Warning: Spoiler Alert
Maggie is crying slow, defeated tears with her back to a snarl of tree and brush. It’s the kind of crying you do when you’re so exhausted you can’t muster the energy to weep and you can’t muster the energy to suppress it, either. A walker approaches and Maggie, barely managing to suppress a sob, turns to kill it with the least effort possible. She slumps back to the ground before the walker quits twitching.
Hands, quickly revealed to be Daryl’s, claw through dark, crumbling dirt in search of earthworms. He finds one, barely grimacing as he knocks the excess dirt off of it and pops it into his mouth.
Sasha is looking for any sort of damp earth in a creek bed. But, as she looks ahead and realizes that the water has been gone so long that the frogs have dried to death, she realizes she won’t find it. Maggie and Daryl approach and the three silently accept that their search has yielded nothing.
They head back to the van they’ve been traveling in, where the rest of them have regrouped , waiting for the three to return. Their equally unsuccessful searches are apparent from a quarter-mile away. As they trudge towards the van, Maggie wonders aloud, with the kind of eloquence that only a southern farmer’s daughter can, “How much longer [they] got.” Sasha answers they have sixty miles to their destination. But Maggie wasn’t talking about distance.
Shortly after, the van runs out of gas, and Rick gives the order to continue on foot. Rick might have meant “forward march,” but everyone is too tired, hungry, and thirsty to manage more than a desperate shuffle. A few walkers trail a few dozen yards behind them as they continue walking along the road. Daryl brings them to Rick’s attention, but Rick isn’t immediately concerned. The corpses aren’t shuffling too quickly themselves, and the group is dangerously low on energy and resources. Rick wants to wait for the right opportunity to expend the energy it will take to eliminate them. Not letting on to whether or not Daryl thinks this is a particularly good idea, Daryl agrees.
Rick shifts the conversation to Beth. Completely unsurprisingly, Daryl hasn’t said anything about losing her, and the silence is becoming eerie, even for Daryl. He’s not interested in the conversation, though. After an unsuccessful attempt at directing their talk about Judith, he tells Rick he’s going to make another run into the woods to see if he can find any food or water. Hearing this, Carol says that she’ll join him. Daryl tries to decline, but Carol won’t let Daryl grunt and shuffle away from her. “Are you going to try to stop me?” she asks, confident that he won’t protest.
The group continues their slog along the highway, and Carl gives Maggie a music box he found. It’s a little girl’s music box, the kind with the ballerina that pops up and twirls on a spring if you wind it up. This one is broken, but Carl is so desperate to get Maggie to be even a little less despondent that he’s willing to try anything. It works, maybe a bit.
Any of Maggie’s goodwill is shattered, though, when super-clueless Gabriel approaches her, trying first to make conversation about uncomfortable priest collars and hairshirts and, when Maggie blows him off with extreme prejudice, offers to listen to her troubles and loss. Maggie has zero time for Gabriel’s constantly anxious, weeping, Cowardly Lion ways. She reminds him that he left his entire congregation to die and walks away from him.
More walkers have gathered behind the group, like vultures who are also nearly starved to death. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re also starving, or if it’s because their flesh is rotting off their bones therefore making it harder to walk.
Sasha tries to convince Michonne to help her address the situation, but Michonne agrees with Rick that they should bide their time on the attack. Sasha volunteers to do it herself. Michonne, apparently unable to deal with Sasha’s oozing anger and destructive tendencies, tries to tell Sasha that Tyreese wouldn’t want her acting so aggressively. Sasha rebuffs Michonne’s concerns—the two weren’t the same then, and they’re not the same now. Michonne tries to tell Sasha that anger is anger, no matter if its Tyreese’s kind or Sasha’s, but Sasha won’t hear it.
Carol and Daryl are still searching for some sort of anything in the woods. They reach a clearing, but it’s too dry for either food or water to be nearby. Carol suggests they start back, and Daryl tries to send her on ahead. She won’t, though. Instead, she tells Daryl that Beth saved her life in the hospital, and gives him Beth’s knife that she’s been hanging onto. Daryl takes the knife, turning it over in his hands. Carol continues, concerned and fierce, that she knows that Daryl needs to let himself feel Beth’s loss. For herself, she admits that she can’t allow herself the space for grief and pain, but she knows that she and Daryl aren’t the same in that regard. She encourages him to confront Beth’s death, brushes his grimy hair from his face, kisses his equally grimy forehead, and turns to rejoin the group.
