but feel bad for her. Same with Colton, who we were introduced to in a sympathetic light. He’s the new kid, longing to fit on, longing for a home and for a family who can stay together and give him a sense of stability. Yes, I know, cutting a saddle strap ain’t okay in any way, shape or form if indeed Colton is the one who did that (I’m really hoping he didn’t), but I still feel bad for him as he fears the little bit of stability he finally has is falling apart.
When Stella confronts Colton and demands to know why he outed Augie to Denise, Colton responds with “I’m sorry, what?” Does he even realize what he was doing when he confided in Gale of all people? Again, master manipulator.
He seems to eventually buy into the feud all the adults are insisting is “just the way things are”, but he reiterates again that all he wanted was a home. He knows his parents aren’t happy and he’s in danger of literally losing any semblance of home he might have had. He’s feeling hurt and angry that Stella has rejected him but still, at the eleventh hour, he tries to tell his dad that he doesn’t want to take the Walker’s home. That’s a more mature response than most of the adults are having, Walkers included!
I even feel a bit bad for Dan – he’s a fuck up, has clearly had a history of being a fuck up – but he loves his son and is desperate to stay close to him by winning their family back the disputed land (and the Walker’s land too because…revenge, I guess?). There’s nothing more dangerous than someone with nothing left to lose, and that’s Dan. When his son said there was nothing left to fight for because he’d lose the home he wanted so badly, I knew Dan would do just about anything to make that not happen. Which is a motivation I can relate to – doing anything for your child – even if the revenge part is making Dan do things that are anything but relatable. Also Dave Annable makes Dan confusingly appealing just because Dave is appealing!
The Davidsons are thus not your stereotypical bad guys. They are not the ones ‘in power’, despite Denise being the DA. They’re the ones that lost their family patriarch and their land – and one of their children, because then they didn’t have enough money to take care of her. That’s all pretty tragic – to them, the Walker family must look like a bunch of entitled and privileged winners. The show has hinted that maybe the Walker family wasn’t exactly fair to the Davidsons back then, so some of their resentment is certainly understandable. Loss pulled Cordell into a dark place for a while; it pulled the Davidsons there too, and they never got back out.
So I felt a little out of sync with the rest of the fandom as the epic horse race started. I was rooting for Cordell, especially when he stopped to go back to be sure Dan was okay, but I kind of hated the whole idea of it. Would it really be okay to take ALL of the Davidsons’ land from them? Their home? Everything? Wouldn’t it compound what they already lost perhaps unfairly and the tragedy of the barn fire? Both Liam and Cordell have struggled with that ethical question, and I was still struggling when everyone got on board with the insane plan of deciding it all on a horse race.
Lots of emotional decision making going on all over the place in this episode! Rational, what’s that? Everyone should listen to Liam a lot more, since he’s sometimes the only person hanging onto a thread of rationality in the face of very strong emotional reactions.
I felt really bad for Cordell at times too. He’s tried so hard to give the Davidsons the benefit of the doubt and not see this as a war, and I know some viewers were fed up with that and ready to just buy into the Davidsons-are-evil-take-their-home-away solution, but I appreciated Cordell’s reluctance to do that. He started out the episode finally watching the news report from back in 1995 when the barn burned, Gale insisting that it wasn’t an accident and blaming “the kid next door”.
She insists that Marv was the self sacrificing type and that he ran into the burning building to save the kids (Cordell and Denise). She even says right out, “Cordell Walker murdered my husband”, which seems like something that should not have been broadcast since Cordell was a minor at the time. Where is this news report and why is it still accessible on the internet?
I wonder why there wasn’t more of an investigation at the time if she really thought that? (I also continue to wonder how they missed the lantern that was just lying around the burnt barn). Poor Cordell, having to see that, even as an adult. We know he still feels guilty about that night and doesn’t know for sure what happened, so that must have been excruciating to watch. Protect your mental health, dude! He also feels bad about “the last time the Davidsons had to move”, a reference to the fact that the Walkers might not have done right by the Davidsons back then. I can’t forget those sort of things that the show intentionally put out there, so I was glad it was acknowledged again at least initially.
