SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "I Ain't a Judas" episode of "The Walking Dead" contains storyline and character spoilers.
Ah, it's always the quiet ones. Despite losing her newest BFF, and what appeared to be a love match in the making, in Axel last week, Carol pulled herself together in short order this week to offer a novel and permanent solution to the gang's Governor problem.
But first …
Frustrated with last week's brutal sneak attack, Rick and his group are at odds. Rick and Glenn want to stand their ground and stay within the relatively safe -- ??? -- walls of the prison. In the other corner: Hershel and Merle, who probably wouldn't get a vote, except that 1) Merle saved Rick's life last week, and 2) knows more about the psycho that is the Governor than anyone else.
"That truck through the fence thing?" Merle says. "That's just him ringing the doorbell." By the way, has anyone else noticed that Merle has sort of become the Peter Dinklage of "Walking Dead," in that he's getting and delivering some great lines this season?
As the discussion continues, Rick starts to walk away, which gets Hershel riled up.
"Get back here! You're slipping, Rick!" Hershel yells, reminding Rick that they understand why he's been in a bad way lately, but that Hershel has put the survival of his family in Rick's hands. "Get your head clear, and do something," Hershel urges.
Rick heads out for watch duty, and wise and brave son Carl joins him and wants to talk. "You should stop," Carl says. Rick: "Stop what?" Carl: "Being the leader. Let Hershel and Daryl handle things. You deserve a rest."
In Woodbury …
As the Governor peppers Milton with questions about how many able-bodied people are left in Woodbury, Andrea comes in and demands answers about what happened when the Gov went to the prison. He's evasive and accuses Andrea's prison pals of being nuts themselves, but she insists that she should go see them, talk to Rick, and try to forge a cease-fire between the two factions.
The Gov is against it, and issues her a warning: "Andrea, if you go to that prison, stay there."
She stomps off and into the streets of Woodbury, where the Gov's most committed minion, Martinez, is trying to make a teenage boy sign up for gun training. His mom objects, saying he's asthmatic, and Andrea also tries to intervene, but Martinez says these are the Gov's plans.
Yep, Captain Psycho is building an army.
Let's solve two problems at once
At the prison, Glenn shares an idea: Let's give Merle to the Governor. The Governor will be happy to get his hands on the man who betrayed him, and they'll get access to the Governor and might be able to negotiate a truce. Rick and Hershel defend Merle, and Hershel heads off for a heart-to-heart with the eldest Dixon bro.
They discuss their losses -- Merle's hand and Hershel's leg -- and as Hershel quotes the Bible and tells Merle that he, too, once lost his way, Merle drops the biggest shocker since Axel took that bullet: Merle knows his Bible, and finishes the passage Hershel began quoting to him (Matthew 5:29-30).
"Woodbury had a damn fine library … one of the only things I miss about it," Merle explains. Then he repays Hershel's kind words by trying to clue him in on just how dangerous the group's enemy is: "When the Governor returns, he's going to kill me first, Michonne, my brother, then your girls, Glenn, Carl, the baby, whoever else's left. He'll save Rick for last, so he can watch his family and friends die ugly. That's who you're dealing with."
Be all that the Governor wants you to be
Nah, the Governor doesn't care about that kid's asthma. He can still learn to shoot a gun, and that means he's joining the Woodbury defense effort.
Andrea, meanwhile, approaches Milton and asks him to help her sneak off to the prison to try to get Rick to make peace with the Governor. Hell to the no, says Milton (we're paraphrasing), who is so afraid of the Gov at this point that he practically shakes.
Milton goes scrambling off to warn the Gov of Andrea's planned prison trip -- remember, the Gov had asked him to keep his eye on Andrea -- and when Milton enters the room to rat on Andrea, he's met with a sight that again leaves him visibly terrified: The Gov debuts his eye patch, which is an iconic image from "The Walking Dead" comics. Gov tells Milton the 'Fraidy Cat to help Andrea.
Cut to Milton and Andrea in the woods, trying to catch a walker. They do, and Milton holds him down while Andrea chops his arms off and stomps -- literally -- his mouth off in a move reminiscent of a graphically violent scene from "American History X." Andrea is making herself a knockoff of Michonne's "pets," which she plans to use to help her make her way to the prison without getting eaten.
And just as she and Milton have fashioned her DIY decoy and slapped the neck leash on him, a mystery man appears in the woods and offers his assistance … it's Tyrese!
Let's be friends … or not
Is he sincere? Merle, having bonded with Hershel and won the uneasy support of Rick, decides to try to bond with Michonne. He interrupts her while she's working out -- one-legged pushups.
"Smart to stay fit. Don't leave out the cardio," says Merle, clearly deciding to take the Richard Simmons approach to apologizing. She doesn't shoo him away, however, and after he admits that he's done things he isn't proud of "before and after" the walker war, she looks sort of open to sort of considering that maybe he's not the worst human being.
