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Ready for the Season Finale? Despite it being a Season Finale—where usually something huge and momentous would happen—this episode is a lot of running around and learning things. I’m not sure how I feel about that. We’ll see by the end of the recap.
I will try to make it interesting for you.
I missed this part of the show this week, so…they just made it to the Center for Disease Control. There are zombies everywhere. That’s about it.
But we open up here, in that hospital where Rick woke up from his coma. It’s chaotic. Soldiers are rounding up some of the patients for an evacuation, and others they’re just massacring for some reason.
Confusion, chaos, and soldiers just start massacring people. This is what happens when you don’t practice fire drills.
Then Shane pops in, wearing his deputy uniform. He’s frantic. Down the hall he sees the soldiers doing their killing and decides he better not head down that way. Soon, the doors behind the soldiers burst open and a wave of zombies grab them. Maybe that was why they were shooting those people, because they were bite victims? Ah, I don’t know.
Anyway, Shane runs in the opposite direction and eventually finds Rick’s room, where Rick remains comatose—so timeline-wise, this is happening some time before Rick woke up. (Duh, Saint Clare of Assisi).
Shane tries to literally carry Rick out of the hospital bed.
Also, I’m gonna grab me some Oxy real quick ‘fore we go. Is there a supply closet anywheres?
But then Shane realizes, wait a minute, Rick’s still hooked up to a bunch of things, like an IV, and an EKG, and probably various devices that make him breathe and stuff. Crap.
What to do?
So Shane just…asks Rick this very question, out loud, but then he’s interrupted by a soldier popping into the room for a quick scan. Shane ducks under the bed until it’s over, then pops back up. Still has to figure out this conundrum. Next he decides to just ask Rick, (once again, the guy in the coma), to just, wake up, please.
It doesn’t work.
And then, as is Shane’s wont, his decision is made for him when the hospital’s power goes off.
Shane puts his ear to Rick’s chest and after about two seconds of listening, and despite probably being trained in emergency response because he’s a sheriff’s deputy, Shane decides, yup, Rick is dead.
But he gets really sad about it, so it’s OK
Then, he leaves the hospital.
The lesson: friendship SUCKS.
Soon you’ll see why they included that Rick-Shane sequence at this point in the series, way after it happened chronologically. Let’s keep going.
INSIDE THE CDC
Now we’re back to where we were at the end of episode five.
Everyone enters the deserted CDC lobby. They have no idea what’s here.
Jenner announces his presence. He’s got an assault rifle aimed at them. They aim right back.
Jenner asks if anyone is infected. Rather than simply say, “No,” Rick tells him, why yes, they did used to have an infected person among them, and his name was Jim, but he’s gone, and, are you confused enough, Jenner? Great!
Jenner asks them what they want, and Rick replies: just a chance.
So Jenner will let them in, but only if they all submit to a blood test first. Sounds good. But, as we remember from last week’s episode, things could get complicated pretty quickly once Jenner sees the test results.
He tells them to grab their gear now, because once the front doors are closed, they’re closed. They all comply.
On the elevator down, they all start to loosen up. Jenner jokes around with Carl a little, so he doesn’t totally put everyone off.
And then he leads them into a big control room-type location, which is called Zone Five.
“I have Sega Dreamcast if you guys wanna play later.”
Also present is a talking computer system named “Vi,” but Vi gets almost no play this episode, so it isn’t that important.
When the gang sees the control room, they realize Jenner is the only one left. Jenner apologizes for this—maybe they had their hopes up? Rick seems disappointed, but not all that much is made of this moment. Nobody says the obligatory, “How is one guy supposed to get us out of this mess” type of line.
SOME OTHER ROOM IN THE CDC
Next, Jenner gives them all their blood tests. Andrea pushes back a little. What’s the point? If anyone had been infected, they would all have fevers by now. And when she gets up, she seems shaky. Maybe sick. Uh-oh.
But before worrying about that, everyone gets their drank on! They all start to loosen up. Carl wants to try some wine, and Lori and Rick initially say no, but Dale points out how children in Italy commonly drink wine at meals, so they give in.
But Shane broods, probably jealous of Rick. He asks Jenner to tell the story of what happened at the CDC.
So Jenner tells them what happens. I’ll just list it here:
-A lot of scientists left when Wildfire first appeared
-More fled when the zombies overran the military cordon outside
-And those that didn’t committed suicide
As Jenner eloquently puts it, “That was a bad time.”
So, Andrea asks, why did Jenner stay if everyone else left?
He says something vague about keeping hope alive. We’ll be revisiting this.
After dinner, Jenner shows everyone to their rooms. He reminds everyone not to use anything that draws electricity. And don’t wast the hot water.
Hot water, you say?
Everyone takes a cleansing shower, much like Morgan and Duane did with Rick back at the police station. (Not all together…they had separate showers. YOU remember).