At this point it’s still on the table to make a deal that’s at least somewhat equitable with the Davidsons even if the race happens, though that seems to go by the wayside by the end of the episode. Also, Liam is the voice of reason repeatedly, noting how crazy it is to decide something like this with a horse race. Ya think??
Liam is the only one who wants to cut a deal BEFORE the race (trying to cut a deal with Dan for 20 acres of Walker land so they can find some common ground). Cordell doesn’t agree though, eventually buying into the macho BS I like to think he’s mostly walked away from, saying he doesn’t want the Davidsons to think they’re afraid of a challenge. That’s a crappy reason to go ahead with this, Cordell, just saying. (Though he does, at this point, say the race is on but they don’t have to start a war. That’s a good sentiment, but I’m not sure that either family can be expected to be ‘okay’ with losing ALL their land. The stakes are too damn high here.)
I also felt bad for Cordell as he tries to practice riding on Chopper, a gorgeous horse who seems pretty high strung, with his dad as his “Coach”. (He gets way too into the part, even donning a hat that says ‘Coach’. Over the top, Bonham!).
Bonham is super hard on Cordell here, blaming him for the horse’s stubbornness and refusing to listen to Cordell when he (very rationally) tries to suggest they make a deal with the Davidsons instead of The Insane Race ™. Cordell wants to end the stupid family feud once and for all without more casualties and I am ALL FOR THIS. Bonham, alas, is not. That same macho BS rears its ugly head, with “shots have been fired, lines have been drawn” and that apparently means you have to keep right on firing. Boo. Cassie shows up and isn’t exactly supportive of him either. Boo.
Chopper the horse is skittish and Bonham blames Cordell for being indecisive, telling him to focus and to get his back straight.
Cordell: I know how to ride a horse.
Bonham: Well, it doesn’t look like it.
Ouch. No wonder Cordell has insecurities.
Cassie: If he does anything wrong, I hold him, you slap him.
Sheesh. Poor Cordell. His phone rings, Bonham warns him not to answer it, Cordell tries anyway because it was Denise – and frankly, if he had answered it, things might not have escalated the way they did. Bonham insists that feeding Chopper some sugar cubes is going to change his mindset and make everything okay, which seems unlikely to me, but I get to see some close up shots of Chopper, who is a gorgeous horse, so fine.
Also the phone falls to the ground and Chopper stomps on it accidentally. Oops.
Cordell: Fine, it’s not Chopper, it’s me.
Me: Is it, though?
Eventually Bonham and Cassie have a talk as Bonham works on a saddle and slices his finger accidentally (Bonham always seems to bond with Cordell’s partners). It seemed like we were shown that injury for a reason – maybe to cast doubt on who’s responsible for some knife slicing the saddle strap? Honestly I don’t know. Bonham confesses to Cassie that there was a sense of relief when Marv died because then the whole land dispute thing could die with him.
He clearly feels guilty about that, but Cassie reminds him not to let that get in the way of his relationship with his son, and Bonham resolves to listen to Cordell more. He eventually talks to his son, not apologizing but at least saying that he let the Davidsons have more power over him than he cares to admit. Bonham’s guilt makes sense to me and probably has impacted his impulsive (bad) decision making around that lantern. Cordell points out that Bonham “raised me to walk alongside you, but you never really let us” and Bonham says that’s why he’s there. He’s ready to listen to Cordell about making a deal, finally. By this time, however, Cordell has changed his mind about attempting a more rational deal and the race is on, insane or not.
Bonham: Walk alongside me, Cordell.
Cordell: I’m gonna finish what you started.
I know I’m supposed to find that inspiring, but I found myself wanting to yell WHY??? It wasn’t a good idea in the first place, and it’s still not a good idea now!
