Please see my previous reviews of episode 1 and episode 2, if you haven't already. Again, please understand that, while some plot points are revealed in these writings, my intent is to review them from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community. Some spoilers will be included, however, so proceed at your own risk.
This time, we open with crazy Merle (the trouble-making redneck we met in episode 2), talking to himself in an apparently detached mental state. He's apparently reliving when he puched a superior during a stint in the service and got locked-up for his trouble and then discharged. When he comes out of his stupor and realizes he's still hand-cuffed on the roof alone, he understandably freaks-out. Meanwhile, the others on the road away from Atlanta are feeling guilty for leaving him, even if he is a not-so-nice guy. For those of you who have never seen the show, they didn't just leave him deliberately; they were rushing to escape and one of them dropped the hand-cuff key down a drain. Sucks to be you, Merle. You shouldn't have acted-up and made them cuff you up there. At least, though, T-Dog (the guy who left him) did barricade the door to try to keep Walkers away from him.
Next, our perspective switches to the main base-camp up on the mountain near the quarry, and we see one of the guys setting-up a makeshift perimeter alarm of sorts using string and tin cans stretched around the approaches to the camp. Good idea and a good example of ingenuity, considering the things they're most afraid of invading their area are basically no more intelligent than animals. We see Shane taking on the role of the father figure in Carl's life, offering to teach him how to catch frogs if he'll stop fidgeting and sit still for a haircut from his mother. Emotional reunions abound when the foraging group rolls into camp.
Later that night, we see the characters again practicing good light discipline by keeping their campfires low (little more than embers) at night to keep from attracting the attention of the Walkers from a distance. Again, this is a smart practice we should all take note of in case we're ever in a refugee situation with dangers about. Here we meet yet another trouble-making redneck, this one named Ed, who doesn't want to follow the rule because he's cold. Shane successfully faces him down, but you can tell he's gonna be bad news too. And he's obviously mean to his wife and daughter. You can tell by the way they behave around him.
Conversation around the pitifully low fire turns to concerns over how Merle's brother Daryl is going to react to the news of his brother being left behind when he returns from hunting. We will later learn that Daryl is an absolute bad@$$ with a hunting crossbow. He is also a bit of a loose-cannon, but ultimately a far better guy to have around than his older brother ever was.
Next, we witness Shane hauling water up from the flooded reservoir below in containers piled into one of the group's vehicles. I suppose we are to assume this occurs every morning. He admonishes everyone to be sure to boil the water before using it, proving that, unlike the ladies in the previous episode, he *has* seen his share of Survivorman episodes. :) In all seriousness, this is another good practice to make note of. Boiling water isn't nearly on the same level as running it through a nice filter, such as a Berkey, but it will kill enough of the bad stuff to make it, for sure, worth your while to do it.
Soon, the first Walker appears on the mountain where the camp is located due to running out of food in the city; a harbinger of troubles to come, despite being easily dispatched. By the way, at this point, we haven't been told exactly how much time has passed since Rick was initially shot.
Merle's brother Daryl and Rick and some others plan to go back for Merle. Others, including Shane and Lori, argue that they shouldn't go, because Merle isn't worth the risk and because they need every able body to defend camp now that they fear they may be seeing Walkers up there in what has been their little haven. Rick argues, however, that, in addition to not wanting to consign Merle to certain death (by dehydration, if not being eaten), they desperately need the guns and the 700+ rounds of ammo that he dropped in Atlanta in addition to his walkie. He needs the walkie to warn the Dad and boy from episode 1 to stay away from Atlanta. The walkies are a set and he gave them the other when they parted ways; and they are old 1970s-era equipment that can only talk to each other -- they wont pick up the CB band. He owes them a debt as he wouldn't have survived in the beginning without their help, and so he cannot let them walk blindly into the mess in Atlanta.
We then get a brief scene, highlighting elements of a barter economy. In order to free Merle when they get there, Rick needs to borrow some bolt-cutters from Dale, who is hesitant to lend-out tools he may need and might not be able to easily replace. They work-out a deal to trade Dale one of the guns they're going to retrieve and to let him cannibalize the truck they used in their initial escape from the city to get parts for his RV in return for the use of the bolt-cutters.
While they're gone, we see the mean-a$$ redneck Ed have a run-in with the other women in camp over how he treats his wife. Meanwhile, Lori is angry with Shane. Apparently, he was the one who told her Rick was dead. They have angry words and Shane is boiling-over just in time to see Ed hit his wife. Shane nearly beats him to death in retaliation, using him as a surrogate punching bag upon which he works out his anger and aggression. He tells him he will kill him next time if he ever puts his hands on his wife or daughter or anyone else in camp again.
Again, this is another post collapse scenario all of us need to bend some serious thought toward: what do you do when an obvious predatory personality is operating within your Area of Operations and calling the police is no longer an option? As some of you may already be aware, I'm a graduate student studying criminology. Let me tell you, there are things I have read and researched that would make your skin crawl, and, when I talk about two-legged predators, it isn't just a cute turn of phrase for me; I know what I'm talking about. As you read this right now, warm and safe inside your homes, there are more preferential child molesters, sexual sadists, and closet psychopaths within a hundred miles of you than you would ever want to think about. If ever a day comes when law and order and other social constraints disappear, misogynistic wife beaters will be the least of the monsters you may eventually have to deal with. I'm not advocating that anyone should take the law into your own hands. I would never do that. But, if we are ever in a situation where the law no longer exists, then ordinary people may have no choice but to become the law and order that is missing from the world themselves. How you are going to deal with those kinds of threats is something you will have to decide for yourselves, but you had better have a plan and the ability to get yourself in the right state of mind to carry it out before it's too late.
In the end, they made it back into Atlanta to find Merle gone. All that's left behind is a human hand, a pool of blood, and the hacksaw that was dropped by T-Dog at the same time as the key that stranded him there. It is not clear to the viewer whether he is dead, taken by Walkers, or if he sawed his own hand off to escape. This will, however, be the last time we see Merle in the series to this date (through the end of season 2, at least), but I can't help but think he'll come back to haunt them sometime in the future.