Have you ever heard anyone call Philadelphia “The City of Brotherly Love” non-sarcastically? Yeah, me neither. And apparently it’s even worse after the apocalypse.
The third episode of Z Nation, “Philly Feast,” sends our survivors into cannibalistic hell that is zombified Philly. And they don’t even get any cheesesteaks.
The episode starts in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, with a shot of four zombies (or Zs as they are usually called in the show) chained to a fence. One looks like Corey Feldman. We see Cassandra (then known as Sunshine) seducing a bald guy inside an RV and it’s clear we’re in a flashback to her mysterious past.
The bald guy says he’s in Philly to do a little bartering, and then Cassandra takes off most of her clothes and it seems like she’s a prostitute. Or more accurately a crack whore, as the guy puts some drugs from a baggie on the bedside and then goes sloppily to town until Cassandra pulls a stun gun on him.
This angers the bald guy, who grabs the stun gun and prepares to attack Cassandra, which draws some of her “Family” buddies including Tobias Campbell, the Family’s bearded, imposing leader. The bald guy just starts beating them, too, but Cassandra gets him with a stun gun. Then Tobias stuns him several times.
Tobias berates Cassandra for messing up. She whines that the bald guy was too strong.
“You can’t be afraid. Hesitation will get you killed. You know I love you Sunshine, like I love all my children,” he says. He asks for her hand and she obediently complies, and then he hits her with a long blast of the stun gun that brings her to her knees.
In the present day we see Cassandra looking at the burns the stun gun left on her arm, riding in the backseat of the survivor’s truck. She asks why they’re going to Philly.
Garnett answers, saying they’re hoping to scavenge something without going too far into the dead zone, ideally a working radio to contact Citizen Z.
Murphy is a former prisoner whose anti-zombie-virus antibody filled blood the survivors are trying to transport across the country to use in a cure. He’s also the king of sarcasm. He has his head out the truck window and intones “Philadelphia. Ah, the city of brotherly love.” The car is at that moment driving by two Zs eating a young man or woman’s living guts on the sidewalk.
The survivors find, no kidding, the Liberty Bell sitting on the back of a flat-bed truck bed on the street. Someone had tried to evacuate it when it all went bad but didn’t make it. Our survivors aren’t interested in preserving this priceless piece of history, but they do want the truck. Doc is impressed someone tagged the bell, though.
“God bless the human race. Ninety-nine percent of them dead but there’s still one jackass alive with a spray can,” Doc says.
When they open the truck to try to start it, its undead driver is still inside. 10K kills it with his slingshot and, as is his custom, counts off the kill toward his goal of 10,000 killed zombies. This one is 1,075.
They get the Liberty Bell truck started and drive off with Warren, Murphy and Garnett in the new ride and the rest in the old one. The Liberty Bell, by the way, weighs 2,080 pounds. Not too much for a truck like the one they’re driving to handle but it must be hell on the fuel economy.
Murphy is making friends wherever he goes, drinking the last of Warren’s water to save his own. Warren is distracted by threatening to kick Murphy’s ass and almost doesn’t see a car coming right for them. out of control with a Z attacking the driver.
She swerves and the poorly-secured Liberty Bell goes flying off the truck and bounces down the street. It kills several Zs and people being bitten by Zs along the way, squashing some into a gory red paste. The sound of the bell ringing as it bounds over the ghouls that have destroyed one of America’s oldest cities is beautiful, enough to bring a tear to the eye of any red-blooded patriot.
The shock broke the axle of the new truck, so they get right back in the old truck. You know what that means. That that entire scene was contrived just to set up the ludicrous Liberty Bell gag.
At the Northern Light Arctic NSA listening post Citizen Z is cooking 20-ounce T-Bone steaks for himself and his dog. He talks freely to the dog, telling it he literally has half a ton of t-bones, plus every other kind of steak and enough MREs to feed a division for six months. He feeds a rare steak to his dog, who eats it hungrily. Citizen Z says it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.
“Sorry, it’s more of a zombie-eat-man world,” he corrects himself.
We see him press a steak to the grill and the shot cuts to another steak in Philly that Tobias is pressing on a grill. It’s kind of funny-looking, though, certainly not a t-bone.
