No Way Out: Review for The Walking Dead 609 By R.C. Murphy

This episode is not for the weak-hearted. Matter of fact, I highly regretted filling my coffee mug just one more time before settling in to watch. Twenty minutes into the episode, I paused and took a five-minute break to watch puppy videos. Otherwise my heart would’ve exploded.

Warning! Walking Dead Spoilers ahead, as well as graphic descriptions of violence.

Now, I’m not doing a complete 180* flip on my stance on the show using easy outs. There were simply too many deaths in this episode which in the end tied up a loose thread in the plot. Sure, they were somewhat spectacular deaths, but that then comes down to a simple A-B reasoning for offing the character. A, the character over complicates the plot—yet Father Gabriel, who has done nothing but get people killed, remains safe; heck, he’s mentally recovering from his sins far better than anyone left alive on the show. The B reason for these producer-targeted deaths then shifts to making them so astounding visually, fans will confuse a visceral reaction to the death with a genuine connection to the woefully two-dimensional character.

There’s no ride with these people. No thrills, lulls, love, empathy to make them matter. They’re cannon fodder tossed on the field to make the generals look like they have the numbers to win the battle. Sad thing is, they’re right. The producers gave us cannon fodder and we, the coveted item in the television ratings war, bought into their bluff. “We can change,” they promise. “It’ll be just like the comic books.”

TWD 609 Road Standoff
Apparently that translates to adult language, mass slaughter of plot-hampering B-list characters, and the icky kind of tension. The tension a woman gets walking in the dark by herself and heavy boot steps follow half a breath behind her. It’s the wrong tone for where I think they want to take the show heading into the season finale. You can’t run head-first into the terror about to come. This was their toe-dip to warn us. Hopefully this unwanted tension tone shifts. I mean, the primary perpetrator was blown to about six-billion pieces. By Daryl, no less. With an assist from the time-wasting and convenient rocket launcher.

The walker footage for this episode is beautiful. If there’s one thing Nicotero does well in his episodes, you see the FX love up front and center. Good thing, too. Most of the Rick-centric scenes happened mid-herd. The few times there aren’t walkers in-frame, we’re lead to believe they somehow found a corner within the tiny community to hide where one of five thousand walkers couldn’t find them. These moments are when Rick passes Judith, his last tie to his deceased wife aside from his son, to Gabriel. The Father will shelter her in the church until Rick and the others draw the walkers away with the cars they left at the quarry. Jessie tells Sam to go with them. He refuses, stating he can make it.

TWD 609 Sam and Jessie
You know where this is going, right? They’ve intentionally mishandled Sam’s PTSD, hauling us by the nose to the moment when his mental disorder takes the forefront, driving back rational thought and costing the boy his life. Jessie, frozen by grief, is swarmed and eaten, as well. Sorry, Rick. But, wait, why aren’t you moving, Rick? He hesitates just long enough for the walkers to almost get Carl, who can’t move because Jessie has him gripped tight in her death throes. There’s a weird fascination with cutting off hands in genre pieces. Jessie loses hers to save Carl. Father and son recover just in time for Ron to be a moron. Grief-numbed Ron rightly blames Rick for his family’s death. In the following struggle, Michonne impales Ron and Ron accidentally shoots Carl in the eye.

Well, heck. By this point we’ll assume literally everyone is on the chopping block this season. Which is exactly how we’re supposed to feel. They want us so concerned for everyone, it means they don’t have to rely on character growth to keep us on their emotional journey. The only two who knocked it out of the park growth wise this episode are Denise—kidnapped by the lone Wolf until he saves her as they attempt to escape Alexandria, taking a bite in the process—and Eugene, who finally joins the fight without reservations. Characters like Aaron and Heath are only on screen as proof of life and extra bodies in the epic fight montage at the episode’s climax

TWO 609 Rick Fight Montage
After Carl is shot, things move quickly. Denise jumps to action, having slipped the Wolf when Carol killed him, but not before Denise had promised to save his life. Michonne helps Denis stabilize Carl. Rick, without saying a word to anyone, grabs a machete and heads outside to, well, collect some heads. He becomes a zombie mowing machine. After some debate, others join him, even Michonne after ensuring Denise had things in hand.

