'The Walking Dead' Season 3 episode 2 recap: 'Sick' Hershel fights to survive

melissa-mcbride-emily-kinney-sarah-wayne-callies-carol-beth-lori-walking-dead-sick-season-3-amc.jpgWhile Rick was taking lives, Lori was saving lives, but their marriage may have no life left. That was just one of many revelations in another action packed hour of "The Walking Dead."

"Sick" picked up right where last week's premiere, "Seed," left off: With Hershel bleeding on the prison floor and Rick, Daryl and T-Dog discovering they're not the only humans in the prison. We got to know just a little more about the prisoners tonight, and now three of them are dead -- two falling victim to Rick's new "zero tolerance" policy.

The prisoners had to know Rick meant business when they walked by Hershel's severed leg on the floor. When the first thing you see a total stranger do is chop off his friend's leg, you know he's probably not someone to mess with. As Rick warned Tomas (guest star Nick Gomez) early in the episode, "If I so much as even catch a whiff of your scent, I will kill you." And, well, he made good on that promise after Tomas tried to push a walker in Rick's direction while Rick's crew was helping the prisoners clear out a cell block to call their own.

daryl-norman-reedus-walking-dead-sick-amc.jpgDidn't it seem like the way Rick brutally dispatched with Tomas, then chased down Andrew ( Markice Moore) and locked him outside with walkers chomping at the bit, signaled something new in the group's leader? We knew Tomas was a threat from the way he baited Rick from the get-go. Not to mention the ferocity with which he smashed his supposed friend Big Tiny's head in after the guy was bit by a walker. But the old Rick may have cut him some slack, or left him to fend for himself. Now, Rick's doing what has to be done to survive without any hesitation, but can he hold on to his sanity in the process? What's keeping him from turning into someone like Tomas... or Shane?

RELATED: Glen Mazzara talks Rick's new outlook and what happened in the prison

Lori told him: "Not for one second do I think there's malice in your heart. So do whatever you gotta do to keep this group safe and do it with a clear conscience." But how much killing can one conscience handle?

Two of the prisoners managed to survive Rick's wrath, and something tells me we'll see Axel ( Lew Temple) and Oscar ( Vincent Ward) again. Especially since Temple has "Also starring" billing in the credits this season (just like Melissa McBride as Carol, Emily Kinney as Beth, IronE Singleton as T-Dog and Scott Wilson as Hershel).

Hershel's fate was the hour's other major storyline. Everyone who wasn't dealing with the prisoners pitched in to try to keep him alive. Even that's a dangerous act in a world of walkers. You need to take precautions when someone's on death's door. Rick made sure Glenn handcuffed Hershel so he wouldn't get loose if he died and came back as a walker. And when Lori gave him that life-saving CPR, it definitely felt unusually tense knowing he could turn into a flesh-eating monster at any moment.

chandler-riggs-walking-dead-seed-amc.jpgHershel's injury provided some good moments for Carl (who resourcefully located the infirmary and some key medical supplies, even if Lori was understandably upset her son was wandering through the prison alone) and Carol (who would become the group's most knowledgeable medical professional if Hershel passes away, and wisely decided to practice c-sections on walkers for what could be a very messy delivery when Lori's finally ready to give birth).

Beth refused to believe her father might die and instead ripped up his pants to suit his new one-legged lifestyle. But Maggie was prepared for the worst, and Lauren Cohan really nailed the bedside goodbye Maggie tearfully delivered to her comatose dad. (Entertainment Weekly has a great story on how that moment was inspired by the recent death of executive producer Glen Mazzara's mother.)

RELATED: Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan discuss Glenn and Maggie's love in a world of walkers

Fortunately, Hershel pulled through. It was a rare moment of celebration for the group, but "Sick" didn't go out with a happy ending.

Instead, the final scene was a conversation between Rick and Lori. "For the record, I don't think you're a bad mother," he tells her, deliberately failing to reassure her about what he thinks of her as a wife. "For better or worse, right?" Lori asks, with some obvious hope their marriage still means something.

"We're awful grateful for what you did," Rick says, presumably for the role she played in saving Hershel's life, before heading back inside. It's clear that Rick barely even thinks of Lori as his wife these days. She's just another member of the group he's trying to protect.

For now, that'll have to be enough.
Photo/Video credit: AMC