"Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" was written by Suzanna Heathcote and directed by Daniel Stamm.
Spoilers ahead for Fear the Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 5: "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" because hey ... it's a TV Recap.
The Short Version: As each of our heroes struggles with the events of the past and how it affects their present, Nick tries to convince Luciana to stay at the ranch while he contemplates the death of the elderly dancing people. Salazar forces Strand to take him to the hotel to find Ofelia, but Strand's lie takes their toll. And Alicia and Jake make a connection, but Alicia can't quite get past the loss of the future she expected before the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Madison takes off with the search party to find out why they haven't heard back from the outpost, and they run into a group who wants the ranch land back.
The Good: The Dancing Dead, Apocalypse by Introspection, and the Governor mini-me
After last week's Salazar episode, we go back to another snail-paced episode as the Clark family goes through a bit of introspection while Salazar and Strand hunt for Ofelia. It's interesting character stuff, and there's a couple moments of tension, but seriously Fear needs to pump up the volume if it's going to keep people watching it.
The episode opens with a creepy, sad but touching bit involving the old people Nick watched dancing previously. Russell wakes up to find Martha has died and turned. While she tries to gum him to death, he takes her in his arms and dances with her while he puts a gun to his head and kills them both as the bullet goes through both their skulls. The lantern gets knocked over and burns down the place.
As the community realizes there's a fire, people attempt to put it out, but Jeremiah stops their efforts, telling them that it's too late and to "Save the water." The next day Madison gets ready to go off with Troy and the search party to see why they haven't heard back from the outpost. Nick and Alicia are concerned, but she goes anyway.
Nick's growing problem involving Luciana wanting to leave comes to a head. While he tries to convince her she still needs time to recover from her injuries, she tells him she can't stay. Meanwhile, he's drawn to the burnt-down cabin Russell and Martha lived in, and he starts to try and clean it up. Jeremiah, who finds Russell's "beautiful" gun, tells Nick about the couple and his own alcoholic past, and they work to repair the cabin. When the subject of Luciana comes up, Jeremiah rightly notes that Nick's caught between the two important women in his life.
Luciana can't come to terms with the fact that Troy was responsible for the murder of most of the members of the community she loved. And Madison sees the ranch as a safe place for her family. As for Nick, he hopes a romantic meal under the stars at the burnt cabin will help convince Luciana that they should stay. Apparently he's completely forgotten about Luciana's group being murdered by Troy, people he spent time with and appeared to like. Men, women and children. But Luciana hasn't forgotten, and she leaves.
Regarding Alicia, the good news is that Alicia's grown into her own as a character. The bad news, depression and loss of hope do not make exciting-to-watch TV. Alicia wakes up majorly hung over after a night of "Bible Study." Alicia turns down another Bible session but is drawn to Jake, and they end up having sex. Afterward, when he tries to give her a book, "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame," she hands it back to him. She doesn't believe that things like art and poetry matter anymore. And let's face it, when you finally have a moment to breath during the apocalypse, who wouldn't be depressed? Jake tries to convince her there's still hope and that things like art and poetry still matter. By the end of the episode Alicia jumps off a rock ledge ... into some water, looking much happier.
As for Madison, she has the most action-packed story. She goes off with Troy and a few others to find out why they haven’t heard back from the outpost. First stop, an overturned truck with a bunch of prison and guard walkers to take care of. Psychopath Troy has a blast killing walkers, and Madison proves her mettle to the group. Would anyone be surprised if he ended up having a wall of aquariums filled with walker heads? Hello mini-Governor!
When they find the location the helicopter went down, it's been hauled away by someone. They quickly head to the outpost, where they find blood and other evidence of a fight. But it's the smell that leads them to a bunch of burnt bodies and a trap. The small group find themselves surrounded by Native Americans led by a man named Qaletqa Walker, who tells them they want their land back and Jeremiah and his people need to abandon the ranch. Madison speaks up and Walker tells her she's "bought into a lost cause." She replies that "It became my cause when you shot down that helicopter. You took someone of mine."
The Native Americans let them go, but without shoes. On the way back, Madison needles Troy for some reason, and at night while everyone is sleeping, he puts a knife to her neck but doesn't do anything.
