“Back in the Saddle”
January 28, 2021
Morning sexy times are interrupted when Micki gets a call from Captain James summoning her to a crime scene. She’s completed her interviews by the time Walker rolls up. Micki gives him the sitrep—a ranch hand dead from injuries sustained during a suspected arson.
Walker says fire is no way to go.
A prize racehorse, Texas Nightshade, was also lost in the fire. Walker sees that Captain James is talking to the ranch owner, Manchester. He notes that James is good at this part of the job—reassuring, smoothing things over …
“After you mess things up?” asks Micki.
Their business concluded, Captain James calls Walker out for not shaving, not wearing a white hat, and not referring to him by his rank as is his due. Walker’s
bitch face entitled white guy face is all like,
James also doesn’t recall inviting Walker to the party. While he appreciates Micki’s thoroughness in calling her partner, he says that Walker is not currently a Ranger. Captain James is making some changes, and that includes following the rules to a tee. So until Walker completes and re-ups his certifications, he’s out of the field.
It’s par for the course for Walker’s day which started with grief from his mother about moving to the ranch. Static from his father about losing his workshop space (so Walker can move to the ranch). An argument with Stella about having a say in where they live. And poor August who is fine wherever his father is JUST DON’T LEAVE AGAIN, PLEASE.
Later at school, Stella and Belle are on the soccer field practicing for a game they’re benched from playing, because delinquents. Except a college recruiter will be at the game and the coach wants the team to shine, so Stella will be starting. Stella balks at the special treatment, refusing to play if Belle is forced to sit out after they were both arrested. She ain’t part of his system!
Meanwhile, August has a random meet-cute interaction with Ruby the A/V Club Girl about his “What Texas Means to Me” project. I imagine at some point August will bring Ruby home so Bonham can be low-key racist about her ambiguous ethnicity.
Wait, hang on … her name is Ruby?
At the station, Walker insists he’s squared away, still not seeming to appreciate that James isn’t his partner anymore—he’s the boss. And as a newly minted captain, James is determined to exceed expectations. He wants to make things different. He wants to be better. And Walker can either get with him on the right side of history or he can keep pissing him off.
Walker is all like,
Captain James moves on to another topic. Would Walker like to explain why he’s reinvestigating Emily’s murder? James tells Walker to focus instead on his family and getting his head right with the job.
Also, calling it now—James is somehow involved in Emily’s murder.
Micki is on Walker as soon as he walks out of James’ office. She says they have to take the certification tests together. She’s recently completed hers, but partner work and accountability, so. They start at the range where Walker proves he’s a crack shot. They move on to the driving course.
But when they get to the horsemanship test, Walker falters. The saddle is one Emily gave him. Their initials are embossed on the saddlebag.
He loses himself for a moment in the memory before finally mounting the horse. The horse is not having it.
The animal settles, but Walker doesn’t. He hands off the reins, gets in his truck, and leaves … to go day drink at Geri’s bar? Seriously, how does this guy still have a job? They reminisce about Emily—her laugh and her overnight oats—before returning to the night she died. Walker brings up the poker chip and Emily’s eyes and Geri provides an answer to one of his questions. She admits that she closed Emily’s eyes. Geri says she couldn’t leave her like that.
While Walker is with Geri, Liam is waiting for him to keep the lunch date they made earlier that morning. Boyfriend Brett meets him instead, assuming that Walker wouldn’t show and Liam would be alone. Liam calls his brother Cordy (again) and no. NO. We talked about this last week.
After school, August tries to work on his project, but just ends up being sad about his mom instead. Abeline frets about her grandson from a distance and projects her worry on to her husband. She pokes at him to reach out to Walker and check in with him. Bonham insists that his son needs to come to a decision about what’s right for his family in his own time.
Back on the arson case, Micki learns from the vet who conducted the necropsy that Texas Nightshade didn’t die in the fire. Another horse was in its stall. He says it’s all in the report he gave her partner. Micki finds Walker back at the station filling up on queso and spinning theories about the case. A case that Micki reminds him again some more that he isn’t on. A case he could get in trouble for working on … which means she would get into trouble and what part of DON’T FUCK THIS UP FOR HER DID HE NOT UNDERSTAND?
Walker meow-meows that the job is the only thing that makes sense for him right now, so please just let him do it. Because obviously his needs as an established, respected Ranger far outweigh the needs of his partner who has to prove herself thricely as a rookie, a woman, and a person of color.
Later, they get a tip that their prime suspect Manchester is about to board his private jet, oh and there’s a loose horse wandering the streets of downtown Austin. Walker says he might not be a Ranger, but he’s still a cowboy. He’ll take care of the horse; Micki will stop Manchester.
Walker drives out to a park and follows the trail of poop to Texas Nightshade. Micki and Captain James roll up on Manchester at his airstrip; one of his hired guys shoots out their tire. Walker rides up on Nightshade. What? Captain James waves him on and shouts that he’s certified. Walker pulls Micki up behind him and they give chase.
Walker gets close enough to Manchester’s jeep for Micki to jump aboard and kick the shit out of the three fleeing men. Swayze be praised! I don’t even know what to say about this silly scene, other than I 100% support Micki getting to kick bad guys in the face every week. More of this, please.
Walker, James, and Micki celebrate Walker’s certification at Geri’s bar. The captain hopes he doesn’t have to push Walker this hard to pass two years from now. He also wraps up the case for the audience, such as it is—the fire was an insurance scam to recoup Manchester’s losses after he learned Texas Nightshade had an injury and couldn’t race. His jockey accomplice decided he couldn’t go through with it and just let the horse run free. Walker is like, did he not think anyone would notice? The horse? Wandering through the city?
