In Sunday’s The Walking Dead, two plots thickened to the consistency of cement! First, Eugene took one big step forward, two bigger steps back (then a whole sidestep!) with Stephanie, and Connie’s investigation into what happened to Tyler yielded not only some confounding intel but an altogether unexpected ally. Mystified? Keep reading, your head’s about to spin like a top!
‘IT’S NICE WHEN YOUR HOBBY IS ALSO AN APOCALYPSE SKILL’ | Early on in “Rogue Element,” Carol accompanied Lance to an unofficial Commonwealth outpost to engage in some labor relations with an unsavory sort named Moto, whose workers routinely turned a field of poppies into opium for the hospital. But, Moto declared, his crew wanted a raise, or they’d let the crop rot. Lance, sounding like typical management, struck an absolute s—t deal: They could have a raise if they earned it. “Produce more,” he said. “Make more.” But, Carol to the rescue, he didn’t even have to honor their agreement. Before they departed, she revealed that she’d learned from a worker that Moto was pocketing the last raise money and feeding his staff to keep their lips zipped. Problem solved, Lance had the robber baron arrested.
‘IF I WAS YOU, I WOULD BE REALLY INTERESTED IN WHO I WAS RISKING MY LIFE FOR’ | In another plot, Connie was dying to find out and tell Trooper Davis’ story. But boss Jan just wanted her article to paraphrase Pamela’s press release, which stated that Tyler had been suffering from PTSD when he took Max hostage and hurled accusations at the governor. To make matters worse, Jan assigned Connie and Kelly a ride-along with Mercer — they were supposed to do a puff piece on the military! Connie being Connie, she instead pressed Mercer about why she wasn’t allowed to see Tyler even a month after he was hospitalized under military guard. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Max was Mercer’s sister? (Wait, what?) Giving up nothing, Mercer wondered aloud why Connie was asking questions, the answers to which would never be published. Later, after Mercer discovered that Tyler had been moved without his authorization, a seemingly significant list of names was slipped under Connie and Kelly’s door. The last name on the list? Tyler’s.
‘I WAS THINKING ABOUT YOU YESTERDAY WHEN I WAS GETTING MY KNIVES SHARPENED’ | Finally, in the episode’s “A” story, Eugene awakened in bed less surprised to find Stephanie there than to find her reading the sci-fi novel on which he was working with her encouragement. After she gave him her review — two thumbs up — he proffered a key to his apartment and dropped the L word on her. She reciprocated… after a pause — but then she was a no-show for their ice-cream date. And when he sought her out at her apartment, she didn’t answer the door, she kept frantically packing. Hmm. Later, since the Commonwealth Army quickly gave up its search for the suddenly-missing person, Eugene played drunken Jessica Fletcher himself. He even came up with a lead: a plumber named Roman Calhoun that he’d seen leaving Stephanie’s building the day that she vanished and supposedly put in a request to be transferred. “He is most definitely not a plumber,” Eugene told Princess. There were sketchy things going on at Ruby’s Plumbing Co., things that led him to believe that Stephanie had run afoul of a “rogue element” in the Commonwealth government. “Now,” he reckoned, “silencing her is the last step in repairing that leak.”
Reluctant as she was to get in trouble, Princess accompanied Eugene as he staked out Roman’s apartment and broke in when the man went for a jog. After the duo discovered what looked like a kidnapping kit, they were busted and thrown in the clink, at which point Lance corroborated Roman’s story. Princess tried to reason with Eugene — “Dude! When a woman quits her job and moves away without telling you,” she broke up with you! But he wouldn’t be deterred. He stole into Ruby’s Plumbing, only get himself drop-kicked by… Stephanie! Ack! And the mystery man with whom the “plumbers” regularly met was… Lance! Gads! He’d used Stephanie to get Eugene to tell all about his people’s communities! Well, Eugene was going to make sure that everyone knew what Lance was. What? asked the politician. The guy who saved your people from starving? He had no f—ks to give. But oh… “By the way, Stephanie’s real name is Shira, and she hates Iron Maiden,” he disclosed. “But she genuinely enjoyed your book.”
As the episode drew to a close, Eugene was burning his Missing Person posters — and his novel — when Stephanie appeared behind him. She even used their old radio handles to reach him. “Blue Weevil to Tater Bug,” she said. And when at last we got an actual look at her, it wasn’t the “Stephanie“ we’d known at all but, as we suspected all along, Max. “I’m the one you were talking to on the radio,” she said. Dun-dunn! What did you think of “Rogue Element”? Not enough Carol being Carol for my taste, but I like that Mercer seems like a decent guy underneath his rough exterior, and Max/Stephanie is intriguing. Drop a comment below.