Spoilers ahead for Z Nation's “We Interrupt This Program,” because hey … it's a TV Recap.
This week a couple significant things happened on Z Nation, along with some insignificant things. First the good news. We finally got the return of Citizen Z, aka Simon, aka DJ Qualls. Yay! And we got the return of Mr. Sunshine, or Zona Mad Scientist guy. But we also got a very lame flashback story that didn't inform the present situation of our characters at all.
“You owe me 600 diaper changes.” - Kaya
“We Interrupt This Program” opens with the story we've been waiting for. Kaya is crawling around the air ducts and putting in surveillance cameras so she can keep tabs on the Zona guys who arrived and took over the facility while she, Nana, and little JZ hid in the depths of the base.
Kaya desperately pleads for help on her radio. It doesn't take long before creepy Mr. Sunshine looks up right at her camera. They've found her cameras. It's not looking good for Simon's baby mama and her family.
She watches as someone in a parka finds her secret door and enters. As the man descends down the stairs she clocks him with the butt of her rifle. But it's Simon, looking all the worse for wear after two years of walking through the zombie apocalypse to get back to his family. In an incredibly cute moment, Kaya introduces their toddler JZ, aka Junior Z, to his daddy.
Simon tells her that the plane he left in crashed and her uncle died. He tried to hitchhike, but there's “so much distrust in the apocalypse,” he tells her. She reminds him he owes her a few hundred diaper changes. It's cute, fun banter. I love that they didn't rush into each others' arms. It's awkward and sweet.
“A new report suggests that zombies can be bad for your health. Film at 11.” - Murphy
While traveling through a town, Warren and company listen to Kaya's distress call and hunt for a radio or TV station that will have powerful enough broadcasting equipment to allow them to talk to her. They find the remnants of a helicopter crash from Action News 9, a news van filled with equipment and the TV station building.
Murphy finds his inner anchorman and in his best broadcasting voice, which actually is a pretty good broadcasting voice, offers an impromptu news report. “A disabled vehicle on US 41 has traffic moving slower than a clogged artery on a diseased heart, and I-41 is blocked by a horde of zombies. Film at 11.”
In a series of flashbacks that intersperse with our gang's present-day adventure in the TV station and Simon and Kaya's Zona issues, we learn what happened the day the zombie apocalypse hit. We meet Carly McFadden, the perky weather girl who wants nothing more than to be a news anchor. We also get the scoop on other stock characters at the station, including egotistical news anchor Jack, location news reporter Mike Renfro, Mitchell the cameraman, the station manager, and Doug the intern.
“What is it on this base that they can't hack or find somewhere else?” - Kaya
Kaya and Simon watch the Zona guys on their surveillance cameras and try to figure out why they are there. Simon tells her that the facility was a top NSA base for 40 years. Since Mr. Sunshine and his thugs seem to be interested in the old server farm, the couple decide they need to stop Zona from doing whatever it's doing.
While staking things out, Kaya and Simon see a Z approach two of the guards. But he's a Mad Z who's been tracking Simon for a long time. Simon finally drove a metal pole through him and pinned him to a tree a while back, but apparently that didn't take care of the Z, even though he still has the pole through him.
Kaya tells Simon about the Mad Z problem. The Z manages to kill one of the guards, who also turns Mad Z. When Kaya references the Z as Simon's “friend,” he tells her, “He's not my friend. He's more like an acquaintance I keep murdering.” I've missed Simon.
Thinking they've lost the Z, the couple take a moment. “For someone who's survived seven years of the zombie apocalypse, you are ridiculously optimistic ... And I love that about you.” They share a kiss, but then they're on the run from the Z, which Simon and Kaya manage to throw over a railing. But even that doesn't kill it.
“What the hell was that? Why was Mike running from a story?” - Jack
Flashing back, the big news of the day is that there's been a plane crash. Carly's thrilled she gets to report the news and co-anchor with Jack. However, things go off the rails during a live newscast about the plane crash when they learn there are survivors. Unfortunately those survivors are attacking people, including Renfro and Mitchell. The two men escape, but barely.
