‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 711: Welcome Home, Haircut (RECAP)
[Spoiler Alert: Read ahead only if you’ve watched this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Trust us — you really want to see this one first.]
Or should we say “utterly, completely, stone-cold Negan”? Of all the people I never expected to settle right in in Savior-town, you, my brother, topped the list. But by episode’s end, it all begins to make some sense — and, even better, teaches us something new about a character that The Walking Dead has largely used for comic relief and, often, as the poster boy for weakness and dependence.
Eugene still gets to get his stone-faced funny on throughout the episode, but we learn two important things. One, sometimes the lowest totem on the pole is simply there by virtue of the carver. In Rick’s world, where the ability to gaff a walker, fire a gun, scavenge supplies, run like hell, wage a war is everything, Eugene's tender sensibilities and oversized intellect didn't serve much purpose. But that doesn't mean they can't serve a purpose in this apocalyptic world. A big one. In the right circumstance.
And two, lest we forget it as we laugh, Dr. Eugene is dead serious business to Dr. Eugene.
“Hostiles and Calamaties” backs us up a bit from the action of the first two episodes of Season 7B. More specifically, to what was going down at the Sanctuary after Fat Joey became Dead Joey and Daryl escaped the compound. Dwight happens upon other Saviors examining Joey’s corpse, takes a fast glance at an incomplete row of motorcycles and — hearing the rumbling approach of Negan’s supply caravan — sprints off to see if his suspicions are correct. We already know they are.
The supply run includes some human cargo, which we also know is Eugene. The good—and scared witless—doctor is escorted by my new favorite Savior, Laura (Lindsley Register), an hilariously deadpan blond girl with a sizable neck tattoo. We've encountered her a time or two before. Laura lets Eugene whimper and simper as they make their way to his horrible torture cell perfectly serviceable Savior version of a dorm room, complete with video game system, a healthy fern and some books. What the not-hell? Not where I thought we were going there, even if he does know how to make the bullets the Saviors need.
“Welcome home, Haircut,” Laura tells him. She also tells him Daryl bounced and wonders what he might know about that. Eugene says he’d totally rat Daryl out if he knew anything and both Laura and I believe him. Now that that bit of business is taken care of, what does he want to eat? Lobster is not on the menu, but the Chef Boyardee he requests as a back-up is doable — would he prefer orange-y or red? Turns out, his fridge is well-stocked, too — beer, eggs, fresh veggies. Oh, and also, there’s a boom box for his entertainment pleasure. Eugene presses play.
Guess what it plays? Guess.
It plays “Easy Street.” The Collapsable Hearts Club version that nearly drove Daryl—and a good portion of the TWD audience—half mad in the first half of the season. But not Eugene. He listens for a second, then calmly head-bobs along. This is not a toss-off moment.
While Eugene is settling in, Dwight is becoming even more unsettled. Sure enough, he finds the note telling Daryl to “go now” among the stuff Daryl cast off when he made his escape. Dwight’s pretty sure he recognizes the script, but before he can decide what to do next, there is a knock at the door. Who’s there? A solid beat-down—followed by Negan.
Dwight winds up in the cell he occupied after, Negan explains, that “stupid road trip he took with the wife and Tina,” in Season 6. The wife in question is Dwight’s wife. Negan’s wife. Same woman. Surprisingly, the wife is not why he is here, however. Seems Negan thinks Dwight is responsible for Daryl’s escape—that Daryl broke Dwight instead of the other way around. In the process, Neegs discovered Sherry was MIA, too. He finds the whole thing a bit … much.
Oh hell, let’s just cut to the chase. Who are you Dwight? “I’m Negan.” The cell door opens.
Negan is pretty sure he knows what Daryl’s plan is, because Daryl is ruled by his emotions. They’ll find him one way or the other. In the meantime … any insight on Sherry? Dwight says he thinks he might know where she went. That gets his wounds tended by Dr. Carson who gives him a supplemental lecture on the perils of having a soft heart and not adapting to the system like Dwight and Carson have. Dwight grabs a handful of Dum-Dums and leaves. It's time for a field trip. He packs some provisions that he pulls from the mouth of a taxidermied bass on his wall. Namely, cigs with Sherry's lipstick prints on them. Is he hoping that they'll meet up in the out-there version of the stairwell to discuss their next move? Or is he just a sap?
Meanwhile, the education of Eugene continues. Laura walks him through the working ranks, cataloging the various Sanctuary jobs and what they’re good for — “beer, bread, cut your head.” The latter translates to this: Get a freaking haircut, cause you need one. Also, he is one of them now. When he wants something, he takes it, writes down what he took, what it was worth and signs his name. Boom. Done.
