“This… it isn’t real.”
No amount of hand-stamps, cocktails, finger-foods, and small-talk can convince sharpshooting Sasha that the Alexandria Safe Zone is exactly as it advertises: a safe zone. Sasha, still reeling from the recent deaths of boyfriend Bob and her brother Tyreese, rejects the idea of bonding with her new neighbors, opting instead to take pictures of friendly folks out into the woods for target practice. Sasha doesn’t want to acclimate to Alexandria. She’s up for defending it — she volunteers herself as the city’s first-ever bell-tower sniper, even though the job winds up in the hands of leader Deanna Monroe’s second son, Spencer — but participating in it? Becoming one with these people? Not no way, not no how — at least, not yet.
Sasha isn’t the only one having a hard time adjusting to Alexandria, even if she’s the most obvious and extreme example. There’s also Daryl Dixon, barely saying word one to anybody but Rick and Carol. The three of them conspire to get their hands on a stash of firearms, purely as a precautionary measure, without the knowledge or consent of anyone else in Alexandria, their own friends included. Like Sasha, Daryl spends much of his time out in the woods, hunting and tracking like the old days. Unlike the old days, he’s not completely alone; Aaron, the smart-looking stranger who recruited Daryl and the others into Alexandria, invites himself along on Daryl’s hunt, putting the both of them on the hunt for Buttons the horse. Aaron has been trying to bring Buttons into Alexandria for weeks, but the horse always escapes his grasp. With Daryl’s help, he’s almost successful in roping Buttons in, until a small cluster of walkers interrupts the hunt and tears the poor creature apart.
Later that night, while the rest of Alexandria participates in a community-wide dinner party, Aaron invites Daryl over for some “pretty serious spaghetti.” There, he offers Daryl a job opportunity as Alexandria’s newest recruiter. The job gives Daryl the opportunity to go out on the road on his own, just the way he likes, but to always have a safe home at the end of the day. Aaron doesn’t want Daryl to wind up like Buttons, running around and around on his own until the final, inevitable walker assault. He wants Daryl to embrace his new home. Daryl accepts the gig — “I have nothing else to do,” he reasons. It doesn’t hurt that he’s getting a new motorcycle out of the deal.
With new responsibilities under his belt, Daryl isn’t so comfortable with the gun-stashing plan anymore. It’s a pity, too, considering the lengths Carol goes through in order to obtain the firearms. She sneaks away from the big Alexandria bash to snatch up a satchel filled with pistols, but is caught in the act by a young boy who followed her home because he likes her cookies. (Not a euphemism; apparently, Carol makes mean cookies. It’s all in the secret ingredient: applesauce.) Carol tells the kid he can have all the cookies he wants as long as he doesn’t tell anyone about what he’s seen. He’s reluctant to agree, because he always tells his mom everything. And that’s when Carol makes the choir very easy for the child.
“You can never tell anyone, especially your mom. Because if you do, one morning, you’ll wake up, and you won’t be in your bed,” she tells him, as she cuts through the dark hallway, looming larger and larger over the boy as she speaks. “You’ll be outside the walls, far, far away, tied to a tree, and you’ll scream and scream, because you’ll be so afraid. No one will come to help, because no one will hear you. Well, something will hear you: the monsters, the ones out there. And you won’t be able to run away when they come for you. They will tear you apart, and eat you up, all while you’re still alive — all while you can still feel it. And afterwards? No one will ever know what happened to you.”
“Or,” she continues, “you can promise to never tell anyone what you saw here, and then nothing will happen. And you’ll get cookies. Lots of cookies.”
As Carol makes young Sam an offer he can’t refuse, she cements her status as the most lethal member of the entire Rick Grimes group; if Rick was in the habit of handing out code names, “The Cookie Monster” would be more than apt for Carol.
Instead, Rick’s in the habit of attempting to readjust to civilization. He’s the new constable in Alexandria, and while he’s weary enough of the place to task Carol with stealing a stash of guns, he’s also doing his best to be open-minded about his new surroundings. He relaxes so much, in fact, that he shares some drinks with Deanna’s husband Reggie, the man responsible for building Alexandria’s walls. Rick meets some other folks, including his beautiful neighbor Jesse’s husband, a doctor who seems much less sketchy at a public party than he did just one or two nights earlier, throwing shade at Rick from his porch.
Turns out, Jessie’s husband has every reason in the world to feel scorn towards Rick. Near the end of the party, a half-cocked Rick Grimes reaches out and kisses Jessie on the cheek, in the more-than-a-friend way. For her part, Jessie doesn’t call Rick out, and it’s left up in the air whether or not she’s interested in that kiss-on-the-cheek turning into a kiss-on-the-something-else. TBD, as the kids say — and those aren’t the only important letters where this episode is concerned. Earlier in the night, Jessie’s son stamps Rick’s hand with the red letter “A.” A scarlet letter, perhaps? The Hester Prynne of The Walking Dead had a pretty ferocious beard as recently as one week ago.
Maybe the “A” means something else, and not just the obvious “A for Alexandria.” Until now, the first letter of the alphabet had a much darker connotation: “A” was the letter on the train car in Terminus that housed the vast majority of Rick’s group, as they waited to become hamburger patties for the Termites. Rick and his people have come a long way since those days. Even if folks like Carol and Sasha aren’t ready to embrace Alexandria, maybe their fears are all for nothing — maybe these days, the letter “A” actually stands for something good.
Then again, maybe there’s validity to Sasha and Carol’s cautious outlook, because there’s another letter in the mix: “W,” carved in the forehead of a walker floating around the outskirts of Alexandria. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a roaming corpse sporting the letter “W” on its noggin. What possible reason could anyone have for taking the time to carve a letter into a walker’s flesh, let alone several walkers? Who could do such a thing? And what does the “W” stand for? Is it “W for Walker,” or “W for Wolves,” as some fans have theorized? No matter the actual meaning, there is one word the letter “W” most assuredly stands for: “War.” Make no mistake: The “A for Applesauce” days of Alexandria cannot possibly last forever.