The final story involves Salazar's wanting to find his daughter, Ofelia. They've left the dam. Salazar forces Strand to take him to the hotel in his fancy car, which Strand has lied about as her last location. They argue and Strand tells him that she might not be there anymore, but the lies add up and Salazar is no fool. When they get to the hotel it looks like it's been overrun by walkers. Salazar rings the bell on the front desk and the walkers come after them, leading Strand to admit that he lied and that Ofelia left the hotel and he doesn't know where she is. Salazar takes off in Strand's car, and Strand has to fight for his life.
As we reach the end of the episode ... Nick's waking up to a note instead of Luciana, the search party is struggling to get home shoeless, Luciana looks for a way across a border wall, Alicia jumps off the rock formation into water, and Jeremiah gives Nick the beautiful gun all cleaned up ... each is haunted by the past in some way. Alicia by the loss of the life she planned for before the apocalypse, Nick by the decision he has to make between his family and his love, Madison by her search for the people who killed Travis, Luciana by her desire to go home to Mexico away from those who killed the people she cared about, Jeremiah by his alcoholic past, Strand by his lies and Salazar by his struggle to find Ofelia. It's really good character stuff.
The Bad: Where's the excitement? Why is Madison pushing Troy's buttons?
At its best The Walking Dead is about remaining human when the world has gone to hell. I'm still not sure what Fear the Walking Dead is about. If "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" hadn't come after two other very character-specific episodes, I probably would have liked it a lot. But it's just so slow. I like Nick and Alicia, but do I need to know every thought they think?
The first two episodes were exciting and action-packed, and we got to know new interesting characters. Madison nearly gouged Troy's eye out with a spoon! Travis died! Stuff happened!
But since the Ranch there's been a lot of talking. Undoubtedly action is coming, because the Native Americans are going to try to get their land back and Jeremiah will not be happy about that development. Of course, if Jeremiah knew that Madison and her family are like the Black Death to any community that takes them in, he'd run for the hills (aka the hacienda, Luciana's people, the hotel people, to name a few). It's only a matter of time before they take out the Ranch and the Native Americans.
As for Madison, why is she pushing Troy in weird ways to the point where he's got a knife to her throat? In every other way she's so practical and smart in her survival skills, why go there? She knows he's dangerous, and she knows she's probably going to have to kill him at some point, but why push him so hard? It just doesn't make sense.
Considering the ratings slide this season, I hope Fear picks up the pace, or it won't be around much longer.
Lingering Questions: Native Americans? Luciana? Strand? Ofelia???
So the Native Americas shot down the helicopter and killed Travis (wouldn't want to be you guys when Madison takes her revenge) and the helicopter pilot lady because they want their land back. It's not a storyline I'm excited about, but it is a lingering question as to whether there's more to this story than meets the eye.
Regarding Luciana, the big question is whether Nick will go after her, and what will she find when she gets to the Tijuana tunnels?
Regarding Strand, will he survive? Okay, that's not really a question. He'll survive. But what's his next move? He'll be worried about Salazar killing him, so he's not likely to go back to the dam. So will he dig up another business partner to make some apocalyptic moves or crawl under a rock until things get better or worse?
And then there's Ofelia. At this point there's really no excuse that Ofelia's fate hasn't been addressed. If it wasn't for Salazar we would have forgotten about her already. But it's just weird, especially considering Jeremiah was the one we last saw her with. Where is she? I'm beginning to think she crawled under a dumpster.
Lines of the Night:
"It's sad but beautiful. They were together to the end ... Nick, it's time for us to go." - Luciana
"I trust that she'll be there. But this is the apocalypse, Daniel. Or have you forgotten that?" - Strand to Salazar regarding finding Ofelia
"Your mamma wants to stay and your lady wants to go. What do you want?" - Jeremiah to Nick
"Tell your people it's time for justice. The land you've lived on needs to be returned. Abandon the ranch." - Qaletqa Walker
"Some things got to matter more than guns. We need something greater to live for." - Jake
Best Line of the Night:
"I used to love all this ... poetry, art. But now what's the point? ... What's the point?" - Alicia
Here's the trailer for next week's episode, "Red Dirt":