Fear the Walking Dead kills off a recurring character in Sunday's "The Key," where John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) investigates a mysterious death inside the Lawton settlement controlled by Virginia's (Colby Minifie) Pioneers. When John discovers the reanimated body of Ranger Cameron (Noah Khyle) entangled in a barbwire fence, he suspects foul play but finds the case impeded by Virginia. She blames Cameron's death on a drinking problem, but John's doubts grow deeper when his investigation turns up evidence suggesting a killer pushed Cameron into the fence where he was eaten by walkers — twisting this "accidental death" into a murder case.
When John raises his suspicions with Virginia, she recounts witnessing a grisly execution used to punish a murderer in the early days of the apocalypse:
"There was a man in the first place I lived after the puzzle went to pieces. Murdered his friend over a can of tuna. The town's elders decided to make a show of things to keep everyone in line. So they tied the killer to a stake outside the walls, blasted music to draw in the dead… I'll never forget what that man's body looked like the day after. Picked clean to the bone like a turkey on Thanksgiving."
The stringent Virginia orders John to carry out his investigation quietly, telling him a place is "only as safe as people feel it is." Not long after, Janis (Holly Curran) is captured by Rangers when attempting to flee Lawton, and plucked from her belongings is an earring matching one found near Cameron's body.
Confiding to John in the privacy of a jail cell, Janis reveals a secret relationship with Cameron and tells John the couple spent weeks planning their escape from Virginia's rule. She's had Janis in her sights ever since the Pioneers took control of Paradise Ridge, the apartment complex once led by Janis' brother Tom (Joe Massingill), who died in a bridge collapse in season 5.
John promises to set the situation straight and prove Janis' innocence, but a forced confession gets Janis sentenced to death. The night before her execution scheduled for dawn, John decides to spring Janis out of jail and track down wife June (Jenna Elfman) using the escape plan mapped out by Janis and Cameron.
But John finds an empty cell and is drawn outside Lawton by a boombox blaring golden oldies. In the woods, John guns down four walkers feasting on the bottom half of a body ripped apart at the waist. Not far away is the top half of a zombified Janis, still tied with rope, who is mercifully put down by John.
Janis first appeared in season 5 episode "Leave What You Don't," where she nearly committed suicide when trapped by walkers before being rescued by Wes (Colby Hollmann). Along with her brother, Janis then joined the caravan led by Morgan Jones (Lennie James) until it was broken apart by Virginia at Humbug's Gulch in "End of the Line."
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