So much is happening on this show! Right now, Rick and the scavenger crew, minus Merle, are returning to the encampment. What’s their next survival move going to be? Shane, Lori, and Carl have adapted to the post-apocalyptic surroundings. How are they going to adjust when Rick returns to their lives? What about Merle? What about Morgan and Duane? WHAT’S CAUSING THE OUTBREAK IN THE FIRST PLACE???
Some or all of that gets addressed this week.
THE ROOF IN ATLANTA
This episode opens right with Merle. He’s still handcuffed to the pipe on the roof of the department store. Some time has passed. He’s dehydrated and appears delirious, talking to himself and reliving old memories. We get some of his backstory this way—he was in the military for a while but got thrown in the brig for sixteen months for punching a superior officer. Totally worth it to him, though. It seems like one of the fondest memories of his life, actually.
Also, the handcuffs have dug into his flesh and the wound does not look healthy:
Gangrene, maybe? Do you think they’ll have to amputate, now that all of medicine is extinct?
This is all very much a “what goes through your head right before you die” type of scene. Loooooong overhead shot of him staring up at the sky:
“You know what? I would say I did everything in my life exactly right.”
Then, he seems to snap out of the reverie and remember that he’s chained to a goddamn pipe during the apocalypse, and he starts struggling all over again. Still no hope. He starts crying.
And now, the door to the stairwell creaks open. The zombies have found him. The padlock T-Dog put on the door is keeping them at bay, but Merle starts to panic. He lies down in despair, crying out for Jesus to show him the way.
Then, his strength returns to him and he grabs his belt, which he’d been using to try to snag one of the tools T-Dog dropped, and starts flinging it towards them again. They’re just out of reach. He starts raging about something else now…I think he’s cursing Jesus. I’ve watched it five times and I still can’t quite figure out what Michael Rooker is saying. Let’s say he’s cursing Jesus. “I’ve never begged before and I won’t start now.” Sure, why not?
THE MOVING VAN
Rick drives along a rural back road with Morales riding shotgun. Morales advises Rick not to dwell over Merle. Nobody really liked him anyway. He won’t be missed back at the encampment will miss him. Except by Daryl.
Who’s Darryl? Merle’s brother.
“Oh, did I not tell you about the brother when you were debating whether to leave Merle to die? My B.”
Outside the van, Glenn speeds past them in his red sports car. The alarm is still blaring.
Wouldn’t this attract zombies?
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE SURVIVOR ENCAMPMENT
Shane, Lori, and Carl are hanging out by the campfire, where Lori’s giving Carl a haircut and he’s miserable about it. Shane jokes with him that he should wait until he’s old enough to start shaving, because it stings, and Shane throws out other vaguely fatherly banter, finally offering to teach Carl frog-catching. It sounds like a fun pastime, but Shane indicates this will also be an important skill that will provide food for the encampment. “We’ll be heroes for feeding everybody!” and so on. Carl seems grossed out about eating frog legs, and maybe also by Shane trying to act like a father figure so much.
Then, they hear Glenn’s car alarm off in the distance. Dale looks into his binoculars and watches Glenn pull up. Glenn gets out and is elated to see everyone, while everyone else lights into him for various reasons. Dale and Shane think he’s an idiot for driving a wailing car right up to the encampment, since sound attracts the zombies, (and Glenn doesn’t look too bright for leaving the alarm on, when it turns you just have to flip a simple switch under the hood. Oops). At least Dale doesn’t think the car attracted the zombies, because the encampment is at the top of the mountain and the surrounding foothills would have dispersed the sound.
Amy wants to know if the other scavengers survived, especially her sister, and right on cue, the moving van pulls up. Everyone piles out of the van except for Rick, who needs a moment, and everyone shares a tearful and relieved reunion. Turns out Morales has a wife and kids. Carl, seeing the Morales family overjoyed to see their father, is reminded of losing Rick, and Lori does her best to console him.
And then, Rick gets out.
Son of a–Hey, buddy!
