Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan) and Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). (Gene Page/AMC )
There are a lot of lies involved in the zombie apocalypse. The biggest lie, and the most common one, is also the most necessary: "It's going to be all right." It's the lie of Woodbury, the lie of the phone call. And the reason it's so seductive is that it's all anyone has wanted to believe since the nightmare started, and they're willing to accept just about anything – madness, murder – to make it true.
Conversely, it's the same lie that Michonne has never really let herself believe, which is why she's running from a Woodbury death squad as the episode opens. Turns out the Governor isn't very fond of people who recoil in horror because they see his true face, and since Michonne spent the last several episodes staring at him like he was secretly a spider in a human skin-suit, he's sent Merle and three other men into the woods to hunt her down and take her out.
Merle unwisely decides to taunt the hiding Michonne, daring her to "leap out of the woods, one against four, all of us armed to the teeth, and you with just your little pigsticker." While he's busy laughing, she does exactly that thing he just said, cuts down half the group, and disappears back into the brush like a ninja. Who's laughing now, Merle?
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Back at the prison, Rick is on the phone with the mystery caller from last episode, a woman who claims she was just randomly dialing numbers when he picked up. She says she lives in a safe place, and when Rick asks what makes it safe she answers, "It's just... away." Remember that for later. Rick wants to bring his group to this magical Shangri-La, but the woman hesitates at this request and says she'll call back. A couple of questions: How is the phone company seriously still in operation at this point in the zombie apocalypse? Why would someone who was already someplace safe dial random phone numbers, especially if they weren't sure they wanted more people? The answers to these questions are fairly obvious if you're willing to see them, which Rick is not.
Soon another mystery man calls back from the same mystery location, and asks for some rather odd things, like a personal inventory of all the people Rick has killed. Rick says there are four: two outsiders, and Shane. Math tells me that only adds up to three people, but then there's the kicker: the man asks about the other death that Rick blames himself for: "What happened to your wife?" Rick says he doesn't want to talk about that, and the line (appropriately) goes dead.
Andrea runs across the Governor in the streets of Woodbury, and gets back up on her high horse about how creepy and brutal the zombie MMA fights were, a position that would be a lot more convincing if she didn't immediately follow it up with a request to shoot zombies from the walls of the city. The Governor finds a young archer to teach her how to use a bow, but when the first couple arrows go astray during practice Andrea loses patience, jumps off the wall – which is verboten -- and takes the walker down face to face. She stands up beaming, exhilarated at the kill. “What's wrong with you?” shouts the archery teacher. Good question.
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After a brief sequence of mutual stalking, Merle and Michonne finally have their hand-to-hand showdown, and just as they've incapacitated each other, wouldn't you know that some walkers show up? Michonne manages to disembowel her zombie attacker while lying on the ground, its intestines spilling all over her just before she disappears back into the woods. At first it seems like just another gratuitous horror gross out, but this one actually has a point! When she encounters a cluster of walkers shortly afterward, she learns what Rick figured out back in Season 1: Zombie guts are basically camouflage, and they make the walkers stroll right past her.
Merle tells his compatriot that he is officially sick of Michonne's mad katana skills, and they should just head back to Woodbury and tell the Governor they killed her. Unaware of her new zombie immunity, he also says she's a goner anyway, since she's headed for the ominously named "Red Zone." When the other man objects, perhaps aware that Merle is actively creating a problem that will come back to bite them later in the season, Merle shoots the guy in the head. On his way back, Merle runs into Maggie and Glenn while they're in the middle of a run for baby formula, takes them hostage, and forces them into their car. Their destination, surprisingly, isn't the prison where Merle's beloved brother Darryl is living; it's Woodbury.