Recap: The Walking Dead – Episode 709

Previously, on The Walking Dead…

Richard asked Carol and Morgan to convince Ezekiel to fight against The Saviors. They refused, unwilling to start a conflict when things were currently ‘peaceful’. Jesus helped Daryl escape from The Sanctuary. Rick and Aaron got supplies from a booby-trapped houseboat, unaware that they were being watched by someone wearing  unusual boots. Negan returned Carl to Alexandria, meeting Judith and making himself at home before killing Spencer. Negan took Eugene back to The Sanctuary, realizing that Eugene is capable of making bullets. Rick finally realized that even if he cooperates, the atrocities will never stop and Negan will just keep rubbing it in. Rick met with Maggie, Jesus and Daryl at The Hilltop and they decided to join forces. The person in the unusual boots watched Alexandria from afar, spying on Father Gabriel as he kept watch at the gate.

Father Gabriel is on watch. He stops to read his bible, because you know, any threat to Alexandria will wait while he’s seeking spiritual guidance. Suddenly, Gabriel abandons his post and walks into Alexandria. He goes to the food pantry, quickly loading all of the food and a number of implements that could possibly be used as weapons (e.g. knives) into bins. He packs everything into a car, fills it with gasoline, and drives off, leaving his bible splayed open, face down, on the floor.

At The Hilltop, Gregory is unhappy with Rick’s proposal to fight the Saviors. He says that he owes Rick nothing. They are trade partners only. He doesn’t want to be involved. As usual, Gregory is using the wrong names (Ricky for Rick, Margaret for Maggie) but at least he is using actual variations on the real names, instead of getting them completely wrong. Is that some kind of backhanded compliment? Regardless, Gregory gets snarky, and no one on Team Rick is impressed.

“What happens outside of my purview is… outside of my purview.” Gregory states. In other words, he’s happy if Team Rick wants to put themselves out there, but he doesn’t want to take any risk himself.

“You’re either with us, or you ain’t.” Daryl offers this bit of wisdom.

He ain’t. Gregory kicks them out, saying that he wants to thank all of them for ‘not being here today’. Rosita calls him a ‘walking ballsack’, which in my mind isn’t right. That would imply that he has balls, which Gregory clearly does not.

Team Rick is walking out, only to come across a number of Hilltop people waiting for them. Enid has rallied them to the cause. They want to join the fight against Negan, but only if Maggie thinks they can win. And she does.

They still don’t have enough people, but Daryl suggests that if they find the right materials, they could blow the Saviors up or otherwise fight smarter. Rick still wants to get more people. But not right now. They need to get back to Alexandria in case Negan comes looking for Daryl. But Jesus says they don’t, revealing that he has a long range radio belonging to the Saviors, allowing Team Rick to listen in on their movements. Strange that he hasn’t yet mentioned this before, and it’s interesting that they haven’t yet heard anything on the radio either.

But seeing as the radio is currently quiet, Jesus thinks it’s time for Rick to be introduced to Ezekiel… King Ezekiel. (Yep, hear that James Bond-like echo…)

Jesus takes everyone to the edge of Kingdom territory. Richard meets them there, and is at first suspicious of all of these newcomers. Jesus intervenes and requests an audience with King Ezekiel. He says that Team Rick is a ‘likeminded group’, although he doesn’t really explain what that means. Richard is still suspicious, but agrees to take them in since they give up their weapons easily and Jesus trusts them.

As they walk up to the heart of the Kingdom, Richard tells Jesus that they need to focus on the real problem: the Saviors.

“You know, Richard, I’ve never seen you smile. I think that’s going to change today.” Jesus says confidently.

On the way into the meeting with Ezekiel, the group runs into Morgan. Richard is impressed that Morgan knows Rick’s group. Morgan catches everyone up on what happened with Carol, except he says that after she healed, she left, implying that he doesn’t know where she is. It’s interesting that Morgan chose to lie to protect Carol’s privacy. To me, this shows how close they have become.

