by Kat Rosenfield
With one major payoff promised on this week's "The Walking Dead," anticipation for last night's episode was running high; after all, we know from a week's worth of teasers that this will be the crucial one in which Rick and the Governor finally meet face-to-face. But when? When?!
And for once, we don't have to wait long for the showdown we've all been waiting for. In fact, the big confab occurs even before the opening credits roll, as Daryl and Hershel stand guard outside the isolated midpoint meeting place chosen by Woodbury's main man. Inside, Rick peers cautiously around. And from the shadows emerges old one-eye himself, with his million-dollar grin firmly in place.
They stare at each other, the Governer's smile fades, and he utters a single sentence that more or less sums up this episode in its entirety:
"We have a lot to talk about."
And talk, they do. Actually, that's pretty much all they do, as Rick the Fearless Leader and Philip the Pirate-Patched Villain spend the next hour or so playing mind games over a wooden table and a bottle of whiskey.
As the summit begins, Andrea steps in to play mediator, but things fall apart fast: a map establishing fair territories for the competing communities of survivors is immediately rejected by the Governor, and that's it for the "negotiation". Really, this is an opportunity for the men to size each other up, make accusations, and try to get under each other's skin. Rick brings up the Maggie Incident, getting zero guilty reaction from the responsibility-shirking Governor; the Gov, meanwhile, busts out the faux-sincerity, some whiskey, and a pre-apocalypse sob story about losing his wife in an accident. Ooooh, the dead wife card. (The only thing missing is a Bond villain monologue: "Oh, Rick. We're not so different, you and I — with our dead wives and trust issues and preternaturally chiseled jawlines.")
Meanwhile, outside the shed, a minor powwow between the Governor's goons and Rick's posse takes place: Milton asks creepy questions about Hershel's missing leg. Daryl and one of the Woodbury muscle men try to impress each other with their zombie-killing skills and then bond over a found pack of cigarettes — along with the inescapable likelihood that they will, eventually, have to murder each other. And Andrea, wise at last to the fact that she's been sleeping with a full-on sociopath, tells Hershel she wants back into the original farm family (and thank everything, because watching one more sex scene between those two would have been enough to make us want to stab out our own eyeballs with a shard of aquarium glass.)
Also, back at the prison, Merle makes multiple, unsuccessful attempts to convince everyone to crash the negotiations and kill the Governor; Michonne displays total loyalty to Rick's leadership; and Maggie and Glen kiss and make up... and then really make up, abandoning their zombie-watch duties for some sweaty nookie behind a loading dock door. What this episode lacks in blood-and-guts grossouts, it makes up in the hot, raw passion of Survivors in Love.
And back at the negotiating table, the Governor gets down to brass tacks. He's got more men. He's ready to fight. But they can end this all now, 'cause he only wants one thing: to take off his eye patch and gross the hell out of everybody!
...Oh, and he also wants Michonne. For his very own. To murder!
And with those terms on the table — Michonne in exchange for a permanent peace — everyone leaves.
At which point the Governor does a full-on "Mean Girls" turnaround and tells his henchmen that actually, when Rick reappears at Woodbury, they should just kill him and everyone with him. (Is anyone surprised?) And while this would mean serious trouble if Rick were planning to sell out Michonne to protect the rest of the group, or if he believed said trade was offered in good faith, he doesn't. Instead, back at the prison, he tells only Hershel about the Gov's proposition — and to everyone else, he says the words that set every "Walking Dead" fan's heart aflutter:
"We're going to war."
Which, among other things, should mean much more excitement in the episodes to come.