Sorry this is late, y'all. I was just too exhausted to get to it Sunday night.
Darryl shows no mercy, beating the crap out of poor Randall. He wants information about Randall's group. There's about thirty of them, men, women and children, pretty heavily armed; the men have a tendency to rape teenage daughters in front of their fathers when they go out scavenging. Darryl does not like to hear this. Randall yelps that he's not like that, he didn't do it, but Darryl keeps on keeping on.
In the morning, the group asks Rick what the plan is for Randall since he didn't leave him eighteen miles out as planned. Rick says that it's up in the air. Darryl swings by and reports what he learned from Randall, and that makes Rick's decision. "You're just going to kill him?" gasps Dale, "There's got to be a process - you can't just kill him, he's just a kid." Rick insists that no, the priority is not due process but keeping the group safe. Dale pleads for 24 hours to convince the group of Randall's right to life; Rick says he's got until sunset and "[t]hen what happens happens." Dale then asks Andrea to guard Randall so that Shane won't just walk up and shoot him. He is shocked to learn that she is backing Shane's and Rick's decision. Dale: "You're a civil rights lawyer!" Andrea: "I was." (Did we know this about her? Seems like news to me.) He begs her not to throw away her basic humanity and she agrees to watch the kid.
Later, Shane swings by and laughs at her there on the death watch. Then he hunkers down and says that he thinks that Rick and Herschel won't go through with the execution, that they'll "pussy out." He thinks they should subdue Rick, Herschel and Dale (the latter because he's got a big mouth) and just take Randall out. Randall listens to all this through the cracks in the barn siding until he sees that Carl has snuck in to stare at him. Randall asks for his help, promising food and supplies from his own camp ... but Shane hears him talking and bursts in. He grabs Carl and drags him out of the barn, growling, "Quit tryin' to get yourself killed!"
Dale begins making the rounds in his quest to save Randall's life, tracking Darryl down out in one of the pastures. He asks for Darryl's support since the younger man actually doesn't care one way or the other, but Darryl isn't having any of it, saying their group is broken. He sneers that he knew that Shane killed Otis when he came back carrying the dead man's gun. Rick is smart enough to figure it out too but just decided that he didn't want to know - broken.
Lori finds Rick in one of the barns where he's tying a noose with which to string Randall up. She tells him that she supports the decision to execute Randall if that's what Rick thinks is best. She asks what went down in the last episode but Rick blows her off, saying that Shane won't be a problem anymore. Out in the yard, Carol reaches out to Carl and he is disrespectful to her, calling her an idiot for believing that Sophia is in heaven. She tells his parents that they better rein in their son; Rick tells Carl to apologize and make it right.
Dale's next attempt is with Herschel, trying to appeal to the veterinarian's pacificism. Herschel says that whatever Rick decides is fine by him. He's made too many mistakes lately to trust his own judgment.
Instead of finding Carol to apologize, Carl sneaks into Darryl's campsite (which is nastily festooned with animal carcasses and lots of buzzing flies) and steals a pistol out of the motorcycle saddlebag. Then he traipses through the woods until he finds a zombie, stuck in the sticky mud by the creek. As the zombie gets increasingly agitated, Carl throws rocks at it, getting bolder by the minute. Dumbass Carl.
Dale even tries talking to Shane himself, saying that he wants to change his mind about Randall. At least the old dude has convictions, I'll give him that. Dale says that killing Randall will cause a fundamental change in their group. Shane scoffs a bit at the gloom and doom and then says that if Dale can change everyone else's minds, he won't stand in his way. But then when Randall kills one of them, the blood will be on Dale's hands. "You're wrong about this, Dale," he says, not unkindly.
Glen stops by Beth's room to see how she's feeling in the wake of her half-hearted suicide attempt. Herschel is in there and comes out to talk with Glen for a bit, asking him about his family. After they talk a while, Herschel hands the younger man his grandfather's watch, saying that he thinks Glen is good for Maggie. Glen is nearly speechless but stammers out a thank you.
The sun is almost down and Rick is resolute: Randall has got to die and Rick has got to be the one to do it, to prove to the group that he can protect them and not pussy out.
At the creek, Carl comes closer to the trapped zombie, teasing it. He pulls out the gun but steps too close as the walker yanks one foot free and lunges at him. Carl screams, panicked, flailing away. He manages to get away from the zombie and runs off, panting. The zombie lies in the mud, straining to free itself, watching its prey escape.
The group gathers in the living room of the farmhouse for more goddamn talking. Rick wants to hear what everyone thinks. To Dale's surprise, Glen thinks that Randall needs to die since he isn't one of them and they've lost too many already. Maggie suggests that they keep him under guard but no one wants that job (give it to T-Dog, he's never doing anything anyway!) plus, as Darryl points out, he's another mouth to feed with winter coming on. Suddenly the conversation turns away from IF they should kill Randall to HOW they're going to kill him which makes Dale simply furious. "This is a young man's life and it deserves more than a five minute conversation! You saved him, then he was tortured and now he's going to be executed because we can't think of what else to do with him!" Carol pipes up that she doesn't want to be part of the decision-making. Shut up, Carol. Rick calls the vote and Dale makes one last plea, returning to his point that if they kill Randall, they lose their humanity and all semblance of civilization. Finally, Andrea says that she's changed her mind and they should try to find another way. Dale is grateful but no one else takes up the cause. In tears, Dale asks if they're all going to watch too or just hide in their tents and pretend they're not slaughtering another human being. He stumbles out of the room, pausing to put a hand on Darryl's shoulder: "You're right, this group is broken."
After dark, Rick, Shane and Darryl march Randall out to the barn where Herschel kept his pet zombies. They blindfold him and he starts to cry. Darryl forces him to his knees. Rick asks if he has any final words. Randall: "Please, please don't." Rick cocks the gun just as stupid Carl comes into the barn. "Do it, Dad, do it!" Rick staggers back, shoving his gun into its holster, staring appalled at his son. He tells Darryl to take Randall away as Shane stomps off, righteous in his realization that Rick did indeed pussy out. Rick takes Carl back to the others and announces that they'll be keeping Randall in custody for now. Andrea springs up, happy, saying she'll go tell Dale. Rick tells Lori that Carl wanted to watch them kill Randall and that he just couldn't do it. She hugs him and tells him that it's okay.
Dale is patrolling in one of the pastures when he finds one of Herschel's cows, still barely alive but disembowled. He hears a squishy noise behind him and turns - it's Carl's zombie, muddy but free. It knocks him to the ground and he screams, fighting to keep it off him. But while he's holding its gnashing jaws away from his throat, the zombie digs its fingers into his stomach, gutting him as surely as it did the cow. Dale screams.
Darryl is the first one to get to him and he pulls the zombie away, killing it with one blow. Everyone else runs out to the pasture but there is nothing anyone can do - Dale's intestines are spread across the grass. It's horrible and he is suffering terribly. Andrea kneels beside him, sobbing, begging someone to do something. Carl comes up and recognizes the zombie. He bursts into tears, his guilt overwhelming him. Dale is gasping and whimpering, dying horribly. Rick pulls out his gun and tries to end Dale's suffering, but once again he cannot shoot a living man. (I notice that manly Shane doesn't step up either.) It's Darryl, book-ending this episode with mercy this time, who gently takes the gun from Rick and presses it to Dale's forehead. "Sorry, brother," he says as Dale stares into his eyes. Bang.
Okay, good: killing a major character raises the stakes. Unfortunately, Dale was the group's (often annoying) conscience ... now what are they going to do?
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead.
1 hour ago