We see T-Dog and Glen. Then Lori, and Rick joins her.
All the disaster stuff going on made me forget how country Shane really is
Didn’t he tell you not to waste water, Possibly-A-Zombie-Andrea?
Which seems to be even closer to happening, because Dale overhears some retching in the hallway and comes upon Andrea hurling, much like we remember Jim doing.
But she’s also falling into despair because she thinks the world is ending. Jenner wasn’t exactly optimistic, and it rubbed off on Andi. “Everything is gone!” she yells. (Dale first thinks she’s referring to the wine she just vomited).
Dale tries to reassure her, but there’s pretty much nothing he can say to contradict everything they’ve been through, and everything Jenner’s indicated.
But actually, Andrea’s not a zombie. None of the party are. Rick joins Jenner in Zone Five and asks how the blood tests went, and Jenner has found no surprises. Sigh.
Rick’s also stopped by to ramble drunkenly about life…he tells Jenner that Jenner has no idea what life is really like on the outside, with all the zombies running around…then he moans that he never got to tell Carl and Lori “what he really thought,” whatever that means.
But most of all, Rick reveals some of his private worries about this life. There may just be too many zombies. There may be no hope.
And Jenner, ominously, tells Rick, everything will be OK.
Meanwhile, Lori’s alone in the library when Shane stumbles in. He’s here for a different sort of drunken confrontation, the kind where he will unload what’s on his mind whether she’s receptive or not.
How can Lori treat him this way, he slurs at her…i.e., how can she just cast him aside like this?
She finally accuses him of lying about Rick being dead. Shane has a ready explanation—it was really crazy at the hospital and he wasn’t sure what to do, which does actually match up with what we know about events.
You know…I have some reasonable doubt about everything Shane’s saying to me right now
Shane had no cause to think Rick could survive. And more, Lori only agreed to and accompany Shane because she thought Rick was dead herself. (Does that make sense?)
Then he sorta undermines himself, because he says he would gladly trade places with Rick, even right now, because he sure did like having sex with her and being in love with her.
He grabs her so he can have his way with her, and she claws his face.
This is my favorite kind of scene to recap, by far
RICK AND LORI’S ROOM
Later, Lori lies in bed, crying but trying to hide it from Rick as he stumbles in to lie down next to her. He cuddles up to her, notices she’s upset, and assumes these are just residual tears from all they’ve been through. “We don’t have to be afraid any more,” he reassures her.
And since she can’t tell him about Shane, she’s left to deal, by herself.
So! Back to the main zombie plot. The next morning everyone has some shitty powdered eggs T-Dog prepared for them, but they’re glad to have anything to eat at this point. They all banter around. Carl sees that Rick looks green at the gills and asks him if that’s what being hungover is. Lori hands out aspirins. Glen stumbles in, even more hungover than Rick.
Shane comes in next. T-Dog is the first to notice the scratches on Shane’s neck, and Shane writes it off as something he must have done to himself in his sleep, because, you know, the zombie apocalypse is really disturbing and messes with your head. That seems to satisfy the group, though.
And finally, Jenner joins them. Before he can even get his coffee, Dale is asking him questions, namely, what exactly is going on with this Wildfire thing. You’re a scientist, right Jenner? So they all head to Zone Five for some more exposition.
Jenner asks Vi to pull up the “playback of TS-19.” While it’s loading, he waxes poetic about the human brain. The brain is a person’s life! His experiences, memories, everything!
“These are synapses, children. Synapses are where the brain comes from!”
Then he begins his presentation. I will list again…
-TS-19 stands for “Test Subject 19.” Whoever he or she was, TS-19 was bitten and volunteered to let Jenner record what Wildfire does to the brain. That’s what we have here.
-THE FIRST EVENT is when Wildfire becomes introduced to your system. It spreads through your brain a la meningitis, your adrenal glands hemorrhage, your organs shut down, and it kills you. It eats most all of your brain.
-THE SECOND EVENT is when you come back to life. Your brain stem is reanimated, so biologically you’re alive, but human being-wise, you are not. All standard zombie stuff.
-THE THIRD EVENT technically isn’t part of the Wildfire cycle; the MRI shows a bullet entering TS-19’s head, which Jenner did not edit out of the presentation.
-Jenner too lost someone the way Andrea lost Amy.
-The time between the first and second events varies from three minutes to eight hours.
Andrea asks Jenner if he even knows what Wildfire is, and he proceeds to list off every possibility—virus, microbe, parasite, fungus, all of ‘em. Jacqui suggests it’s just God.
Andrea can’t believe Jenner knows so damn little about this, but he’s not even sure anyone else in the world has stayed around to study the disease. Does that mean there’s no hope this will be over? Jenner says nothing.
