(All images used in this post are screen caps from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”/FX’s “Archer” unless otherwise specified.)
When we left off with Rick and the gang last week, at the end of Episode 510, “Them,” many members of our favorite crew were catching the last few moments of a rare, long stretch of sleep in an abandoned barn, after riding out a harrowing night of violent storms, invading walker herds, and personality conflicts (not necessarily in that order, or order of importance).
As the sun rose on a new day, Daryl tried to settle down for a few moments of rest himself, after keeping night watch over the others (and good luck with that, Daryl Dixon), while Maggie and Sasha stepped out to catch the sunrise, and a few moments of soul-sister share time, before the others awoke.
Upon stepping out of the barn, Maggie and Sasha were met with an incredible sight…the raging storm of the night before had blown down many tall pine trees, which lay all around the barn, but somehow missed the barn completely.
While any one of the felled pines could have crushed the barn and killed the gang inside, the barn remained miraculously untouched, and unharmed, by the trees and the storm.
The felled pines did, however, serve to skewer and crush the reanimated, rotting walker horde that had charged the barn doors, the night before, as the storm raged. The gang was forced to rush the doors and work together, struggling mightily as they pushed back at the barn doors from the inside, keeping the walkers back, until the storm, and the trees, took care of the threat from the outside.
Seeing the trees, and the skewered, helpless walkers pinned underneath, seemed to awaken something deep within Maggie and Sasha...the realization, perhaps, that maybe there was hope, after all, even in these dark times. Maybe there was a benevolent force looking out for them, and maybe there really was something to believe in, to live for, in this crazy world.
As the young women sat, and watched the sunrise, sharing ruminations, resolve, and laughter, they were approached cautiously by a well-kempt, preppy stranger who greeted them, introducing himself as “Aaron.”
Looking down the barrels of Sasha and Maggie’s guns, Aaron, with hands raised, tried to reassure the girls that he was “a friend” who bore tidings of “good news.” Aaron, inexplicably, seemed to know things about the group already, referring to Rick, “the leader,” by name, and asking to speak to him.
As the young women processed all this, holding Aaron at gunpoint, the broken music box suddenly sprang to life… and as its tinkly music played, and the tiny plastic ballerina twirled, we TWD fans, along with Maggie and Sasha, were all thinking our own versions of, “Just what in the walker apocalypse is going on here?”
In the opening shot of The Walking Dead’s Episode 11, “The Distance,” we see members of the gang, awake now, sitting on the barn floor. Some of the gang, like Carol, Abraham, and Daryl, are checking, cleaning their weapons, while others, like Rick, and Gabriel, are sitting quietly, alone in their thoughts. Judith is playing quietly on the floor, while Carl is collecting boards, presumably to reinforce the barn, or make a bench, or something.
The barn door creaks open, and it’s Maggie. “Hey,” she calls to the others, as she pushes the door open a little wider, steps in, followed by…
“…this is Aaron.”
The gang springs to life, drawing weapons as Daryl quickly goes to the barn door, peers out, then gives Aaron a rough patdown (lucky, Aaron!) as Maggie hurriedly explains, “We met him outside, he’s by himself…we took his weapons and his gear.”
As the barn door is closed behind him, Aaron looks nervously, in quick thanks, towards Maggie, and then towards Rick and the group, who stand and face him silently, weapons drawn. “Hi,” he manages, and at the sound of a stranger’s voice, Judith begins to cry. Papi Grimes fixes Aaron with this withering look, before handing the baby over to Carl. Uh oh, Aaron, the baby doesn’t like you...and neither does Papi Grimes. Not the most auspicious of beginnings for you so far, my friend.
Aaron nervously tries to step forward, towards Rick, with a “Nice to meet you,” only to be met, one step in, to the sound of weapons being cocked, and Daryl stepping up behind him. Aaron wisely stops in his tracks.
Rick, making no move to reply to Aaron’s greeting, regards the stranger a moment more before asking Maggie, hoarsely, “You said he had a weapon?” As Aaron tries to not pee his pants (and I tried not to swoon over how hot Rick-In-Charge was being during this whole exchange), Maggie steps forward and hands Rick Aaron’s handgun.
Rick checks the chamber of Aaron’s gun, then sniffs the weapon, to see if it had been fired recently…then fixes Aaron with this look…
…before putting Aaron’s gun in the back waistband of his pants, not breaking his gaze from Aaron’s face, like, “Yeah, bitch, this is happening…I’m taking your gun…what are you gonna do about it?”
Aaron, of course does, and says, nothing about Rick’s taking his gun. Rick asks Aaron, softly, “There somethin’ you need?”
(And at this point in the watching, I was getting all Cheryl Tunt and shit, like):
“Oooo, yeah, even that little bit’s enough to get the engine revved up!”
Sasha speaks up, saying that Aaron says he has a camp, nearby, and they want them, Rick and the gang, to “audition” for membership…
Aaron looks over at Sasha with some alarm, as this pronouncement is going over about as well as can be expected with this seasoned band of warriors...not very.
Backpedaling like a motherfucker, Aaron quickly adds, “I – I wish there were another word…“audition” makes it sound like we’re a dance troupe…that’s only on Friday nights.”
Aaron’s smile dies as his attempt at a joke falls flat…
The gang is not amused, Aaron. (But I, for one, was laughing my ass off, by this point, watching this scene…like, “Oh, no you DID NOT, Aaron.”)
Aaron’s voice is pretty shaky as he explains that it’s not a camp, it’s a community, and he, Aaron, thinks that our fine gang would make, “valuable additions.” Aaron adds, quickly, that it’s not soley his “call,” that his job is to convince them to follow him back “home,” to his community…
As Rick glares at him, shifting his weight back and forth, one foot to the other, Aaron backpedals again…sounding like a rookie Alexandria Amway salesperson, Aaron tries the up-until-now-foolproof “Seeing Is Believing” selling technique: “I know…if I were you, I wouldn’t go either…not until I knew exactly what I was getting into.“
And with this, Aaron turns to Sasha, asking her, “Sasha, would you hand Rick my pack?” and earning himself this look from Sasha….
