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1x04_0192Episode five: “Federal Response”

Drink once: every time someone reminds Jake he left town,  every time Jake lies about his past, Eric and his affair are boring, the deputies are stupid, Mayor Green is pompous, Gail is worried, Hawkins knows way too much and is therefore MYSTERIOUS, Emily worries about her finance, Jake has too many ladiez to handle, nobody listens to Heather.

Drink twice: every time Gail is worried for good reason, Mayor Green and Gray Anderson clash, people behave with the amount of fear that would be warranted given ALL THE NUKES EVERYWHERE, Hawkins and his family have a positive interaction, Gracie stops being horrible, Skyler and Dale are capitalists, Bonnie is sassy and/or insulting, someone discovers more about what actually happened in the outside world.

Chug: if Eric has an interesting subplot, Jake’s questionable past is revealed, a woman actually carries a gun, or if Jericho can get something done without the Greens.

We open with Jeicho’s deserted streets, dust, and Jake’s voiceover saying “I’m tired of war, no one ever really wins.” But oh, they’re in Mary’s bar, and Stanley says “me, too.” And then Mimi says “we could play crazy eights instead, or hearts.” Ha, oh, show. But if WarGames can do it, so can Jericho.

Eric is here to ruin everything again.

Eric is here to ruin everything again.

Stanley, Jake, and Mimi have been playing cards in Mary’s bar all night. Jake asks Mimi what she’d be doing in DC, and she says sleeping, which she can’t do now because it’s too quiet. “Why do you think I left town?” Jake asks. Deputy Jimmy moseys in and says “I could tell her.” Mimi thinks shes knows, “the pressure got to be too much….I’m betting prom king, captain of the football team, most likely to succeed.” Beat. “Don’t quit your day job” says Jimmy. He smirks, Mary smirks, Jake smiles, Stanley says — well-delivered — “I think he beat up the prom king.” “Oh yeah, I did.” says Jake thoughtfully. Eric has wandered in to ruin this legitimately cute, funny, moment which manages to deliver Jake’s backstory without the usual melodrama. Stanley says “you must have a million stories about your brother screwing up” and Eric awkwardly smiles and says “Yeah, at least that many.”

Eric gets coffee, and let’s drink because he’s talking to Mary about their affair and telling April, and nobody cares. Jake notices, and Mimi exposits “secrets of a small town” and it almost works because she’s like that.

Lights that make the ideal sinister sound when they turn back on. Thanks, Tesla.

Lights that make the ideal sinister sound when they turn back on. Thanks, Tesla.

Wait, the lights are on! The jukebox is blaring loud enough to cause permanent damage, and this means the power is back. Yay? Jake unplugs just in time for the menacing score to kick in as the phone rings. And the phone are ringing all over town. The fluorescent lights in Gracie’s Market buzz on. There are multiple shots from all over town of people staring confusedly at their ringing phones.

It’s Assistant Secretary Walsh from the Department of Homeland Security! Everyone should stay where they are if they are safe. Help will be there. Repeat. And the TV has

That's how my face looks if DHS calls.

That’s how my face looks if DHS calls.

flicked on with “Emergency Alert System: Please Stand By.”

Scary morse code over opening credits. Code which means “there is a fire.”

People are asking Mimi what’s up, because she’s an IRS agent, the closest thing to a fed. Optimistically, she says she is “this close to nonfat lattes and shiatsu massage.”

Hawkins’ daughter finds Skyler trying to check her email. Having mystery in her genes, MimiHawkins suggests “typing a straight IP address” but then looks puzzled. The internet, she explains, is “supposed to survive nuclear war.” The image changes to the “Emergency Alert” one as seen on the TV. “It’s working, but not for us. We’re being blocked out,” says MiniHawkins.

The Greens are talking about how the power is coming back, but no news is forthcoming. Mayor Green says Jake looks terrible, then lectures him on playing cards all night. Shut up, Mayor Green (drink), it was cute, and it featured some of this town’s least annoying people. Even Mary was tolerable. The Greens and DeputyJerk talk about who to call if they can actually call someone. Eric and Jake have weird tension, and then Jake wanders home because two Greens have been micromanaging this town for years, and they don’t need him right now.

