This article discusses the Jericho TV show, a 2006 CBS television series. ***Spoilers Below***
Jericho has gained a cult following in prepper popular culture. The series is set in a small town, “Jericho, Kansas.” The series follows the people of Jericho as they deal with the nuclear attack. In this article, I’ll discuss a few of the plot points. We’ll go over the real preparedness concerns as well as Hollywood fluff. Read our analysis of episode 3 here.
The Walls of Jericho
The episode begins with Jake, Stanley, and Eric at the town bar watching the little broadcast television that remains: Images from an unknown source of the disaster. The bar runs out of fuel for the generator and everyone is asked to leave.
On his way home Jake runs into Heather and they hear glass breaking. They find sick man raiding the pharmacy. He shows signs of radiation sickness.
The police respond. Deputies Bill and Jimmy refuse to touch the blistered bleeding man. Bill states they should obtain personal protective equipment first. Jake and Stanley rush the man to the med center.
Eric finds out that April is now running out of gas for the generator at the med center. Gracie Lee finds out that Dale Turner has located food and supplies to stock the store with.
We cut to our heroes at the med center. The sick man is in very bad shape, burned, blistered and loosing his hair. Eric talks with Johnston about obtaining gasoline for the generator at the med center. Johnston suggests having townsfolk siphon gas from their cars.
Bill and Jimmy are seen talking with Johnston about a potential attack. Bill laments that the town has no defense plan other than him and Jimmy. Heather discusses siphoning gas from the now powerless gas stations for the generator.
We discover The sick man will require additional care via a ventilator. This will tax the gasoline resources at the medical center. Eric suggests saving the fuel as the sick man looks like he is obviously going to die.
Heather and Jake get permission to take gas from the gas station. We see the Hawkins’ at home rehearsing a cover story to tell the locals. Jimmy knocks on the door and asks Robert to assist with policing the city. Robert declines. Jimmy expresses that the town is suffering a major uptake in crime. Robert then accepts the invitation.
Eric is going around the town asking each citizen for gas. Gracie Lee says she’s sacrificed enough. Bill reports to Eric they are 90 gallons short and people are hoarding. Eric insinuates the gas might have to be taken.
The generator runs out of gas and patients are suffering without power. Gail is pressed into service giving rescue breaths to the sick man while April hand pumps an infant respirator.
Jake and Stanley arrive and restore power with the gas from the fuel station. Eric arrives moments later with the donated gas. April scoffs at Eric’s late offering.
The sick man reports 20 people from Denver at a nearby lake who need help. Jimmy and Robert shut down a party being held by local teenagers on generator power.
Shep’s truck is located with a bloodied broken window and the sick man’s ID inside. Robert says the sick man will die, it is important to wake him up and question him. April attempts to intervene. Robert gets a moment alone with the dying man who tells him “There is a traitor.” The sick man dies.
Jake heads to the Bar and rallies townsfolk to go help the 20 refugees at the lake. The bar is now running on the gas Eric gathered that was not needed at the med center.
The rescue party finds the 20 people dead, from radiation poisoning. The town holds a vigil for the dead. Johnston leads the vigil, stating “every life matters… The battle ahead isn’t just for our survival, it’s for our humanity.”
What they got right
This episode is mostly about allocating resources in a survival situation. Generators need gas. Fuel would be an important resource for keeping a med center running. Collecting fuel would be extremely difficult. Fuel is a valuable resource, it is unlikely that people would part with it.
Decisions about who to help would be critical. Can you help everyone? Will a decision to help a stranger affect someone you care about. Resources are limited, especially in an emergency.
One of the most accurate moments is when Bill demands they glove up before touching the sick man. Our heroes determine they will help without gloves. Using Personal Protective Equipment is the right call. Why? Remember when the stewardess on your last air trip told you: “Put on your own oxygen mask, then help the person next to you.” You cannot help people if you don’t help yourself first. The sick man had broken into the pharmacy, how difficult would it be to obtain gloves then help him? Not too hard.
Dale Turner’s scavenging is a good representation of something that might happen. People would probably see things like food on a train and decide to take it rather than let it be taken by someone else.
April Green’s attitude continues to be a concern. A doctor is an important resource. As much as she’d like to run a modern med center with no sacrifices the world has changed. There is a moment in this episode where Jericho’s security forces as rag tag as they may be demonstrate to April, they are now in charge for better or for worse.
A Note on Radiation…
Acute Radiation poisoning is possible with a nuclear attack. However someone suffering from such an illness would probably be unable to get to Jericho. The radiation is not the most dangerous effect of a nuclear weapon. Blast and Heat are the primary killers. This is why duck and cover is so important. The prompt radiation is the most hazardous, fallout is secondary to that. Any shielding you put between you and the blast will reduce the exposure to prompt radiation.
Fallout was a concern in previous episodes. Fallout can result in a lot of problems, like cancer and radiation poisoning. But it’s a lot less likely to cause immediate death than the prompt electromagnetic radiation released from the blast it’self.
People close enough to the blast to receive a fatal dose of radiation would probably be killed by overpressure, flying debris and heat. If you had enough shielding to avoid the fatal effects of blast and heat, you probably also had enough shielding to prevent radiation sickness. It is possible, but it’s one of those things where Hollywood wants to focus on a grim death from radiation poisoning.
The cases of radiation poisoning would likely result from people who received some ionizing radiation from the blast AND also did not “Get off the X.” It should be noted that in very small nuclear weapons the radiation effects are much more pronounced than in larger devices. Weapons like the Davy Crockett had a 20 ton yeild. had a deadly radiation radius that extended far past the blast area. With a 20 kiloton bomb the deadly radiation radius is roughly the same as the fatal overpressure radius. This means if you have survived a nuclear blast evacuation, decontamination and sheltering from fallout are important.
Jericho is showing themselves to be slow to establish security. Bill, Jimmy and Johnston discuss it, but you would see folks openly carrying firearms etc. What? Eric gave the extra fuel to the bar!? Wow! Also why was the bar even running on generator power in the first place? I think this is mostly a device to let us know how strained April and Eric’s relationship is.
A Final Thought
The point made by Johnston Green is a poignant one. The epic human drama of war, and disaster tend to bring out the best and worst in people. The United States has awarded numerous men the Medal of Honor for jumping on grenades to save their brothers. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Still others turn to crime and treachery. We must ask ourselves, can we care for a stranger and meet our obligation to care for our own? The question is hard to answer. This becomes an ongoing theme in the TV show. Jericho is still awesome, thought provoking TV.