…and another peal of laughter on my part, watching this. Aaron, Aaron, Aaron, you dumbass…you’ve been listening to this gang for the last two weeks (and btw, creepy, much?) and this is the best presentation you could come up with? Two words: Weak. Sauce.
After a pregnant pause (ha ha, get it? Sonequa Martin-Green is pregnant at the filming of this episode), Sasha brings Rick Aaron’s backpack, and Aaron tells Rick to look in the front pocket.
As Rick pulls out an envelope, Aaron continues his “Seeing Is Believing” sales pitch, telling the group that while nothing he can say will convince them to follow him to his community, these (pictures) might…while Aaron apologizes for the poor picture quality, as they were taken with an old found camera, Daryl interjects, growling something to the effect of, “Words/Talk/Pictures/Cameras don’t mean/prove shit.” (Repeated playbacks yielded zero clarity on what exactly Daryl said, but it ended in something like “prove shit,” and he sure wasn’t sounding impressed with Aaron at this point.)
Aaron looks back at Daryl, nervously acknowledges that, “You’re absolutely, 100% right” (about whatever it was that you said.)
Rick looks at the first blurry picture, of tall walls, reinforced with diagonal supports bracing the walls from the inside, making a solid-looking barrier.
As Rick looks at the first picture, Aaron says, “That’s the first picture I wanted to show you, because nothing I say about our community will matter unless you know you’ll be safe. If you join us, you will be.”
Aaron bring his sales pitch home, extolling on the walls’ impressive stats and dimensions: “Each panel (of the wall) is a 15 ft. high, 12 ft. wide slab of solid steel, framed by cold-rolled steel beams, and square tubing.”
Aaron continues, the emotion building in his voice as he gets swept up in his own fervor, “Nothing, alive or dead, gets through that without our say-so.”
As Daryl, and the rest of the gang, listen, Aaron continues his spiel, “Like I said, security is obviously important…”
“…in fact, there’s only one resource more critical to our community’s survival: the people.”
“Together, we’re strong. You could make us even stronger.”
Aaron ends his sales pitch soliloquy with some big, velvet-painting puppy-dog eyes. I mean, really, who doesn’t want to believe him? But…doesn’t this pitch seem a little, um, canned, practiced, like it’s been used on other people? Does salvation really come in the form of…this guy?
Ooooo…I think I see a familiar face…
Ummm, Aaron? Rick Smash! no likey your blurry pictures and your talky talk about big walls and impressive dimensions and all that shit…
It gives him a headache, and makes him see red and want to smash things…smash YOU.
And, if Rick Smash! no likey, me no likey…
…because I am, now and forever, riding in Rick Smash’s! car.
As the others run toward Aaron’s unconscious form, Rick Smash! shakes out his fist, and looks down at Aaron, like, “STOP. FUCKING. TALKING.“
I love this last look he gives Aaron before walking off. TLA Rick Smash! ❤
A few thoughts, before we move on. Back at this early point in the watching, and even now, I remain utterly unclear about Aaron’s, and Alexandria’s, motives. While I do not get an initial hit that they’re totally bad, I don’t think they’re totally good, or harmless, either. Something stinks. This “audition” shit. And this sales pitch-style presentation. What’s up with that?
Rick and the gang didn’t need a whole presentation when they interviewed prospective candidates for the prison community. They just asked the three questions.
Simple. Straight up. No Friday night song and dance routine, with blurry pictures and talk of walls and dimensions.
(And, speaking of the three questions, Aaron majorly fails the three questions when Michonne puts them to him in the back of Glenn’s Walker Massacremobile. And, sometimes, the Bear McCreary music gets really dark and twisty when the focus is on Aaron. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that shit.)
Aaron’s spiel feels really contrived to me, like something is being misrepresented, or not presented, like there’s some catch, some important, major detail about the agreement that’s hidden somewhere in the fine print of the whole Alexandria contract, and you only find out what it is once the gates close, and lock, behind you. And by then, it’s too late. You’re in there.
As Aaron said, himself, “Nothing, alive or dead, gets through (those walls) without our say-so.”
Sounds to me like that shit goes both ways, that once you’re in those walls, you are not exactly free to come and go as you please. (Not like the beautiful prison days, when all were free to do as they wished, within reason, of course, and after their chores and culling-the-walkers-at-the-fence shift was done for the day.)
And what’s with the spying? For two weeks? How the fuck did Aaron and his gay boyfriend manage that, to track the gang and spy on them, for two weeks? And what would a community’s motivation be, to put that much effort into screening potential future citizens, in such sneaky and invasive fashion, for such a long period of time?
My only guesses at this point are: 1) they need to recruit soldiers, as they are in a war, conflict, or standoff with someone, some other established community, nearby; or, 2) they want to procreate and populate, and they just happened to find our smoking hot band of love warriors, and they want to get on that shit.
Either way, they have a major agenda, and while Aaron seems likeable enough (when he isn’t being shady), it seems pretty obvious he isn’t telling the whole story.
We all know, at this point, that something is amiss with Alexandria. There is never an offer of any kind of shelter, or respite, without its asking price, and what Alexandria’s asking price is, exactly, remains to be seen.
But, whatever the case, or the price, may be, it looks like Friday Night Dance Troupe just got a lot more interesting!
And, dorky and shady as Aaron may be, he does have some serious pros to put on the negotiation table…
First off, Friday Night Dance Troupe. I mean, obviously, right? If you remember, Aaron mentions the dance troupe right away, even before talking about the tall steel fences…that was no accident, people!
All I gotta say is, if Daryl and Carol had a Dirty Dancing moment at Friday Night Dance Troupe, I would like, die of happiness.
Next: Aaron’s appearance. He is obviously clean, manicured, well-fed, well-cared for. He’s rocking the sporty outerwear that’s lined on the inside.
Chris Hardwick joked on Talking Dead that Aaron looked like a “Land’s End” model…ha!
Not only does Aaron look like a sheltered, suburban preppy, he acts like one. Aaron is not exhausted, bereft, starving, stressed-out. He hasn’t been for a long time, so long, actually, that he seems to have forgotten what all that was like, back in the day, before he became Fabulously Gay Ambassador of Alexandria.