Hawkins tells MiniHawkins to fill up the bathtub, but in a tone that guarantees a surly teen response. Because, he says, pumps pump water (“the water doesn’t get into that shower by magic” is such a dad thing to say, wow), and having more water is nice when the power goes out again. (Do they know their tap water isn’t contaminated? I hope?) Darcy wanders in and says “she’s your daughter, not your employee” which is a good point. But Hawkins has a better point that this shit is serious, and he might not be around forever, so she needs to get more survival skills. Hawkins goes outside for more mysteriousness. (Next week we remove “Hawkins is mysterious” from the drink list because this would kill everyone.)

Gail is busy vacuuming because she’s a mom, I guess. She’s asking Jake if he’s going to stay (hi, premature questions) and says “when you left, you left quite a mess.” (Drink.) She’s mom, so she’s just happy to have her boy back, but Mayor Green is still peeved. Tiresome Green exposition, and then Gail suggests Jake should tell his dad the truth. “You mean tell him…about my time away?” says Jake, clearly upset about this. And wait, does Gail know what her boy was doing? We the audience don’t know what’s up, but this scene suggests Gail knows the truth, which I never noticed before. “This house is too small for big secrets” dramas Gail. And now, electricity!

Mary and Heather and a bunch of precious tots are wandering near the school, but the power spike catches the school on fire, and sends a jolt that knocks Emily out. Heather uses her in charge powers to send the kids away with their buddies. I gotta say, though you could break something from that jolt, it’s not like she was crushed by a train. I think in this case, you move the person away from harm. Heather prefers to try and wake Emily up as we cut to Mary’s bar and drunk Mimi being almost nice to Stanley, saying she would do what she could to help with his whole audit business if she could. Mimi is kind of terrible, and Stanley is a dope, and I yet I support this.

Hawkins mysteriously typing outside with a mini satellite dish. He can get around the internet block. He has a secret code from a fake Discover Card — ’cause what else are they for? This scene needs some absurd ’90s hacking graphics with tunnels and lights. And Hawkins is a on foreign website. Such mystery. Drink.

Everyone is standing too close to the burning school as April tends to Emily. Heather counts the kids, and realizes there is a missing dummy who went back for the school pet. Heather runs inside, because the women on this show may have some traditional jobs, but they’re generally up to whatever post-apocalyptic task is at hand. And I appreciate that.

Fire truck is here, but there are fires all over town, so they’re spread too thin. And this is an electrical fire, so they can’t use water. Jake is here to look worried, so is Eric. Mayor Green, still sick with flu, is trying to come micromanage things, but Eric calls and tells him to turn off the library’s power.

Jake pets the barely conscious Emily, who squeezes his hand and looks a lot more loving towards him than she has lately. Sigh. Annnd the firemen lost pressure. Jake runs off with Stanley to get the pressure back. April says Heather is still inside, and then with some seriously mediocre acting, says “Eric, no” as he rushes inside.

And we cut to Gracie’s store where again the humor works in this episode. Skyler’s terrible friend is staring at a magazine and says “I wonder what Lindsey Lohan is doing right now. Do you think she’s still alive?” Skyler has no time for this shit, but it’s actually a great observation and the only time I ever like Horriblefriend. In the nuclear hellscape that is America, there are celebrities, and you might well wonder about them from time to time. Skyler’s phone battery is dead, but Dale says he’ll charge it for her. She’s still hoping her parents will call, even though she feared they were dead several episodes ago.

More of the town teens roll in on skateboards, and one says “hey check it out, the library is burning, and I didn’t even do it.” “Is anyone hurt?” asks Gracie (not being horrible, so drink twice). “Probably” says evil stoner teen. I laugh. Skyler is lingering, and wants to stay and be nice to Dale, but he says he’ll charge her phone while she’s off gawking at the burning library. Oh, teens.

Heather finds little kid Ashlee hiding in a playroom, and I am reminded of the depressing thought that kids hide from fires sometimes. Eric busts in just in time to be trapped with the two of them. Stanley and Jake struggle to turn on the manual pump at he water tower, or wherever.

The toy snake was the real hero. RIP.

The toy snake was the real hero. RIP.

Heather, Eric, and Ashlee are totally fucked because of the fire. Basically, all of the scenes are a sanitized, but scary thing especially if you were afraid of fires as a child and I totally was. Heather and Eric cover Ashlee’s face with a damp towel, and then when the sprinklers start thanks to Jake and Stanley, they all run out.

