Where we left off: After a mostly prison-free episode, Andrea was all tied up in the Governor's torture chamber. Rick lied to the rest of the Prison Gang that the Gov was about to wage war, while he revealed the truth only to Hershel – he just needed to give up Michonne and everything would be peachy-keen. Uh-huh.
Where we pick up: Rick confides in Hershel and Daryl, trying to formulate the Michonne hand-over plan. Hershel is distraught that Rick wants to go through with this. Daryl agrees to ask Merle to join their secret squad, but Rick wants to talk to him in person. Rick finds Merle destroying prisoner mattresses, looking for dope. Rick demands to know why Merle does the things he does and makes the choices he makes. Merle is not one for ponderous introspection, it seems. Rick lays out his plan and Merle is agog – doesn't Rick realize the Gov is just going to do mean and nasty things to Michonne and then go after the rest of the Prison Gang? Hello, McFly? Merle sneers that Officer Friendly is cold as ice, but warns that they're going to need wire to tie up Michonne since she apparently has lion incisors and can bite through rope. Merle doesn't think Rick has the spine to pull off this betrayal. Turning over Michonne will require the likes of a super-villain! This calls for . . . Super Merle!
Carol wants to know if Merle is with them. You know, not like just living with them, but like Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven. Is he with them? Like with-them, with-them? Merle counters that he's impressed with Carol's growth. She's not the timid little meek mouse she was back when they first met. Because Carol's not scared anymore. "You're a late bloomer," notes Merle. "Maybe you are too," Carol responds. A lovely scene! Bravo, writers! This is the Walking Dead we love!
Daryl wants Glenn to forgive Merle for beating him up in Woodbury, but Glenn is more concerned with the fact that Merle dragged Maggie into the Governor's rape-y lair. Good point, Glenn. Daryl is going to make Merle apologize and make this all right. He storms off to act out his plan. Daryl finds Merle pillaging a prison office, supposedly looking for some crystal meth. Merle thinks Rick will buckle and fail during the Michonne mission. He taunts his little brother about his lack of balls – once upon a time, Daryl would have accused Rick of being a sheeple. And lookie here: the Prison Gang wants Merle to do their dirty work, delivering yet another person to the Governor just like he's always done. So who's the Governor now, eh Rick? Daryl just wants his brother back. He slinks away, bummed out that Merle's continuing to be such a bitch. And watch out, because Merle just scavenged a telephone and I sort of think that's just the sort of wire he was talking about for Project Michonne.
Hershel prays with his daughters, terrified and despairing over what Rick is about to do. In the prison yard, Rick coils an ethernet cable around his wrist. Everyone's grabbing wire! Excellent prep, team. But! Rick sees a vision of Lori in normal clothes instead of a wedding dress. Rick has a good, long think. He can't go through with this! He won't! BRAVO, RICK! Do not be a horrible person! You're supposed to be on the Good Guy side! He marches inside and declares that Project Michonne is a no-go! Huzzah!
Michonne and Merle prowl the prison, ostensibly looking for breaches in the walls. But Merle didn't get the text message that ProjChonne is off! He knocks her out cold and ties her up. Aw, man! Merle leads Michonne away on a lovely stroll, and her hands are (of course) bound with telephone cords. A trenchcoat zombie lurches towards them and Merle borrows her katana to stab it in the head. As they walk on, Michonne calls Merle out his sense of morality – he feels the weight of his actions and that means he's not purely evil. (Because purely evil men don't feel any remorse). I'd like to note that it's autumn in Georgia, judging by the leaves everywhere. Winter is coming (ahem).
Merle hotwires a car and accidentally triggers the alarm. Oh fuck. And Michonne is tied to a motel column and, of course, here come the zombies. Merle! Get out of the car! Untie her! NOW! Merle is oblivious (or is he?) as Michonne karate kicks the zombies and chokes them with her bindings. Oh fuck, there are so many zombies! Merle! A little help! Luckily, getaway cars are still faster than walkers.
Michonne tries to reason with Merle. So he's just the guy who takes out the trash, huh? Despite his super-awesome technical and reconnaissance and tracking skills? Why isn't Merle using this moment to take over the leadership role? Because ol' Stabby-hand is trying to save his own ass. Michonne counters that once the Governor is done with her, well, hey now, she won't have to live with herself. Oh, snap.
Back at the prison, Glenn finally groks the implications of the watch Hershel gave him back before they left the farm. He gets the good doctor's blessing to marry Maggie. Glenn goes off and amputates a lady zombie's finger, snatching her lovely engagement ring. So romantic.
Michonne and Merle continue their chat. So it turns out that Merle has killed 16 men since the zombpocalypse – but how many men did he kill before? None. So then why is he killing for the Governor? Michonne has a point (but if she wears a hat, you can't see it). She insists they can both go back. But Merle knows he can't. And he has to think about why. Callback! Why does Merle do the things he does? Perhaps it's time for a hearty dose of self-awareness. He cuts Michonne's bindings. He warns her that if she goes back to Rick, she needs to know there's about to be a war. Michonne gets out of the car. Merle has own personal mission to complete and she watches him drive away.
Daryl and Michonne meet up as he tracks his brother and she returns to the prison. Daryl continues the hunt. Meanwhile, Merle finds himself some whiskey and ties on a nice buzz, playing a game of cat-and-mouse with a horde of zombies. (If this didn't involve drunken driving, it would be a pretty fun-looking drinking game). Merle leads his zombie army straight to the Governor's rendezvous barn. Of course, the Gov's army lies waiting. Merle bumps up his car stereo as Martinez and his men open fire on the walkers. D'oh! One of their dudes is devoured. Yummo! Munchy munch! Merle takes aim at the Governor but ends up sniping out Ben when he's shoved by a walker. As Merle scuffles with the zombie, the Governor and Martinez attack. The Governor bites off two of Merle's fingers before shooting him at pointblank range. Nooooo! Merle was just starting to be sort of cool? He hadn't said anything racist in days and days! Merle was really starting to grow! Super late-bloomer style!
Back at the prison, Glenn proposes by shoving a dead woman's diamond into Maggie's palm. She says yes. I'll expect a save-the-date in the mail, you guys.
Rick addresses his people and reveals the actual terms of the Gov's deal – he would leave them alone if they gave him Michonne – a handy mnemonic rhyme! And Rick was going to do it, to keep his people safe. And now Rick's changed his mind but Merle went through with it and Daryl is off tracking Merle and now all hell is about to break loose and he's sorry for not telling them the truth (whoof). Remember when Rick stated that this was a Ricktatorship? Well, no more. Because the group is the greater good, NOT Rick. Rick ain't no Governor and henceforth they make decisions as a group and they stick together and they vote on their actions. Democracy time for the prison gang!
Daryl approaches the wreckage of the rendezvous barn and there's a guy who looks suspiciously like Merle chowing down on the corpses. Oh shit. Merle's gone zombie, stabby arm and all. Zombie Merle lurches towards Daryl, who puts him out of his undead misery. Daryl weeps over his older brother, who had just kinda sorta come back to him. Hot diggity damn. We have one episode left in this season, and it looks like shit is actually going to hit the zombie fan? We'll miss you, Merle. It would have been great if you were around for the impending war.