Aaron is so yuppified, living the vanilla dream behind Alexandria’s steel walls, that he even attempts a little joke about Friday Night Dance Troupe in an attempt to disarm the gang, to get in with them.
When his attempt is met with vacant looks, and glares, instead of laughter, smiles, or nods, Aaron gives a little shake of his head… it was like he was either really surprised that they didn’t like (or get) his joke, or he was honestly in a place so far removed from where the gang was at, in that moment, that he had to quickly rethink his approach.
Aaron lives in his own house, for God’s sakes, and his backpack is filled with more canned goods than the gang has seen in a long time. Our gang is starving, literally. They are physically and emotionally exhausted. They are having to shoot, kill, and eat wild dogs for survival and sustenance. Poor Daryl is eating worms, and Aaron balks at having to take a spoonful of applesauce. What a baby.
By all appearances, Aaron seems to be living like a pampered housecat within the steel confines of Alexandria…that is, when he’s not being sent off for weeks at a time to spy on promising nomadic groups, assess their potential value to the community, approach them, try to sell them on Alexandria, and bring them back there to “audition” for membership to the community.
Anyway, speaking of babies, we come to our next huge trump card in Aaron’s hand: Baby Judith.
Having Baby Judith in the gang changes the stakes, because the longer that baby is out in the open, without shelter or proper nourishment, the greater the risk is that she will not survive these coming days, despite her father’s, and the gang’s, best efforts.
Alexandria, trap or not, seems to offer the best hope for Baby Judith’s, and the rest of the gang’s, immediate survival.
Alexandria is a big question, and a big risk, but the gang is fast running out of time, and out of options, these dire days, and offers like Aaron’s are rare indeed.
Rick Smash! may have beaten Aaron unconscious, for a moment, but the offer, with all its questions, remains…should the gang go with Aaron?
Is the promise of shelter, and protection, that Alexandria offers, with all its red flags and unknowns, worth the risk?
Many in the gang are thinking yes, and after Aaron’s burly beatdown, Rick Smash! finds himself outnumbered by those who are of the opinion that Aaron may really be a good guy, after all, and maybe Rick Smash! shouldn’t have punched him.
I, of course, was still fanning myself from all the hotness of the Rick Smash! beatdown moment, but I could definitely relate to Michonne and the rest of the gang’s collective thought, that they are tired and hungry and sick of all this shit, out here, and maybe they do want to go see what Alexandria is all about.
Michonne is definitely in this latter category. As Carl and Judith’s Newmom, she has the children to think about. So, as Aaron lay unconscious on the barn floor, Michonne whisper-hisses to Rick, “So we’re clear, that look wasn’t a ‘let’s attack that man’ look, it was a ‘he seems like an ok guy to me’ look.”
Ha ha, great early Richonne girlfriend-schools-the-new-boyfriend-on-the-communication-works moment. Those are bound to happen, especially when your new future boyfriend is prone to hulking out and becoming Rick Smash!
Rick basically looks at Michonne, unremorseful, and says, “We gotta secure,” before ordering Carl to dump Aaron’s pack, saying, “Let’s see who this guy really is.”
Michonne, who is no ordinary woman, and who can hulk out pretty ferociously, herself, will not be deterred. She tries again, saying Rick’s name, but he is now in full Rick In Charge/Deputy On The Edge mode, striding around, ordering everyone to be on the alert. ” Everyone else, eyes and ears open. They’re coming for us…we might not know how, or when, but they are.”
As Carol and Daryl bind Aaron’s hands behind his unconscious form, Maggie, kneeling, turns to Rick and gently tries to chime in, back up Michonne, be a voice of reason, “Me and Sasha, we didn’t see him…if he wanted to hurt us, he could have.”
Rick-In-Charge does not respond to this, as he has a barn to secure. He loudly asks if anyone sees anything. Glenn peers out through the slats of the barn, reports, “Just a lot of places to hide.”
“Keep looking,” barks Rick In Charge, and Glenn turns (a trifle wearily) back to his post.
Rick strides over to Carl, who has emptied the contents of Aaron’s backpack, and asks him what he found. Carl hands Rick an orange flare gun.
“I’ve never seen a gun like that before,” Carl says to Rick. Rick takes the gun, looks in the chamber, then up at Aaron, begins to stride over to him.
Aaron is beginning to come to, realizing where he is, and what is happening. He looks up at Maggie, who is trying to blot his bloody left ear, and then gives a small laugh, remembering. “That’s a hell of a right cross, there, Rick,” he says, loudly.
Wow, maybe Aaron isn’t such a wuss, after all. Maybe he teaches the cardio kickboxing class at Alexandria on Thursday nights.
“Sit him up,” Rick orders. Maggie begins to suggest that maybe that’s not the best idea, but Aaron assures her he’s fine. Rick, who doesn’t care either way, says, “He’ll be fine, sit him up.” Michonne’s sitting there, thinking, “I am so annoyed with him right now…but this alpha male thing he’s got going is totally turning my crank right now…damn him!”
Michonne and Maggie help sit Aaron up, who begins to say, “You’re being cautious…I completely understand – …” when Rick interrupts him, asking, “How many of your people are out there?”
When Aaron looks questioningly at Rick, not answering, Rick holds up the orange flare gun. “You have a flare gun, you have it to signal your people…how many of them are there?“
For the first time since coming into the barn, Aaron’s demeanor closes down to something less than his open, easygoing manner of before. Aaron looks worried, seems to be stalling. “Does it matter?” he asks Rick.
Rick’s manner, on the other hand, is pure Interrogation Room. “Yes,” he whispers, in answer to Aaron’s question….
“…yes, it does.”
Aaron backpedals, conceding that, “Of course, it matters how many people are actually out there, but does it matter how many people I tell you are out there?”
Aaron continues, “Because, I’m pretty sure that no matter how many people I tell you are out there…”
“…zero... No matter what I say, you’re not going to trust me.”
Rick looks down at Aaron, retorts, “It’s hard to trust anyone who smiles after getting punched in the face.” Oooo, burn, Aaron!
Aaron, however, retorts in kind, “How about a guy who leaves bottles of water for you in the road?”
