Truth be told, the first 2/3 of ‘The Grove’ was kind of boring. Then – OMG. The twist in the episode had me screaming, “You Can’t Do That On Television!!” at my screen for the first time in over two decades. Only this time, the culprit wasn’t innocent green slime. And (thankfully) I wasn’t wearing a purple scrunchie.
The episode starts with a cold open of a brass teakettle humming away on a gas stove. Is it a flashback? Before the virus? Nope. The camera pans to the window where a figure appears to be dancing around with a walker. The kettle starts to whistle, the piercing sound underscoring the gravity of the situation outside the window.
Cut to the train tracks at night. Lizzie and Carol stand watch while Tyreese and Mika sleep. Lizzie and Carol have a chat about Terminus, and how Lizzie saved Tyreese back at the prison. Lizzie eventually asks Carol if she had kids. Carol wistfully remembers, saying she did have one daughter who “didn’t have a mean bone in her body”. She then makes Lizzie go to sleep, and Lizzie obliges her by curling up next to Mika on the tracks.
In the morning, Carol applies some sap to Tyreese’s wound, treating viewers to a survival tip nugget, saying that the sap will help with the infection. Good to know, Carol! Thanks! The two chat about how far away from Terminus they are, but the conversation quickly turns to Lizzie. Oh Lizzie. She thinks walkers are “just different”, but Carol thinks Mika is worse because she “doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Carol appears to be adopting Mika as a new Sophia in her head, but she won’t let her be compromised by this new world like Sophia was. She can change, just like Carol did.
The group chats about Huck Finn as they walk down the tracks. Mika and Lizzie debate over who’s more like Huck Finn, and Mika eventually decides that Lizzie is more like Huck Finn, because she’s not grossed out by a dead rabbit. Carol and Tyreese ignore this weird little nugget of info, and Tyreese turns to Carol saying, “Forgot you used to read to em”. Apparently Tyreese never got wind of Carol’s Weaponry 101 back at Prison U. There are a lot of things Tyreese doesn’t know about Carol.
They stop to look for water. Lizzie and Tyreese take watch, and spy a walker stumbling down the tracks. Tyreese goes after it with his hammer. (Side note - Now, frankly, I do not enjoy Tyreese’s choice of weapon. I much prefer Michonne’s katana, Daryl’s crossbow, or even Carol’s knife/brass knuckle thing. A hammer is too messy and leaves too much room for error. Also, it’s not super useful for other survival activities. I vote knife all the way.)
The walker gets stuck in the tracks, and Tyreese goes in for the kill. Lizzie runs up screaming. She says, “sometimes we have to kill them, but sometimes we don’t!”. Personally, I think you always need to kill them. Always. Get rid of them all, like ants in a kitchen. Only the walkers are bigger. And they want to kill you.
While Lizzie is begging for walker mercy, Carol has a heart to heart with Mika in the woods. She tells her, “You can toughen up….sooner or later you’re going to have to, or you’ll die. Otherwise, things wont work out.” As Carol gives this advice, the two see a small house in a clearing. Mika grins and points out that her mom used to have the exact opposite philosophy as Carol, saying “my mom always said things always work out the way they’re supposed to.” Sorry to point this out, kid, but your mom is clearly not here right now, and Carol is. Looks like Carol’s worldview is going to get you further, but whatever makes you happy I guess.
The group approaches the house, and Carol and Tyreese go in, leaving the girls outside with Judith. As the girls sit outside waiting, Mika tries to talk some sense into her sister, telling her that the walkers aren’t people. They’re dead. Lizzie’s all like - lalala I can’t hear you - when a walker busts out of the side of the house, and tumbles over the porch railing. It crawls directly for Lizzie and Judith. Lizzie just stares like a psycho, basically offering up Judith as a snack, when Mika finally gets up the nerve to start shooting. It takes three rounds, but she’s ultimately successful.
Carol and Tyreese burst out of the house, drawn by the noise. Carol breathlessly approaches Mika, hugging her and saying, “You did it. You saved them.” However, Lizzie is hyperventilating and sobbing. Carol is irritated and snaps at her, “Why are you crying?!” Lizzie stumbles over to a bench and ugly cries for a few moments before Mika calmly approaches her. Like she did when their father died, she instructs her to “just count the flowers like you’re supposed to”.