While they fight, Glenn and Enid hatch a plan to save Maggie from the rickety guard platform. The plan is beyond dumb. Glenn will stand at ground level and shoot walkers. Enid climbs the platform. Maggie freaks out, refuses to climb down the wall with the improvised rope, and uses her last bullet. Right at the last second, Abraham and Sasha magically mount the wall and mow down the walkers, all without injuring Glenn. Daryl waits in the truck and Glenn joins him. What will they do? Daryl has a plan. This may be a first, to be honest.

TWD 609 WalkerFirePit

Flaming zombie pond! That’s Daryl’s big plan. Honestly, it’s effective. The nearby walkers shamble into the flaming pond without reservation. When the herd shifts direction, Rick and company mow them down. Though I don’t one-hundred percent believe all the walkers would simply ignore yelling, grunting, sweating live bodies in favor of one big fireball. They win the battle, though. There’s no more casualties. Even Father Gabriel got in on the action before it ended. Okay, so three characters had some emotional growth.

The episode ends with what’s supposed to be a touching monologue with Rick at Carl’s bedside. The kid is alive, but unconscious and honestly doesn’t look too good with a third of his face bandaged. Where this scene went wrong is language choice. Rick doesn’t go into his feelings for his possibly dying son, oh no. Instead he crows over being able to unite the townsfolk for this oh-so important cause. He then goes on to talk about making the town bigger, badder. There’s the hint of emotion, but Rick never gives it a proper label, just that he hasn’t felt it since before he awoke from the coma. The scene has no punch until Rick begs Carl to let him show him the new world. Our hope for Carl is in a single moment, his fingers closing around Rick’s hand.

Obviously, we’re not done with Negan despite blowing up a chuck of his goon squad. How soon he’ll arrive at the gate is a variable no one in Alexandria can account for with any surety. They’re knocking on war’s door while licking their wounds again. Will this too-similar setup have similar endings to Woodbury and the prison? *shakes Magic 8 Ball* Most likely

TWD 609 Morning After

Survival School: It’s Electrifying By RC Murphy

Sometimes, sneaking into The Oracle‘s office yields gems of knowledge I can pass onto you, brave ZSC brigadiers. Other times, I’m chased out by a snarling beast that’s hitched a ride back to the Command Center during LK’s latest trip out to test her misbehaving flux capacitor.

Today’s Survival School lesson is more of a science experiment—how to safely create your own hydroelectric generator. The plans we’ve located are designed to be easily made by someone with a little skill and appropriate tools. All the supplies, mostly PVC pipe and a 5 gallon plastic bucket, are reasonably priced. The idea behind the generator’s design is to provide small-scale clean energy for developing countries at a moderate cost. Everything needed to make the generator is in the PDF file from, including a full supply list, tools needed, and a step-by-step guide with color photos.

How to Build a 5 Gallon Hydroelectric Generator

How much power can it provide? Well, you won’t be running an air conditioner off a plastic barrel, that’s for sure. However, with the right water flow, this generator can hit about 90 watts—enough to power 80 1-watt LED lights, or 3 30W UV water treatment systems.

I’ll be honest, my skill is with words, not engineering. But this generator—or any similar design—seems like it’d come in handy if the apocalypse does indeed take out the electric grid or we’re forced to take refuge in the wild for long. It’d certainly save us from using all our fuel on gas-powered generators

Survival School: Idle Hands

Hate to break it to you, brigadiers, but once the undead shamble from their graves, there’s a pretty good chance we won’t have the technology most of us rely on every day to keep entertained. Say goodbye to your tablet games once the battery dies, same with cell phones and laptops. Television, internet, anything requiring power will become rather expensive dust catchers. We’re breaking out in hives thinking about it. Boredom is a slippery slope. Most of our energy will be spent staying alive. But what happens once we settle down for a few days to recuperate? One can only patch so many clothes, do so much laundry, and gather supplies from nearby sources before going batty.

Before you take flight, here’s a few things you can pack or gather in order to keep your mind busy.

Dollar Store Games – The majority of these games are designed to entertain kids while in the car. They’re compact. Simplistic. The pieces may be a bit small for younger children or adults who’re a bit clumsy. But, for a couple bucks, you can grab a handful of games that’ll pass the hours.

