Despite the name of Walker’s 8th episode, “Fine is a Four Letter Word”, the more obvious theme was secrets, and the lies people tell to protect secrets. The tornado that ripped through Austin was an apt metaphor for the swirling lies that ripped apart everyone’s lives without much warning. Confusion, destruction and pain were the inevitable aftermath of both the personal and physical storms that ensnared Walker's friends and family. Let’s sort through the twisted truths together.
Secrets and Lies
Secret #1: Liam and Captain James kept their investigation into Emily’s death a secret, choosing not to tell Cordell until they were sure it was worth reopening his emotional wounds. Their initial motivation was considerate, understandable and frankly, prudent given Walker’s prior self-destructive obsession over Emily’s death. However, once they had “irrefutable evidence that Carlos Mendoza is not Emily's killer”, they still kept Cordell in the dark. Captain James inadvertently tipped off Micki, who figured it out on her own, but then she was in on the secret, too.
Micki to Liam: Listen, I understand how hard it is to say something out loud to the right person. Believe me. But this isn't your secret to keep. Walker needs to know that his wife's killer is still out there and that person is now targeting his brother and his captain.
Liam: This is a lot to... It's a lot to take in. But I'm gonna tell him. I promise.
Liam kept his promise to Micki and told Cordell the truth. It was both painful to say and to hear, but they can now all lean on each other for emotional support while they combine their investigative instincts to discover Emily's truth. Do you hear echoes of Sam saying to his brother, "How many times do we have to learn that we're stronger together?"
Secret #2: Liam kept his dangerous experience in Mexico a secret from his boyfriend, then lied to everyone about what happened because he believed the truth would put Bret in danger.
Liam: I lied to Bret so he would leave me.
Liam: Because I think something really bad is about to happen and I keep trying to control it and keep the people that I love safe. But all it's doing is taking away their choice, and I'm not gonna do that to you anymore.
Liam's well-intentioned fabrication was very painful to his partner, and may have cost them both a lasting relationship.
Secret #3 & 4: Micki’s aunt and biological mother kept Micki’s identify a secret for the past 20-something years to protect Micki from her real mother’s drug abusive environment. After enough years of playing the part, Micki’s aunt came to believe the lie, seeing herself as Micki’s “true” mother.
Once Micki learned about her fractured past, she kept the secret of her adoption from her boyfriend because it was too painful for her to acknowledge the truth. Cordell knew the truth but was asked to keep it a secret, as it was not his secret to share.
Micki: Hey, um, since we're going to be out here with Trey, I need you to keep quiet about the whole Adriana not being my mom thing.
Cordell: Hold on, uh, haven't we learned that secret secrets are no fun?
He was right, as burying it inside was tearing her apart.
She, at least, was honest with both herself and Trey about her motivation for not being open to him .
Trey: So you gonna tell me about Adriana? 'Cause I'm not into this "keeping secrets to protect you" thing.
Micki: I did it to protect me. I just... I didn't want it to be true.
Secret #5 & 6: Trevor kept his identity, or at least the identity of his father, a secret from Stella to protect their budding relationship (which he sincerely values). Possibly he wasn’t sure to whom he owed his loyalty, or maybe his lack of self-worth had him convinced that Stella would leave him (because she would doubt his motivations for dating her, or judge Trevor by his dad's actions), but in any case, he is motivated by a fear for self versus a fear for the safety of others.
He is also keeping his conflicted allegiance secret from his father, allowing him to believe that Trevor will betray the Walkers and avenge Trevor’s mom’s death (a death which is only Cordell’s fault in the mind of a convict who refuses to accept responsibility for the implications of his criminal actions).
Has Trevor already decided that he is more loyal to Stella than his dad? Is Trevor afraid of his dad's reaction, or does he fear the dad will exert pressure that will weaken Trevor's resolve to protect Stella? It's unclear at this point. What do you think?
Secret #7: Abeline and Bonham are still trying to recover from Abby’s secret affair with the man at the feed store. Given the time that has passed since the secret was revealed, they were at least able to acknowledge how the secret broke them each individually, and may have done irreparable harm to their marriage. With the full truth now out in the open, they made the first step toward healing.
1.06 "Bar None"
Secrets #8 & 9: Previously, Isabel’s parents kept from her the secret of their immigration status. Not knowing their undocumented fragility, Isabel was unable to protect them by staying out of legal trouble. Geri also is harboring some secret that caused her to sell the bar she loved and flee town.
Every person caught in the whirlwind of lies and secrets got hurt. It didn’t matter if the secret started out as well-intentioned or if the lie was self-serving. In the end, the person withholding the truth was seen as untrustworthy, and the people who eventually learned the truth felt betrayed. Rather than passing judgement, though, the ethical questions raised by all of these situations deserve thought.
