'The Walking Dead' recap: 'Fake it 'til you make it, baby!'

Kimberly Potts
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

SPOILER ALERT: This recap for “The Damned” episode, of The Walking Dead contains storyline and character spoilers.

The war against the Saviors continues at a furious pace, but even in the middle of such pivotal battles, Rick and his cohorts are faced with some harsh reminders that their humanity, as well as victory, is at stake. And, as executive producer Greg Nicotero hinted to us last week, a character many people had assumed had died years ago reappears — with a shocking new alliance.

Plans of Attack
Close-ups of the faces of Rick and Carol and Aaron and Morgan and other members of Team Resistance show them poised to head into the continuing battle against the Saviors. Carol, King Ezekiel and the Kingdom crew are shaking off the gas bomb the Saviors lookout tossed at them, just in time to fight the swarm of walkers pouring out of the industrial building. But the Savior on outlook duty got away, and they must track him down before he reaches the nearby outpost and warns his cohorts an attack is imminent.

Morgan, Jesus, Tara, Dianne, Andy, and Freddie are at the satellite outpost, trying to secure the surrender of a large group of Saviors. Some, like Jesus, are trying to secure a surrender; others, like Tara and Morgan, want to kill first and leave no one to ask questions later. Shifting philosophies, after all the destruction leveled by the Saviors, have caused some dissension among the ranks, and while Morgan is dealing with his inner demons and commitment not to kill in the midst of a war, Jesus and Tara are butting heads about how far they have to go to secure victory for their team and stop the reign of Team Negan.

Rick and Daryl are on a mission to find a huge stash of guns Dwight told them is hidden at another outpost. They must retrieve the guns, not only to pad their own supply of weapons, but also to prevent them from being transported to the Sanctuary. Negan and a huge group of Saviors are trapped at their main homestead, as the walker herd Rick’s team led there surround the Sanctuary. The guns would allow them to kill the herd and leave the base and attack the resistance, putting an end to all the hard work Rick and the others have already put forth with their well-coordinated sneak attacks.

Meanwhile, at a Saviors outpost led by an unshakeable woman named Mara, Aaron, Eric, Tobin, Scott, Francine, and other allies pull up in armor-covered cars, guns firing into the compound. This group’s plan is to keep the Saviors contained inside this compound, killing them with gunfire, which will make them zombify and turn into weapons against each other. It’s a good plan, and it works, for a while.

At the Satellite Station
As Morgan and his squad prepare to enter the satellite outpost, Andy and Freddie ask him if he wants them to back him up. Morgan shouldn’t have to approach alone, they say. But he tells them he doesn’t need their help. It’s not out of overconfidence or arrogance. “I don’t die,” Morgan tells them, sharing his belief that living is his continuing punishment for allowing his son to be killed by his zombified wife.

Photo: AMC

Inside, Morgan becomes a killing machine, the very thing he is afraid will happen once he allows himself to start killing again. Both Andy and Freddie, brave but inexperienced fighters, are killed quickly by Savior gunfire. But Morgan walks throughout the building, shooting the enemy without hesitation, without giving them a chance to surrender first. An earlier conversation with Rick is ringing in his ears, with Rick telling him they have to be ready to kill the Saviors before the Saviors kill them. “We can’t leave them alive,” Rick tells him. Morgan argues that as long as there is life, there is possibility. “Of them getting us,” Rick says. With this conflict with his own post-Eastman vow not to kill rattling in his mind, Morgan runs into Jared, the weasel Savior who killed Benjamin. Morgan points his gun at Jared and rushes towards him, but Jesus stops Morgan before he can shoot. “It’s not what we do,” Jesus tells him. Morgan sincerely asks, “Then what do we do, huh?”

Jesus is also in conflict with Tara. Now outside with a group of Saviors who have surrendered to them, Jesus sees this as the way forward; he doesn’t want to kill, he wants peaceful surrender. Tara wants to kill before the Saviors have a chance to kill them, and, she admits, she has vengeance for the murders of Glenn and Abraham and her girlfriend, Denise, on her mind, too. Jesus says he’s going to talk to Maggie about his point of view, and Tara answers that she’s sure Rick will agree with her side of things, and their clash seems capable of growing, even in the face of the significant victory of getting control of the satellite outpost.

At the Shephard Office Plaza
Rick and Daryl are inside the building, climbing to each floor in search of the guns, using the map and intel Dwight provided to them. Rick is certain the guns are there, because everything else Dwight told them has panned out so far. Daryl’s unimpressed; he still thinks Dwight is a piece of shit, he tells Rick.

