There’s so much to say about Walker 2.08 “Two Points For Honesty”. It was a wonderful episode, filled with deep character development and heartwarming relationship building. Reflecting its title, it was the most honest examination of Walker’s main characters to date, which may be one of the reasons I liked it. My understanding of Cordell fundamentally changed, revealing for the first time the character I believe the writers have intended to present to us all along. The clarity with which Trey and Captain James assessed their own life choices also transformed them from 2-dimensional filler characters to 3-dimensional individuals with their own interesting stories to tell. Liam’s life changes felt like a seismic shift in his career direction and self-image. The criminal case surrounding the captain being shot didn’t make that much sense to me, but let’s dig into it all and see what we find.
Title Thread: "Two Points for Honesty"
Let’s talk about Cordell first because his character development stands out as the most important outcome of this episode. His revelations were threaded into three very emotional conversations.
Cordell: I-I just... taking a second, you know. To-to... to think about... uh, everything. I'm out of my league here, Ger.
Geri: Well, you're used to the dark and scary. You are. Between Em and Hoyt, the Wests. Even Micki. You thrive in that chaos, you just... you always second- guess yourself.
Cordell: Well, but... this is different, Ger. I mean, the-the... You know, I'm always used to having somebody by my side, you know, somebody to look to for-for guidance. And now Micki is-is... And Captain James is in there, and-and now I have to go talk to... all the rangers-- all of his rangers-- a-and tell them what's going on. And everybody's gonna be looking to me for-for answers and-and I don't have them. You know, I-I... I don't think I can do it.
Geri: Well, you're already doing it. And you've got more people on your side than you even know. It just looks a little differently than you're used to.
Cordell: Yeah. You ever wonder why it's always me and you at the end of the world? Uh...
Geri: Oh, God. You got this, Cordi.
That hallway conversation is layered with nuanced importance. Geri wandered by and found Cordell when he was most vulnerable. He confessed his honest feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and she responded with wisdom and reassurance. Her insights into the challenges his life has thrown at him and his responses to those challenges helped me (and other viewers I presume) understand him better. I was particularly struck by her perceptions of his leadership abilities. “You’re already doing it” she said, which was incredibly astute of her. She hadn’t seen his pep talk to his family or observed his orders to fellow rangers, yet she knew he had already stepped up to take charge.
People who are unaccustomed to being in leadership positions often don’t realize that being a leader starts simply by speaking up when no one else knows what to say. Offering security and direction when people are lost is leadership. The gold star, the title of acting captain, and the burden of finding out who was threatening to tear apart their lives are all daunting responsibilities that can paralyze a person with fear if they stop to think about what they need to do.
Cordell’s understandable insecurity spoke volumes about him always counting on someone else to call the shots. That reliance on others to guide his path had previously escaped me. All the talk about his ranger instincts and his record of closing cases had led me to believe he was a type-A go-getter. His HQ bullpen monologue convinced me even more that he’s a natural born leader because he gave his troops direction and emotional support while being honest about his own humanity.
I did promise him that we would get this job done. James asked me to call the shots for us, which means... now I have this. Which, uh, doesn't feel like it means a whole hell of a lot, because the star's only as good as the person wearing it, right? And, right now, the person wearing it is a little nervous. Uh... well, scared, frankly. And I imagine some of y'all might be scared, too. But that's okay. We can use it as fuel. I been asking myself, uh... what would James do?
His advice to fuel their investigation with their fear was instinctually astute, while his openness gave them security that they were all in this together. That’s excellent leadership. It wasn’t until his conversation with the captain that I realized Cordi didn’t see his temporary leadership role as an opportunity to explore his untapped potential. Rather, he was holding his breath the whole time, waiting until he could slide back into the comfort of someone else calling the shots.
Cordell: And as flattering as it was to step into your shoes for a little bit... it-it taught me a lot… Number one: those are some big shoes to fill. Uh, pardon the pun. But, two-- and-and more importantly--I realized that's-that's not what I want. [Two Points of Honesty]
Captain: Look... about before, I'm sorry. I...
