By Guest Contributor The Lady Cocotte
On last week’s The Walking Dead, Jesus rudely interrupted Rick and Michonne’s post-coital snuggling. What kind of damage will he inflict tonight? He wanders around Rick’s house, touching stuff. He takes a moment to ponder some art and Carl points a gun at his head. “What the hell are you doing in our house?” Carl demands.
Jesus calmly tells him, “I’m sitting on the steps, looking at this painting, waiting for your mom and Dad to get dressed.” What? Don’t tell Carl about Rick and Michonne! Luckily, Carl is a smart kid and doesn’t let the news rattle him. Rick and Michonne run out of the bedroom, zipping up. “Carl, hey…um,” Rick stutters but before he can get an explanation out. Daryl, Abraham and Glenn race in, guns drawn. Word is out that Jesus got out of jail. They all sit down to talk. Jesus is vague about how he got free but it included a three story drop. This guy is impressive. He did some snooping before he woke Rick. He’s visited the armory and knows that their food provisions are low. “Look, we got off to a bad start,” Jesus tells Daryl. “But we’re on the same side: the living side.” He informs them that his job at his camp, the Hilltop, is to look for other settlements to trade with. He thinks they’re good people and he wants to work with them. Rick wants him to prove it so he offers to take them to his camp. Maggie notices a point that I missed. “You’re looking for more settlements?” she asks. “You mean you’re already trading with other groups?” Jesus smiles. “Your world is about to get a whole lot bigger.”
As they prepare for the trip to Hilltop, Rick tries to explain things to Carl. “Look, I was going to tell you about me and Michonne but it just happened. It JUST happened.” Carl gives him a blank stare. “This is…this is different,” Rick adds. Carl can’t keep a straight face any longer. “It’s cool.” Carl gets it. Rick assumes Carl is coming with him but, for once, Carl doesn’t want to go on the adventure. “Someone’s got to stay back, keep this place safe. The kid with the messed up face probably wouldn’t make the best first impression anyway.” Rick seems impressed with his maturity but I’m a little worried about him. Carl seems fine on the surface but this gunshot to the face thing has changed him. Hopefully someone is keeping an eye on him (no pun intended).
“Let’s chew up some asphalt!” Abraham hollers and Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn and Maggie load up. I know Maggie doesn’t want to be coddled just because she’s pregnant but I’m still kind of surprised they’re bringing her. Glenn rubs her belly while she sleeps. It looks like Maggie’s pregnancy is reminding Abraham of his wife and children who died in the apocalypse. He pulls Glenn aside to ask him a question. “When you were, um, pouring the Bisquick…were you trying to make pancakes?” Glenn makes the face we’re all making right now, thinking “did he really say that?” Yep, he did. It takes Glenn a minute to respond but he finally explains that they planned the pregnancy. Abraham expresses his surprise that anyone would make that decision in this world. Glenn disagrees. “We’re trying to build something, me and her. All of us.” It’s a new world, Abraham.
They come across a car accident. It’s still smoking and seems recent. Jesus freaks out. It’s his people. Rick points his gun at Jesus. “If this is a trick, it won’t end well for you.” Jesus is nonplused. All he cares about is finding and helping the survivors of the crash. He even asks for a gun! While he has a gun pointed at his head. This guy. They leave a handcuffed Jesus with Maggie and head into a nearby building to look for his people. This has ambush written all over it. The place is dark but they hear walkers. Michonne and Rick find two people. Daryl and Glenn find another but he won’t leave without his injured friend so they keep looking. Abraham hears a walker and is about to kill him when he realizes it’s the injured guy. They all escape unharmed. In the RV, Maggie meets Harlan, one of the crash survivors. He’s a doctor. Glenn asks if he has an prenatal vitamins and it turns out Harlan is an obstetrician! “And I most definitely owe you so I’d say you two just hit the jackpot.” I’d say. And then they get stuck in mud. “No worries,” Jesus says. “We’re here.”
They walk up a muddy trail to the walls of Hilltop. The guards on duty freak when they see Rick’s crew. Which makes Rick’s crew freak. Everyone has weapons drawn. Jesus works hard to calm everyone down. Finally the doors open and we see what looks like an old Southern plantation. Food gardens, chicken coops, a blacksmith forge, and in the middle a gorgeous palatial manse. Jesus explains that Barrington House was a living history museum visited by elementary schools for miles around. When the apocalypse hit, people figured it would be an easy place to keep going. The inside looks like a museum. Gorgeous. Immaculate. The Alexandrians look very much out of place. Gregory, the leader of Hilltop greets them. He calls himself “the boss” but the way he says it sounds more like “master” to me. From the look on her face, Michonne agrees. Rick tries to talk but Gregory tells them they have to clean up first. This guy is a real ass. “Hard to keep this place cleaned,” he tells Rick. As they shuffle away, Rick tells Maggie she should do the talking. “I shouldn’t. And you gotta start doing these things.”
When Maggie meets with Gregory he calls her Natalie. “That’s pretty close,” he drawls. “Not really,” she replies. He talks about visiting Hilltop before everything fell apart but he never realized it would be his someday. He’s a smarmy bastard. Maggie tries to talk trade but Gregory pooh-poohs her. “How’s this? Since you can’t offer much, I’ll let your people work here for their share. You’d be a welcome addition to the community. Smart, beautiful woman…I can tell you, I’ll make it worth your while.” Maggie isn’t having it. “Stop! Coming on to me, calling me honey…You don’t have any ammunition, you’re low on medication. You needs things.” But Gregory isn’t having any either. He calls her Natalie again and ends the conversation.
