Last night’s episode began with a flashback. Lori was patiently waiting outside of Carl’s grade school, chatting with another suburban mom about a fight she had with her lawman hubby: Rick was being reasonable, which Lori found infuriating, and the fight escalated. The main problem from Lori’s perspective seemed to be that Rick was being entirely too nice. “Tell me I’m being a bitch, if that’s what I’m being!” she insisted. Soon after she said this, Shane showed up to tell her that Rick was in a gunshot coma; a little while later, the dead started eating flesh. Kind of puts the quotidian problems of the Grimes marriage in perspective. (It’s a little bit like that famous post-9/11 Onion headline, “A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid Bulls— Again.”)
Cut to the present day, and another member of the Grimes family has a bullet lodged in a very uncomfortable place. We saw Rick running through a field, carrying the unconscious Carl to a nearby farm. Behind him, Shane was screaming bloody murder at Otis, the dude who accidentally shot a bullet through a deer into Carl. “Talk to Hershel,” yelled the out-of-shape Otis, “He’ll help your boy!” In a nice bit of casting synchronicity, Otis was played by Pruitt Taylor Vince, who – as Mose Manuel on Deadwood – had his own gunshot-surgery-with-limited-medical-resources storyline. (God, Deadwood was awesome.)
At the farm, Rick met Hershel Greene, a kindly old fellow whose medical resolve was positively Clooney-esque. He told Rick that Carl would likely need a significant amount of donated blood – thankfully, father and son both have A-positive – and then gave him the bad news: Even though the deer did its best impression of a bulletproof vest, there were currently six bullet fragments inside Carl’s body. And they had to come out soon.
What followed was a horrifically extended bit of adolescent battlefield surgery, with Hershel carefully slicing the poor kid open and painfully pulling out one of the bullet fragments. Walking Dead scorekeepers will note that this is the second time in two episodes that a stomach has been torn open in order to perform gory surgery – last week, Dr. Daryl Dixon performed a Jaws-esque intestinal autopsy. Carl screamed like a dolphin swimming through burning oil, and then passed out. “One down,” said Hershel, “Five to go.”
Rick wanted to leave, wanted to bring Lori back to the farm. (He had noble reasons, but the implication was clear: He couldn’t handle this stress alone.) Shane did what any good friend would do, and threatened to break his legs. Hershel strolled out with more bad news: Carl’s belly was distended, and a fragment had knocked out one of his blood vessels. If Hershel tried to perform the kind of delicate surgery that the wound required, and Carl kept understandably freaking out because his stomach was freaking open, the kid would die.
They needed medical supplies. Fortunately, the local high school had been turned into a FEMA shelter. Unfortunately, the place was overrun by Deadites. Shane volunteered to make a supply run, but he didn’t know exactly what they needed. In a happy coincidence that was honestly a bit ridiculous, Otis piped up that, as a matter of fact, he was a Volunteer EMT!
(Comic Book Aside: I’m have to go back and re-read, but I’m pretty sure that Otis was not a volunteer EMT in the Dead graphic novels. In fact, purely going off first impressions, TV-Otis seems to have very little in common with Comic-Otis. Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman has talked a lot about how he views the comic and TV show as two very different takes on the same subject and cast of characters, which is fine, but it’s a bit disquieting that, so far, all the major changes seem to revolve around making characters “nicer.” End of Comic Book Aside.)
NEXT: Daryl Dixon solves the C-Plot.