Rick looks at Daryl, who turns to look at the bottles of water on the table, which are indeed the same brand as the bottled water on the road. Daryl whirls back on Aaron, steps towards him. “How long you people been followin’ us?” Daryl growls down at him.
Aaron answers immediately, with an incredulous laugh, “Long enough to see that you practically ignore a pack of roamers on your trail…long enough to see that despite a lack of food, and water, you never turned on each other.”
Aaron looks around at the group, as if marveling at them. “You’re survivors, and you’re people… Like I said, and I hope you won’t punch me for saying this, again, but that is the most important resource in the world.”
This statement is true enough, and the gang exchanges looks, registering the import of these words. Rick steps towards Aaron and asks again, softly but menacingly, “How many others are out there?”
Aaron knows the stalling time is over. “One,” he answers. No reply, excepting a small shake of Rick’s head. Aaron continues, “I knew you wouldn’t believe me…if it’s not words, if it’s not pictures, what would it take to convince you that this is for real?”
Still no reply from the gang. Aaron has a thought, “What if I drove you to the community? All of you? If we leave now, we’d get there by lunch.”
Rick replies that he’s not sure how the 15 of them would all fit in the car that he, Aaron, and his one friend drove down here in. Aaron is quick to reply that they took separate cars, that they wanted to be able to bring an entire group back “home” if they found one.
“There is enough room for all of us,” Aaron tells them.
New Carol asks, skeptically, “And you parked just a couple of miles away, right?“
Aaron’s reply is immediate, “East on Ridge Road, just after Route 16…we wanted to get them closer, but then the storm came, blocked the road…we couldn’t clear it.” It does sound like Aaron is telling the truth about all this, as there is no hesitation in what he says, no guile in how he says it.
Rick, however, is not convinced. “Yeah, you really thought this through…”
“Rick,” Aaron protests, “If I wanted to ambush you, I would do it here…light the barn on fire, pick you off as you ran out the only exit…” Another good point by Aaron.
As Rick and Aaron regard each other, Aaron says, earnestly, looking into Rick’s face, “You can trust me.”
The gang stands around, looking down at Aaron. Of course they want to believe him, want to trust him…but can they?
Michonne turns to Rick, volunteers to go check out the cars.
“There aren’t any cars,” Rick replies. Michonne counters, voice soft, “There’s only one way to find out.”
“We don’t need to find out,” replies Rick.
Michonne counters, “We do. You know what you know…you’re sure of it. I’m not.” Rick regards Michonne, has no ready reply. (Watching this, I was thinking, “Man, she is so good for him!” ) Michonne is strong enough to stand up to Rick, but she’s cool enough to do it respectfully, and not make him feel like a dick for just wanting to protect his people. Richonne is some mad sexy when they butt heads! I kept wanting them to take it to the barn floor, and wrestle it out.
Maggie interrupts the sexual tension by siding with Michonne. “Me neither,” she says, simply, giving Rick a small, “I’m sorry, I love you, but I gotta go see for myself,” smile, with the barest shake of her head.
The days of the Ricktatorship are long gone… Rick looks down, and deep down, he knows he must give in. Still, so unwilling to risk any of his people, Rick tries to talk Michonne out of it…
…he says, hoarsely, “Your way’s dangerous, mine isn’t.” Michonne responds, “Passing up a place where we can live? Where Judith can live?“
“That’s pretty dangerous.”
Michonne’s face softens. “We need to find out what this is,” she says, softly, looking into Rick’s face. Her voice is reassuring, “We can handle ourselves.”
Michonne’s face, and manner become firm again. Her voice is no-nonsense. “So that’s what we’re gonna do.” It is settled. Rick, and everyone else, knows it. (OMG, I am loving Michonne so hard right now.)
Rick is bested, and he knows it. Top Mama has spoken. He shakes his head, then turns and calls to Abraham.
“Yeah,” Abraham agrees. “I’ll walk with them.” He draws up his rifle and walks over to the others.
“Rosita,” Rick calls next. Rosita nods, looks down a moment, then says, “Ok.”
Rick asks Glenn if they have enough firepower if there’s trouble. Glenn replies, “We got what we got.” As Daryl pulls Aaron up and leads him towards the back of the room, Rick tells Michonne and the other volunteers that the “walkies” are out of juice, so if they’re not back in 60 minutes, they will come after them. Michonne nods, looks at Rick a moment.
Michonne has got her game face on, looking like a total badass.
Rick says, as she’s about to go, “This might be just what they want…”
Mmmm, can’t help but get that last word, last dig in, huh, Rick?
Michonne’s reaction to Rick’s baiting comment is awesome…she narrows her eyes, says nothing, turns and walks out the door. Gotta believe in your woman, Rick Grimes.
After the volunteer troupe leaves, Rick turns to the others, says that if they’re all in the barn, they’re a target. He orders them outside, in groups of twos, within eyeshot. Daryl tells him he’s got the area covered. They file out, leaving Rick, Aaron, and Judith in the barn.
As Rick peers out through a crack in the barn door, Aaron tells him that before the turn, he, Aaron, worked for an NGO, delivering food and medical supplies around the Niger River delta. Aaron says that he had guns pointed in his face by “bad people” every other week.
“You’re not bad people,” Aaron says to Rick. “You’re not going to kill us, and we are definitely not going to kill you.”
Still peering out, Rick replies, “Just because we’re good people doesn’t mean we won’t kill you.”
Rick then turns, looks down at Aaron. “If the five of them aren’t back in an hour, I’ll put a knife in the base of your skull.”
Meanwhile, Glenn-In-Charge is trying on the hardline approach, you know, just to see if it fits. “Eyes open, everybody. Weapons up. If you see anybody coming at us, you fire.”
Abraham agrees, “Copy that,” while Maggie looks away. She makes it look like she’s scanning the horizon, but I feel like she’s more trying not to look embarrassed for her boyfriend right now, while letting him have his moment.
Michonne turns to look at Glenn, studies his face a moment before looking ahead once more, and asking, “So, if we see someone, we just shoot them?“
Looking out to the side horizon, Maggie chimes in, “That’s a good question.”
