SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the “Swear” episode of The Walking Dead contains storyline and character spoilers.
There’s good news, and terrible, horrible, no good, very bad news in this sixth episode of The Walking Dead Season 7: We finally catch up with Tara and Heath — hooray — but we also learn that Negan and the Saviors are not only way more brutal than we thought, there are also way more of them than we thought.
“We’re Supposed To”
A young girl named Rachel is quite enthusiastic about stabbing a bloated walker she and an older girl named Cyndie find near the beach. Rachel spots another body on the beach and runs off to make her next kill, but Cyndie yells for her to stop, just before she stabs a woman — Tara! — in the head. Tara’s still alive, but unconscious, Cyndie points out. “We still gotta do it,” Rachel insists, but Cyndie says they don’t, not if “people don’t find out.” Rachel says she’s not a snitch, but she’s ticked off about not getting to make another kill, so she says she won’t help Cyndie, either.
Cyndie drags Tara’s body to a secluded spot on the beach and brings her bottles of water, something wrapped in a cloth, and a spear. When Cyndie walks away, Tara opens her eyes and downs the water. She unwraps the cloth to find a dried fish, and when she spots Cyndie leaving the beach, she grabs the spear and follows her.
“You Choose You”
Heath and Tara are still on their supply run in the RV, and Heath is dejected about the fruits of their labor for the last two weeks: eight rusty cans of okra and a bottle of aspirin. “Rule No. 1 of scavenging is, there’s nothing left in this world that isn’t hidden,” Tara tries to reassure him. “We just have to find it.”
He’s also still wigged out about the attack on the Saviors outpost, and the realization it forced him to make about just how dangerous the world, and people, are outside the walls of Alexandria. “If it’s you or someone else, you choose you,” Heath says, but Tara doesn’t believe he really means that.
They move on to a new location to look for supplies and happen upon a bridge that’s been barricaded on one side. It’s littered with cars and tents and tarps strung up on wire and a kiddie pool with dead plants in it, as if a group of people had tried to carry out a plan. Heath and Tara spot a giant mountain of sand on the bridge, and just as Heath sees a big pile of spent bullet casings at the bottom of it, Tara pulls something out of the pile that sends the whole thing raining down on them. It also frees dozens of walkers, who are now trying to snack on them. Very quickly, they’re each surrounded by walkers, and Heath disappears behind a tarp. Did he really “choose you” and abandon Tara, who is now being backed into the edge of the bridge by walkers? As she yells out for her friend, she tumbles over the side of the bridge and into the river below.
“Where Are All the Men?”
Back at the beach, Tara has followed Cyndie through a woodsy area and into a little gathering of cottages. She sees women carrying baskets, kids playing, lookouts on platforms, and things covered in camouflage material. Everyone, mostly adult women, is mostly dressed in drab browns and dark greens, and Tara sees they also have a large storage shed packed with guns of all sizes. Before she can understand what is happening, the women run for the artillery shed and pick up guns, and the first shots are fired at Tara. Luckily for her, they’re all pretty terrible shots, and she runs away from them and into a woman with a gun. Tara knocks her down, takes her gun, but doesn’t shoot her. She runs off again, but this time runs straight into Rachel, the kill-happy tween, who’s pointing a gun right at her. Tara drops her spear, but Rachel says, “Doesn’t matter, we’re supposed to.”
Cyndie comes to the rescue again to spare Tara’s life, but the whole community of nearly all women has gathered around her, all pointing guns at her. The group’s leader, an older woman we’ll soon meet as Natania, is listening as Tara tries to explain she meant no harm and will happily be on her way, but the next time we see her, she’s handcuffed to a radiator inside an office with a picture on the wall that indicates she’s at the Oceanside Cabin Motor Court. Natania, Kathy, and Beatrice (the woman Tara chose not to shoot earlier) talk to her, revealing they have a system of bells and air horns they use to keep their hidden community safe. Tara tells them she fell off a bridge, into a river, which carried her to the ocean and the beach. Natania tells her they usually shoot people on sight to further insure their safety, but they paused with her because Cyndie, Natania’s granddaughter, likes her, and because she spared Beatrice’s life. But if they let her go, they have no guarantee she won’t run and tell other people about their community.
“Yeah, that’s a pickle all right,” Tara replies.
That night, Kathy gets Tara from the Oceanside office, and leads her through the woods to another cabin. The table is set for dinner, and Natania asks her if she likes fish, because fish stew is what’s on the menu. The table includes Natania, Tara, Beatrice, Kathy, and Cyndie, who explains Rachel to Tara, saying she’s never had to kill a living human yet. Cyndie has, and she’s a good shot. Dinner begins, and Tara scarfs down the meal so quickly that Kathy asks when she last ate. Natania talks about their endless supply of fish being a perk of living near the ocean and she asks Tara if she’d like to stay with them, permanently. Tara could put down roots, she says, and they’d be sure their community remains a secret. Tara had told them she’s been living in random places since the apocalypse began and that she traveled with a friend, so Natania offers to help find him and let him move into the community too. That prompts a question.
“I never thought I’d be asking this, but where are all the men?” Tara asks, and when all the women bow their heads, she continues, “All of them?”
Natania explains they got into a “skirmish” with another group of survivors, and they lost all their men, as well as Cyndie’s mom and 11-year-old brother.
