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The Walking Dead Season 11 Episode 5 Ending Explained

Contains spoilers for "The Walking Dead" episode "Out of the Ashes"

After last week's Daryl-centric (Norman Reedus) episode that saw him ensconced in the Reapers' camp, "Out of the Ashes" took viewers from Alexandria to the remnants of Hilltop, and behind the walls of the Commonwealth.

In Alexandria, the continued safety of the community was called into question after a collapsed wall led to a walker infestation. The barriers are in need of major repairs that have been continuously delayed because of a lack of proper tools. This urgent problem sends Aaron (Ross Marquand), Carol (Melissa McBride), Lydia (Cassady McClincy), and Jerry (Cooper Andrews) to the remains of the Hilltop colony to scavenge for supplies. It's there that they make a disturbing discovery.

While they're away, young Judith (Cailey Fleming) finds herself dealing with the struggles of growing up in an era of unimaginable hardship and loss. She gets some advice from Rosita (Christian Serratos), as well as an unexpected call from an old friend.

Meanwhile, our crew at the Commonwealth are coming to grips with the near-utopian society they've just been ushered into. From consistent electricity to fully stocked ice cream trucks, the Alexandrians-at-large are awed by the prosperity of the Commonwealth. But when Eugene (Josh McDermitt) begins looking for ways to send help back home, they also realize that the community's riches come at a price.

Here's how everything went down in this sprawling episode of "The Walking Dead."

A surprise at Hilltop

When Aaron, Carol, Lydia, and Jerry arrive in Hilltop they are greeted by a grim scene. Things have remained the way they were left after the community was destroyed during the Whisperer War, including the presence of the walker-fied residents who died in battle. The group puts their comrades out of their undead misery and begins to scavenge. That is, until another group of walkers appears at the far end of the colony, this one moving in strangely organized patterns.

The group investigates and confirms something shocking: there is a Whisperer among the undead. After unmasking the terrified man, Aaron begins aggressively interrogating him.

In the episode's opening, we saw Aaron having a nightmare about being surrounded by walkers and Whisperers and enemies from his past while in the woods with Gracie (Anabelle Holloway). Aaron is clearly still reeling from the Whisperer War and all of the other tragedies that have befallen Alexandria as of late. Like the other parents of the community, he's desperate to create a safe, stable home for his daughter, a prospect that has begun to seem more like a pipe dream. This mission to Hilltop was spurred on by those anxieties; we've heard Aaron raising concerns about Alexandria's walls all season. While Maggie (Lauren Cohan) has focused her anxious energy on finding food supplies and Carol on wrangling the community's horses, securing the settlement's walls has been Aaron's top concern.

And that makes sense considering what happened during the Whisperer War. It also makes Aaron's reaction to this remaining Whisperer, who cowers in fear the moment he's unmasked, all the more authentic. This single man is clearly not a threat to anyone, but the prospect of there being more Whisperers out there is enough to stoke the fires of paranoia.

Rosita gives Judith a life lesson

This episode further establishes Judith as a leader among Alexandria's youth. We see her teaching a course in walker killing for the community's youngsters and admonishing some hooligans who are playing chicken with a walker whose head is sticking through one of the holes in the wall. Being a role model isn't always all it's cracked up to be, though, which Judith learns when the older kids tease her about the fact that Michonne (Danai Gurira) seemingly abandoned her.

Later, she finds that a keepsake from her deceased older brother Carl (Chandler Riggs) — a wooden board with their handprints painted on it — has been smashed. She suspects that the older kids did it to get back at her and although her group of friends agrees to help her put it back together, the incident triggers an emotional moment for Judith.

Rosita finds the girl sitting outside crying over her broken boards. Judith is a remarkably strong person given her age, but that strength comes from the fact that she has faced a lot of hardship in her short life. When Rosita approaches, Judith tells her that she's afraid that she will eventually forget about Carl and Rick and Michonne, especially if her keepsakes of them are broken.

Thankfully, Rosita knows how to handle the moment. After telling Judith about her own mother, who died when Rosita was very young, she tells the girl that the grief doesn't get easier but that she shouldn't worry about forgetting her loved ones because their impact on her life was too great to be lost. "Pieces of wood are nice," Rosita says. "But you don't need that to remember how much they loved you."

A family reunion in the Commonwealth

After arriving in the Commonwealth, the Alexandrians split up to begin investigating how they can send help back home. Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) is also on the lookout for her brother Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) and in a classic "The Walking Dead" coincidence, she finds him in one of the first places she looks: the community's bakery.

It turns out that Tomi made his way to the Commonwealth early on following the collapse of the world. After arriving, he traded in his pre-apocalypse life as a surgeon for a post-apocalyptic life as a baker. Yumiko is surprised by this revelation, but he tells her that he saw the downfall of society as an opportunity to make what he later realized was a much-needed change to a slower-paced life. "I like my life the way it is," he tells her of his current situation. "It's the one gift I got out of the world falling apart."