Morgan accompanies the group in to meet the King. Ezekiel greets Jesus warmly, asking if he brought allies. Jesus assures Ezekiel that he did, but when he turns to introduce Rick, he sees the entire group clustered back at the entryway.

Oh, right. He forgot to tell them about the tiger. Team Rick is taken aback, but sucks it up to approach the King, despite Shiva’s warning roar.

Ezekiel is angry when Rick brings up The Kingdom’s deal with the Saviors, because he doesn’t want to let his people know about the threat. He is angry that Jesus spilled The Kingdom’s secrets to Rick. But Jesus says he did it because he wants Ezekiel to listen to Rick’s proposal.

Rick launches into his spiel, saying that he wants to fight for freedom. Michonne reveals that the Saviors brutally killed good people. Morgan suddenly pays attention, asking whom they lost, and is told about Abraham, Glenn, Olivia and Spencer, as well as the taking of Eugene. They tell of Daryl being taken and escaping, but now living on the run. Sasha adds in that the Saviors set loose a horde of walkers on The Hilltop, endangering lives just to make a point.

Richard is clearly impressed, but not yet smiling. When Rick is honest and says that while they have people, they don’t have weapons, Richard notes that The Kingdom has weapons, and can add people to the fight.

“We set things right; the time is now.” Richard urges. Still not convinced, Ezekiel asks Morgan his opinion.

Morgan says that people will die. And if they can find another way, they should do that. He suggests that maybe they could capture Negan. Actually, this is a really interesting idea. What if Negan were gone? Isn’t it just the strength of his personality that holds all of his groups together? If the Saviors splintered off fighting each other, that would allow the other communities to fortify. It’s not a bad suggestion, actually. And for those who have read the comics, his suggestion holds a lot of meaning.

But of course, it’s not what Team Rick wants to hear, because they’re ready for All Out War. (ba-dum-psssshh….)

Rick finishes by telling a fable about a rock in the road troubling everyone. One day a little girl dug it out to prevent it from hurting others, and found a bag of gold underneath. The king had placed it there, knowing that whoever went through the effort to remove the rock deserved a reward. The parallel is obvious. They need to fight to help others, and if they do, they will reap the rewards.

Ezekiel orders Rick’s group to stay for dinner, saying he will give his decree in the morning.

After the meeting, Benjamin is walking in the woods and runs into Carol. Carol tells him to leave, but Benjamin tells her that Morgan is worried about her, and that she should contact him. He doesn’t mention anything about Team Rick, even though Benjamin was present during the entire audience.

Benjamin offers Carol food and water, and she asks why.

“There’s not a lot of us left; we have to help each other.” Benjamin answers honestly.

After returning to The Kingdom, Benjamin comes across Ezekiel telling Benjamin’s little brother a bedtime story… which just so happens to be Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech. I guess Rick’s appeals for ‘freedom’ were lingering in Ezekiel’s head. Benjamin informs Ezekiel that he ran into Carol. Benjamin suggests that they should say yes to Rick for the same reason he offered food and water to Carol. He says that Rick’s group is going to risk everything, even if The Kingdom doesn’t join them. Without The Kingdom, Team Rick might not win. But if they do, then they will have saved The Kingdom too, and that wouldn’t be right if The Kingdom didn’t help. Ezekiel is clearly impressed by Benjamin’s sentiment. He seems like he understands and will agree to fight.

But in the morning, speaking with Team Rick, Ezekiel talks of how people of The Kingdom lost limbs and how children lost parents because Ezekiel sent them to fight the dead. He can’t do that to his people again. Daryl calls Ezekiel out, telling him that he doesn’t act like a king. Ezekiel counters that The Kingdom came at a cost. He says that the peace with the Saviors is uneasy, but it is peace.

However, Ezekiel will offer Daryl asylum. He will be safe because the Saviors do not set foot inside their walls. Okay, we know that’s tempting fate. How many episodes before they do? You know it’s going to happen.

