Rick and his team attempt to get their hands on a sack of guns, while a bloody attack rocks the RV camp

By Dan Snierson
February 27, 2015 at 08:13 PM EST
Scott Garfield/AMC
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EW writers Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson have such a mutual affection for AMC’s The Walking Dead that they get together once a week to watch and recap it. Below is a transcript of Jeff and Dan’s conversation.

JEFF: “Vatos” (Mexican slang for “guys” or “dudes”) continued to push the character-driven horror that has distinguished The Walking Dead as quality drama. Any story that can blend discussions about the nature of time, the human capacity for change, and (most importantly) fishing lures and knots with gratuitous shots of zombie heads exploding like watermelons at a Gallagher show is aces in my book. Still: Good, not great. I don’t mean to be all Me cago en los muertos about “Vatos,” but the episode didn’t leave yipping with yariba, either.

DAN: My Spanish is a little rusty. Did you say your cage is dead? While I enjoyed the episode—and was left hyperventilating for all the right reasons—there were a few moments that felt a bit precious or heavy-handed. But let’s start at the beginning: We opened on an expanse of turquoise water, which turned out to be… the reservoir at camp. The placid-yet-weighted fishing scene between Andrea and Amy—sisters trying to bridge the waters of a 12-year-age gap, discovering differences in how their dad taught them to tie knots—never fully ignited our imagination (“He knew you needed to catch fish and I needed to throw them back,” quivered Amy.) Though we did get to learn that baseball is not in the only pastime in which there should be no crying.

JEFF: I agree. The scene didn’t reel in the emotional whopper it was fishing for. Let’s talk about Jim’s holes. Haunted by a premonitory dream, addled from dehydration, Jim manically began digging grave-sized ditches on a knoll. The One RV Hill Gang deemed his ominous gardening rather disconcerting. A debate about personal liberty vs. community responsibility ensued. Jim: You have no right to regulate me! I’m working separate and alone and hurting no one. Bugger off! Lori: Your hysterical activity is producing fearful psychic static that is spooking the kids and detrimental to our frazzled culture. Didn’t you learn anything from the Rally For Sanity? Stop acting like a metaphor for idiotic cable news sound-and-fury and chill! After proving unsuccessful with empathetic smooth talk, “King Boss” Shane subdued shovel-swinging Slim Jim, cuffed him, and sentenced him to a time-out. Jim’s tragic testimony spilled out of him. Zombies chowed his wife and two boys right before his eyes. “The only reason I got a way away was because the dead were too busy eating my family.” Yeah, that’ll leave a psychic mark.

DAN: There’s this palpable creepiness to Jim that’s tempered with a gentleness and likability. And I like that he ultimately showed us that a sun-baked crazy person ain’t as crazy as you’d think. When he’s on the screen, though, I can’t help but shake this feeling of ‘Uh-oh…’ In other uh-oh news, the hunt for Merle took our survivors back to rooftop, where they deduced that he’d made a painful one-handed escape. A very angry Darrell (is there any other kind?) wanted to adorn T-Bone’s face with an arrow after realizing the grisly lengths his brother had to go through to lose the handcuffs. Luckily, Rick’s gun reasoned with Darrell’s face. Jeff, did you read Darrell’s “You got a do-rag or something”? comment to T-Bone as olive branch, or racist dig masquerading as olive branch?

JEFF: Dude needed a do-rag! He had a bloody mutton of cracker paw to wrap! (Glenn’s utterly defeated look as Darrell stuffed Merle’s hand in his backpack? Priceless.) Merle left a blood trail; Rick & Co. tracked it like hounds to a kitchen. Like CSI wonks, they Gil Grissomed the clues. Merle must have cauterized his gushy stump with a scalding iron.

NEXT: Pizza delivery dude devises a plan worthy of Patton.

DAN: Glad they didn’t show that. I gotta say: The show has doted on Merle’s fate a lot more than I expected. I wonder if they’re slowly setting him up to become prime time’s most unlikely (tragic) hero…

JEFF: Or villain. MIA Merle = “Pine Barrens” Russian from The Sopranos. Rick’s theory: He absconded with the van? (A horrifying thought: Racist Merle, crossing paths with Rick-questing Morgan and Duane.) Momentarily tabling the Merle hunt, Team Rick decided to go after the sack of guns. Field Marshall Glenn sharpie’d up a plan worthy of Patton. Amazed Darrell: “What did you do before all this?” Deadpan Glenn: “Delivered pizzas. Why?”

DAN: And don’t forget their alley exchange: “You got some balls for a Chinaman.” “I’m Korean.” “Whatever.” I would totally watch a Glenn and Darrell buddy comedy titled Bigot & Big Mouth.

JEFF: Only some random variable could’ve derailed Glenn’s sack extraction plan. Enter: Central casting Hispanic gangbangers. Big twist! Their heavily fortified warehouse? A hospital. “Gangbangers?” Just devoted staff and good-hearted young people trying to protect the old and infirm elders that had been left behind during the evacuation of Atlanta. Gang leader Guillermo? “I’m the custodian.”

DAN: I was intrigued by the Guillermo’s-gang-running-the-hospital story and appreciated the looks-can-be-deceiving message that accompanied it; I just think the way the show portrayed Guillermo & Co. as super bad-asses who welcomed bloody showdown before turning into eye-rolling softies when Philippe’s grandmother popped up (Awww, grandma! Do we have to stop playing mean?) was a bit over the top. These guys had too much to lose—and to protect—so why were they playing this game of chicken?

