Merle is a guardian angel straight from heaven. He’s just not a fairy tale version. He’s Daryl’s. So when Merle says, “Look at you, lying in the dirt like a used rubber. You’re gonna die out here little brother.” You know it might not be with pretty poetry, but he’s here out of love.
We start this week with a flashback to the highway gridlock that brought some of our main characters together.
It is night. Thousands of cars and trucks loaded down with people and possessions are stranded on the road trying to get into Atlanta for aid from the CDC. The atmosphere is one of boredom for the kids, but suspicious concern for the adults. Future Hide and Seek Champion of 2011, Sophia and the future nasty-belly scar Carl are playing checkers on the tailgate of the Peletier family Wagoneer. Future dead Ed Peletier smokes close by.
Shane is trying to find a radio station that is broadcasting information. But nobody is broadcasting anything at all. Not even emergency instructions are coming across the airwaves anymore. In the darkness overhead, helicopters keep heading toward Atlanta. Sophia is getting bored. Carl is hungry. Both Carol and Lori empathize with their kids. Carol offers to feed the kids. Since “Ed is into all this survivalist stuff,” she says, “he has enough MREs to feed a small army.”
As she walks around the car to get the kids some dinner, future deservedly dead Ed slams the car door and wants to know why the hell she’s offered food to these “damn people” they don’t even know. Carol is a mother. She just wants to feed a young, hungry child. Future everyone’s-glad-he’s-dead Ed growls, “It’s called ‘operational security.’ How long do you think this stuff is going to last if you keep running your damn mouth off to everyone we meet?” Lori overhears her apologize for not thinking to her nobody-can-wait-until-he’s-dead husband.
Shane still can’t find a radio signal. He tells Lori that even the emergency recording about the refugee center is gone. He’s not hiding his worry. He decides to go up the road to see what he can and as Lori follows, Carol apologizes that Ed “must have forgot to pack those MREs.” She’s found some purse candy or something to tide the kids over for a bit and offers it to them. Lori asks her to keep an eye on Carl while she and Shane go to see if they can find someone who knows what’s going on.
Shane tells Carl they’ll be right back, musses his hair, and calls him “little man.” His easy familiarity with the boy lets us know it’s been some time since Rick was shot and left for dead in the hospital. As Shane and Lori walk between the cars she asks if he thinks that the radio broadcasts have stopped because the relief center is turning people away. He tells her that they’ll have a riot on their hands if that’s what’s going on.
Back at the Wagoneer Sophia tells Carl that his dad is nice. He explains that Shane isn’t his dad and that his dad is dead. Again his lack of tears tells us it’s something he’s had some time to adjust to.
Suddenly there’s a noise that sounds like thunder or an explosion. People are starting to fight. Shane senses that this impatient crowd is about to turn ugly. When Lori asks what they are going to do, Shane says, “what Rick would have wanted us to do, to get you and Carl out of here.”
More helicopters head for Atlanta and Lori realizes that it’s not lightening that’s accompanying the “thunder” they heard earlier. She and Shane run to see what is really going on. The camera pans by a woman covering her mouth and crying while she looks out the car windows. She doesn’t have a chance in what the world is about to become.
In the woods, not too far from the road there is an unimpeded moonlit view of the Atlanta skyline. More helicopters are flying toward the city. And then explosions begin to bloom all over the horizon. People are starting to scream. Stunned, his voice cracking, Shane says to Lori, “They’re dropping napalm in the streets.”
They now know that this is bad. Impossibly bad.
Back to present day.
Lori awakens in her tent. It’s late. (Kinda like her period.) She is apologetic to Carol who is already hanging laundry. Carol comments that she must have needed the sleep. As Lori pitches in with the laundry, Carol asks her if she’d mind bringing up the idea of cooking for Herschel’s family in the house kitchen as a kind of “thank you” for letting them stay on the property and for their hospitality. She admits that she’s looking for things to keep her mind occupied. When Lori asks why Carol wants her to extend the invitation, Carol says, “You’re Rick’s wife. That sort of makes you our unofficial first lady.” Lori smiles from behind a pair of plaid boxer shorts.
At the same time Rick is organizing another search party for Sophia. He’s gridded off a map and assigned new areas to each pair of searchers. Shane shakes his head. He’s written Sophia off and is ready to cut the loss and move on. At the same time, Jimmy, a 17 year old boy under Herschel’s care offers to help with the search for Sophia since he knows the area “pretty well and stuff.” Rick asks if Herschel is okay with it, and the kid says, “Yep. Yeah. He said I should ask you.”