DIY Travel Games – Break out those mint tins we told you about a while back. With some paper, markers, and small magnets, you can make your own pocket-sized 4-in-1 game—chess, checkers, backgammon, and tic-tac-toe. Finding directions online is pretty simple. Or wing it. You can also get creative and make a miniature Scrabble game the same way.

Playing Cards – There’s about a billion card games you can play alone or with a group. If everyone packs a deck, you should be good to go with any game you can think up. Cards are also a good way to fairly divvy up camp chores, guard schedules, leave coded messages in camp, etc.

Dice – Like playing cards, there’s numerous dice games out in the world with endless variables to prevent monotony. Find a pocket book with game ideas to keep in your go bag.

Written Games – Pack a notepad/pen or a small dry-erase board to make your own Mad Libs, Hangman, cross-words, trivia, etc.

Good Ol’ Dirt and Rocks – No, we haven’t gone totally insane. Yet. There’s a few games that require little in the way of equipment. A stick in the dirt can draw just the same as a notepad and pen for written games. You can also strike up a game of Mancala, or any game that requires only spaces on a board (the ground) and markers (rocks).

Survival School: Stay on the Path

Ideally, when plotting your escape routes it’s best to remain on the road. Venturing into the landscape is dangerous, full of unknown dangers from more than just the undead. In reality, you’ll need resources like flowing water, edible vegetation, and game animals who shy away from busy roads. Once away from the beaten path, it’s easy to get turned around and lose sight of your escape route. Relying on GPS during the apocalypse (or heck, even driving through Texas today) isn’t a good plan. We have no clue how long technology will continue to run post undead uprising. Now it the time to start honing your navigation skills. Below are some tips and tricks to keep you from relying on breadcrumbs to find your way.

Learn How to Read a Map

We’re all about being prepared, which means you should know well in advance what escape routes you plan to take.

Make sure you have a map, or numerous maps, in your go bag covering the locations you must travel through. Take a little time to study them. Find roads that take you near moving water sources so you can top up on fresh water and have a chance to bathe, catch fish, and gather edible vegetation growing nearby.

An easy map-reading guide:

  • Check the map key. It’ll tell you what various symbols mean. Important for navigating via landmarks or finding towns/cities large enough to safely resupply.
  • Learn how to gauge distance using the map scale. For 1:24,000 scale maps, one inch equals 2,000 feet. For 1:25,000 maps, 5 centimeters equals 1,250 meters. Most maps are drawn on grids to help facilitate calculations.
  • For the most part, maps are color coded the same: Black – man-made structures, roads, train tracks, pipelines, and property boundaries. Brown – topographic features such as contour lines. Green – Vegetation features, like forests. Blue – Rivers, lakes, streams, swamps, water reserves. Red: Main roads, highways, and sometimes tunnels or survey lines.

Use Major Landmarks

Once you’re on the road, keep going for as long as possible before making a pit stop, especially if the area you’re traveling through is mostly wilderness. It’s no good putting yourself in unnecessary danger for a drink of water when you’ve got a full supply in the car. But once supplies start running low or you can’t stand the body odor of your traveling companions, take a few vital steps before heading into the woods:

  • Find a spot in the road nearest to the body of water you seek.
  • Double check with your map to make sure the water source is a river, large stream, or lake. Swamps and the like are stagnant and chock-full of harmful bacteria that won’t boil out using emergency purification techniques.
  • Locate at least two major landmarks on the map, and then make visual confirmation from the point where you leave your car. This gives your brain something physical to work from while calculating which direction to walk on your return trip.
  • Note which direction the sun is moving.

Calculating Distance

Using the map scale, judge how far your trip will take you from the road. Keep hikes short. Not only will this reduce exposure to danger, but it’ll use less energy to take a 30 minute hike compared to a 2 hour hike. Less energy means fewer calories burned. It’ll make your food supplies last longer. Also be mindful of the time of day. Schedule your trip so you have ample time to return before dark. Improvised camping is dangerous. You don’t know what native beasts lurk in the woods. Without proper shelter, you could wake up cuddling a snake. Or not wake up at all in the belly of a desperate, hungry mountain lion.

Map and Compass Work

The easiest way to navigate new territory is with a map and compass to keep yourself oriented, even after scouting a few major landmarks. I won’t pretend to be an expert here. Heck, I get lost in the mall all the time. But that’s what the internet is for. Here’s a link to an excerpt from The Backpackers Field Manual by Rick Curtis that covers the basics of map and compass work.

