Man, do I love this season of The Walking Dead. Stuff happens in every episode! And this week's episode, "Hounded," brought us closer to the reunion of Merle and the survivors who ditched him — plus his brother, Daryl, who shares some personal stuff with an incredibly jaded Carl. But wow, what a cornucopia of events and things! Between Rick's deteriorating mental state, Andrea's horrible taste in men, and Michonne's crafting skills, it's looking like our mid-season finale on December 2 will be one for the ages. As far as mid-season finales go, anyway.
As usual, after the jump will be a plethora of plot spoilers.
Where do we even start? Last week, we were left with a grieving Rick, answering a phone that was suddenly ringing out of nowhere. Who was on the line? We don't know yet. Instead, we have Merle and a couple of redshirts finding Michonne's "biter-gram" with the message "Go back." I'm not gonna lie, it was a pretty clever use of zombie torsos! Pinterest-worthy! After coming out of hiding, Michonne swiftly kills all the disposable Woodburians except for Merle and a fellow named Neil. Don't worry about remembering Neil. He won't be around much longer.
Back to the phone call. It's a woman from a "safe," undisclosed location, perhaps the bunker Dick Cheney built himself in anticipation of the zombie apocalypse. Rick begs her to take him and his people in, but she hangs up. Probably because a desperate stranger in a prison wanted to come crash at her place.
In Woodbury, where we last saw Andrea acting deeply offended by the zombie fight, she is now volunteering to kill zombies. What self-respecting woman in this day and age sits around making sandwiches and watching zombies when she could be stabbing them herself? The Governor eventually lets her take a position at the wall, where a girl who completely sucks at archery delicately flings arrows at a zombie until Andrea takes initiative, jumps off the wall, and plants a knife in its head, proclaiming, "That is how it's done." So, shitty archery girl is all, "I'm telling!" and gets Andrea back in the Governor's office where he will tell her she's been a very bad girl, indeed.
Meanwhile, Rick is agonizing over this contact he's made and the phone rings again. It's a man this time, who asks Rick if he's killed anyone (yes), how many (four), and what happened to his wife. When he won't talk, the stranger hangs up. This sucks for Rick, because while we know he's in a pretty raw place right now, what reason would this stranger have to trust him given the information Rick just provided? Hershel later comes by, adorably describing his phantom limb to Rick in an attempt to lighten the mood. Rick remembers that he also is responsible for severing Hershel's leg, and realizes that yeah, that guy on the phone has every right to think he's untrustworthy.
Back in the woods, Michonne, Merle, and Neil are all attacked by walkers. One of those walkers is in desperate need of sharing his feelings with an understanding Michonne and spills his guts to her. I'm sorry. That's wrong. Michonne slices that zombie, and his guts spill all over her. In all the excitement, Michonne escapes. Neil decides that he's finally ready for a chase, having finally grown a spine, but Merle tells him Michonne isn't worth it. And then he shoots Neil in the head.
Michonne sees another group of walkers — who totally ignore her! She soon realizes that the guts that are disgustingly all over her are like having invincibility in Super Mario Bros.! Rad! I can't wait until she finds Rick and Glen so they can share their mutual gut-invincibility stories! ("And I was like, 'You've got red on you,' and Rick was like, 'Word up, I've also got no zombies on me!' And then we laughed and laughed!") She gets that opportunity soon, when she comes across Glen and Maggie making a grocery run!
Andrea, still trying to put out the vibe with the Gov, admits that she liked the fights, and he knew it because as hard as she clutched her pearls, she stayed. They discuss how people have to stop getting all worked up about zombies and just treat them like vermin, and then they make out, and then they go bone each other. My, how pillow talk has changed in these trying times.
While Michonne watches Glen and Maggie to try to get a read on them, Merle shows up and ruins everything for everyone. Glen takes control at first… and then Merle, who is clearly physically stronger even with one arm (but also a lot crazier), overpowers them and forces Glen to drive them all back to Woodbury.
Speaking of the Dixons, Daryl also had really notable scenes in this episode. He, Oscar, and Carl are scouting for zombies in the tombs. In an attempt to bond with Carl, Daryl shares how his own mother died and how it didn't "seem real." Carl reminds Daryl that he shot Lori in the head himself, which felt totally real. Daryl acknowledges this, and they are forever bonded, with Carl having the upper hand forever and ever. Later, he finds Carol's knife in a zombie's face… and then he finds Carol! Yay!
Rick hears the phone ring one more time — and it's Lori. Rick has officially gone bye-bye. But it's, honestly, one of the creepiest scenes of the whole series. Between the fact that the call itself is broken up and muddled, there's also the whole Lori is dead thing. But at least it gets him to finally hold his newborn — right before Michonne shows up with the groceries. I hope she brought snacks!
Photo credit: AMC