Shane thinks that what Daryl found in the abandoned farmhouse during his previous search only proves that somebody was there, not that it was Sophia. Daryl says that whoever slept in that cupboard was, “no bigger than, yea high” as he motions the height of a kid. Everyone is in agreement that it’s the best lead they have. Well, except Shane, of course.
Daryl says that he plans to borrow a horse and head up to a particular ridge on the map that he thinks will offer a really good bird’s eye view of the whole grid. He thinks he’ll spot her. T-Dog thinks it’s a good idea as well and suggests that maybe he’ll also spot his chupacabra again, too. Rick has apparently never heard Daryl’s story of seeing a chupacabra while he was squirrel hunting. Jimmy, from Team Herschel, makes fun of Daryl believing in a “blood-sucking dog.” Daryl counters with, “You believe dead people walkin’ around?” Touché, Daryl. Touché.
Jimmy then reaches for a rifle. Rick stops him and asks if he’s ever fired one before. The kid replies, “Yeah, well if I’m going out, I’ll want one.” As Daryl shoulders his crossbow, he comments, “People in Hell want Slurpees®.”
Shane offers his gun safety course to the kid if he’s serious. (Shane must be making money—or whatever is used instead of cash during the zombie apocalypse—with how hard he pushes his damn safety courses.) For now the kid will help search with Andrea and T-Dog. Shane tells them that they will have to babysit him since he isn’t allowed any firepower. (Once a cop, always a fucking cop. Jeez.)
As the teams set off, Glenn is sitting on the front porch of the ranch house absently strumming the guitar that Dale found for him. He’s hoping Maggie will come out to play. When she does show up, he smoothly tells her that they, “still have 11 condoms.” But she plays it bitchy, countering with, “Yeah, you see 11 condoms, I see 11 minutes of my life I’m never getting back.” Ouch! Poor Glenn is crushed and asks if it was that bad. Maggie explains, “Look. I don’t even know if I like you.” Glenn regains his cool and says, “But you’re thinking about it. You should.” She walks off. Poor Glenn. Those damn prophylactics are burning a hole through his pocket.
As the teams search for Sophia, they tack colored rags to trees to mark the parts of the grid they’ve covered. Rick knows the only surefire way to get the broodingly silent Shane to talk when he’s being moody is to get him to talk about his high school conquests. They start with Mary-Anne, the Dairy Queen waitress. Rick says he lived vicariously through Shane. Shane says that back then he was an “artist in his prime” a “protégé.” Rick corrects him with the word prodigy, but it turns out that either word would work since Shane was banging a “30-year old on the regular.” “What 30-year old were you banging in high school?” Rick wants to know. “The PE teacher,” Shane admits. “Mr. Daniel?” Rick smiles. “Mrs. Kelly.” Shane smiles. Yes. He was doing a married, girls’ volleyball coach. (High five! Statutory rape is awesome for guys!)
Rick doesn’t so much want to talk about his high school exploits since the list was short and he didn’t seem to understand much back in the day. But he takes the teasing he’s subjected himself to with good humor. For a few moments, they’re just two middle-aged friends, trash talking about the good old days.
Then Shane douses the whole thing with cold water. He tells Rick that they shouldn’t be talking that way. That it’s all over. All those people are dead and gone. It’s like he and Rick are “old folks” because the people in all their stories are dead. Rick says that they can’t just forget them. Shane says they should and it’s hard enough accepting what’s happened without digging up the past. He says “Tell you what it is. Nostalgia. It’s like a drug. It keeps you from seeing things the way they are. And that’s a danger when you got people depending on you.”
They fight about what they are doing in the wood still searching. Rick does not want to write Sophia off. He thinks that there is still a chance. He’s convinced he’s personally failed her. But Shane argues that Sophia, “only matters to the degree where she don’t drag the rest of us down.” He wants to cut losses and move on to Fort Benton. He thinks the group is being spread too thin. He says if they were thinking logically like cops, at this point in the search it would be only a body recovery.
(As much I don’t like Shane, he is being brutally logical and he does make sense. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one. I’ll need to explore this Kirk/Spock relationship angle further.)
In the midst of their impotent anger, they’ve moved into Andrea and T-Dog’s previously-searched area of the grid. They’re not paying attention.
