People who are hurting tend to lash out. That was a major theme in this third episode of the second season. No one is immune to this, even the sweetest people can hurt others when they’re hurting. It’s what they do afterwards that sets them apart. The one who both teaches us this lesson and exemplifies it is …
Cordell’s pain comes from the memories and guilt of the fire the Davidsons’ return has reignited. The most obvious time he lashes out is at August, when a rag ignites on the stove. His fear of repeating the fire in the barn in their home causes him to yell. You can tell he instantly feels bad and goes to cool down. Throughout the episode, he tries to turn his pain and guilt into doing good by welcoming the Davidsons back, letting them join the cook off, and even choosing them to win the competition over his mom. Jared adds incredible depth and empathy as he explains Cordell's feelings to Abeline. He exemplifies how it’s better to explain your pain than to keep it in and hurt others when the pain escapes in anger. Another person who could stand to learn that lesson is …
Ramirez’s pain and grief from Garrison’s death is fresh and debilitating. From her conversation with Trey, we know it’s only been a day. She’s sitting at work, hiding away until Walker draws her out. But she still feels she can’t explain the truth to anyone. She tries to hide her feelings, bury them in alcohol. This causes her to feel the need to run away when a song that reminds her of Garrison plays. And even though she feels bad every time she does it, the one she lashes out the most at is …
Though he tries to be understanding, Micki’s distance and evasion worry him. Any time he tries to be there for her, she lashes out. So Trey, the person who has been known for his sunshine smile in the face of adversity, ends up in a rare moment lashing out at Walker. This proves that no one is immune, especially when love is what’s causing you pain. Another person who lashes out because of love is …
She is trying to push down her feelings for Cordell. Besides honoring both Emily and Hoyt’s memory, she doesn’t want to risk their long friendship. On top of that, she doesn’t believe he feels anything more than friendship for her. So, she is just there for him and his family in any way she can be - as a friend, like she has been for long time. She can’t let anyone know how she truly feels. Her lashing out from this pain is more subtle, lying to those who are interested in Cordell. She quickly realizes what she did, and corrects it, but she understands this means she can’t push down her feelings as well as she thought she could. On the other hand, the people who aren’t even trying to hide their feelings are …
Abeline, Bonham, and Liam all have no intention of hiding their feelings over the Davidsons. Anytime their names are brought up, you can see their disdain. It all stems from the pain created when the Davidsons blamed Cordell for the fire. So, when Dan intentionally runs into Liam to spill chili all over him, they all lash out, to a point it almost erupts in a physical fight. It takes Cordell and Gail to calm everyone down. Gail didn't act out of the goodness of her heart, though, because….
They are the epitome of lashing out from pain. As Cordell says, years ago, they lost everything and the pain of that cuts deep. Their lashing out ranges from constant passive aggressiveness, like naming their chili “Barn Burner”, to outright threats of violence and spying. However, this humanizes them and adds depth to motivations, rather them just being villains for the sake of it.
Creating such a complex story is something that Walker excels at, giving reasons for the antagonists' actions without excusing them. That’s what makes this episode great. What, on the surface, seems like just an episode about a chili cook-off, is actually a study of the effects of pain on people.
4.85 out of 5.
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Screencaps by The CW & Cat Bowland.