As everyone begins to freak out, Dale has one more question. What’s that digital countdown clock on the wall? It’s set to about an hour. What happens when it hits zero?
The facility runs out of fuel, Jenner says, and then just walks away.
Rick has to ask Vi what that means, and Vi cheerfully informs them that in an hour the facility’s “decontamination process” will begin.
“Oh, did I forget to tell you I was letting you into a death trap? Hello, nice laaaaaaady. And also, froinlaven. Why not?”
A CDC BASEMENT
So now the gang has to figure out what’s going on themselves. Rick, Shane, T-Dog, and Glen search the basement and determine, yep, there’s really only one drum of fuel left.
And then the lights start going out.
Upstairs, Lori notices the air conditioning has crapped out, too.
For his part, Jenner stands in front of his desk looking at a portrait of a woman, probably his wife. “I did the best I could in the time I had.” He’s put on a tie. Probably gonna whack himself.
He also seems amused at everyone else’s efforts to scurry around staving off death. “They always think there’s gonna be more time, then it runs out.”
Jenner strides down the hall toward Zone Five, and everyone not in the basement follows, asking him why the life support systems are shutting down. Jenner just grabs a fifth out of Daryl’s hands and mutters more discouraging facts: the system prioritizes when it runs out of fuel; that means it preserves the research on the computers, not the people inside the building.
Jenner leads everyone back to Zone Five as Rick, Shane, T-Dog, and Glen rejoin them with the news of the fuel. He tosses out a couple more pieces of info…the French were the last holdouts researching cures to Wildfire. They stayed in their labs until the end, unlike the PUSSIES at the CDC.
The show also takes the opportunity to make a little social criticism, because Jenner bitches about the whole world being run on a power grid—when the apocalypse comes, we’re all fucked.
“You realize that’s foolhardy, don’t? I’m speaking to you, WORLD! DEEPWATER HORIZON!”
Alarms start going off. Jenner takes this in stride. He’s given up on life and all this amuses him. Rick refuses to quit, though. He yells at everyone to grab their things so they can all get the fuck out of here.
But Jenner friggin’ locks them inside Zone Five.
Daryl tries to beat Jenner senseless, but T-Dog and Shane hold him back.
They all shout at Jenner to open the doors for them, but he protests there’s no point—even if he opened the doors to Zone Five, the CDC exits have been sealed. Remember when Jenner first met them, and told them to grab their gear because once the CDC doors are shut, they’re not opening back up again? Apparently he meant that literally.
“Hey, I’m a scientist. I’m no good at communicating things. You should see how long it takes me to write a grant application.”
Everyone starts panicking, and Jenner goes off on a rant about how underappreciated the CDC is. “Do you not know what this place is? We protect you guys from really nasty stuff! Weaponized smallpox! Ebola strains that could wipe out half the country! Stuff you don’t want getting out EVER!”
“PLUS WE PAY FOR OUR OWN OFFICE SUPPLIES, PLUS I DON’T GET MY OWN PARKING SPACE, PLUS I HAVE TO WEAR A TIEEEEE EVERY DAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!”
I would personally have a hard time not spraying his guts all over the room.
Jenner calms down a little, and now tells them all exactly what the “decontamination process” constitutes. It’s set up to prevent all the CDC’s nasty diseases from escaping the building. To do that…it blows up the CDC. Literally sets the air on fire.
And hilariously, Jenner tries to use that as a selling point. At least it’ll be painless, right guys?
It will mean an end to sorrow, grief, regret, all of which leads me to suspect Jenner’s the guy who accidentally unleashed Wildfire in the first place.
MORE ZONE FIVE
When we come back, Daryl and Shane are hacking at the Zone Five blast doors with pickaxes, and Jenner’s still trying to put a positive spin on his unilateral decision to incinerate fifteen people he’s just met.
They know what Wildfire does to people. They’ve seen it! Do they really want to die this way? Hell, Jenner’s doing them a favor. Jenner then turns to Daryl and Shane and dryly reminds them the blast doors were built to withstand a rocket launcher.
Daryl goes nuts again, this time raising an ax at Jenner, before he’s held back. Jenner reminds Rick of what Rick told him last night while drunk—that he’s run out of hope. And Jenner took that to mean, “Please, turn me and my family to ash.”
Shane can’t take this any more, either. He grabs a shotgun and shoves it in Jenner’s face. Rick and the others can barely hold him off. Rick still clings to his value system here—if they murder Jenner like this, they lose.
Enough pleas from Rick, Lori, and the others get Shane to back off, and instead he blows apart three or four computer systems.
Instead, Rick tries some cunning. He thinks Jenner’s lying. If Jenner really had no hope, he wouldn’t have chosen to stay at the CDC while all the other scientists left. Why did he really stay behind?
Jenner didn’t stay because he wanted to. He made a promise. TS-19 was his wife. Before she lost lucidity she asked him stay and fight.