All that's going to have to take a backseat for a while, though, because the prison gang has a visitor: Andrea and her pet have made their way to the gates, and, cautiously, Rick and company let her in and frisk her. What, they don't trust their old friend? No sir, they don't, especially given who her new friend is.
Once they finally take her inside, she looks around and in quick succession notices Hershel's leg. And MIA Shane. And where's Lori, she asks.
Andrea then begins her pitch to Rick about why he should meet and forge a détente with the Governor. Nah, we're going to try to kill him instead, says Rick.
But he has a whole town and he's training them to launch a war against you, Andrea warns. Rick's having none of her pleas for peace, but has someone far angrier waiting in line to take her to task for her choice of boyfriend: Michonne.
Alone outside, Andrea accuses Michonne of poisoning Rick and his crew against the Gov. Oh no she didn't! Oh yes, she did, and she gets an earful from the usually quiet and reserved Michonne.
You were a bad friend, Michonne says. You were under that lunatic's spell the moment you laid eyes on him, she continues.
"I'm there because those people [in Woodbury] need me," Andrea replies.
"And what about these people?" Michonne asks.
Andrea: "I'm trying to save them, too."
Michonne, laughing: "I did not realize the Messiah complex was contagious."
She's a woman of few words, but when she uses them, they pack a punch.
Michonne continues, telling Andrea the Gov sent Merle after her when she left Woodbury, ordering him to kill her. And he would have ordered him to kill you, too, if you had come with me, Michonne says.
"You chose a warm bed over a friend. That's why I went back to Woodbury, to expose him for what he is," Michonne tells her former BFF. "I knew that it would hurt you."
Tyrese sides with Team Governor
In Woodbury, the Governor is telling Tyrese and his group that they're welcome to stay in Woodbury as long as they'd like. Milton has brought them back after meeting them in the woods, and the Gov, of course, sees them as more bodies for his impending attack on the prison dwellers.
So imagine his surprise, his delight, when Tyrese and company express their relief at finding a new home, after their recent run-in with "some whackjob" at a prison. When Tyrese offers to do "whatever we gotta do to earn our keep," you can practically see a thought bubble above the Gov's head with "Mwaaaa ha ha!" in big, bold letters.
At the prison, Andrea is about to leave but wants to hold Lil' Asskicker first. Daryl named him, she guesses. Duh. She and Carol continue to chat, and quiet, formerly meek Carol offers Andrea some killer advice.
"The Governor … you need to do something," says Carol. "I am," Andrea replies.
"You need to sleep with him," Carol continues. "Give him the greatest night of his life, get him to drop his guard. And then, when he's sleeping, you can end this."
Andrea says her goodbyes and then leaves in a car Rick and the gang give her. Rick also slips her a gun and a knife and tells her to be careful.
She reaches Woodbury at nightfall, and the residents patrolling the wall are ready to shoot as she approaches (he is serious about that whole army thing, ya'll).
Inside, Andrea goes to visit him. I went to the prison, she reports. They're living in horrible conditions.
The Gov asks if Merle and Michonne are there.
"They send you back here?" he asks.
"No, that was my call," she replies, before falling into his arms, into a passionate kiss, and into his bed.
Later, to the strains of Tom Waits's "Hold On," a naked Andrea slips out of bed, grabs the knife Rick gave her, tiptoes over to the bed and moves the knife to the throat of the sleeping Governor …
… and then backs away, holding off on the best last chance to stop what he's about to unleash on her friends.
- Sweetest moment of the episode: Carol takes a moment to reconnect with Daryl when he's sitting alone in a cell. She tells him she's glad he's back and reminds him not to forget how dangerous Merle can be. "He's your brother, but he's not good for you. Don't let him bring you down," she says. "After all, look how far you've come." They both laugh as they look around at their concrete walls and bars, but Carol's point is a good one. Yes, their physical surroundings are dark and there's that whole zombie apocalypse they're dealing with, but she is free from her abusive husband and he forged a life as a respected contributor/leader in the prison family. Despite all their losses and constant danger, in some ways, Carol and Daryl have come a long way from where they were in "The Walking Dead" series premiere. And it's quick little scenes like this one, so finely written and performed, that make the show so rich and much more than a zombie drama.
- And another nod to Carol for casually giving Andrea's ego a bit of a smack, when Andrea asked what had happened to Shane, her former lover. Rick killed him, she's told. But "Shane loved Rick," Andrea says. "Shane loved Lori," Carol replied. Lest Andrea think she's the only woman who was getting any action during the walker war.
- Yes, that was really Emily Kinney, the actress who plays Beth, singing "Hold On," before Tom Waits kicked in. Kinney is also a singer-songwriter who released an EP, "Blue Toothbrush," in 2011.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.