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The Morning After

Walker’s 2.15 episode “Bygones” was sneaky. The case of the week was straightforward enough. Cordell and Cassie needed to work with Cordell’s undercover girlfriend on a sting operation. Nothing very unusual about that, except maybe feeling a bit like Cordell when the perp tested his knowledge of cryptocurrency. The veteran ranger could throw around the cryptocurrency terms (once prompted by Cassie) but he really had no idea what our culture’s new financial lexicon meant. I applaud the show for the “currency” of its crimes. The more the mainstream is exposed to cryptocurrency, the faster we’ll educate ourselves on its possibilities.

As I said, though, other than the counterfeiting details, the story was a rather predictable backdrop for the more unsettling messages of the show.  The moral of the story snuck up on us, in both the conversations and actions of the characters. It was refreshing to hear some of the characters’ personal revelations. Things that desperately needed to be acknowledged were finally said aloud. Those moments were the highlights of show for me. In sharp contrast, some of the character’s actions were terribly hard to accept and left me with an unexpected pang of conscience.  Would I be gracious enough to let bygones be bygones the way many of these characters did after they had been grievously wronged?

The Title Thread: "Bygones"

Cordell: Okay, Cap, Cap, are we sure about this? The last time I saw Twyla on the outside, she double-crossed me and tried to run off with 300 grand.

Capt. James: Well, a shot at freedom is the best motivator. What do you say there, Twyla? You up for it?

Twyla: I think I can abide it, assuming Walker can let bygones be bygones.

Is it wise to forgive and forget when a person has betrayed you in the past? In most circumstances, caution and skepticism seem like warranted wisdom based on a lesson learned. Twyla jammed up Cordell when she lied to him then stole and stashed the $300K from their bank robbery. As Duke, he trusted her but Cordell ended up facing a criminal investigation when she betrayed him and the money went missing. His hesitation to work with her again seemed perfectly appropriate. “Once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, shame on me” is the adage that comes to mind here.

Cassie: Okay, are you sure that this isn't just entirely about Geri?

Cordell: Ger... What does Geri have to do with any of this?

Cassie: Look, last night, you told me you felt betrayed by Geri. And now you're saying pretty much the exact same thing about a woman who, may I remind you, is doing this to earn a shot at her own freedom.

Cordell: Okay, okay, wait. I get it, but she is not Geri.

Cassie: No. I'm not saying you don't have a right to be cautious here, but your feelings are clouding your judgement.

I don’t understand why Cassie and Capt. James were critical of Cordell’s objections. Just another excuse to be critical of Cordell, it seemed. Everything worked out okay because Twyla really was motivated by the promise of an early release from jail. She came through for the rangers and earned her second chance. It could just as easily gone the other way, though. Cordell would then have been chastised for not being suspicious of her intentions and being taken advantage of twice by the same criminal. That wouldn’t have looked good at all for an experienced law enforcer.

On this case, Cordell’s suspicions and Cassie's newfound willingness to trust others balanced out well. I would really have liked for the credit to have been equally shared, too, but then I’m sensitive to Cordell always being diminished in importance.

Cordell: Twyla, I'm sorry. I should have trusted you more. I've been going through something that's left me a little raw, and insecurities got the best of me, and, I'm sorry.

Twyla: It really feels like I've been saying "bygones" an awful lot, so I'm just gonna say I forgive you.

She forgives him for being cautious with a criminal who betrayed him once already?? I would have preferred they said they forgave each other for their former betrayals (him as an undercover agent; her for stealing the money) and unkept promises (not visiting her in jail). They both treated each other poorly in the past and both needed forgiveness, so they would agree to a fresh start. That would have set better with me.  

Stella and Colton also put into practice the advice of letting bygones be bygones, and it worked out positively for them as well. Colton made himself available to Stella when she needed to vent, even though she had previously chosen Todd over him. Stella forgave Colton for his betrayal of her family, and freely trusted him again with her fears and insecurities. Again, I’m not so sure I could have been as forgiving as Stella. She, August, Abby and their family all befriended Colton when he first arrived in Austin, but he repaid them by stirring up old accusations surrounding the barn lantern.

As a parent, I would have advised Stella to never trust Colton again, which is likely why she lied to Abby about seeing him. If I were Stella, I’m pretty sure I would have chosen the uncontroversial boy, Todd, given the upheaval in her life right now. But Stella has a mind of her own. She’s clearly attracted to Colton, and given her past with Trevor, she seems to always see cause as an excuse for effect. She’s admirably non-judgmental, and easily forgave Colton.  The openness of the two teens brought Bonham and Dan together for the good of the horses, so once again, forgiveness and offering second chances led to a good outcome. I am left with the nagging guilt, though, that I don’t think I could have done what Stella did. Was it wise or foolish?

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Stella then asked Bonham to help clear the hemlock. I imagine Bonham (and I) justified his capitulation to helping the Davidsons as a necessary life or death emergency. He knew the land, he and Stella had done this job together before, and horses are gentle creatures who don’t deserve to die because of Dan’s ignorance.

