This week’s episode of The Walking Dead opened in the immediate aftermath of Rick’s impromptu amputation of Herschel’s zombie-gnawed leg in the former cafeteria of the prison. As poor Herschel lies bleeding, the five prisoners, who popped up like so many felonious meerkats last week, exchange words with Rick as Daryl holds them off with a crossbow. Maggie, Glenn, and T-Dog improvise a gurney, and they race back to Cellblock C with poor Herschel, the five felons hot on their heels.
Herschel is deposited in a cell, where Carol assertively takes over his care, yelling at everyone to get towels and rags. Go Carol!
The prisoners have followed Rick’s group into the vestibule of Cellblock C, where Daryl continues to be awesomely menacing with a crossbow, against the revolver held by the wifebeater-clad convict, who is further distinguished by his samurai bun and really bad attitude. T-Dog, who is long overdue for a storyline of his own, also arrives with a gun, and there’s a whole lot of yelling and a dangerous standoff.
Rick tells Glenn to stay with Herschel in case he dies. (For what it’s worth, even though there are four ladies and one kid who are technically able to kill Herschel as well, I don’t fault Rick for wanting to spare Herschel’s two daughters the need to put a bullet in their father’s head.)
Next up, Rick goes to resolve the standoff with the prisoners. Bad Attitude Wifebeater Guy (aka Tomás) and his colleagues provide some backstory, saying that the guards locked them in the cafeteria where they’ve spent the last 292 days. Although I’m hard-pressed to believe that they wouldn’t have at least tried to get out, apparently they are unaware of the Zombie Apocalypse that occurred around them and a couple of them mention wanting to find their families. Rick explains the situation fairly succinctly (everyone is infected, the world as they knew it is over), and also tells them that they aren’t getting back into their “homes” in Cellblock C.
He makes a deal with Tomás that if the prisoners in the cafeteria give Rick and his group half of the food they have hoarded, he and his people will give them some weapons and help them clear out a cellblock for their own use. After the prisoners have their cellblock and Rick gets the food for their group, there will be no contact between the two groups.
Back inside the disputed cellblock, Lori and Carol are still trying to care for the unconscious Herschel. Maggie and Glenn have a heart-to-heart in which Maggie says that it was stupid of them to have Herschel go with them. Now she realizes this? Glenn tries to comfort her by saying it could have happened to anybody. Yes, Glenn, but unfortunately “anybody” doesn’t have medical training. And I’m not even sure how that’s supposed to help Maggie confront her father’s imminent death.
Then Maggie has a heart-to-heart with Beth, who is optimistic about Herschel’s chances of survival and has decided to shorten his pant legs for him. We learn from Beth that Herschel was smarter than the rest of them and did give Carol some training in basic medicine. I highly doubt that Herschel foresaw emergency amputations as part of his lesson plans, though.
Meanwhile, Rick has returned to tell Lori about the deal he made with the prisoners. Lori asks what Rick’s options are, and he says, “kill them.” She tells Rick to do what he thinks is best, and, perhaps remembering her reaction to his killing Shane, he wryly tells her “you say this now …”
Lori opines that she’s a shitty wife and mother, and while I’m not necessarily disagreeing, I start to feel a tiny bit sorry for Lori now, after nearly two seasons of saying the same things about her that she says about herself in this scene. Rick is conspicuously silent during this bout of self-criticism; Lori tells him that he should do whatever needs to keep them all safe.
After cuffing Herschel to his bunk, Rick, T-Dog, and Daryl set out with the prisoners to bring back food and help them capture a cellblock. Rick gives the prisoners some pointers about how to fight the zombies (staying in a Roman style phalanx, never straying from the group, making sure they get the brains).
Maggie has a touching moment with the unconscious Herschel, telling him that it’s okay for him to stop fighting death. I’m totally distracted by how amazingly white her teeth are, especially in contrast to all the dirt and gore on her face. Even a zombie apocalypse is no excuse for poor dental hygiene!
As Rick and Co. and the prisoners encounter their first group of zombies, the prisoners promptly break ranks, ignoring everything that Rick told them. Rick, T-Dog, and Daryl watch the noobs with bemusement as they demonstrate their best prison riot style without actually dispatching any zombies.
In the cellblock, everyone is gathered around Herschel. The good news is that he still doesn’t have the zombie bite fever. The bad news is that they have no real medical supplies to treat him. But wait! Carl, who has proven more useful in two episodes than he did in two seasons, turns up with a big bag full of surgical gauze, antibiotics, and whatever else is needed. Lori, in an ill-timed display of parenting, yells at Carl for taking off on his own and points to Herschel as an example of why it’s a bad idea to go off on your own. Um, Herschel was with other people when he got bitten. Other people who didn’t find the infirmary. So basically, Lori is completely wrong about this. Anyway, she should be yelling at him for still wearing that stupid sheriff’s hat.