“What if it’s someone like us?” Michonne asks Glenn. “What if Aaron’s telling the truth? What if it’s someone who has nothing to do with this?”
“We’re five people walking with guns,” replies Glenn. “Nobody’s coming up to say hello.”
“But, that’s exactly what happened,” Michonne points out, reasonably.
“If it’s someone like us,” Glenn replies, “Then we should be afraid of them.” Ha!
Glenn continues, wondering aloud, if Aaron and his person/people were really watching them, then they saw what they did, yesterday. (What, eating the dogs? Killing the walkers? What was so bad about that? What the hell else were they supposed to do?)
Glenn continues, after seeing what they, the gang, are capable of doing, why would Aaron’s people want them, the gang, to come live with them in their community? (I am thinking back to my “soldiers for hire” theory in answer to this question, but of course, “hot babymaking potential” is still on the table of possibilities.)
Michonne muses, “People like us saved a priest…saved a girl who rolled up on the prison with the Governor.” Michonne smiles, shaking her head, adds, “Saved a crazy lady with a sword. He saw that.”
Glenn replies, grimly, “I don’t know what he saw.”
The shot pans out, until we see the open field, and the gang of volunteers are now far away. And we see, crouching behind a stilled tractor…
Meanwhile, Baby Judith is hungry, and crying, as Rick tries to crush some acorns in a bowl, presumably to feed to her.
Yuck. I have read that while acorns are certainly edible, and can be crushed to make a meal, or a flour, that they are extremely bitter, and must be soaked in water for a long, long time to leach the bitterness out. Good luck feeding those to that baby, Rick Grimes. You will hear some real crying then.
Aaron looks nervously towards the barn door, then towards Rick, who is on one knee, holding the wailing baby, trying to crush the acorns in a bowl. “You did see the jar of applesauce in my bag, right?” Rick looks at him, says nothing, goes back to trying to crush acorns with one hand, while holding his crying baby daughter in the other.
Aaron says, “This isn’t a trick…this isn’t about trying to get you to like me. This is about self-preservation, because if the roamers hear her and come this way, I know I’ll be first to go.” Rick looks up, shifts his daughter to his other arm, and stands, goes to the table, where a sealed mason jar of applesauce sits.
Rick looks at Aaron a moment before turning his attention back to the task of opening the jar (one handed, parents learn to do everything one-handed when there’s baby-holding and baby-carrying going on), spooning up some applesauce, and walking over to where Aaron is sitting, on the barn floor, hands bound behind him, around a support beam. Rick wordlessly holds the spoonful of applesauce to Aaron. You first.
Aaron looks up at Rick, horrified. “Do you think that I’m trying to poison your baby daughter?”
Aaron protests, “I’m tied up, and you’ve already expressed a desire to kill me by sticking a knife in my head, so how would cruelly killing your daughter help the situation?” Rick counters, a little crazily, that maybe she doesn’t die, maybe she just gets sick, and Aaron’s the only one who can save her, and then he, Rick, loses. Awww, you are a little crazy right now, Rick, and I can’t tell if your beard is real or fake, but I still love you, crazy-ass imaginings, fake-ass looking beard, and all.
Aaron replies that he is the only one who can help her, as he has the applesauce, and so they all win. Rick, undeterred, holds the spoonful of applesauce out to Aaron: Eat.
“I hate applesauce,” Aaron whispers miserably. He tells Rick his mom used to make him eat foods he disliked to make him more “manly.” That actually really sucks, and I do feel real bad for Aaron about that, but I can’t help but think, “You wanna try a real manly treat, Aaron? Try eating dog. Now, eat the fucking applesauce, and be done with it, so poor Baby Judith can eat her lunch!”
Aaron balks a moment more, until Rick reminds him that he, Aaron, will be first to go if Judith’s crying attracts “roamers.” Aaron opens up, and the applesauce goes in. Rick can’t resist tasting the spoon, after.
It made me think, when was the last time Rick, or any of them, tasted the sweetness of fruit, or had an apple? Probably a long time, like back at the prison. And here Aaron is, balking at taking a spoonful of applesauce.
As Rick turns away to begin feeding Judith, Aaron tries to tell him that at the community, they can find a place for Rick and his children to live that would be so big, that nobody would be able to hear her cry outside the walls. Rick looks at Aaron a moment, then says, “You have 43 minutes.” Aaron’s like, “Gulp.”
Meanwhile, the volunteers have found something…
Michonne looks over at Glenn and Maggie. “He was telling the truth,” she says.
Well, he was telling the truth about that, anyway…
The volunteers hear a noise in the woods, and they draw their weapons. Glenn barks at whomever it is to put their hands in the air, come out where they can see them. After a moment’s more rustling, we see:
Mr. and Mrs. Walker. “Honey, look, our brunch guests have arrived! Welcome to our woods…you’re just in time…I was just telling the wife, ‘Sure am getting hungry!’“
Abraham says, “I got it,” and from behind, Rosita says, “We got it.” They stride forward to take care of Mr. and Mrs. Walker.
“Hi, I’m the missus! Boy howdy, you’re a big one...and aren’t you a real sight for sore eyes…and sore face…and sore everything else. I could just eat you up! In fact, I think I will…if you just hold still a sec…”
“Hey, that’s my arm! Was my arm…you’re not exactly friendly, you know that?”
Rosita finishes Mrs. Walker off with a bash to the head…
…before going to town on Mr. Walker.
“Um, I think I’ll just lie down here and take a little nap before brunch.”
Abraham turns towards Rosita. “Thanks,” he says, simply.
Abraham sneaks a look at her face, but Rosita does not turn to look at him. After a moment, she walks away.
Abraham and Rosita clear the RV, negotiating the the close space and the awkwardness between them.
Then, Abraham pulls a can out of the cupboard, exclaims softly, “Gracious Ignacious.”
S’Getti Rings … were those the kind the Gov dumped out the window?
Abraham gives a little laugh, “Oh-ho, it has been a while.” Rosita, smiling, remembers, “I think I saw Rex eat three cans one night.”
“Four,” Abraham remembers. “Sonuvabitch knew if he didn’t toss ’em back, I’d a come for ’em.”