Back to the present with our heroes: They're exploring the TV station. They have to get the generator, which is in the basement, up and running so they can power the broadcasting equipment. “Going into a dark basement on purpose ... That would freak me out even if it wasn't the apocalypse,” says Doc.
They manage to find the generator, and with the gallon of gas they've scavenged, they buy themselves one hour of time to get the equipment up and running so they can talk to Kaya.
“I didn't come all this way just to die in front of you.” - Simon
Kaya and Simon put together a plan to stop the Zona “Man With A Plan” from getting whatever he's going after. They split up and Kaya gets the drop on Mr. Sunshine. But he doesn't really tell her anything except he's on an “errand of critical importance.” When she hears shots, she lets him go to help Simon.
Simon is trapped between two Mad Zs, and it looks like he's a goner. At least until Kaya arrives and they take out the Zs together. Simon is safe, but they watch as a helicopter takes off with the Zona guys. They got whatever they came for.
“This just in. Everyone is dead. Film at 11.” - Murphy
Flashing back, Renfro and Mitchell get back to the station, while a helicopter is sent off to cover the plane crash. However, Renfro has a bite on his neck and isn't looking so good. Just as they get him on the air to give his report, he turns Z and everything goes to hell at the station as one after another person is bitten and then turns on the survivors. However, Carly manages to professionally finish the broadcast as she and Intern Doug head for the roof to catch a ride to safety via the helicopter. Why they don't try to escape through the front door, no idea.
Back in the present, our team is starting to run into the News Zs as they get attacked by Mitchell Z and even Anchor Jack Z. In a particularly funny moment, Murphy clubs Jack with his own local Emmy. “Now we know what a local Emmy is good for,” says Murphy.
While Sarge and Warren work on adjusting the satellites so they can connect with Kaya, Murphy continues to play newsman, at least when he isn't getting weird vibes he's not telling anyone about. Could it be that the Zs are overly interested in him?
“Black Rainbow's real.” - Warren
The team heads up to the roof and run into a stack of News Zs, and they end up taking the same path that Carly took to get to the roof after Intern Doug becomes zombie chow. She blocks the door and broadcasts once more from the roof. Then she sees the helicopter getting ready to land to save her.
Our heroes push through Carly's barricade and then rebarricade the door to keep the News Horde back. As Warren and Sarge are setting up, Carly Z comes at them. Warren takes her out. “She died all alone on this roof ... I give you mercy.”
With their gas about to run out, Warren is finally able to connect with Kaya and Simon. They tell her they're okay. However, the Zona people got what they came for and wiped the floppy discs clean. All that's left is the label on the disc that reads “Black Rainbow.” Warren's apocalyptic vision returns.
Give us a crumb
This episode was a real mix for me. I loved the Kaya and Simon story, and I'm thrilled to finally get some resolution on what happened to Simon. Also, while we don't get any real questions answered regarding the Zona of it all, at least that story dealt with the mythology. Plus Kaya and Simon are just adorable as a couple, with an adorable son and an adorable pipe-smoking Nana. What's not to love? I don't know if we're going to see much of Kaya and Simon as the season comes to a close, but we can hope.
Then there's the B and C story, with our heroes and the flashback, which is basically just filler. Flashbacks only are effective if they tell us something about the present story. I don't have a clue what this story of a news crew all getting killed at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse has to do with Warren and her gang's adventures.
The characters are all stock, straight out of any show about TV news people. Why would I care about them or want to watch them? Yes, there's a few jokes that are funny that come up, like Carly's reference to the puppies and kittens at a local animal shelter. “Puppies and kittens” are code for zombies for Warren and her crew. So okay. That's funny.
But wouldn't you have rather spent the time checking in with Addy? Or maybe find out what happened to Red and Sun Mei? Or getting some answers? Any answers?
Warren and Co. does connect with Kaya and Simon, and they find out about the “black rainbow,” but that could have happened a bunch of other ways. With just four episodes left in the season, isn't it time we got some mythology satisfaction? I'm not expecting Z Nation to become serialized suddenly. But please, writers, give us a crumb.