For lunch, Daryl shoots a squirrel, pulls it off a tree, and stashes it in his belt—all in one fluid motion from horseback. He’s focused only on the search for Sophia. As he rides the ridge along the river, he sees something in the water that stops him cold. It’s Sophia’s doll. He goes down, collects the soaking rag doll, and calls for her. There is no response.
Back on his horse, he knows that he may be close and continues to move on slowly and methodically. He’s fixated on the search, not Dairy Queen waitresses, endless rounds of what-if scenarios, blame, and “hopin’ and prayin.” He’ll leave that to the professionals, thank you. (Fucking cops.)
Some birds burst from the bushes and his horse seems skittish, but Daryl continues. Suddenly, a snake startles the horse which takes off after throwing Daryl into an uncontrolled slide through undergrowth, down slick rock, and finally into a pool of water at the base of the ridge. It’s a beautiful spot really, but Daryl is not enjoying the view. One of his arrows is stuck all the way through his side. He’s hit his head and he’s bleeding pretty good.
Daryl’s hurting, but he manages to get himself to a sandy area on the edge of the pool. He immediately cuts off his sleeves. (Sleeve cutting = serious survival situation.) He uses the fabric to secure the arrow as much as possible because movement means pain and more injury. And he has some rock climbing to do to get himself back to where the horse took off.
He’s just found a stick that looks good for helping him walk when he starts to hear noises he doesn’t like in the foliage near the water. He reaches for his crossbow…and it isn’t there. He’s lost it in the fall, but realizes it’s probably in the water where he first landed. He backtracks through the silt-filled water with his walking stick and pulls out the bow.
Crossbow? Check! Walking stick? Check! Soggy rag doll? Dead squirrel? Arrow through torso? Check! Check! And check! Daryl’s ready for some cliff climbing.
Back at the ranch, Lori is confronted by Glenn about her pregnancy. She tells him that it’s none of his business and begs him not to tell anybody. As the two known baby daddy contenders walk toward them, Glenn is astonished that she hasn’t told him yet. I don’t think it’s occurred to Glenn that Lori doesn’t know which him is him.
Lori knows that Rick and Shane have been fighting. And she is terrified about what. When Rick tells her that Shane wants to call off the search, she’s relieved that it has nothing to do with that radiant glow she’s been giving off lately. She reassures Rick that he is making the right decisions and that he is not “soft” as Shane has accused him of being. (And that Shane is just a big doody head.)
They are interrupted by one of Herschel’s young daughters who tells Rick that her dad wants to see him. (Uh oh. A Come-To-Herschel-Meeting.)
Meanwhile, Daryl continues his uphill climb battling loose ground cover, crumbling rocks, a near vertical ascent, oh and that ARROW THROUGH HIS TORSO. (Man! That’s gotta smart!)
He’s about 3/4 of the way up when he starts to berate himself for being a, “pussy” about the height and the danger. He makes a move and misses, brutally slamming all the way back down the face of the ridge.
Neatly pressed as always, Herschel is filling a generator with fuel when Rick comes to speak with him. Herschel informs him that one of his horses is missing and that he was not asked for it. He wants to know who gave them permission to take Jimmy out on the day’s Sophia search. Rick explains that Jimmy specifically told him that Herschel had suggested he go and Rick took him at his word. They agree that there is a communication problem. Herschel offers a simple solution. “I’ll control my people; you control yours.” (Sometimes you have to bite your tongue when you are a guest. Especially when you are overstaying your welcome. And particularly during the zombie apocalypse.)
Satisfied that he’s nipped that problem in the bud, Herschel flips on his generator.
Daryl comes to slowly at the base of the ridge. His vision is hazy. There’s someone there with him. As his vision clears he sees his brother Merle who says, “Why don’t ya pull that arrow out dummy? You could bind your wound better. What’s going on here? You takin’ a siesta or somthin’?” Daryl tells him he’s having a shitty day, but Merle, not one for sympathy, tells him that he spent a lot of years trying to make a man of him. He says, “Look at you, lying in the dirt like a used rubber. You’re gonna die out here little brother.”
This is guardian angel Merle. Two-handed Merle. He want’s his little brother to understand that Rick has made Daryl his bitch. Merle tells him, “You’re a joke, playing errand boy to a bunch of pansy asses, niggers, and democrats. Hmm. You’re nothing but a freak to them. Redneck trash. That’s all ya are. Yea, they’re laughin’ at ya behind your back. You know that don’t you? Well I got news for you son. One of these days, they’re gonna scrape ya off their heels like you was dog shit.”