April is busy flailing and asking the firemen why they won’t help anyone, which to be honest is a great question. Pretty sure firemen are supposed to check burning buildings for people stuck in them. Are they all volunteer or something? I guess the Greens really do have to do every God damned thing in this town.

Eric hands April the child. Jake climbs to the top of the water tower to check on the status of the fires, and there’s another one near Eric’s house, but nobody cares. BUT THEY DO CARE THAT HAWKINS IS BEING MYSTERIOUS IN HIS YARD, AND JAKE SEES IT, AND HAWKINS SEES HIM. Double mystery. Mystery men. Drink twice for good measure.

MYSTERIOUS.

MYSTERIOUS.

Jake sprints back to tell Eric there’s a fire near his house, but Eric being a martyr-ish Green stays to fight the school fire. It’s the right thing to do. April agrees. It is, but it’s boring.

Hawkins and Jake have a weird moment where Hawkins (again) aggressively asks if he can help (fight Eric’s fire) and then says “If I knew anything, I would tell your mayor.” Would you, though? “What do you know?” asks Jake. “Not much” says Hawkins, even though he was clearly using a computer just now. “Do. You. Want. My help?” smile-menaces Hawkins, and Jake manfully says “get in.”

At Mary’s, Mimi is once again talking about what she’ll do in DC, then prying into Mary’s affair. Mimi is full of Real Talk about how “guys like that don’t leave their wives for girls like us.” Mary says Eric is totally going to tell his wife about them, and Mimi pretends to change her tune on that matter. And this is boring, except that I love Mimi’s hatred of Eric.

Hawkins asks Jake how he learned to use the pool pump to get water. “I was a pool guy” says Jake sardonically. Drink.

Oops, it’s flashover time. And for a hot second we think Hawkins has left Jake in the lurch, but no, he’s just being helpful in getting more power for the pump. “That was quick thinking” says Jake as they fight the fire together. “Yeah,” says Hawkins, “I was a pool guy, too.” Ha. They exchange a funny look. Mysterious bros together. Are they both spies, or what?

The uselessness of the town has made the Greens pompous. I see that now.

The uselessness of the town has made the Greens pompous. I see that now.

Back at the school, a small crowd is cheering the firemen who are now rescuing books, even though they let untrained, clad only in a fireman’s jacket Eric run in by himself. NO ONE BUT GREENS CAN DO ANYTHING FOR THE TOWN. Eric tells Heather he saved Ashlee’s life, then he wanders off to find his wife.

Skyler comes back into Gracie’s store, and no, her parents haven’t called, but her phone is charged. Dale mentions the fire hit the trailer park (I KNEW IT, HE AND GRACIE ARE BLUE COLLAR BROS) so he is going to keep on sleeping at the store. But then, he already was. Skyler tries to convince Dale to come ask the mayor for help, but he’s got his bootstrappy pride, so he’s not having it, man.

April and Eric are cleaning out their burned out house. Guess what didn’t burn? THE DIVORCE PAPERS filed by April! Whoops. But she doesn’t want to divorce him anymore, because things were nuked, and now he does manly things like run into buildings to save teachers and little children. And also, they’ve all had a rough day so let’s not get divorced now? Drink, because their conversation is boring.

Gail is setting the table and talking to Jake about how staring at the creepy TV wasn’t telling her anything. And she says “you know that thing you’ve been running away from?” Well, it’s your dad, so go talk to him or whatever. Does she know about what Jake was doing while he was gone, though? That last scene between them suggested as much, and now I am writing whole new headcanons about this. Eric and April arrive with one sad box each.

Gah!

Gah!

At Mary’s bar, Mary is trying to close down early, and Mimi has a knowing look about “girls like us.” But oh, there goes the TV. It has changed from the warning to an empty podium, as if the president or similar is about to address the nation. But it’s sinister as hell because nobody is there, and I start to imagine that that shot was set-up weeks ago and it’s just been broadcasting an empty room all this time.

The patrons are all agog. Mary sends Stanley off to tell people under threat of having to pay his tab.