“The Kingdom has to get involved, or the Saviors will always be in charge.” Richard insists. He also points out that the supplies they give the Saviors make them stronger. They have to stop. But Ezekiel stays his ground, and he is a king, after all. They have to abide by his decision. Rick’s group leaves, walking to the exit of The Kingdom.

Sasha is pissed that Ezekiel turned them down, and bitches to Rosita. Rosita wants to know why Sasha is talking to her.

“We both had sex with the same dead guy. Doesn’t make us friends.” Rosita counters. Frankly, I think she’s just lashing out because of her own frustration. It was pretty clear in previous episodes that she and Sasha did both develop a bond of tragedy, watching Abraham being beaten to death by Negan.

Richard asks Rick “How many people do we have?”, making it clear that he is in on this, even if Ezekiel is not. He wants to go with Rick. He knows that the Saviors will always be in charge, unless The Kingdom gets involved. But he knows he has to stay. Still, it’s clear that he will be an ally.

Daryl doesn’t want to stay at The Kingdom, but Rick insists, suggesting that Daryl use the time to work on Ezekiel. Maybe he should stare the King into submission. Or perhaps he could just bring back some squirrels. Ezekiel might change his mind after some squirrel stew!

The Bromance stare is heavy as The Kingdom’s gate closes, separating Rick and Daryl once more.

Next, we see Team Rick in a car, driving down the highway, listening to Negan on the radio. He is giving a eulogy of sorts for Fat Joey. Negan seems mostly annoyed that Joey is dead.

“Without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just… Joey.” Negan waxes poetic.

The group approaches a blockade made of cars on the highway. Carl and Jesus identify the factory that is now The Sanctuary off in the distance, and Rick realizes that this road must lead there, which is why it has been blocked. They decide to move the cars, go through, then move them back, so the Saviors won’t know they have passed. But as they are moving the cars, they find a tripwire attached to explosives. The trap consists of a metal cable strung between two cars at about knee height. Bundles of explosives are tied to the cable, some taped to cans of gasoline.

Jesus explains that this is here to fight a herd. It’s a pretty ingenious system, actually. Not only would it take out a big chunk of a herd, but the explosion would give the Saviors warning, and time to defend.

Sasha says that they need the explosives, and Rick agrees. They have to disarm the trap and take them.

Apparently Rosita has some skills at this, as she tries to disarm the trigger. Just as she does, they hear Negan on the radio, ordering a team to Alexandria to find Daryl. The group has to go.

But they don’t want to leave the explosives behind. A cache like this is valuable, given how few weapons they have left. Everyone grabs the explosives, working as fast as they can. Rosita tells them to not take any explosives that are dented or torn. She puts one bad bunch in the grass on the side of the road.

The group sees a herd coming and work even more quickly, sending everyone but Sasha, Rick and Michonne to start moving back the cars, while the remaining three gather the rest of the explosives. As the herd gets closer, Rick orders Sasha to run back to The Hilltop on foot and report to Maggie, telling her that they are not giving up.

The herd is approaching fast. They are going to cut off Rick and Michonne from the rest of their group. The herd reaches the others, as they get into their car. They are swarmed by walkers, but waiting for Rick and Michonne. Rick figures out a plan. He and Michonne get into the cars that have the metal cable attached between them. They then drive through the herd, literally mowing them down with the cable. It is an awesome sight, as their cars not only plow through the walkers, but cut apart the ones in between the two vehicles.

They stop as close as they can to the Team Rick Machine, jumping out of their vehicles and literally running through the herd to get to the rest of their group. Their distraction has thinned out the walkers just enough that Rick and Michonne are able to make it into the car. The group tears off.

As they are fleeing the scene, they see an explosion; the herd has hit the explosives Rosita left in the grass. Raise your hand if you knew that those ‘defective’ explosives would make a comeback.

Rick, panting with exhaustion, admits that he pushed it, staying perhaps too long.