Characters who have used the fall of society to reinvent themselves aren't new in "The Walking Dead" universe but the Commonwealth does offer a unique take on that familiar dynamic. Whereas Yumiko went from a lawyer to a skilled archer and survivalist, the Commonwealth actually provided Tomi with the opportunity to slow down and smell the proverbial roses.

Tomi even tells Yumiko that he's been at the Commonwealth long enough that "I almost forget what's going on outside these walls." That's a lovely sentiment, but one that might not land particularly well among those who have been fighting for their lives for the past decade.

Tomi's sheltered apocalypse experience could also complicate any plans Yumiko has of recruiting him to help get aid to Alexandria. If he is a diehard believer of the Commonwealth's strict rules, he may not be amenable to helping Yumiko out, regardless of the fact that she's his sister.

Eugene may be in over his head

Contains possible future spoilers for "The Walking Dead"

While Yumiko has her family reunion, Eugene has been using his own Commonwealth connection to try and drum up aid for Alexandria. Stephanie (Chelle Ramos) seems amiable to help Eugene circumvent the Commonwealth's tricky bureaucracy and doesn't balk when he asks her to go against the rules and help him get a radio message back to his people. However, an important question has arisen among astute fans of the series: Is Stephanie actually an imposter?

The short version of this theory is that Margot Bingham, the actor credited with providing Stephanie's voice during her radio chats with Eugene, is obviously not the actor who is playing the Stephanie who has been escorting Eugene around the Commonwealth. Bingham is, however, appearing on this season of "The Walking Dead." In fact, we saw her in this episode. When Stephanie takes Eugene to an ice cream truck, he notices the customer next to them has ordered rocky road, one of Stephanie's favorite ice cream flavors. The customer, played by Bingham, smiles at Eugene and walks away. We won't know for sure what the deal with the potential fake Stephanie is until the show drops that bomb, but all signs are pointing to Eugene being catfished, which could potentially be a big problem.

When "Stephanie" helps Eugene break into a communications room to radio Alexandria, he's only able to speak to Rosita and Judith for a few moments before guards catch him. But before he can be hauled away to face trial, Mr. Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) — the star of the Commonwealth orientation video — swoops in and promises to help prevent the group from being banished. That sounds like a miracle, but given what we've found out about the Commonwealth thus far, it's entirely possible that Mr. Hornsby has ulterior motives.

Carol's warning for Aaron

After unmasking the leftover Whisperer, Aaron and company discover his friends hiding out in a Hilltop cellar. When they attack the Alexandrians to try and get free, he decides he's going to play hardball to get some answers about exactly how many Whisperers are still at large.

Aaron has the Whisperer tied up and threatens him with an impaled walker. The Whisperer continues to whimper and beg for mercy. He insists that there is no secret Whisperer uprising and tells Aaron, "Alpha was right about you people. You pretend you're better than the dead. But dead is honest."

This sends Aaron into a rage and he allows the walker to bite the Whisperer before telling the man that he'll save his life by cutting off his hand, but only if he tells the truth. Carol finally intervenes and pulls Aaron aside to set him straight. While everyone was suspicious of this Whisperer when they first encountered him, Aaron's reaction has clearly crossed the line. This is something Carol is very familiar with. Carol has been haunted by actions she took in moments of vengeance fueled anger and she warns Aaron to not let himself go down the same dark path.

Aaron relents and lets the man go. He's rewarded for his mercy a few scenes later when the Whisperer drops a bomb on the group: he has seen an Alexandrian who emerged from the cave full of Alpha's (Samantha Morton) walker horde that Carol collapsed. This, of course, is Connie (Lauren Ridloff), whose disappearance has been eating away at Carol. We've known she is still alive for a while now and it looks like she's finally going to be reunited with the Alexandrians.

The mission to Meridian limps forward

Amidst the goings-on in Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Commonwealth, Maggie and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) are still trying to work together to complete their mission to overthrow the Reapers and take back Meridian. Well, we should say that Maggie is trying to complete that mission, while Negan is trying to convince her it's a lost cause.

Negan has been sour on Maggie's plans since the group set out from Alexandria and faced some pretty daunting obstacles. While Maggie is quick to shut him down, the more bumps in the road they experience, the less outlandish Negan's desire to throw in the towel seems. Negan gets where Maggie is coming from — Alexandria's food shortages are a major existential threat and if there is a time to go all-in on a wild and potentially suicidal mission, now's that time — but he simply sees it a different way. He can't envision the mission succeeding and he's advocating for them to turn back and figure out a Plan B.

Of course, their tumultuous history makes it difficult for Maggie to take his word at face value. Early on in the episode, she asks him, "Why would I ever trust you?" And while she is justified in her contempt for the man, he does reply with a good point: "I don't know, Maggie. Because you want to stay alive, same as me."

Negan's pragmatism is not unwarranted, but Maggie's perseverance wins out in the end after the pair manages to reunite with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari) at their meeting point. The mission to Meridian still faces an uphill battle but considering how much is at stake for the future of Alexandria, it seems likely that it will move forward.