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The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 20 Recap: The Friendships Made Along The Way

The following contains spoilers for "The Walking Dead" Season 11, Episode 20 — "What's Been Lost"

Friendships — whether they're fleeting or long-lasting — are a cornerstone of "The Walking Dead." They can be based on grudging respect, genuine admiration of another party's skill, or forged as a safety measure to ensure one's survival during the apocalypse. Sometimes they turn romantic. Sometimes they end horribly and violently with a betrayal. But without friendship — mutual caring for other living people — there's no point in struggling against the walker-infested odds.

"What's Been Lost" opens with Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) ruminating on the importance of caring for the living as we watch scenes depicting how Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) met and became attached to one another. It turns out that their connection has a vital role to play in the episode, which is a long-form rumination on the importance of human devotion in the face of overwhelming odds. After all, as Judith says, "Having the strength to put someone else's life ahead of your own ... if we're willing to do that, then maybe we can get back some piece of what we've lost."

After the events of "Variant" — which saw Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) imprisoned for his role in the Founders' Day riots, the Oceanside gang discovering a subset of walkers who have evolved new skills, and Mercer (Michael James Shaw) losing the esteem of the women in his life as he does the bidding of the Commonwealth  — the safety of much of our main cast remains in question. "What's Been Lost" shakes things up even further, setting up what's sure to be a tense final four episodes.

Carol leaves the Commonwealth with Daryl (and Lance) at her side

Carol is in the bakery hurriedly preparing herself for her evacuation. There, she flirts warmly with Ezekiel (Khary Payton), proving that they still have romantic chemistry seasons after their breakup. He leaves her with some medical supplies and promptly becomes another victim of the goon squad that kidnapped Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) during the last episode. But Carol battles her way to freedom. Managing to find the rendezvous site Daryl set up for them at a warehouse, she arrives just in time to save Daryl from the losing end of a battle with two mercenaries. They quickly realize the only person who can lead them to their friends is Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton), who both knows everything about the Commonwealth's inner workings and is in a vulnerable enough position to agree to help them. 

Carol and Daryl, as always, work together like a well-oiled machine. They manage to accomplish the impossible, as is often their wont: they break into Lance's cell and find him with a walkerized Sebastian Milton (Teo Rapp-Olsson) obsessively staring at his coin and mumbling to himself. Daryl executes Sebastian, then demands information from Lance. He and Carol manage to good cop/bad cop directions out of the former Commonwealth enforcer, who vows that he'll show them a way out. During their escape, Lance's ankle monitor is triggered, and Daryl is pinned down in the ensuing firefight. Carol refuses to abandon him, but he demands she get out and save the others. It's all a paean to the strength of Carol and Daryl's friendship, which has been forged in iron over the past ten seasons and has turned into a rock-solid partnership that has proven that it is capable of weathering even the most tumultuous of storms.

Pamela loses Sebastian - again

While Daryl and Carol are on a heroes' journey to save their friends and family, the ever-chilly Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) is trying to keep her iron grip on the Commonwealth. As always, Pamela doesn't care about the means, as long as the Commonwealth's impression of functional domesticity and small-town living is never punctured. In the middle of a meeting with a group of campaign contributors, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) bursts in and demands to know the whereabouts of her friends. Pamela insists that the expulsions being performed are just, and she names Yumiko the Commonwealth's prosecutor in Eugene's upcoming trial. While Pamela insists the action will be fair, a horrified Yumiko knows that blackmail is in the air, as the Commonwealth and its justice system works mercilessly and unfairly against its enemies. Pamela then hints that if Yumiko does her bidding she will release Yumiko's friends from captivity, and escalates to threatening the life of Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) when Yumiko refuses to knuckle under. 

Pamela seems much more concerned about the upcoming press briefing regarding the Founder's Day incident and Eugene's trial, which she hopes will calm the nerves of the Commonwealth's citizens. That is until she learns about Sebastian's death. Standing over her son's desiccated body in Lance's former cell, her mask finally crumbles. Grief, sorrow, and guilt overwhelm her, and she cries in silent, nauseous horror. But when she spies Lance's coin lodged into Sebastian's flesh, a new kind of vengeance seems to bloom in her mind. All she has done to keep Milton alive has been for naught, in so many more ways than one. Now that the only thing she has left in her life worth living for is power, what fate will befall the Commonwealth?

Lance fails to charm Carol - or survive the episode

Lance's history of currying favor with the woman in power nearest to him does not work on Carol. Carol states she loathes him and his mind games, insisting the future's not guaranteed for anyone. But she's forced to trust him as they search for an alternate way out. That involves trawling through some pretty nasty, walker-inhabited sewers. Carol is nearly killed in the ensuing melee when a walker grabs Lance by the ankle and his scream alerts a nest of them. Worse trouble arrives in the form of Commonwealth soldiers who threaten to take them in when they emerge into a wooded copse. But Daryl rides to the rescue, quickly eliminating the threat.