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Bonham’s decision to work for Dan is the line I couldn’t have crossed. How can Bonham swallow his pride to actually work on the now-Davidson ranch??  It was Bonham’s pride that got them into this mess to begin with! His hot-headedness led him to ignore the legal counsel of his son and double down on an inane race to settle a land dispute. He knows that Dan only won the race because he didn’t return the courtesy Cordell extended to him when Dan was knocked off his horse.  Dan hasn’t played fair in any of his dealings with the Walkers (some of which Bonham knows, some he doesn’t know), so does Dan deserve this courtesy now being extended by Bonham?  

Bonham: You know, I've felt a little adrift recently, but sometimes you gotta just latch onto something and get excited about it.

Stella: Like working the ranch again.

Bonham: Well, that situation has been a little hard to swallow, but the truth is, out there working my family's land just might be the best way to honor their legacy, whether we live there or not.

What?? Bonham should have honored their legacy by holding onto his family’s land in the first place! He was a complete imbecile for allowing himself to be goaded into the race, but now he’s going to work for the person who won by not playing fair and was so unprincipled as to accept the spoils of his treachery? If Dan needs help, let him hire all the ranch hands who are out of work now. They know the land, too.

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Every attempt was made to change Dan into a sympathetic character. His parents had cancer, he admitted his incompetence and his mistake, he explained that he’s trying to win back his estranged wife – but reasons don’t justify behavior. A person’s hardships may explain their actions but that still doesn’t make the actions right, nor the person worthy of redemption.

Herein lies my altruistic dilemma caused by this episode. It is easy to love those who love us in return. The world will only get better, though, if we love our enemies and try at every opportunity to show them kindness. *deep exhale* 

Does Dan deserve a second (oops, he burned that when he eluded his eavesdropping guilt by shooting the Serano goon in the back), third (nope, he used that up when Liam’s immunity deal protected him from the murder charge), fourth (yeah, used that up too when he betrayed Cordell’s kindness and stole the race from him), fifth chance? I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t. I’m not a saint. I don’t think I could make myself kowtow to that vermin. But I’m not happy with what that might say about me.

Bonham’s justification was really weak, too. Maybe he could have said that he wants to keep up the land until he can find a way to buy it back. That’s not very commendable, but I’m more comfortable with its self-serving motivation. Maybe he could have said he wants to look out for his horses because he bred their lines and they are like family to him. As a horse person, I would have been sympathetic to that reasoning. But if I’m being honest, I was the happiest when he told Dan to stuff it.

Bonham: You want me to help work my family's ranch for you? A Davidson? Not in a million freaking years. I'm sorry.

That’s what I would have said. I can hear myself saying it. Word. For. Word.

But then Bonham softens:

Bonham: Well, since you are an idiot, I probably should come back out this week and spray the fields, and I noticed there are a few fence posts that need to be fixed, and... Chopper needs to be reshoed, so I can call the farrier.

Dan: All right. Sounds like a plan.

Ironically, the next sentence in the dialog, said by Cordell in an entirely separate context and scene, is:

Do you really expect us to believe he just changed his mind?

It’s as if the writer was reading my mind! Bonham felt sorry for Dan??

But the world will never improve if the strong don’t reach out their hand to the weak. Dan admitted his mistake and asked for help. Bonham did the right thing… even if it is entirely out of the realm of anything even remotely understandable. So the question is whether his forgiveness and letting bygones go will lead to goodness - as Stella did with Colton, Cordell did with Cassie, and Cassie did with Twyla – or whether it will lead to another betrayal. There were plenty of examples of second chances going wrong in this episode, too.

The Past is (Not So Much) in the Past

Cassie: You talk to Geri?

Cordell: No. Not really. You know, she's out of town right now. She's on a girls' trip with Gale and Denise. And I totally get that she feels like she needs to get to know them. You know? I guess I thought that if we were gonna give "us" a go, it was gonna be, you know, all gas, no brakes. And now I feel... I guess I feel betrayed. I mean, Geri is my best friend, and it feels like she chose them and that family over me and my family. And if you can't trust your best friend to stick by ya, then...

Cassie: You can always trust your partner.

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Cassie’s statement about trusting a partner was a nice call-back to her situation with her partner, Miles. She seems to have accepted her former Captain’s explanation of Miles’ death, and has forgiven Captain Cole for keeping information from her. Cassie has chosen to let go of the past and give Captain Cole a second chance, but his late night visit with a stranger in a trailer suggests Cassie’s trust in both Miles and Captain Cole isn’t deserved. This is a case where continued suspicion, rather than forgiveness and extending an olive branch, would have been the smarter choice.


Cordell: So a last-minute change after a mystery meeting with a known backstabber. That's not fishy at all.

Cassie: Look, do you trust me or not? And I mean that for real this time, not in a showboaty way. Do you trust me?

