The prison is a complicated place these days. Just a few episodes back, the populace was divided neatly in two — Grimes gang and not‚ and only at night. Now people are isolated because they are sick … and sicker still. The young and still healthy are over here. The grown and still healthy are over there. Pods of people everywhere, kept from one another as best they can manage.
It’s no longer about who is outsider and who is not. It’s about who is harboring a killer in his or her bloodstream. And if anyone is not. After three seasons of being indoctrinated to the “there is strength in numbers and we work together” mantra, are we slowly working our way back to every man for himself? Like it or not?
We begin this episode with Glenn (exposed), Maggie (not exposed) and a few of the others digging graves for the cell block D residents who continue to die of the airborne illness. Poor Patrick’s glasses hang from his grave marker.
Inside cell block A, Dr. S and Hershel examine a man lying motionless on the cot. Hershel nods to Dr. S and leaves the cell, as Dr. S pulls a knife. Another grave needs digging.
Meanwhile, Carol, Rick, Tyreese and Daryl have returned to Karen and David’s charred bodies. Tyreese is nearly out of his mind with rage. “You find out who did this and you bring them to me,” he demands of Rick, his eyes wide with grief and anger. Rick tries to calm the big man, assuring him he knows what it’s like to lose the woman you love and that nothing good can come from responding with vengeance.
Tyreese lunges for him and Daryl intervenes, getting pinned against the wall for his efforts. Daryl signals to Rick to let what’s happening happen, telling Ty that they’re all on the same side. Rick begins reasoning with Tyreese again, laying a hand on his shoulder and Ty responds with a pair of punches knock a bloodied Rick to the ground. Rick snaps, flying at Tyreese with a series of kicks and punches that drop the big man in a dazed heap. Daryl grabs his raging, failing friend.
“Let go of me!” bellows Rick. “Let go of me!”
It’s not hard to believe he is talking to the universe as much as the man restraining him. And that no one here is less willing to welcome back this version of Rick than Rick himself.
Later Hershel bandages Rick’s bloodied hand.
“You OK?” Hershel asks him, gently.
“Hurts,” says Rick, staring at the ground.
“I wasn’t talking about the hand,” says the good doctor.
Hershel tells Rick he understands what drove him to the brink. Twelve more dead. Two possibly murdered. “Everything we’ve been working so hard to keep out, it found it’s way in,” say Hershel. “No,” says Rick. “It’s always been there.”
Undeterred Hershel likens Rick’s setback to Hershel’s falling off the wagon. It happens. It doesn’t define who you are. You reconnect with your responsibilities, rise to them and you move on. You can move on if you choose to.
Outside the prison, Bob comes upon Tyreese furiously digging graves and offers to look at his injuries. “Not till they’re in the ground,” snarls Tyreese. Compared to the starry-eyed lover at the start of last week’s episode, this one-eyed ball of rage in a stocking cap is a fearsome thing to behold. Bob backs off and begins to dig alongside him.
Meanwhile, Glenn locates Hershel and asks his father-in-law for some reassurance that they might stand a chance of staying well if they’re not showing symptoms yet. “If it’s walkers, if it’s people, we can do something — we can fight,” laments Glenn, wholly undone by this new, faceless, boundary-less enemy. “Now I’m just digging graves.”
This is isn’t going to happen him feel better. Sasha staggers by, clearly in the grip of the virus and in search of Dr. S. Who isn’t going to be much help. He has it , too.
Regrouping in the wake of the latest round of infections, the council decides that cell block A will now be an isolation ward for the ill to help contain the fallout. Glenn and Carol aren’t comforted. If you get the virus, they argue, it kills you. It has to be stopped, not contained.
Hershel corrects that the illness itself doesn’t kill, the symptoms do. And there is no stopping it — they can only treat the symptoms well enough that people can recover, and that requires antibiotics. There may be some at a veterinarian hospital a ways down the road.
