Well this was a semi-pleasant surprise. I must say, the idea of a Negan-and-mostly-Eugene stand alone episode didn’t excite me all that much on paper, but I feel like they actually pulled it off. Or maybe they just set a very low bar with the garbage people last week. Either way, I actually enjoyed this one, so here we go:

We start out with poor Eugene in full wimp mode. After a brief display of bravery, it wasn’t long before he descended back into his blubbering coward fall-back persona (not that I blame him. If/when the zombie apocalypse happens, I’ll be sniffling and cowering my way around too, and I won’t even need a big bad Negan to scare me into Peepee Pants City).

Eugene soon finds out that all the worrying was for nothing: his new digs may not be as posh as the suburban homes of Alexandria, but he’s far from the naked, dog-food sandwich treatment Daryl got. He even gets to choose from the Saviors menu – and asks for lobster, pickles and potato chips, but our favorite mulleted weirdo doesn’t like them freshly made. Okay then. Canned pasta and orange-y tomato sauce will have to do, with a side of Easy Street, because of course. To be fair, the head-bobbing suggests he’s enjoying it far more than poor Daryl.

Meanwhile, the one getting tossed into Daryl’s cell is Dwight – this used to be his old cell after all, from back when he took Daryl’s posessions and returned to Negan with his tail between his legs. Dwight comes back to the Sanctuary to find out his prisoner killed Fat Joey, stole a bike and fled, and in his place is the handwritten note his wife left Daryl urging him to escape. (By the way, did people really think Dwight was behind the escape plan for a while there? Does the girly handwriting really look like it belongs to D?)

Well, at least one person seems to think D is responsible: Negan – and his goons, who waste no time roughing him up before he gets thrown back into the cell (“roughing him up” is a bit of an exaggeration, as we find out soon enough: all that punching and kicking and all D has to show for it is a minor cut on his forehead. What up, makeup department? I guess after applying the burn prosthetics they figured fuck it).

Despite his many grievances, as Negan points out, D is loyal to the big man with the bat, declaring he is Negan before agreeing to go looking for his wife, who seems to have run away shortly after Daryl made his escape. Apparently Negan believes D is still very much a Savior at heart, too. Only a fool would have stuck around and wait for punishment if he was in on the Daryl/Sherry escape, right?

As D rides off in search of Sherry, Eugene gets the grand tour of the compound. Laura, the blonde with the neck tattoo acting as his tour guide, points out the important stuff: “Beer, bread, cut your head“. Are the Saviors talking like the junkyard peeps now? Or are the writers simply trying to counteract Eugene’s awkward dialogue and Negan’s verbose lines? Still, I have to admit that the next line (“might be able to kill that thing on your head“) was decent.

After getting a taste of the good life, Eugene is shown outside for a face-to-face with Negan. As usual, he’s awesome at looking hilariously pitiful, cradling his newly acquired jar of pickles. Negan and his people introduce themselves and our favorite psychopath wants to know if Eugene really is worth all the trouble. Is Eugene a smarty pants*? Why yes, he is. He spews the same bullshit that got him hooked up with Abraham and Rosita, and by now he’s pretty damn convincing.

(*By the way, what is it with Negan and his obsession with pants-related phrases? First pee pee pants, now smarty pants, what’s next?)

Negan may be in a league of his own, but when faced with Eugene’s unique conversation style (“If knowledge is dropped, I do indeed pick it up“), he has the same is this guy for real? reaction as everyone else. Not to be deceived, he poses a question: how do we keep the walkers from disintegrating into a pile of shit, he asks as we get a shot of a decaying specimen doing just that.

I have to say, Negan’s problem isn’t really a problem, is it? It’s not like there’s not an abundance of walkers waiting to be captured by the Saviors at any given moment (or, in the unlikely event of a lack of walker herds around their compound, it’s not like Negan’s people are loathe to CREATE new walkers, right?). It looks like this non-issue is simply a way for the writers to cater to the GoT fans among us by having Eugene suggest that they give the walkers glorified Viserys crowns and armor – except the walkers get melted scrap metal instead of gold.

Either way, Negan is impressed and wants to give Eugene a ‘signing bonus’, but Eugene is all like ‘I’m good, I was gifted these pickles”. Look, I appreciate the effort to bring some levity to the show, even if it feels forced by now, since the whole season premiere outrage over the excessive violence, but now that the novelty has worn off, Eugene’s awkwardness doesn’t feel as funny as it used to. Still, A for effort, I guess.

Eugene’s reward, aside from the complimentary jar of pickes, is a night with some of Negan’s wives. Not for sex, of course – and by Eugene’s own admission, it’s not like he’d really be up to the task, anyway. I mean, the man believes having Negan’s wives play videogames is “showing them a good time”! Instead, they get pop corn and videogames and yet another dose of the whole Dr. Eugene/Human Genome Project spiel while Amber gets progressively more wasted by the minute.

The scene does drag on unnecessarily, but I suppose we needed to establish some kind of bond between Eugene and the wives. He even gets to show off by gathering a few household items and conducting science experiments in the yard, which raises the question: does Negan really trust this guy already? Does he trust his wives, given how Sherry just escaped? Why is no one monitoring them? And why does Eugene look so damn grumpy when the wives ooh and aah over the mini-explosion? I’m never seen a guy look so miserable to be hugged by pretty women before.

No matter: the wives seem to find Eugene quite useful and ask him to help Amber commit suicide by preparing some kind of deadly concoction, because they can tell he’s a good man. “I’m not lawful, neutral or chaotic, none of the above“, responds Eugene, and if you understood that sentence please tell me what the hell that was supposed to mean. Or are we just tossing around random words now? Even the junkyard Scavengers made more sense than that.