The group has come upon a short bridge over a deep, narrow ravine. They line up in a triangle-ish formation to finally address the growing number of walkers tailing them. As they begin to stagger and lunge at the still-living, the crew dodges and shifts their momentum, hurling the oncoming dead into the ravine. It all goes well enough until Sasha begins stabbing them instead of chucking them aside, which riles them up for some reason. The walkers begin to advance more aggressively and, as Abraham notes, the plan of conserving energy and chucking them into the ravine “goes to shit.” Sasha proves herself to be a dangerously loose cannon in the melee, nearly killing Michonne and giving Abraham a good-sized gash on his bicep.
They continue their trek after the walkers have been dealt with, and soon enough they come along a wreckage of a few cars. They decide to take another break to scavenge through the vehicles, and Daryl splits off into the woods again.
Maggie approaches the nearest car, finding nothing in the cabin, but in the trunk is a walker, bound and gagged, who looks like Beth might have if she’d starved to death and then turned. She shuts the trunk and begins to walk away, but the walker has begun to beat against the sides of the trunk. Overwhelmed, Maggie turns to open the trunk and kill it, but the keys are stuck. She quickly becomes frustrated, grunting and clawing at the keys to try to open the trunk. Glenn approaches and talks to her in the quiet, even tones that you use when faced with someone whose emotions are so raw that the slightest shock from a trusted source might send them into a complete meltdown. He manages to jiggle the trunk open,
and, seeing the resemblance the walker bears to Maggie’s dead sister, quickly puts it down and walks away, hoping that Maggie will find comfort and reassurance in his calm, nonplussed demeanor.
The search of the cars has given the group nothing but a bottle of cheap whiskey that Abraham is steadily applying himself to. Rosita, most of all, is not happy with Abraham’s decision to drink, since the alcohol will only make his physical condition deteriorate more rapidly, plus being drunk doesn’t mix well with fighting off walkers, but she handles it in a matter that is both matter of fact and completely disgusted.
As they group rests, a pack of dogs, formerly pets but who have long returned to a more basic way of life, rushes upon the group. They bark and snarl and begin to surround the humans. Everyone hunches into battle positions, but Sasha takes them out with her silenced rifle before anyone can make a move. With a look that is grim even for this show, Rick begins to gather firewood. The scene cuts to roasting dog meat over tiny fires. Some (Daryl) are having less trouble than others (Tara) getting it down. Noah, looking up at Sasha much the way he looked at Tyreese when they came upon his overrun home, confides that he can’t manage to eat the dogs and that he doesn’t know if he’s going to make it. Sasha, offering none of the comfort or wisdom that Tyreese had to give, firmly and flatly tells him that if he thinks that, he won’t. She encourages him to eat and not think. Crowded around fires in unbearably sweltering East Coast summer heat, Gabriel has unbuttoned his shirt and loosened his collar. Chewing as unhappily as a starving man can chew, he removes the white collar entirely and throws it into the fire. The scene fades as the group eats in silence.
They continue to walk. Glenn coaxes Maggie into taking a tiny sip of water, and tries to do the same with Daryl. Daryl, though, jets off into the woods again. Abraham continues to drink the bottle of cheap whiskey he found. He offers the bottle to Sasha, who refuses and chides that alcohol is only going to make their situation worse. Abraham, presumably pretty buzzed from nothing but whiskey on a days-empty stomach, tells Sasha that, if she keeps acting out, that she’ll be the one making things way worse than he could with a bottle of alcohol. She’s among friends, he says, and she shouldn’t be so destructive. Sasha, as unhappy with Abraham’s unsolicited conversation as Maggie was with Gabriel’s, asserts that they’re not friends and walks away. Abraham considers, and nods as he takes another drink.
Daryl has gone off to look for water in the woods. A clearing and the corner of a barn comes into sight, but instead of investigating, he slumps at the base of a tree and takes a few broken cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket. He lights one and takes a few guilty-looking drags. Smoking isn’t great for dehydration and malnutrition, either, but it quickly becomes clear that he’s not struggling with his decision to smoke. He holds the cigarette with both hands, staring at it, half-gone and still lit, and stubs it out on the back of his left hand between thumb and pointer fingers. From the raised tissue beneath the filth and ashes on his hand, it looks like he’s been indulging in this habit for a while. As he brushes the ash off the blistering burn, he begins to choke up silent, heavy sobs.
