Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Survivors" 40th Anniversary: Episode 9 ("Law And Order")

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts dedicated to the 40th anniversary of BBC's "Survivors" television series. Survivors followed a core group of characters who managed to survived a devastating viral outbreak -- one which managed to kill off somewhere between 95-99% of humanity. Society has crumbled and now those who remain must relearn the old way if they have any hope of surviving much longer.

Our last episode continued with our group of survivors (Abby Grant, Jenny Richards, Greg Preston, Tom Price, Emma Cohen, Wendy, and Barney; along with children John Milton and Lizzie Willoughby) settling into their new commune at the Grange. Their weak attempts at planting seed were enhanced by the addition of a new man named Paul Pitman. They were quickly joined by two new travelers, business tycoon Arthur Russell and his secretary Charmian Wentworth. Meanwhile, Greg and others traveled to a forgotten quarry stockpile to gather more food and supplies -- picking up a physically disabled man by the name of Vic Thatcher in the process.

We find that things are trudging along at the beginning of Episode 9 (titled "Law And Order"). Barney is learning how to hunt rabbits using the bow and arrow -- under the tutelage of Tom Price, of all people! Vic has settled into a routine of providing basic education to the children. And Emma remains our local "Top Chef."

However, others are having difficulty now that everyone has settled in. Emma is isolating herself from the others. Likewise, Arthur is not only refusing to eat meals with anyone else, but is found to be hording food in his room. And then Tom Price keeps avoiding and/or delegating assigned tasks -- including the vital chore of keeping the pigs out of the cabbage patch!

After the pig incident, Abby calls everyone together and lays down the law:

Emma immediately questions if they are living in a democracy or if they are living in dictatorship. Abby concedes that she hadn't really much that much thought into it. But nobody seems to disagree with these new household rules, so those are the new rules. 1. Eat Together. 2. Don't Horde.

After Abby's lecture, she noted that the day was May 1st. This is traditionally a day of celebration. She proposes that they throw a party that evening and everyone agrees to her proposal 100%. Emma whips up all sorts of food, while Arthur and Tom pull out their stash of booze.

And it proves to be quite the hit! Greg and Paul take turns playing songs on the guitar. And everyone is dancing -- except for Tom Price, who's a bit of a troll. He tries hitting on Jenny, but she runs off with a repulsed look on her face.

Tom manages to trick Barney into drinking some alcohol, which ultimately makes the mental disabled man terribly nauseous. Barney ends up rambling away to his room to drink off his booze while the others celebrate.

During the party, Greg and Jenny have a drunken discussion about how far they can devolve socially. Greg notes that May Day is a form of Pagan celebration. He wonders how far they might travel down that Pagan path:

Wendy decides that she is going to turn in early. She blames the alcohol, but she's truly been a bit depressed throughout this episode. I imagine that she's finally coming to terms with the end of the world now that she's not fighting nonstop against starvation.

Unfortunately, Tom Price follows her upstairs and begins propositioning her. She blows him off, but he just starts pushing harder and harder. Unfortunately, she runs to her bedroom instead of to the common room where most everyone else is partying. Tom Price then rapes and stabs Wendy to death off-camera.

Wendy's body is discovered the following morning by the children, who alert Abby and Greg. Everyone is in the building -- except for Barney who is off hunting rabbits.

Almost immediately, Greg and Paul accuse Barney of being the murderer. They claim that he was "bothering" Wendy all night with their dancing. Tom immediately steps up to defend the disabled man, but then backs down when Paul observes that it had to be somebody else if it's not Barney. "Well, it's one of us, isn't it? Who else? You?"

The men take off to find Barney. Tom finds Barney first and tells him to run away as quick as he can. But Barney is captured and supposedly says something to the effect of "I didn't do it" or "I didn't kill her" -- though this was off-camera. It's also noted that he was found with a bloody arrow, from one of his fresh rabbit kills (which Tom conveniently hid).