Jake and Mayor Green are talking about how they, the Greens, are going to run the entire town and save everyone. However, Mayor Green in his weakened state is going to be nice and tell Jake he did good today. “Folks are saying how lucky Jericho is to have you back” says Mayor Green, and though he’s “tried to correct them, nobody listens to me.” The Greens share a LOL, and Skeet Ulrich continues to have a really attractive smile. But then Jake says being his dad’s son was hard, because his dad “always had a good judge of character, and you thought mine was lousy. When I left town, I was determined to prove you wrong, but everywhere I went, I seemed to prove you right.” WHAT’D YA DO, JAKE?! “I wasn’t just in San Diego” for one. (Drink!) But — “I don’t care” says Mayor Green. Basically, he doesn’t need to hear it, because whatever bad shit his son did, it made him less of a jerk. That’s…good? The audience still wants to know, Mayor Green.

Traveling is sinister. Especially traveling outside of San Diego.

Traveling is sinister. Especially traveling outside of San Diego.

Hawkins is typing mysteriously on his computer, and oops, Jake Green has a flagged passport, because he has traveled to dodgy countries! (Drink!) AND – drink again! — his legal name is Johnston Jacob Green, Junior. No wonder he has such daddy issues. Hawkins looks intrigued, and then is inside being mysterious, but also talking to his son in the basement about what all they’re going to do now that the power is back on. Drink twice because Hawkins and his son have a nice moment together.

The Greens sit around the table discussing what food they wish they had. It all sounds delicious, and makes me want to watch Signs a little bit, because of the amazingly creepy scene where the family eat dinner as the aliens roll in.

98 percent of this show is Skeet Ulrich looking intently at things.

98 percent of this show is Skeet Ulrich looking intently at things.

Stanley interrupts happy family time with news about the TV.  Ooops, Eric has to come down to Mary’s bar. Drink because it’s boring, and it’s technically about the affair. Mary’s fading smile as Eric comes in not sans wife is kind of tragic, but I don’t really care — especially because the TV goes out, the wine glasses starts to shake, and outside there are missiles in the sky.

We drank: a lot. But we’ll fine-tune the drinking times next week. Or whenever I feel like watching. Because I made TWO categories here. Jericho Rewatch and Tuesday Apocalypse are two different categories, so I could rewatch on, like, a Thursday. Imagine that. [Caps via]

folderiex(Oh. Welp. So much for my attention span. I had other plans for this rewatch, including folks watching with me, and also my thyroid is evil, and such. But never mind. Pardon the delay, and I don’t promise it won’t happen again, but I’ll try to avoid it.

Back to Jericho. Back to our friend Skeet. Back to his whiny, self-righteous family. Back to the myriad characters who are vaguely annoying, and back to the mysteriously awesome whole. And if you forget where we are, go over here and then here.)

Episode 3: “Four Horsemen”

After a “previously” montage, we open with creepy music and rain falling remorselessly down. The mysterious Hawkins is braving the fallout in the air in order to move something to somewhere. He’s got the end of the world aesthetic down, with radiation suit, gloves, and gas mask. It’s 18 hours after the bomb. He’s taking something from a Ryder truck — anyone who has overstudied Oklahoma City is creeped out by those things on principle. There’s never anything good in them.

And then we’re back in Stanley and Bonnie’s basement, where blonde schoolteacher Emily is still a bit catatonic because she was forced to shoot one of the convicts who were holding her and Bonnie hostage in the last episode. Mr. Cop Who Isn’t Jimmy says he’s never killed anyone, and he’s a cop. Jericho is definitely your tiny midwestern town. (Hell, someone like that maybe would never fire their gun on duty.) Bonnie points out that Stanley doesn’t know that the rain is radioactive. Jake calls Eric to say that the people he sealed in the salt mine last minute have been in their too long. They’re dirty and it’s claustrophobic — but only CBS claustrophobic. It would be a lot more nightmarish in real life, but what on this show wouldn’t be?

Mr. Rooney — whose job I forget — is busy terrifying the children with his anxiety attack. Heather tries to console him, but it’s clear that he’s That Guy. The one who snaps. Be it alien invasion, war, or what have you, there’s got to be a manly man who snaps.