Navigating without a compass

While we don’t advise leaving your compass at home once you’re on the run from the undead, accidents happen. Things get lost or broken in the shuffle. The dog ate your compass. Whatever. So on the off-chance you’re stuck without, here’s a couple simple ways to find north so you aren’t a lost babe in the woods, Hansel.

Never Eat Soggy Waffles. This is a mnemonic, a cheeky phrase used to memorize North, East, South, and West going clockwise. So once you’re facing North, East is to your right, South behind you, and West to your left.

Watch the sun: It rises in the East and sets to the West. If you don’t have time to watch the sun, there’s a quick-ish method to determine which way it’s moving:

  • Find a tall stick and set it in the ground.
  • Mark the top of the stick’s shadow with a rock (or whatever’s handy).
  • Wait 15 minutes.
  • Now mark the stick’s shadow with another rock.
  • Put your left foot near the first rock, your right near the second. Now you’re facing north.

Using the stars: This takes a little more work, depending on visibility and your location. In the Northern Hemisphere, there’s two ways to find the North Star (Polaris).

  • Big Dipper method: First, find the bugger. Then using the two stars forming the side of the ladle away from the handle, mentally draw a straight line until you hit a super bright star. That’s Polaris.
  • Little Dipper method: Polaris is the final star in the Little Dipper’s handle. Super easy to navigate by, if you can find it.

There you have it, a few tips to prevent you from getting lost in your quest to find food and water while on the run from zombies.

Survival School: Sweat or Death?

Sweat or death? The answer should be easy. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people are “too busy,” “don’t have enough time,” “don’t know what to do,” or simply don’t want to put the effort into getting into shape. Getting over the mental barrier keeping you from working out is possibly the most difficult part. We’re here with a nice, simple mantra to get brigadiers out of their office chairs and into a healthy exercise routine. Are you ready for it? Here goes . . . .

Get in shape or get eaten.

Told you guys it was simple.

Yes, it seems silly. Everyone knows zombies, if they ever do exist, will probably be slow and clumsy. But there may be a lot of them. In large numbers, it’ll be easier for them to corner someone who’s out of breath from running less than a block. Not to mention, there is always the unsavory reality that the humans in the zombie apocalypse pose the true danger—we don’t want anyone winding up like the poor souls in the cages at Terminus during the season 4 finale of “The Walking Dead.” Staying one step ahead of an intelligent threat requires more than a few sit-ups once a month. Survival also means more than defeating anyone seeking to harm you. Gathering food, water, firewood, and building a secure base camp will require more strength than most people possess without at least a little training.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide basic guidelines and motivation to get you started on a healthy workout path. If you have health issues, please consult a doctor before beginning any exercise routines.

The CDC—using the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans—recommends adults between the ages of 18 to 64 do medium-intensity aerobic exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes per week, or half as much high-intensity aerobic exercise (75 minutes). Plus, 2 days of muscle strengthening activities per week on top of the aerobic exercise.

The main goal of aerobic exercise is to raise your heart rate for longer than 10 minutes at a time throughout the day. That’s a handful of laps in the pool. A couple miles on a stationary or standard bike. A brisk mile walk around your neighborhood. Heck, even a quick 3-song dance break in your closed office or an afternoon of gardening. For more ideas, here’s the CDC’s guide for measuring physical activity intensity.

Muscle strengthening activities are pretty self-explanatory. Biceps and shoulder muscles—which you need to cut down firewood and the undead—won’t build themselves while you watch just one more episode of your favorite show (do like we do, watch TV while working out). Strong abdominal and back muscles can cut down on back problems that’d put you out of commission, unable to find food on your own.

2 days a week, after your aerobic exercise is done, work your muscles head to toe. This can be done with weight lifting, resistance band exercises (good for those rebuilding muscle after injury), yoga, or body weight exercises—planks, the Superman exercise, push-ups, crunches, etc. It’s okay to alternate days to focus mainly on arms or legs, but work every muscle every time. There’s numerous resources on the internet to find exercises that’ll work best for your body. Take the time to create a routine and once you’re comfortable, begin to adapt it to up the reps and weight, or work new muscle groups.