As Daryl starts to drift out of consciousness, Merle says, “Hey. They ain’t your kin. Your blood. Hell. If you had any damn nuts in that sack of yours, you’d go back and shoot your pal Rick in the face for me. Now you listen to me. Ain’t nobody ever gonna care about you ‘cept me, little brother. Ain’t nobody ever will. C’mon. Get up on your feet, ‘fore I have to kick your teeth in.” (NOW THAT’S A GUARDIAN ANGEL!)
Daryl comes to with a walker gnawing on his boot. Nothing will wake you up faster. He kicks it in the face, fights it off, and smashes its putrid melon with his walking stick. Then he rams the stick through the walker’s ruined head, pinning it to the sand like an insect specimen.
And there’s another walker coming. (This one looking a lot like Tyrone Biggums. But he’s not looking for crack, he wants BRAAAAAAAINS!)
You knew it was coming. Ouch! Daryl pulls that arrow all the way through his body, loads his crossbow, and puts it through Tyrone’s skull.
Now there are two walkers with their heads pinned to the sandy bank of the river. (There’s got to be a better place for picnicking. No? There’s not? I guess it’s as good a place as any to eat your uncooked squirrel Snackables.)
Daryl binds his wound tightly muttering, “That son of a bitch was right.” (Hopefully referring only to the medical advice from his guardian angel.) Then he has his protein snack, puts the rag doll back in his belt, and makes himself a bit of zombie bling to show off back at camp.
To make your own necklace, you’ll need:
• 1 dirty boot lace
• 4 (or more) freshly cut zombie ears
String the ears in any order you like.
Finish it simply with a granny knot.
not really a good thing.
Feeling better, Daryl starts the arduous trip back up the cliff that has already kicked his ass twice. Third time’s a charm, though. He’s wearing his new lucky jewelry and he’s got his guardian angel, Merle, up at the top taunting him and calling him Darleena. Merle tells Daryl to, “Kick off them damn high heels and climb, son!” (There’s no match for brotherly love. I’m getting all verklempt here.)
Finally Daryl makes it to lip of the ridge with one final laughing taunt from Merle, “C’mon little bro. Grab your friend Rick’s hand!” Once safely on top, he is, of course, alone. But he yells out a victorious, “Yeah, you better run!” to Merle who was, for once, in spirit anyway, actually there for his little brother when he needed him.
At the ranch house dinner is being prepared and Herschel is not happy. Rick’s group just wants to say thank you for being our host. Herschel doesn’t want to be a host. He tells Maggie that they need to set clear boundaries with these people and that he doesn’t want them to get close. Then he gets straight to the point, “What’s going on with you and the Asian boy?”
“Glenn.” Maggie corrects.”He’s a friend.”
Herschel says, “I’d rather he wasn’t.” He wants her to set a chaste example for the younger ones, but when Maggie tells him that she’s too old to be having his discussion with him. Herschel threatens, “Don’t get close to him. They’re not going to be around forever.” (Well, old man, nobody is going to be around for ever? Or hadn’t you heard? SPOILER ALERT!!! We all die at the end!)
A cowboy hat-wearing Andrea is on watch on top of the Winnebago with a rifle. Dale teases her about her Annie Oakley routine, she bitches in return that she wants to help keep the camp safe, not do his laundry. He looks crushed. (What’s wrong with the world when a hot blonde lawyer doesn’t want to scrub skid marks out of an old man’s chones?)
Inside the RV Glenn says he is returning Dale’s book and I have the uncomfortable suspicion that this is going to become a sex advice talk. Ew. Glenn wants to know if Andrea is on her period. Ew. And Dale, wisely, motions for him to keep it down. Glenn has noticed that all the women are acting really weird. He gets the expected, “Jesus, Glenn! What were you thinking?” when Dale discovers he’s done the deed with Maggie. His response of, “I was thinking…I might be dead tomorrow,” is perfect truth.
Up on the Winnebago roof, Andrea sounds the alarm that a walker has emerged from the woods. She wants to shoot it, but everyone in camp grabs a weapon and wants to take care of it. They don’t care that Herschel has explicitly said that he wants to deal with all walkers himself.
The men run with their preferred weapons to dispatch the walker as far from camp as possible. Andrea continues to try to site it, but there is glare from the sun making it difficult. She tells Dale to back off. She’s going to take the shot.
