Spoilers ahead. . .
Although the teaser for this episode was a bit of a cheat -- a flash forward to the heart of the action in a later sequence -- the beating heart of "18 Miles Out" was a return to the central question of this second season: Who is going to be the leader of the RV Gang -- Rick or Shane? Rick is the lucky one: spared the initial waves of the disaster, reunited with his wife and son, a child on the way, and somehow still able to provide an image of leadership. Shane is the cursed one: Machiavellian in his approach to most things, ruthless in his application of violence to the end of his own survival and the survival of his (now imagined) adopted family. For Shane, the ends justify the means, whatever they may be. For Rick, there's something to be gained from thinking it over, if only for a moment, a day, or however much time he can manage.
"18 Miles Out" starts up the plot engine in the first act as Rick and Shane are taking their prisoner from the Bar Shootout to a safe distance where, like an unwanted hound, they'll release him and hope he can fend for himself -- as long as he doesn't follow them home. On the way, the script has the two friends/rivals stop at Symbolism Junction -- a remote crossroads somewhere in Narrative County. There, Rick and Shane have a steely-eyed, rather obvious, but somehow satisfying grumble-and-growl which Rick wins with his, "If you're going to stay with the group this is how it's gonna be," approach. Lori is his wife. The baby is his. Rick is in charge. Now let's get back in the car. Judging from Shane's silent contemplation of the Lone Walker in the Field, he's got his own ideas.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Morality Play carries on, this week with a refreshing if overdone blast at Lori, who complains to Andrea's face about how the latter isn't doing her fair share of the "woman's work." When Andrea cuts loose about Lori's playing house and her insensitivity at how lucky she's been, you sort of want to cheer. But then again, do we need the dialogue? Why not have Andrea simply walk out, take up her lookout post, and snipe a walker from 200 yards. That's as nonverbal a telling-off as I would need. Also stilted was the debate over Beth Green, who's lost the will to live, only to have Andrea leave the door to the bathroom open so that Beth can slash her wrists -- not too deep, though, so we have a sign that the child wants to live. These developments on the farm would be fine were it not for the dialogue that continues to appear, commenting on the significance of the action. We get it guys!
Zombie Kill of the Week: Rick, firing through a downed walker's mouth to kill two more.
Zombie Quotient - from 1 (none) to 10 (a major herd): 8