Warning: This recap for the "Strangers" episode of The Walking Dead contains storyline and character spoilers.
Those evil geniuses. When all those Season 5 preview clips showed Terminus leader Gareth in scenes that were obviously taking place after the season premiere, we thought, "Wow, the producers are really spoiling some major storylines there." But now we know: The big reveal wasn't that Gareth survived. It's what he's up to, post-Terminus. And why, exactly, he's in the company of Rick and his friends and family. As we might have guessed, nothing involving Gareth spells anything but heartbreak for Team Rick.
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Like Willie Nelson, Rick and the gang are on the road again, heading nowhere specific, except towards "concrete" and in search of a vehicle, as per Abraham. For those TWD fans who don't love the show's talkier moments, this may not have been one of your favorite episodes. There were a lot of monologues. But those chatty moments also did a lot to air out, and in some cases clear up, tensions within the newly united group.
Rick and Tara: He tells her he knew she didn't want to be at the prison during The Governor's final attack, and that's why he tried to talk to her there. He also knows she and Glenn saved each other's lives during their road trip to Terminus, so he's cool with her being a new member of his group. Maggie also forgives Tara for being a part of the attack that killed her father, Hershel: "You're here with us now."
Rick and Carol: He still doesn't know how he feels about her killing Karen and David at the prison, but seeing as how she singlehandedly saved him and the others at Terminus, Rick's all bygones with Carol. "I sent you away to this, and now we're joining you," he says. "Will you have us?" Carol smiles and nods.
Carol and Daryl: She tells him she doesn't want to talk about what happened when they were apart. "I just need to forget," she says. And when Daryl finds Carol alone out by a car they spotted earlier, it seems like she might be thinking about taking off. As showrunner Scott Gimple told us last week, Carol's bravery is taking a toll on her. Will that eventually drive her away from the group (again)?
Rick and Tyreese: Tyreese tells Rick about Judith, "Ever need me to watch her... you need anything for her, I'm right here." Says Rick: "I'm grateful for it. And everything else."
* Bob and Sasha, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Yep, they're a couple, and they're doing plenty of smooching. They've even made up their own little game, Good Out of the Bad, where Bob puts a positive spin on something negative Sasha mentions ("danger around every corner" = "never a dull moment"). Bob almost certainly came to think differently about that one.
* Michonne's katana is MIA — left back at Terminus — but she doesn't miss it. She just found it one day at the beginning of the outbreak, she tells Rick, who asks how she became so skilled with it. "It was just me and them out here, all day, every day," she says. "I don't know what that was, but it wasn't life. ... I miss Andrea. I miss Hershel. I don't miss what was before. I don't miss that sword."
* Tyreese is happy to be reunited with Sasha, and he appears to have forgiven Carol for what she did to Karen and David, but he's not handling the events of his recent past with Carol very well. He asks her not to tell everyone else what happened with Lizzie and Mika. "I just need to forget it," he tells Carol, which again sparks the question of whether or not, long-term, Tyreese will be able to live with all he's seen and done.
Introducing Gabriel Stokes
He's here. Just like that, Team Rick saves the preacher — a character straight from the comics — from a pack of walkers, and he takes them to his church. Not that the new relationship between Stokes and the group is a smooth one. Stokes is a giant 'fraidy cat when it comes to walkers, and Rick, already at his weariest when it comes to strangers (understandably), immediately suspects Stokes is hiding something. (Comic book fans, you know what it is; for those who haven't read the comics, we'll say no more about that.)
At Stokes's church, St. Sarah's, Team Rick learns the preacher had been pretty well-fed up until recently, as he survived on the loot from a canned food drive his congregation ran right before the outbreak. Rick forces Stokes to tag along when he, Michonne, Bob, and Sasha raid the local food bank for supplies. There, the gang has to dispense with the grossest walkers we've seen yet: They've been marinating in a pit of water that Bob describes as smelling like sewer puke.
The group jumps right into the rancid pool and escapes with boxes and boxes of food to cart back to the church. Bob is pulled under the water by one of the juicy walkers, but seems to escape unharmed...
Ripped From the Pages of the Comics
Team Rick throws a party, with a buffet of canned goods and communion wine. Abraham takes the festive mood as his chance to convince everyone they need to join him and Rosita in getting Eugene to Washington, D.C. so Eugene can cure the outbreak and save the world. His rousing speech about doing something more than surviving convinces even skeptical Rick that it's a road trip worth making, and cheers ensue when the Ricktatorship gives his official thumbs-up to the plan.
Cheers from everyone except Bob, who seems unusually subdued. He asks for a kiss from Sasha and heads outside, alone, and stares at the church. He walks further away from St. Sarah's, leans into a tree, and begins to sob. Did that water-soaked walker take a bite out of Bob at the food bank? And then he has an even bigger issue: Someone in a hoodie comes up behind him and knocks him out.
When Bob comes to, he sees a familiar face: It's Gareth! He survived Terminus, and he and a group of other Terminites are standing around a fire. Gareth says, "You and your people took away our home. ... Now we're out here like everybody else, trying to survive. And in order to do that, we have to hunt. It didn't start that way: eating people. It evolved into that. We evolved. We had to. And now we've devolved, into hunters."
Gareth continues, "At the end of the day, no matter how much we hate all of this ugly business..." — the camera pans to Bob looking below his torso, where one of his legs is missing up to his thigh — "... a man's gotta eat."
Bob begins to cry, and Gareth begins chomping on a piece of meat. "If it makes you feel any better, you taste much better than we thought you would," he says to Bob as his friends are shown enjoying a meaty snack themselves, and the camera pans to a grill... with a foot on it.
* All those faces standing around the fire at the end of the episode: In the credits, they're listed as Theresa, Greg, Albert, and Mike (the names of The Hunters from the comics storyline, by the way). But didn't one of them also look exactly like Martin, the guy who squared off against Tyreese in the cabin in last week's season premiere? The guy Ty told Carol he killed? If that was Martin at the cookout, uh, Ty lied. But why?
* An Easter egg first dropped in Season 4, which paid off in "Strangers": The first guy Rick and the others saw butchered in the Terminus slaughterhouse last week was Sam (played by Gotham's Penguin, Robin Lord Taylor). Rick and Carol met Sam in Season 4's "Indifference," when Rick took Carol on a supply run and then kicked her out of the prison. When the two are making up in "Strangers," he tells her he saw them kill "that kid" at Terminus.
* Abraham, when a shaken, vomiting Gabriel Stokes asks if it looks like he has any weapons: "We don't give two short-and-curlies what it looks like."
* The Wire alum Seth Gilliam as Gabriel Stokes? Killing it. From his chattiness to his nervous smiles, Gilliam perfectly portrays the character you imagine when you read The Walking Dead graphic novels.
* Carl's clues about what Gabriel is hiding: There are deep scratches on the St. Sarah's building, as if people were trying to get inside, along with a message carved into the building that reads, "You'll burn for this."
* Beth's re-appearance may be imminent, as Daryl spots a car with a white cross on the back window — a car just like the one that sped off with Beth in Season 4. Daryl and Carol hop into the old wreck they found and head out in hot pursuit of the cross car.
Now share your feelings with the group, Dead-heads: Do you think we see Beth next week? Do you think Bob survives? Was he bitten by that food-bank walker? And besides Bob, whose survival are you most worried about this season?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.