Oh man. It’s a good thing I had no expectations for last night’s episode because I’d have been sorely disappointed after watching the snoozefest that was this Tara-centric episode no one wanted.

Let’s see:

Tara and Heath took off 9 episodes ago to look for weapons and medical supplies, so they missed all the Negan/Saviors action. For all they knew, the problem was taken care of at the satellite outpost. So we return to these two characters this week and see Tara passed out on a beach in the cold open; a young girl and a child are walking around spearing random bloated walkers in the head when they come across Tara. The little girl (Rachel, basically a female psycho Negan in the making) just wants to take her out, but Cyndie spares her life, drags her out to safety behind a driftwood wall and leaves her with a couple of water bottles, a salted perch and a spear.

In the flashbacks, we see what happened between the time Tara and Heath started off their 2-week scavenging roadtrip and now: all they found was a few rusty cans of okra and some aspirin, and Heath was sulking and grumpy and generally unpleasant presumably the entire time. I wouldn’t want to be alone with this guy for two weeks looking for supplies, but Tara somehow remains positive. I get that it’s significant to show that Heath has quickly turned into a cynic who subscribes to the “your life or mine” philosophy while Tara retains some of her humanity, but this entire scene in the RV just made me yawn.

Aside from the fact that we finally get to see a beach on this show, the whole sequence with Tara investigating the weird village, complete with creepy music that felt very out of place, was like watching a bizarre TWD: Survivor edition spinoff. She finally makes her way to the hippie-commune-like settlement of Oceanside but of course gets captured and cuffed to a radiator, Walter White-style (as much as this episode annoyed me, any nod to Breaking Bad is a welcome one), but not before she speaks some of the most moronic lines of dialogue we’ve had on this show. Who opens with “Hi” when surrounded by machine-gun wielding women? She said cool twice in the span of 2′, for crying out loud. I get that the intention was to underline the awkwardness, but she just sounded like a freaking idiot. If I were any of those badass Oceanside ladies I would have shot her then and there.

Cut to: another flashback of Tara and Heath investigating the bridge-turned-settlement, where we get this inane bit of dialogue:
– Looks like they had plans for something.
– Looks like they didn’t get to finish.
Gee, Captain Obvious, thanks for that one. Did the writers take time off this week? Did a preschooler write this episode?

The brief action sequence on the bridge with the walkers was passable only because the sand walkers looked cool, but all it did was remind us that Tara’s “badass fighter” mode is sub-par (and Heath’s skills aren’t even worth mentioning, really).

Back to the here and now, Oceanside leader Natania is trying to decide what to do with Tara, and the obvious solution to their problem is inviting her to stay. She explains how their shooting strangers on sight policy came about after another group, which we later find out is none other than the Saviors, killed all their men when they decided to fight back instead of keeping their end of the usual “Negan gets half your stuff” agreement. Was I the only one reminded of Barbecue Mary from Terminus when Natania was giving Tara the lowdown on the Oceanside status quo?

The whole segment at Oceanside would have been tolerable had it not included a couple of incredibly stupid scenes which were obviously meant as comic relief but just didn’t work for me AT ALL.

For one thing, her choice of fishing boat was a “larder“?? Seriously? Tara hasn’t heard of a larder before? And we’re supposed to like this character because…?

Secondly, that awkward fistbump/cupping goodbye was just ludicrous. What the hell is wrong with a good ol’ handshake? Why would a grandmother bump fists with you? I’ll take Carl and Enid rollerskating through the apocalypse over this load of crap any day.

Anyway, Natania decides to “let Tara go” and sends her on her way with two guides, who I guess we’re supposed to assume are meant to kill her, since everyone at Oceanside wants to keep their little village a secret. The only detail that redeemed this scene after the failed fist bump was Tara flipping off Rachel, which, although satisfying, was so reminiscent of an old Louis CK bit that I can’t even credit the writers for that one.

Tara manages to escape only because these women have proved to be awful shots, and of course because Cyndie is there to bail her out once again. I won’t even go into the absurdity of giving Tara and Cyndie such a head start because I was too distracted by the – once again – awful dialogue. Cyndie may be the one likable character out of that whole group of women, but she’s not the brightest bulb in the box. First, we get this little gem:

“Nobody’s evil. They just decide to forget who they are.”

Um, no. If we’ve learned anything in the apocalypse, is that such statements are simply retarded.

Then, we get this awful exchange when Cyndie realizes how much trouble she’s in for helping Tara get away:
– Just tell them i attacked you.
– They know you, Tara.

Ehm, what? They’ve known her for like what, half a day? She already lied to them about where she was from. For all they know, she didn’t hurt them because she wanted to infiltrate them and raid their village at her leisure (although I have to admit that, given how stupid she sounded this entire episode, Natania probably didn’t think she had the mental ability to devise any such scheme).

