‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Strand & John Go Boating in ‘Blackjack’ (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Ryan Green/AMC

[Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 episode 13, “Blackjack.” Read no further if you’re not caught up.]

John and Strand aren’t pirates, but they sure had a lot in common with them in this week’s Fear The Walking Dead. Strand’s worship of alcohol. John’s inventive spirit and dedication to his lady love. Both of their questionable hygiene practices following the storm. Run-ins with dangerous sea (okay, river) creatures. And hey, they even have a makeshift dinghy!

Most of this week’s episode centered around John’s attempts to cross the flooded river in order to get back to June and Charlie, a goal Strand finds foolish. Luciana also stepped into the spotlight, helping a mysterious man trapped inside his car. Meanwhile, Morgan’s still trying to get the gang back together.

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'Weak' explained a little more of Al's backstory and showed why she insists on videotaping everyone she meets.

What He Was Meant To Be

Morgan, June and Al arrive at mile marker 21. Morgan radios the truckers and tells them they haven’t found Quinn, but they’re going to keep looking.

At the truck, Sarah and Wendell playfully debate kicking Jim out of the group. They’re interrupted by a few walkers, and although Jim wants to take care of it, Wendell proves he’s perfectly capable of doing so himself. Once the deed is done, Jim takes a closer look and notices something amiss: the walker has “take what you need, leave what you don’t,” written on its forehead. Pervis, we hardly knew ye.

Morgan and his group head back to the truck, where Sarah says they need to leave. June keeps trying to reach Quinn on her radio, and eventually, the sound of a snarling walker — Quinn — comes through. The creepy woman tells the group she “let him become what he was meant to be.”

Morgan recognizes her voice, and she knows his name. When she asks him how she knows about him, Al figures out it’s because she has her van, and the tapes inside it. The creepy lady tells him to stop leaving the boxes on the side of the road, because they’re making people “weak.”

Things To Make Up For

Strand wakes up in an abandoned ranger station, where the area is badly flooded. John chops wood by the river, where he’s rudely interrupted by what he calls a “wet one:” A walker from the river. He struggles to take it down. He and Strand talk for a bit about boating and birds — apparently John’s wood-chopping is for a raft.

The former millionaire isn’t too fond of making another voyage, though John insists there’s room for two. Irked, Strand reiterates that he practically has “paradise” at the ranger station, and angrily laments the fact that he lost the mansion because he went looking for Charlie. Because he’s John, the former cop takes this all in stride and says he’ll come back for Strand when he finds June and Charlie.

Luciana’s searching for Charlie, but she’s not having much luck. She takes care of a walker outside a car, then sets to work freeing a man stuck inside the vehicle. He asks her why she wants to help him. “I have some things to make up for,” she says.

John’s almost ready to set sail. Strand goes down to the shoreline to see him off, and once again declines a place on the raft. He smirks as he tells John, “I’ll watch.”

The endeavor goes much as predicted: the raft sinks. Unfortunately, that isn’t the biggest obstacle the gunslinger encounters. As he stands on the raft, something approaches him from behind, sending ripples through the water. An alligator! Strand sees it and gets John’s attention, and though the cowboy tries to kill it, no luck.

One Last Beer

Morgan buries Pervis, then decides they need to go find the rest of their people and the owner of the truck. Before they leave, Jim asks what the creepy lady meant when she said she knows what Morgan “is really capable of.” Clearly unwilling to discuss it, Morgan says if they don’t keep going, he’ll take the truck himself. The truckers start to protest, but when Morgan displays his stick-wielding skills (or shovel-wielding skills?) they fall back into line.

Back at the shoreline, John’s trying to devise a way to get around the alligator and to travel through the flooded waters. Strand is skeptical, but John’s determined to get back to June. He shows him the candy that he kept in his pocket, saying it’s June’s favorite. “I know there ain’t no happy endings,” John says. “But little things like this make you want to keep fighting.”

Luci’s having a hard time getting the man out of the car — it might be an impossible task. The man says he’d love to have one last beer, and Luci promises him one. She gives him a radio and tells him to keep talking to her as she sets out to fulfill his last wish.

John’s come up with a way home, or so he thinks. A truck rests on the hillside, and he thinks the shell over the bed would float. There’s a walker inside, and John dispatches Strand to deal with the problem — he can’t do it himself, because of his injury.

