Fear the Walking Dead draws tribal battle lines in Red Dirt. Episode six of season three puts the residents of Broke Jaw Ranch squarely in the sights of Walker and the Indians. While the Otto family struggles to deal with the impending threat, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) emerges as the group's de facto leader. This was another strong episode on multiple fronts.
Red Dirt opens with more bonding time between the Clark and Otto family. Nick (Frank Dillane) and Jeremiah have target practice with the pistol. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Jake (Sam Underwood) lay in bed post-coitus. She wonders, along with Nick, why their mother has taken so long to get back. Cut to the distant road, Nick sees the group walking toward them with bloody feet.
Everyone rushes to meet them at the gate. Troy (Daniel Sharman) wants to debrief his father privately, but Mike (Justin Deeley) isn't having it. He tells everyone about the ambush by Walker and his claim to Broke Jaw Ranch. They are all dead if they remain. In his office, Jeremiah berates Troy. Madison says it wasn't his fault. The Indians are coming. People are scared. What is Jeremiah going to do? He tells Jake to handle it and storms off in a huff.
In their cabin, Nick and Alicia dress their mother's feet. Madison realizes that Luciana has left, and that Nick has chosen to stay with his family. Alicia watches Jake target practice with a machine gun. She asks for a lesson, then implores him to take control of the situation. People are looking for his leadership. He calmly responds that leadership is earned, and the others will choose who to follow.
Madison is recovering when Gretchen (Rae Gray) pays a visit. She's looking for Alicia, the Trimbol family is leaving the ranch. They are going to another settlement in Colorado. Madison tells her that's a huge mistake. They don't know what's out there. Gretchen tells Madison that everyone knows she was the reason the group survived Walker's attack. Jeremiah sits in his cabin looking desperately at a bottle of booze. He sees a flicker in the glass. He looks outside to see a series bonfires surround the ranch.
The next morning, the fires have burnt out but the warning was clear. Jeremiah says it's just a scare tactic. Walker doesn't have the men or firepower to take the ranch. In the supply basement, Nick has another confrontation with Troy. Troy spoke Luciana's name, but he wasn't picking a fight. He's proud that Nick decided to stay. Troy tries to stop the Trimbol's from taking supplies. They claim their belongings. Jeremiah has told them they can leave.
Outside at breakfast, Vernon Trimbol (Hugo Armstrong) wants to say his last peace to Jeremiah. He isn't willing to hear it. Take your family and leave. Madison begs Jeremiah to stop them. They cannot lose any more people. The ranchers gather as the Trimbol's pack up their camper and horses. Troy blocks the gate. They cannot leave using the ranch's fuel. Jake moves Troy, but get's punched for his effort. Jeremiah hits Troy in disgust. The Trimbol's drive away as terror creeps through the crowd.
Troy is in the armory locking up the guns. These are the first things people will take when they run. Madison wants to know what he's going to do. Nothing, Mike and Vernon Trimbol were like family, but they are dead to him now. The soldiers gather around Troy. He swears that they will defend the ranch to the death. They all agree in unison. Madison shrewdly watches Troy as he gives his speech.
Nick returns to his cabin to find Otto drunk. He wants to share a bottle, but Nick refuses to drink. Otto grabs the pistol and shoots several rounds into the floor. There's blood in that dirt he says in a stupor. Nick gingerly takes the gun and puts Jeremiah to bed. The next day, Jeremiah stumbles outside with a hangover. He wants to apologize, but Nick pretends that nothing ever happened. Jeremiah appreciates the response. He suddenly notices a horse is at the gate.
Madison watches as Alicia sneaks in after another tryst with Jake. She tells her daughter that the rhythm method doesn't work, that this is not the time for accidents. Alicia replies that the supply room has birth control. Madison asks if she loves Jake. She admits to liking him. They need his support. Madison asks if she's with him just for that reason. Alicia says no, she does have genuine feelings for Jake.
Jeremiah recognizes Vernon's horse. He takes Madison and Nick, who now wears the pistol, in his truck to search for the Trimbols. He tells them to expect the worst. They find the Trimbol camper riddled with bullets. They have all been killed, turned into walkers, and are consuming a hapless horse. Madison cannot bring herself to kill Gretchen. Nick and Jeremiah put the Trimbols out of their misery. Nothing was taken during the attack. They all acknowledge this had to be the work of Troy.
They return to the ranch with the Trimbol bodies. As the ranchers gather, Madison lies and puts the blame squarely on the Indians. She tells everyone this is what awaits them outside the ranch. They are better supplied and armed. If they stay together, they can repel the Indian threat. She has united the ranch. Jeremiah, Nick, and Troy look on with amazement.
Madison confronts Troy about the Trimbol massacre. He admits to killing them. She doesn't care. She demands he control himself. Madison asks him if he's tough enough for the fight to come. His brother will not be. He looks at her like a scolded son begging for approval, "Yes Ma'am." She walks away with a cold look. Madison has taken control of Troy.
Alicia watches as Jake furiously packs. She grabs his map. He's leaving to speak to Walker. Alicia is stupefied. Jake admits that the Indians have been wronged. He's dealt with Walker in the past, they can settle this before more people are killed. Alicia says that world has changed. They can't feel guilt or ethics anymore. Nick is unhappy with his mother's lie about Troy and the Trimbols. He understands why she did it, but she should have told him about it before. Troy is dangerous, do not get too close to him. The episode ends with Alicia packing her backpack. She's going after Jake.
Red Dirt is building to a big confrontation for the mid-season finale. Madison's Machiavellian tactics have her pulling all the strings at the ranch. She's earned everyone's respect, has Troy by the leash, and her battle-hardened son on the same page. Her daughter and Jake are probably going to be in serious trouble with Walker. This whole ethnic showdown is ripe fruit, but a minefield laden storyline. We'll see how skillfully the show plays the race war card next week when Fear the Walking Dead returns on AMC.