The Morning After

Another surprise ending! Now I’m not sure if “Sucker Punch” referred only to characters within the story or if the title was also a warning to the audience about the unexpected twists in Walker’s season’s two saga! Honestly, I expected the Serano case would be the focal point of the entire year, but once again I was pleasantly surprised by the mercifully brisk pace of the story this year.   

Title Thread: "Sucker Punch"

“Sucker Punch” was an apt description of the events surrounding Cordell’s professional and personal lives this week, but it applied to many other people as well.

First, Cordell was sucker punched by the judge’s decision to grant Serano bail. That was a very intense segment of the episode, as Cordell and Serano played a high stakes game of chicken. The seething hatred trapped inside both their bodies, threatening to explode at the slightest provocation, filled that entire day with heart pounding tension. First outside the courthouse then again that night at a restaurant, these two adversaries stared each other down with stone cold self-control. After all the times Cordell has been accused of being a hot head, he proved he can hold himself in check when he wants/needs to. No one should ever doubt his professionalism again (even though I’m sure they will)!

Bridging last week’s theme of honesty (that I highlighted as the title thread in “Two Points for Honesty”), Denise Davidson Miller questioned whether Cordell was up to the challenge of not further damaging the state’s case against Serano:

Denise: I need to know that I can trust you. Okay? No lies, no omissions. Just the truth. Can you do that?

Cordell: You know what, if Micki taught me anything, it's that the end doesn't justify the means. I'll go completely by the book. Trust me. You have my word.

Why doesn’t anyone recognize how good Walker is in the field?? Since the evidence against Serano died with Micki’s ex-boyfriend, burned up in a fire, died with the guy who was murdered by Stan, was stolen by masked roadside robbers, then was jeopardized by Liam’s desperation, the only option left to Cordell was to closely monitor Serano’s actions, because criminals usually make mistakes.

Serano: Your, uh, little brother... dealt me a "get out of jail free" card. So all I have to do is just sit back, wait for my day in court.

Cordell: That's true. But... we both know you won't. Right? You can't help yourself. You're gonna mess up again, Serano. You always do. And when you do, next time, just know... I'll be there. Be seeing you.

Contrary to his boasting, if Serano had just 'sat back and waited', he would have been sucker punched by Dan, who was the next person in that long line of people who could put Serano away for either ordering the hit on Walker, bugging his house, or conspiring again to kill him when the first attempt failed.

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True to his nature, though, Serano attempted to sucker punch Dan, by threatening his family once it was clear he had incriminating evidence. This, in turn, forced Dan to sucker punch Liam, who stuck his neck out obtain Dan’s evidence.

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In the end, Cordell’s keen ranger skills saved Dan, Liam and the case. He was able to deliver the critical sucker punch by surprising Serano at the exchange. Serano’s death was the “who gets the last laugh” sucker punch, surprising both Cordell and viewers with an abrupt end to that chapter in the Northside Nation gang investigation.

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Will the rangers and the DA’s office continue to dig into the Northside Nation, possibly to find out who was Serano’s boss? We’ve suspected Denise might be the head of the criminal syndicate, but her revulsion to Walker’s revelation that her husband was somehow involved in the case seemed genuine.

Cordell: Denise, you and I both know who Liam's client was, right?

Denise: I can't say that I do, no.
Cordell: Okay. Come on, Denise. Liam's client didn't want his identity kept from Serano. He wanted his identity kept from us. I went to the train station because I knew whose plates to run. And they weren't Serano's. Careful, Counselor. You're sleeping with the enemy.

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It makes sense that Denise would be surprised to learn the truth about Dan. Since Serano didn’t know Dan continued the surveillance of the Walkers, Serano’s boss (Denise or other) wouldn’t have that information either. If Denise is innocent, her reaction reflected more personal betrayal than professional damage control. She had been warming up to Dan again, talking about working on their relationship once Serano was in prison. His deceit hit her like a sucker punch, blindsiding her by the relationship she thought she could salvage.

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Throughout this long chain of betrayal, there were two people who earned my sympathy. The first was Liam. The poor guy just keeps getting pulled into the Davidson’s drama! He’s desperately trying to clear his name, yet Dan backed him into a corner of wanting to protect his family but not being able to name his source. Liam had to feel so exposed and foolish in the meeting with his ex-boss, his big brother, and his brother’s boss (who had to lecture him about being drunk at HQ the last time they were together).

I’m truly intrigued where Liam’s story will end up. Will Denise be implicated and Liam asked to be DA? Will Denise leave town disgraced when Dan is implicated, and again, Liam be asked to return to the DA’s office? Alternately, this week Dan went to Liam as an independent lawyer, and last week Stan mentioned that he had done routine legal work for the Davidsons. Could these be clues that Liam will become an independent investigator or private attorney who helps the rangers and DA office outside the system? He was studiously comparing the land map presumably provided by Stan to the old map found of the Walker’s property line. It looks like he might be onto something there.  

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The second person I felt sorry for was Colton.  

Trey: I mean, ever since that little parking lot brawl, he's been perfect, actually. It's tough being the new kid in school. But honestly, it's like Colton's been there since day one. He's a good kid. And he's happy.

But Colton’s happiness was coming from his friendship with Stella, and Colton got sucker punched by the budding romantic rivalry posed by Todd.

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Inspired by his attraction to Stella, Colton wrote a beautiful song for Auggie’s “band”, only to have Todd sing that song to Stella as if those were his words of love to her.  Colton was intimidated by the kid who had been around Stella and the school longer, so he kept his date invitation and the truth about his muse to himself.  

Astute as always, Geri saw the truth of what was going on.

Cordell: Okay, hold on, am I... am I missing something?
Geri: Gosh, it's a lot. Yeah, let me catch you up to speed, here.