Michonne volunteers to go, but Hershel tells her it isn’t wise to confine herself to a car with Daryl, who has been exposed, when she hasn’t. “He’s already given me fleas,” she shrugs. She’s going.
Inside the prison, we’ve got some more dividing to do. Hershel suggests that they further pare down cellblock C, keeping the youngest members of the group away from everyone else since they are most vulnerable. “What about the elderly?” asks Glenn. Hershel looks at him. They both know he’s all that’s left in that population.
Carol and Rick go for water at the pumps and see Tyreese finishing Karen and David’s graves. Carol asks if Carl is mad about the quarantine. Rick says yes, but it’s better to be safe. “It’s always better to be safe,” Carol murmurs. She suggests that Rick go make amends with the angry man in the field, leaving him to do it.
Approaching Tyreese, Rick says he is sorry for his loss, and for his part in their fight. Tyreese says the latter is on both of them, but it’s up to Rick to find out who’s responsible for the former. It’s the right thing to do.
Rick asks Tyreese if Karen or David had any enemies in cell block D who might have taken advantage of the chance to do them in. Tyreese says no. There was a greater purpose for the question. Rick calmly tries to explain that whomever burned the corpses might only have done so to stop the virus from spreading. But either way, they will figure out who is responsible. Tyreese is hardly comforted.
“What I’m picking up is that murder is OK in this place,” Tyreese seethes. Rick the living have to be the priority. “You worry about that,” growls Tyreese. “I’ll worry about what’s right.”
Helping Carl pack for the quarantine, Rick assures him that there is more to his isolation than just his health. He’s in charge of keeping his baby sister and the rest of the children safe. He can keep his gun.
“You don’t fire unless you absolutely need to,” says Dad.
“But you know I might need to — right?” says his somber son.
Meanwhile, Maggie comes upon a wheezing Glenn. Her man’s infected, too.
We’re running low on folks who aren’t — and even lower on folks to make the run for medicine. Michonne and Daryl are it so far. Daryl tells Michonne he’s glad she’s come back to the prison and stuck around for while. “Where else would I be?” she asks. “Running off,” her tells her. “You know I’m not ‘running off’” she says, staring him down. The Governor took someone he loved, too.
Daryl tries to recruit Tyreese to join the medicine mission, but Tyreese protests that someone needs to guard the folks in quarantine, given what happened to Karen and David. Daryl says they’ll find whomever did it, and put a bullet in them if that’s what the situation warrants. But if they don’t go for meds, there will be no one left to guard.
Hershel’s makeshift office boasts a pair of innocuous objects with wisdom to spare — one, a painting that says “Smooth Seas Do Not Make Good Sailors” and the other, a mug that reads “Java Saves.” They give him an idea. Heading for the woods, he happens upon Carl who tells him that if he leaves the prison grounds, Carl will have to to come with him. He HAS to. Dad’s orders.
As Carol leads more infected residents into isolation, Lizzie finds her and tells her she doesn’t feel good, either. Carol hugs her and tells her not to worry. “WiIl you tuck me in?” the child pleads. Carols steers her into isolation and tells her to ask Glenn to tuck her in, because he’s good at it, too. Lizzie tries to flee, but Carol firmly sends her into cell block A.
When the girl is out of sight, Carol slowly dissolves into sobs. She promised Ryan she would keep his girls safe, and there is no possible way to keep the promise.
Maggie visits Beth and Judith, thanking her little sister for volunteering to be in quarantine with the baby. Maggie tells Beth that Glenn has fallen ill; even so, Beth tells her, she doesn’t get to be upset. “We all got jobs to do, that’s what Daddy says,” Beth says. “Just focus on what you have to do.”
Beth has learned the ultimate survival tool — keep your wits, erase your emotions and nothing can break you.
As Hershel plucks leaves and berries from some bushes, he tells Carl he’s noticed how much the boy has matured. Then he gives him a chance to demonstrate it. They come upon a tent in the woods and what’s left of the folks who used to occupy it. Carl draws his gun, but Hershel tells him he doesn’t need to use it. After all, what is threatening them now is bigger than a pair of walkers, one of which can’t even walk. Carl lowers his weapon and they move along.
