Certain episodes are climatic episodes – ones you’ll be talking about for days, weeks – and others are more building-block episodes – ones that get you to the climaxes…Fear the Walking Dead’s “Pillar of Salt” is the latter. It is all about loosely stitching the fractured Abigail crew together and building towards whatever major events are coming next.
The first thread is in the opener when a scout from the Colonia, Francisco, decides to flee with his wife and sick daughter only to get picked up by the drug cartel that runs the grocery store. With this act Alejandro is thrown off his self-assured leadership role, quickly becoming paranoid. So much so he dismisses Nick’s attempts to get him to focus on the more pressing matter of what may happen if they don’t drop off the Oxy to the cartel in favor of accusing the most loyal woman in his community, Luciana, of losing faith in him. Eventually Nick takes matters into his own hands and speaks with another scout about sneaking out to make the drop later that night. Sadly it may be too late as two cartel scouts watch the Colonia from the road at the close of the episode…And it’s not a stretch to gather they got the locale from the kidnapped Francisco family.
Back at the Rosarito Hotel everyone’s getting along, even thriving, as they farm, fish, and get a generator working so that they can make ice. The lone wrench in the machine is the spiraling Mother-Of-The-Bride who stabs poor Strand in the gut for “killing” her daughter. This sets off a series of events, though thankfully none involving all out war between wedding guests and everyone else. Instead it’s agreed that Mother-Of-The-Bride will be held in a room indefinitely, the next person to attack another gets bounced from the hotel, and that they all have to pull together even more. In that spirit the groom’s brother, Andrés, uses what little med school training he has to figure out what Strand needs and hotel manager, Elena, states she knows just where to get such things even in the post-apocalyptic world.
…If you’ve guessed it’s the cartel-run grocery store, you’re right. Elena knows about it because her other nephew, Antonio(?), picked the cartel over his blood relatives some time ago. Bringing a cooler full of fish on ice and their list of required supplies Elena, Madison, and Oscar (the groom) all head to shop at the cartel-store. While inside Elena tries, and fails, to get Antonio to come back with her and Madison listens in on the interrogation of Francisco and his wife. What Elena does is pointless, but what Madison does after Elena translates bits of the interrogation, including “gringo…guy with ratty hair…gives [cartel] drugs”, is downright dangerous. Certain they’re talking about Nick she barges in, begging for answers, and nearly ruining the trade for Strand’s needed supplies as well as getting herself and Elena killed on the spot.
Back at the hotel Madison’s poor decision-making continues. Despite the agreement that the generator will only be run a few hours a week during the day she flips it on and lights up the place. It’s Alicia who takes a stand against her mother insisting that her desperation over Nick is putting everyone in danger and, by keeping the electricity running, they’ll attract exactly the kind of attention they want to avoid. Madison eventually relents, turning the lights back off, but not before attracting someone’s attention…Travis’s. The final scene shows him watch the lit hotel sign turn off before beginning to walk (seemingly alone) in that direction.
Clearly this is all building towards something, probably something big, but the question remains…what?
We do, finally, catch up with Ofelia in this episode. She is alive, well, and surviving on her own with the help of Strand’s truck, a hammer, and her impressive ability to siphon gas from other vehicles. Like her father before her she stands silent, determined, and separate from everyone else in the (former) Abigail crew. In brief flashbacks we see the romantic proposal from her ex and a discussion with her late mother over what love means. From those flashbacks, frequent glances at a map, and roadsigns for the United States it’s not farfetched to assume Ofelia intends to make her way back to her ex-fiancée. …Thus far she remains the last Salazar and loose thread in the Fear the Walking Dead tapestry, but a rather fascinating one. How far will she get? How will her story tie back into the rest of the man characters?…So many questions remain!
It’s hard to tell if Alejandro is having his own crisis of faith both in general and as a leader or simply growing paranoid…could be both. Either way it would seem locking down the Colonia and disregarding all cartel concerns is going to be a recipe for disaster. One that, given the cartel now knows where they are, can’t be fixed by Nick or anyone else.
Interesting that Travis is shown heading towards the hotel alone. Is this a trick of the camera, intentionally leading us to think he’s without Chris, or has the Manawa family been fractured even further? Not sure, but if it’s the latter I wonder who left who. Was it Chris that picked the Dude-Bros over his father or did Travis finally realize his son can’t be saved? Or is Chris dead, perhaps? Given the promo for next week it certainly seems the tension between Travis and the Dude-Bros come to head, but how it all shakes out remains to be seen.