(Photo: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

The BFFs split up to cover more ground, and Daryl stumbles upon a painfully familiar room. A pair of handcuffs are chained to a pipe, and on the floor, he sees an empty can of dog food and a sandwich beside it. Remembering why he still hates Dwight so much…

Rick is in another area, where he sees some bedrooms, well stocked, that clearly are lived in. He tries the doorknob on another room, and is attacked from behind. He and his foe launch into a vicious hand-to-hand combat session, where they throw each other around a room, kicking, beating each other. Rick puts the man in a chokehold, and eventually kills him by slamming him onto a giant shelf bracket on the wall. He takes a set of keys out of the dead guy’s pocket and returns to the door he had been about to open when the man attacked him. Inside: a crib, holding a sleeping baby. Her name is Gracie, which is painted on the wall, along with some pretty animals. A homemade mobile with other animal drawings hangs above her crib. There’s a mirror above her bed, too, and a thoroughly shaken Rick looks stricken when he catches a glimpse of himself in it. He covers his mouth with his hand, shakes his head, tries to hold back tears, as he realizes he just killed the baby’s father. The man so viciously attacked Rick not because he was trying to hide guns, but because he was trying to protect his child. Just like Rick would do, and has done.

At Mara’s
Aaron and company are picking off many a Savior, and some of them are starting to turn. Mara, who seemed so sure the “chickens**t” attackers wouldn’t be able to pin her and her cohorts inside their compound, has to admit they have. And she admits it just as one of her fellow Saviors, who’s just become a walker, noshes on her neck. But the Saviors have been fighting back, so while Mara and lots of her friends are dead, Aaron and company have taken some hits, too. Tobin was shot in the shoulder, but says he’ll be okay. Francine is shot, and isn’t getting up from the ground. And, somewhere during the shootout, Eric is hit. Aaron tries to retreat from the shootout, helping Eric get away, too.

In the Woods
Ezekiel, Carol, and the rest of the Kingdom team moves through the woods, tracking the Savior outlook who escaped with the smoke bomb. They find his fresh blood, which they celebrate as proof they wounded him and that he is moving towards the Saviors outpost slowly, and not far ahead of them. Ezekiel continues to lead his people with never wavering words of encouragement about certain victory, which bothers Carol. She asks him if he realizes the size of the fight they are facing.

“Yes, and yet I smile,” Ezekiel answers.

Carol: “Why?”

The King: “Do I feel this supreme confidence, or is it my lot, my job, to simply project such certainty? No and yes… yes and no… and then finally, yes to both. Fake it ‘til you make it, baby! That’s what I’ve done and what I do. I am king because I provided a light to lead my people forward, through the darkness, and they have made my fictions realities.”

(Photo: Gene Page/AMC)

Carol persists, saying they may not all make it.

Ezekiel: “There will be no fantasies of failure this day.”

And sure enough, when they catch up to the Savior, they stop him. Or rather, Shiva does, when she jumps out of the woods and makes a Snack Pack of the man.

King Ezekiel remains supremely confident of his team’s plans, even when they find out the Savior outlook did manage to warn his fellow Negan followers about an attack coming their way.

Blast From the Past
Rick moves into another room, trying to refocus on the mission at hand and find those guns. Instead, he picks up a photo, and seems to recognize the people in it. “Damn it,” he says.

Then someone behind him says, “Keep your hands down, and turn around slowly.”

Rick does, and is greeted with a “Hi, Rick.” It’s his early apocalypse friend and fellow Atlanta camper Morales! Morales, who left for Birmingham, Alabama with his wife and kids in the Season 1 episode “Wildfire.” Morales, who was gifted a gun by Rick before he went off to try to connect with more family members in Alabama, is now standing there holding a gun — the same one? — on Rick.

“Your name is Morales,” a stunned Rick manages. “You were in Atlanta.”

“That was a long time ago,” Morales says. “It’s over, Rick. I called the Saviors back… they’re coming.”

Zombie Bites:
*While inside the satellite compound, Tara and Jesus find a man named Dean hiding inside a closet. Tara wants to shoot him on the spot, but Dean has wet his pants and his holding his hands in the air, so Jesus protects him, believing Dean’s story that he is being forced to work for the Saviors, but isn’t one of them. Of course Dean is lying, and tries to kill Jesus and Tara, and taunts them for believing him. It’s the beginning of the Jesus/Tara tussle, which intensifies when Jesus ties Dean up instead of allowing Tara to shoot him when they regain the upper hand.

*Dean, while holding a gun briefly on Jesus: “Do you know how hard it is to piss yourself on purpose? It’s like your dick knows you’re wearing pants.”

*F-Bomb Count: still zero.

*Predictions about where Morales has been all this time? How long do we think he’s been working with the Saviors? Think his wife and children are still alive? Any chance that early apocalypse bond will sway him over to Team Resistance with his old pals Rick, Daryl, Carol, and Carl?

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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