Stanley is back and he’s soaked. Uh oh. Jake tells Bonnie not to touch him, then radios his sister in law April the doctor. She tells Stanley to drink iodine and peaches. Stanley saw tanks “hailing ass towards Denver.” Who is out there, and are they friendly? April says if Stanley throws up in the next 20 minutes he’s going to die. Which seems slightly presumptuous, to be sure about that. And the cut to commercial music gets excessive, and we cut to “Jericho” and — according to the closed captioning — “(static hissing and syncopated beeping.)” Apparently there are secret messages, because that’s actual morse code. I don’t know — my knowledge starts and ends with dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot — but I like the simplicity of the caption’s explanation.

Mr. Rooney or Reney? It’s Reney. He’s going nuts, and Gray Anderson and some dude named Shep drag him away from the townspeople. It’s creepy. Mayor Green is still hacking from flu. Jake radios and wants to find out what the tanks are about. Jake says he’s going to Goodland when the rain stops to see what’s up. Emily says she’s coming as well, to find her fiancee who was supposed to fly into Topeka. Jake does his benevolent patriarchal, ex-boyfriend thing, but then gives in.

Back in the shelter, Eric tells IRS lady she can’t smoke in the shelter. I don’t care how citified you are, or how stressed you are, duh. Eric, April, and Gail (I had to Google her name) joke together about how “the mighty Johnston Green [was] felled by the flu.” Eric’s mistress and Mimi the IRS woman stare daggers at them all.

Back in Skyler’s fancy house, there’s overly cute poppy music playing. Skyler gives Dale a stale poptart. Things are looking up. Everyone is dead, but maybe Dale can finally score this hottie. This is very important.

Ooh, finally, a little context to this terrible thing that has happened. Gail is telling Mayor Green about how they used to hide under desks when they were kids. “Yeah, duck and cover” he says sadly. “That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw that mushroom cloud — did they have enough time to hide under their desks? That’s pretty stupid, huh?” “No” Mayor Green says, and then coughs. His wife pets his head. It’s actually a great scene. Duck and cover is in the top three of Cold War cliches, but this scene and the killer acting from Pamela Reed sells itself perfectly. The Cold War tropes and fears have become real, and it makes sense that when there’s finally a moment of quiet, you might start to think about that. I only wish there were more scenes like this, where people seem to almost understand that a 60 year nightmare has finally come to life.

Aaannnd, Eric’s mistress Mary the tavern wench is whining about Eric not leaving his wife. Boring, boring, boring. Go back to cold war terrors, plz.

Back in the root cellar with Stanley. He tells Jake not to let Bonnie see his lips, and that he’s feeling sick and nauseated. But the storm is over!

Eric goes outside with a geiger counter and, like, his sleeve over his face. Very high-tech. But it’s ok! Everyone in the town shelter follows. IRS Mimi touches a column and her hand gets covered in “black stuff.” Mary says “that used to be Denver.” Yeesh. Mimi’s face is a good response.

Jake is being In Charge guy, sending everyone to the medical clinic, while he goes to save the people from the claustrophobia of the salt mine. People are drilling, stand back, you Kansas rubes. Damn. Who else would it be?

Why are Eric and Jake going in first? Are there no miners, or construction workers? Do Greens have to do everything in this town? Hey, look, Jake and Heather still have way better chemistry than he does with Sad Emily.

Oops, Mr. Reney is dead. :( Heather knows this is a bad scene.

The clinic is full of people. Stanley is isolated in the children’s ward. He threw up because he drank a bunch of iodine. He wants to go back to the farm and delivers a terrible line about spider powers. Jake affectionately says “you’re still an idiot, so that’s a good sign” and I am reminded that these two also have good chemistry, and in spite of being old friends in the show, don’t really have enough moments together. (Jake, your family is terrible.)

Mimi is chasing April around being neurotic about having touched the column. She also points out that she can’t go home, because she’s from DC. Heather interrupts to ask about Mr. Reney, who has had a heart attack. Heather still smells bullshit. Gray Anderson lurking in either a sinister or guilty way isn’t helping.

Skyler and Dale are playing cards cutely and eating m&ms. The end of the world memo has not teached these teens. But oops, Skyler’s terrible friends who are even less aware that shit has gotten real in the past day come to the house to scold her for hanging out with undesirables like Dale. Good thing they’re not in this show much!