JEFF: That didn’t bother me. Their experience of human callousness and indifference during the fall of Atlanta had left them wary and cynical; I bought that. What I didn’t buy was the suicide-mission approach to rescuing Glenn, who had been take hostage by Guillermo’s gang. I admire Rick’s Saving Private Ryan idealism. But for a guy who advocated levelheaded thinking during Operation: Merle, his Mexican standoff bluff struck me as inconsistent and stupid. It felt to me his character was being sacrificed to serve a big theme: “Toughness” as a character trait or cultivated quality—especially in men. Merle and Rick were both hailed as genuinely “tough as nails,” whereas Guillermo’s crew were playing the part. (“Appearances,” muttered T-Dog, a puppy at heart who struggled throughout the episode to rise to the challenge of pitbull viciousness.) The hotheaded conflict between macho Rick and “macho” Guillermo concluded with both realizing their ridiculous recklessness. “Vatos” gave us a story about the value cool-headedness during hot and bothered times. We could all use an occasional time-out tied to a tree. See: Jim.

DAN: Speaking of camp, did you get the sense we should’ve been bracing for a mega zombie attack at the end of this episode?

JEFF: When birthday girl Amy broke from the campfire to tinkle in the RV, I knew zombie hell was going to break loose. (BTW: Did you catch the side of the RV? Two names: “Dale and Irma Harvoth.” I’m wondering if Jim isn’t the only zombie-made widower in the camp.) I loved the poignant wind-up. I was like Andrea, sitting in rapt attention as Dale paraphrased from The Sound and the Fury and waxed eloquent about time. Interesting: Whereas watch-winding Dale stressed the importance of keeping time while not being ruled by it, the Faulkner passage deals with a character who purposely busts his watch by twisting off its hands—a symbolic protest, expressing a futile yearning to escape destiny and death. That’s my interpretation, at least. Here’s more of it: Time, as measured and contextualized by clocks, is lifeless and contrived, a “mausoleum of all hope and desire,” making those who live within it the veritable walking dead. It must be forgotten, so that we may not be stifled by old obsessions or potential dread, so that we can live free in an experience of everlasting present.

NEXT: The episode’s thrilling, chilling climax.

DAN: So in other words: Jim, whose present is terrorized by invasions of past tragedy and future foreboding, is a hopeless man driven by desires that can’t ever be fulfilled: Restoration of his dead family, as well as escape from death. He did endeavor to do the Faulkner thing of forgetting so that he could live fearlessly, and in turn not burden the camp culture with his fearfulness.

JEFF: And good for him. His Live Free detachment served him well until the zombies arrived with Die Hard pain, as well as their own metaphor for time. The catastrophic drama yielded profound change for the camp, albeit one that will only be supplanted as the present moves forward unto death–the march of time as zombie onslaught, to be endured, never conquered. History: a tale told by a zombie, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Technically, the living had beaten the dead at The Battle of One RV Hill—but never have champions looked so losing. From The Sound and The Fury: “No battle is ever won… They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.”

DAN: From Guillermo: “The weak get taken—same as it ever was.” Are we through quoting now? Let’s recap the thrilling, chilling climax of the episode: There was fishbake-flake Ed, brooding in his tent (already looking zombie-ish with that wounded eye), when he was interrupted by a geek, who chomped on his neck before more undead poured into his tent. Meanwhile, Amy shrieked as a zombie buried his teeth into her arm. Blood rained. Chaos reigned. Shane started blowing away zombies as if in a video game. Team Rick crashed the scene, helping to neutralize the threat, but they couldn’t save Amy from getting chunked in the neck (Ewww, that spew!). While Rick reunited with his traumatized family, Andrea’s mini family reunion was short-lived. She held her bloodied sister, sobbing, “I don’t know what to do,” before Amy expired. She grieved loudly, horrifically, dripping tears and saliva on her dead sister, crying her name in anguish. As Jim uttered, “I remember my dream now, why I dug the holes”—a line that lent the perfect tone of black dread to the proceedings—I was flooded with questions: How many of our characters died or were wounded? Could the carnage have been prevented if Team Rick had stuck around? Or would/will the damage be worse without the new weapons? Will the camp be moved? If so, to where? Where the hell did Merle go? Oh, and can Andrea get zombie cooties from holding her infected, bloody sister?

JEFF: Here’s another question: Given that messy bloodbath, how the heck are we going to tabulate the stats this week?

DAN: Maybe something like this?

“VATOS” VIOLENCE VITALS

(SEASON STATS UPDATED NEXT WEEK)

BLOODY ZOMBIE HEADSHOTS (GUN): 8

BLOODY ZOMBIE HEADSHOTS (ARROW, CLUB, OTHER): 6

MISC. HUMAN-ON-ZOMBIE ACTS OF VIOLENCE: 14

SUSPECTED ZOMBIE KILLS BY MERLE: 2

HUMANS CHOMPED BY ZOMBIES: 4 (Serves you right, Ed.)

ARROWS TO ASS: 1

DEAD FISH: 20

WHEN YOU’RE OUT TO DINNER WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY, DOES THE CONVERSATION INEVITABLY TURN TO TELEVISION? Then our TV Insiders podcast is tailor-made for you! In this week’s edition, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak discuss the shocking final three on Dancing With the Stars (and interview brutally candid eliminated pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy), dish the season’s best episode of Survivor (and interview master strategist Brenda Lowe), and sit down with EW’s resident Grey’s Anatomy recapper Jennifer Armstrong to discuss the medical drama’s creative resurgence. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!

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