Adriana was probably justified in originally protecting Micki from her mother, but was wrong in keeping the secret too long. Micki only kept the truth from Trey for one week, but he felt even that was too long for a healthy relationship.
Her promise to Trey was a beautiful encapsulation of the lesson learned:
Trey: And keeping me in the dark about important life stuff, that's just not... that's not okay.
Micki: Yeah. I hear you. And I'm sorry. I promise, I will let you in before trying to make everything neat and... easy to explain. I promise you get the messy, too.
Captain James and Liam were probably justified in keeping their suspicions from Cordell, but they erred in not revealing their findings immediately upon their return from Mexico. Why did they remain quiet for another week?
Liam: You didn't know him then. You have no idea what he was like. Constant driving obsession. It sucked the life out of every second of his day. Consumed him.
Just like a twister sucks the air out of everything within its vortex, Liam and Captain desperately wanted to avoid sparking Cordell’s twisted emotional tornado again. It’s unclear if they were sparing him or themselves, but who wouldn’t want to spare their loved one pain? Yet, their silence put him in danger.
Trevor also needed time to sort out his complicated situation. Should he remain loyal to a destructive family or believe in a new way of looking at things that contradicts everything he’s ever been told? He, too, wanted to figure out a “neat” solution before sharing his split identity with either Stella or Cordell, yet his silence could have endangered them both - and it may have cost him a fresh start at a new life with Stella.
A loving aunt. A young woman in shock. A brother staring down a cartel. A confused teenager. Terrified immigrants. The dangers in all of these situations were very real – murdering criminals, gangs, organized crime, drug addiction, deportation. While it’s simple to see the victim’s side of the story...
I can’t help but sympathize with each of the liars’ fears and motivations. They were also torn apart by their deception.
Micki, Liam, Trevor and the elder Walkers all shut out the people who would support them by sharing their pain and helping them all heal, together. The extreme circumstances they all found themselves in because of the tornado forced the truth out of everyone except Liam. When given the chance to let Bret in, Liam chose to compound his secret with a lie.
As usual, Bonham put it best:
Just trying to manage a crisis, nothing more.
Would any of us have done things differently?
Fine is a Four Letter Word
So, if "secrets" was the obvious thread woven throughout the story, what is behind the episode’s title?
Bret: We haven't talked about your work trip. How was that?
Bonham to Cordell: I'm fine...Had to come to a different feed store. We're fine.
Cordell Yes! There she is. You good?
Micki: Yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine.
Micki: Hey, um, I'm sorry I froze back there. And... I'm sorry I got you hurt.
Cordell: No, you didn't get me hurt. My shoulder is fine; It'll heal.
It turns out “fine” was the code word everyone used to cover up how much they were hurting inside. Lies and secrets may have put people into mortal danger but they also tore apart everyone’s emotions and mental well-being. Is the moral of the story not to keep secrets, then lie to protect those secrets… or not to lie to yourself about being “fine” when you are really twisted and hurt? I’ll leave that up to you to debate but it is certainly worth thinking about.
This was an excellent episode, written by Katherine Alyse. Keegan Allen and Lindsey Morgan were particularly impressive in conveying their emotional turmoil. Then the ending scene between Cordell and Emily punctuated everyone's pain, perfectly played in silence.
Even they are now together in their fight for the truth.
Directed by Stacey K. Black, the episode was propelled forward by riveting images.
Headlights, flashlights, overhead lights, lightning, decorative lights, sparks - the action and tension of the swirling wind, fears and emotions were all accentuated by superb lighting.
I would love to have a visual review of this episode!
I have only one continuity question: When did Stella learn the name of the man Walker put in jail while undercover?
If someone can fill in that hole for me, I think this was Walker's best story yet. There was action that was close to believable (if one doesn't pick apart the details) and drama that was somewhat earned. Those are wins in my book.
Supernatural Easter Eggs
P.S. I was waiting to see if other reviews noted the Supernatural parallels, but no one has, so here goes!
1. When Cordell is alone at home, the TV mentions "The Lucifer hummingbird has been spotted in...".
2. After Cordell sends his teens off to their first dance, he says "I wish you could've been here for this." Imagine Sam saying that to Dean when Dean Jr. went to his first dance... 😪
3. As noted above, Liam is honest with Cordell in a tearful broment when he realizes they're stronger together.
Any others? #2 and #3 could have wishful thinking, but #1 can't be an accident!
What did you think of this episode? Please share your thoughts below!
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Additional Screencaps by Raloria on LJ
Quotes courtesy of https://tvshowtranscripts.ourboard.org/.