Mayor Green is trying to run things, but he’s sick, and his wife threatens to take his pants. It’s a cute exchange. Maybe Eric is the only entirely lame member of this family. Jake has a plan. People need to go out in four directions in order to get information. Gray is going one way, the dude who was with Mr. Reney is going another, Jake and Emily are going south. Gray darkly suggests they’re “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” “Let’s hope not” says Jake.

Dudes are at Mary’s bar trying to get her sattelite dish working. But Mary is shunning Eric. It’s boring and I don’t care, until a Chinese or Korean newscaster appears out of the static on the TV. The map of the US behind him has some scary red target marks. Everyone in the bar is wide-eyed — Skeet Ulrich most of all, but that’s nothing new. After one terrifyingly clear shot, the static comes back. There’s a smattering of fearful outcries. Hawkins says that was indeed Chinese,  Mandarin to be precise — he always knows too much — and Jake asks “are they just reporting it, or are they behind it?” Is America being invaded? No one knows. They’ve lost another horseman. There’s an argument about going out and Jake says “if this country is at war, we need to know it!” (Evergreen sentiments, am I right, folks?)

Mary and Heather try to figure out what cities they saw reded out on the TV. Hawkins meets Jake (finally!) and offers to be one of the drivers, but Jake refuses him when he says he has family.

Heather asks the non-Gray Anderson guy why Mr. Rennie (it’s Rennie) is dead. Dude is looking mighty guilty. Gray Anderson interrupts. Heather keeps looking suspicious.

Jake chases down Emily who is freaking out about her fiance. She is sure he’s dead, and Jake reassures her that they don’t know. Maybe Roger’s plane landed in a cornfield. “He’s gone, and I’ve here with you. You were the one who was supposed to be dead, not him.” Emily says bitterly. Jake should go without her.

Dale comes back to the store where DoubtYourCommitmenttoSparkleMotionGracie is staring at her sadly empty shelves. Gail arrives to bring back some of the food that was in the shelters. But Gracie still hardly has any food, and what she has is going bad. Gail says they should cook it.

Stanley find Mimi crying about her radiation poisoning, and is nice because “maybe I’m a nicer person than you.” Everyone is a nicer person than IRS agents, Stanley. “You’re really sweet,” Mimi says, “and you still owe the IRS $180,000.”

Shep is writing a letter before he leaves on his four horsemen mission. Uh oh.

Mayor Green thanks Gray for going, then asks what happened to Mr. Rennie. Gray Anderson says “poor planning” killed Rennie. Gray Anderson is both petty and political and kind of right, because those fallout shelters were NOT maintained. Mayor Green has a point when he throws Gray against a wall in his office, however, and says that the people in town need both of them to not be petty dickheads.

Heather gets Shep’s letter, and it basically says that it was his fault about Rennie, and that he was too scared to call a doctor. This dude is a plot device, but still I feel bad.

The cops and Eric are charting the progress of the men. Shep’s radio is cracking up and he says “tell my family I’m sorry.” Obviously, Gray hears it on his own route, but denies it, which is the worst thing he’s done so far.

Jake pulls over. An entire plane is in the road, but with emergency slides inflated (so that could be worse). In the background, another plane is in worse shape. Those of us afraid of flying now feel slightly sick.

Back in town, everybody is cooking the meat that will soon go bad. But Gail has some corn, which is not going to go bad, so that’s stupid. Jake comes back to town with the black box from the plane. He says the planes are empty. Mayor Green remembers to kick two random little girls out the room, which makes sense. The confused pilot chatter is unsettling, and then it’s clear — one of them sees the mushroom cloud over Denver. Another saw another cloud near Texas. Jake explains to the other people that the pilots are fucked because there’s no air traffic control.  Hawkins offers creepily “there’s ten thousands planes with nowhere to land. That’s about a million people in the air.” Yeesh. And it gets worse with the emergency landing. The room looks freaked out while they listen, and I don’t blame them, but dammit, shit is way worse than this, people. MUSHROOM CLOUDS HAPPENED.

Jake is on the case, though. He rewinds again and again, and calls Emily. Oh hello, her fiance’s plane set down in a field. “He’s alive” he says nicely. Emily is sort of annoying, but I am still happy for her.