It's a moment that double underlines what true caring is. While Lance has relied upon glad-handing as a way of survival, Carol and Daryl truly care about one another and look out for each other's wellbeing. Lance is only in it for whatever spare power he can steal; people are as fungible to him as his coin. After Carol nearly goes down due to his gross negligence, any hope Lance might have had of puppeteering a new, Carol-run Commonwealth regime dies an instantaneous death. 

But Lance does have one small ace up his sleeve: he knows Pamela has a working locomotive which she has been hoping to turn into a continental express. While it's being pitched as a way to connect communities, Pamela seems to be planning to use it to further absorb other settlements into a single, amorphous Commonwealth — by force if necessary. With that, Daryl and Carol have no further need of Lance's self-centeredness, and tell him to go. Instead, he tries to kill them, and Carol takes him down with an arrow through the neck.

Yumiko struggles with her principles

Yumiko is caught between her desire for justice and the fear that the cogs in Pamela's machine will grind down all she loves dearly. When she tells Tomi about the threat, he urges her to sacrifice one lamb (Eugene) to save the flock (their friends, and even himself). How can they rely on justice to save them? Yumiko represents the justice system and she knows the uneven fight ahead of them. 

In his pragmatism, Tomi seems unaware that their friends are willing to do what it takes to bring about justice on their own terms to protect their own families. Take the case of Connie (Lauren Ridloff), whom Yumiko finds in the hallways of the hospital where her brother works. Connie declares that she escaped Pamela's attempt at a round-up of the former Alexandrians, and she's going to follow the hired hand who's being treated in the next room back to her sister. Yumiko volunteers to take Connie's place instead, but her surveillance yields nothing. Later, she tearfully tells Eugene that without a witness, she's worried she'll be forced to do what Pamela wants her to do. 

But Eugene is as sanguine about his fate as he can be, remaining determined to help his friends and save their lives — even if it means his own death. "I have to believe that there's something we can do. Because if not, if our friends are truly gone — then that is a bestial burden I simply cannot live with even for the truncated time I likely have left," he declares. He encourages Yumiko to hold on to her faith in their friends, a kindness for all of the care they've been shown in turn.

It all comes down to the press conference

Yumiko does attend the press conference, where she learns from Pamela that Connie has also been rounded up. Yumiko immediately points out Pamela's selfishness, as well as the lies in her script, but Pamela smoothly (or so she believes) manipulates her into delivering a Commonwealth puff speech. Yet on her way to the podium, Yumiko hears troopers on the ground talking about Daryl, Carol, and Lance's escape. That, along with the raft of lies she's being forced to read, are enough to rattle her into delivering an unconvincing performance.

All at once, Yumiko stops reading from the prepared statement. She encourages Tomi to stand up. Her brother immediately knows that Yumiko is about to do something dramatic, and indeed she does. Yumiko announces she's going to return the kindness Eugene has done her by defending him instead of prosecuting him. Pamela is bitterly stunned, and Tomi clenches his teeth as he reflects upon what this might mean for their family. But in the end, Yumiko has returned all of the kindness and faith given to her by lavishing it back on Eugene. On her way out, she drops the prepared statement made for her at Pamela's feet. "Here's your speech," Yumiko says, leaving Pamela to pick up the pieces of her rapidly tattering regime.

When does The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 21 air?

Fans hankering for more "The Walking Dead" after tonight's installment won't have to wait too much longer for another dose of shambling thrills. "Outpost 22," the show's next new episode, will air on October 30 at 9 p.m.  Consider it a pre-Halloween treat, as the series' last three episodes will air during November sweeps. And of course, AMC+ subscribers will be given the gift of early viewership: "Outpost 22" will hit the streamer the Sunday before it airs on the carrier, on October 23.

"What We Lost" leaves many of our favorite characters in the hands of a group of Commonwealth soldiers who are driving truckloads of sedated people by convoy to an unknown location — presumably the titular Outpost 22. Once there, we can assume the intention is to disappear them permanently as part of Pamela's blackmail tactics. It's a process that's long been whispered about but never depicted onscreen; next week we're likely to get an eyeful of what that means for characters like Rosita and Ezekiel. 

And they're not the only ones in crisis. Yumiko declares that Kelly (Angel Theory) and Magna (Nadia Hilker) have also been kidnapped by the state. Who will survive? Will Daryl and Carol be able to foment a rescue mission in time? Will Eugene be executed? Tune in next week to find out.