'The Walking Dead' recap: Merle Dixon and a zombie surprise
Plenty of fans had been wondering when nasty Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) would turn up again, and in Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead," "Chupacabra," he did. Well, sort of anyway. But perhaps the bigger surprise was waiting for Glenn when he sneaked up in the hayloft of that mysterious barn on Hershel's farm and found a secret stash of walkers penned up there. Very odd, wouldn't you say?
Well before Glenn makes his grim discovery, we see a flashback of Shane, Lori and Carl stuck in traffic behind Carol and her husband and Sophia on that same highway where the abandoned cars now sit. Carol offers to share some food with Carl, though the husband puts a stop to that; still Shane and Lori leave Carl in the family's care as they run ahead to see firsthand what's happening. They're greeted with the sight of military planes bombing Atlanta.
Back in present day, Lori wakes up inside her tent and begins hanging laundry with Carol, who suggests they make dinner for Hershel and his family to thank them for their hospitality. She asks Lori if she’d make the suggestion, saying it would be better coming from her, since she’s the unofficial first lady of their group. At the farmhouse, Glenn sits on the porch strumming a guitar, and Maggie turns up to complement his instrument -- he reminds her that they have 11 condoms left to use, but she says she doesn’t even know if she likes him, despite their having hooked up.
Rick heads out with Shane to look for Sophia -- OK, really, they could just go ahead and find her already, really, that would be fine -- and to draw his former partner out, Rick begins to teasingly ask him about his various high school conquests. Shane takes the bait at first, but then chides Rick for wanting to engage in nostalgia, saying that such wistful reminiscences keep you from seeing things the way they really are. His point being that Sophia is most likely dead, and they should just give up the search. Rick insists that he’s not going to write her off.
On a trek of his own, Daryl, on horseback, finds a doll near a large body of water. But when his horse gets spooked by a snake, Daryl is thrown and sent tumbling down a cliff. To make matters worse, he ends up with an arrow through this side. (Ouch.) He cuts the sleeves off his shirt to tie around his middle and then looks up at the steep cliff side, which he’ll have to scale to make it back to the others. About halfway up, he loses his footing and falls again.
And then, he’s found by Merle, who doesn’t give him much of a pep talk, though he does point out that Daryl should take the arrow out of his side to better bind his wound. Merle criticizes Daryl for not searching for him, telling his brother that Rick and the others see him as a "redneck freak" and they’re laughing behind his back, that no one will ever care about him the way Merle does. The interesting thing, though? This Merle has two hands.
Just about the time we see that is when Daryl wakes up and notices the zombie trying to gnaw on his foot. He takes the walker down and ends up pulling the arrow out from his side to use on a second walker. Resolved to make an escape, Daryl, a homemade necklace of the walkers' ear hanging around his neck, starts climbing again with imaginary Merle egging him on.
Rick and Shane make it back to the farm, where Lori offers Rick her support, insisting that if it were Carl who were missing, she'd want to find him, alive or dead. Their conversation is interrupted when Rick is summoned to see Hershel, who asks Rick about the fact that one of his horses has gone missing (that would be the one Daryl was riding) and that his young charge Jimmy has gone out to help the search effort. Hershel points out that he was unaware of either situation, and that Rick needs to control his people.
Rick's people inadvertently stir up more trouble when Hershel finds Carol and Lori cooking in his kitchen. He takes Maggie aside and cautions her not to get too close to their guests, that they aren’t going to be around for long. Glenn tries to get some lady advice from Dale, who’s almost panic-stricken when he learns that Glenn slept with Maggie. Things grow even more tense when Daryl, bloodied and bruised and limping, comes staggering back into camp, and Andrea, who's keeping watch on the roof of the RV, mistakes him for a walker and shoots him. Luckily, the bullet just grazes his temple.
With Daryl off in the bedroom bandaged and recuperating, a tense meal follows, though Maggie slips Glenn a note under the table, asking her to meet him tonight. It's only much later that she reads his response, unfolding the note and then frantically running toward the barn. Glenn's there first, though, and climbs in to find the collection of zombies Hershel has on hand. Maggie arrives and points out the obvious, that Glenn wasn't supposed to see them.
It's a scenario that should make for an awfully interesting episode next week.
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Photo: Glenn (Steven Yeun) stumbles onto a surprise in Sunday's episode of "The Walking Dead" Credit: Gene Page/AMC