by Kat Rosenfield
In last week’s episode of “The Walking Dead,” the high walls of Woodbury came down between our favorite lady travelers. Andrea, seduced by the promise of safety and hot showers (not to mention hot something else with a certain non-elected official) stayed; Michonne, convinced that this so-called safe haven was anything but, walked through the front gates with the Governor’s blessing, never to be seen again.
Except for the part where they track her down and try to kill her, of course, because Woodbury is actually the worst.
Merle and a team of mercenaries are on Michonne’s tail, and she’s left a message to them in a forest clearing: a zombie body part pictogram that reads, GO BACK. (Yes, the “back” part is conveyed with an actual back, hee hee.). One dude — Merle calls him “Neil” — is freaking out and wants to go home, but Merle is out for blood. He shouts at their unseen quarry: “You gonna leap outta the woods, one against four?”
Why, yes! Michonne does, indeed, leap out, and two men go down while the terrified Neil cowers and sobs. Michonne doesn’t get away unscathed, either; she takes a bullet to the behind, and soon she’s face-to-face with her pursuers. But their showdown is rudely interrupted: zombies! Michonne gets off a bad swipe with her katana and dumps a walker’s innards all over herself — ewwwwww — but when the scuffle is over, she’s vanished. Merle has had enough, and he concocts a story: they’ll go back and say she’s dead. Neil says no. Merle says DIE. (Bye, Neil! We hardly knew ya.)
Meanwhile, Michonne emerges from the forest and finds herself face to face with an oncoming horde of walkers… who walk right by as though she’s not there, thanks to her all-over schmear of zombie goo. Thus protected, she limps as far as an abandoned shopping center, but hides as a truck pulls up — a truck whose occupants turn out to be Glenn and Maggie on a supply run. But before Michonne can make her presence known, Merle appears, and it’s another season one reunion.
Merle asks to be taken to Daryl (and in exchange, to let the whole Atlanta abandonment thing go). Glenn, recognizing the wisdom in not bringing the blood-covered, wild-eyed, grudge-holding redneck with a weaponized hand stump back to your safe haven, says that they’ll bring Daryl to him, which prompts Merle to resort to Plan B: putting a gun to Maggie’s head and taking his hostages back to…
Woodbury! Where Andrea has been telling the Gov that she wants to work the wall. She’ll need to use a bow, and a former Olympic hopeful with a ponytail and a ballcap is tapped to teach her archery — but when a walker shows up, Andrea takes matters into her own hands. She hops over the wall and knifes the grunting corpse. Bad move, sister: Ponytail looks at her like she’s lost her mind, and that’s it for Andrea’s career in security… but not for her weird connection with the dreamy Governor. She admits it: she likes their brutal forms of entertainment, and maybe she likes him, too, and forget the blood-and-guts stuff, this flirtation is hands-down the grossest thing that’s happened on the show all season. What is wrong with her? Can she not smell the Creepy that’s coming off this guy in waves?
Ugh, apparently not: the flirting gives way to kissing, and the kissing gives way to naked bed shenanigans, which are thankfully interrupted when Merle shows up at the door to report that he’s captured Glenn and Maggie (and to lie about having killed Michonne).
And back at the prison, Rick is playing the world’s strangest game of telephone. A woman on the line claims to be part of a group that’s someplace safe. Rick begs to join them; the woman says she’ll call back. But when the phone rings again, it’s a man. He wants to know: has Rick killed anyone? How many? And what happened to his wife?
“I don’t want to talk about that.” Click. Hmm. This is weird, right?
Hershel thinks so; he comes to check on Rick, who tells him about the phone call. Hershel picks up, hears nothing, and looks dubious — but he leaves Rick to it. And when the phone rings again, it’s yet another voice: a woman.
A woman who knows Rick’s name.
That phone he’s been talking on? It’s dead. As in, not working, but also as in dead, as the next caller gently explains that Rick has spent his morning chatting with Amy, Jaqui, and…
Rick crumples to the floor, overcome with grief and guilt. He tells her he’s failed, broken the only promise that he made to himself, but Lori reminds him what he has: Carl, the baby. The connection starts to stutter as she tell him she loves him, and the line goes dead. (As in not working.)
Meanwhile, Daryl, Oscar and Carl wander the prison in search of stray zombies. Daryl tells Carl how his own mom died in a house fire, and how the worst part was how unreal it seemed, but his attempts at bonding are cut short when Carl’s all like, yeah, I shot my mom? So that was actually pretty real. (Sorry, Daryl. You tried.)
Daryl takes down a walker and notices something strange sticking out of its neck: Carol’s knife. It’s more than he can take; alone in the hallway, he slams the knife against the wall again and again. What’ll make him feel better? Killing the zombie who keeps thumping against a blocked door, that’s what! He flings it open, knife at the ready, ready to bury it up to the hilt in…
Carol?! Carol! Carol’s alive!
And back in the cellblock, the rest of the group looks up to see Rick: clear-eyed, calm, ready to come back and move on. To hold his baby. To step out into the sun. And to look across the yard to the fence…
… where Michonne stands, surrounded by walkers, holding a basket of powdered formula, and staring back with haunted eyes.