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Team Morgan is still dropping boxes. They arrive at mile marker 74, and the truckers tell them this is where they originally stole the rig from its owner. The truckers and Al go back and forth on whether that was the right thing to do, and Jim expresses his concern about the woman on the radio. Morgan says that leaving the boxes is still the right thing to do, and writes their radio channel on the box.

Wine Not?

Strand’s attempt to retrieve the shell goes well until he notices a bottle of wine sitting in the car, and of course, he can’t resist. He reaches for it, and the walker inside reaches for him. They go tumbling down the hill, and a stick takes care of Strand’s unwanted companion. John rushes over to make sure he’s all right, but Strand leaves with his wine. No amount of convincing will get him to help John now, though he doesn’t wish him ill. “I’ll be a noisemaker when you need me,” Strand says, heading for the hills.

As John keeps working on his makeshift boat, Luci’s having little success. Frustrated, she keeps searching. Strand, however, is perfectly content. John questions him about his drinking habits, and Strand responds that he’s drinking to forget — since Madison died, he has no one to drink with. John disagrees, and says that he’ll have a drink when their trip is complete.

Though he’s not sold on the journey, Strand lets John show him the distraction he came up with to throw the alligator off their trail — the still-working car battery, rigged to the horn. Upon seeing that, Strand decides to go with him.

Luci’s upset by her inability to find the man a beer, though the man isn’t upset with her. He tells her his story; before the world ended, he wanted to be away from everyone and did so through his job, but now, he found a way to help those who are still around. She later finds the box Morgan left earlier, which has a beer inside.

John sets the horn up on the shore and they prepare to leave. “I may need a drink before I reach the other side,” Strand says. They start paddling.

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Rollin’ On The River

Strand and John’s trip goes well until the car horn fizzles out. The alligator is all too eager to take advantage of the situation and rams a hole in the boat. With water pouring in, Strand says he won’t die for John and tells him to fire his gun: they’ll lure walkers into the water and the gator will leave them alone. John draws the walkers toward them, and they both jump in.

Luci returns to the man, having brought him his last wish. The man offers her a gift, too. He says he has some notebooks in the back of his car that detail where he has left supplies. This guy is the original truck owner! He confirms as much when Luci asks him what his job was before the turn, and in the next scene, she’s buried him.

She radios the channel on the box, not knowing it’s Morgan, and says the box helped. Morgan recognizes her voice, and radios back.

Strand and John sit on the shore. Strand goes back inside the station, still drinking. John, seemingly having lost hope, eats the candy he saved for June.

Morgan gets Luciana, and she talks with him, June and Al in the back of the truck. Luci took the man’s journals with her, and Morgan looks through them, asking her if the guy knew where she got the beer. She wasn’t able to tell him, but she says she thinks he’d like what Morgan is doing.

Suddenly, another voice comes through on the radio. It’s Charlie! Though Alicia tries to dissuade her from saying more, Morgan hears them and talks to them. They’re by mile marker 84, but before they can reunite with the group, the creepy lady joins in. “I gave you the chance to be strong,” she says.

Morgan tells her that helping people makes all of them stronger, and says he’s been where she is now. The creepy lady disregards his inspirational speech, and instead heads for the truck…in Al’s tank. The truck proves unable to outrun Al’s former ride, and still insisting she’s making them “strong,” the creepy lady fires on the rig.

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Other Observations:

  • Best quote of the episode goes to Victor Strand – “I lost my stomach for boating a while ago.” What he went through in Season 2 would do that to anyone, but crossing that river would be a lot easier with the Abigail!
  • The creepy lady still doesn’t have a name. At this point I’m wondering if she’ll have one, or if she’ll remain “The Creepy Lady” for the rest of the season.
  • How did the creepy lady watch Al’s tapes? The battery on the camera was dead. It’s possible she found a new battery, but…if so, that was awfully quick. And convenient.
  • Why, why, why did Morgan want to help her? His reasoning for wanting to help his friends makes sense, but risking his life for someone who’s actively trying to harm others? Less so.
  • I said it earlier this season. I’ll say it again. SOMEONE, PLEASE DRINK WITH STRAND. Can the writers resurrect Madison for one episode, just so he has a drinking buddy?

See you next week for “MM 54,” where we’ll see Alicia and Charlie again, as well as more of the group’s struggles after that attack.

Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC