Recap: The Walking Dead, “The Distance” (5×11)

It is always jarring when our group encounters a stranger. The world has programmed them – and us – to view any outsider as a potential sociopath. Because, well, we’ve encountered more than our fair share of them.

“The Distance” opens on our group preparing to leave the barn. Maggie and Sasha show up with Aaron and everyone springs into action. For the first time in quite some time, Judith cries. Is it a warning?

Aaron wants the group to audition for his community. He believes they’d make valuable additions but it’s not his call. He’s just there to convince them to follow him home. It’s jarring to hear him use everyone’s name – it’s very salesman-meets-stalker.

Rick punches Aaron in the face and knocks him right out. He has a flare gun in his pack. Rick asks how many people he has out there. Aaron waits a beat and then changes his sales technique from respectful and kind to honest and direct. He plays his audience well. It doesn’t matter how many people he says are out there – Rick won’t believe him.

Aaron and his partner (singular) have been following the group long enough to see that they are capable and loyal. That despite a lack of water and food, they never turned on each other. You forget after following this group for so long that loyalty is far from a given in this world. The people who have stuck around are deeply loyal to the family that they’ve all created – but that can’t possibly be the way it is with everyone.

Aaron’s sales pitch is ramping up. He offers to drive everyone to see the community. He offers reasons to trust him – things he hasn’t done to sabotage them: he didn’t light the barn on fire, didn’t pick people off as they left through the only exit. Gee thanks, Aaron.

Michonne wants to find out if this is a real possibility. She wants to check out Aaron’s story about where his car is. Maggie too. “So that’s what we’re going to do.” Glenn’s coming too. Michonne’s way might be dangerous – but so is passing up a possible place to call home. Rosita and Abraham go with them and the rest of the group splits up to scope out the area, make sure they’re not stuck in a trap.

Glenn has instituted a “shoot first, ask questions later” policy. “If it’s someone like us, we should be afraid of them. The scouting group finds the vehicles where they are supposed to be, missing a guy hiding behind a tractor. They also find a variety of canned foods, which they’re more than a little excited about.

Aaron is used to dealing with people who don’t trust him but he’s confident that the group is made up of good people. But Rick is clear, “Just because we are good people, doesn’t mean we won’t kill you.”

Judith is actually crying, seemingly for the first time ever. There’s applesauce in Aaron’s pack but Aaron doesn’t want to try it. Aaron’s mom used to make him eat applesauce to be more manly… She was a very confused woman. He eventually tries it, and Rick is quick to feed it to Judith.

When the scouting group returns, Rick says the food is theirs now – whether they go or not. Carl asks why they wouldn’t go. Michonne explains only if he were lying or wanted to hurt them – neither of which is the case. Michonne takes a vote. Even Rick agrees.

Michonne is pushing Rick to know why he’s so against this plan. “What did you hear when you were outside of Woodbury? Terminus? Nothing.” Rick isn’t sure there is anything that he could hear that would convince him to go inside those walls.

Michonne is desperate to believe that this is for real. But on the way, she suddenly realizes that in the excitement for this to be real – they never asked him the “questions” that they ask all new people they meet.

Distracted by the questions, Glenn doesn’t notice he’s driving up to a horde. Windshield wipers Glenn. Windshield wipers. And just like that, they’re covered in walker guts and broken down. Rick doesn’t see the camper – they got away. Michonne is pulling body parts out of the engine. The flare gun goes off and Aaron runs. But Michonne knows that following that flare is how they’re going to find their people.

It’s dark, really dark. The muzzle flashes are framing the images we see. This is fucking terrifying. Glenn gets separated from the group. He comes up on Aaron fighting off a walker, hesitates for a beat and then saves him.

After running out of ammo, Rick shoots a zombie in the face with the flare gun, helping to light the walkers as they come. Glenn and Aaron show up and clears the rest. Rick promises that if this is a trap, Aaron’s people will die tonight. At this point, I’m not entirely sure there are any people other than the guy behind the tractor.

Eric is apparently the other guy, and he’s Aaron’s boyfriend/husband/person. Apparently they have an infirmary where they’re going, and a surgeon too apparently.

The group is finally on their way. Rosita and Abraham see the Washington Memorial as they drive to Alexandria. It’s a nice moment for them, reconnecting after the mess at the fire truck. They’re running low on fuel but Abraham knows that they can make it. Nope, no they can’t. They need another battery. It’s a nice call back to Dale.

“The fight’s over. We’ve got to let it go. I know it’s hard, after it’s kept you warm and fed and alive. But the fight, it turns on you. You’ve got to let it go.”

The rules keep changing but Rick is trying. He needs to “take a moment.” He hides a gun in a blender. Maybe he’s not changing as much as he says.

They’re on their way and they get to the gate. Was there anything that Rick could hear that would make him feel safe to bring his family in? He rolls down the window and hears children playing outside. His eyes soften and Michonne takes his hand. The group stands at the gates. Here we go.

Odds & Ends

– Can we get Judith a car seat? Please?

– Walking up to the gate, Carol turns to Rick. “Even though you were wrong, you’re still right.”