Hawkins is doing creepy stuff in the basement. His wife mentions the “cook all the meat before it spoils” town party. “It sounded like Sam Cooke from here, but it could be Kenny Rogers” she says, and they laugh together. “Oh Lord” says Hawkins. Because white people in the midwest, ya’ll. Darcy says “the children would like to go” to the party, but Hawkins puts his foot down, they’re not ready with their fake back stories. Darcy gives in, and the moment is spoiled by TOO MUCH MYSTERY.

And the party to set to another, worse pop song. This show had an addiction. Dale passes by Skyler and her cool friends playing cards. Dale goes to hang by Gracie, who is unpleasant, but his devotion to her is kind of interesting. She says she’s glad there was enough food for everyone, but “a thank you would have been nice.” You’re right, Gracie. Your devotion to property rights is inspiring.

IRS Mimi stares at Stanley and is charmed by his goofiness. Bonnie knows this is bullshit. Mary flirts with some other dude, and Eric ignores his wife who is trying to tell him about the hospital. Heather and Jake sit together, and talk about Emily, who Jake says he owed. When Heather says “I’d say this makes you even” he says “not even close.” SUCH MYSTERY. And yet I still care a lot more about Jake and Heather. Stick with your lost fiancee, Emily.

Mayor Green is watching the party dourly and says “It might be a long time before we see Jericho like this again.” Yerp. And ya’ll shouldn’t be eating stuff like corn that won’t spoil tomorrow.

Bad, generic upbeat pop-rock song plays and plays. Terrible.

HAWKINS IS MOVING SOMETHING HEAVY AND CYLINDRICAL IN HIS BASEMENT. He’s putting up a new wall. Shit. Such a mysterious guy.

Shot of empty town square with tables and grills invites the question, why are those lights still on? Do you people think you have generator gasoline to spare?

Eric wakes up next to Mary and he has to go and I don’t care.

ANOTHER song plays as Dale the burgeoning business-teen FINDS THE SUPPLY TRAIN OUTSIDE TOWN! It crashed. Good job, Dale. I will allow this up-tempo tune because Dale has found all that Dinty Moore stew.

folderiexIn which I bravely begin to rewatch the 2006-2008 cult, yet also CBS TV show Jericho, so as to always have Tuesday Apocalypse fodder in the weeks to come. The show stars Skeet Ulrich, Lennie James, and other luminaries, but don’t hold the Skeet part against it. Also, there is going to eventually be libertarian subtext, but you have got to be patient.

Episode 1: “Pilot”

Jericho begins with a Killers song, which might be the dealbreaker for some of you folks. But it’s one of the catchier ones. And, as we follow Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) driving from San Diego to home in Jericho, Kansas, the band’s semi-nonsensical lyrics hint at the plot to come. “When there’s nowhere else to run/Is there room for one more son?…the cold hearted boy I used to be/ I got soul/but I’m not a soldier.” Angst! Prodigal son! It works! It’s the mid aughts!

And technically, actually, the show begins with its eerie, minimal theme music, and the sound of morse code. That’s the show for you. Forever warring between legitimately unnerving and “emotions must be propelled by pop songs.”

Jake pulls into town, and meets several of our main characters before he makes it to the old family home in order to claim his inheritance. There’s the goofy farmer Stanley Richman (Brad Beyer) and his stern sister Bonnie (Shoshannah Stern), who is deaf. There’s the frustrating and blonde Emily (Ashley Scott) who is The Ex. Jake gives a different answer each person who asks where he has been for the past five years. We know he’s either a pathological liar, or he’s ashamed of something. There’s also the moderately annoying IRS agent, who is auditing the Richman farm, but she isn’t much of a character yet.

Jake’s mom is Leslie Knope’s mom, though much less bad-ass in this role. His dad is Raymond Tusk on House of Cards. His bearded brother Eric (Kenneth Mitchell) is married to the local doctor, but having an affair with the local tavern owner. Oh, and Johnston Green — the dad — is also the mayor of town, and has been for 100 billion years.

We also meet Dale (Erik Knudsen), employed at the town busybody Gracie’s store (she is starting to doubt your commitment to sparklemotion).  And we see his crush, mean girl Skyler, who will soften later. We meet the cops, the most prominent being Jimmy (the goofy one) and the other guy (the douchey one). And we meet new in town Robert Hawkins, who just drips with mystery.

