'The Walking Dead' recap Season 3 episode 6: 'Hounded' brings Woodbury and the prison together

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michael-rooker-merle-dixon-walking-dead-season-3-hounded-amc.jpgSo far on Season 3 of "The Walking Dead," the prison and Woodbury have remained separate but creatively equal storylines. Tonight is the beginning of those worlds colliding, and raises anticipation even more for the final two episodes of the season's first half. (Yes, it's true, we've only got two "Dead"s left in 2012.)

Maggie and Glenn are now in Woodbury (but they're probably only seeing it the way Lieutenant Welles of the National Guard saw it, and not the way Andrea or even Michonne experienced it), and Michonne is about to enter the prison (assuming Rick lets her in). In a way, all three of them are where they are because of Merle.

"Hounded" opens with Merle and three members of The Governor's "research team" hunting Michonne. Apparently, The Governor isn't too happy about Michonne leaving Woodbury and has no plans to peacefully let her go her own way. When Merle's crew stumbles upon Michonne's "biter-gram" message of "Go Back" (what a creative use of a walker torso!) they should heed the warning...

PICS: 'The Walking Dead' Season 3

Instead they keep going, and soon enough Michonne's katana makes mincemeat of minor characters Crowley ( Arthur Bridgers) and Tim ( Lawrence Kao). That leaves Merle and newbie Neil Gargulio ( Dave Davis) to pursue a now wounded Michonne. It doesn't take long for them to catch up with and nearly finish her off, until some walkers interrupt. With her human foes distracted, Michonne slices open a walker's belly and gets showered with zombie guts before running off again.

Merle figures she won't last long and decides to head back to Woodbury, but Gargulio wants to finish the job. Irritated, Merle decides it's easier just to kill Gargulio instead (and right after Merle finally figures out how to pronounce Gargulio).

steven-yeun-glenn-walking-dead-season-3-hounded-amc.jpgOn his way back to Woodbury, Merle runs into Maggie and Glenn on one of their baby formula runs. Merle sees Maggie first and draws his gun, before Glenn pops up and changes the situation completely. Glenn can't believe Merle's alive, but all Merle wants to know is whether or not Daryl's OK. Glenn, understandably, doesn't trust Merle enough to give up much information. So Merle holds Maggie at gunpoint and forces both her and Glenn to drive to Woodbury, leaving the baby formula behind.

What Merle doesn't know: Michonne witnessed this entire incident and she makes her way to the prison where she'll presumably tell Rick's crew all about Merle, The Governor, Woodbury and the captive Maggie and Glenn. This should be good...

Especially since Andrea is now completely under The Governor's spell. Their flirtations turned into a full-on relationship when The Governor got Andrea where he's seemingly wanted her all along: his bed. Before that, she tried to give him a disapproving lecture about the gladiator fights but ultimately admitted she enjoyed them. And we got a glimpse of warrior Andrea again when she did a stint on Woodbury's perimeter wall only to break the rules and hop off the wall to stab a walker directly in the head.

When Merle gets to Woodbury he knocks on The Governor's door to tell him about capturing Glenn and Maggie, Michonne killing the other members of the team, and the lie that Michonne is dead. (When The Governor asks to see Michonne's head and sword -- to add to his personal collection, no doubt -- Merle pretends they were lost. That's totally coming back to haunt him...) Merle vows to get Glenn and/or Maggie to tell him where Rick's camp is, and obviously neither The Governor nor Merle are telling Andrea about any of this right now.

Poor Andrea. Sleeping with the enemy, and she has no idea.

rick-grimes-andrew-lincoln-walking-dead-season-3-amc.jpgOther highlights:

- Another sign of how marvelously dense every episode of "The Walking Dead" is this season: Rick's phone calls weren't the most important part of the hour, but they were still among the best moments. Congratulations to anyone who recognized the voices of fallen group members Amy ( Emma Bell), Jacqui ( Jeryl Prescott) and Jim ( Andrew Rothenberg) who were the three people Rick talked to on the phone before Lori.

It was kind of perfect that Rick didn't know who they were, and another creative example of how the show keeps referencing the dead this season. (Andrea's first conversation with Merle, Carl's baby name suggestions and Rick being asked to list the people he's killed during one of the phone calls.) And that final phone call with Lori was the most wrenching scene of the hour, and another one of Andrew Lincoln's phenomenal acting moments this season. The pain on his face and in his voice. The "I loved you." The "I should've said it." It was all completely devastating.

- In addition to the phone calls, we finally got another one of those great Rick/Hershel scenes. It's a small blessing that Lori helped save the old man's life, because Rick may need him most of all right now. (Remember Hershel was keeping his zombiefied wife in that barn before Shane kicked off the massacre that also revealed the truth about Sophia.)

- Also: Daryl found Carol!! She's alive (it seems)! Add the look on Norman Reedus' face as Daryl scoops Carol up in his arms and carries her to safety to the list of the episode's great moments. And even though he wasn't involved in any of the major storylines, Reedus still got to deliver that great monologue about Daryl's mother, which prompted Carl to tell him what happened to Lori in the boiler room.

- Daryl: "What the hell do you need slippers for?" Oscar: "You know, the end of the day, to relax!"

- Maggie: "A kid growing up in a prison could use some toys." A kid growing up in a prison could also use a role model like Maggie, so let's hope she survives Woodbury. Please.

- What a kick to see Michonne discover the trick Rick and company figured out way back in "Guts": if you smell like a walker, they'll just walk on by.
Photo/Video credit: AMC