Wild Horses, New Rangers and Realistic Progress on Last Week’s ‘Walker’

Last week’s episode of ‘Walker’ was in some ways a quieter episode than the first few of this third season, but no less impactful. I’ve been traveling for the past week, so this is a drive-by recap and review, but I have to give a shout out to a few things about the episode that I loved. Number 1? The horses! The title is ‘Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away,’ which makes me sing the Rolling Stones in my head immediately, but also refers to multiple themes in the episode – and to the fact that there are actually wild horses in it! Beautiful wild horses. I can watch  horses on my TV screen happily for a very long time, so just that fact put a smile on my face.

It also gave me mixed feelings about the actual plot of the episode, at least the case-of-the-week one. Trey is in his last week of being a trainee, Capt James having pulled ALL the strings to get his military service to count as the years of training he would have been doing. The show acknowledges this as unprecedented, which is good because otherwise I might have eyerolled. But they make it part of the plot, and of Capt. James’ good faith attempt to change the system from the inside, with his acknowledgement that if it fails, his own career is also on the line.

That means that James, Walker and Cassie put Trey in charge of a sort of test case – to take down a trio of people who are freeing wild mustangs from “kill pens” and letting them go. Hence my mixed feelings. I was the Research Assistant in grad school who snuck back into the lab the night before it was “kill day” for all the rats who’d “volunteered” as test subjects and hence had little metal cones sewn into their poor little heads – and umm, liberated, quite a few. My kids had the best pets growing up, what can I say? The ‘conehead rats’ were famous with their friend groups.

Anyway, so I might not be the right audience for going after a trio of people who see themselves as do-gooders freeing beautiful wild horses who are about to be made into dog food. On the other hand, they almost run over a ranch hand accomplishing it, so that’s not exactly okay. And as Capt. James points out when Cassie also questions it (making me very fond of Cassie at that moment), they are defacing federal land. Which, to be honest, sounds like one of those things people in power use as an excuse…but technically he’s right and they can’t be reckless about it like they’re being, clearly. Interestingly, Walker also bristles when James says they have to “go through legitimate channels”, remembering the lessons he learned from his superior officer in the Marines, which is exactly not that. In fact, he has a flashback when James says those words, for a moment not even present in the here and now as he remembers.

Cordell: Sometimes people ignore legitimate channels when conditions on the ground call for it.

Cassie: Wait, are you agreeing with me??

Trey takes on the case and puts on the white hat (and the short sleeve very very tight shirt that I guess is his version of the Ranger uniform but no one is complaining so carry on, Ranger Trey…) and everyone cheers.

They also applaud Walker being back, although Cassie and James notice how he keeps zoning out and are worried. James knows he put Walker back in the field too soon before, and Abeline definitely put the fear of God into him when her son was missing this time.

There’s a fair amount of humor in this episode as James, Walker and Cassie put Trey through the end of his “hell week”, getting him to do silly things like “1, 2, 3, Rangers!” complete with the hand motions and taking way too much pleasure in Trey lucking out (not) by having to work with a bristly fed. Trey takes this all in good spirits, to his credit.

And we get alot of adorable Jared Padalecki smiles.

Eventually, Trey disobeys James’ orders to stay put and wait for them to arrive when Trey finds the horse thieves – he instead jumps into the back of the trailer, much to the surprise of the horse inside. More beautiful horses, yay!

Walker and Cassie assure James that they have confidence in Trey’s ability to make the right decisions, so James gives him the go ahead and Trey does the arrests on his own – until one guy takes off on an ATV that is! But no worries, Trey leaps on the surprised (again) horse and gallops after him, which makes for an awesome chase scene and some great riding. I hope Jeff Pierre got to do some of that himself, because it looked like fun!

This show makes lots of its scenes into music montages and I don’t always mind, but I kind of wish this one was just left to be the wild ride it actually was. The other three arrive in time to cut the guy off and Trey gets to make the arrest. James has to tease him one more time, pretending his disobeying a direct order has tanked his career for a minute before breaking into a smile and congratulating Ranger Trey.

Meanwhile, the Walker family is still struggling with the aftermath of Cordell and Liam’s captivity and torture. Stella impulsively decided not to go away to college after all, which means Augie didn’t get her room that he was promised – or the chance to be the ‘only child’ that every second born longs for and sometimes temporarily gets. I found Stella and Augie’s brittleness with each other as a result to be very believable. These are the big things to adolescents that seem like small things to adults, and I’m glad Walker leaned into that.

Stella’s identity crisis, now that she didn’t follow the path that she planned on, is also believable. If I’m not in college, who am I? What am I supposed to do? Cordell, like many parents, answers her question with “you’d better find something productive to do” and asks Aunt Geri to give her a part time job at the SideStep. Stella is not at all happy to be “treated like a five year old” but she goes along with it, which gives “Aunt G” a chance to impart some wisdom about following in her mother’s footsteps and taking her time figuring out what she wants to do with her life. Emily’s father wanted her to be a lawyer, but after the trauma of 9/11, she became a social worker instead.

Stella is patient with her brother eventually, offering him not her room but driving lessons in the Mustang. In typical adolescent fashion, Augie is thrilled to show off in front of his friends driving a hot car – until he stalls it out.

Also very realistic!

Augie and Stella aren’t the only siblings struggling in the aftermath. Liam is still trying to engage his big brother in discussion about coping with their captivity, and Cordell is still avoiding him.  It makes for an awkward family breakfast, and Abeline is away chasing after some sought after chili peppers, so Bonham has to cook the bacon and try to keep the family peace.

