We open with Merle sadly not being eaten by zombies, restrained on top of the building still. Because the corridor to the roof is narrow and the door was chained by T-Dog, the Walkers can't get out to him (alas). He manages to pull a hacksaw from the tool kit T-Dog spilled to him.
Meanwhile, Rick, Morales, Glen, T-Dog, Jacqui and Andrea return to the refugee camp. Morales says the only person who'll miss Merle will be his brother, Daryl. We have a reunion when they return and Rick finds Lisa and are still alive (his wife and child) and we have the big tearful reunion. We have more development of some of the refugees, we see Morales and his family (I don't think his family ever gets names or speaking parts), Andrea's sister Amy, Dale, Jim – and another arsehole for us to wish death on, Ed with his abused wife (Carol) and child (Sophia). There's also Shane of course (who isn't dead).
Rick and Lori cuddle up, Rick saying how he knew they were alive because of the albums which they then go through. It's a very touching scene and we begin to see fragments of Lori's problems considering her relationship with Shane (who isn't dead). It's a sweet reaffirming scene with an edge due to the love triangle. Especially when we see Shane outside, in the rain on watch, while Lori and Rick get all cosy together. The next day we see them working to live in the camp – cannibalising the sports car, washing on a washboard (and it's noteworthy that all this washing is done by the women in the camp) boiling water before using, foraging and hunting. And even up here – the constant threat of the Walkers.
And we meet Darryl. Darryl is an odd character – unpleasant and deeply loyal to Merle who is an arsehole, yet at the same time extremely capable, skilled and useful. He has poor impulse control yet never feels irredeemable.
We have a lot of guilt and worry about how to tell Darryl that his brother was left behind. T-Dog reveals that he secured the door and Merle may still be up there. There's a steady increasing guilt about having left him behind – about him being alive and still there. Until they decide to go rescue Merle because they're just too good to leave him to die of thirst and exposure, it'd just be wrrrrrong.
Yeah, just to repeat – Merle is barely worth keeping alive if everything was wonderful and shiny – during a zombie apocalypse? Yeah, I'd have left him to rot.
Lori is rightly irritated that her husband who she's just been reunited with is going to abandon them again for the sake of Merle and Shane (who isn't dead) outraged that he'll reduce their manpower by Glenn, T-Dog, Rick and Darryl. Eventually Rick justifies his going by referring to the bag of guns he dropped, guns they need. The bag also contains the walkie-talkie that is his only way to warn Morgan and Duane about what's happening in Atlanta. (See, I think this is a GOOD reason to go back – but none of this means you've got to rescue Merle).
Before they leave we have Rick bargaining for bolt cutters from Dale and Jim – I have to say that I find the whole idea of trading and bargaining in these circumstances ridiculous, especially since everything else seems to be property in common. Anyway, they get the cutters and off they go (I keep telling myself it's to open the door and let the Walkers eat Merle).
Meanwhile back at the camp, Carl reassures Lori that there's no need to worry for Rick because of how much he's already lived through. That childish faith and trust is powerful to see. Carl goes frog hunting with Shane (who doesn't drown) while the womenfolk do the washing (*eyeroll* And points to Jacqui for questioning it – the men are playing while the women work) in a scene that shows how much Shane (who isn't dead) is bonding with Carl while Rick is off in Atlanta. The women, while working start reminiscing about the things that they've left behind, what they miss – computers, coffee makers and their vibrators (with the meek and abused Carol missing her's too) in a great community bonding moment. Ed has to wander down at that moment to break up the fun and play a power trip on the women.
Lori comes down to ask Carl why he left when she told him not to – he says Shane (who isn't dead) said he could and Lori stomps on that and tells Carl he should listen to her. Shane is quick to step in and tell her what she should do and she shuts him down. Lori is furious with him and we find out that Shane told Lori that Rick had died. Now why I can see the logic of saying that (rather than “nah he's alive, I left him unconscious as snack food”) or even assuming he died but such a desire to “spare her” this is rather paternalistic. And skeevy when you consider they entered a sexual relationship after he told her her hubby was dead.
Andrea loses patience with Ed just watching them work doing his laundry, especially after the way he spoke to Carol and cuttingly suggests he works. He puts her down and calls Carol away like a dog. Andrea, Amy and Jacqui both tell Carol she doesn't have to go and refer to her being bruised before. He hits Carol and Shane runs across and beats Ed down and keeps beating him. I'd be there cheering him on and more so except Shane, continuing to hit him after the women tell him to stop, seems to be more using Ed as a punching bag to vent his anger over his argument with Lori than he is defending or avenging Carol.
In Atlanta the Merle Killers (hush, I can dream) are in action. Again, Rick defers to Glen's experience and knowledge of the area which is good to see. They enter the department store where Merle is trapped and Darryl kills any Walkers on the way with his silent crossbow. They reach the door, remove the chain – but Lyle is missing. All that's left is a hacksaw, his severed hand and an empty handcuff (uckies uckies ow... yeah I didn't like Saw either)