We all know Rick is going to find out at some point that Shane and Lori were screwing. If you were Shane and Lori, would you tell Rick right away, rather than risk him finding out much later? I might wait, at least until we’re back to safety. Rick’s good with weapons and zombie killing, don’t wanna piss him off.
A CAMPFIRE, THAT NIGHT
Looks like they’re gonna wait. That night, everyone gathers around a campfire. They’re still processing events, and Rick describes just how damned disoriented he is. It’s the first time since waking from the coma he feels secure. Dale pipes up with some Old Man Wisdom and says, “Sometimes words are meager things. Sometimes they fall short.”
Ignoring him, Rick keeps on. He felt like he was ripped out of his life, etc etc. Carl mentions that Lori thought Rick was dead. Rick’s response, is that she had every reason to believe that. He forgives her, in front of Carl.
Lori shares a look with Shane, then explains to Rick that the folks at the hospital told her they planned to medevac Rick to Atlanta, but then the hospital was overrun. Hmm.
Rick believes her. From the way things looked, the hospital must have been overrun in a hurry. Shane quickly agrees, and tells Rick he barely had time to rescue Lori and Carl. And Rick, not being the suspicious sort, thanks him, and tells Shane he owes him everything.
Dale pipes up with more unasked-for, wry commentary. “There go them words again. Paltry things.”
“I used to be a writer for Hallmark.”
Nearby, another survivor, Ed, tosses another log onto the fire.
“I need me a woman to punch,” says his face.
This is a problem, because they don’t want too much light. That attracts zombies. Shane tells Ed this. More, everyone has agreed to this, as a rule.
Ed tells Shane that he’s cold, and Shane should piss off. So Shane gets up, walks over, stands right over Ed, and challenges him to stand up to him. Ed backs off. Shane has asserted his authority again. He’s clearly the leader of the tribe. But then he realizes he embarrassed Ed in front of his wife (Carol) and kid (Sophia), so he heads over to them to try to smooth things over. Shane’s not very good at uncomfortable small talk.
When Shane returns to his friends, Dale raises a lingering question: what are they going to do about Darryl?
Rick immediately offers to take the fall for cuffing and abandoning Merle. T-Dog insists the blame should all be his. (And Glenn suggests it be Rick, because Daryl would probably take the news better if it came from a white guy).
Amy suggests they just lie about it. Somehow that wasn’t the first suggestion. Andrea suggests they tell the whole truth—that Merle was out of control and a danger to everyone.
Dale doesn’t buy any of this and has what’s probably my favorite line of the episode: “So you’re just going to tell him you handcuffed his brother to a pipe and left him to die? I don’t see a rational discussion to be had from that, do you?” ‘Twill be a shitstorm.
Here, T-Dog drops a crucial piece of information—when he padlocked the door to the roof last week, it was unclear whether it was to keep Merle in or the zombies out. T-Dog knew the lock was pretty strong and the stairwell was so narrow that not many zombies could fit against the door—point being, he knows the lock is intact and Merle is alive. He locked the door to save him.
That means Merle is still out there, on their consciences. And that’s the scene.
“Hey, maybe we come up with a plan to deal with Darryl instead of getting distracted and going to sleep,” says NONE OF THESE PEOPLE
RICK AND LORI’S TENT
Later, the survivors have dispersed, and the Grimes family is all together in their tent—two cots, one for Rick and Lori, one for Carl.
Rick tucks Carl in and then joins Lori in their cot. He tells her he always knew he would find them, once he saw family photo album was missing from their home. She warms to that and pulls the album out. Rick retrieves the snapshot of him, Lori, and Carl—the one he took out of his deputy cruiser and stuck in his pocket—and returns it to the photo album, where it belongs.
She turns to face him and apologizes, for everything. She thought she was never going to see him again, after the outbreak. She feels bad about all that marital discord between them, the problems Rick was hesitant to tell Shane about back in the pilot. (Although I suspect here she’s partially trying to figure out how to process what’s happened between her and Shane).