Once again we’re treated to a long sequence that did nothing more than illustrate how bad Tara is at fighting walkers. She comes across Heath’s glasses, a card that reads “PPP” (which I guess is this season’s equivalent of JSS, just even more uniniteresting?) and tire tracks leading away from the bridge. So basically Heath just took off and left her behind? Why are we supposed to care about Heath, again?

Tara eventually finds her way back to Alexandria, strutting towards the gates all cocky in her new sunglasses, which simply makes zero sense. While holding her at gun point before Tara escaped, Beatrice told her about the Saviors; she learned they only killed some of Negan’s men back at the outpost, and there’s plenty more when they came from. For all she knows, all her people were killed just like the men of Oceanside. Why is she so freaking happy to be back to what could potentially be just death and devastation? I know she’s supposed to be a glass-half-full kind of gal, but watching her walk with such glee she all but hopped towards Alexandria just made her seem even more of an idiot than her ‘larder’ blunder did.

And so she finally returns home only to be met with the dreadful news about Denise, Glenn and Abraham. Rosita is desperate for any lead that might help them fight against the Saviors; Tara doesn’t seem as gung-ho as the rest of our group’s women (undestandable, since she’s only found out the devastating news) and keeps her promise to Cyndie to keep Oceanside a secret.

So what did this entire episode accomplish, other than to show us that Tara is still a good person, which we already knew? It was the quintessential filler episode about two characters we don’t really care all that much about, and the writing was abysmal. (This may have something to do with the fact that it was written by David Leslie Johnson, not one of the staff writers, but that’s still no excuse). We got zero character development, we saw nothing we haven’t really seen before other than the introduction of yet another group – which might take ages to pay off and we have bigger fish to fry right now – we got even more reasons to not care about Heath, and the only thing that even came close to feeling like a true TWD episode were the creepy sand walkers and the bobblehead doctor figure Tara picks up along the way, as a bittersweet callback to Denise’s quest for Orange Crush soda (which is really what got her killed in the first place).

Look, I may get a kick out of ragging on awful movies and I might enjoy calling out the various shows I watch on their occasional bullshit, but I DON’T like hating on TWD. I want to see the best they have to give us and nerd out over fantastic episodes, not be subjected to badly written crap whose sole purpose is to hold us over until the big mid-season finale.

To make things even worse, the Talking Dead episode that followed was even more boring, if that’s possible. Even Chris Hardwick couldn’t really defend what we just had to go through – and I’m pretty sure they had to work really hard to find positive tweets to read out, from viewers who were excited for a Tara-centric episode. The guests on the couch were as unremarkable as the episode itself: Cassandra Peterson (I mean…), Alanna Masterson and his comedian buddy Jonah Ray filling in for a guest who had to bail at the last minute. Not only was Jonah completely unfunny and Cassandra a very odd choice – I get that she’s apparently a superfan but her entire contribution to the episode was her comment about Negan being hot – but Alanna Masterson seems to become more unlikable every time she appears on Talking Dead (last time she was on, during season 5, she was simply dreadful).

She made a huge deal out of not having time to prepare for the action in the episode, and that’s just such utter bullshit that I can’t even. She didn’t have “people to prep her” for what every single one of her co-stars have been doing on this show since day 1? Seriously?

She then follows that with some background info about the high temperatures and blazing hot sun in Georgia at the time they shot the sand walker sequence – again, nothing new, they always shoot in the middle of blistering hot weather – and offers this amazing insight: there was nothing to hide under, not one tree on that bridge. Really, Alanna? No trees on a bridge? Who would have thought? My eyes were rolling throughout the entire 45′ of Talking Dead.

As if those snippets of wisdom courtesy of Ms. Masterson weren’t enough, we got an extended edition of “I’m a mom now and it’s hard” for good measure (newsflash, Alanna: as far as working mothers go, you have it pretty easy. Also, Sasha was also pregnant last season and not only did she bounce back and kick ass right away, she didn’t whine on Talking Dead like some privileged moron).

To top it off, she also gave us this incredibly ignorant line about the bridge sequence: “A girl fell over with me off the bridge“. Not an extra, or a hero walker or one of the stunt people, a “girl“. Like, some random girl who apparently doesn’t deserve any more descriptors. Gee, you really do respect your fellow cast and crew members, don’t you? [I know I’m hard on her but really, she couldn’t have appeared more obnoxious and full of herself if she tried.]

Sigh. You disappoint me, TWD. We got a good season premiere, a solid Kingdom episode and 4 lukewarm ones so far this season. Not really good odds, if I’m honest. On the plus side, it can’t really get much worse than Swear. Hopefully Jesus will save the day next week (no pun intended).