Don’t forget to breathe! Muscles need oxygen. Holding your breath to push through one last rep will only starve your muscles.

Lastly, wrap up every exercise break with stretching. It’ll ease some post-workout soreness and ensure you remain flexible, able to move quickly and dodge those pesky zombies.

Survival School: The Shirt Off Your Back


Packing for the zombie apocalypse isn’t like packing for a week-long trip to Disneyland. Trust me, I have loads of experience with the latter. The former? Not-so-much. Early in the Zombie Survival Crew’s creation, each of the commanders drafted a basic packing list for their go-bags—the pre-packed backpack or duffel bag we’d snag on our way out the door. Then, as with most others providing similar survival advice, the focus was on items needed to survive outside of one’s home for roughly a week. While first aid kits, food, and water purification tablets are well and good, none of us would have a good time trekking through the wilderness with zombies on our tails without a stitch of clothing on.

Personally, I’d rather walk barefoot across broken pine cones. Which may happen to anyone who hasn’t set aside the proper clothing.

The best way to determine what you’ll need is to know what the weather is like around the areas your escape routes will take you through. Sure, a backpack will only fit so much, but there are a few key items that can be layered or stripped down to adapt to the elements.

Here’s a few basics:

  • Straight-legged denim jeans – Not necessarily fashionable, but highly adaptable. They can be worn tucked into tall socks or boots to keep creepy-crawlies off your legs. Or if the weather turns up the thermostat, rolled up to the knee. Thick denim will protect from thorns, rocks, and anything else that can scrape/cut you during a hike.
  • A basic cotton t-shirt – Again, we’re going for function, not style. Cotton is durable, wicks away sweat, and can retain a moderate amount of heat when used in layers. Pack extra t-shirts to use as emergency bandages, washing rags, water strainer, and to layer with in case the temperature drops. Yes, they leave your arms bare, but focus for layering should be on the torso where vital organs are. Gotta keep them toasty and in working order.
  • A hoodie – Preferably a pull-over, since a zippered hoodie leaves a line for cold air to get in right down the center of your torso. Go for a good-quality hoodie in a dark color. Dark because it’ll absorb heat better, allowing you to bask in the sun like a lizard and warm up. Better yet, a hoodie can be tied around your waist, saving room in your go-bag.
  • A beanie – Along with keeping your torso warm in the cold, keep your head covered. A nice heavy-knit beanie will keep your brain from freezing inside your skull. We’re not making zombie ice cream, guys.
  • Socks – Lots of socks. The thicker on the bottom, the better. Your feet need extra cushioning on rocky, uneven terrain. And be prepared to change socks a couple times a day. Fresh socks are better than a massage break for re-energizing your barking dogs. There’s no spa trips when the undead are creeping closer. (Pro tip: Wash your socks and safety pin them to your backpack to dry while you walk.)
  • Underwear – Need we go over this one? Not only will undies keep your jeans cleaner longer, but they’ll keep dirt and who knows what else off your private parts. Showers are a luxury in the apocalypse. Don’t want to get an infection down there when all the doctors were eaten for breakfast.
  • Boots – A good pair of sturdy combat, EMT, or hiking boots will get you much further than sneakers. Don’t even think about packing flip-flops. Make sure your emergency boots are broken in and pack them alongside your go-bag with a pair of socks inside—just in case you don’t have time to change before you run. (Pro tip: Buy a half-size larger and put a pair of high-impact work insoles in your boots. It’ll double the hours you’re able to be on your feet.)
  • Heavy jacket – This may be considered a luxury item. But if you live in a climate known for being ridiculously cold, make sure there’s a coat strapped onto your go-bag. Roll it up in your bedroll. Lash it to the side with para-cord. Don’t care how you pack it, so long as it makes the trip out the door with you. Leather is ideal. It absorbs heat from the sun and a fire. Plus, it traps heat inside, much like our own skin. A thick wool coat would work, as well.

One or two changes of clothes will get you by for a while. However, the wear and tear of life on the run won’t be kind to them. Stow a small sewing kit in your go-bag with ample amounts of safety pins. In the age of YouTube, there’s no reason to not look up a quick how-to video and learn a few sewing basics. You’ll love yourself even more when you can fix that hole in your last pair of jeans instead of braving a zombie-infested store to chance finding a new pair in your size.