“After that, we decided to protect ourselves no matter what,” Natania says. “No matter who we crossed, we would kill on sight. We left our old home with just the clothes on our backs. And then we found this place. We would stay hidden. And we would stay alive.” She goes on to say she knows Tara probably thinks they’re monsters, but she hopes their honesty will spark Tara to be honest with them. She had previously also told them she worked on a fishing boat, which they knew was a lie. So she comes clean about living in a community, with walls, where she has a girlfriend that she’s anxious to return to. (Oh, no, we forgot … she doesn’t know about Denise, or Glenn, or Abraham). She tells them, without sharing the name of the group, that her people have also done things to survive, taking out a whole group of survivors who lived at a satellite station. The look that passes among the other women suggests they know exactly who she’s talking about.
Tara suggests the Oceanside community could team up with her community, an idea that’s immediately shot down. Tara tells them they can’t go on forever assuming everyone is their enemy. “Sooner or later, you’re gonna need a friend,” she tells them. Cyndie tries to agree with Tara, but her grandmother cuts her off. All Natania will agree to is sending someone with Tara to find Heath and continue on to her community to scope it out.
The next day, Tara leaves, with Beatrice and Kathy, to head back to the bridge where she last saw Heath. “People getting together… that’s how the world’s gonna be the world again,” Tara says to Natania on her way out. But the trip turns deadly, quickly, as the women lead Tara through the woods and start shooting at her. She runs away, but Beatrice catches up with her and points her gun right at Tara, tearfully telling her she has nothing left, that the group her friends attacked, the Saviors, have already killed them. Tara says no, her people killed the entire outpost, but Beatrice says there are more Saviors and more outposts. She tells Tara they can’t be stopped; they lined up all the men and all the boys who were older than 10 and shot them in the head. “And we tried to fight, just like you,” Beatrice says. “They won.” Finally, one night the women and children still alive left, running away to the eventual safety of Oceanside.
“We are not gonna let you lead them back to us,” Beatrice tells Tara, just as she’s about to kill her. Cyndie interrupts to save Tara’s life for a third time, and she gives her a backpack of food and water, and a spear, and says she’ll lead her back to the bridge. They get there, and Cyndie stays to help Tara survive the walkers and get to the other end of the bridge. Just as Tara makes it, she looks back to see Kathy and Beatrice have arrived to drag Cyndie back home.
Tara then remembers what really happened at the bridge before her trip down the river to Oceanside. Heath had briefly disappeared behind a tarp, but came right back to help her out of her walker jam. She yells to him that she’s coming to help him — he’s surrounded by them too — and then she tells him they’re in this together. “I know,” he yells, before she goes into the water.
Now back at the scene, Tara walks along the road and spots Heath’s broken glasses on the ground. Next to them, she sees there are what looks like fresh tire tracks in the grass. “Maybe that was you,” she mumbles. Then she spots something in the grass, a white security badge or pass with the letters “PPP” written on it. “I hope that was you,” she says.
“We Can Square This”
Tara heads towards home, walking through fields, and seeking temporary refuge in an old boat and in a gift shop. She eats more of that salted dry perch Cyndie packed into the go bag for her, and finds that her new friend also included a present: a bracelet made of seashells.
Finally, Tara is walking down the road just outside the Alexandria gates, smiling, wearing a pair of bright sunglasses she got at the gift shop. Eugene spots her through binoculars, and by the time he opens the gates to greet her, he’s crying, as the bearer of so much heartbreaking news.
Sitting on the floor in Denise’s medical office, Tara is playing with a doctor bobblehead when Rosita tells her she’s sorry. Tara tells her the same thing, and then an angry Rosita tells her they don’t have to just sit there. She wants to square things, and she wonders if Tara has any leads on where they can replenish their gun supply. She doesn’t care how dangerous the acquisition would be, Rosita says. “We can make this right. We have to.”
“We can’t,” Tara answers. “I didn’t see anything like that out there.”
* In TWD comics, there’s a group of survivors who live near the beach in Virginia, and their community is referred to as Oceanside. Readers have yet to see the community or its residents, and they’re introduced in issue 139 (the most recent issue released is 160), which puts them at a different point in the comic’s timeline than we’re currently at in the show (not that that means anything… mashups). What we do know is that, as Natania and her people do, the Oceansiders in the comics also live off the ocean, and they eventually become a part of the trading system that includes Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and the Sanctuary.
* “Nobody’s evil, they just decide to forget who they are,” Cyndie tells Tara, who assures her, “Some people are evil, Cyndie. I’ve seen it.”
* That instrumental song playing as Tara makes her way back to Alexandria: Dirty Three’s “Everything’s F*****.” Sounds about right.
* The Oceanside crew refers to walkers as “bobbers.”
* Is Heath dead or alive? Those tire tracks near his broken glasses suggest he might have been taken, but ultimately, the answer to his fate might be tied to actor Corey Hawkins’s availability and the success of the 24: Legacy reboot he’s starring in on Fox in February.
* Natania tells Tara she and her people fled from the Saviors with nothing but the clothes on their backs. So how and where did they get that big cache of guns?
OK, Dead-heads, let’s hear your reactions to “Swear.” Our questions: Why didn’t Tara tell Rosita about the Oceanside community and their big supply of guns? Is she trying to protect the Oceanside women, or protect Rosita from making a dangerous mission to procure those weapons for Alexandria? How long do you think it’ll be until we inevitably see those Oceanside women again? Were you surprised about this new intel on just how widespread the Saviors’ murderous ways are? And what do you think happened to Heath?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.