Rick forgives her again. They have a second chance now.
Then, he spots the wedding ring on the chain around her neck. It’s actually his wedding band. She asks if he would like to have it back, and he says yes.
And then they get down. Carl probably doesn’t hear them.
OUTSIDE THEIR TENT
And outside, on top of the RV, Shane sits under an umbrella in the rain, staring at the tent flap, looking jealous and distraught and guilty and all the emotions you’d think.
THE GRIMES TENT
The next morning, Rick wakes up alone. Lori and Carl are gone!
“Seriously? I am never going to sleep again”
But it’s OK, they’re just outside. Rick gets dressed and heads out to greet the day.
He spots Carol ironing dry his deputy uniform. He hadn’t even asked. She does the laundry for the whole camp, apparently. He thanks her, but she doesn’t look like she’s used to being acknowledged for things.
Then Rick joins Glenn, who is dismayed that the men of the encampment have stripped clean his awesome red sports car. Dale tells him they need all the parts they can get. Rick tries to console him. Maybe they’ll get to steal another car some day.
And then Rick catches up with Lori. Did he sleep OK? Better than ever, he says.
Except, he’s still feeling guilty about Merle.
I love her reaction: “You’re not serious?” she says in disbelief. She knows his wheels are turning and she doesn’t like it. He’s thinking of mounting a rescue mission.
Shane pulls up in a jeep next. He’s brought water and reminds everyone to boil before use. (I wonder why this little moment is in here, interrupting Rick and Lori’s scene. Is it to emphasize Shane’s provider role at the encampment, while Rick doesn’t have a firmly established role yet?)
Lori asks Rick if he’s asking permission to rescue Merle, or telling her he’s going to, but before he can answer, they hear a scream for help from the woods. It’s Carl.
The men grab various weapons and sprint towards him. Soon they run into Carl, who’s fleeing something unseen. The guys run past, and then come upon this fella:
In case you were bored with all the character-y stuff, here is a zombie devouring a deer
Here’s an unnecessary second still
The guys waste no time and collectively beat the thing to death, culminating with Dale chopping the head off. It’s the best way to male bond there is.
But this is a bad omen. The zombies haven’t wandered this far up the mountain yet. They’re probably running out of food in the city. Not good.
On cue, they hear footsteps off in the forest. The guys ready their weapons. Are there more?
But it’s just a dude with a crossbow. Meet Daryl:
Huh. They cast the dude from The Boondock Saints in this show.
Daryl had killed the deer before the zombie got to it, so he’s pissed that it’s now contaminated with zombie saliva, and he kicks the zombie’s corpse a little out of frustration. Dale tells Daryl to chill out, but much like his brother, Daryl has problems with authority and tells Dale to “take that stupid hat and go back to On Golden Pond. (Ha).
Daryl is very good at killing things. There’s the deer, and he’s got a belt full of squirrels. The zombie head comes back to life here, and Daryl shoots it through the eye. “It’s the brain,” he says. Don’t y’all know nothing?”
Daryl walks into camp in triumph, calling out for Merle so he can show off his kills. But there’s no Merle. The others approach hesitantly, not sure what to do.
Daryl asks if Merle’s dead. Shane, spectacularly, says, “Uh, not sure.” Daryl gets pissed.
So Rick steps forward and tells the truth. Great move, Rick.
Why, there were too many zombies and we had no time to think!
OK, while I was Googling that image, I also found this one and thought you’d find it funny:
Daryl takes a minute to “process” things, then goes apeshit. Shane tackles him. Daryl unsheaths a nasty hunting knife and moves in on Rick. Shane and Rick manage to get the drop on him almost immediately, Shane puts him in a chokehold, and Rick disarms him. It’s over like that. (You barely hear Norman Reedus say it, but Daryl yells out in protest that Shane’s chokehold is illegal for cops to use. That’s true! The level of detail on this show is unbelievable).