Carol and Lizzie shell pecans. Carol tries to talk some sense into her, and Lizzie says she’s trying to understand. Mika finds a Raggedy Ann-like doll, and adorably names her ‘Grizelda Gunderson’. Tyreese says he’s not used to being in a living room, and Mika encourages him to relax. She’s kind of like Beth, hoping that things can just magically go back to the way they were, so no one has to change, and everyone can be happy. After a bit of silence, Mika’s the first one to suggest that they should live there.
The next day, Carol pours water into a kettle. All I can think is what an amazing luxury that must be. Hot water. Using a kitchen appliance. This is why gas stoves are the best. You can count on them even if the world ends. Note to self – get a gas stove ASAP. Carol peeks out the window and sees what we saw at the beginning of the episode. A person dancing around with a walker. Yet, by now we all know it’s that damn fool Lizzie. Carol approaches, screaming, “You get away from it!” Despite Lizzie’s protests, Carol tackles the walker to the ground and knifes it in the head.
Lizzie freaks. “YOU KILLED HER!!! YOU KILLED HER!!!” She literally throws a tantrum, screaming claims that the walker was her friend. Wow. Come to think of it, Lizzie probably didn’t have many friends before the apocalypse, so I guess I’ll give her a pass on this one. And poor Carol’s at a loss, so she kind of gives Lizzie a pass too. Big mistake.
Carol and Mika go out hunting and see the fire is still burning. (Side note – this totally has to be the fire that Daryl and Beth set in the moonshine shack.) Mika notes that the smoke is black. “If the smoke was white it wouldn’t be burning anymore. I learned it in science class.” Score one for Mika providing a helpful survival tip. Carol tries to toughen Mika up, giving her another pep talk. They see a deer, munching away on some delicious grass. Carol prompts Mika to shoot, and Mika can’t do it. The deer ambles away.
A bit later in the day, Tyreese and Carol pump water, and Tyreese says they can live there. Wait a minute Tyreese, did you not just see what happened with Lizzie outside? She’s pretty unstable at this point. They have very little control over her, and clearly don’t have the resources to keep an eye on her. I guess Tyreese chooses to ignore the crazy, tricking himself into thinking that a rest is the best thing, saying, “We can stay. We can live here.”
Haven’t these two ever heard the expression; “It takes a village”? Tyreese and Carol have three children in their charge, and Terminus is sort of a village. Go to the village. It takes a village, people. It takes a village.
Mika looks for Lizzie who has hopped herself right over to the tracks where she’s dangling a mouse in front of the fallen walker, outing her once and for all as the person who was feeding the mice to the walkers at the prison. Mika finds her and tells her that the walkers are bad. Lizzie dreamily extends her hand to the walker and responds with some psychopath babble, “I can hear them. They just want me to change. To be like them…maybe I should change. I can make you all understand...” Just then – charred walkers emerge from the woods.
The girls run back toward the house, and the group of charred walkers follows. Carol, Tyreese and Mika start shooting as a group, and Lizzie reluctantly joins in. After they finish shooting, Carol appears to feel victorious, thinking that Lizzie had a breakthrough by shooting the walkers. She hugs Lizzie, saying, “You did it.”
Later that night, endlessly shelling pecans, Carol talks to Lizzie. She asks Lizzie, “Do you understand what they are now?” Lizzie responds very cryptically, saying, “I know. I know what I have to do now. I know. ” Carol WAY misunderstands this, gives a little speech, and then teaches the girls how to make some sort of pecan blobs in the stove.
On the second day at the grove, Carol and Tyreese go hunting. She tells Tyreese they can stay. They’ll go to Terminus someday, but not now. Tyreese makes a valid point that he’s not ready to be around other people yet. He goes on to talk about how he misses Karen, how he sees her killer in his dreams. Carol goes to speak, and for a minute it appears as if she may confess to Tyreese that she killed Karen. But she doesn’t. Instead, she gets emotional, and talks about living with “what we have to do”. Tyreese hugs her, saying “don’t be ashamed of who you are.” Oh Tyreese, if you only knew who Carol really was.