Abraham looks down at the can, remembering Rex…
…and the happy memories turn into sad ones, as they think of Rex, and times past, and all the things, people they have lost.
Abraham approaches Rosita, asks her back at the fire truck, after Eugene…did she think he was going to hurt her?
“No.” Rosita’s reply is immediate.
“It’s not you,” she says. They both look away for a moment. (Well, that’s a little promising, right? Like maybe there’s a chance for reconciliation, or maybe a slow dance at Friday Night Dance Troupe?) I really like these two together!
Later, back at the barn…
You’re lucky you were telling the truth, Aaron.
These cans of food are seriously bringing up some emotional memories for the gang.
Rick turns and informs Aaron that the cans of food, “These are ours now.” Aaron wearily concedes that there is more than enough. This recruitment run has been way tougher than Aaron bargained for…here he is, sitting on a barn floor with his hands tied behind his back, tethered to a barn pole. He probably really needs to pee.
Usually,at this point, Aaron’s probably basking in the thanks and adulation of the rescued survivors, driving the latest imports back to Alexandria, and regaling his captive, adoring audience with amusing tidbits about the latest Alexandria antics (real or fake, remains to be seen) while the survivors nod and exclaim and over-laugh at Aaron’s jokes, chowing down cold canned foods and chugging applesauce in the back seats.
Rick adds that the canned foods are theirs, the group’s, whether or not they decide to go back with Aaron…at this point, Carl interjects, asks his father incredulously, “What do you mean, why wouldn’t we go?“
NewMom Michonne chimes in, backing Carl up, answering his question while addressing the group, “If he were lying, or wanted to hurt us, but he isn’t...and he doesn’t. We need this. So, we’re going, all of us. Somebody say something if they feel differently.”
Nobody says anything. Rick doesn’t say anything.
Addressing Rick, from the floor, Daryl says, “I dunno, man…this barn smells like horseshit.”
Michonne looks over, awaiting Rick’s response.
“Yeah. We’re going,” Rick relents.
Michonne looks up like a satisfied queen. She is pleased.
Rick turns to Aaron and asks him where the camp is. Aaron, reading into the question, stammers that usually, when he brings recruits back, he is the one driving. Aaron assures the gang that he while he thinks they’re good people, in fact, he’d bet his life on it, he’s not willing to bet his friends’ lives…
Michonne steps forward, in a role reversal with Rick, who now hangs back, and interrupts Aaron. “You’re not driving,“ she says. “So, if you wanna get home, you have to tell us how.” Top Mama Michonne is kicking ass and taking names!
Aaron looks over at Rick, who is crouched down with pen and paper, ready to take notes...on directions to the camp, and on how hot his boss lady gf is when she’s taking charge and getting it done!
Aaron nods, conceding, says to take Route 16 North, and then he’ll tell them more when they get there. Rick counters that they will take Route 23 North. (On Talking Dead, later that night, guest Paul Feig and Chris Hardwick poked some gentle fun at Rick Grimes for insisting on taking another route, but I do see where there could be ambush points set up along a preplanned route.)
Aaron protests that while Route 16 is cleared, Route 23 is not. Rick insists that they will take Route 23, and they will leave at sundown.
Sasha asks, in disbelief, “We’re doing this at night?“ Rick replies that he knows it’s dangerous, but they can’t come rolling up to the gates during the day…if it turns out not to be safe, they need to get gone before anybody knows they are there.
Aaron insists that nobody is going to hurt them. “You’re trying to protect your group, but you’re putting them in danger.”
Rick crouches down, looks right at Aaron. “Tell us where your camp is…we’ll leave right now.” Aaron looks around, then sadly shakes his head. He can’t.
Rick looks to the others, stands, tells them to eat up, as it’s gonna be a long night. Rest up. He walks out of the barn, and after a moment, Michonne follows him.
Rick is crouched at the car, talking who-rides-with-whom logistics, then looks up, asks Michonne if she’s ok. (He really is scoring some major bf points in this episode.)
Michonne asks Rick if back there, when he said they were going, was that for real, or was that just to find out where Aaron’s camp was?
Rick stands, tells Michonne they are going. For real.
Rick then asks Michonne that back at the prison fence, when she first approached, what did she hear?
Michonne replies that she heard nothing. “Terminus?” asks Rick. Again, Michonne answers, “Nothing.”
Rick nods. “Some time tonight, we’ll be outside his camp’s walls, and without seeing inside, I’m gonna have to decide whether to bring my family in. He (Aaron) asked me before what it would take for me to believe it was real. Truth is, I’m not sure anything could convince me to go in there. But, I’m gonna see.” Rick turns away, towards the car, and gives Michonne one last, sweet look. “I wanna see,” he says to her. ❤
It’s a tailights caravan on Rt 23 N.
Aaron looks like he’s about to suggest a game of “I Spy.”
…when Rick finds Aaron’s license plate collection in the glove compartment. At Rick’s questioning look towards Glenn, Aaron leans forward from the back seat. “Oh,” he explains, “I’m trying to collect all 50 states…”
“…and put them on a wall in my house.”
“You have your own house?”
Aaron looks over at Michonne, nods, gestures towards the envelope of photographs on his pack, invites her to “see for yourself.”
Michonne reaches for the envelope, looks at the pictures of a charming wrap-around porch, which overlooks an enviable view of Alexandria’s walls and bracings…
Aaron allows himself a smile, looking on as Michonne flips through the pictures. Houses, buildings, the wall…but a key element is missing from all the pictures…
Michonne, alarmed, looks up, asks Aaron why he doesn’t have any pictures of his people?
Aaron’s self-satisfied smile of before quickly disappears, and he begins to stammer out some bullshit about how he tried to take a group picture, but the exposure, and then problems with the developing…he’s clearly lying. But why? My first three guesses, right off the top of my head: 1) The people were all shut inside the factory warehouse, mass-producing some product that Alexandria makes and sells to other outside communities, like…license plates, and they only get two 15-minute breaks every 12 hours; 2) Everyone in Alexandria is bound and gagged in their respective gimp closets, except for the dominants who keep watch over them; 3) Alexandria is actually a leper colony, and the inhabitants, while still technically living, are losing flesh and limbs at a rate that rivals the decomposition of the walkers. What’s your guess?
