“The Walking Dead” recap (5.5): Self Help

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Warning: Spoilers and mullets ahead. The bus that Abraham is driving up to Washington, D.C. is barreling along on the back roads when the topic of conversation goes to haircuts. Tara asks Dr. Eugene Porter if he’ll let Rosita give him a cut, saying, “The party’s getting a little long in the back.” Eugene just keeps looking on—his mullet showing major signs of growth, much like a chia pet. “Or is that your sign of power?” Tara probes on, smiling. Maggie and Glenn want to pick at Eugene’s brain for a sec, too—what will happen once he gets to his terminal in D.C.? He rambles on about weather patterns and possible missile sites, but the rest is classified. Glenn asks him again about his hair. Eugene maintains his monotone Southern drawl, saying someone he once looked up to said his hair made him look like a “And I quote, ‘fun—guy.’” But now all the fun is over—Abraham sees a pack of walkers up ahead when suddenly the bus goes out of control, weaving in and out of abandoned cars when it flips over. Um, shit.

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Everyone makes it safely off the bus but Eugene is showing his weak side again, much like last season—the guy stabs a walker in the back as he’s about to munch on Tara. She spins around and gets him good in the head. The group stands outside of the bus as it becomes engulfed in flames, they’ll have to walk from here—but for a moment, they have to figure out if the 15-mile walk back to the church is a better option. I don’t care what they do, they better step back from that bus—not that I don’t mind watching Eugene’s mullet glisten in front of a fiery backdrop. Ain’t that America?

The group finds a library to hunker down in for the night. Abraham is having major flashbacks—we see him in a grocery store a few times, but who is he looking for, and what memory is he having? He has a quick chat with Glenn before he goes to “get some ass,” as he puts it. Glenn’s like, “I didn’t need to know that…” But there they are, Rosita and Abraham buck naked, getting it on in the stacks—while Eugene stares on from behind the self help section. And apparently it isn’t the first time he’s been a peeping tom to their sexcapades. Tara intervenes, but Eugene tries to convince her sex is on the table with him if she’s down. ‘Course, she isn’t—she just wanted to come up and thank him for saving her life back there when he stabbed that walker in the back by the bus. He’s not totally convinced he did any good because he was so scared the whole time—and then he confesses to her that he put glass in the fuel line and purposely tried to sabotage the bus. Why? Eugene felt like he couldn’t get by for a minute without possibly getting injured or dying—so he decided to risk everyone else’s lives, too. Tara tells him to never do that again because they’re stuck with each other and that’s what people do.

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This moment makes me so worried. Eugene is such a loose cannon; it’s hard to tell where his mind is really at and what he’s capable of. From the beginning, I’ve questioned if there’s really a terminal in D.C. where people are trying their hardest to save the world, waiting on Dr. Eugene Porter to get there so he can cure this zombie epidemic. He claims it’s the other way around—that if he got to D.C. and for some reason couldn’t perform the most important task in the world, everyone would turn on him. Tara assures him that’s not true. “Welcome to the human race, asshole,” she says. He walks away and Tara takes a peek at Abraham and Rosita, sighing as she walks on. We feel ya, girl.

The next morning everyone has the obligatory Walking Dead talk a la the Clash: Should we stay or should we go? Abraham points out a fire truck over yonder, so that’s the plan. As they make their way over to the truck, they soon realize it’s not exactly in working condition. But because watching an episode of TWD is like looking for clues in a game, I immediately see they’ve opened a door when they moved the truck forward, and I’ll bet anything that isn’t a good thing. Sure enough, a dozen or so walkers come wandering out of the open door and suddenly they’re being blasted with water from the fire truck hose. Who’s got the nozzle on lock? Dr. Eugene Porter! He clears every last walker out. And Abraham is impressed. “I’ve been to eight county fairs, one goat rodeo—I’ve never seen anything like that.”

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I like what happens next—Eugene is reading H.G. Well’s The Shape of Things to Come. Maggie sits down to have a talk with him about it. We’ve literally just seen another one of Abraham’s flashbacks where he realizes the woman and two kids he keeps having visions of us have left him in the grocery store and left a note saying, “Don’t try to find us.” Was this Abraham’s family? They seem scared of Abraham, especially after witnessing him kill a man in the produce aisle. Maggie tells Eugene she knows why he likes the book. He doesn’t want people to think of him as someone he’s not—that’s why he keeps his mullet hanging—it separates him from everyone. I wonder where this is going. And so does everyone else, because there’s a gnarly stench hanging in the air.

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It’s the smell of death—there are hundreds of walkers off in the distance walking through farmland. Abraham is convinced they can make it through because, like he continues to say, there’s no way they’re going back. No one knows what Eugene confided in Tara back at the library, about his fears that he would be outcast if he couldn’t get his mission done. Now, the time has come to tell the truth. “I am not a scientist,” Eugene stammers. He knows he’s allowed people to die to get him here, and Rosita reminds him of it. He’d hate to see this group go through all those walkers up ahead only to risk their lives once more for him. He doesn’t know if anything waits in D.C. and he doesn’t have the “cure.” He just “knows things.” Abraham doesn’t like the sound of this. He beats him to a pulp. The looks on everyone’s faces says it all, especially Maggie and Glenn—they could be back with Rick and the gang if it weren’t for this mess, and thinking back onto last season when they were separated at the hands of Abraham, Eugene, Rosita and Tara—Glenn almost lost his life trying to get his way back to the group. Yes, indeed, every single moment this group has been here, Eugene leading everyone astray, barely hanging on and fighting for his own life, everyone was fed lie and after lie. The official award for greatest fraud in a world where our favorite characters feel they can spot a liar a hundred miles away, Dr. Eugene Porter, man of all mullets, as led us down the beaten path, and like all roads that diverge in a forest, we now know we didn’t quite need to go down it.

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The road not taken could have led everyone far away from Terminus. It could have kept everyone in one piece, in one location—maybe even Beth and Carol would be safe. But they’re down in Atlanta as we speak. Eating lollipops no doubt, but still.

Abraham may have killed Eugene. He breaks down and cries along the road, thinking back to that day outside a Texas BBQ joint when he first met the man who claimed he had a mission to fulfill. Abraham had just discovered his loved ones outside, the trio that said not to look for them—they didn’t make it far at all. He rips off his dog tags and pulls a gun to his mouth. He couldn’t protect them; he sees no point in going on. That’s when Eugene, being followed by a pack of walkers, calls out for help. Abraham kills the pack but pays no mind to Eugene and walks back to his patch of grass where he was just going to take his life. No wonder Abraham is so lost in his rage—he probably never put all the pieces together from that day that almost never ended, only to realize in its own way, it truly never has.

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That’s when Eugene tells him of his plan to get to D.C. and the importance of his safety. Now we understand the bones of this group, and why Abraham has taken it so upon himself to be completely sure Eugene is safe at all times. What Abraham is just piecing together is that Eugene saved his life, even if he was a liar—he prevented Abraham from giving up. What do you think—is Eugene dead? What will happen to Abraham and the rest of the group now? Will they go back to the church? Is it possible Rick and company are already on their way to D.C., not knowing it’s a scam? And what about Carol and Beth—what’s going to happen at Grady Memorial now that Beth’s attempted escape and Carol’s the newest patient?

Chat with me on Twitter, @the_hoff and tune in next Sunday for a new episode of The Walking Dead on AMC. Don’t forget, #TeamTara!

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