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Z Nation “Philly Feast” 

Photo Credit: Oliver Irwin/SyFy
Photo Credit: Oliver Irwin/SyFy

Steaks anyone? Ugh. Steaks were the theme in last night’s episode, not only among the survivors in Garnett’s (Tom Everett Scott) group but also with Citizen Z (DJ Qualls) at the North Pole. And all I can say is I won’t be eating filet mignon, rib eye, or any other kind of red meat anytime soon.

Last week our Z-team made a futile attempt to stock up on gasoline at an overrun refinery in New Jersey, but Murphy’s (Keith Allan) freak-out/psychotic episode forced them to ditch that plan. However, apparently all was not lost because they walked away with enough gas to get them to Philadelphia. Philly had been dubbed a “dead zone” a long time ago, completely occupied by Z’s, but Garnett insists on stopping anyways to look for supplies and also to try and find a 2-way radio so they can communicate with Citizen Z again.

Cassandra (Pisay Pao) is obviously upset with this plan and if we recall her story last week about the “family” who is also based in Philly, we can understand why. We learn from a flashback at the beginning of the episode that Cassandra’s role in the family was some sort of prostitute who used the promise of sex for drugs as bait to lure people in. But as the scene switches to the home of this clan, led by the charismatic — and very eccentric — Tobias Campbell (Rick Rivera), we sense there is a lot more to the story. This guy’s living area is full of nice paintings and ornate statues (possibly reminders of his former life before the apocalypse?), he loves to play the organ and he seems to have a never-ending supply of fresh meat. Oh, and let’s not forget his creepy catatonic wife. There is one thing missing, however, from his idyllic world and that is his “Sunshine” — i.e. Cassandra. But, the good news is two of his lieutenants report that Sunshine has been spotted in downtown Philly and if all goes well, they’ll have her back by nightfall and the family will be complete once again.

However, Cassandra made clear last week that she was not going to be taken again and so, we know she’s not going to go easily. They aren’t able to catch Cassandra and so, they move on to the next best thing, which is Addy (Anastasia Baranova). At first, Mack (Michael Welch) thinks she’s been attacked and killed by Z’s but Citizen Z informs him that he had been talking with her on a police car radio and he heard human voices. Mack is pretty sharp and it doesn’t take long for him to connect the dots and realize Cassandra’s old group had something to do with Addy’s disappearance.

Photo Credit: Oliver Irwin/SyFy
Photo Credit: Oliver Irwin/SyFy

Back at home with the Tobias clan, it becomes pretty clear that if Sunshine isn’t coming home Addy is going to have to step up and fill her shoes. She is made up like a prostitute and is told this is her job and her life now.

     I look like a post-apocalypse stripper — Addy

Lovely. While Tobias is occupied, she decides to take a little tour of the camp and what she finds is a freak show from hell. Are any of the viewers of the show also fans of NBC’s Hannibal? I ask because this scene screamed Hannibal all the way and it’s one that I think would have made the executive producer of the show, Bryan Fuller, very proud. What Addy stumbles on is a very gruesome room of half-eaten humans, still alive and hooked up to IVs. If there were any doubt, all of it is gone now — these people are cannibals. What’s more, because of the zombie virus and lack of refrigeration, they must be kept alive while they are eaten, thus the use of the IVs. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.

After all of this was revealed, I could not help but to laugh. Really. The Walking Dead has been holding a carrot in front of our faces and teasing a cannibal storyline for nearly half a season and the premiere in two weeks is probably going to confirm that Terminus is a sanctuary for cannibals. But as the old saying goes, you snooze, you lose. The Walking Dead has been dragging its feet for so long that a show like Z Nation has snuck up behind them and beat them to the punch. Basically, the Terminus cannibalism reveal is going to be a tad bit anti-climatic now for those who watch Z Nation because the entire thing had already been played out two weeks prior. Very nice timing and execution, Z Nation.

However, the very best of this episode was saved for last. Cassandra ultimately sacrifices herself and agrees to go back if they release Addy. But that’s not the end of the story because Roberta (Kellita Smith) and Addy refuse to just leave their new friend in the hands of these psychoes and they devise what I consider a genius plan of rescue. We all should recall that Z’s are attracted by very loud sounds and in a scene very reminiscent of the Flight of the Valkyries, Garnett’s team lures a huge horde of Z’s right onto Tobias’ camp, creating enough of a diversion to rescue Cassandra. Great job, guys. Mission accomplished.

All in all, great episode and I absolutely loved it. The cannibal arc was well-written and executed and all of the gruesomeness was balanced by an equal amount of humor. The fake sex noises of Doc and Cassandra in that trailer were hilarious. And that Liberty Bell rolling down the street flattening zombies — too funny.

The only hope I have is that we’ll see Tobias again. We are led to believe that he was killed by the horde that overran the camp, but it was off-screen. I think it would be a terrible waste to kill off a villain like that without knowing a thing about his back story.  What happened to his wife and what drove him to cannibalism? Why does he play the organ? Is he a former preacher who just lost his way? Plus, this show needs a good villain anyways. There’s always the threat of the Z’s but that can take the show only so far.

The episode ends with how the other ones have ended and that’s with Citizen Z’s “broadcast of hope” from the North Pole:

And, to anyone else out there within the sound of my voice, I hope a slide guitar will get you through another messed-up day of death and destruction.. Everyone out there, whether you’re hiding in a cave or running for your life, just keep doing what you gotta do to stay alive because in the end, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to beat this zombie apocalypse thing. Bash ’em, slash ’em, bust ’em, and burn ’em, just stay live, no questions asked — Citizen Z

Until we meet again next time, folks.

Z Nation airs on Fridays at 10/9c on Syfy.

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