I think I’m in the minority though.
Cordell and Cassie get a little more time together, her going through the kitchen cabinets and being impressed with the food and not agreeing with Cordell trying to be reasonable about cutting a deal with the Davidsons. She still reminds me a little bit of Dean Winchester, especially in the way Cordell gets a bit exasperated with her but they still click together.
Things are not good at the Davidsons either, per usual. Denise once again tells Dan to get out (after he throws up from all that alcohol he consumed in the last episode). He insists he has nowhere to go, but she’s not very sympathetic. Also, Dan apparently bought the wrong cleaner (in other words, they argue about ridiculous things too.) Gale is critical of the silly fight, but Denise points out that she and Marv “invented that fight”. Hmmm. I get that the feeling that things between Marv and Gale were anything but perfect – and is there a specific fight about “cleaner” that kept happening? Was someone trying to “clean up” something? Hmmm.
Gale tries to convince Denise that Dan is their best bet to ride in The Insane Race ™ . She also keeps hinting that the lantern that night in the barn was somehow to blame for Marv’s death – and she knows that the Walker family has it because of course she does. Denise is at first defensive of Cordell, saying he was just a kid, but hearing that the Walkers found it and kept it a secret makes her more suspicious. Did Bonham really think he could bury it, both literally and figuratively?? Gale is a master manipulator here, once again.
Because she can’t reach Cordell on his cell phone (which got dropped and smashed by Chopper’s big hoof alas), Denise finds Augie at the Side Step and asks him about the lantern. When Geri tries to defend him, she brings Augie down to the Ranger station, not allowing Geri to come since she’s not officially a legal guardian. Geri’s line about the kids being “practically my blood” was a nice touch – I do think she feels very close to Stella and August. Denise suggests some neutral ground – Ranger HQ – and August says okay, so it’s not like she insisted he come. Not sure that’s really okay though, to take a minor down to the station when he’s not even charged with anything? Gale’s manipulation is going swimmingly though.
Denise’s overstepping is a last straw for Cordell, who finally finds out about the lantern and gets a confession out of Bonham that he buried the damn thing. Cordell rightly points out that Bonham burying it was not his decision to make alone, and that all the damn secrets and lies end up hurting their family more than the Davidsons ever could. He and Geri confront Bonham and insist he dig up the damn lantern.
Furious and protective of Augie, Cordell brings Denise the unearthed lantern and says he’s done with trying to help her and her family. (Both Dan and Cordell are pushed over the line out of protectiveness of their sons, which makes the eventual race even more insane really).
Cordell makes a 180 from his initial reluctance about turning this into a war when Denise questions Augie, now saying that they started a war and there “ain’t no going back from that.” Initially both Cordell and Denise were on the side of being reasonable, but Denise too is pushed over the edge.
When Stella asks Cordell about the Davidsons thinking of them as “the bad guys”, Cordell says there are no bad guys – which is a sentiment I kind of like. I just feel like it eventually got reversed, unfortunately, as things got pretty black and white instead of remaining gray. Are the Walkers really the good guys in this entirely??
I got my Abeline fix with a short but poignant scene of her at Marv’s grave, leaving flowers and sharing nightmares of her being with him on top of the water tower, seeing a big fire and not being able to stop it. Very Freudian. She confides to Marv that she and Bonham are keeping secrets, questioning why they do it, and for who – rightly noting that ‘there’s always something we lose.’
Molly Hagan is awesome per usual – I so want to know more about Abeline and Marv, especially after Gale comes by Marv’s grave later and complains that the woman he loved was just there (Abby) and now the woman he married is (her). Ouch. The resentments between the families are clearly rooted in the Bonham-Abeline-Marv-Gale tangled mess of long ago as much as the land disputes.
