Starvation. Exposure. Exhaustion. If any words accurately describe the group at this point, it’s those.
Last week’s episode ended when Maggie and Sasha were approached by a man who was suspiciously clean, something even casual viewers of The Walking Dead know to mistrust. He claimed to have some information they’d want to hear, and this week’s episode begins with them bringing this guy to meet Rick and the gang in their barn hideout.
Wait, what?! They brought this man to the place they all sleep? This man they don’t know and have never seen before? This place where there is a baby and at least one adult hanging on the last vestiges of their sanity? He must have one silver tongue.
Immediately everyone is on high alert and Judith starts crying. “Everyone’s being aggressive now! Something’s wrong!” Aaron has told Maggie and Sasha that he lives in a community nearby and that he would like the group to follow him back there to “audition for membership.” This sounds like heaven to all those who are sick of the slow, slow death they’re experiencing, but not Rick. Rick has had more than enough of trusting well-meaning strangers (see: Terminus, and before that, Woodbury).
Aaron says his community is super safe and nothing gets in or out without their say so. His community needs them because people are the most prized resource in the world. Rick has a look through Aaron’s pack at the photos of his community he brought along, and just when it seems Aaron is actually making headway with these understandably wary people, Rick hauls off with a heavy right cross. Uh oh.
They tie Aaron up and search belongings on Rick’s instruction. Rick knows he must have people who will come for him if he doesn’t go back and finds a flare gun in Aaron’s pack. Rick begins to question him and we witness a familiar Walking Dead tradition: someone new being questioned about their intentions while handcuffed. Aaron reveals that he’s the one who left that water bottle cornucopia in the road and that he’s been watching and following them for a while. He watched as they began to starve and dehydrate and marveled at how they didn’t turn on each other, assuring him of the group’s humanity. Aaron says that this is why he and his one accomplice want to bring them along.
As Aaron explains all the reasons they should go with him, Rick remains unconvinced. Michonne, clearly over their “salt of the earth” lifestyle, offers to check out Aaron’s story and report back in an hour. “Look dude, I know you’ve been hurt and you can’t trust people. Me, either, honestly! But look: they said they have food and shelter. And you HAVE A BABY. Don’t you even want to check out the possibility he’s not lying?”
So Michonne, Rosita, Glenn, Abraham, and Maggie head off to find the vehicles Aaron says he has nearby and the rest fan out to keep watch leaving Rick, Judith, and Aaron behind. Aaron says “I know you’re good people, man! We’re not going to kill you just like you’re not going to kill us.” And Rick gives him probably the most important advice he’ll ever hear (especially for characters on this show): “Just because we’re good people doesn’t mean we won’t kill you. If my friends don’t come back in an hour, I’m killing the crap out of you.” Rick’s heart got a little smaller just then.
While en route to Aaron’s cars, Glenn realizes Aaron had to have been watching them since yesterday at least – and so has seen a lot of the awful things they’ve done. “Why would he want us to join his group?” he wonders. So Michonne’s like, “Well, we did save a priest. And a sword-wielding badass, ahem ahem. AND we have a baby with us. Maybe he liked that part.”
Back at the barn, Judith is crying and Aaron offers up some applesauce he has in his pack to keep her quiet; if she keeps crying Aaron knows “roamers” will come and he’ll be the first to go. So Rick’s like, “All right, you want me to feed this applesauce that you, a stranger, brought here to my daughter? You try it first.” And Aaron’s all, “Come on, man, I hate applesauce and I’m really, really not trying to poison your kid. It serves no purpose.” So Rick says, “JUST EAT IT, OR YOU’LL GO FIRST, REMEMBER?” And Aaron eats the applesauce.
Michonne and Co. find a car and an RV, the latter of which filled with supplies (including sweet delicious S’Getti Rings!), just like Aaron said they would. Abraham worries aloud that Rosita is afraid of him. “My feelings don’t revolve around you,” Rosita tells him. They gather everything, bring it back to the barn, and Rick is beside himself. “This is our food, whether we go with you or not.” Michonne’s like, “Erm, excuse me. Are you still talking like we’re not going with him? No, no, no. We’re going. We’re dying out here, man. We are going with him.” And Rick’s all, “Alright, we’re going, but I need to know all of the details because I still don’t trust you.”
Aaron swears he’s telling the truth and that he and his friend will drive them all to the community, but Rick, still needing to exert some sort of control over the situation, balks. “You’re not driving anyone anywhere,” he says, and Michonne agrees. “You’re not driving. So just tell us where we’re going.” Aaron says they need to travel up I-16, but Rick prefers I-23 just because Aaron said they should use I-16. “We didn’t clear that road, though!” Aaron tells him.