Barney is hauled in front of everyone and interrogated by Abby and the others:
Abby: Barney, why did you say I didn't do it, when Greg and Mr. Russell caught you this morning?
Barney: Well, I didn't.
Abby: Didn't what?
Barney: Do that to Wendy.
Abby: Barney, how did you know Wendy was dead?
Barney: *Confused silence*
Abby: And this. *Holding the arrow* Is this yours, Barney?
Barney: *Smiles and nods*
Abby: It's got blood on it.
Barney: Clean it.
Abby: By it, what do you mean? It's got blood on it.
Barney: *Smiles* Clean it...
Abby: Now, Barney, this arrow which belongs to you has got blood on it. Can you tell us how the blood got there?
Barney: *Smiles and nods* Rabbit!
The group immediately began debating about their inability to tell human blood from rabbit blood. So naturally, they discount his claim or attribute it to his lack of mentality.
Abby: Barney, do you remember last night?  The party? We had a party last night.
Barney: Yeah.
Abby: You were with Wendy.
Greg (with very stern tone): You were dancing with Wendy.
Barney: Yeah! Dance!
Abby: Barney, did you go to Wendy's room afterwards?
Barney: *Confused silence*
Abby: Barney, what did you do when the party was over?
Barney: I was bad.
Abby: Bad?
Barney: Sick.
Abby: After you were sick, what did you do?
Barney: Sleeped.
Arthur: There's one question we haven't asked. (Gets right in Barney's face) Did you kill Wendy?
Barney: No.
Barney was then locked in his room so that the adults could debate his fate. They first debated his guilt or innocence without any consideration of their eventual punishment. It's also worth noting that they debated his guilty or innocence without any consideration of other suspects. All of the men and Abby (except for Tom, of course) believed Barney to be guilty. Charmian believed him guilty, but also believed him to have no understanding of his crime. The other women -- especially Emma -- believed him not-guilty. But there were enough guilty votes based off the circumstantial evidence provided by Tom Price, as well as Greg's forceful persuasion.

After finding Barney to be guilty of the crime of murdering Wendy, they were left to determine his punishment. Arthur initially suggested that they banish Barney. Greg quickly scuttled that suggestion in favor of execution.

"How many people has he killed?" "Are you all prepared to put John and Lizzie at risk?" "We can't keep him separated from the kids 24 hours a day" "We can't pass the buck anymore. I can't pass this off onto anyone else. We've got to act for ourselves." "You all make me sick."

They all voted in favor of death or banishment. It was a 50/50 split with Abby making the deciding vote for execution. They then drew straws to see who got to kill Barney. That tasks fell on Greg shoulders. He then led Barney off into the woods with a gun and shot him in the back while Arthur and Paul dug up graves for Wendy and Barney.

Then Greg and Abby were confronted with a little confessional truth from Tom Price:

That's the murder weapon and Tom's bloody shirt from last night in case you can't make it out.

Greg then tells Abby that they cannot tell anyone else that Tom Price was Wendy's true murderer. Now Greg's tune has changed. "We're fighting for survival, not principles." He says that he will challenge Abby's leadership if she tells anyone and that will eventually lead to their little community's early demise.

Greg and Abby have decided that they will keep an eye on Tom Price 24 hours per day and keep him from drinking and make sure that the kids are safe from his murderous ways. Even though Greg was just advocating for Barney's execution because of the safety factor involved in keeping him alive.

That's how Tom Price managed to rape and kill Wendy and successfully deflect blame onto the group's mentally disabled member with the help of Abby Grant's kangaroo court, as well as Greg Preston's push for blood vengeance and utter hypocrisy.

And that's how I grew to hate the character of Greg Preston. This was also the episode that made Husband Mark turn away from "Survivors" in disgust with no interest in continuing forward with any of their subsequent adventures (as well as a couple other unrelated reasons, but this was the last straw).

I understand that it looked suspicious when Barney ran. But nothing else in his character made him seem guilty except for his disability and his inability to defend himself.

Meanwhile, we already knew historically that Tom Price is a lying drunk and a cheat. We know that he was being a creepy lech towards Jenny during the party. And we know that he wasn't present at the party once Wendy left. If Greg and the others hadn't been in such a rush to deflect any amount of scrutiny from themselves about the crime instead of actually analyzing everyone instead of the one person who was unable to defend himself, maybe Tom Price would have been discovered before Barney was executed instead of after.

But while the outward theme is about "law and order," the subtle theme is about society's descent into paganism. Greg noted above that country people believed that innocent blood was needed in order to bless their harvest. Well, they got their innocent blood. Either in the form of Wendy, who was killed by that horrible troll named Tom Price. But most likely in the form of Barney, who was killed by community consensus for charges he didn't understand and a crime he didn't commit.

We return next week with a less emotionally charged episode: "The Future Hour."

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