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The Walking Dead Recap: Old Friends

Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) - The Walking Dead - Season 3, Episode 11

This episode was interesting. While plot-wise we revisited much of the same territory (literally), in terms of individual scenes, there were signs of improvement, of life. 

Here’s what should go: Any more discussions about whether Rick should be the leader or not. Vote him out or let him work, but please just stop debating about it. (There are traces of the real current American political situation there, but I’m sure that’s accidental.) Also, all arguments about storming Woodbury. If you must do it, make it fast so we don’t have to spend another season building up to it. Related, I say let’s just get rid of the entire town of Woodbury and the people (extras) that it contains. Andrea is impossible to take seriously as a character now, which really messed with what was supposed to be an emotional moment when she was reunited with her old friends. Do I even need to mention Afterlife Lori in this list?

Now for what can stay: If The Walking Dead is going to keep its characters physically confined in the way they are, let’s have more conversations like the one that happened between Hershel and Merle about the Bible. Normally, the show would’ve screwed that exchange up, but there was a different quality this week. That scene was quieter, more patient. It could stand to make that kind of stuff even longer, to really let those scenes breathe and unfurl and go to interesting places. I realize that Merle went from being at his most stereotypically redneck to a more gentle, mature version of himself than we’ve ever seen over only the course of a single episode, but let’s just be grateful for it. Same thing happened with Daryl at the start of season two and look how nice that’s worked out.

Merle tries to warn the prison crew about what they’re up against. The Governor is a man who will wait to kill Rick last so “he can watch his family and friends die ugly” and he’s got unlimited manpower. He’s assembling his entire town, all 35 of them, including the elderly and sick. Judging by the flourishing greenery and the constant scurrying of background players carting sawhorses and shrubbery on their shoulders, I thought Woodbury’s population stats were higher. Also, I will continue to hold out hope for a scene between the asthmatic kid and Carl.

Kid: Cough. Cough.
Carl: I shot my mother in the head after witnessing her getting a premature C-section. Want to come simulate playing video games in the prison that I think of as home?

Andrea and Milton come across Tyrese and his group while they’re out catching zombies. It’s part of Andrea’s plan to make it safely to the prison, one she totally copped from Michonne. She thinks it was her charm that convinced Milton to help her bust out of Woodbury, but actually, the Governor has sanctioned her escape without her knowing. Milton told him all about it. Too bad no one at the prison told her that there’s an insurance building or whatever with unlocked doors that she could’ve just walked right through.

If the Woodbury set must continue to, you know, not get broken down, I did like that Tyrese and his group found their way over there. I mean, it’s going to become tedious in, like, an episode (too cynical?), but it was a turn I didn’t see coming. I just assumed they’d wander around the prison for a while, all Ghost Hunter Rick–style, until the show needed them back for some reason. They’re the only ones who have genuine motivation to feel a grudge toward the prison crew. The Governor keeps telling them that they can stay as long as they want, but also he’s happy to give them a car and guns if they decide to move on. They just look at him like, “Dude, we’re not like the rest of these fools. We appreciate a working reel to reel player when we see it. We’re staying put.” Until they go to pull a space heater off a closet shelf and those waterlogged zombie heads come barreling out.

Hershel tells Rick that he has to knock if off with his quest for the perfect white dress already. Time to man up. The group is freaking out of food even though there was plenty a week ago when they rescued the inmates who had been rationing their supply for half a year. Someone’s been stress eating, probably Axel. Or maybe it was T-Dog, who gets the requisite deceased, sentimental minority character shout-out this week from Carol. She tells Daryl she doesn’t want him to fall under the bad influence of Merle. He’s come too far. When did Carol become one of our favorite characters? It’s sort of like Top Chef with her. It doesn’t matter how often you almost get eliminated, as long as you make it to the next episode you still have a chance to take it all.

Andrea is appalled by the prison’s conditions, which was sort of rude. Rick and the gang didn’t make any disparaging comments about Woodbury’s shabby chic aesthetic when they visited. She is worse to Michonne, though, accusing her of poisoning everyone’s opinion of Andrea’s boyfriend. “You chose a warm bed over a friend,” Michonne tells her, but then sort of loses sympathy points when she admits that the whole reason she went back to Woodbury and slayed the Governor’s daughter and stabbed his eye out was because she knew it would hurt Andrea. The jokes on you, though, poor Michonne, because it turns out Andrea finds thin sheets of gauze placed over raw eye wounds hot. Michonne flashes her nostril-flaringest look, Andrea does her smuggest strut, and that’s a wrap between those two. Andrea goes off to find Carol and asks to hold baby Judith (that name felt natural to type). Carol fills her in on all the gossip she missed. Shane loved Lori, Rick killed Shane, the whole Manti Te’o girlfriend thing was a hoax. Who knows when the epidemic struck? Then she tells Andrea that the only way she can end this time waste of a battle between the prison and the town is to sleep with the Governor, and then when he’s all exhausted after, she has to cut his throat.

Rick gives Andrea one of the group’s cars and a knife and gun. The old Andrea would’ve made a big fuss about how pro she is at shooting and then would’ve fired a bullet into one of her friend’s legs by way of demonstration, but those days are over. She’s all anti-teaching kids to shoot who are older than the boy she herself once instructed. Again, if we need to wade through some wobbly character development in order to emerge with a new Andrea who’s better than this one, I’ll do it. It’s sort of like puberty for fictional people. After she’s gone, the prison group sits around, bored, and then Beth (another name that feels weird to write but only because I have to check on IMDb every single time) starts singing Tom Waits’s “Hold On.” It’s another nice moment. Rick strategizes with Daryl and Glenn and Hersh about next steps. He wants to go for a mall run the next day. Daryl volunteers to go with, but Rick tells him he has to stay and keep an eye on his brother. Carl will go with Michonne. Something tells me she’s going to be very on top of their iPod playlist.

Andrea does as Carol suggested and sleeps with the Governor. Then she pulls out a knife and stands for a long time holding it against his throat but can’t bring herself to do it. Who else would act as creepy to her as he does? If she killed him, she’d just be able to come and go as she pleased and rule a whole town and give her friends all the organic baby formula they ever wanted. That would be terrible. Better to stare out this window for a while and hope another solution occurs to you, one that probably involves driving back to the prison again to confirm that it’s just as dismal as you remembered. Is it a spoiler alert if I am ruining it for you backwards?

Photo: Gene Page/AMC