The Family has a big compound in Philly. They have a main gate with some Zs strapped to it for an early warning system, several RVs to run their prostitution scam out of, and other buildings including one that serves as an ornate dining hall. Tobias heads there now, where he serves the steaks up to a big group, Thanksgiving style at nice kitchen table, and gives a speech about how important family is. He talks about leading them through the Black Summer famine that Cassandra mentioned in the last episode and says they survived by doing what they had to do.
Okay, they’re cannibals. No need to beat around the bush, although this episode sure does. It coyly hints at the cannibalism angle throughout much of its run time, but Z Nation tends to be about as subtle as a sledgehammer to face so it’s obvious from the first hint.
Tobias kisses the “beautiful mother” of the family, who he says showed them the way. She’s an older lady that appears to be catatonic.
The Family all join hands to pray, but Tobias says that while Sunshine is missing the Family is not complete and the circle is broken.
As they start to dig into some long pork, they’re startled by a noise. The Zs they have chained to the fence gate are moaning an alert that turns out to be a Family member returning. The arriving Family member shuts off the alarm by punching a Z in the face. Tobias is pleased his news that Cassandra has been found. No mention is made of last episode and the fact that finding Cassandra involved the brutal death of Family member Travis, whom Cassandra killed by kicking off an oil platform in a burning refinery, or if it is Tobias doesn’t care.
The survivors are eating Hostess Twinkies (Zombieland reference!). Warren says it’s the last of the food.
They split up to scavenge. Mack and Addy go to look for a radio. Doc, Cassandra and 10K and Warren, Garnett and Murphy split into those groups to look for food and water. We see Tobias is watching Cassandra through binoculars.
Mack and Abby find a cop car. It’s got a zombie cop in it, so Abby gets on the top of the car while Mack opens the door. When the zombie spills out Addy whacks it with her Z-Whacker. Mack is impressed and kind of turned on.
“Oh baby. You know if I ever need mercy I really hope it’s you,” he says and goes off to pike some Zs.
When Addy goes to check the cop radio she first sets up the little camera she uses to record everything. Turns out the zombie cop also had a zombie prisoner locked in the back, who gloms for her through the open bulletproof glass. She’s startled, but she gets out, rips the antenna off the back of the car, gets back in and rams that antenna in its eye, gorily scrambling its brains for several bloody seconds.
Doc and 10K are trying to steal a satellite dish. Doc jokes that maybe they’ll get lucky and pick up porn, which causes 10K to say he’s never seen porn and that it was “before my time.” Dude, it was three years ago.
“Is it good?” he asks.
“Yeah” the other two answer in unison, Doc a bit more enthusiastic.
Cassandra sees some members of the Family coming down the street and rabbits. She’s chased through the low budget stand-in streets of Philly (the show is filmed in Washington State) until she runs right up on a small zombie horde that distracts the Family.
There’s a quick scene of Citizen Z burping a couple of times at Northern Light that show his personal habits have gotten so bad even the dog gets up and leaves in disgust.
Tobias is mad about losing Cassandra, although he slap one of the guys who lets her go for calling her a bitch saying “that’s your sister.” Instead of going after Cassandra right away, he notices Addy in the police car and decides she’s an opportunity too good to pass up.
Addy gets the cop radio going and gets in touch with Citizen Z. Unfortunately after intros all he can hear is the Family stun-gunning her in the throat. They carry her off as Citizen Z yells through an abandoned radio. He triangulates the signal using his NSA resources.
“I miss the old days before Edward Snowden. And zombies. We were such badasses,” he says.
Mack comes back to the car. No Addy, and her Z-Whacker is there, so he’s freaking out from grief. He sees a Z that kind of looks like Addy and fears the worst, but after realizing it’s not her he Z-Whacks it. He hears Citizen Z on the radio and runs back to it and ask for help locating her.
Citizen Z says he heard human voices when Addy disappeared. Mack confirms to Citizen Z that Murphy is still alive, but runs off before listening to further instructions. He gets a bit down the road before he remembers Addy’s camera and goes back to get it, then leaves again.
Addy is hooded, gagged, screaming and tied to a chair in the Family’s dining room. It’s a recreation of the dinner scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, right down to the catatonic elder family member.
Addy is ungagged and says her friends will kill all of her kidnappers. Tobias just tries to sweet talk her, saying he’s sorry and that he doesn’t want her to be afraid. At one point he walks across the room and plays a creepy tune on an organ, always a sign of an honest person with good intentions.