Having realized his beloved grandfather is dead, Jake decides to leave town sans inheritance. (I was never quite sure why people didn’t tell him in earlier scenes. I suppose when he tells Stanley and Emily he’s there to visit, they must think Jake just means visit the old man’s grave. But only TV cuts justify the jump from family home to grandfather’s grave.)

And then our build-up begins. TV, radio, and cell phones go out. The music is horror-delicate and menacing. Deputy Jimmy’s son is the first one to see the mushroom cloud. He’s playing hide and seek with his sister, and has climbed onto the roof, and we see his back to the camera as he stares aghast. His little sister, whining a little, says “no fun, Woody, you have to hide better.” Here the show has the sense to show a little kid first in dumbfounded horror, then in tears. You don’t need to know your Cold War history intimately to know that you should weep if you see a mushroom cloud.

On the highway, Jake sees the cloud with his wide, Skeet Ulrich eyes and crashes into another car full of similarly distracted people. A woman named Heather (Sprague Grayden) — who will immediately begin dancing the line between endearing and annoyingly cute Mary Sue for the rest of the series — sees the cloud while we only see the reflection in the school bus window. She is on a field trip with a bunch of pipsqueaks who will soon need protecting. At the Richman ranch, Bonnie stares transfixed from her porch, until her brothers pulls her away.

It’s all fantastic. All beautifully shot. It’s restrained, but palpable sickness. Something unimaginable has happened, but it has happened far enough away that everyone is physically fine, making it all the more surreal.

The rest of the plot involves the town freaking out a bit, trying to get organized. We see a power struggle between Mayor Green and a guy named Gray Anderson. Hawkins (Lennie James) knows a lot about preparing for something like this, which might be a little odd.

And basically, Jake has to hobble away from his own car wreck, and go save the school bus that has crashed due to acute “holy shit, a nuke-itis.” He apocalypse-cute-meets Heather, and saves all the children, and even performs a tracheotomy on one. He returns to town to find a curtly proud father, and a very relieved mother. He has truly returned home now.

In the mean time, poor teenage Dale has come home to a terrifying message left on his answer machine. His mother, seemingly vacationing with her gross boyfriend, had called to check in, but the message cuts off with “oh my God! What is that?” It’s clear wherever she is has been hit by a nuke as well. A scene where Dale listens to the message over and over again in the dark is correctly awful. So is the moment where Dale comes to a neighborhood meeting with the news, and needs to clarify that his mother was not in Denver, but Atlanta. We now know that two bombs have gone off.

The safety of Jericho is too safe. The brief panic is too CBS primetime, though at least the townspeople have their moment of it. Nobody — arguably since Threads and The Day After in the 1980s — really has the guts to portray pissing yourself levels of terror, or catatonic horror in response to nuclear strikes. And I think that’s how a lot of people would react. Even the heroes should have a moment of dumbfounded stillness. That’s why I love the pilot to The Walking Dead, and the first half of Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. In these stories, even the strong patriarch needs a moment to express, than rise above, his bafflement and fear. Unfortunately, slightly tiresome patriarch Mayor Johnston Green isn’t given quite enough of that moment here. And his wife’s dread-cry of “Oh, Johnston” isn’t quite nuke-horror. It’s more like the dog got hit by a car level of upset. One can argue that there’s good eye acting (see the extras in Titanic as the stern sinks, for a perfect example) here, but it’s still a bit too subtle for my taste.

On the other hand, Jericho is supposed to be in a sweet spot. Everyone is safe, and until starvation or fallout, or other end of the world threats some a-knocking, perhaps a dazed sort of disconnect is believable. This is only the first day.

We have had too many inspirational speeches (though one that fails) from the mayor and from his rival Gray Anderson, and too much TV logic, but we also have two mysterious men, family drama, and moderately interesting side characters in a small town dealing with the unimaginable. Not bad.

Though the woman who plays the one that got away from Jake is one of the weakest actresses on the show — and their chemistry has never been there, ever — her final scenes in the pilot are good. Her character Emily has missed it all. She was driving to pick up her fiance in Wichita, and only when birds begin falling from the sky at dusk does she realize something is terribly wrong. The final scene leans too heavily on a moody pop song, just like the opening scenes did, but the camera pulling back on bird armageddon is a good capper for the episode.