Tyreese visits Sasha in isolation and tells her to think positive thoughts because medicine is on its way. Then he finds Carol fetching water for the survivors. “I know how you are,” he tells her. “You care.” He asks her to look in on Sasha while he’s away on the medicine run. Carol assures him she will, waits till he walks away, then loses her cool, overturning a barrel of water to vent her emotion. This is clearly a woman with secrets she’s struggling to keep.
Meanwhile, Maggie comes upon Hershel and demands to know why he is not in quarantine, because she’s not about to lose another loved one to the plague. Hershel tells her that he is no good to anyone sitting in quarantine. He knows how to ease the sufferers’ symptoms with his late wife’s elderberry tea, and he’s going to do it.
Rick arrives and joins in the debate, but Hershel is resolute.
“So many times we couldn’t change what was happening to us,” he tells them. “This time we can. I can. You step outside you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays you breathe and you risk your life. You don’t get to choose. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for. I can make these people feel better and hang on a little longer. I can save lives. And that’s worth risking mine. And you know that.”
He turns to go and they let him.
Rick revisits the sight of Karen and David’s demise to do a little detective work. Retracing the blood trail, he finds a bloody hand print on the door. One that is much smaller than his own.
He spots Carol outside the fence, working at the pumps, unaware — or perhaps unconcerned — about the growing crowd of walkers around her until it’s nearly too late. Saving her just in the nick of time, Rick demands to know what she was doing alone a task they agreed to do together in the morning. “We don’t know if we’re going to be here tomorrow,” she tells him.
Zooming toward the veterinary hospital, Daryl fiddles with the radio and happens upon a voice. Distracted by the realization that someone else is still out there, he fails to notice the obstacle course of walkers that has appeared on the road and gets the car hung up on a pile of fallen dead, their brains and fluids making a slippery crimson mass on which the tires spin and spin.
They’re going to have to make a run for it. Veterans of this sort of thing, Michonne and Daryl head into the fray, slashing and shooting their way to safety. Bob goes next, less sure of himself, but still capable. Tyreese remains in the car, not bothering to close the door, even as Bob screams for him to run. Tyreese just looks at him.
There is no flight, Tyreese. There’s fight or … nothing.
Tyreese plunges into the throng, bellowing and slashing. He is surrounded by the horde as the others make a break into the woods. Bob, Tyreese and Michonne make it to a clearing and pause to regroup. A commotion in the trees behind them makes them raise their weapons.
A pair of walkers emerge, then fall. Behind them is Tyreese, dazed but still alive.
Hershel take his first cup of elderberry tea to Dr. S, since it’s in everyone’s best interest that he survive. “You shouldn’t be here,” the doctor tells him. “Tell me you wouldn’t be,” Hershel says gently. Dr. S coughs harder then, spraying bloody droplets into Hershel’s face and eyes. They both freeze for a moment. Then Hershel removes the cloth from around his nose and mouth and wipes his face clean. His fate was likely determined well before now.
Hershel’s face is uncovered as he goes to tend Glenn. “We got this far somehow,” he reminds his fallen son-in-law. “You can believe somehow. We’ve all got jobs here. That one is yours.”
It’s Hershel’s, too.
Rick finds Carol and tells her it was a stupid thing she did, going outside the fence alone. Then his tone softens some. But only some. He thanks her for all the sacrifices she has made for the group without a lot of gratitude in return.
“Is there anything you wouldn’t do for the people here?” he asks the captain of the killer kid scouts.
“No,” she says calmly. They both know what is about to happen next, and so do we.
“Carol?” Rick says. “Did you kill Karen and David?”
“Yes,” she says, then turns and walks away, alone again.
The unasked question is, was it really murder? Or just another day here at the prison?
New episodes of The Walking Dead air Sunday nights at 9/8CT on AMC.