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Just as last week Geri knew the truth about Cordell, her intuitive insight into personalities and relationships helped her see what was happening between the teens. She wisely advised Colton to be honest with Stella but then she turned around to see Cordell and remembered that she, too, isn’t admitting her true feelings. We are left with a teenagers’ love triangle and two adults who obviously belong together but can’t find the courage to be honest.

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How long will we have to wait before these three shy admirers speak their truths?

Music

Geri: We hope you enjoy this very special performance from Austin's own Sucker Punch.

Auggie formed a band to impress a girl! I guess that’s not the first time that’s been done. Funny he named it Sucker Punch, though. It’s catchy, but would its followers be called “Suckers”? Doesn’t the band’s name warn you that they’re not really that good, and you’d be a sucker to listen to them?  Maybe he chose that name because he realized he got sucker punched into being on stage and sharing his music publicly.

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Strange name aside, their musical interlude was very enjoyable. Todd (Cameron Vitosh) has a melodic voice. Colton’s lyrics were also poetically beautiful. So Auggie arranged the music? I believe that’s what we were shown when he and Colton were being fed snacks with hot peppers by Abeline instead of playing the piano at the ranch. I didn’t realize it was going to be an on-going gig so I didn’t pay that much attention to their respective roles!

His new interest is a convenient opening for the show to use live music versus music video montages to relieve the actors of dialog-heavy screen time. It also gives Auggie something of his own in the plotline. I guess photography was so last year!

Seeing the Truth

In addition to past episodes' emphasis on telling, listening and hearing others' truths, “Sucker Punch” focused on seeing the truth.

Capt. James: Nice to see everybody's still at it while the boss is out.

Liam: Let me see this video.

Denise: This is highly unorthodox, but if you have seen the video and you will vouch for its legitimacy, then I'll make the deal.

Serano: I’m watching you. See you soon, Danny boy.  [later] You give me what I want, you never see me again.

Cordell: Let me see your hands. Serano! Hands where I can see 'em…. I'll be seeing you… Would have rather seen him rot in prison.

Geri: I’ve seen this movie before, kid.

There were also seven mentions of looking at/for something, plus three more of watching something – and those were the only 3 verbs regarding sight that I searched for. We also watched Serano’s goons set up a hidden camera of their surveillance operations – watching themselves watching others - and Faye recorded Auggie’s performance for her YouTube channel, which is a visual online site. See if you find others!

The most important piece of visual evidence, however, was the video Dan provided to Liam:

Liam: The hard drive that you provided implicates his entire network, which I'm sure Denise will want to completely dismantle.

How did Dan get a hard drive of Serano’s entire operation? The surveillance shack I understand, but how did Dan get inside the other illegal setups? Did the henchman have that “insurance” as well on Serano? A loose end that I hope gets explained later down the road.

Old School

It’s still a curiosity that every episode incorporates school references. “Sucker Punch” included Stella quizzing Todd on vocabulary.

Stella: Let's see, uh, alacrity.

Todd: Mm... stingy?

Stella: No. It's "readiness, eagerness, willingness." Try a mnemonic device. You know, like, to help you remember.

I think we’ll just have to wait to see where the school thread leads us.

Fatherhood

I noted a curious juxtaposition of Dan versus Cordell as fathers. Trey complimented Dan on how he is raising Colton, while Geri complimented Cordell on his parenting skills:

Hey. You do realize that your kids are lucky to have you as a dad, right?

All three teens seem well adjusted, so criminal behavior notwithstanding, Dan and Cordell have a lot in common? There were several references to being a dad or "pop" throughout the show. Listen for them. 

It was also interesting that the teens were allowed to hang out in a bar. In my state, under age kids are only allowed in bars with adults who are having a meal. I can understand Auggie and Stella because it is their family business, but how were Colton and Todd able to do homework there, and sit around after the concert. Colton was at the bar, talking to the bartender! I also noted the change in wall decoration at the Side Step, which seemed to cater to a younger crowd. Did I miss something about parenting in Texas, the bar's target clientele, or Texas state laws?

Time Will Tell

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The last scene of the episode gave us another clue in the ancient barn fire mystery. Denise looked shocked after watching Cordell’s tearful confession to his mom. My gut reaction was not that Denise was shocked to hear Cordell was at fault, but rather she was appalled to hear that he blamed himself so deeply for the fire. I got the distinct impression in that moment that she started the fire. How about you?

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It’s also worth noting Cordell’s sharp detective skills in this episode. Like his reaction when he saw Stella with Todd, I thought I had missed something that explained how Cordell knew where to go to catch Serano! His and Denise’s bar conversation clarified Cordell deduced it was Dan who was putting Liam through the wringer, and tracked Dan's license plates through an APB to the drop site.  Yet more evidence that Walker is a darn good ranger, if he would ever get the credit he deserves. Time will tell whose version of Walker - his own or Geri’s - wins out.

Time will also tell us if Walker’s writers have hit their stride. Following several good episodes this year, “Sucker Punch” was another enjoyable hour of fast pacing and tight storytelling, with some huge surprises thrown in. While I continue to be aggravated at how Walker is undervalued on the force, I am intrigued to learn how he (maybe working together with his brother) will take down the Northside Nation and/or the Davidsons. I’m also curious to see what happens to Liam and Denise, and to learn how the truth about Dan comes out. Of course, there’s always the ongoing love tension between Cordell and Geri to watch!

This episode extended an encouraging trajectory for the show. Hopefully, its title refers only to the surprises we've already seen, and not the future of either the characters or the audience! Here’s to hoping for more strong episodes to come!

 - Nightsky  

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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts  
Screencaps courtesy of The CW