Michonne knows immediately that Aaron is lying, and looks to the front seat, asks Rick, “Did you ask him the three questions?”
Everyone looks at Rick, who seems to be, like, “Um, no, I did not…shit was going on, and I did kind of forget to ask the three questions…and, btw, there are 15 of us, and why is it always my job to ask the three questions? You motherfuckers know the three questions, and aside from Baby Judith, who can’t talk, maybe one of you could have thought of that shit, and asked...I was all sleuthing the flare gun and shit…does it always have to be me, asking the three questions?“
Rick does not give voice to his internal monologue, simply answers, “No.”
So, Michonne turns to Aaron, and asks the first of the three questions, “How many walkers have you killed?”
Aaron feigns ignorance, or confusion, at the direct question. “I’m sorry, what?“ Michonne repeats the question. “How many?”
As Glenn listens, and waits, for Aaron to answer…
Rick, looking ahead at the road, listens, and waits for, Aaron’s answer, as well. Aaron gapes at Michonne, indignant, hems and haws before answering, a trifle defensively, “I don’t know…a lot.”
Michonne continues to the second question: “How many people?”
This time, Aaron’s reply is more immediate. “Two,” he answers. “Why?” MIchonne asks the third question, looking at Aaron. Without missing a beat, Aaron replies, “Because they tried to kill me.”
Look what Rick’s found…“Hey, Aaron, are you starting a collection of parabolic microphones from all 50 states as well?”
Glenn, who is driving, looks back at Aaron, shocked. “You were listening to us?”
Aaron actually manages to sound a little testy at being asked this question, says something like, “Yes, yes, I told you I was watching you…listening is a part of watching, duh…what part of, ‘I was spying on you’ do you people not understand?”
Rick says, quickly, that the others in Aaron’s group probably have mic’s like these, and they probably heard the gang’s plans. “This isn’t safe,” cries Rick, and then those words ring especially true, as Rick and Glenn brace themselves for the oncoming threat in the road…
…for the horde of NightHiker Walkers!
As Glenn plows through the rotting walkers, their blood and guts smear the windshield, making it impossible to see out…
Rick’s first thought is of the RV behind them, but Glenn tells him to stay in the car, that the RV would have seen what was happening and are either behind them, or they were able to get away…
In the back seat, Aaron is freaking while Michonne braces herself…
Have I mentioned how much Glenn rules in this episode?
Aaron’s classic old car has become a Walker Massacremobile.
The car finally clears a space from the walkers, and skids to a stop. Rick jumps out, and sees no sign of the RV. It seems they must have turned around, and Rick tells Glenn they will double back and meet the RV back up the road.
Glenn quickly tries to wipe the windshield clean before jumping back in the car…
…and of course, the car won’t start.
And, here come the walkers.
Aaron is freaking the fuck out, of course. Michonne volunteers to go out and see what she can see, and goes out to the front hood, pulling walker guts and limbs from out of the hood and grille.
As the walkers near, Aaron, panicked, cries out that they are closing in. Rick turns to him and grinds out that they know that. Glenn frantically keeps trying to start the car, to no avail, of course…and then, Glenn sees something light up the sky. “Look!”
Someone has shot a flare up, obviously to signal Aaron. But, who?
Aaron, upon seeing the flare go up, really starts to freak out. He keeps saying, “This is over, I’ve gotta get out of here.“
Rick turns and watches Aaron freaking out. “What’s going on?” he demands, but Aaron is in full bail mode. With hands still tied behind his back, Aaron kicks open the back door of the car, sending Michonne flying, and charges out into the night. Holy crap, dude.
Michonne starts to go after Aaron, and when Rick tries to call her back, she replies that the way to find the others is to go after Aaron. They abandon the car and run into the woods, in the direction that Aaron went, and must engage in some serious walker slaughter. As Michonne slices and dices with her katana, Rick fires upon the walkers, calling to Glenn to clear the way for them (I think that’s what he said).
Good shot, Glenn.
Oh, no, Glenn, look out behind you!
Glenn narrowly avoids getting bitten.
Glenn smashes Look Out Behind You Walker’s undead brains in against a rock.
Glenn hears a struggle nearby, finds…
Aaron, hands still tied behind his back, braced against a tree trunk, kicking at a walker.
Glenn thinks about it a minute, then, with a shake of his head, he goes to help Aaron, rekilling the walker and cutting Aaron’s hands free. “Run if you want, “ Glenn tells Aaron, “I’ve got other things to worry about.” As Glenn turns to leave, Aaron quotes Glenn’s words to Daryl, the day before, back to him:
“We can make it, but we can only make it together.”
“You said that,” Aaron tells Glenn. “I was listening.” Creepy! What the hell is the deal with these people?
Meanwhile, Richonne is calling for Glenn, and fighting off some mad walkers in their neck of the woods. Rick’s gun runs out of bullets, and the walkers keep coming, so he pulls out the flare gun and aims it for one walker’s head, creating my new walker obsession, affectionately named on Talking Dead as Rick’s Little Bit of Flare Walker:
How I love him. ❤
Now officially out of firepower, Richonne must do The Dance of the Double Katana on the oncoming walkers…
Then, a hail of bullets comes from behind the walker horde, felling them in their shuffling tracks. Rick and Michonne see, once the smoke clears…
Glenn and Aaron have come to save the day. Aaron holds up his hands, offers for Rick to tie him up again, if he needs to, but please hurry…methinks Aaron secretly is beginning to enjoy this getting tied up business!
Rick Grimes says, “Pass.”
As they emerge onto the open road, Rick turns to Aaron and asks where their people are. Aaron replies that he doesn’t know. Rick tells Aaron that if this all is a trick to get their gang where Aaron’s people wants them, “Your people are gonna die tonight.” (Whew, another Cheryl Tunt shiver just went through me…so delicious, Deputy Smash!)
They reach an abandoned looking industrial park. Rick whistles his singsong whistle, and Daryl, who has been outside, keeping watch, waves to them and pounds on the door, signaling the others, inside.
The gang reunites…Yay!