When Daryl returns to the group, he finds that they’ve come across several clean-looking containers of water on the road, with a note that simply reads “from a friend.” Okay, sure, seems legit, right?
Rick refuses to consider drinking it, but Eugene wants to believe that it’s not a trap. Besides, if they’re being tempted with something as blatant as this, whoever has laid the trap certainly has worse in mind for them anyway. He raises a bottle, offering to be the guinea pig, but Abraham slaps it away like Eugene still has the cure to save the world locked up in his brain somehow. They glare at each other as Rick continues to reject any idea of accepting the water.
But then the skies opened, and it began to rain.
Most of the group is at least kind of encouraged by the sudden storm, tilting their heads back to drink. Daryl, Maggie, and Sasha, though, simply stand and stare ahead as if they don’t even notice they’re getting wet.
The rain soon turns into a threatening storm, and the group hurries to a barn that Daryl found. In clearing the space, Maggie comes across another walker—another emaciated woman, in a delicate blouse and skirt. The walker has a gun nearby, and, after she stabs it in the head, she wonders why the woman didn’t use it before she died and turned. Carol, approaching her from behind, remarks that the woman must have been like them—unable to give up, no matter how hard it gets.
As the group waits out the storm and settles in for the night, they begin discussing the world. Michonne insists that this isn’t the world, but Glenn wonders if it just might be. Michonne won’t accept that there is nothing more than wandering about, starving and barely not getting killed. Rick, while he wants to believe that they’ll find a place to settle in DC, also knows that the group will be okay if they don’t.
And here Rick gives his “grandfather in the war against the Germans” speech, which is really well done and well delivered and I’m not going to butcher it by trying to sum it up here. It is, though, where the series gets its title—Rick’s grandfather was convinced he was a dead man every day of the war, and would pretend that he was so in order to force himself to continue fighting. This wretched place they’re plodding through is just what they have to get through in order to live. Becoming The Walking Dead, he explains, is how they’re managing to survive.
Daryl, though, won’t agree that they’re like the walking dead. Rick, maybe realizing that his suggestion that they all pretend they’re dead might be unbearable for someone who has just lost someone they loved dearly, tries to clarify his meaning. They’re not like the walkers, of course, but they’re dead in another way. Daryl still doesn’t buy it.
The group begins to settle in for the night, but soon some walkers begin to claw at the door. Daryl first tries to hold them off, then Maggie, then Sasha, then the whole group is pressing against the door and grinding their feet into the mud floor of the barn trying to keep it closed. The scene flashes with their anguished faces, the wind howling and thunder roaring, and fades to black.
Maggie wakes up blinking as the rest of the group is asleep early the next morning. She sees Daryl awake, and the two briefly talk about Sasha and her grief over the loss of her sibling. Tyreese was tough, Daryl states. He pauses for just a fraction, barely glancing at Maggie as he adds, “She was, too.” The she, of course, is Maggie’s own lost sibling. And I think that’s the most Daryl Dixon might ever be able to say
about how much he loved and how much he misses Beth Greene. He hands Maggie the music box Carl gave her (the one with the slight blonde figurine inside with her own affinity for music), saying he might have fixed it.
Maggie takes the box and walks over to Sasha, waking her so they can take a walk outside and check their perimeter.
Outside, they’re astounded by what they see. It looks like a small tornado has cut through the woods right outside the barn, uprooting the pine trees and turning all available branches and roots into walker kebabs. The women, faithless and heartbroken as they are, are moved.
They sit on a fallen tree and watch the beginning of the cloudy, steamy sunrise that begins after a night of summer rainstorms. Sasha confesses that she feels the same way that Noah does—she doesn’t know if she’s going to make it. Maggie assures her that the two of them are going to make it, and then admits that making it is just as hard as not making it. She opens the jewelry box, for a distraction, mentioning that Daryl had fixed it.
It doesn’t work. The two would have shared a long laugh about it, but out of nowhere a very clean, LL Bean-clad stranger approaches, giving a message of friendship and asking to talk to Rick. By name. Maggie and Sasha draw on the man, who introduces himself as Aaron and insists that he can be trusted. As the women express their disbelief, the music box begins to play from its spot on the fallen tree.
Is Aaron the “friend” who left the water? Is he really a friend? Will Rick trust him?
We’ll see you next week, kiddos!
The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on AMC.