While Harry and Rick bury the Johnsons, Carl's thugs find Karen off by herself. Ann is doing the family wash by the stream and hasn't noticed that her daughter has wandered away. Karen attempts to barter food for her freedom, but Andy and Mickey just laugh at her. The crazy jazz theme plays as she is dragged into some brush by one of them, while the other stands watch. Karen's screams are eventually heard by Ann who picks up a shotgun and comes running. She fires off a couple of shots, but the "boys" manage to escape back to the farmhouse.
Karen is still convulsed in tears when Harry and Rick return to the cave from their grave digging detail. Ann is trying to comfort her. Harry puts two and two together quickly but not before Karen acknowledges the rape by saying pathetically, "I'm sorry, daddy." Harry grabs his guns and Rick follows.
The men creep up to the farmhouse and witness Andy and Mickey laughing about their escapade over cans of Budweiser. Moments later Harry and Rick bust in and the hipsters plead for their lives. Harry shoots one of them when they make a move to escape. The other one gets plugged in cold blood.
They search the house for Carl, but find the proverbial farmer's daughter instead. She is in bed in a negligee and says her name is Marilyn Hayes. She tells Rick and Harry that Carl and his cronies murdered her parents. She doesn't say what they did to her, but it is abundantly clear. For no reason whatsoever Harry barks at her, "Put on some clothes and get out!"
When Rick rebukes his father for this incredible display of insensitivity, Harry folds quickly and allows the ill-used farm girl to join their family. Before they leave, however, they drag Mickey and Andy out of the house into the backwoods. Harry tells Rick that this will make Carl think that his cohorts took off with Marilyn.
That night the cracks finally begin to show in Harry's psyche. He is alone with Ann and confesses, "I killed two men." Ann tries to console him by offering, "I tried to kill them, too, but I missed. I just wasn't a good enough shot." This line is intended to sound empathetic and poignant, but comes out sounding hilarious. Because of the sitcom subtext, the viewer imagines Jane Wyatt or Donna Reed reciting the line, not a woman fearing for her daughter's life. Harry ignores his wife's revelation and says solemnly, "I looked for the worst in others and I found it in myself."
The next time we see Marilyn she has been reborn as a wholesome teenage American girl. But although she has been emancipated from her white slavery, she is still hesitant around men. She accepts Rick's invitation to take a walk with a great deal of trepidation. Harry approves of the budding relationship for reasons that could only be found in Year Zero: "He could do worse, she's pretty good with a rifle."
Since the last CONELRAD bulletin, a lot has changed:
Here are the 1:00 bulletins: Operation Survival is rapidly taking effect. Authorities report that many areas are responding to discipline, but effective control has not yet been established in many rural and mountain areas in the state. People in such areas are urged to maintain strict caution and vigilance. Relocation centers have been established and are operating in the following sections of the state: For Los Angeles, Malibu; for the San Fernando Valley, Thousand Oaks; for the southern portion of the Sierra-Nevada range, Wheaton... (fades out).
Despite Ann's enthusiasm to rejoin the other atomic survivors in Wheaton, Harry tells his family that they will wait things out a while longer in the cave to avoid the crowds. He explains this decision by saying, "Here, I have some measure of control -- now leave me alone, please!"
Yet, Harry's "measure of control" doesn't extend to Carl who soon shows up to avenge the deaths of his friends. Carl is killed by Marilyn's quick draw, but not before he squeezes off a shot at Rick's leg. Now the family is FORCED to seek assistance.
On the way to the nearest town they hear their final CONELRAD bulletin:
Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State: "The enemy has requested an immediate cessation of hostilities. A meeting is now in progress to discuss the terms and conditions under which peace, not war may be declared. Year Zero is officially drawing to a close." We are pleased to announce the resumption of normal broadcasting is expected in twelve hours.
After trying a couple of ravaged buildings, Harry finds Dr. Powell Strong who, at gunpoint, insists on examining Harry's arms before letting him in. "Dope addicts have been running wild," he explains.
Strong patches Rick up, but tells Harry that he will need to have a transfusion in Wheaton. Harry thanks the doctor and offers him all his ammunition as payment. The doctor cautions Harry to keep some bullets for himself. "What for? The war's over -- we won," Harry says with pride.
The doctor replies acerbically, "well, ding, ding for us... Now you stay on the back roads and you keep your gun handy. Our country is still full of thieving, murdering patriots." Dr. Strong is a surprisingly honest character for a movie that seems hell bent on presenting atomic war as survivable and, indeed, winnable. He is the one person who challenges and intimidates Harry for his outlook on the events of Year Zero.
On their way to Wheaton, they hear on the radio that all radiation danger has lifted from Los Angeles and shortly thereafter are run off the road by an oncoming vehicle. A voice from behind headlights tells them to get out of the car with their hands up. They comply, but when Harry makes a movement for his gun, the ground before them is sprayed with bullets. It is at this moment that Harry realizes the machine gun fire means they are in the custody of the army. "Oh, Harry, thank God," cries Ann.
Once alerted to Rick's condition, the army guards let the family through a blockade to go to the nearest aid station. As they pass, the private says to his sergeant, "That's five more."
Sergeant: Five more what?
One can almost hear Dr. Strong groaning in the distance.
As the soldiers nod to one another "Dragnet"-style the following pops up on screen:
"THERE MUST BE NO END, ONLY A NEW BEGINNING."
To underscore this sentiment, the Les Baxter music blares again as the credits scroll over the radio dial being changed from 1240 to, presumably, a jazz station.
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