As she speaks, only Eugene seems to notice when a guy (or maybe it’s a girl) that I’m going to call Walking Dead Shaun White In The Long-Hair Years sneaks something into his hoodie. Not terribly sneakily. What's up with that? Laura, meanwhile, is distracted by the discovery of pickles she couldn't offer Dwight earlier—and they're “some good DIY stuff,” gherkin fans. Eugene passes anyway. Laura hands him the jar: “You want something, you take it, Haircut.” That's still foreign territory to him.
Time for some face time with Negan. It starts off badly. Negan holds Lucille under a trembling Eugene’s nose and points out the bullet that Eugene made and Rosita embedded in the bat. Then we cut to the nitty-gritty of why Dr. Porter's here in the first place. He managed to make the bullet—so is he a smarty-pants or what? Negan's word, not mine. Yes, says Eugene, he is in fact a smarty-pants. And here’s how he made the bullet. That's what Negan wants, isn't it? No, it is not. It is what makes Negan decide that Eugene is just some shop-talented asshole.
And here, the education of Lori begins.
Eugene, God love him, protests the dis and begins to list his brainiac cred in earnest. Dang! Well, then, Negan would like further proof. Say, how to stop his undead security guards from going to mush. Eugene doesn’t miss a beat. In his travels with Laura, he noticed that the Saviors have everything they need to pour molten scrap metal over the zombies to armor them and attach them to the fence in one fell swoop. Bonus points for covering their head and protecting the definitive walker kill zone from “hostiles and calamities.”
Uh, that was some pretty critical intel you just barfed up right there, Eugene — and at the Alexandrians’ expense. Not sure how that's going to work for you, pal.
In any case, the whole shebang is THE COOLEST THING Negan’s ever heard in his whole entire life and that makes them brand-new besties! To celebrate, Eugene and a few Mrs. Negans shall sex-free party tonight. Would he care to say thank you? He would—"wholly, completely and seriously." And on his way back to his digs, Eugene cracks the hint of a smile.
I don't think it's because of the prospect of beer and chicks.
Indeed, the party entails Eugene instructing a not-completely-bored-looking Tanya and Frankie on the finer points of an ancient video game while Amber—the Negan-wife whose boyfriend got his face ironed into mush in the first half of the season—drinks to excess on his bed. To liven things up a little, Frankie says she's a licensed message therapist and offers up her skills, but Eugene demurs, saying he knows she and her companions are kind of a captive audience. Au contraire, says Tanya. Intelligent conversation is fun! In fact, she could talk about the human genome project he claims to part of all night long. Except we already know that Eugene can’t, so it's a fine thing his back is to her. Instead, he tells the ladies that his role in the project is beyond their comprehension, no offense (some taken). What he can do is build a bomb. OK, not really a bomb. More of a glorified, size XL firework. Whatever. The girls just want a good time. The kind that won’t get everyone killed. And Eugene delivers. Why that bang didn’t bring everyone and their mother — not to mention a walker herd — running is beyond me. But we apparently don't worry about that stuff here.
Meanwhile, Dwight pulls up to a sweet little cottage that he once shared with Sherry. It’s destroyed now, but a long-ago picture of the couple is still there. So is a letter. What follows is some pretty touching stuff —and we learn something curious about Dwight and his brainpower, as well. The long and short of it? Dwight told Sherry that if they ever got separated, she should come back here and he’d ride to her rescue—with beer and pretzels for good measure. But he probably doesn't remember. His lousy memory used to frustrate her — but only because he couldn’t recall the special times they had. She used to feel bad for him for that, but now she knows he’s lucky. She didn't wait for him, because she turned him into someone who could kill for Negan and she doesn't want to know if that applies to her. That's why she had to let Daryl go—because he reminded Dwight of who he used to be and she knew that hurt him. She knows she probably won't survive being on the run, but, unlike Dwight, she doesn't believe life at the Sanctuary is preferable to death.
Her final written words: "I loved who you were. I’m sorry I made you into who you are. Goodbye. Honey." Youch! Dwight adds the wedding rings she left behind to his in the secret Marlboro-pack hiding spot and turns to leave. But he leaves something behind, too. Beer. And pretzels. So much for that failing memory. He leaves the Dum-Dums, too. Hmm.
Back at Eugene's dorm room, Frankie and Tanya are on a mission of their own. See Amber, well, she’s real depressed. Just wants to end things, but peacefully and painlessly. Like, go to sleep and never wake up. No, no mental health services are available, even with the variety of people at the compound. So, since Eugene know chemistry and all, can he make her something to send her sweetly off to Jesus? Er, make it two somethings, just to be on the safe side. They know Eugene will do it, because he is a good man.
Again, Eugene protests. He is not good. Nor is he “lawful, neutral or chaotic” (I'm going to chew on that one for a while.) But he can make the nigh-nigh pill — or as he puts it, "a T-O-pain-free-D, ASAP." To get the job done, Eugene waits in line for supplies for a moment or two, then marches to the front and demands extra-strength cold capsules, and pronto. The worker in charge of the dole tells him to step off. The old (or perhaps we should say Alexandrian) Eugene—and we do see a flicker of him—would have obeyed. The new Eugene — newly-appointed chief engineer of this facility, which may or may not be bulls**t — gets his cold capsules. All of them. Plus a metal bed pan, a red flyswatter and a knit stuffed toy he christens a Grimblygunk. Then he stalks off to the tune of They Might Be Giants’ "Everything Right Is Wrong Again." Heh!
