When last we saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln), he had a Cheshire Cat-like grin as the Alexandrians were surrounded by a heavily armed new group. In New Best Friends, The Walking Dead reminds us just how tough our lead zombie killer is. It takes almost the entire episode to get to that point, but there were certainly some major development along the way. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) have their long awaited reunion. But Daryl's respite in the Kingdom doesn't go according to plan.

New Best Friends opens with King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Morgan (Lenny James), and Richard (Karl Makinen) supplying the Saviors. Richard gets into an altercation with a mouthy Savior, who is then blocked by Morgan's staff. Both men take a beating for their troubles. The Saviors warn Ezekiel to leave Richard behind.

Back at the Kingdom, Richard is seen shooting arrows at a target. This entices Daryl to watch him practice. Richard slickly passes a new crossbow to Daryl. He's heard of his proficiency with the weapon. Richard draws Daryl in on his scheme to force Ezekiel to join Rick's rebellion against the Saviors. They will attack the Saviors. Lure them to a trusted confidante of the King. Then watch as they kill that person, thus drawing Ezekiel into the conflict.

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Richard takes Daryl to his secret camper loaded with weapons. They then travel to a road that the Saviors often take. As they hide behind a derelict truck, Daryl asks who are they sacrificing to start this war. Richard says there's a woman Ezekiel admires. She's tough as nails, but foolishly left the Kingdom to live by herself. Daryl demands to know her name. When Richard says Carol, the jig is up as the Savior convoy approaches. Daryl beats down Richard. He swears he'll kill him if any harm ever befalls Carol.

Back at the junkyard, Rick, Michonne (Danai Gurira), and the Alexandrians are trapped by the cult-like group. Their leader emerges, a tall, thin woman with bangs. She speaks in a monotone, Yoda-like prose. She owns their lives, but they can buy them back. Rick demands to see Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam). The junkyard cult brings Gabriel to them. Rick says that their lives belong to the Saviors. And if they're killed, the Saviors will come looking for what happened.

Gabriel sees Rick's flashing smile. He grabs a knife and puts it to the throat of his captor. A brief scrum erupts between the junkyard group and the Alexandrians. Gabriel yells for everyone to stop. He boldly proclaims Rick's greatness, "This man can do anything. He can get anything you need." The junkyard leader is impressed. She says their group has needs; that their food has spoiled, in her bizarre monotone. Everyone backs off. She leads Rick up to the top of a pile, then promptly pushes him over the edge.

Everyone runs to various viewpoints to see what has befallen Rick. He gets up and is confronted by a hideous walker, covered with metal spikes and armor. Rick attempts to hold him off, but a spike pierces his hand and leg. Michonne screams to use the garbage against him. Rick pulls down a wall on top of the walker. He then pulls down another wall of trash to trap it completely. He finds a piece of sharp metal and quickly dispatches the beast. The junkyard leader throws him a rope. Rick climbs back to the top with his bloody hand. He has proven himself.

The junkyard leader wants guns and food. She will join Rick, if he can provide for them. They had watched the boat for some time. They take what they need, but did not plan for the boat goods to be stolen. Rick bargains back half of the goods taken from Alexandria. He shakes hands with the strange women. Rick finally asks her name, Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh).

At Carol's house, she gets a visit from Ezekiel and his men. He brings her cobbler. She doesn't appreciate being bothered. Ezekiel claims to be out clearing walkers. Carol goes back inside, but is brought back in a huff by a knock on the door. It's Daryl. They share a deep, long embrace. Carol explains she couldn't take the killing anymore. She had to leave. She asks what happened with the Saviors. Daryl lies to her. He doesn't tell her about Glenn and Abraham's murders. Carol weeps, but Daryl decides to leave her in her sanctum.

Back at the junkyard, the Alexandrians are packing up to leave. Gabriel says he has faith in Rick. How else could he have found him so far away. They will prevail, but the struggle will be difficult. Tara (Alana Masterson) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) argue about Rosita's cavalier attitude. Tara says they can't separate, but drop off the food and regroup. Rick asks Tara if she's seen anything in her far travels. Tara lies again about her time with the ocean group. She's seen nothing. Rick and Michonne embrace as they go back home.

At the Kingdom, Daryl is petting Ezekiel's tiger. Morgan says Ezekiel respects him greatly. Daryl implores Morgan to help him convince Ezekiel to fight. When Morgan refuses, Daryl bitterly chastises him to "wake the hell up." Whatever he's holding onto is long gone. Morgan says that's not true. He knows that Daryl did not tell Carol what really happened with the Saviors. Daryl decides to leave the Kingdom and return to the Hilltop. He walks out of the gates with Morgan and Richard watching.

New Best Friends continues the build-up of Rick's army. It's obvious that the Kingdom will join, but may be painfully dragged out for the remainder of the season. Jadis and the junkyard group are too good to be true, a bunch of cultish loonies itching to fight. It's all incredibly contrived, but damned entertaining. Rick's battle with the spiked walker was good enough by itself. Next week on The Walking Dead, premiering only on AMC, we finally find out how Eugene (Josh McDermitt) fares in Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) clutches.

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Julian Roman