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Last week on The Walking Dead, some had the hindsight to see the whole Lydia fiasco as a distraction. This week, more distractions take root.

With Michonne and Judith heading to Oceanside to deal with a distress call, Negan, Kelly, Magna, and Ezekiel take center focus, all of them are either running from or being overcome by their pasts, hereditary or otherwise — some being more inevitable than others. Negan, especially. It’s still unclear how the sore on Alexandria’s image escaped his prison cell, but he’s out and about, and a guy named Brandon, whose dad was one of the Saviors killed by Rick Grimes during the war against Negan, saw him flee and chased him down. Brandon desperately wants to be a part of whatever new Sanctuary he believes that Negan wants to establish to an annoying degree. Even Negan wishes he had Lucille in hand to bash in his skull. Perhaps a rock will suffice.

He stares into his own reflection in a pool of water, considering the man he is now and the man he wants to be. He goes to drink but doesn’t, a detail that will become relevant later on. Negan wants to be a good man, but this Brandon fellow keeps pushing him towards his old ways. Brandon presents his hoped-for mentor with Lucille and the old leather jacket. Negan, at first, rebuffs these gestures, but his familiar colloquialisms jump out: “You like them, don’t you?” “Does pig s— stink?”

Kelly, meanwhile, was out on a scouting/hunting mission when she told the group she spotted something and would meet them back at Hilltop. She tracked a pig, but her hearing starts to go out along the way, leaving her as prey for the surrounding walkers. When the group doesn’t return, Connie and Daryl (the latter having escorted Siddiq to Hilltop) go out in search. Magna also joins them after Yumiko suspects her of being the mysterious culprit who’s been stealing food and supplies from Hilltop.

Ezekiel is also fighting to ignore what will inevitably come. His cough already tipped others off to something being wrong, but it turns out his family has a history of thyroid cancer. He reveals to Siddiq a large lump protruding from his throat and how he’s been avoiding a confrontation with his condition. Siddiq, too, has been fighting through PTSD, and both resolve to move forward, to live another day.

Some succeed more than others. Negan and Brandon come across a woman and her son being attacked by walkers on a bus. Negan rushes in to save them and hears their story. Brandon, still gung-ho on this Negan lifestyle, wants to go kill them and take their supplies. Negan stops him and instead casts him out. Negan wants to help this mother and child, even leading them to Alexandria under the condition they don’t reveal who referred them. But, when he returns from gathering wood, he finds Brandon killed both of them, believing his rebuff to be a test. Negan beats Brandon to death with a rock and leaves his body to fester alongside the woman and boy. He, in turn, grabs Lucille and his jacket and goes off to find the Whisperers.

Connie, Daryl, and Magna eventually find Kelly passed out and dehydrated, leaning up against a tree. They fear they don’t have time to take her back to Hilltop in her condition, so the three women agree to let Daryl in on their secret. Magna is, in fact, the one who’s been stealing supplies from Hilltop. It’s something she’s done at previous communities when she feared things could go south. They unveil the stash and use it to help get Kelly strong enough for travel. With Daryl there, they return the supplies, as well, but Daryl keeps mum about where they came from. Magna eventually comes clean to Yumiko and, in turn, reveals backstory to the audience about how she was in prison for (we presume) killing a man. Yumiko believed Magna was falsely imprisoned at the time, but Magna confesses this man (again, we’re presuming) sexually assaulted her cousin when she was a little girl, so Magna exacted revenge. This strikes a wedge between Magna and Yumiko, and the two spend the night in separate rooms.

Elsewhere, Ezekiel tries to face his creeping family history by radioing Carol with help from Siddiq, but he turns the radio off as soon as he hears her footsteps approaching the microphone. This all pales in comparison to the real threat that’s coming for them.

The rumors are true. There are those at Hilltop who suspected the Whisperers were the ones who cut down the tree and made it crash into their wall. A scene at Alpha’s camp confirms it to be true. It’s just one of many moves they’re taking to chip away at their fortitude. The first was claiming their hunting land for the Whisperers. The next was the tree. The third is now Gamma leading walkers to the nearby stream so she can contaminate the water supply with their entrails.

Aaron spies Gamma doing this and, on her next outing, tries to confront her. Gamma had been reliving the death of her sister and her ascension through the ranks. The memories weighed on her, prompting her to inadvertently cut her hand open. Aaron gives her bandages and hopes to make a connection. Gamma instead flees. She uses the bandages but informs Alpha of Aaron’s actions. Alpha isn’t mad. Instead, she believes it’s just one mask they must wear to keep their enemies from learning their true intentions. It’s the same kind of mask Alpha wore when she walked among Hilltop and captured their own for the spikes. Whether this new mask holds depends on whether the colonies recognize the true enemy when they come knocking.

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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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