Cordell: No, no, no, no. Don't do... Don't be sor... You were right to say that. You meant it. And, uh, I-I needed to hear it, you know. I needed to get that kick in the ass. But I know now that I don't want to be the one calling the shots. I can't do what you do. I... want to be the one who answers that call.
Captain: Good, 'cause I'm gonna need you.
I’m disappointed that Captain James agreed so quickly with Cordell because I’m not at all sure that Cordell is right about himself. He showed tremendous poise under pressure. Yes, he ran to Stan for information, but I thought that was a good move. I didn’t at all agree with the Captain that it was ill-considered. But then the captain didn't pick the right "elite players" in fantasy football so maybe he isn't always right about who should take the lead.
Captain: I put you in charge and the first thing you do is go running to Stan?
Cordell: His ties to Serano made him the only access we could connect with.
Captain: And did you believe a damn word that came out of that man's mouth? Walker, he's on the outs with Serano, he's got eyes all over him. Even if he could help, why would he? I mean, he's... it's... it'd be a death sentence.
Cordell: You think I wanted to go see him? It wasn't just about Stan's allegiance to Serano. It was about his connections. Look, I know I was only your first choice on a technicality. But your first choice ain't here. When you put me in charge, you were putting me in charge. Of everything. No questions asked. And I'm here now, all right? And I'm doing my best.
Cordell was absolutely right. A leader has to make choices. Good or bad, they at least are moving forward in some direction. When Captain James yelled at Cordell for running to Stan, Cordell finally stood up for himself. That’s beginning to show confidence and commitment to one’s decisions, which is also a required trait of a leader. So I was stunned when Cordell closed out the whole experience by once again contritely accepting correction, and viewing himself as a follower instead of a leader.
Their career path conversation was a turning point for me as much as it was for Cordell. All of season one, I complained about how Cordell was the whipping boy for everyone else’s mistakes. Micki put him down constantly, which made me frankly rather relieved when she was written out of the show. I didn’t buy the Captain’s reliance on her, nor him thinking that she was his replacement. She was a rookie ranger! Why was she so magically and instantly better than Cordell? Cordell’s parents, his kids and his boss debased him habitually. I blamed poor writing, and have been waiting for the great ranger, father, son and brother that I saw in Cordell to emerge.
With his honest confession to his captain, though, it became clear that Cordell believes he has achieved the highest level he wants in his career. He doesn’t see himself as anything other than a soldier who follows orders. That’s disappointing, because everything he did proved otherwise. To have Captain James “compliment” Cordell by saying, ‘yep, that’s true and we need more of you’, opened my eyes to the space the show wants this character to inhabit. Certainly, all leaders need followers, and the troops “get the job done” more than the leaders. There are also many highly valued individuals who don’t aspire to leadership. They don’t want the responsibility that comes with leadership or the worry of bringing the problems home with them every night – the responsibility that cost Larry his marriage. Choosing a ladder rung other than the one at the top is a valid choice one makes for their life. I just never expected that was the person we were watching.
At this stage in his life - a year after he is widowed, raising two teens alone, reeling from his undercover split personality trauma – it’s perfectly appropriate for Cordell to feel buffeted by life. He needs time to catch his breath. Geri saw that, even if the Captain, Cordell’s old partner, didn’t recognize it.
My hope is that Geri’s version of Cordell is the one that eventually emerges, given enough time to heal. Until then, I now understand we’re watching a man who wants to ride in the middle lane. Time will tell if that is a temporary decision or a long-term, realistic assessment of his abilities and ambition. Honestly, I think the outcome of that question will depend a lot on whether Geri takes up a more significant role in Cordell’s life.
Geri’s reassurance to Cordell was exactly what I would imagine Emily would have said to him. Cordell felt truly alone at the moment Geri found him. He didn’t have his partner or his captain to rely upon professionally, but even more than that, he didn’t have his wife to support him personally. As a widower, he didn’t have a significant other to call with his fears. It’s truly revealing that he felt comfortable enough with Geri to bare his soul. As she said, he has more people on his side than he even knows. Reading between the lines, open your eyes, Cordi. Geri is the person who knows you best and loves you for who you are. She believes in you and knows you can do more. You trust her with your deepest thoughts. She would be “on your side” forever if the two of you would just recognize who you are to each other.
