The Walking Dead Recap: All dogs go to Hilltop in Stradivarius

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— Courtesy of AMC

Stradivarius, the seventh episode of The Walking Dead’s ninth season, premiered last night on AMC. We got just a little bit more of The Whisperers. Carol continued to grow Machiavellian. And, Daryl was on a quest to find Rick’s corpse.

Abraham was back! No, there weren’t anymore hazy visits from dead people. Michael Cuddlitz directed this episode of The Walking Dead. He did a good job. There were two competing A stories: Michonne (Danai Gurira) escorting the Newbies to the Hilltop and Carol (Melissa McBride) visiting Daryl (Norman Reedus). We got the most information from the B story, however, which caught us up with life on the Hilltop.

Stradivarius appears to be a bridge to next week’s mideason finale. Still, there were enough tidbits of plot to make this an important episode for the overall post-Rick storyline.

X Marks the Spot

We pick up Carol and Henry (Matt Lintz) where we left them last week. They’ve just met up with Daryl, who appeared to be living inside of a river.

Daryl has actually set up the safest open air camp that we’ve ever seen on the series. There were enough warning traps and failsafes built around the perimeter to remind me of Dutch’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) hidden valley ranch of death in Predator.

In one of the most exciting lines of exposition I’ve ever heard, Daryl tells Carol that he’s still out in the wilderness because he’s looking for Rick’s corpse. That’s right! Science and reason still exist on The Walking Dead! There should have been at least pieces of Rick somewhere in the vicinity of the bridge. Daryl, a noted tracker, has become somewhat of an expert at finding pieces of bodies. He brings them back to his camp, cooks them, and feeds them to his dog.

Daryl’s dog is awesome. His name is Dog. Is this a nod to the legendary Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) who also had a dog named Dog? Does The Walking Dead and the NBC Mystery Movie share a universe? If so, when will McCloud (Dennis Weaver) show up on his horse? Only the Internet knows!

Meanwhile, Carol has several goals for her trip to Darylville. She wants him to rejoin society. It’s not just for his own good. Alexandria and the Hilltop need someone like him. I also suspect it has something to do with his quest for Rick. Carol doesn’t hint that she knows anything, but she never plays her hand until it’s necessary.

— Courtesy of AMC

Carol orchestrates quite the manipulative plan. She announces that she would like Daryl to accompany Henry to the Hilltop and watch over him while he learns all about smithing.

Here’s why Carol scares me. She knows this will not go over well with Daryl or Henry. And, surprise! It doesn’t. Her improvised part two involves trapping Dog in a Walker alarm. Daryl will investigate the barking. Henry will follow. Daryl almost gets bit by Walkers who were responding to the barks, but gets saved by Henry who gets a small scrape when he steps on a Walker trap. Carol is a couple of hundred yards away with a bow and arrow, ready to step in if her plan goes awry. It does not. The bond is set. Daryl leaves his fiefdom to join Carol and Henry at the Hilltop.

Most importantly, Dog is saved.

One other side note: after Daryl is unknowingly duped by Carol, he takes his shirt off. He has the same fleshy X over his left kidney that Michonne revealed last week. What do these marks mean? What really went down between Alexandria and the Hilltop during the time jump?