The Alexandrians are building an army on The Walking Dead. It’s going to take a lot to confront Negan and the first thing on their list is warriors. Despite Gregory’s insistence that Hilltop not get involved, loyalty has shifted to Maggie and the gentle “sorghum farmers” pledge to follow her to war. King Ezekiel turns down Rick’s request for help. He thinks his people are safe under the agreement he has with Negan and he’s not willing to risk any of their lives for freedom. He does offer to hide Daryl so Daryl ends up trapped at the Kingdom, separated from his friends once again. When Father Gabriel disappears (with the last of Alexandria’s food) Rick knows he didn’t desert them. Finding Gabriel’s clue, “the boat,” leads Rick, Aaron, Michonne, Rosita and Tara into a trap. And yet, surrounded by an enormous group of hostile foes, Rick smiles. What does he see that we don’t? Hopefully tonight will answer that question.
King Ezekiel and his closest soldiers meet the Saviors with their tribute. The last time they did the handoff, Richard and a Savior came to blows. Things are even more tense today. The aforementioned Savior demands Richard’s gun. “No guns for bad boys.” King Ezekiel makes him give it up. But that’s not enough for these bad guys.They like to cause pain. The Savior reaches out to strike Richard and Morgan bats his hand away with his staff. It’s an instinctual move. He realizes his error as soon as he does it but it’s too late. The Saviors don’t like losing the upper hand. They warn King Ezekiel that if meetings progress like this, things might need to get “visceral.” And to rub dirt in the wound, they take Morgan’s staff. It sounds like the facade of safety protecting the Kingdom is in danger.
Back at the Kingdom, Daryl confronts Morgan. He doesn’t understand why Morgan refuses to fight the Saviors when he knows how bad they are. He tells him if Carol were there, if she knew about Glenn and Abraham, she’d lead the fight. Morgan agrees. “And that’s why she left, man.”
Daryl comes across Richard, who hands him a crossbow. They can be useful allies. Richard has a plan to get Ezekiel involved in the fight. He’s going to create his own Pearl Harbor. Phase one is to take out some Saviors in a big, splashy way. He wants them angry. Phase two is the Saviors follow a trail he made from the carnage to the home of someone Ezekiel cares about. When they kill her Ezekiel will be forced to take revenge. Daryl asks who they’re sacrificing. Richard tries to avoid answering and Daryl smells a rat. He asks her name. Richard dodges and weaves until Daryl shouts, “Say her damn name!” Yep, it’s Carol. And just like that, the plan is canceled. Daryl warns Richard that if anything happens to Carol, whether it’s by man, walker or act of god, he’ll kill him. No one messes with Carol if Daryl has anything to say about it.
Rick, Aaron, Michonne, Rosita and Tara are herded into a clearing in a junk yard. They’re surrounded by the Scavengers, the largest group we’ve seen yet (other than the Saviors). And Rick just grins. The leader, Jadis, informs Rick that they own their lives. “Wanna buy them back?” Rick tries to charm them into fighting the Saviors with them but Jadis has no interest in their plight. Father Gabriel grabs a Scavenger knife and takes a hostage. He gets Jadis’ attention. He tells her that the Saviors have a lot of food and weapons. This piques her curiosity. Gabriel promises her many riches after they win, He tells her that Rick can do anything. They found him, for Pete’s sake. No matter what she wants, they can get it for her.
Jadis decides to take Rick “Up, up, up.” Up, up, up? The Scavengers have their own language and what they’re referring to is the top of a large pile of trash. As Jadis and Rick take in a scenic view of the dump, she explains their community. The Scavengers take, they don’t bother. They like the easy scores. But things are changing so she’ll consider working with Alexandria. If…
To test Rick’s worthiness, she pushes him down the trash pile, into a small clearing. As Michonne watches through a strategically placed culvert, Rick is joined by a walker covered in spikes and armor. Welcome to the Colosseum, Rick. The walker advances and Rick impales himself as he pushes it away. He looks around desperately. There has to be something he can use as a weapon. Michonne calls out to use the walls of trash. Rick shifts some bags and trash tumbles onto the walker. He finds a piece of metal and kills it. He looks up at Jadis in triumph. Did he pass her test? She tosses him a rope to get back up, up, up. I guess he did.
Jadis wants guns, lots of guns, and then she’ll fight the Saviors. And once they win, she wants half of the Saviors’ loot. Rick offers a third and they get back what the Scavengers took from them. Jadis likes his moxy. They agree on a third of the Saviors’ stuff and half of what they stole from Alexandria. “And the guns.” Now that they’re friends, Jadis admits that she’d been waiting a long time for someone to get the supplies off the houseboat for her. “We take, we don’t bother.” Rick is a little shaken by the admission that the houseboat never actually belonged to her in any place other than her mind. She’s an interesting ally, that’s certain.
Carol opens her door to find King Ezekiel and some of his fighters clearing walkers from her land. She reminds them that she wants to be alone. But Jerry brought her cobbler! She grudgingly takes it and shoos them away. A few moments later there’s a knock on her door. What part of “I want to be alone” do they not understand? It’s not King Ezekiel. It’s Daryl. Carol gets teary. She grabs him in a hug. And I’m bawling like a little girl. Daryl asks her why she left with a catch in his voice. “I had to,” she whispers.
Father Gabriel tells Rick about being abducted by the Scavengers. He is touched that Rick knew he didn’t run away, that he looked for him. It gives him hope again. He asks why Rick smiled when he arrived. “Someone showed me enemies can become friends.”
Rosita wants to look for guns immediately. Tara tells her that Rick wants them to bring the food back to Alexandria and regroup so that’s what they’re going to do. Rosita is trying to outrun her demons. She can’t stay still so she wants to go on her own. Tara’s not having it. They’re sticking together and that’s that. “We’re not looking for a fight, Rosita. We’re getting ready for one.” Except Rosita is looking for a fight.
Rick feels confident they can find the guns they need. And since Tara has been out the farthest, she can guide them. “At least you can tell us where not to look.” It sounds like Oceanside is about to get some new visitors.
Carol explains why she left. If she had kept fighting, there wouldn’t be anything left of her. Daryl sees how wounded she is. She really needs this time-out from the apocalypse. She asks if the Saviors hurt any of the Alexandrians. Daryl lies to her and tells her everyone is fine. She weeps in happiness. They sit down to a meal together. Just two friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time. When he leaves, Daryl tells her to watch out for herself. He means it.
Daryl sits outside Shiva’s cage, communing with the kitty. Morgan interrupts. Daryl tells him he saw Carol. Morgan tries to explain why he lied about her being gone but Daryl has seen her. He understands. He again asks Morgan to help get King Ezekiel on board but Morgan just won’t do it. Daryl points out that whatever he’s holding onto is already gone. Just like the staff Eastman made him. Morgan responds that Daryl isn’t that different from him; he didn’t tell Carol what Negan did in order to protect her. “You didn’t, because she’d be here otherwise.” Daryl reaches into the cage and Shiva nuzzles his hand. He tells Morgan he’s going back to the Hilltop. He needs to get them trained.
Next week: We go back in time to see Eugene’s arrival at the Sanctuary and Negan finding out that Daryl escaped. Spoiler alert: Dwight is in big trouble for letting him get away!