Jesus is doing some actual negotiation with Rick, Daryl and Abraham. He claims they don’t need ammunition, that their walls will protect them. Ricks threatens, “We need food. We came all this way. We’re gonna get it.” Jesus isn’t flustered but promises to talk to Gregory. “Circumstances change. We’re doing well now and you will next. I will make him understand that.” Jesus really wants to work with Alexandria. Too bad he’s not in charge. He asks for a few days. Michonne agrees to his timeline.
An emissary runs in and tells Gregory, “they’re back.” Everyone heads out to see what’s happening. Ethan, one of the three returnees, tells Gregory that the rest of their party were killed because the delivery was too small. “Negan?” he asks. When it’s confirmed, Gregory claims, “but we had a deal.” Oh, no! They’re working with Negan? I knew I didn’t like this setup. Negan still has one of their people. Ethan explains, “(They) said they’d keep him alive, return him to us, if I delivered a message to you.” With a whispered “sorry,” he stabs Gregory. The Alexandrians kick into action. Maggie and Jesus grab Gregory. Rick fights Ethan. Abraham attacks the other guy but ends up on his back, getting strangled. Daryl breaks the guy’s arm and gets him off of Abraham. Ethan puts a knife to Rick’s throat. “Stay back!” he yells. “Anybody who tries to stop me is killing my brother.” Michonne steps up and tells him to drop it. While he’s looking at her, Rick grabs his own knife and stabs Ethan in the neck. Once again, Rick is covered in blood like Carrie. The Hilltop people are staring at him in horror. “What?” he taunts. The girl who was with Ethan runs over and slugs Rick. He falls but Michonne knocks her on her ass. Don’t mess with Michonne’s man. She’s the ultimate badass. Jesus gets everyone to calm down. “This is over. It’s over. Ethan was our friend but let’s not pretend he was anything more than a coward who attacked us. He did this. And these people stopped it.”
Once they find out Gregory will survive, Jesus explains the backstory to what just happened. As soon as the walls were built, Negan’s group the Saviors gave Gregory a list of demands. To show how serious they were, the Saviors killed a 16 year old boy by beating him to death. Gregory is weak so he agreed to give the Saviors half of everything. Half of their crops, supplies, livestock goes to the Saviors. In return, the Saviors leave them alone. “Why not just kill them?” Daryl asks. The Hilltop people don’t know how to fight. Abraham and Daryl tell Jesus about their experience with Negan’s men. “Yeah, we’ll do it,” Daryl offers. Jesus is stunned. He didn’t even ask them to help. “If we go get your man back, kill Negan, take out his boys, will you hook us up?” Daryl asks. “We want food, medicine, one of them cows.” Jesus looks at Rick and he agrees. “I’ll take it to Gregory…” While Jesus is gone, Rick talks to his group about what they offered to do. “It’s gonna cost us something,” Maggie warns. Jesus comes back and tells them Gregory wants to talk to Maggie. “You got this?” Rick asks her. Her face says it all. Maggie is taking him down.
“Sorry in advance,” Jesus tells her. “Gregory can be a real prick.” Gregory is propped up in bed, swaddled in bandages. He starts complaining about the pain but Maggie is in no mood to hear it. She gets right down to business. Gregory wants to know why they think they can do a better job with Negan than Hilltop has. She assures him they’ve dealt with people like the Saviors before. “They’re dead. We can get your man back.” Gregory gets pissy and says he’s not sure he wants Craig back. “I mean, it’s his brother that did this.” Maggie points out that Ethan was fighting to save someone he loves. “My daddy used to tell me that forgiveness takes more strength than anger.” Gregory falls for it. No girl is going to call him weak. Maggie tells him that they’ll get Craig back and take care of Negan “permanently.” Gregory laughs. How is this different than his previous offer to work for Hilltop? Maggie stays calm and tells him they’re willing to work for food. Maggie walks right up to Gregory’s bed and informs him, “Half.” Gregory is shocked. “Half of what you have. I saw what happened out there. Negan’s expecting more supplies from this place. And more. And more. If it keeps going like that pretty soon you won’t have anything left. What happens then? Without ammo, without fighters, you’ll be a dead man. So half of everything you have. Right now. Or the deal’s off. You see, I have leverage.” Gregory applauds her grit and agrees to the deal. “You want anything else? A kidney maybe?” “Not that, but I do want something…”
The Alexandrians load the RV with food and supplies. Abraham and Daryl bring the guy that they fought over to see Rick. Rick confirms that he’s the one that’s been making deliveries to Negan the longest. “We need to know what you know about Negan’s compound. We need your help. We need you to come.” The guy grudgingly agrees. Jesus asks to come along too. Rick asks Michonne if she’s up to it. “It’s gonna be a fight.” “We’ll win,” he assures her. “We have to.” She agrees. In the doctor’s office, Maggie gets a sonogram. She and Glenn get to see their baby for the first time. It has a nice strong heartbeat. As they drive back to Alexandria, they pass around the sonogram picture. Michonne smiles but you can tell she’s thinking of her son. Daryl gets a little mushy. Abraham doesn’t want to take it but when he looks, it melts his heart. He looks over at Glenn and Glenn gives him a little smile. It’s a whole new world.
Next week: The Alexandrians gather in the church and Rick explains why they need to take the offensive against Negan. “These Saviors, sooner or later they would have found us. And then they would tried to own us. We have to come for them before they come for us. We have to win. It’s how we keep this place. It’s how we feed this place. We’re gonna have to fight.”