Recap: The Walking Dead Episode 5.02, Strangers

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And the team marches on…

The majority of the first half of this episode was rather talky. Tyreese wants Carol to explain to Rick why she killed those sick at the prison – but she doesn’t need to explain about the girls. He wants to forget himself. Frankly, I am surprised no one has asked about Mika and Lizzie. I guess they just assumed the worst happened and they don’t want to think about it. Abraham cryptically tells Rosita that “we are waiting for the right moment” after they watch Michonne smush a walker’s head in. Carol and Rick make amends, and since he sent her “away to this” he asks if they can join her. She agrees. Later, while Carol and Daryl are keeping watch, he hears something. He decides it is nothing, but the music says otherwise. In the morning, Daryl tells Rick that he didn’t see anything, it was more that he felt someone watching them.

The plan is to head north, stick to the road, and hope they find a car along the way. Barely on the way, the group hears cries for help. It is at Carl’s urging that they answer the call. In the woods, they find a minister cowering on a boulder, screaming for help, while a few walkers try to drag him down. He is just out of reach, and Rick’s crew wastes them with ease. The preacher is Gabriel, and he carries no weapons – the word of God is all the protection he needs. After all, he called for help and help came. Everyone is suspicious of Gabriel, especially Rick. Rick pats him down, and asks him his three questions. He has never killed walkers or people, because the lord abhors violence. Rick still doesn’t trust him, but they go back with him to the church he has been barricaded in. On the way he makes an ill-timed joke about how maybe he is lying to them, leading them into a trap to steal their squirrels. This does not endear him to the group.

They arrive at St. Sarah’s Episcopal church, and Rick and a few others do a sweep to make sure there is no funny business going on. It’s safe and they decide to bunk there for a couple days and regroup. There is a bus that doesn’t work, but Gabriel assures Abraham that if he can get it working, they can take it. Glenn starts off a line of people who tell Abraham that they go where Rick goes.

Gabriel has survived on canned food from a food drive, and scavenging local houses and businesses. There is one last place he hasn’t yet checked, because it was “overrun” by walkers. To Gabriel, “overrun” means “about a dozen.” Rick, Sasha, Bob, and Michonne head out to check for supplies. Rick insists that Gabriel come with them, then sits down and has a man-to-man with Carl. Rick still doesn’t trust Gabriel, despite Carl’s sweet suggestion that “everyone can’t be bad.” I guess it is good to see Carl coming back from the dark, sociopathic edge he was teetering on. Frankly, I thought that edge just made him more interesting. Anyway, it was a nice, genuine moment between the Grimes men, even when Rick reminds his son that, no matter what everyone says, what Carl thinks, he is never safe. Carl counters with some sage words of his own: “We are strong enough that we can help people.”

Gabriel takes Rick and his group to the local food bank and thrift shop. The thrift part has been largely picked over, but the food stuffs are kept in the basement. Holes in the roof let water in, which weakened the floor and eventually led to a collapse in the center of the store. It is now filled waist-high with sludgy water and a dozen or so walkers. Using the shelves as a barrier between themselves and the walkers, Rick and his team hop in and start killing. One old lady zombie sends Gabriel to the other side of the basement, crying and freaking out. This is someone Gabriel knew as a human. The group makes it out alive, and with three carts filled with food.

While Rick’s group was gone, some others scavenging yielded a car with an emergency battery in it (Carol and Daryl left it on the road where they found it in case they need to make a quick getaway) and a trio of gun silencers (found by Glenn in the mini-fridge of a gun store). Most important is what Carl finds outside the church. Near the windows are deep scratches from a knife. Someone was trying to get in. More troubling is a message etched into the wall around the back: “You’Ll burn for this.”

That night, the group feasts. For the first time in a long time, people seem to relax. Well, maybe not relax, exactly, but they smile, and occasionally laugh. Abraham gives a toast, congratulating everyone on being survivors – but then asks if that is all they want to be. Eugene promises that D.C. has the infrastructure to withstand a pandemic even bigger than this one. Abraham again asks them to come. Maybe it is the wine, or the first full meal Rick has had in who knows how long, but when Judith gurgles contentedly, Rick is in. Which means they are all in.

Tara sits with Maggie and explains that she was at the prison, with the Governor. She didn’t know who he was, what he could do, and who they all were. She is not asking forgiveness; she just didn’t want it to be hidden. “You are here with us now,” Maggie assures her. They hug. Rick sits with Gabriel and thanks him for his hospitality. He knows the minister is hiding something, but that is his business – unless it hurts these people, his family, in any way. Then, he will kill him. It’s not necessarily an invite to join them, but it is Rick’s attempt at following Carl’s advice.

Carol is at the car she left on the road, and kills a walker. Someone else approaches, but it is just Daryl. She doesn’t really know what she is doing there, but it seems obvious – she was going to bail. Daryl clearly doesn’t want her to bail, but suddenly a car races past them. Daryl bashes out the lights of the car, grabs Carol, and they give chase. This is the same car Daryl saw when Beth disappeared – and it has a cross painted on the rear window.

Back near the church, Bob is outside, taking a minute to himself. He listens to the lilt of voices coming out of the church, and one can almost imagine they are still in a world without zombies. He goes a little deeper into the woods, leans against a tree, and sobs wildly. I guess this is how he maintains such an obnoxiously positive outlook. Then he is knocked out.

When Bob wakes, he is face-to-face with Gareth, who explains the situation. “We didn’t want to hurt you before, and we didn’t want to pull you away from your group. These are things we have to do. You and your people took away our home. Now we are out here like everyone else, trying to survive. In order to do that, we have to hunt.” Gareth explains that it didn’t start that way. First they just started eating people – then it devolved into hunting. “Nothing happening to you is personal,” Gareth assures Bob, who is fighting to remain conscious. “We would have done this to anybody.” Gareth takes a bite of fresh meat. “If it makes you feel any better, you taste much better than we thought you would.” Yup, Gareth and his cohorts are eating one of Bob’s legs. And apparently Gareth is a racist. I find that more offensive than the cannibalism.

So what do we think Gabriel’s sin is? What is his secret? Molestation is way too easy. I think that when the world turned zombie, he hid in the church, with all his supplies, and ignored the screams of his parishioners as they succumbed to zombie death all around him. Maybe he even fed a few to the zombies – or at least kicked them out of his church stronghold. And how about that car that sped by? Were those cannibals? Or did they have something to do with Gabriel? After all, there was that cross on the back window. Of course, that cross could mean anything. Gabriel seems like too big a coward to be actively involved in a malicious plot.