Captain James was introspective about many of the same issues as Cordell, only for Larry they were decisions he made in the past rather than ones he was making about his future. In a bit of backstory about himself, Larry revealed that he decided to push hard to get to the captain’s position, largely because of the injustice of his assailant’s case. The focus it took to pursue advancement made him blind to the partner who was at his side – his wife. He and his wife were honest with each other for the first time in a year (I believe the timing of his divorce coincided roughly with his promotion). Larry got the job he wanted but lost his wife in the process. Now he’s looking back, wondering if he can make amends for his mistakes, receive forgiveness and get a second chance.
Liam was another person who got too caught up in his career, and ended up losing everything. He is also on Cordell’s side, even if again, Cordi didn’t recognize how his “disgraced former A.D.A” brother could help.
Liam: I want to help.
Cordell: I know you do. I appreciate that, but you're not an A.D.A anymore. And that's fine, 'cause you can still help, all right? The best way you can help is to be there for them. Make sure they all know they're not alone. Okay. But... but what about you?
Cordell: I'm all right. I got work to do.
It was a great surprise to learn that Liam was fired for filing that false police report. That is a huge change to Liam’s life and his role of being by his brother’s side on the Serano case. Like Cordell, Liam didn’t seem ready for the leadership role that would have been next for him. Also like Cordell, Liam almost seemed relieved that he has stalled in a simpler place in the world, even temporarily.
I look forward to see what Liam’s next move will be. I’m almost expecting that he’ll rise like a phoenix to take the DA position once the Davidsons are disgraced. If Liam can be vindicated and Denise ends up being a puppet of the Northside Nation (or the Davidsons move away again because of Dan’s and now maybe Gale’s disgrace), maybe all will be forgiven and he’ll finally have the confidence he needs to rise to the top.
The Past is (Not So Much) in the Past
Stan: Yeah, you have changed.
Liam: It's hard not to.
Stan: Yeah, I know. Careful, it's a slippery slope. I'm here, you know, if you need someone to talk to.
Liam: After what you did? It goes beyond the realm of forgiveness. After today, you'll never see me again.
Stan: If you say so. Heard about what happened in Thalia. You know, you were right about the Davidsons. There was always something about Gale that didn't sit right with me. At first I thought it was just 'cause she was so nasty to Abby. But then things started to change. There was so much loss. This is even before Marv. You know I represented your family after the fire? Not the flashy stuff, but the boring side. Land disputes and... other matters. Esme still looks after my property. She'll let you in. There's a desk in the living room. It has one of those false bottoms. You'll, uh, find something you might need in those old files there. You'll know when you see it. And, listen... while you're rummaging around in the past there, just keep in mind... you might not always like what you find.
Earlier Stan told Cordell:
But, seems to me that if you're looking for the bad guy, you might want to try to start finding him among the good ones.
Another “Clue” in the complicated board game between the Walkers and the Davidsons.
Cordell: you claim it was Mr. Green in the conservatory with the revolver, but the time and place suggest a crime of passion. He doesn't fit the bill. You're seriously making me regret agreeing to amend the game for a more layered experience.
The past few episodes have featured the Walkers playing games - cards, "Clue", and the kids' not-quite-poker hospital distraction. Is this a sub-thread about other people playing games with the Walkers?
Another wonderful example of this episode’s “layered experience” is the fact that it was Liam who figured out Cole shot Captain James. Liam proved he is still a valuable ally to Cordell and the DA’s office even though he, too, sidelined himself, albeit unintentionally, from achieving the top position in his law enforcement organization.
Cole: Does a broken taillight seem worth all this? It can't be. I was just trying to get home to my kid, man.
Just as Liam’s fall from grace happened because of a broken taillight, it seems Cole’s life changed course when Trooper James pulled him over for a broken taillight.
Cordell: So, the further we look into the incident with Captain James, the more it becomes clear that this was likely personal. A crime of passion. This wasn't random. James was the target. So, please keep trekking down memory lane, because every old case could hold a potential suspect.
