Spoilers ahead for Fear the Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 3: "TEOTWAWKI" because hey ... it's a TV Recap.
The Short Version: As Madison, Alicia and Nick try to settle into the Broke Jaw Ranch and deal with the loss of Travis, they begin to learn more about Jeremiah Otto and his people. Madison spars with Troy while Alicia joins some of the ranch tweens for bible study, which is more than it seems. Luciana is getting stronger, and she's ready to leave, which puts Nick at odds with his mother, who wants to stay. Meanwhile, some of the ranch's people are missing, and Jake prepares to take a group to look for them. And across the border Strand finds his old business partner Dante, who isn't as welcoming as he hoped, and he meets someone he hasn't seen for a long time.
The Good: Madison's chess moves, Stand's sensitive side, and the return of Daniel Salazar
"TEOTWAWKI" means "The End of the World as We Know It," and if all the episodes were as slow as this one it'd be the end of the series as we know it. Yes, we need to take a breath after the rush of the first two episodes and the loss of Travis, but even creepy Troy barely moved this episode along.
There were some interesting scenes as Madison, Nick and Alicia start to figure out the survivalists at the Broke Jaw Ranch. Madison worked at manipulating Jeremiah, Troy and Luciana -- busy lady -- while they all pushed back with their own agendas.
It turns out Jeremiah was a survivalist who used to sell videos on being a survivalist, and he's got a massive amount of supplies ready to keep his people safe for a long time. Troy, on the other hand, either has mommy issues or wants to sleep with Madison. Hard to tell which, and maybe it's both. And then there was the scene with Luciana, who's handcuffed to her sickbed in case she turns, and her interaction with Madison. It seemed like Madison wasn't going to open those handcuffs anytime soon, just in case Luciana managed to talk Nick into leaving the ranch. Considering Troy and his men killed Luciana's entire group, you can't blame a girl for wanting to get out of Dodge.
So interspersed between Madison's scenes were Nick's and Alicia's. Nick sympathized with Luciana's desire to leave but also seemed torn between that and his mother's insistence they stay. Alicia met Gretchen, who invited her to bible study, which ended up being more of a pot and drinking party with a zombie head in a birdcage (they called the head Geoff). And Alicia opens up to her new friends and tells them that she killed a man, which she's obviously having issues dealing with.
As night falls, Troy convinces Nick to go on a boar hunt with a group of them. While isolated on the hunt, Nick tackles Troy, threatens to kill him and shoots a bullet near his head. Once Nick gets up, Troy tackles him back, and they tussle and then laugh about it. Maybe they'll be besties now. Yet another weird one-on-one with Troy.
The next day Jeremiah asks for volunteers to go with Jake to check on some of their missing folk, and Madison volunteers. Not sure what her endgame is with volunteering, but she probably wants to see if she can get any info on who shot Travis.
And over the border in Mexico, Strand connects with a pre-apocalypse business partner named Dante, who's a snappy dresser. Dante gives Strand a drink, and when he finds out he doesn't have any real assets to bring to the party, takes Strand out to his dam, and they watch as Dante's guys throw some man off the railing several stories into a nest of waiting walkers.
Then it's Strand's turn. As Dante's guys hold Strand over the edge, Strand learns what Dante really thought of him, and it's not good. He believes he's a thief whose nature it is to steal. At the last minute he decides not to throw Strand over the edge, telling him he's going to "work it off."
In a cell, Strand's sweating and devastated by the turn of events. Then someone puts a bottle of water on the window seal through the bars. Strand looks up and it's Daniel Salazar. So Salazar is not dead, which is a good thing, since none of the characters should really die off-camera.
The best of the episode came thanks to Madison and Strand. Madison's manipulations ... from mentioning Travis' name just the right way during the memorial service scene TO telling Troy to make the bed he'd messed up TO her sitting next to him during lunch and putting a napkin on his leg TO her having a not very subtle talk with Luciana TO her volunteering to go out to join the search party, all show the chess moves going on in Madison's mind. I've always believed Madison had a much darker past than we know, and not just because she tells Luciana that Travis "was a good man, a much better person than I am."
As for Strand, he's always interesting to me. He comes off as sort of a sensitive con man, and you totally believe that he's shocked when Dante turns out to not be welcoming. As it turns out, Strand is not the survivor he pretends to be, and that's fascinating.
The Bad: Oh, it's so slow! And where's the TEOTWAWKI?
So while there were many interesting scenes, there was so little action, only one person and no walkers get killed. Fear and The Walking Dead are always at their best when there's a good mix of action and character.
Yes, I liked watching Madison go toe to toe with everyone and Nick battle himself when it came to Mom, Luciana and Troy, and Alicia have the most teenage moment she's had on the show and deal with being a killer (and I liked non-walking head Geoff), but it was one long hour.
Even the Strand scenes, which had far more action and one big surprise than the ranch scenes, couldn't keep this from feeling like a filler episode. I know the upcoming story will include things we've learned during this third episode, but it felt like anything but TEOTWAWKI.
Lingering Questions: The missing! Hello Salazar! But where's Ofelia?
This episode left us with a couple mysteries. First, what happened to the missing Broke Jaw Ranch people? This one likely will join up with who shot down the helicopter. We know from some of the previews that there is a group who wants the Broke Jaw people to leave. So it seems probable that we'll be meeting a new group soon, with Madison and family finding themselves in the middle of things.
The second mystery involves what happened to Salazar, since we saw him burn down the hacienda. We know from a clip of next week's episode that Salazar is not a figment of Strand's water-deprived mind and that we'll learn more about his journey. Since he was pretty nuts when he burned down the hacienda, it will be interesting to see how this plays out and how he ended up at Dante's dam.
Of course, the third mystery is, where is Ofelia? Did anyone imagine we'd see Daniel Salazar before Ofelia? How many episodes has it even been since we've seen her? Is she still a regular? This character has gotten the short straw when it comes to screen time pretty much since her almost-romance with the soldier way back in the first mini-season. Hopefully the writers will either do something with her or kill her off.
Lines of the Night:
"The great American experiment has failed." - Jeremiah Otto
"If you're going to plan for a future, plan for a better one." - Jeremiah Otto
After being invited to a bible study, Alicia tells Grethen, "We're Jewish." And Gretchen replies, "Cool! We'll do Old Testament."
"I can't forget what they did." - Luciana
Travis "saved us. We're not going to throw that away now, are we? We survive now at all costs." - Madison
Best Line of the Night:
"Killing people's not complicated. It's simple." - Madison
Here's the trailer for next week's episode, "100":