Syfy’s “Z Nation” took a decidedly scary turn in episode 8, just in time for Halloween. The latest episode sees Operation Bite Mark clash with a deranged new villain who is bent on collecting the best and most valuable items that the zombie apocalypse has to offer, including humanity’s last hope for a cure.
The episode opens with the remaining members of Operation Bite Mark taking inventory of their supplies. After battling the Zeros along the Mississippi River last week, the gang is short on bullets, food and gas. Before they get back on the road, Doc (Russell Hodgkinson) asks humanity’s last hope for survival, Murphy (Keith Allan), if he wants to go scavenging for food. While speaking to Doc, Murphy finds himself so hungry that the vaccine he was given in episode 1 fails for the first time to suppress his desire for human brains. Luckily, he’s still got enough willpower to not start biting into his friend’s skull, but it does make him wander off when he picks up the scent of brains in the woods. Murphy approaches a baited trap and falls right into it. Unfortunately, the trap is well constructed and the rest of the survivors have very little chance of figuring out where their most valuable asset is.
It doesn’t take long before the person who built the trap comes to collect. Assuming anyone who can be lured by brains is a zombie, he enters the pit and immediately knocks Murphy out. When Murphy comes to, he finds himself inside an odd laboratory. A small man is beside him experimenting on zombie brains with utter glee. It quickly becomes apparent to the man that Murphy, despite his bluish skin and bloodshot eyes, isn’t an ordinary zombie.
Unfortunately, thanks to the bump on the head and dehydration, Murphy’s voice is shot and he can’t immediately explain his condition. He begs for water, which is enough to make the man understand that he may not be dealing with a zombie. Suddenly, the answer hits him like a wave of understanding. He introduces himself as the Collector (Tom Beyer) and reveals he has been traveling the country finding artifacts to keep in his museum. While traveling, he heard stories about the infamous Murphy -- that he is half man, half zombie -- and is pretty sure he has found the real thing.
The Collector, despite being relatively small, makes it clear that he’s a very dangerous man. He was a zombie hunter before the zombie outbreak even occurred. He says he tried to warn the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the impending outbreak but they didn’t listen, mostly because the letters he wrote had more to do with zombies in pop culture than any kind of scientific research pointing to an epidemic. He straps an electric shock collar on Murphy so that he doesn’t run off and begins to take him on a guided tour of his collection. After a brief rundown of the history of zombies in movies, he offers to let Murphy take a much-needed hot shower.
Thinking they’ve developed a bond, the Collector starts to do some combat training on a zombie while Murphy prepares to bathe in the next room. Murphy sees this as an opportunity to knock him out and take the buzzer for his collar. Surprisingly, the tiny man can take a hit and manages to shoot Murphy with a tranquilizer dart. Raving at his unconscious body, the Collector shouts that he’s smarter than the CDC ever was and that if anyone wants to cure themselves using Murphy, they’ll simply have to come to his museum and pay the ticket price.
When Murphy wakes up, he’s strapped to a chair in place for the Collector’s next bout of insanity. He’s sitting in front of a camera on what appears to be a talk show set. He explains that he wants people to have a living record of Murphy’s story, which he demands be told while he’s collecting blood from his prisoner. Murphy refuses at first, but jolts from his shock collar force him to play ball. He opens up and tells him his entire story about being a prisoner who was experimented on at the onset of the zombie apocalypse and how he survived his vicious attack to become the hybrid creature that he is today. He even mentions giving up his daughter. However, he leaves out significant details such as what happens when he bites a human.
When it’s over, the Collector feels comfortable continuing the tour that Murphy abruptly ended earlier. He takes him to another room in the museum and it quickly becomes apparent that the place is dangerous. The Collector has living zombies on display behind electrified fences. As if that’s not terrifying enough, his desire to have nothing but unique items means he has one of each type of mutant zombie that’s been shown on the series so far. This includes a radioactive zombie, a plant zombie and a super-fast zombie (aka a blaster). Murphy notices a throne with straps on it sitting on a stage labeled “The Murphy” and realizes what the Collector has in store for him if he doesn’t escape.
He plays along with the tour, making it all the way to the “Celebrity Z” exhibit. Inside is none other than celebrity guest star George R.R. Martin, author of the “Game of Thrones” novels. As previously reported, it’s explained that the writer was signing books at a Comic Con when it was overrun by zombies. The Collector helped him escape, but he turned zombie on the way back to the museum. Now, he sits with a stack of his books, signing any that come in front of him out of sheer muscle memory. Just as the Collector is speculating about having Murphy use his mind control powers to help Martin finish his long-awaited book series, he clobbers his captor over the head with a copy of “A Promise of Spring” and dashes for the front door. Sadly, it’s locked and the Collector catches up to him and starts getting busy with his shock collar.
In a last-ditch effort, Murphy tries to use his powers to attract a nearby zombie to come to his rescue. However, it quickly becomes clear that one zombie won’t be enough. Luckily, 10K (Nat Zang) is out looking for Murphy and notices the Z acting strange, so he follows it. While he can see the Collector through the front door’s window, Murphy is lying down writhing in pain out of sight. The madman makes a flimsy excuse about not seeing anyone around town and 10K finally leaves. However, when he walks around the corner, it becomes clear he didn’t buy The Collector’s story for a second and breaks into the museum.
Although 10K and Murphy have had friction since the former was forced to kill the latter’s first zombie convert, Cassandra (Pisay Pao), the young boy understands that the mission is to get Murphy to California. He finds him strapped to his “Murphy” exhibit being drained of all his blood in the mutant zombie room. The Collector gets the drop on him and when he wakes up, 10K finds himself in one of the electric cages as well. That’s when the insane collector demands Murphy produce one more exhibit for his museum -- a human that’s been bitten by him. While the Collector doesn’t know what will happen, 10K knows he’ll turn into Murphy’s mindless slave like Cassandra did. He begs the Collector to shoot him instead, but he just resorts to torturing them both with shock collars.
Murphy makes a big show out of finally getting revenge on 10K for what he did to Cassandra, and it looks like he’s about to bite him. Suddenly, the mutant zombies appear behind the Collector and pounce on him from behind. It turns out he was only pretending to bite 10K as a distraction while he mind-controlled the zombies out of their respective paddocks. Murphy makes the Collector stare at him in his final moments as he’s eaten alive.
The rest of Operation Bite Mark show up at the last second to use the remainder of their ammo supply on the three zombies and bring Murphy back to their car. The episode ends on a low note as Murphy, delirious from blood loss, begs Warren (Kellita Smith) to promise him that she won’t leave him alone with the CDC in California. It seems that being someone else’s zoo animal was enough to make him admit that he’s worried about the CDC dehumanizing him in favor of making their precious cure. Warren, a bit confused, agrees and Operation Bite Mark hits the road for California once again.