The one thing that doesn’t track for me is why Cole would lay in wait for the captain outside Trey’s house. The mysterious grey car had ties to Serano, but that was a “no go” according to Cordell, and the shooter didn’t match the registered owner so Cole was not connected to that grey car. Cole ambushed the captain when he and Trey returned home from HQ, but why go to Trey’s house? Did Cole follow Larry from HQ? Why not wait until he was alone to shoot at him? The whole shooting scene doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe you can fill in some of the blanks for me (remember from last season that many of the events of Walker episodes are not clearly set up or explained, and are only understood if fans fill in some of the blanks.)
Cole’s story delivered several moral messages this week. Violence begets violence. People cannot use “just doing my job” as an excuse for not making moral choices, thinking for themselves and doing the right thing despite “protocols”. The criminal justice system can often make hardened criminals out of decent people by blindly doling out punishments instead of justice. Some anger is justified. I appreciate that Walker is using its platform to put a face on some of these larger than life issues in society.
Erik Odom, the actor who played Cole, did a fabulous job of showing a broken, desperate man who had nothing left in his life. Erik is a friend from my Twilight fandom (if knowing each other from parties, beach walks and convention events makes us ‘friends’. Erik was in Breaking Dawn Part 2 and is a regular guest at our annual Twilight get together.)
Yeah, watch that slippery slope, Liam. Broken taillights are all you want to have in common with Cole.
Trey: This stuff with James-- it nailed down a lot of things for me. I'm good in a crisis, yeah. I mean, that's for damn sure, but... that's not the life that I want to live. I'm on the right path now, even if the universe keeps trying to, I don't know, test it.
I loved seeing Trey leap into the fray, saving the Captain, shooting down the sniper, and reverting back to his field medic persona. But like Cordell, the Captain, and possibly Liam, Trey is slowing his life down. He’s not going to go for the flashy top job or big bucks. Unlike Captain James and Cordell, though, Trey has chosen to “step out of the way” (as he put it last week) of the dangerous or adrenaline fueled paths his life could have taken. After three deployments, he left the army. He considered a career as a doctor, but shied away from the pressures of surgery or emergency medicine. He now feels he is best suited as a high school career counselor. He looked like a natural in that hospital scrub, though. That had to mean more than a convenient change of clothing. I wonder if his choice to not go after the many years of schooling and training required to be a doctor has more to do with the vulnerability he’s feeling from Micki’s departure. Maybe a different career choice will make sense to him in the future, when he’s feeling stronger, just as it might also to Cordell and Liam.
In this episode, six men reexamined their lives’ paths – Cordell, Captain James, Trey, Liam, Bonham and Cole. We learned more about each man and the parallel choices they have or are making for themselves. It will be curious to see how consistently these changes are portrayed in future episodes, but for now, we all have a better understanding of each character’s motivations.
DJ: Do you guys ever just wish your dad had a regular job?
August: I used to. But, um, no, not anymore. You know, even after everything that's happened, it just kind of makes sense, you know?
Stella: Plus, can you imagine my dad with a briefcase?
Was anyone else seeing Sam Winchester throughout this entire episode??
Cordell: I'll be working from HQ for the next few hours, so I'm here if you need me. However you need me. So, take care of yourselves. We got work to do
DJ: “Your job is to take on things that go bump in the night.”
Three repetitions of “I/we got work to do”, then phrases like “you’re used to the dark and scary”, “I’m always used to having somebody by my side, somebody to took to for guidance” (Dean), and “You ever wonder why it's always me and you at the end of the world” (Sam and Dean) were all shout outs to Supernatural – at least to me. At the end of Geri’s talk with Cordi, I could hear Genevieve or Jensen reassuring Jared that he’s got what it takes to lead a new series to success: “it just looks a little differently than you’re used to. You’ve got this.” I’m guessing Gail will find even more Supernatural references in her review, but it was a joy to hear those Easter Eggs. It’s still such a huge part of me, it’s validating to hear that it still means that much to Jared, too.
Time Will Tell
This is the second episode in a row that came through with storylines that earned the emotions they wanted to elicit from viewers, and character development befitting the superb acting this cast delivers. This is one of the episodes that is worthy of multiple rewatches because I believe each viewing will reveal more parallels and layers. This week, the show and writer Blythe Ann Johnson definitely deserve two points for honesty. But then, honesty often pays off in the end.
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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts