Spoiler alert! The following recap contains spoilers.
Now that Terminus has been burned to the ground and the truth about Father Gabriel's misdoings has come to light, the biggest mystery of Season 5 of "The Walking Dead" is a lingering question from Season 4: Who took Beth?
Last week's episode was a thrilling showdown that ended with a cliffhanger: Daryl coming back from his attempt to rescue Beth with Carol with a mystery person hiding in the shadows. This week's episode focused exclusively on Beth, who we last saw being kidnapped by a car with a white cross on it toward the end of Season 4.
Here are the 4 main takeaways from Sunday night's "Slabtown":
1. Beth is in a hospital run by some pretty hardcore people.
The last time we saw someone wake up in a hospital to see a smoldering Atlanta, it was Rick Grimes in the series premiere. But when Beth wakes up, it's not to chaos, but a well-maintained facility with a doctor, police officers, a cafeteria, laundry and other essentials. But there's a catch.
Beth is told by Officer Dawn Lerner, basically the "Governor" of Grady Memorial Hospital, that she was rescued from certain death from "rotters" on the side of the road, but just doesn't remember. Beth knows she's in for some trouble when Dawn follows up her claim with, "So you owe us." It's like a co-op, where people are brought in, saved if possible, and then put to work for the hospital as nurses, orderlies and janitors. Dawn and her pervy cohort Officer Gorman run the place with an iron fist and a proclivity for sexual misconduct, respectively, as Beth soon finds out that Officer Gorman expects something in return for "saving" her and has also abused another patient/worker named Joan.
It becomes obvious that staying at the hospital is mandatory when Beth is forced to hold Joan down as her bitten arm is amputated -- a consequence of trying to escape. Dawn still believes that some kind of help is coming, that her strict policies are keeping the order of life together, "For the greater good," until they can rebuild society. It sounds great in theory, but the reality is that she's a megalomaniac who slaps Beth around, holds food, clothes and protection over people's heads and turns a blind eye to rape. As Beth says, "You call that livin'?"
2. ... Except for one or two cool guys.
Dr. Stephen Edwards, who looks a bit like season 5 Walter White, is kind to Beth and shows her the ropes at Grady Memorial. He abides by Dawn's rules but clearly disagrees with her methods. He shows Beth that escaping from the hospital is extremely difficult and his will to help people is genuine. Unfortunately, no one in this post-apocalyptic world is 100% pure: he purposefully has Beth give the wrong meds to a patient in order to kill him, but that was because the man was also a doctor and Stephen feared he'd be killed by Officer Gorman if the opportunity came to replace him. Plus, he steps up to Gorman about atacking Joan and trying with Beth, which is more than we can say about Dawn. He brings a bit of humanity back to Beth by listening to records, showing her a rare painting he saved from destruction, and sharing some of his guinea pig meal with her. However, he still rationalizes that living under Dawn's thumb is better than being on the run.
Then there's Noah. This kid is charming, smart and hopefully going to stick around in future episodes because he and Beth definitely hit it off. They meet while he is working in the laundry room and sneaks a lollipop to Beth (a cute gesture until Gorman totally sullies it). He's from Richmond, Virginia, and hopes to escape to look for his family there. Dawn underestimates him, which he uses to his advantage, and he takes a brutal beating from her just to save Beth's ass.
3. Beth and her cute new friend make a badass escape attempt, with mixed results.
After Noah's beating, he and Beth decide to enact their escape plan. Beth sneaks into Dawn's office for the elevator bank key, only to be caught by Officer Gorman and promptly sexually assaulted. The only thing Gorman didn't count on is a walker in the room. Beth discovered Joan, dead from an apparent suicide, behind Dawn's desk before he came in. Beth has one of the most impressive kills of the season when she hits Gorman's head with a glass, dropping him to the floor, and lets Joan do her business as she casually walks out with the key.
The hospital is secured thanks to blocked-off stairwells but an open elevator shaft used to dispose of bodies leads to a way outside. Noah ties towels into a rope and lowers Beth down, but when he tries to rappel himself to the bottom, he gets grabbed by a walker in the wall and falls down, injuring his legs. Miraculously (and disgustingly) enough, he is able to walk and escape with Beth outside as she uses Gorman's gun to pop off walkers. Her marksmanship has definitely improved since her time with Daryl out in the woods, but it's not enough. While Noah makes it beyond the parking lot, Beth is taken into custody by Dawn's officers and brought back inside. After being patched up by Stephen and chastised by Dawn, Beth is still determined to do something about her situation, so she grabs a pair of scissors to conceal as a weapon. Just when we think the episode is over, Beth sees Carol, injured, being wheeled in on a gurney.
4. We now have a better idea of who's in the woods with Daryl.
When Beth and Noah make it to the parking lot, the first thing you notice are the cars with the white crosses on them, double confirming that these are the people who kidnapped Beth. The fact that Carol was taken in by them suggests that she and Daryl made it to the area, but either walkers attacked or some struggle ensued, and only Daryl was able to resist capture. And, finally, Noah's escape from the hospital means that he could very well be the person with Daryl in the woods. The two could have run into each other outside the parking lot, both with Beth on the brain, and Noah seems like the kind of guy who would agree to a rescue mission for someone who helped him escape. If it's not Noah, then whom? Morgan? That seems less likely to me, but perhaps!
In a preview for next week, we see that we'll be catching up with the D.C.-bound group, and that Dr. Porter's "Classified" intentions are starting to wear thin on his travel companions. Also, seriously, what's with that hair?
"The Walking Dead" airs Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET on AMC.