[Edit: apparently my college ethics classes didn’t include the D&D version of the moral alignment chart so this whole lawful/neutral/chaotic business was a mystery to me]

Although reluctant, Eugene goes along with the plan by requesting demanding a very odd array of supplies from one of the numbered Savior workers. I get the extra-strength cold capsules, but how does one turn a bed pan, a fly swatter and a “gremblygunk” into the pill equivalent of a lethal injection? (And yes, I realize I’m focusing on inconsequential details here, but this is beyond McGuyver territory!)

What’s important is how quickly Eugene manages to turn off the wimpy attitude and put on the confident, douchey facade when dealing with the lady in charge of the med supplies and inventory. Again, however, the question remains: does Eugene have free reign? Is no one even a little worried that their new recruit might not be completely trustworthy?

Meanwhile, Dwight goes back to his and Sherry’s secret meeing place – was this their home before the apocalypse? – but she’s already gone. She’s left her wedding rings and a note which I’m really on the fence about. On one hand, it’s touching; on the other, the entire premise is very weird. She doubts he’ll even remember to come back to the cottage because his memory is so bad? Seriously? And she leaves because she wants him to forget who he used to be? If he had so much trouble remembering the past, wouldn’t he be having a much easier time dealing with the fact that Sherry was now one of Negan’s wives? I mean he probably couldn’t remember the good ol’ days with her, right? How does that even make sense? Especially since D’s memory seems to be completely intact, and he shows up with beers and pretzels, just like he had promised he would if they ever got separated.

Back at the compound, he has another chat with Dr. Carson, who basically has it down pat: it’s a new world order, we have to be down with Negan if we’re going to survive, big hearts don’t fare well at the Sanctuary so Sherry wasn’t long for this world. Keep your head down and do your thing, in a nutshell.

Unfortunately, the good doc is in for a big surprise, and I guess this is yet another instance of the writers doing a bait-and-switch on us. Not only was Dwight not involved in Daryl’s escape, but he gladly sets the doctor up in order to save his own ass, by planting evidence in his office. Laura makes a terrified Eugene watch as Negan gives the doc a good beating with Lucille before teasing to burn his face off unless he cops to conspiring with Sherry to release Daryl. The doctor naturally confesses and gets promptly thrown into the furnace, which, I must say, was unexpected. I guess the Lucille treatment is reserved for non-Saviors only? Or did Negan just not want to make a huge mess?

As the top half of the doctor is burned to a crisp, Negan reaffirms D’s loyalty: he has nothing to gain by lying. And that right there makes as little sense as Sherry’s note. Of course Dwight has every reason to lie to save his wife and get himself off the hook, just like the doctor had nothing to gain by letting Daryl and Sherry go. Is it just me or is the logic here completely flawed? Negan actually believes that a night in his old cell was just what Dwight needed to do his duty, and he doesn’t even require proof that Sherry is dead? I don’t buy that.

For a guy who runs such a tight ship and seems to be quite smart about managing his people, it’s a bit unrealistic to have Negan take everything he’s told at face value. The writers did a great job of making him look completely oblivious this week, and unless there’s a payoff later on this season, this entire subplot really takes away from whatever depth the character was supposed to have. For what it’s worth, my money is on Negan just biding his time until he can catch D in a lie and unleash Lucille on him. In the meantime, the doctor served as a good scare tactic in case Dwight starts thinking about double crossing him – and was completely expendable, as are the wives.

Which brings me to Eugene and another gripe about Negan: we already know the guy is bad news and can go nuts at the drop of a hat on just about anyone. We don’t need the long, menacing stares when they’re just followed by a friendly conversation. Was Negan standing at the doorway staring daggers at Eugene supposed to scare him, or us? Either way, it just felt cheap to me. Eugene was sweating bullets because he’s always nervous as fuck in Negan’s presence, but not too nervous to eagerly declare himself his loyal subject before Negan even got the question out. It’s not like any of us doubted that he’d be the easiest one to break now, was it?

Okay, so maybe the wives were more surprised than we were. It’s completely normal for them to expect Eugene to help them, since Negan killed his people. What’s not normal is actually going through with the death pill even though he suspects it was really meant for Negan, not Amber.

And then we see Eugene acting as senior engineer (or whatever his self-appointed title was) and giving the workers directions on how to properly pour the melted metal on the walkers, as he is joined by Dwight: two guys acting like Savior douches in order to stay alive. Nothing about this was surprising; for all his faults, Eugene has a unique ability to adjust and play his part when it comes to surviving, and I’m just glad this turn only took one episode.

Will Eugene manage to turn Dwight where Daryl failed? Or did Negan’s dig at how he was underused by Rick plant the seed of doubt in Eugene?
Are we ever going to catch up with Sherry again?
Will Negan pay a visit to Alexandria next? He did say he just sent Simon there to act as “good cop” (although he did trash the place), so I’m guessing we’re looking at more casualties in upcoming episodes?

I haven’t seen the previews for next week, but my guess is that a Hilltop episode is in order: Daryl is headed there and Negan will probably send Simon to fetch the other dr. Carson. I’m also hoping that maybe Sherry will find her way there – or maybe the Kingdom? It would be fun if she ran into Carol. It would be even better if we don’t just get the Hilltop but a bit of Alexandria and the Kingdom thrown in as well. Take another page from the GoT book, writers!