“We’re here. We can survive. We can make it. We’re the ones who live.” Michonne reminds Rick, echoing what they said to each other in episode 8. While Rick seems a little aghast at how close they came to biting it, Michonne almost seems exhilarated by the experience.
The group makes it safely back to Alexandria, and shortly thereafter they witness the Saviors coming to looks for Daryl. Simon leads this group, and he asks for Daryl, noting that it’s coincidental that Carl left and suddenly Daryl did too. Rick insists that Carl had nothing to do with it (which is actually true) and that they didn’t know that Daryl was gone until just now (which is not). Naturally, Simon doesn’t believe Rick, and the Saviors trash Alexandria, looking for Daryl.

Simon notes the empty shelves in the pantry. Aaron explains that they’re still not used to the ‘new system’ and they’re running out of food. Rick offers to go get more, but Simon laughs at them, having a joke at their expense. The distraction works, and Simon doesn’t question the lack of supplies, believing in their incompetence.

As the Saviors leave, Simon warns Rick that if Daryl shows up, they need to turn him in, no statute of limitations. Yeah, they’ll do that. Riiiiight…..

“It won’t turn out the way it did for your boy.” Simon leaves with one last warning to turn in Daryl if he arrives.

As soon as the Saviors leave Alexandria, Rick demands to know what happened to the pantry, and the others tell him that Gabriel was on watch and then everything disappeared, along with one of the cars. Rosita is mad at Gabriel, but Rick refuses to believe that he turned on them. He is sure Gabriel has to have a reason for his behavior.

But all they find is Gabriel’s bible left on the floor of the pantry. Rick questions why Gabriel wouldn’t take the Bible with him, and searches through Gabriel’s things. He finds the word ‘boat’ written in a notebook. That’s where Gabriel went. Aaron rightfully questions how Gabriel would know that Rick and Aaron were out there. But Rick doesn’t know. This is an interesting development. It suggests that Gabriel was in communication with the person in the strange boots, and was perhaps filled in on a few things. Maybe Gabriel was blackmailed to bring supplies back (he couldn’t take the same ones, since those had been given to the Saviors). Maybe he wants to lead Rick to the new group, without this other group knowing? Clearly there’s something more going on than Father Gabriel just simply deciding to up and defect.

Rick is going after Gabriel, and Aaron is going with him. Eric begs Aaron not to go, Aaron asks if Eric wants to leave Alexandria.

“I want us alive. Both of us.” Eric explains. He doesn’t care where that is, but he’s clearly worried for Aaron’s safety. But Aaron goes anyway, because he understands that the group is more important than himself as an individual. This is a reflection of the choice that everyone is making this episode: Gregory, Ezekiel and Eric all want to protect themselves, and are advocating the safest course of action for their own little self-interests. But Rick, Jesus, Richard and Aaron understand that if they work together, they can make things better for everyone, although not necessarily without sacrifice.

At the lake, Rick finds a footprint in the bushes near he shore. He and his group follow the prints around a building to a clearing. Suddenly, the group is surrounded by a large number of people with guns pointed at them. Team Rick is significantly outnumbered. The strangers move in menacingly, surrounding the group…. and the episode closes with a smile beginning to form on Rick’s face. A new opportunity has just presented itself.

I was very excited for this episode, and it definitely delivered. Rick is fulfilling the destiny set up by the first half of the season, gathering allies and preparing to fight Negan. Even though we never actually saw Negan this episode (only heard his voice on the radio), we were still reminded of what the Saviors do, most especially through Simon’s arrogance as he searched Alexandria. The scene on the highway with Rick and Michonne mowing down the walkers was creative and thrilling, reminding me why I love this show! But most importantly, we moved the plot along while still allowing for character development, and checking in with almost everyone we know from this world. That’s a great accomplishment for a show that spent many episodes last season focusing on minimal numbers of characters. Episode 709 sets up the rest of the season, and you can bet I’ll be watching!

For those who play the No Man’s Land mobile game, Season 7 episode missions are back! This week’s mission shows Sasha and Jesus making their way back to the Hilltop through the woods, dealing with walkers and more explosive tripwires.

Do you watch The Walking Dead? join the conversation on FoCC!

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she’s not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.