Rick crouches to get into Daryl’s face and tells him he wants to have a calm, reasonable discussion. Shane lets him go. Rick starts explaining that he didn’t make the decision lightly, to handcuff Merle, but then T-Dog speaks up. It’s not Rick’s fault, T-Dog says, and he tells Daryl about losing the key. T-Dog mentions the padlock. They know Merle is alive, so that’s gotta count for something.
Daryl tells them all to go to hell and just to tell him where Merle is so he can rescue him. And Lori speaks up. “Rick will show you. Ain’t that right?”
Rick says she’s right.
Rick comes out of his tent, buttoning his uniform, when Shane confronts him. Going back to Zombie Town is insane. He knows he probably can’t talk Rick out of it; he just wants to know why. Merle is a douchebag. Why save him? Shane calls Merle that right in front of Daryl.
Rick explains his personal code. Even if Merle wouldn’t give a glass of water to a person dying of thirst, Rick could never let someone die that way. Which is pretty much how Merle will die if they don’t go back. Rick can’t have it on his conscience. Then he walks over to Lori and the other survivors.
Lori asks him if he really intends to go back with only one other person, as if this is the stupidest thing she’s ever heard.
No. Rick order-asks Glenn if he’ll go, too…since he knows the way. Glenn can’t say no, even though he really, really wants to.
T-Dog volunteers too. Daryl doesn’t like that, being that T-Dog could have doomed his brother and is also black, but T-Dog says he’s in. He’s also got a conscience to worry about.
But Shane and Lori haven’t voiced all their objections yet. Shane reminds Rick of the zombie that made it up to the camp. More are coming, and they need every able-bodied person for defense. What if there’s an attack while Rick and the others are away?
Here, Rick tells Shane about the duffel bags of guns he took from the sheriff’s station. Shotguns, rifles, handguns, and 700 rounds of ammo. Even with every available person in camp, without guns they would be overrun.
Lori and Carl then step in. Rick went through hell to get here. Why risk it all for Merle Dixon and some stupid guns?
And here, Rick tells them about Duane and Morgan. The walkie-talkie is in one of the duffel bags. Duane and Morgan will soon be heading to Atlanta, and Rick swore an oath to protect them. (They can’t use the encampment’s CB radio, since it uses a different frequency).
And that’s that.
The guys all prepare to leave. Rick asks Dale if he can borrow the bolt cutters for the rescue mission, but Dale objects. Dale lent the scavenger party a whole bag of tools last time, and they got left behind. So Rick has to bargain with the guy. Rick promises Dale that if he can have the bolt cutters, Dale can have the radiator hose off the moving van, plus whatever they can scrap off it, plus his choice of a gun. Rick will also do his best to bring the forgotten tools back
Finally, just as they’re about to drive off, Shane takes Rick aside. He’s got a couple leftover bullets for Rick’s revolver. Four bullets. Four guys going on the mission. Weird. This is as good a blessing as Shane can give to the mission.
And on that note, they’re off.
THE GRIMES’ TENT
Lori enters to find Carl curled up on his cot. She walks over to console him, but he says he isn’t worried. With all that’s happened to Rick already, how could this kill him?
Is she worried? Yep, she tells him. Carl takes her hand and winds up being the strong one.
OUTSKIRTS OF ATLANTA
The guys arrive on the outskirts of town, on some train tracks. Glenn stops the van and tells them they’ll be walking from here.
Dale is on lookout when Lori calls up to him to ask if he’s seen Carl. He has. Carl’s down at the quarry, where Shane is giving him that frog-catching lesson. She doesn’t look pleased.
Shane and Carl aren’t having any luck, so Shane changes tactics and wades into the water, hoping to scare the frogs toward Carl. He starts horsing around and basically they’re just goofing off. Carl enjoys himself.
On the other side of the quarry, Jacqui, Amy, Andrea, and Carol are washing yet more clothes. Jacqui spots Shane and Carl and grouses about the division of labor—or, more like the fact that they’re doing all the labor while Shane bosses people around. (Jacqui calls it the “Hattie McDaniel work.” Awesome).