What makes it sting even more is that his wife ran the CDC and was the Einstein of pathology, while Jenner himself is just a duffer. Fate’s an asshole that way. I’m guessing this contributed to Jenner’s breakdown just a bit.
Rick makes a final plea. Jenner can give up, but at least he should let Rick and the others choose their own fates. Jenner reminds them the outer exit doors remain sealed, but he agrees to let them try.
He opens the doors. Everyone starts running out. Rick thanks Jenner, but Jenner warns him there will be a day when he regrets opting to return to the world. Before Rick leaves, Jenner pulls him in and whispers something to him. We don’t hear it.
I’m not gonna even try and guess what Jenner says here. I know it’s a cliffhanger to get us to watch season two, but I am such a sucker for this stuff
As they file through the blast doors, Jacqui pauses. She’s going to stay. She’s given up. The countdown only has four minutes remaining, so she tells them there’s no point in arguing. One by one they turn and go, except Dale.
He lingers, pleading with her to come along, and then notices Andrea too has opted to quit.
THE CDC LOBBY
The others reach the lobby and realize Jenner wasn’t kidding about the outer doors being sealed. They take axes to the large plate-glass windows that make up the CDC’s façade, and they don’t make a dent. Even a shotgun blast is useless.
Just when it looks like they’re royally fucked, Carol remembers something! When she washed Rick’s uniform his first day in the survivor camp, she found that grenade he salvaged from the tank back in Atlanta. Salvation! Rick fishes it out of their gear, runs over to the windows, pulls the key, and blows open an escape route.
Dale can’t get Andrea to reconsider. Time’s running out. So, he decides to stay as well. Jenner’s right, horrors await outside, and Dale can’t face them alone. Andrea pleads with him to leave her, and he starts to break down. He tells her, she can’t just come into someone’s life, make them care, and then just check out. The matter is settled.
“Oh, and, um, Jacqui? You’re, really great, too. You make great fish.”
OUTSIDE THE CDC
The rest of the crew duck through the blown-out windowpane, shoot down some zombie stragglers, and head for their vehicles, which I thought Rick said were out of fuel, but oh well.
As they prepare to leave, Lori sees Andrea and Dale—they’ve emerged from the CDC as well and are running toward the group. Andrea and Dale hurl themselves behind a sandbag barrier.
Back inside, time runs out for Jenner and Jacqui. They squeeze hands in a final gesture of humanity. The CDC goes up in flames.
And Bob Dylan plays. This is the song:
(If I linked to a version actually sung by Dylan it would be taken down from Youtube eventually, so that’s a cover version by user wilkiecoco)
Well there’s your first season. Off this episode…I made fun of it during the recap, but really, I still have NO IDEA WHY Jenner let them into the CDC without telling them it’s set to blow up in less than twenty-four hours. Maaaaaaybe Jenner was intentional, thinking he would mercy-kill them by letting them in, but that feels like I’m being generous. What the fuck?
And specifically on the “did Shane intentionally mislead Lori or not” issue, I’m not sure I like how they played it. With the new information we get from this week’s flashback, Shane’s more or less a standup guy who just got in over his head. I thought it would have been much cooler if Shane saw that the world was ending and figured he could get away with anything, including pretending Rick was dead to get into Lori’s pants. Then the moment when Rick stumbles into camp would have hit so much harder. “Oh, shit,” not “Holy shit.” Even if Shane wasn’t a naturally devious guy before the zombie apocalypse, changing circumstances could have made him one pretty quickly. He’s still plenty unlikeable, being a sexual assaulter and all, but I wanted more.
I’m also getting a little bored with Rick’s good guy schtick. They’ve held off the moment when Rick realizes Shane and Lori slept together while he was gone…but at this rate, Rick will figure it out on his own and preemptively forgive both of them for it, a la the “is Andrea infected” non-story. But who knows, maybe the show will go nuts with it.
There’s still plenty for them to do in season two, beyond just figuring out where to go now that the CDC is gone. We barely know anything about non-principle characters…did Dale’s relationship with Andrea and Amy seem a little undercooked with you? This episode, all I could think was, “why does Dale care so much about them?” As far as I remember, we got one scene in six episodes about it, when Dale explains how he lost his wife and was set adrift until he met Andrea and Amy…OK, but I still didn’t see much of how their relationship works, beyond him just vaguely “caring about them.” And on the other side, what, Andrea and Amy miss their Dad, is why they grew close with Dale? I don’t know. I still want more, I hope they use the other ancillary characters.
Plus the Merle situation, Duane and Morgan, (if they’re still alive), learning more about Wildfire and whether there really is any hope, and whatever it was that Jenner whispered to Rick. Lots left to do.
The Walking Dead won’t be back for a while, but if you care less about that and more about me, I will be doing V in January. Thanks for reading and commenting!