Getting down and dirty is the key to freedom for Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) in Sunday's Fear the Walking Dead, where it's learned what happened to the pair of survivors since their group's separation at Humbug's Gulch. Season 5 ended with Morgan's (Lennie James) group of do-gooders torn apart by Virginia (Colby Minifie) and her Pioneers, with Strand promising they could do more damage "from the inside." Now behind the walls of a fortified settlement in Lawton, Oklahoma, Alicia and Strand have spent the past six weeks toiling away doing dirty jobs — and it's time to make a clean break.
When shit-stirring Strand rebels against Ranger Marcus (Justin Smith), he gets himself and Alicia pulled from latrine duty and reassigned to a former sugar processing plant. Their orders: clear a zombie-filled locker and retrieve what's inside.
"Virginia is building the future. What's in there is the key to getting that done," says Ranger Hill (Craig Nigh). "You survive, and you get to be a part of it."
Strand schemes to overthrow the Rangers and escape, but Dakota (Zoe Colletti), Virginia's defiant younger sister, warns what will happen if they revolt: "If you kill the Rangers, she'll hunt you down, and she'll kill you. And if she can't find you, she'll hurt the people you love. Kill them."
Because a mutiny would cost an apparently amnesic Daniel (Rubén Blades) his life, Alicia and Strand agree to get what's inside the warehouse: a weapon that is "important enough that [Virginia] keeps throwing bodies at it." When Dakota says she overheard Strand strike a secret deal with Virginia — a trade that would keep him and Alicia together — he admits his motivation: "I didn't do it for you, I did it for me. What we need to do to survive this, I can't do on my own. Not without you. Not the way it should be done."
An insurrection would be too risky and endanger their friends, so Alicia counters with a new plan: clear the walkers, get the weapon, and use it on Virginia and the Rangers.
Reunited with fellow prisoners Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) and Janis (Holly Curran), Alicia and Strand stick to the plan when molasses-covered walkers lurch out of their pen. A makeshift corral allows the prisoner group to control the stream of walkers as they funnel out, lured by noise, and picked off with spears.
Strand grows increasingly desperate to clear the warehouse before Virginia arrives, taking advantage of the mayhem caused by a breach in the walker pen. When the now-uncontrolled swarm of walkers threatens to overwhelm his friends, Strand stabs cowering prisoner Sanjay (Satya Nikhil Polisetti) and uses him as human bait: "You said you wished you had the guts to stand up to [the Rangers]. Today's your day to be a hero."
As Sanjay is torn apart, Alicia and Janis finish off the swarm using guns taken off a pair of freshly eaten-alive Rangers. It's over. But when the group goes to collect their prize, they find no weapon, no nothing.
Virginia congratulates the survivors on a job well done for finding what no one else could: "The key to our survival."
"The thing I'm looking for ain't in here, it's you," she tells Strand. "A true leader. And for what you did here today, each and every one of you, you are the key. This is how we survive. Congratulations, Victor. You just formed us an army. The start of one, at least."
She deputizes Strand with a shiny key badge giving him power over his newly assembled group of soldiers. "Just know, when the time comes for me to call y'all up for the big show," she says, "y'all best be ready."
Unbeknownst to Strand, Virginia is ordering him to lead an army targeting a single enemy: Morgan Jones. No longer bound by a no-kill code after surviving Virginia's attempt on his life, Morgan is the greatest threat to her future.
By the episode's end, Strand reassigns Alicia "someplace far away" from him. "You make me remember the person that I am, and to do all the things that I need to do now — for you, for me, for all of us — I have to forget that person," he tells her. "And I can't do it with you by my side." Alicia and Charlie watch as Strand walks off. Alone.0comments
Next: Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Althea (Maggie Grace) return in "Alaska," premiering Sunday, October 25 on AMC.
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things The Walking Dead Universe. New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead premiere Sundays at 9 pm ET/8c on AMC.