The guys have now caught up to “the walker” and discovered that it’s a very dirty, very beat up Daryl dragging his bow. He hasn’t taken the time to wipe the squirrel off his face from lunch.
Andrea takes the shot and Daryl hits the ground. She smiles, satisfied until she hears the men yelling, “NO! NO! NO!” (Oops! Should have paid more attention in those gun safety classes that Shane is always hawking. Say! How did you get that certification so fast?)
The sound of a gunshot brings everyone running. Herschel is very upset. Luckily Daryl has just been grazed in the scalp. Andrea is no Annie Oakley. Shane and Rick pull Daryl up and start to haul him toward the house. He’s passed out. Glenn wants to know what’s happened to him. “Look at him! He’s wearing ears!” Rick quickly yanks them off and says, “Let’s just keep that to ourselves.”
T-Dog hold up the rag doll Daryl brought and says, “Isn’t this Sophia’s?” Everyone goes still and silent.
Inside Herschel becomes Doc Herschel again. And again nice bedding gets the blood and filth treatment. Daryl explains where he found the doll pointing out the areas that should be searched next. Shane just sits there and hates.
Doc Herschel is upset that they’re going through the antibiotics so quickly and wants to know what happened to his skittish horse. His bedside manner is bad. Shane still wants to quit the search. He does not see the doll as proof of life. All Shane wants is to keep Lori and Carl safe. Lori tells him in no uncertain terms that, “My son and I are not your problem anymore. Or your excuse.”
I strongly suspect dinner will not be very much fun.
Sitting on the porch Andrea feels terrible about what she’s done, but when Dale tells her not to be too hard on herself because, “We’ve all wanted to shoot Daryl.” He gets an actual smile from her for the first time since last season. (I guess now he can die a happy man.)
Carol sees Lori crying at Carl’s bedside and probably suspects some of what is going on with her, but she just lets her know that dinner is ready and respects her privacy.
Dinner is a solemn affair. Utensils on porcelain. Chewing. But no conversation. None. Until Glenn tries to break the mood with, “Does anybody know how to play guitar?” (Ooooh. Really. I can guess who did.) “Otis.” says his widow. “And he was very good, too.” says Herschel. (AWK-ward!)
Glenn’s embarrassment is quickly replaced by something else when Maggie passes him a note under the kiddie table. It says simply, “Tonight. Where?”
He quickly writes his response, folds the note back up, and passes it back to Maggie. But Herschel and Dale have noticed. (Herschel and Dale don’t seem old enough to have forgotten that they have dicks. But they sure don’t seem to be able to relate. There may be no reason for them to refill their Cialis prescriptions anymore, but come on. Give the younger guys a break.)
Carol brings dinner to Daryl and asks how he’s feeling. She tells him that he did more that one day for Sophia than Sophia’s father did for her in his whole life. She kisses him on the head. She tells him he’s every bit as good as the rest of the group. Every bit. And she means it. (I’m not sure Daryl really knows what to do with a compliment like this. But maybe he’ll spare Carol in the rampage if it comes to that.) (A Daryl and Carol hookup? Hm.)
The women clean up after the world’s most awkward social event and Maggie hurries to see what Glenn’s response to her, “Tonight. Where?” note is. His response, “Ever do it in a hay loft?” causes her expression to change to one of horror. (I mean, it could have said, “Tonight. Where?” with his response being, “In your ass.” and I might have expected that look. But the hay loft? Why? You know why. The barn is off limits. The barn is full of bad.)
So Glenn strolls to the barn armed with a blanket, 11 condoms, a flashlight, and some chewing gum. (Maybe he’ll be able to MacGyver his way out if things go wrong.) When he finds the door padlocked, he has to climb a ladder to get to the loft.
Maggie is booking it from the house to the barn, but Glenn is already inside.
Glenn notices the smell.
Glenn now sees why the barn was off limits. (Seems like they could have been a little bit more emphatic on this rule.)
There’s an old fashioned barn dance going on down below. (Only it’s not a barn dance. No dancers. Just walkers. Lots of walkers.)
Glenn rushes to get out the way he came in and is stopped by Maggie, who says simply, “You weren’t supposed to see this.”
NEXT WEEK: Will Glenn die the saddest death ever with 11 unused condoms in his pocket? Did Sophia get an invitation to the barn dance? Will somebody please get Shane an invitation to the barn dance? Who is Lori’s baby daddy? Are there really only 2 men in the running?