Credit: Gene Page/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Not Tomorrow Yet” episode of The Walking Dead.]

Fans who have been waiting for Carol Peletier to make a love connection on The Walking Dead finally got their wish on Sunday night’s episode. But it wasn’t with the man many may have assumed (and hoped) it would be. Sorry, Caryl-shippers, but it was Tobin that shared a tender moment and kiss with the abused-wife-turned-post-apocalyptic-badass.

It was an important and insightful episode, as we saw Carol caught between two worlds — struggling to come to grips with the woman she has become, and the woman she ultimately wants to be. We spoke to Melissa McBride to get her take on the episode and what it all means. (Also make sure to read our Q&A with episode director Greg Nicotero, and for more Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So the episode starts this happy, jaunty baking montage, but in this case the baking montage includes you slaughtering a zombie while out picking acorns, which is a pretty funny juxtaposition.

MELISSA McBRIDE: Yeah, it was a little different. You almost think it’s a commercial for Hamburger Helper or something when you first see it.

Let’s chat about this scene near the beginning where Morgan wants to talk to Carol about the whole situation with his Wolf prisoner. What’s her reason for keeping everyone quiet about it?

I think that there is a part of Carol that realizes that he is a kind-hearted person, even though his philosophy doesn’t seem to jive so well with surviving here within the way our group works. She realizes his heart is kind, and also there’s a part of her that is struggling. He doesn’t want to have to do this, she understands him, she understands it. And also, just remembering how she was banished by Rick and that whole thing, and also that we come to find out later that it could put Denise in question.

So what about this list Carol is keeping in her journal, which seems to be a list of humans she has killed. What do you think is going on with her in keeping a list like this?

I think inevitably she has tried to compartmentalize her actions, like most of us have in that apocalyptic world, in order to do these horrible things to survive. But at the same time, these are human beings. She’s trying to be accountable in some way, and I think obviously the guilt, there’s so much guilt. Guilt and grief, it’s all catching up with her.

Okay, Melissa, I have buried the lede here, but let’s get into this make-out session between Carol and Tobin. What the what?!? Where did this come from?

You call that a make-out session?

Close enough for me! Probably leading to a heavier make-out session if not something more. Where did this whole thing come from?

Well, we have time-skipped a couple of weeks here, and I think they have just gotten to know one another a little better, and it’s pretty simple.

But why Tobin for her? What does she see in him?

Tobin’s very sweet. He’s a sweet fellow and I think was there for Carol, who is trying to understand how any of us can be capable of doing what we’re doing, more specifically, taking human lives. For her, when I look at Carol, I think about how the closest person we have to our own self is our self. She’s the closest person she has, and also she is someone who is estranged from herself in a weird way. And I think it’s just trying to find that understanding of how we got to where we are doing the things that we do, the horrible things that we had to do, and juxtaposed with that opportunity within those few weeks of peacetime where she’s just running around handing out cookies.

There are just parts of her that she doesn’t want to let go of, and parts of her that she wants to deny in order to be able to do it, which is complicated. And in that moment in the evening when she runs into Tobin and he says, “I can’t do those things you do.” She is looking for understanding when she says “How, how is it that I am able to do those things?” And he does remind her that she’s doing it to keep the family safe. It’s a mother’s instinct to fight, to save the family, and I think there was just a little moment of understanding and making her feel better and comfort, and that’s where that led to.

It’s funny because you talk about all these things that she’s going through and how she’s feeling a little lost, and is trying to piece everything together, and I have to assume that ties in to where we see her later where she gets really angry at Rick and Maggie for Maggie being out there. She says, “She shouldn’t be out here alone, shouldn’t be out there in the first place.” Why is Carol so vehement about that?

Because she wants Maggie just to be the expectant mother. She wants her to be safe, and she knows how this is eating her own self up, being out in the world having to do this dirty work. She still carries the grief of the loss of Sophia, of the children. She doesn’t want Maggie to put herself in danger. She doesn’t want Maggie to have to go through and feel whatever she felt any more than she already has, and I think that’s most of it.

RELATED VIDEO: Melissa McBride on her favorite zombie kills ever

She says to Maggie, “You shouldn’t be out here,” and that’s interesting because I also put it back to Sophia. This is all coming full circle to Sophia.

I think everything always does, you know? Carol has yet to grieve the loss of her child. She has yet to grieve the loss of Mika and Lizzie. She has yet to grieve the loss of anyone, and on top of that she’s carrying around this guilt, that maybe what she does is not enough. Or, who are we killing? And the fact that this is the world that we live in, and Rick said this is how we eat. We have to kill. I think it’s all just stacking up in her heart and her mind.

How does the smoking play into that? What’s up with all the smoking in this episode?

I think that too is a manifestation of her guilt. It’s guilt. She’s punishing herself.

What I find interesting about Carol in this episode is that when we first met this character she was in a very vulnerable place. Then she put up these walls and she became very hard, and cold-blooded. But now what we’re doing is we’re seeing that she still has that capability in her, but we’re seeing a vulnerability as well.

Well, yeah, and that’s precisely what’s happening. She says to Maggie, “You’re supposed to be someone else.” Carol has adapted so many “someone-else’s” just to make it through the moment, and that is why she’s having this existential crisis. This world is changing faster than her mind can comprehend, the changes that she’s allowed herself to go through in order to adapt, and that’s why I feel like there’s this bit of estrangement from who she is. She wants some understanding.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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