In a flashback we see some of the old familiar gang in a traffic jam.  When they hear explosions in the distance, Lori and Shane run ahead to see planes dropping napalm on the city of Atlanta.  For them, it’s a terrifying vision of what their future holds.  For viewers, it’s a sad reminder of what their world used to be, before they got so skinny and hungry and desperate.

[Spoilers ahead!]

Back in the present, it’s a strangely normal morning at the farm.  Daryl tells a story about seeing a chupacabra as a child.  Glenn awkwardly asks Maggie if she wants to use up the rest of the condoms they have, and she shoots him down.  Carol has the idea to make dinner for Herschel and his family as thanks for their hospitality, but due to social politics she wants Lori to bring it up.

The search for Sophia begins again.  Even as a viewer, this plotline is dragging.  It’s a sticky situation – you can’t sit and wait for a missing girl forever, but where do you draw the line between exhausting all your avenues and wasting time on a fruitless hope?  This is the very point that Rick and Shane differ on.  Shane wants to stop searching for what he thinks is a dead end: “Survival, Rick.  It means making hard decisions.”  Rick feels like he failed Sophia and will not allow himself to give up on her.

In another part of the forest, Daryl finds Sophia’s doll.  His horse startles at a snake and bucks him off, sending him down a steep hill into a stream where he lands on his own arrow, which pierces him in the side.  Always the badass, he gets up and heads for the woods with the arrow still embedded in him.  It’s a slow, torturous climb up a hillside, and when he’s halfway up he falls back down.

Back at the farm, Lori tells Glenn not to tell anyone’s she’s pregnant.  Rick and Shane return.  Rick tells Lori that Shane wants to call off the search for Sophia and move on.  Herschel is angry that decisions are being made without his approval, and he demands that Rick clear things with him first.

In a haze, Daryl sees his brother Merle.  Merle accuses Daryl of abandoning him.  He’s the voice of doubt, telling Daryl that everyone else thinks he’s a redneck and that he should shoot Rick instead of following his orders.  It’s clear that Merle has always bullied Daryl, and this is how Daryl’s imagination conjurs him now.  The image of Merle fades to a zombie about to chew on his foot, but Daryl smashes his face to splatters.  Before long there’s another, and Daryl pulls the arrow through his own body to load and shoot it.  That is hardcore!

As much as I disliked all the non-comic character additions in the beginning, Daryl has really earned his place in my opinion.  He eats a raw squirrel (is it strange that this is the scene that bothers me most in this episode?) and cuts off the zombies’ ears to wear on a necklace.  Daryl has always been the most hunt-savvy member of the group, but this is a marked turn towards a warrior mentality.  Merle appears again to taunt Daryl from the top of the woodside hill and mentions the chupacabra.  The taunting angers Daryl enough to motivate him to climb the hill.

Lori and Carol go ahead with their dinner plans, and Herschel is irritated that it wasn’t run by him first.  He confronts Maggie about Glenn – he wants to make sure his people don’t get too close to Rick’s group.  Dale is upset that Andrea has parked herself on top of the camper with a rifle, but as a fan of sharpshooter Andrea in the comic, I was ecstatic to see her with a weapon.  Glenn tells Dale that all the women are acting strangely and reveals that he slept with Maggie.  When an exasperated Dale asks what he was thinking, Glenn replies,  “I was thinking that I might be dead tomorrow.”

Andrea sees Daryl returning from the woods and thinks he’s a zombie.  The others run towards him and Andrea shoots him in the head before she realizes who it is.  Luckily she just grazes him.  Herschel snottily tells Rick,”It’s a wonder you people have survived this long.”  Shane says again that he thinks they should call off the search.  He tells Lori he only cares about keeping her and Carl safe, but she refuses to be his excuse.

Carol brings Daryl dinner and gives him a kiss.  She tells him that he did more for Sophia than her father ever did.  When Daryl tells her he only did what Rick or Shane would have done, she replies, “You’re every bit as good as them.”  Carol is the opposite of Merle, reassuring Daryl that he, too, is a hero, as unlikely as it may be.

Maggies passes Glenn a note asking him to hook up with her again.   When she finally reads his response to meet in the hayloft, she takes off running.  Glenn is already climbing into the barn, and once inside he sees Herschel’s big secret – that there are zombies milling about inside.  Lots of zombies.

We learn a lot about Daryl in this episode.  He really believes in the chupacabra he saw when he was young, which I was surprised by.  He doesn’t seem the type to indulge his imagination, and I also think if he saw a strange animal he’d be more likely to shoot it.  The story of the chupacabra is there to prime us for when he sees Merle, another conjured vision.  I think the most telling moment is when he’s teased for believing in a blood-sucking dog and he retorts that no one ever expected to see the dead walking around either.  Somehow Daryl is the character that reminds us that the impossible is now not only feasible, but actually happening.

If you missed the previous episode, be sure to read our ‘The Walking Dead: Cherokee Rose’ recap to catch up.