SPOILER ALERT: The recap for "The Grove" episode of "The Walking Dead" contains storyline and character spoilers.
The rats, the ones being fed to the walkers at the prison? Yep, that was Lizzie. She's also the one who mutilated the animal Tyreese found in the tombs at the prison. And yes, she was just as crazy as you suspected she was... even more so, it turned out, in one of the saddest "Walking Dead" episodes of the series' run.
Tag... You're It
A teapot is boiling on a stove, a basket of pecans sit on a counter nearby, and through the kitchen window, we see a young girl being chased in the yard by what appears to be an older woman.
And then we catch up with Carol, Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika, and Judith as they are taking a break during their trek towards Terminus. Lizzie tells Carol how she saved Tyreese's life back at the prison during the Governor's attack. She shot people who were trying to kill him, she tells Carol. Later, Carol shares her concerns about the girls with Tyreese: Lizzie isn't afraid to kill people, but she doesn't seem to grasp exactly what walkers are, how dangerous they are. Mika, on the other hand, understands walkers have to die, but "she doesn't have a mean bone in her body," which makes her even more vulnerable.
Carol and Mika stumble upon a house in the woods, with a huge supply of pecans growing nearby and comfy furnishings inside. Lizzie and Mika hold Judith and watch the outside while Carol and Tyreese clear the house, but a walker stumbles outside and falls over the porch railing. Mika shoots several times and nails it, while Lizzie looks on and screams... she's upset, not because she and the other girls were nearly walker chow, but because, once again, her fellow humans have misunderstood the walkers and killed another one of them. To calm her, Mika tells Lizzie to look at the flowers in the yard and count.
"I Know What I Have to Do Now"
Back at their new home, Carol puts a teapot on the stove, and as she looks out the kitchen window, she sees Lizzie running around in the yard, being chased by an older person. Or what used to be a person, and is now a walker. Lizzie is playing tag with a walker. Carol runs outside and stabs the walker in the head, which Freaks. Lizzie. Out.
She begins screaming at Carol, telling her she killed the walker, that the walker was her friend. "What if I killed you? What if I killed you? " Lizzie screams. "It's the same thing! You killed her! She didn't want to hurt anyone! She was my friend!" And sadly, it's clear that she really believes that. Lizzie doesn't see the walkers as less human than everyone else.
Later, Lizzie sneaks off back to the railroad tracks, where earlier she witnessed a walker fall and get trapped in the ground. She feeds him a mouse, and promises to bring more. Though this isn't what Oprah means by having an "a-ha moment," this definitely qualifies as a big a-ha moment — Lizzie was the source of walker rat snacks at the prison.
When more walkers, some badly burned, come out of the woods and chase Lizzie and Mika back to the house, Carol and Tyreese hear the girls' screams and come running. Everyone, including Lizzie, shoots at the walkers and stops them before they can attack. This leaves Lizzie more confused than ever.
"I had to help stop them," Lizzie says, more to herself than to Carol, who's sitting with her.
"Do you understand what they are now?" Carol asks.
"I know what I have to do now," Lizzie tells her.
"Look at the Flowers, Lizzie"
Carol and Tyreese are away from the house, on the hunt for a deer to keep their little family fed. They talk about staying at the house for a while, postponing the trip to Terminus. Tyreese says he's not ready to be around other people, to trust other people, and he mentions how much he misses Karen.
As the two walk back to the house, they look up and see Lizzie, holding a knife, her hands covered in blood.
"Don't worry, she'll come back. I didn't hurt her brain," she tells them calmly, as they look on in horror at Mika's lifeless body on the ground. Lizzie killed her sister, so Mika would come back and show them they're wrong about walkers. And she tells them she was about to offer up even more "proof," via Judith.
Carol and Tyreese separate Lizzie from Judith and discuss: Should they split up? Should Carol take Lizzie and go? Should Tyreese take Judith and go? They try to come up with any other solution, but Carol, the one who has made the tough choice before, makes it again. They can't allow Lizzie to be around other humans. So Carol takes her for a walk, and when they stop at a patch of flowers, she tells Lizzie to look at them as she takes out her gun and shoots the girl in the back of the head.
Even after Carol kills Lizzie, or more likely, because she was once again in a position where she felt she had to kill someone to protect others, she's not done. As she and Tyreese sit at a table inside the house, the house where, shortly before, they had decided to set up a temporary home, she tells him about another murder she committed. It wasn't Lizzie who killed Karen and David back at the prison, as Tyreese had suspected, Carol tells him; it was her.
And she hands him a gun and tells him he should do what he has to. He's furious, and wraps his hand around the gun, but after asking if Karen's death was quick, and being assured she didn't suffer, Tyreese tells Carol he forgives her. He won't forget, but he forgives her, and the next morning, they pack up and, with Judith, forge on towards Terminus.
* Carol's guilt, when she tells Tyreese she should have foreseen what happened with Lizzie, is this: She did see it; she just didn't realize exactly what it would mean. But Lizzie revealed she wasn't afraid to kill people. It was walkers she sympathized with. Mika, meanwhile, told Carol she wasn't capable of killing people, even bad people, even in a situation of self-defense. Ultimately, that's what happened: Lizzie killed her sister, thinking she would reanimate and prove walkers are misunderstood. And Mika, even when her sister was about to kill her, clearly couldn't react in her own defense.
* The giant smoke puff that burned not too far from the house in the woods: Did it come from Terminus? Or is there a group of people outside of Terminus burning walkers?
* Did Lizzie's mental illness predate the apocalypse? We have an explanation for why she fed rats to the walkers; she did not see them as the threats they are. But that doesn't explain why she mutilated the animal in the tomb at the prison, or why she mutilated the bunnies in the log in "Inmates." Zombie apocalypse aside, was Lizzie on the path to becoming a serial killer even before developing her warped attitudes about walkers?
* As they walked along the railroad tracks, Carol delighted Lizzie and Mika with the adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Sadly, "The Grove" evoked memories of "Old Yeller" and "Of Mice and Men" more than any Mark Twain tale.
* Was that a new baby playing Judith? She looked different than the Judith we last saw...
Now share your feelings with the group, "Dead"-heads: Did Carol have to kill Lizzie? Could/should she and Tyreese have made additional efforts to change Lizzie's mind about walkers? And were you surprised Tyreese forgave Carol so quickly? Or do you think he really forgave her? Is this truly the end of this issue, or will it pop up again between Tyreese and Carol? After all, he said he forgave her, but he also said he wouldn't forget what she did.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.