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The Walking Dead weekly recap: Rick’s group goes ‘The Distance’

“You know, you were wrong — but you’re still right.”

At the end of the day, Carol Peletier’s assessment of Rick Grimes is spot on. This is a man who has done everything in his power to keep his people safe, including ripping enemy throats out with his own teeth when the occasion arises. His heart is in the right place, even if it often leads to cold, untrusting decisions.

For once, Rick’s instincts and sense of responsibility for his group almost got everyone killed. He’s the one person who absolutely has no interest in hearing out Aaron, the stranger who appeared in a field before Maggie and Sasha, promising “good news.” The good news turns out to be great news, if true: Aaron claims to hail from a safe community called Alexandria, populated by good people and fenced in by 15-foot walls.

“You know, you were wrong — but you’re still right.”

“Nothing alive or dead gets through without our say so,” he says. “There’s only one resource more important: The people. Together, we’re strong. You can make us even stronger.”

Aaron even comes equipped with photos of Alexandria, to prove that what he’s saying is true. Before Rick can even get to photo number three, the bearded badass struts forward four steps and knocks Aaron out on the spot. Trust issues, and such.

When Aaron comes to, he’s impressed. “That’s a hell of a right cross,” he smiles. “You’re being cautious. I completely understand.”

Rick doesn’t trust a man who smiles after getting cold-cocked; he has more questions for Aaron, including how many people he’s traveling with. “Does it matter how many people I tell you?” he answers. “Eight? 32? 444? Zero? No matter what I say, you’re not going to trust me.”

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Aaron finally swears that the answer is one; he has a traveling companion set up near a car and an RV, not far away. If Rick allows it, Aaron will take the group to the car and prove it. Rick does not allow it. Instead, he dispatches a small squad of Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, and Rosita to check out Aaron’s story, while the rest of the survivors scatter in groups of twos, within eyeball range of the barn they’re currently calling home.

When the group scatters, Rick and Aaron finally have some alone time — with the lone exception of baby Judith, crying her eyes out because, well, she’s a baby. Aaron has an answer for that, too: A jar of applesauce in his bag. Rick doesn’t trust the food, so he commands Aaron take the first bite. Aaron, initially stunned that Rick would think so little of him as to poison a baby, eventually reveals why he’s reluctant to eat the applesauce: “I hate applesauce,” he pouts. Turns out he only brought the jar to show that they have apple trees in Alexandria. With his life on the line, he takes a bite, and the look on his face is almost as pained as that time Dale Horvath got his guts ripped out by a walker.

“Eight? 32? 444? Zero? No matter what I say, you’re not going to trust me.”

Later, the group returns, and it turns out Aaron’s story holds up. There’s an RV and a car nearby, stocked with canned goods. “This is ours now, whether or not we go back to your camp,” Rick insists. The whole “whether or not” thing starts to rub Rick’s group the wrong way, his son Carl included. No one is more defiant than Michonne. “We’re going,” she commands. “All of us. Somebody say something if they feel differently.”

No one speaks. Rick looks toward Daryl, his right-hand man. “I don’t know, man,” Daryl offers. “This barn smells like horse shit.” Fair enough. Rick finally agrees to find Aaron’s camp, but not using Aaron’s preferred directions; rather than taking Route 16, they’re going 23 North.

“23 North is a bad idea,” Aaron tells him, fear in his voice. “We’ve cleared 16. It’s faster.”

Rick doesn’t listen. Furthermore, he commands that the group leave at sundown, so that if they get to Alexandria and it’s dangerous, they can escape in the cover of night.

Turns out, Rick’s idea was a bad one. As promised, 23 North is a war zone, with walkers clogging the entire road. Rick’s car plows through a horde and can no longer drive, forcing everyone on foot. The situation gets even worse when Aaron sees a signal flare shot off in the nearby sky. He panics and heads in that direction.

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After nearly getting annihilated by the walkers, and even having to use Aaron’s flare gun to blow one of them away at one point, Rick and his friends finally reunite at a dilapidated shelter nearby. There, Aaron reunites with the lone friend he claimed to be traveling with: Eric, his lover. The two share a passionate kiss, and are grateful to be together again, even though Eric’s laid up with a twisted ankle.

Aaron tells everyone how grateful he is that they worked together and kept his boyfriend safe. He promises to make sure that the debt is paid in full as soon as they reach Alexandria. He wants to leave the next morning and spend the night in this shelter, and Rick is fine with that — assuming Aaron sleeps in a room far away from Eric. He doesn’t want them conspiring.

“The only way you’re stopping me from being with him is by shooting me.”

“The only way you’re stopping me from being with him is by shooting me,” Aaron warns. Finally, the benevolent stranger shows some teeth. Even Glenn, who has been on a downward spiral of misanthropy lately, tells Rick to let this go. Rick, very reluctantly, agrees.

The next day, the group hits the road. On the way to Alexandria, Abraham and Rosita see Washington, D.C. in the distance, the Washington Monument still standing. It’s a reminder of what the two of them once fought for, when Eugene was still a scientist, and there was still hope of curing the zombie plague. At the very least, now it’s a helpful reminder that if they need to flee Alexandria, the Washington plan remains in effect.

Halfway to Alexandria, the RV they’re all driving in breaks down. It’s the GREATM Firetruck Fiasco all over again, and Abraham is furious — except this time, they have a backup battery in the RV. Already, things are starting to look up.

For his part, Rick remains uncertain. He needs to take a moment before they get all the way to Alexandria. Mirroring his tactics before approaching Terminus, Rick goes off on his own, finds a container, and stores one of his handguns inside. Always good to have a backup plan.

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But when they roll up to Alexandria, it seems as though a backup plan won’t be necessary. The first thing Rick hears is the sounds of children playing and laughing beyond the walls, just as tall and great as promised. Rick, with Judith in his arms, looks up at Alexandria in awe.

“You know, you were wrong,” Carol tells him, “but you’re still right.” Meaning, Rick’s heart was in the right place, trying to keep everyone safe — but he was wrong about this place. At long last, our survivors just might be home.