Carol and Tyreese start to walk back, and Carol tells a beer nuts/deer nuts joke that her good ole abusive husband Ed used to tell. It’s not very funny, but the banter between the two is sweet and has an air of normalcy to it. That normalcy is quickly shattered as they look up and see Lizzie with blood soaked hands. She’s murdered her sister. Holy shit.
YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON TELEVISION!!!! RIGHT?!?
Apparently you can, and they did. As Carol and Tyreese approach, Lizzie gently smiles with a wild look in her eye that seems to say ‘I WILL CUT A BITCH…AND I TOTALLY JUST DID’. She cheerily says “don’t worry, she’ll come back!” Uhh, ok Lizzie, yes, you are correct. She will come back. But you’re missing a very important point here. She will not be Mika anymore. She will want to gnaw your flesh off. It occurs to me that Lizzie must’ve not done very well in school.
Judith sits on a brightly colored afghan, oblivious to the situation. As Carol comes closer, Lizzie panics and draws her gun. She screeches, “We have to wait. I just want us to wait!” Tyreese seems to have forgotten how to blink, but Carol’s got this. She calmly asks for the gun, and Lizzie hands it over. Lizzie mentions that she was just about to ‘change’ Judith too, and Carol reasons with her, saying that Judith can’t even walk yet. She seems to finally ‘get’ Lizzie’s demented train of thought, just…too late.
Carol goes on about how the rest of them will have a cheery lunch inside while they wait for Mika to come back. She’ll tie Mika up with her shoelaces while Tyreese, Lizzie and Judith go inside. Tyreese follows Carol’s lead and scoops up the baby. He guides Lizzie into the house. Carol collapses in a sob for a moment, and then grabs her knife, shaking her head with sorrow and hesitation.
Once Carol comes inside, Tyreese reports to her that he put Lizzie in her room with some food, and made sure she didn’t have any knives, but he did find a shoebox full of mice. She admitted to being the one giving the mice to the walkers. She also pulled the mouse apart and nailed it to the board, saying she was just having fun. Tyreese clearly has the heebie jeebies, and thinks maybe it was Lizzie that killed Karen and David. Carol is quick to exonerate Lizzie, stating the obvious, that Lizzie would’ve let them turn if she had killed them.
Tyreese wants to help Lizzie. He says, “Maybe we can try and help her, talk her back somehow”. Carol knows that’s impossible. It was something in her that was there before. She states the obvious, but painful reality, saying that Lizzie “can’t be around other people.”
Lizzie and Carol head out into the woods to pick wildflowers for Mika. Lizzie asks if Carol is mad. Then she apologizes…but she’s basically just apologizing because Carol is mad, not because she’s sorry for what she did. Textbook sociopath. Lizzie sobs, “Please don’t be mad at me, I’m sorry.” Carol tells her to look at the flowers, not quite getting that the thing is that Lizzie is supposed to COUNT the flowers, not just look at them, but no matter. Carol pulls out her pistol and shoots. In the echo of the gun blast, a long shot of the two in the grove is seen from Tyreese’s perspective. Carol has tears streaming down her face as she makes her way back and sees a deer. She doesn’t shoot it.
They dig graves for the two small bodies.
Later that night, Carol slides her gun to Tyreese, half hoping he’ll kill her. She admits to killing Karen and David. Tyreese doesn’t quite know what to do with that information, and makes his 100th ‘pained face’ of the episode. Tyreese instantly grasps the gun while he organizes his thoughts. He asks if it was quick. Carol says yes. He lets the gun go, and says, “I forgive you. I’m never gonna forget.” Carol meakly thanks him. Tyreese says they can’t stay, and Carol agrees.
They depart the next morning, bypassing the walker on the tracks. On the way to Terminus.
This episode was intense, and I’m still a bit in shock over the decision to have the story play out this way. Yet, it helped to drive home the theme of change. You must change one way or another in this new world. Either change who you are, or die. Carol changed. As I’ve noted before, Carol is a survivor and despite the terrible decision she had to make in this episode, in my opinion she is one of the toughest, most enduring, and most interesting characters on the show. Here’s hoping she sticks around for awhile longer.