Cordell: Of course.

Trust between partners has been an ongoing thread for Cordell and Cassie. They got to know each other through a trust exercise excursion at a rock climbing wall at the beginning of their relationship, and Cassie asked Cordell at least three times during this case if he trusted her.  Cordell also framed his doubts about Geri in terms of not knowing if he can trust her loyalty to him or his family.

It was SOOO good to hear Cordell acknowledge his isolation and the emotional complexity of dating the one person who intersects both families. With everything he’s been through, Cordell’s emotional awareness enables him to recognize that he feels betrayed by Geri. That was the most relatable reaction to all the shifting alliances of any character in this episode.

For Geri, the past can’t stay in the past, as she needs to explore whether she wants a relationship with a birth mother who has wronged Geri’s adopted family at every turn. Gale may be the one person who is more reprehensible than Dan in this saga, but again, she has her reasons. She was betrayed by her husband in a way that is legitimately deeply traumatic. Does she deserve forgiveness for how she’s treated Cordell, Abby and the entire Walker clan?

Again, Geri is doing the right thing. She is being open minded and giving Gale a second chance to be kind. I am at least sympathetic to Geri’s motivations. Needing to find your mother and potentially establishing a relationship where before there was an empty emotional hole is understandable. This is a path I could see myself taking if put in the same circumstances.

It still feels like a betrayal to Cordell, though, and he is totally justified in feeling hurt. His admission to Cassie was a highlight because it allowed Cordell to acknowledge being wronged, versus his tendency to blame himself and apologize for everything that happens around him – most of which is not his fault. His self-awareness was also a great example of men feeling and expressing emotions.

Trey: Relax. Expressing feelings is tough for a lot of people. Especially men. And even more so when that person means a lot. I mean, we tend to bottle things up.

Men being able to recognize and talk about their feelings was another thread throughout “Bygones”. Trey helped Capt. James and August dig into their inner selves and uncover feelings they didn’t know they had.

Trey: Cap, try something for me. While you're swinging, just yell about your day.

Capt. James: I'm not much of a yeller, bro. Yell... Yell what about my day?

Trey: Just trust me, all right?

Once their feelings were out in the open, August was able to let go of the past, and Larry was able to explain himself in a way that was vastly different than the past. It was refreshing to see men’s emotional IQ be a topic of the story.  

Trey is an asset to every situation and every scene. I love that the writers are trying to find a way to use him given the awkward reality that he was originally tied to a character who was written out of the series. Last year, when he was considering his future profession, I totally saw him going into psychology. As Cassie said in a foreshadowing comment last episode, “You're very pure for an adult man.” Captain James asking Trey to essentially be the department’s psychologist is a wild stretch, though (it's unclear if Trey would be the "Rage Room Consultant" or something more substantial). The need for psychologists to be attached to law enforcement groups is legitimate and forward thinking, so I completely support this in theory, but the type of issues faced by rangers, cops, etc. deserves, if not requires, a degreed doctor not an untrained, albeit insightful, civilian. Let's see where this goes. 


TV Victim: Hawk, I came to say thank you for saving me from that cult of demonic teens. Who knew Satan's greatest weakness was kung fu?

TV Hawkman: You don't have to thank me, Diana. It's my job.

A demon hunter named hawkman? That’s actually funny. Leave it to Jared to not take himself too seriously. Maybe it's also a nod to Supernatural writer Robert Berens' new series, Kung Fu

Time Will Tell

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I honestly can’t predict where this Davidson/Walker feud will end up. Since this series routinely embeds social commentary into its stories, I could easily believe that the final moral of the story will be that Bonham’s unsubstantiated and shocking decision to help Dan leads to Dan finding his conscience, calling the race a fraud, and giving the Walkers back their land.  Maybe it will be Geri’s dual family perspective that convinces Gale and Denise to find the hearts they lost long ago and return the Walker ranch, ending the feud. Perhaps it will be the Romeo and Juliet teens who end the families’ vendetta.

I believe Geri will return to Cordell and the Walkers, but that would mean the Davidsons remain in the story, and I prefer they slip quietly into the past never to be seen or heard from again. Maybe she will choose the Walkers and stay in Austin with Cordell, only to occasionally visit with the Davidsons in their new home in Alaska?

In any case, “Bygones” was, on the surface, a routine chapter in the Walker story that has left me with an uncomfortable call to be kind to those whose actions would otherwise warrant mistrust. Was Cassie right with her conspiracy theories? Her mantra of following her instincts and believing the worst of people until proven otherwise is very practical these days. Can the Davidsons be redeemed? Maybe Cordell’s, Liam’s, Stella’s and now Bonham’s drive to do the right thing will pay off. I’m guessing that’s the story that Jared wants to tell, and it is the story that I raised my children to believe, but it sure is making me squirm this morning. Time will tell.  

- Nightsky  


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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts  
Screencaps courtesy of The CW