(Photo: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

There’s a lot of strategizing in “Pablo And Jessica,” and most of it’s even pretty practical. Although they’re currently apart, all of the Clarks—Madison, Alicia, and Nick—prove quite valuable to their respective settlements/shelters this week. They’re either making alliances or making nice, even as they (well, Madison and Alicia) maintain a hierarchy of “family first.” It hasn’t yet occurred to any of them that if they had just found a way to work together, they might have a real chance in this post-outbreak world. To be fair, a lot’s happened to cause the irony to be lost on them, but this blindspot also mirrors the story development so far.

Just as momentary safety and long-term security vie for the top spot on the survivors’ list of priorities, so too does the show often choose to serve the more immediate story in place of developing the larger picture. Watching Nick slip into chanting with Alejandro’s death cult might have made for a haunting visual, but there was no real basis for him so readily adopting their beliefs, even if he did recently lose his girlfriend and watch his father‘s life slowly fade away. He wants to be where the “dead aren’t monsters,” but he’s also been splitting them open to camouflage himself so he can experience the high of walking among them. Those journeys remain that type of experience for Nick, even though they also serve a practical purpose. He admits as much to Alejandro this week, who responds by echoing Madison’s sentiments about the unnecessary risk.

Nick shrugs off the concern, but he doesn’t argue with Alejandro. He still very much wants to be a part of La Colonia (or “la colonia,” per a commenter’s insight), even though he maintains his skepticism about Alejandro’s miraculous recovery. The pharmacist tells him that “miracle” is Nick’s term; when asked to provide his own, Alejandro says it was more of a “leap of faith.” (Here, I wasn’t sure if he was referring to his own belief that he was going to live, or the faith that the Children Of The Resurrection have in the idea that this too shall pass.) But Nick isn’t sold on either notion. His noncommittal response is presented as wariness, but that reluctance doesn’t really jibe with his other actions to date, which have mostly consisted of diving in headfirst.

(Photo: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

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Nick so embraced Celia’s beliefs that he tracked down a group with a related ideology, but once there, he almost immediately questioned their leader while still ingratiating himself. All of this pivoting is meant to reflect Nick’s adaptability, but it increasingly feels like its only real purpose is to serve the story. Nick’s history of substance abuse and his ability to scavenge were both a blessing and a curse for the character—the former resulted in his quarantine last season, while the latter has been ensured his survival. Despite his lack of attachment to anything, including his own family, Nick isn’t interested in just getting by. As he tells Alejandro, “surviving feels like eating shit.”

Here the show introduces a long-term goal for Nick in his budding relationship with Luciana. This should reflect growth in the character, because it means that he finally gives a damn about somebody again; he suddenly has something to lose. But there’s just no foundation for it. They didn’t exactly hit it off in “Los Muertos”— both Luciana and Alejandro feel he compromised la colonia’s safety. He did have an adorable reason for stealing the Gansitos, and he uses his “limited but refined skill set” this week to stretch their oxycontin supply as well as buy some time. But it’s still a bit of a stretch, and just seems downright distasteful when compared to Nick’s utter lack of concern for his family. He hugs Luciana when he learns she’s just lost her brother (the “Pablo” in the episode title), but when he’s asked about his own family, he just says he assumes they’re okay before making his move on her. Maybe it’s convenience or transference, but Nick’s suddenly giving Chris some serious competition for being the worst.

(Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

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But as it turns out, the Clark women are doing all right for themselves. Madison shows just how much she trusts and cares for Alicia: Not only does she apologize for leaving the teen to raise herself, but she checks Strand for questioning her daughter’s fortitude. Madison doesn’t have much time to think about Nick either, even though she does take some inspiration from him in her barroom escape with Strand. This week, she trades wallowing for planning—after Elena reveals that the hotel has significant food stores, Madison doubles down on staying put. And for once, she doesn’t waver on this course, which suggests there’s hope for Madison yet. She even gets to put her conflict resolution skills to good use in brokering a peace with the wedding-party survivors, who put up little resistance.

Madison’s return to form is matched by Alicia’s continued competence, and they work together to clear a pretty big hurdle—namely, the dozens, if not hundreds, of walkers that are still on the resort grounds. As they take turns begging each other not to risk their lives, their devotion is lovely to watch, especially because it actually feels earned. Madison’s come to her senses and has remembered to be a parent to the only child she has left (and who wants to be with her). Alicia quickly puts together a plan to corral the walkers out to sea, and it goes off without a hitch, thanks to some help from the wedding party group. But, mother-daughter bonding and cool plummeting scene aside, this just seems like a bad plan. The walkers can’t really drown, and we’ve already seen they can float, so won’t they eventually wash up on the shore? Are we always going to have to trade character development for plausibility?

This week’s momentum also ends up running roughshod over Victor Strand. Kate Erickson, who gave us a good Strand-focused episode with “Blood In The Streets,” returns to flesh out the character. It’s been difficult to gauge just how deeply Strand was affected by the loss of his lover, Thomas. Despite his initial actions to the contrary, Strand didn’t really want to have Thomas linger as one of the walking dead, so he put him down himself. His survival instincts kicked in when the compound went up in flames, but now Strand seems to be running on fumes. When he tells Madison that the hotel will never be home to him, he seems so dispirited. That sudden loss of drive doesn’t quite ring true for him, though—this is a character who has remade himself on multiple occasions. All that bluster could very well have been for show, but there’s denying that he did actually manage to find success time and again. And if Strand felt so attached to his home with Thomas in Rosarito, why was he so willing to go on the business trip that ended up separating them for weeks?

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It could have just been the grief talking when Strand suggested he might leave the hotel, but he does appear to be working toward closure. He gleans that Oscar, the groom who became a widower all too soon, has been struggling with giving up the ghost/his zombie bride, Jessica. As the door to the honeymoon suite closes, Victor gets another chance to work through his grief. Strand was down this week, but he’s not out.

Stray observations

  • The hotel doesn’t appear to have any power—the only lights I’ve noticed are the emergency lights. So how does Alicia’s phone still work?
  • I did research whether rationing water isn’t really necessary, but couldn’t find a satisfactory answer. But doesn’t common wisdom dictate that if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated? So, I guess it’s best to stay hydrated then?
  • Cable and network shows shoot on different schedules, but Lorenzo James Henrie was recently cast on Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which could mean Chris’ days are numbered.
  • I don’t know if I believe Ofelia stole the truck. She was so sheltered that I doubt she knew how to hot-wire a car—unless, of course, they left the keys in it. But I guess I just don’t want to consider the possibility of the show trying to juggle four separate stories.

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