The prisoners’ learning curve has taken a sharp curve upwards; they seem to be dispatching zombies more efficiently, until Big Tiny is overcome by the horror of it all and wanders away from the group. He’s bitten or scratched or somehow wounded by a zombie who pulls his hand out of a handcuff. The prisoners argue with Rick that he should do what he did for Herschel. (Uh, I’m not sure Tiny would survive having his torso amputated, guys?) Tomás puts an end to the discussion by savagely beating Big Tiny to death.
In Herschel’s cell, Carol realizes that even if Herschel survives, he won’t be in any shape to deliver Lori’s baby whose arrival is imminent. She needs to learn obstetrics quickly, because chances are she’ll be delivering the infant by C-section. (Let’s not, for the moment, worry about how on earth Carol will be able to sterilize her operating theater or provide any form of anesthesia to Lori that doesn’t involve hitting her hard on the head.) Luckily, there are plenty of cadavers around the prison that Carol can use for her lessons; she convinces Glenn to go with her and pick one out. They find a likely candidate and Glenn draws away the other zombies while Carol opens the hole in the fence.
Speaking of cadavers … the prisoners and Rick’s group break into the prison laundry, which is zombie free and also filled with neatly folded and very white towels. There are, however, probably zombies on the other side, and Rick instructs Tomás to open the door slowly and carefully. Instead, Tomás flings the doors open with the help of Andrew, another prisoner. In the ensuing zombie fight, Tomás throws a zombie on top of Rick. Daryl saves Rick’s life, and afterwards, Rick, realizing that he’s going to have an even nastier version of Shane on his hands, sheathes his machete in Tomás’s head. Thus perishes a character with no redeeming virtues.
Andrew goes for Rick and then turns and runs. For some reason, Rick thinks it’s a good idea to follow him rather than letting him just be eaten by zombies. They run through miraculously empty hallways until the get to yet another prison yard full of zombies. Rick stops short, but Andrew races out into the yard. Rick locks Andrew out, telling him to run fast. I guess Rick imbibed some of Shane’s spirit after all, although to his credit he does look a bit upset by Andrew’s screams.
We cut back to Herschel’s cell, where Herschel suddenly stops breathing. Lori, in an act of insanity or courage or insane courage, steps forward to perform CPR on Herschel. I’m waiting for Herschel to start chewing on Lori’s face, but instead he starts breathing again. It’s a measure of how much more sympathetic Lori is this season that I’m kind of relieved he didn’t eat her.
Rick returns to the laundry, where the remaining two prisoners react to the prospect of imminent death differently. Axel pleads for his life, while Oscar tells them to do what they have to do, because he’s never begged and he won’t now. Rick decides to honor the deal that he made, locking Axel and Oscar away from his group in a different cellblock where it looks like all the prisoners were executed. Daryl tells them he’s sorry about their friends and T-Dog reminds them to burn the bodies.
Finally, Rick, T-Dog, and Daryl return to Cellblock C where Herschel finally opens his eyes and takes Rick’s hand, without trying to eat it. So I guess Rick’s quick thinking actually did save Herschel’s life.
Meanwhile, Carol begins her surgery lesson on the cadaver she hauled in through the fence. She pulls up the zombie’s skirt, revealing a grey wrinkled belly and dirty cotton underwear and honestly, I think this is even more disturbing than all the oceans of gore in the rest of the episode. Luckily, we don’t actually have to watch Carol cut into the corpse, although someone else is apparently watching her from the shelter of some trees outside the prison. Creepy!
Rick and Lori have another talk up on the catwalk of the prison. Rick tells Lori they’ll start cleaning up the cellblock tomorrow and she makes me laugh by saying that Carl will have a safe place to do “whatever he’s doing these days.” Although on reflection, it’s actually quite a sad thing to say, showing both Lori’s disconnect from her child and the fact that no one is even pretending that Carl is a child any more.
On balance, Lori decides that it was a good day, because Herschel is still alive and they have food. It’s an even better day for the viewers who got tired of all the pointless conversations last season, because Rick shuts down Lori’s attempt to talk about their relationship by telling her that “we’re grateful for what you did” and giving her a half-hearted squeeze on the shoulder before he leaves. Lori gazes after him, with tears in her eyes, and once again I surprise myself by feeling a little bit sorry for her.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.