James says the jockey probably thought it was a crime to give up on a thoroughbred just because he was injured.
Liam comes into the bar, startling Walker and causing him to nearly choke on his tequila. Liam says Walker missed lunch, but that’s not why he’s there or in a mood. He came to tell Walker that Stella didn’t show up to the soccer game that he also forgot about. So have fun with that.
Walker and Micki roll up on his house, party in progress. You know, putting your best friend in a position that could further jeopardize her parents’ immigration status doesn’t really feel like allyship. Belle is like, thanks for trying to take my mind off the whole deportation thing, but imma bounce.
Micki goes inside to break up the party while Stella and Walker have the same fight they had in the previous episode. Walker insists again some more that he’s there and trying to fix things—literally. He’s trying to fix up the house so it can be a home again. Stella asks what makes it a home? What makes it theirs? Is Walker singing in the kitchen while cooking Sunday supper? Is he leaving books on her bed and then making time with her to talk about them? Is he teaching August the guitar? Taking them to the ranch to help birth a calf?
Or is he just gone? Like always?
Stella tells her father she ditched her soccer game because she messed up and maybe it shouldn’t be so easy to get a second chance. She tells him that he shouldn’t even get a second chance because he wasn’t there the first time around.
So, it’s not just that Walker has been absent from his children’s lives for the past year. He has seemingly always been at a distance; Emily was just able to fill the space and make it not so noticeable. My takeaway at this point is that Walker is a guy who has always done what he wants, when he wants, and been shielded from accountability by the loving enablers in his life.
I know this is only the second episode, and I enjoy a deeply flawed main character, but the writers really need to work on some actual character development for Walker because Jared’s general likability and charm can only do so much of the heavy lifting.
And then Stella delivers the true finishing blow. She says she wishes that Liam had gotten custody of them when he tried.
She stomps back into the house and Walker races off to the ranch to confront his brother. They wrestle and slap fight, Walker yelling that Liam tried to steal his kids while his brother accuses him of negligence for going radio silent. Liam suggests that they thought Walker might have been dead. He says he didn’t want Stella and August to be orphans. He was trying to protect them.
Liam picks up Stella’s drumbeat, telling Walker that even now he’s not there. He says his brother is chasing ghosts.
Liam warns Walker that he’s going to lose everything if he doesn’t stop searching for something that isn’t there. The fight winds down and Walker realizes that August has been watching the whole time. The boy walks off and Walker follows him to the farmhouse. August slides a wooden box across the porch to his father. He says it’s from Emily. She was going to give it to him on Father’s Day.
It’s a set of poker chips.
August says Emily kept out a few of the chips so she could show people. Walker pulls the murder chip out of his pocket. It’s a match for the set. He places it in the box and closes the lid. Walker makes a start at another inadequate apology but can’t find the words. August says they’ll figure it out and gives his father a reassuring pat on the back.
Hey, remember this? A father apologizing to his son for putting the burden of doing the emotional labor for the whole family on him when he was only a child and was the one who should have been comforted?
BREAK THE CYCLE, WALKER. BREAK. THE CYCLE.
Micki arrives home to find Trey in the kitchen cooking dinner—his mom’s chicken chili verde. She tells him that during their morning conversation she skipped the part where she said how happy she is that he’s there. And that it scares the crap out of her. She takes him by the hand and says she wants to get her job right and she wants to get them right, too. They laugh at how much they don’t know what they’re doing. Trey says it doesn’t matter—it’s not like they’re reporting to someone.
Then he tells her that he’s not going to re-up his enlistment. Trey says he thought he was career—because his dad was—but now he’s trying to figure out what he wants next. A notion inspired by Micki.
Micki and Trey are totally my favorite characters and I would watch a show just about them. Whatever mix of chemistry and writing is making these two feel like actual people, can we sprinkle some of that on everyone else?
The next morning Walker is in the kitchen fixing breakfast. He asks Stella if she knows where his favorite mug is.
Stella picks up her phone and aggressively ignores him. Walker pulls out his own phone and taps out a message to her. He asks about the mug and then acknowledges that he should have asked her where she wants to live. Stella responds that she misses her mother. Walker replies, “Same.”
Stella goes to the china hutch and pulls the mug out of a drawer. She says it kept reminding her that he was gone. One day she just put it away. For some reason, this inspires a morning trip back to the old house. Walker pulls two shovels out of the truck and tells Stella to choose. They set to work digging up the concrete paver with the wee!Walker’s handprints. Because I guess they are moving into the farmhouse? Stella gets the edge of her shovel under the paver and lifts, snapping it in two.
Walker tells her it’s okay. Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean they can’t take it with him. Something inside Stella finally snaps and she bursts into tears. Walker pulls his daughter into a hug—finally, finally, FINALLY giving her a hug.
They get back to the house where Bonham is waiting with a new saddle for his son. It seemed to him that Walker’s old saddle was from another life. He says sometimes getting back to normal might mean starting fresh. He tells Walker that every birthday he ever had—the important ones—his father made him something. Bonham says he missed Walker’s birthday this past year, and it seems like it was a big one, so.
Walker hears his wife’s voice and I thought for a moment he was going to slip into another memory. But it’s audio coming from August’s school project. He plays the video of Emily teaching him to ride as a young boy. In his mind, Walker does go back in time to the day the kids pressed their wee!Walker hands into the wet concrete of the paver and nothing was broken and nothing hurt.
Walker airs Thursday at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on The CW. Follow Whitney on Twitter @Watcher_Whitney.