Aaron begins calling for Eric. He rushes inside, and when he hears a voice, he runs into a room, and finds…
His totes adorbs bf, Eric.
Poor Eric’s ankle is injured. He likens it to a “Volleyball injury. Maggie thinks it might be broken…I like her,” Eric tells Aaron. (Lucky, Maggie…you found a fabulous gay bestie, which I keep asking Santa for, for Christmas, and have yet to get…I am lime green jelly!)
Aaron is so upset seeing his love’s injury...Eric playfully chides Aaron, saying it’s “your fault” he got injured, as he loves Aaron so much that it makes him worry about him and do stupid things, like getting a tractor tire rolled over his ankle.
Aaron rushes to Eric and pastes one on him, which made me cheer out loud. Man make-out sesh on prime time television…thank you, TWD!
Eric pulls out a gift for Aaron…a license plate from a state he does not yet have. Aaron cannot bring himself to tell Eric the truth, but Eric figures it out. “You lost the license plates,” he guesses. Aaron deadpans, “I lost the car.”
Their giggle is interrupted by Rick, who has come in the room and is watching their interaction. “Hi, I’m Eric!” says Eric brightly. Aaron excuses himself and goes outside with Rick.
Aaron thanks the group for saving Eric. He tells them he is indebted to them, and he will make sure he repays his debt to them when they get to their new community, Alexandria. Aaron tries to excuse himself to go back and be with his partner, but Rick tries to put the kibosh on that, telling Aaron he is going to sleep out there, with them, where Rick can keep an eye on him.
Aaron looks Rick square in the eye and tells him the only way he, Rick, his going to keep him, Aaron, away from Eric is to shoot him. Glenn intervenes, and pulls Rick aside, telling Rick that Aaron told them where his camp was, that he was telling the truth about there being only one other person with him (Eric), and that both men are unarmed, one with a broken ankle.
“I want us to be safe too…I can’t give up everything else. I know what I said, but, it does matter.” Maggie, listening to this, is probably falling in love with Glenn all over again, in this moment.
Rick nods. “All right,” he says. The voice of reason has spoken.
And so, the next morning, the gang is Hauling Ass To Alexandria (Isn’t that the name of the country western song?).
In the back of the RV, while Eric sleeps, Aaron watches over him. Noah comes in with a bottle of water and a bottle of pills. Aaron says he wants to let Eric sleep, but Noah says the pills are for Aaron, as he knows that his hands must be hurting.
As Noah turns to leave, Aaron asks him about his leg. Noah tells Aaron that he hurt it in a car accident with his dad, and he did get medical attention, so he feels lucky he can walk at all. Aaron tells Noah that they have a surgeon, Pete, who is gifted and who Aaron has seen “do wonders” with others. Noah takes this in, asks, “Yeah?” Aaron nods, and Noah walks away, hopeful for the first time in a long time.
In the front of the RV, Eugene is teaching the rules to Seven Card Stud. Tara, I think, asks “Seriously?” to one of the finer points of the game, and Eugene replies, “Serious as two copulatin’ dogs.” Ha!
Rosita, riding shotgun, points out the Washington Monument, which is visible in the horizon. “Abraham, look!”
Abraham, who is driving this RV, looks over and takes in the sight of something he has been striving to see, firsthand, for so long…
He looks over at Rosita, who jokes, “Eyes on the road!”
Rosita is happy, though, you can tell.
Abraham looks down at the console. The battery light is on. He asks Rosita how long they’ve got, and she says they are halfway there. Abraham smiles, says they are going to make it…
A ways down the road, however…broken down again.
Abraham’s bummed (“Might as well paint it red and put a ladder on it”), but Glenn says all it needs is another battery. Abraham asks him where they’re supposed to get one of those. Glenn brings him around to the other side of the RV, and shows him…
…a backup battery. Abraham asks Glenn how he knew it was there, and Glenn smiles in a silent homage to Dale. ❤
Meanwhile, sitting on the hood of the back car, Michonne looks over at Rick, tells him the fight’s over…it’s time to let it go. Michonne, Michonne, Michonne, the fight is never over, or there wouldn’t be a show, would there? But, maybe everyone can get some rest, and some food, and a chance for some consenting adults to party naked, for a little while, anyway.
“I know it’s hard, after it’s kept you warm, and alive, and fed…but the fight, it turns on you. You gotta let it go.” Michonne speaks from a place of knowing, and Rick listens to her, looking tortured, and hot, and majorly hairy.
I think, judging from the recent pictures of Andrew Lincoln, and the recent interviews, that a clean shave is in Rick Grimes’ not-too-distant-future…and if it’s Michonne who does the shaving, well, I would pretty much die of happiness at that scene, as well, especially if she uses her katana’s blade.
Rick tells Michonne that Bob was telling him the same thing, when to give up the fight, and let the world and others in again. Rick tells Michonne he needs a moment, then goes off and, from what I gathered, stashes Aaron’s handgun in a plastic blender...just in case.
And then, they arrive at the gates of Alexandria.
Rick looks at the gate.
Then Rick hears the one sound that could convince him to enter those gates...the sound of children playing inside the gates.
As the happy sounds wash over them, Michonne gives Rick a sweet smile. When is the last time anybody heard that beautiful noise, the sound of children playing? Too long.
Michonne puts her hand on Rick’s a moment, then turns to him, asks him if he’s ready. After a moment, Rick tells her he is. He takes his hands off the steering wheel, puts the car in park, and gets out of the car to get Judith from the back seat.
The only thing hotter to me than Rick Smash! is Papi Grimes, loving on his children with infinite love and tenderness.
Well, darlings, of course this week’s Deadie goes to Andrew Lincoln, and Rick Grimes, for being such a beautiful badass, a loving father to his children, his new gf, and his chosen family, and for choosing to believe…and for stashing that handgun in the plastic blender…just in case.
Live long and prosper, my WD darlings. ❤
Until next week, and enjoy the playlist.
Cake, “The Distance”
Plague Vendor, “Black Sap Scriptures”
The Knife, “Heartbeats” (for Abraham and Rosita
Love Battery, “Float”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Runaway”
Land of Talk, “Yuppy Flu”