Andrea gets a less-than-happy reunion with Rick in The Walking Dead

Holy hell, it's one of those rare Walking Dead episodes where things don't explode, and people don't get shot at or eaten, but instead characters talk to each other, and shit can still be considered to have happened! This week's episode was all about relationships and history between characters, and it was still pretty good — mainly because "I Ain't a Judas" altered and updated these relationships, instead of just telling us stuff we already knew (mostly). And weirdest of all, it actually made Andrea kind of compelling! Madness!

The Governor is rounding up pretty much everyone in Woodbury who can hold a gun, even teens ("adolescence is a 20th century concept", he purrs), in preparation for his balls-out assault on the prison. Finally realizing that the Governor might not be the benevolent dictator he's always presented himself as being, the townsfolk — like the mother of a 14-year-old asthmatic who doesn't want her son to be in an army — turn to Andrea to help them with the Guv. It doesn't work, but it does deepen Andrea's feelings of responsibility for the innocents of Woodbury, especially since no one else has any.

As the prison, everyone is still arguing whether they should stay or whether they should go. Glenn is all for staying, primarily since he's lusting for revenge, but the group doesn't decide to stay as much as they just don't decide. Carl tells Rick that he should stop being the team's leader, which seems to make Rick finally take off his crazypants (or at least put them in the dirty clothes hamper, since he's pretty collected and non-hallucinatory in this episode, for which I am extremely grateful).

Meanwhile, Merle is fitting in surprisingly well. He has bonding time with Herschel over lost limbs where he doesn't bitterly point out that he had to perform his own amputation; he even gives a non-apology to Michonne for trying to kill her on the Governor's orders, which is like a box of candy and a bouquet of flowers from regular people.

The focus of the episode is on Andrea, who is the only character drawn between the prison and Woodbury. When she sees the Governor gearing up for war, she decides to escape to talk to Rick and her old post-apocalyptic pals and see if she can avert the coming bloodshed. With Milton's help, she gets a Decoy zombie, a.k.a. a zombie with its arms chopped off and its jaw removed, Michonne-style (the zombie does not come pre-Decoyed, obviously, which means Milton pretty much has to sit on it while Andrea hacks and stomps away).

Andrea makes it to the prison. Now, whether she's expecting a warm reunion with Rick and the others because she's a moron, or because she's one of the few characters on The Walking Dead with any sense of humanity left (like, why wouldn't they be happy to see their old pal Andrea?), but a warm welcome is not what Andrea receives. Once she's past the gate, Rick pushes her hard against the wall and pats her down; the rest of the group keep their guns trained on her. Once inside the prison proper, the group radiates terse, antagonistic silence at her while she tries to explain her crazy theory that maybe Woodbury and prison shouldn't go to war and needlessly kill a bunch of people who were totally innocent both of the Governor's bullshit and Rick's raid.

Andrea gets a less-than-happy reunion with Rick in The Walking DeadS

Andrea's pleas fall on deaf ears, as everyone in the prison (except maybe Herschel) wants to kill the Governor, regardless of the risk. As usual, I don't know what TWD wants me to think. Are we supposed to be aghast like Andrea, and how hard and cold Rick and her former pals have become? (There's a great moment where Andrea looks at The Soulless Killing Machine Known as Carl, and actually gasps.) Are we supposed to root with Rick, and his desire for vengeance over the survival of his group? Are we supposed to see Rick's refusal to stop hostilities as matching the Governor, since they're both acting the exact same way? (This is where I'm leaning, obviously).

This isn't a bad problem — hell, this examination of what it means to be human and humane once society has completely broken down is what's most fascinating about TWD –- but I still don't know if TWD is raising these questions on purpose, or if they're still trying to present Rick as a hero and just failing.

Anyways, Andrea catches up on all the gossip (i.e., who's dead), meets Lil' Ass-kicker, and has a heart-to-heart with Carol who nonchalantly asks her to fuck the Governor and then kill him while he's in a sex coma. Andrea thinks this is completely insane, and I hate it when the show makes me agree with Andrea. Carol's certainly gotten more pragmatic since season 1, but I didn't think that she'd gotten to the point where she'd ask a friend(?) to murder a dude in cold blood just to protect her band of people over another group of people. Again, are we supposed to think Carol's idea is a good one, if only because Rick and his group are technically the protagonists, and we want them to live over another group? Or are we supposed to be as horrified as Andrea is at Carol's suggestion?

