Eastman is an anomaly, not just in Morgan’s life, but in the world of The Walking Dead. He seems genuinely at peace, but his calm demeanor does not mean he’s unaware of the harsh reality of the world outside his cabin gates. He simply approaches it in a different way, as revealed over the course of the episode.
Morgan may not trust Eastman, but the cabin owner trusts him, as he leaves the goat inside with Morgan for the evening. (“You shot at me, I fed you. Please don’t hurt her.”) Morgan complies, and from his cage observes his captor. Eastman trains with a staff, kills the occasional walker, and makes terrible goat cheese. Eventually, he breaks the silence between them. Eastman tells him who he was, a forensic psychiatrist employed by the state, observing the mental health of prisoners being considered for release. Now he lives here, and is quite curious what Morgan does.
He clears because that’s why he’s still here. His life’s mission is this one act that he purports to be of paramount importance. But to Eastman? “That’s the biggest load of horseshit I ever heard.”
Eastman, having psychoanalyzed more than 800 patients before, thinks he knows what Morgan has: PTSD. Some trauma, maybe all the killing he’s done, maybe the loss he’s suffered, which Eastman assumes based on his wedding ring. Morgan calls any saving he’s done pointless because everybody turns, but Eastman knows this defeatist attitude is a coping mechanism.
The loss he suffered has pulled his mind away from the present, Eastman explains. There’s door, he argues, and Morgan tries to mentally walk through that door to get away from it all, but it keeps leading him right back to the moment. He keeps stepping through the door, hoping to escape, but he ends up, again and again in that moment. So he stops going through the doors, but Eastman promises one of those doors will finally let him move on. He seems to be speaking from personal experience, not just professional, but Morgan barely lets the idea seep in. He plans to kill Eastman because he has to clear. But Eastman will not allow him.
Killing is not in our nature, Eastman believes. Of the 825 people he interviewed on the job, he only met one truly evil man. Everybody else can heal, and he knows it. The door is open, he says, but he’s not talking metaphorically .The door to the cage is open, it’s been open all along. Eastman says he can go and clear, or stay and they can work together. But he will not allow Morgan to kill him.
Even so, Morgan tries, but is defeated by Eastman, the child’s drawing on the wall broken in the process. Morgan returns to the cage, closing the door and pretending he has no choice, but Eastman is taking that as a sign of progress.
He tells Morgan how he beat him: Aikido, the Japanese martial art he learned before the walkers came. Eastman’s daughter found him drunk in the garage after a particularly hard day at work and gave him her lucky rabbit’s foot. The next morning, he saw a poster for aikido classes, which saved his life.
He gives no other information about his family, but Morgan leaves his cage that night to find Eastman repairing the drawing smashed during their fight. He’s found some connection in Eastman’s loss and his own, but he’s still wary of the man, so he stays behind while Eastman goes out to scavenge.
It’s lucky he did so, however, as he saves Tabitha the goat from a couple of walkers, but the tunnel vision of his need to kill returns. Curious, Morgan takes the fallen walker through the forest to Eastman’s makeshift graveyard. He digs a grave for every walker he kills, using any ID they have on them to provide a nameplate to remember who they were. It’s a far cry from the burning piles of bodies Morgan made.
Eastman does so because every life is precious to him; aikido is about avoiding killing at nearly all costs. Eastman wants to promote that idea — he fixes Morgan’s spear, but hopes Morgan will instead take a bo staff and train in aikido with him.
The two begin training Morgan’s mind and body, crafting him to be a caring warrior, someone who honors all life. In their time together, they become friends, and Eastman opens up to Morgan about his family. There was a man he had to interview for his job, Crighton Dallas Wilton. He had committed unspeakable acts, but was such a charming guy to all the right people, he was up for parole. So Eastman was asked to interview him, and though he acted like the nicest man Eastman ever met, that’s all it was — an act. A true, genuine psychopath. He could see right through it, and eventually, during an interview, he realized that Crighton knew that Eastman knew his true nature. So model prisoner Crighton started beating Eastman up, his mask slipping away.
NEXT: Morgan loses a friend.