This week's episode of The Walking Dead began with our favorite prison gang regrouping and figuring out how to proceed following the vicious surprise attack by The Governor last week. Another highlight of the episode, entitled "I Ain't A Judas," was Andrea finally reuniting with Rick and the group, although she didn't quite receive the reaction she had envisioned from her old friends. Meanwhile, the Governor is amassing an army that includes child soldiers ("adolescence is a 20th century invention") and welcomed some new visitors to Woodbury in the form of Tyreese and his group, who had been kicked out of the prison when Rick freaked out in the midseason premiere.
The opening scenes were punctuated by two separate father/son moments. In his role as surrogate father and ancient voice of wisdom, Hershel confronted Rick and told him it was time for him to straighten his head out because the group needed him. The counterpoint was provided by Rick's son Carl, who approached his father alone and suggested that he step down as leader because he deserves a break. These two different discussions represent the conflicting arguments in Rick's head — there must be part of him that wants to step back and take a breather, but he also feels that these people need him to survive. Hearing these comments from his own son appeared to deeply effect Rick, as he managed to tone down the crazy for the remainder of the episode.
Upon Andrea's arrival to the prison, Rick greeted her at gunpoint and treated her like a common criminal for her association with the Governor, frisking her and forcing her to her knees before bringing her inside. While this behavior may seem a bit extreme, it is completely understandable considering the traumatic assault staged by her "boyfriend," as Rick put it. In Andrea's defense, she was unaware of the major losses her old friends had suffered — namely Shane, Lori, T-Dog, Hershel's leg, and Rick's sanity — and lied to by the Governor, who claimed Rick and his group fired first.
However, even after she heard and presumably believed the truth, Andrea said she couldn't explain or excuse what "Phillip" (the Governor's real name) had done and still attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement to protect the innocent people of Woodbury, as well as Rick and the gang. No longer interested in any solution that doesn't involve the Governor's death, Rick did what we all wanted to do by this point and walked out on her after muttering that they had nothing to discuss. During their visit, Carol shared a scenario with Andrea that she had probably been dreaming of for years while married to Ed, her abusive jackass of a husband: she advised Andrea to go back to Woodbury, take a knife to bed, and kill the Governor in his sleep after a night of sexual adventures.
Implicitly endorsing this plan, Rick provided a car for Andrea to drive back to Woodbury and a small jackknife to slit her beau's throat, but no condom for the sex part. Although Andrea returned to the Governor's bed and brandished the knife while he was sleeping, she didn't have what it takes to kill a living person in cold blood and ultimately decided to spare his life. For many viewers, her lack of action will immediately drain any ounce of sympathy left for her character, but realistically, if Andrea had done the deed, she would be villified by the frightened townsfolk as a "black widow" terrorist ally who brutally murdered their beloved leader in a time of great turmoil.
Like the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, the Governor's potential absence would create a power vacuum that would result in unbridled chaos. In such a circumstance, Andrea would be an ideal candidate to supplant him as leader, but it's more likely that someone with superior might, like the Gov's right-hand man Martinez, would emerge as ruler of a Woodbury dictatorship. Even without the Governor in the picture, Martinez or someone else would go after the prison and innocent blood would be shed. Recalling the sliver of humanity and warmth that "Phillip" has displayed to her, Andrea must truly believe that she can persuade her bedmate to forgo any plans of revenge.
The episode ended with Rick planning to take Michonne and Carl on a run outside the prison, possibly to Woodbury. When Daryl questioned his choice of Michonne, Rick indicated that it would be a good test to find out if he can trust her and seems to have a similar motivation for bringing Carl along, declaring, "He's ready." Meanwhile in Woodbury, the two caucasian members of Tyreese's party were still bitter over getting evicted from the prison and eagerly volunteered to help the Governor in his impending war, even agreeing to describe the layout inside the former correctional facility. Just as he told Rick and the others, Tyreese chimed in and agreed that they would do whatever was necessary to earn their keep.
If Rick had been able to keep himself together and considered the request from Tyreese rationally, he would have a few extra hands at the prison rather than on the Governor's side. That misstep during his mental breakdown is coming back to haunt him, because I have a feeling Team Tyreese is going to reveal too much information before they realize Govvy isn't everything he seems to be.
From beginning to end, "I Ain't A Judas" was the strongest midseason episode yet and sets up a variety of possibilities for the rest of the season. After the Governor ominously warned Team Tyreese they "can't be too careful these days," I don't think he will ever truly trust anyone again and it will be interesting to see how that plays out in his dealings with Andrea, Team Tyreese, and his toady Milton as the season builds to another monumental collision between the two warring factions.
FINAL GRADE: A