Meantime, Dwight’s back in Dr. Carson's office—but he's there for more than just a boo-boo check. We just don't know it yet. He tells the doctor that he did indeed find Sherry and killed her after she ran from him into a herd of walkers. Carson says it might be tough to forget her, but he should try—and also remember the perils of a big heart.
Dwight remembers, all right.
And this time when Laura comes for Eugene, it’s to take him for his first look at “justice,” Sanctuary-style. Dwight stands at the fireplace, heating the iron, but its intended target isn't immediately apparent. Eugene's too far away for it to have anything to do with him, but Negan points Lucille in his direction and tells him to pay good attention all the same. Then he swings — into Dr. Carson's shoulder. Seems Negan found a slip of paper in Carson's desk, reading "Goodbye, Honey." You know it’s the end of Sherry's letter to Dwight, and I know it’s the end of Sherry's letter to Dwight. Maybe Doctor Lecture should have laid off a little on the lesson about big hearts. He earns another blow from the bat as Dwight just stares into the fire. Pointedly, this time we see the unruined side of his profile.
Negan tells the pleading doctor that right before Dwight killed Sherry, she confessed to him that Carson let Daryl go because she wanted it, but she still ran because she thought Negan would blame her all the same. Carson says Dwight is lying, which we know is true. We also know that, with Negan especially, the truth won't always set you free. Neither will a last-ditch lie to save face and everything south of it. Negan tells Carson that if Dwight indeed made up the story, he'll eventually find out and Dwight will pay with his life. But if the doctor would like to admit to his sins, maybe they can make a deal. So much for understanding the system, Doctor Carson. Your version just got you thrown headlong into the flames. Tanya storms off.
Negan gives the assemblage the Cliffs Notes version of what went down and says he's sorry Dwight had to kill to Sherry. "I'm not," Dwight smirks, casting a look back at the body in the flames as Negan proudly proclaims him ice-cold. We know what he's truly not sorry for. But what is his next move?
Frankie and Tanya drop in on Eugene to see if he's OK after the horror. He's just fine. Better than that. And they can call next for the video game, but it might be a while because Eugene is a man apart. Also, he knows the pills—and yes, he made them—are really for Negan. The ladies gave themselves away when they asked for two. Tanya protests that Negan killed his friends. Eugene says the Alexandrians killed multiple times the Saviors. Turnabout and all that. And if they're really thinking about tattling, well Negan will believe Eugene over the girls for the same reason he believed Dwight over Dr. Carson, without a bit of evidence of Sherry's death (or maybe that what the rings were for?) Some folks are replaceable. Some are not. And there's a new doctor in town now, ladies.
Afterward, Eugene eats a pickle with some serious authority. Then there's a familiar knock on the door. Negan’s come calling—and he's got an offer Eugene has no interest in refusing. There's just one question: "Who are ..."
“I’m Negan," Eugene spouts before Negan can finish the question. "I’m utterly, completely, stone-cold Negan. I was Ngean before I even met you; I just needed to meet you properly to know. I’m Negan."
The next day, Stone Cold Negan supervises the fence project — pickle in hand and Grimblygunk in pocket — when Dwight joins him. It's a decidedly different interaction than, you know, when Eugene bit Dwight in the junk to try to save Abraham, but no less memorable. This time, Eugene takes the lead and Dwight doesn't challenge him. Eugene is Eugene. Dwight is Dwight. And they are both Negan.
At least for now.
So talk about it, Dead fans. Could Eugene really align himself with the man who killed Abraham so brutally, for the sake of comfort—or does he recognize a realm in which his particular brand of weaponry will work best and he'll figure it out from there? Enjoying some Spaghetti-Os and tasty, tasty pickles while he's at it. Heaven knows the Sanctuary is a better supplied, more fortified home base than Alexandria, the Kingdom and Hilltop combined, so when Rick and Co. come calling—and Eugene knows they will—is he doing his part to infiltrate the ranks and aid the effort from the inside? Or is it just more fun to think that Eugene just broke bad and worry about the rest later? And what of Dwight? This is the first I've heard of his memory issues—and all evidence is to the contrary. Now that his reason for abiding by Negan's rules is gone—exactly how gone remains to be seen—what does that mean for his loyalty to the Sanctuary? Or do he and his lady have something in the works? Those Dums Dums seemed like as much of a message as the pretzels and brew. But did he know Darry would play a part or not? Dwight's wearing Daryl's badass angel wings. Is he finally about to earn them?
The Walking Dead, Sunday, 9/8c, AMC