Keegan Allen can look so absolutely devastated and sad that it breaks my heart to see Liam reaching out again and again to no avail, even if I also understand why Cordell just cannot go there. Yet. Bonham even chastises Cordell a little, asking ‘can’t you see the boy’s hurting? You were a Marine special ops, you were trained to handle captivity and torture, Liam was not.’

Bonham also softens after though, saying that he gets it, that there were things he saw – and did – in the war that he didn’t like talking about after either.

Also fandom just likes to hear Cordi say “I know, Daddy.”

Liam tries the equine therapy his father recommended last episode, and it eventually works for him. I thought the therapist was oddly confrontational almost, and was surprised at the horse’s big reaction to Liam’s mental state since Liam wasn’t at all hesitant about being around horses, it’s the rest of his life that’s got him upset. It seems like someone who has been around horses their entire life would not induce that kind of reaction, but I tend to be overly critical of anything involving what I do for a living and I’m not trained in equine therapy, so maybe I’m just wrong about all this!

At any rate, a sugar cube and a few deep breaths and Liam is up and riding comfortably and Ol’ Kenny is happy to have him on board and I’m happy because once again, horses on my TV screen!

Unfortunately the therapist and her partner are about to move away, so poor Liam is getting screwed over once again. This guy cannot catch a break!

Luckily Walker gets an idea of how to follow legitimate channels but not entirely, and brings back the entire truck full of rescued mustangs somehow instead of bringing them back to the kill pen people who they actually belong to. I guess he… bought them? They’re for Liam!

Cordell: I’ve seen how much equine therapy has been helping, I figured a few more horses couldn’t hurt.

Liam is both touched that his brother really does love him and is trying to help him and also excited to maybe have finally found his passion – he wants to start an equine therapy program at the Davidson’s barn.

Since Stella had that one rescue horse, he suggests she might want to help out too – start ‘Walker Rescue”.  Stella agrees, saying that Gale Davidson originally wanted to do that, and I’m always happy when they can now talk about the Davidsons not just as cartoon villains.

Cordell pulls Liam back as the others go inside.

Cordi: Hey, Stinker…

Liam: Thank you.

Cordi: You don’t have to say or do anything, I want to help you, I just don’t always know how. This may not be what you wanted, but I’m hoping it’s what you needed. Just take it slowly, last thing you need is more stress right now, I know you’re still struggling, little brother.

Liam: Thank you, big brother. I do need this, I can’t keep relying on you to make me feel better.

Me: Awww, all the big brother little brother Sam and Dean feels awwww

Cordell still is avoiding talking about it, but he shows his love for his brother by the actions he can take, and Liam sees it for the caring that it is. Jared Padalecki does a great job letting us see Cordell’s emotions at every turn, including at the end of this exchange, clearly trying so hard to push through but still not okay himself.

It’s often baby steps when someone is trying to recover from a trauma, and Cordell takes a few here, as does Liam. It’s also often two steps forward, one step back, and that rings true here also. Cordell opens up a little to Cassie, telling her about the loss of his best friend and mentor, gunnery sergeant Clay “Coop” Cooper. He says it’s why he traded his dog tags for a badge and that he hadn’t told anyone, just “tamped it down, compartmentalized it”. He admits that the captivity brought it all back, which is of course what does happen to the things we try to keep buried.

All the kudos to Padalecki for showing Cordell’s reluctant vulnerability so vividly here.

Cassie for some reason suggests that they take the flag that used to hang over Cooper’s bunk to his mother, who I guess lives nearby? He’s hesitant, but she’s pretty insistent, saying it’s simple (I don’t agree but her heart is in the right place). Cordell shores up a lot of courage and knocks on the door, saying ‘I served with your son.”

Turns out it’s not his mother but a nurse, who goes upstairs to see if Coop’s mother is up to a visitor. While he waits, Cordell sees a photo of his friend, and overcome with emotion, he places the folded flag in front of the photo and leaves.

When Cassie asks how it went, he says it was good, not telling her the truth about what happened.

Cordell: It was good to talk to her, thanks for suggesting this. I’m famished, you?

He changes the subject and they drive away.

That also struck me as very realistic – there are no magical quick fixes for this kind of repeated trauma. Cassie pushed him too fast, for something he wasn’t truly ready for, and he backed up into avoidance again, understandably.

I can’t help but wonder how the mom will feel when she comes downstairs though!

All in all, a realistic episode with some nice bits of humor, action and emotion all mixed together in an organic way. I’m really enjoying that they’re not rushing to a quick fix for anyone, which so often happens in episodic TV. Keep it up, Walker, I’m enjoying the slow ride!

A new episode of Walker airs tonight on the CW.

Caps by spndeangirl

–Lynn

You can read the emotional and powerful

chapter that Jared Padalecki wrote about

his own mental health journey and how

that’s impacted by fandom in Family

Don’t End With Blood, links here or at:

 

One thought on “Wild Horses, New Rangers and Realistic Progress on Last Week’s ‘Walker’

  • I, too, liked this episode. What struck me as very unrealistic, however, is Liam — very recently a patient of equine therapy — now aspiring to become an instructor of equine therapy. Surely he’s not ready to do that either emotionally or “academically” (perhaps not literally academically, but surely there is training and possibly certification involved). And the idea of having Stella — or anyone else who is either so immature and/or so young — being an instructor of anything is a terrible idea. I may be slightly biased here, having a longtime friend who does practice occasional informal equine therapy at her mini ranch, but she is a lady in late middle age who has herself gone through significant trauma-focused mental-health therapy.

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