Carol, who, being married to Ed, is used to being subjugated, says this is just the way it is.
OUTSKIRTS OF ATLANTA
The guys are closer now and Rick asks Glenn whether they’re closer to Merle or to the guns. It’s Merle, so they’ll go after him first.
To pass the time, the ladies reminisce about all the comforts of civilization they miss. Coffee makers, computers, texting, washing machines. Andrea misses her vibrator. That gets a laugh. Carol confesses she misses hers, too. That gets a bigger laugh.
Ed, hearing this, and presumably threatened by this affront to his role as a husband, ambles over and asks what’s so funny. His presence is unsettling, so Andrea asks him what he wants, he ignores her, and he puts down Carol. “This ain’t a comedy club, missy!”
On the other side of the quarry, Lori arrives at Shane and Carl. She tells Carl to go back up the camp. She’s not happy with him. She turns to leave, not acknowledging Shane, but Shane mutters she shouldn’t take her misfortune out on Carl.
This opens the flood gates. Shane no longer has any right to tell her or Carl what to do, now that Rick is back. Shane’s to have no contact with her family.
He thinks that’s unfair…he’s as happy Rick’s back as she is. And she throws it back in his face. Why is Shane so happy if he originally told Lori Rick was dead?
Like, whoa! Does that mean Shane lied to her, and told her Rick was dead when he knew he wasn’t? What about that moment back during the campfire scene, when Lori told Rick the medevac story—did she make that up to buy some time for the Shane situation? Questions!
Well, meanwhile, the guys reach the department store. They come across a lone zombie, whom Daryl shoots in the face with an arrow.
Whatever. Things back at camp are getting interesting!
Andrea, being Andrea, stands up to Ed. He can do his laundry himself if he doesn’t like the way they do it. He calls her “an uppity, smartmouth bitch,” as well as “college-educated cooze,” and grabs Carol to leave. Don’t worry, it’s coming. Ed doesn’t get away with it.
Jacqui stands up for Carol, so Ed slaps Carol.
Shane sees all this and decides to step in.
Note to TV or film characters: don’t abuse your wife. You won’t get away with it
There you go.
It’s no contest, but Shane just keeps punching and punching and punching. Obviously this is the frustration with Lori. It goes on waaaay too long. So much so that the women have to tell him to ease up.
We all know that humiliating an abusive guy in front of his family, then beating him nearly to death, is the absolute best way to make that guy respect you, and totally not want to slit your throat while you sleep. Way to go, Shane. If things get back to normal, I would recommend taking some leadership classes.
THE DEPARTMENT STORE
The guys reach the roof without further incident. The chain is intact. They cut through it.
There’s no Merle. But there is a bloody hacksaw and a severed human hand:
Poor Merle. And what a shitty hacksaw. Couldn’t even cut through a handcuff chain. I bet it barely got through bone.
You know what? I was inclined to say it was a fucking stupid idea to go back to Zombielanta, but on second consideration, I dig it. I love this episode. Darabont and co. have given Rick three reasons to go back, two of them moral, one practical. It fits with the ongoing theme of the show, which is, you should fight the hardest to keep your humanity.
And that mixture of moral and practical motives is great. If it were either/or, I doubt the decision would be as believable.
I bet the power dynamic at the survivor encampment is going to change pretty quickly over the coming episodes. I’m assuming Shane only got to be in charge, instead of Dale, because Shane could fight and provide resources the best. (Maybe that’s why they showed Shane coming to camp with the water this week). Shane’s not a leader, though. If Daryl weren’t preoccupied with hunting and rescuing his brother this week, no doubt he would have been causing problems for Shane, much like brother Merle tried to take over the scavenger group. Assuming the rescue party survives, maybe Rick’s the one to take charge.
And how about Sarah Wayne Callies, the actor playing Lori? Every scene with Rick this week, her face said “guilt guilt GUILT,” and didn’t need even one line of dialogue for it.
Thanks for reading!