Rick plans to leave at nightfall because approaching the community at night gives them a better chance to escape if things look fishy. Aaron insists that taking I-16 is faster and Rick is just putting his group in danger being overly cautious. And Rick is like, “Okay, tell me exactly where your people are and we’ll go your way and roll up in broad daylight.” Bluff called! Aaron is not giving up that info.
Rick plans for him, Michonne, and Glenn to escort Aaron while the rest of the group follows in the camper. But Michonne has a very important query: “Did you mean we were going to join them, or are you planning to just rob them and split?” Rick fires back with his own poignant line of questioning: “When we got to Woodbury, did you hear anything outside those gates? What about Terminus? Any noise? No signs of freedom or life. I’m overly cautious because they expect me to waltz in there with my family and we’ve seen how great that turns out! I’ll go, but my eyes are WIDE OPEN and if anything looks dicey I’m leaving.”
Night has fallen and the groups set out. Rick finds license plates in the glove compartment of Aaron’s car and Aaron explains that he not only has the luxury of a license plate-collecting hobby but a house back in his community. Michonne has a look at his photos and realizes that there are no people in them – and that they didn’t ask him The Questions.
“How many walkers have you killed?” “I don’t know, a lot.” “How many people?” “Two.” “Why?” Because they were trying to kill me.”
Just then Rick finds a listening device that Aaron has been using to keep tabs on them and not a split second later the car plows into and through a whole frightening parade of walkers. Glenn keeps hold of the wheel and gets them clear, but they can’t see the RV anymore. And now the car won’t start because it’s full of walker parts. As they try to get the car started, a flare goes off near a water tower and Aaron is like, “ABORT! ABORT!” He runs off, still handcuffed, and Rick, Michonne, and Glenn unload their clips the walkers who have followed them. Glenn comes to Aaron and nearly lets him get eaten by a walker, but saves him instead and Aaron offers up Glenn’s own words of wisdom: “We can make it together. But we can only make it together.” New alliance!
Rick and Michonne run out of bullets looking for Glenn and Rick makes a flare firework out of one of the walkers. In the nick of time, Glenn and Aaron come up and put the walkers encroaching on Rick and Michonne down and the four make their way back to the road. Knowing the flare was toward the water tower, they head there on foot. After some whistled signals straight out of The Warriors, everyone reunites, including Aaron and his accomplice, Eric. Maggie has set Eric’s broken ankle and we find out that the group in their RV saved Eric’s life. Rick interrupts Aaron and Eric’s tender reunion and they get back to business. They haven’t made it to the community yet, after all.
Aaron is eternally grateful to everyone for saving his partner and can’t wait to take them to Alexandria. Rick insists that Aaron stays far away from his group while they camp for the night, but Aaron is all, “You can try to keep me away from Eric but then we’re gonna have to fight!” Glenn implores Rick to relax: “They’re unarmed and one of them has a broken ankle. What can they really do to us?”
In the morning, they’re on their way again. Aaron watches over Eric as Noah brings water and painkillers to Aaron for his injuries. Noah explains how he got his limp and Aaron says they have an amazing surgeon named Pete who has done some amazing things back in Alexandria. I’m growing more suspicious, and Carol hasn’t had much to say all episode. Abraham notices their battery about to die and laments when it does just that. “Might as well paint it red and put a ladder on it!” Glenn is all, “Chill out, man. They have three extra batteries in this RV. Let’s just replace it and get going.” Glenn’s new zen calm is interesting, especially since it cropped up right after he decided to trust Aaron.
Michonne and Rick have another moment where they acknowledge how hard being on the road has been on them. She tells him that he has to let go of the fight and learn to trust people again. “But the rules keep changing,” he tells her. “They did for me,” she replied. And the gang gets the RV started again! But Rick, never one to roll with just one plan, hides a gun in an old blender for good measure.
They arrive at Alexandria and sit outside the gates. Rick is still unsure and then he hears it: children playing just inside the gates. The group piles out of the vehicles and Carol tells Rick, “Even though you were wrong, you were still right.”
The Questions: How will those kids react to a bunch of filthy strangers, who are armed to the teeth, stroll through their community? Does this happen often? How in the hell can they have not only a still-practicing surgeon but also medical facilities to perform surgeries? I’m so nervous that this will blow up in their faces, but I’m excited to see Carl around other kids again. Poor kid hasn’t had a peer since Sophia.