In her latest attempt to prove that she’s not completely useless, Andrea arranges a sit down between the Governor and Rick. They meet in a barn, both bringing a selection of protectors – Rick chooses Daryl, for obvious reasons, and for less obvious ones, Hershel – because what one really needs in a negotiation with a psychopath is a one-legged man. Luckily, the Governor makes a similar move, bringing Caesar the henchman and Milton the lab technician, of course.
Kicking things off, the Governor asks Rick to put his gun to the side and makes a big show of doing the same himself. It’s a ploy, naturally – there is a handgun surreptitiously taped to the Governor’s side of the table (nothing to worry about there, folks. It’s just there for effect, not to actually harm anyone). Rick appears to be in his right mind this episode and doesn’t fall for the old “I put my gun down, you put your gun down” routine. When Andrea obnoxiously tries to get the negotiation rolling, the Governor declares he will accept nothing less than Rick’s full surrender. Rick and the Governor are at an impasse until they magically discover one thing they actually agree on: telling Andrea unambiguously to get lost.
The Governor quickly moves to the classic negotiation tactics of needling and offering whiskey. Rick strikes back with bizarre comparisons of the Governor to a town drunk. It seems the negotiation is really about who hates who more – and who is a more ineffectual leader: Rick, who trusts the wrong people, or the Governor, who kills pretty much everyone. It’s a toss-up.
As this goes on, Andrea laments her total uselessness. Her sulking brings her more or less to a decision point and she declares to Hershel that she can never return to Woodbury (spoiler alert: lo and behold, at the end of the episode, she goes back anyway!).
Meanwhile, Rick and the Gov’s lackeys find common ground – Daryl and Caesar bond over their mutual love of decapitating zombies and share a dead guy’s smokes. Hershel and Milton nerd out over Milton’s records for posterity and Hershel’s stump. Maybe these two warring tribes ain’t so different after all?
Back at the prison, Glen stands up to Merle, who wants to ambush the barn and kill the Governor. His plan makes perfect sense – give Daryl a warning using their hunting signal and take out anyone who gets in the way. Michonne is nearly on board, but refuses to put Andrea’s life at risk. She’s clinging, blindly, to their survival together on the road, even though Andrea completely abandoned her and took the Governor’s side. For whatever reason, however, that doesn’t matter to Michonne and she’d rather save Andrea’s life than take the Governor’s.
Maggie forgives Glen for being a big jerk after they were rescued from Woodbury. They get in a little make-up nookie while they are supposed to be keeping watch.
Rick and the Governor have whiled the day away – chatting about their dead wives and all the people they’ve killed or let die. But the time for small talk is over, and the Governor lays his cards on the table – he’ll agree to let Rick’s group live at the prison in peace (where he can keep his “eye” on them, he quips) if Rick hands over Michonne.
So it comes down to this: will Rick choose the group’s good over an individual’s life?
Last week, I started to applaud the show’s writers for injecting some actual moral conflict into this drab and predictable season … and setting up this choice keeps that conflict going. That is, right up until we cut to the Governor, back at Woodbury, announcing his real plans to Milton: when Rick delivers Michonne, the Governor will have them all killed (except Michonne, who he does want kept alive for his own purposes).
Rick grapples with the decision the Gov has presented him. He tells the group to prepare for battle, and the response is mixed. Hershel wants to take their chances on the road, but Rick refuses – the prison has offered them the best protection they’ve had since leaving Hershel’s farm. Rick admits the real offer on the table: either turn over Michonne or fight the Woodburians, risking everyone’s lives. Even as he leans strongly toward offering up Michonne, Rick shows the smallest glimpse of what is left of his soul – a hope against hope that Hershel can convince him not to.
Of course, Rick’s dark night of the soul doesn’t matter at all — the group’s lives are in danger no matter what decision Rick makes. He can’t save their lives, and he should know better than to trust a known psychopath’s word. Hell, maybe he does know better – after all, he refused to give up his gun when the Governor asked.
With Andrea making more and more signs that she’s about to get off the proverbial fence, and Milton holding his moral high-ground against the Governor’s proposed slaughter, there could be a double-double cross in our future.
It’s hard to believe Rick and the Gov’s rivalry can be dragged out much longer. But with three episodes left, it just might be.