Their friendship (and somebody's sanity) teetering on the brink of no return, Rick and Shane embark on a road trip to clear the air and set a few things straight. Turns out neither man has much in the way of negotiation skills – soon enough they're punching one another in the head while zombies threaten to have them both for lunch.
This impromptu road trip is taken ostensibly so as they can be rid of the latest addition to their gang - an injured captive taken during last week's gunfight. With the kid bound, gagged and blindfolded in the trunk, Rick and Shane drive 18 Miles Out to drop him off in the middle of nowhere. Rick takes this opportunity to warn Shane off Lori, Carl and the baby, giving the big guy a good talking to. The first of the big visual metaphors occurs as Rick gives his speech to Shane literally standing at a crossroads. Get it?
The air seemingly cleared, the pair find what seems like the ideal place to drop captive Randall off. But while bargaining to be allowed to stay with Grimes and friends, Randall reveals that he once went to school with Maggie. Realising that the kid must therefore know where Hershel's farm is, the cops also know that their plan has suddenly been made redundant. Shane decides to solve the problem by plastering Randall's brains all over the pavement. Which is his solution to everything. This is where Rick and Shane finally come to blows.
Rick wrestles the gun from Shane's hands before attempting to sock his one-time friend in the face. Shane's rebuttal; well, a headbutt. A vicious fight ensues – Rick repeatedly smacks Shane in the face before having a motorbike dropped on him for his trouble. It's a no holds barred grudge match as the two macho men settle things the old fashioned way. Rick is certainly wearing the right boots for the occasion (something about cowboy boots is perfect for a muddy fistfight). It's brutal and violent, and sure to have audiences alternately cheering and hissing from the sidelines. It brings to mind two things – the fight between Rick and Tyrese in the comic books, and the showdown between Jack and Sawyer during Season 5 of LOST. It’s too early for audiences to care about Rick or Shane as they did Jack and Sawyer, but it's nice to see Rick finally stand up to Shane's bullying. The fight culminates with Shane almost killing Rick by attempting to chuck a wrench at his head.
The fighting finally stops as a horde of zombies threatens to kill all three of them. Shane hides in a nearby school bus, Rick struggles to fend them off and poor Randall simultaneously attempts to survive and cut himself free from his bonds. The show continues to impress with some well co-ordinated action and horror scenes. Not content to rest on its laurels with one-on-one zombie attacks and dull CGI head explosions, the zombies come thick and fast – the kills inventive and messy. Most memorable is Rick's fighting off three at a time.
Back at the farm, the womenfolk have trouble within their own ranks. Now conscious and coherent, Beth is determined to kill herself. While Maggie and Lori try to talk her out of it, Andrea is an advocate of letting her make up her own mind. It's little wonder she got turned down for that job answering telephones for The Samaritans. With tensions so high, what better time to bring up that pile of laundry that needs doing? Lori and Andrea have at it in the kitchen – apparently women's liberation went out with the rest of civilisation, since Lori is in little doubt that a woman's place is in the home, not atop Dale's RV. It's hard not to sympathise with Andrea here. Her handling of Beth's death wish is ill-advised, but few would argue against her being better suited to guarding the camp than just washing the men's grundies and cooking their dinners. The encounter leaves Beth with stitches on her wrists and Andrea the latest member of the Grimes party unwelcome in Hershel's home.
The decision to focus on only seven characters (not even Hershel or stalwart Dale make an appearance) makes 18 Miles Out feel focused, taut and important. Rick and Shane's road trip give it a scale often missing from the series, and the opening gambit is a beautiful tease. I particularly enjoyed the iffy camerawork and use of the song Driver's Seat (Sniff n' the Tears) during Randall's captivity.
Shane looks pensive (and bruised) as he and Rick make the long drive back to Hershel's farm. On the face of it, things seem to have come to a head. But actually, the episode just leaves us with more tantalising questions. Is Shane going to take Rick's warning and behave? What are they going to do about Randall? Who's going to do Andrea's share of the laundry? And what does Dale have to say about all this?