“When we encounter strangers the family needs to take necessary precautions,” he says, and has Addy untied. He introduces himself as Tobias Campbell, the father of the “little Family.”
He offers Addy some food and then sends her away with two female Family members to find clothes for our “newest member.” Addy rejects being “adopted” angrily, but Tobias says that when people see the “love and bounty” the Family shares they never want to leave.
Doc is carrying the satellite dish and explaining the plot of Rocky to 10K. Again, it was only three years ago and 10K looks at least 21. He must have been Amish before the apocalypse.
Everyone meets back at the truck but Addy. Mack says she was taken alive by humans. Mack has a functioning iPad Air, BTW. He uses it to show Cassandra the video Addy’s camera took on the car dash of her kidnapping and demands Cassandra tell him who they are, putting a gun to her head to punctuate his request.
Garnett steps in and it looks like he’s playing good cop, but there are no good cops in the apocalypse. He says Cassandra will tell them everything she knows about the kidnappers and now Warren puts a gun to Cassandra’s head. Mack grabs Cassandra’s face and starts shaking her, screaming and demanding she say where Addy is, but a stray Z attack distracts everyone and Cassandra runs off.
The two female family members have dressed Addy in the most whorish outfit they could scrounge, a short kimono with heavy makeup.
“I look like a post-apocalyptic stripper,” Addy says, accurately describing the duds.
“More like bait,” one of the women says ominously.
Cassandra is caught by the group and comes clean about the Family, explaining it’s a dangerous cult and she won’t go back. She explains that Tobias was a smart, strong survivor but in Black Summer he lost his mind and his followers lost their souls.
She explains Addy will be used as she was, for bait, but refuses to say the C word because that would be too convenient at this point.
Addy is looking around the camp. She finds a butcher room that is another reference to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with all kinds of weird implements in it. Then she finds the Family’s larder.
I’ve come to expect at least one really disgusting, over the top scene in each episode, and this is it for this episode. The Family has found a way around the need for refrigeration. They’re keeping their victims alive, several of them, amputating a limb at a time to keep a supply of fresh meat. Even the bald guy that Sunshine entrapped is still there, lying on a table wrapped in bandages, his lips sewed together so he can’t cry out. Other victims with amputated limbs are also wrapped in bandages and are hanging like sides of beef in the larder. Some have IV bags attached to their bodies.
Addy runs out and is caught by Tobias, who just chuckles and says “Supper’s ready!”
We cut back to the main group, where Cassandra has obviously explained the situation because Murphy, in a good sociopathic cheer, is telling a joke about a farmer who had a smart pig that could read and do math named Arnold. The punchline is that one day a neighbor comes over and finds Arnold tripping around on three legs.
“The farmer says, ‘Smart pig like that, you don’t eat him all at once!'”
Only Murphy laughs.
“Oh what, too son?” he says, pretending to be hurt.
Cassandra explains that Tobias snapped when his wife got sick and he came up with the amputation cannibalism idea during Black Summer. Cassandra keeps screaming that these people are worse than Zs, but the group is undeterred.
Addy is at dinner with the Family, tied to a chair. They’ve got the bald guy on the table, his bloody stump exposed. Tobias is stripping skin from the bald guy with a knife as he wriggles and tries to scream, and Tobias is making a speech about how the Family isn’t really monsters.
Tobias subdues the bald guy with the taser and cuts off a long piece of skin. He offers it to Addy, all bloody and gross.
“I made it special for you,” he says.
Although the catatonic woman’s expression never wavers, Tobias looks at her and decides that Addy has “upset momma” and tells her it’s eat or be eaten.
Addy’s saved from her snack by Garnett walking up to the Family’s compound and the Family scrambling to greet the “fresh meat.” One Family guard to sell him on their prostitution trick, but Garnett just asks for Addy.
“Listen scumbag, I know you’ve got her. You send her out here in the next 10 seconds or a lot of bad s***’s going to start happening,” Garnett says. When the guards laugh Garnett gives a signal and 10K blows one’s head off with a sniper rifle from a nearby hill. He apparently doesn’t count when he makes human kills.
Garnett says he showed the guy shot in the head some mercy, but the next to be killed will be shot in the heart so they can turn into Zs.