Either way, Andrea takes this is a sign to go back to Woodbury. Rick and pals are — well, I wouldn't go as far as to say they're kind to her — but they are polite, at least, giving her a gun and a car, although no one is sad to see her go.

I'm actually glad Andrea chose Woodbury, because it makes sense, and for her to choose otherwise would just be shitty writing. Andrea hasn't seen the prison group in quite a while — probably almost as long as she was with them, maybe more — and when she finds them, they treat her like an outsider. See it from her perspective: Both Woodbury and the prison are full of assholes bent on destroying each other. If those are Andrea's two choices, why wouldn't she pick the one where someone's actually nice to her, and has hot water?

Meanwhile, someone has beaten Andrea back to Woodbury — Tyrese and his group, who were so rudely screamed at by Rick in full Captain Crazypants mode two weeks ago. The Governor brings them into Woodbury with open arms, and doesn't even ask them to help in his little war — Tyrese has to insist, saying he wants to earn his keep, because Tyrese is a good guy, and because in Tyrese's limited experience with both Rick and the Governor, Rick is definitely the evil psychopath of the two.

Andrea gets a less-than-happy reunion with Rick in The Walking Dead

Then Andrea returns to Woodbury, she has sexy sex with the Governor, and then brings a knife over to the sleeping Guv, following Carol's ridiculous request. I was tense — not because I thought for a second that the Governor was at all in danger, but because I was pretty sure he was going to blow Andrea's head off. Which I was surprised to discover I'd be sad about. Andrea is still preachy and awful, but at the moment she and Tyrese are the only characters who seem to give a shit about being human.

I know it seems like most of my recaps are mostly criticism, and this is because they are, and that's because The Walking Dead is a deeply flawed show. But thanks to the low bar it's been banging into for most of its existence, whenever TWD manages to rise above and give us something compelling other than the action, I'm pretty satisfied, and I was pretty satisfied with "I Ain't a Judas." But I still won't mind when the Governor loads up another delivery truck for zombies for the prison, either.

Assorted Musings:

• The Governor's constant bullshitting of Andrea is really, really undercutting his menace. Last week he was gunning down everything he could, last night he's evasively lying to Andrea that the prison folk shot first. Look, if you want to be an evil badass, don't lie to your girlfriend like you're on an episode of Two and a Half Men, all right? Just be evil.

• There's a tense moment where Carl and Maggie see Andrea approaching the prison but don't recognize her, and it seems like Maggie might shoot her thinking she's one of the Governor's troops. This, by the way, would have been a HILARIOUS way for Andrea to go.

• Zombie Maiming of the Week: Andrea stomping her Decoy Zombie's mouth into a carefully placed rock to destroy its jaw. Even thinking about that scene makes my teeth hurt.

• There's a great moment when Rick and everyone at the prison is giving Andrea shit, and she sees Merle holding his automatic weapon in his one hand, and she calls them out on their bullshit. I'm not directly quoting: "Really? The guy who beat Glenn to a pulp and only left Woodbury because he got busted in a lie gets to be Captain AK-47, while I'm getting raked over the coals?" It's a great question, and TWD has no answers.

• The Governor's cross-shaped eye wound looks pretty damned badass. Also, he finally puts on the traditional pirate eye-patch this episode.

• Milton tells the Governor about Andrea's plan, and the Governor lets her go. I'd love to say this is another facet of the Guv's complex personality, but he's still pretty light on personality, so it's just another arbitrary thing he does. Sigh.

• Rick takes Michonne and Carl on his supply run next episode, which means Rick and Michonne finally get some time together, which possibly means they might finally start developing the relationship they have the comics. Seeing as TV Michonne has been much more sullen than badass, I eagerly await for the TV show to give me a reason to give a fuck about this character.

• Merle: "About trying to kill you. That was just me, followin' orders."
Michonne, bitterly: "Like the Gestapo."
Merle, obliviously pleased: "Exactly!"