Gale and Dan manipulate Denise once again so that he can be the one to ride, telling her they’re starting later. Geri and Cordell reminisce a little about their childhood on the ranch. She smiles and says the reason she knows this land more than anybody is because of all the time the two of them spent trying to hide from their dads. Not exactly sure what that conversation was about, but Cordri remain sweet together.
Geri is the one to read the rules and say go because “I’m the only one who’s not blood related Walker or Davidson” and everyone watching immediately goes okay it’s definite now, she’s the Davidson baby that was given up. Cordell says he loves this house, this land.
Cordell: I never realized how much it was home until yesterday – it’s a part of me, a part of all of us. So I’m gonna go out there and protect our own.
Again, I wasn’t as inspired as I think I was supposed to be. Is it really theirs?? What about that map? What about Marv’s desperation back in the day as he was about to endure the unspeakable pain of having to give up a child because he couldn’t afford to take care of her? That he needed money and came up with this ridiculous plan out of that kind of desperation? The Davidsons aren’t some strangers who swooped in and tried to take the Walkers’ home away to develop it into a shopping mall or whatever – they too have roots in this land, and lost it in the past in a way that may have been shady.
Even the “go out there and kick his ass” didn’t land like it should have for me – it’s a close to Supernatural reference, but I was too conflicted to really appreciate it like I usually would. Colton feels bad, saying he doesn’t want to take the Walker’s home from them – he of all people understands the value of home – but Dan insists it’s what they deserve.
Dan taunts the Walkers, proving himself an asshole just before they start the race, so that helps me at least root for Cordell – though I would hope that if the Walkers won they would still offer up that 20 acres to be fair.
Cordell remembers to give Chopper that sugar cube.
And then they’re off!
We see the slice in the girth of Cordell’s saddle as the horses and riders gallop away.
(Yes, that shot reminded pretty much everyone in the Supernatural fandom of the framed photo of fake Jared Padalecki on horseback on the wall of his house in The French Mistake!)
Bonham gives his son the advice of taking the right fork of the path even though it’s longer because the left has dangerous branches – so we know that the ‘bad guy’ will probably try to take the short cut and pay the price. He does, Dan knocked off his horse by a branch. Cordell comes back to see if he’s okay – and honestly I wouldn’t have thought very highly of him if he hadn’t – and they continue the race.
Dan: You didn’t have to come back.
Cordell: Well, I save people for a living, Dan. It’s who I am.
Dan does say thank you, and on they go.
That poor stunt guy though!
Little by little, we see the girth of Chopper’s saddle that was cut slowly coming closer and closer to breaking, as the horses and riders leap over creeks and fallen trees, circling past the burnt barn and heading for the finish line. Gorgeous cinematography and gorgeous horses – and all the kudos to Jared and Dave and their stunt guys for some kickass riding!
When Cordell’s saddle finally breaks and he goes down, however, Dan does not come back to help – and so he wins the race.
(I’m not sure why the horse went down too – wouldn’t the saddle just have slid off the horse, and Cordell with it, and the horse would have carried on?)
That’s not the “oh shit” moment though. That happens just before the race ends, when Denise shows up with the police and accuses Bonham of murder! Apparently the lantern is a murder weapon, Marv’s blood all over it, so now we’re at a ‘who really killed Marv Davidson?’ mystery moment. Was it Bonham? That’s hard to believe, though he doesn’t initially deny it. Was it Gale? Is that why she was so quick to put out some accusations when it happened? If it was, why didn’t she dispose of the lantern?? Or was it someone else all together?
Next week will be interesting, that’s for sure! The proverbial plot thickens…
As we often do, we were lucky enough to get some beautiful behind the scenes pics from this episode too. I loved that we got so many shots of the horses this time! Jared Padalecki just looks like he belongs on horseback, doesn’t he?
Caps by spndeangirl
You can read Jared Padalecki’s thoughts on
fandom and his own journey (along with other
actors from Supernatural) in Family Don’t End
With Blood and There’ll Be Peace When You
Are Done – links on the home page or at: