Poor Rick Grimes. Have you ever left for a trip with that nagging feeling that you left something essential at home? Then, after you remember, you have to turn around and retrieve said important item? This was Rick Grimes in Sunday’s episode, “Tell It To The Frogs”—only he didn’t leave an item, he left a human named Merle Dixon. (A pretty despicable human being that probably wants to kill Rick more than the zombies do.) And, unfortunately, Merle is smack in the middle of the zombie death trap of Atlanta. The good news for Rick is that, save for one person back in the relative safety of the mountain camp, Merle is not really, shall we say, a well-liked fellow. Unfortunately for Rick, the one person who will miss Merle is his loose-cannon brother (more on this later), Daryl.
I expected this episode to have some sort of payoff after all the character setup in the first two episodes. Yet it wound up being another expository setup. I mean, yes, the reunion between Rick and his wife Lori did happen—which resulted in one of the most awkward facial expressions ever seen on episodic television (we’re assuming it had something to do with Lori’s affair with Rick’s best friend, Shane). As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely her fault: Shane lied by telling her that Rick died in the hospital. But, let’s be honest here, even if he had died, her grieving period was awfully brief. She moved on (to Rick’s best friend) rather quickly. But, to her credit, when Rick returns she ends things with Shane in haste.
In last week’s episode, Rick was saved in Atlanta by a group of survivors that had been trapped in a department store after a failed supply run for their camp. Unfortunately, one member of this group, Merle, is a racist psychopath whom Rick had to calm down by handcuffing him to a pipe. After returning to camp, Rick has to explain to Merle’s brother that, oops, we, um, sort of left your brother behind, and he’s handcuffed to a pipe. Rick had been warned that Daryl is not the world’s most rational human being, so I was expecting another Merle clone. The thing is, I kind of like Daryl—at least in comparison to Merle. Sure, he didn’t take the news well that his brother was left behind. But who would? Compared to Merle, Daryl seems like a reasonable human being. Daryl won me over when, while being restrained by Rick and Shane after hearing the news of his brother, he yelled, “ The choke hold is illegal!” Daryl, like his brother, flies off the handle easily, but Rick seems to be able to get through to Daryl, whereas Merle is just impossible.
Shane doesn’t take the news of Rick’s return well. He looks pleased that his friend and fellow police officer is still alive. But he’s not thrilled that his new relationship with Lori (Rick’s wife) and her son Carl (Rick’s child) is over. Also, this guy at the camp, Ed, is a jerk. Ed enjoys bossing around his wife and getting into fisticuffs with other women. Ed was the perfect target for Shane’s rage. I imagine that Shane isn’t a fan of Ed (or his actions), but I feel like Shane had a wee bit of built-up aggression after being told to stay out of Lori’s life forever (right after teaching her son, Carl, how to catch frogs—hence the title). Ed picked the wrong time to be an asshole. For his efforts, his faced was reorganized by Shane.
Against his wife’s protests, Rick returns to Atlanta with T-Dog (who also feels responsible for leaving Merle stranded), Glenn, and Daryl to attempt to rescue Merle, who is still handcuffed to a pipe on the top of a department store. The mission is twofold: A walker wandered into camp—the first time this has happened—so the bag of guns that Rick dropped in the streets of Atlanta will come in handy when more walkers show up at the camp (which they undoubtedly will). But, as the episode ends with Rick and company arriving to save Merle, they find that Merle has taken matters into his own hands. By which I mean to say that he pulled an Aron Ralston and cut off his own hand to escape. At least Ralston waited a few days before taking such drastic action— then again, Ralston wasn’t being hunted by zombies. Thankfully, unlike in 127 Hours, we didn’t have to witness the self-amputation.