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