There’s a standoff, and Tobias brings Addy out with a knife to her throat. We can see the other survivors except for Doc and Murphy have the Family surrounded, ready to attack the compound.
“Give me back my Sunshine and you can have your precious Addy,” Tobias says.
“I’m not going to negotiate with a cannibal,” Garnett fires back, threatening to kill everyone in the compound and raising his hand to prepare to give the signal to 10K to start shooting.
“Kill away. Frankly I’ve had about all the zombie apocalypse I can take. But of course you and the girl will be the first to die,” Tobias says.
Garnett puts his hands down and now Tobias gives his own signal, a whistle that calls a guard to reveal a .50 caliber machine gun and fire a few rounds. The survivors look screwed, but Cassandra gives up and agrees to be traded for Addy. They let Addy go and Tobias embraces Cassandra with a chilling “My Sunshine.”
The survivors reunite at their truck. As they prepare to go Addy says “We’re not leaving her there, are we?” If you’ll remember Addy encouraged Hammond to go back to kill the zombie baby in the first episode and it ate him, so she’s not the best practical decision-maker.
But she fights for Cassandra, saying “she did what she had to do to survive.” Warren joins Addy’s side, saying “You men don’t know what it’s like” and the women win the argument, but there’s still the machine gun nest to deal with.
The group calls Citizen Z at Northern Light on the radio. Addy’s plan is to have Citizen Z broadcast loud music to create a diversion that makes the Zs go crazy. Citizen Z is very pleased that “somebody actually needs us,” as he tells his dog.
Cassandra is at the Family table, hand feeding “Momma” something white as Tobias watches. Could be tapioca, could be human brains. The guards enter. They have another victim lined up for the prostitution scam and say “You’re on, Sunshine.” Tobias walks her to the RV.
The John is Doc, whom the family hasn’t seen yet, with his hair slicked across his head ridiculously, a scarf and sunglassses.
“MMMM. That’s what I’m talking about,” Doc says lewdly when he sees Cassandra
After Tobias closes the door, Doc tells Cassandra they’re doing “the right thing” and to follow his lead.
The survivors are playing Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries through a speaker attached to the back of the truck to attract the zombies. Murphy opines that the stunt will get them all killed, which sounds about right.
They drive through low-budget Philly, drawing a horde behind them.
Doc and Cassandra are shaking the RV and making aggressive sex sounds. Tobias, standing outside waiting for the ambush, hears the Wagner in the distance. He sends guards to investigate and man the .50 cal. Doc takes this as his cue to make sounds like he’s being tased, and Tobias and a guard enter the RV.
Doc shoots the guard in the head but is downed by Tobias. Cassandra jumps on Tobias’s back and tasers the living crap out of HIM for once.
“Sunshine,” he says, literally and emotionally shocked.
“My name is Cassandra,” she says, and crams the taser into his mouth and tasers his tongue. You can see the light from the taser through his cheeks. She and Doc run and hide behind one of the RVs.
The zombie parade arrives following the musical truck. The whole Family gets ready to greet it guns drawn, including Tobias who seems fine except for some foaming at the mouth.
Warren drives the truck straight through the gate and the Zs strapped to it. The .50 gunner is distracted by the horde and 10K takes him out. It’s done in a ridiculous bullet POV shot that goes through the guy’s head and hits a propane tank behind him, causing a big explosion.
As the Zs rush in Doc and Cassandra get in the truck. The survivors cut the music and split. Tobias tries to take refuge from the horde in his grotesque larder, but her’s just trapped himself. The “food” screams for the zombies as best it can with sewn-shut lips and grabs Tobias with its remaining limbs, holding him down for the coming feast as Zs rush in. Supper’s ready!
There’s one more shot of momma, still catatonic and uncaring as she hears Tobias give one final scream.
As the survivors drive out of town they pass the Liberty Bell. 10K shoots it to make it ring.
“I always heard Philly was a tough town, but sheesh!” Doc says.
We see Citizen Z in his sunglasses, hat and radio DJ persona. He says he’s putting on some blues for his friends in Philadephia and it starts to play as Addy and Cassandra comfort each other in the back seat of the truck.
“Bash ’em, slash ’em, bust ’em and burn ’em. Whatever it takes. Just stay alive. No questions asked,” Citizen Z says, as the truck leaves Philly. End of episode.
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