The Walking Dead Spoilers Recap: "Rogue Element"

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday’s “Rogue Element” episode of The Walking Dead. When Stephanie (Chelle Ramos) mysteriously goes missing, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) suspects his girlfriend’s disappearance is a conspiracy in Season 11 Episode 11, “Rogue Element.” Meanwhile, reporter Connie (Lauren Ridloff) investigates her own story: what happened to Trooper Tyler Davis (Cameron Roberts), who warned of revolution inside the Commonwealth? And Carol (Melissa McBride), who has been working with Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) to pull strings for the cancer-stricken Ezekiel (Khary Payton), helps Hornsby resolve a labor dispute at a drug farm.

Eugene wakes up next to Stephanie. She reads his half-written novel. He hands her a key to his apartment and says he loves her. Stephanie says it back. They make a date to meet for ice cream.

Eugene waits for hours with melted ice cream cones. No Stephanie. At night, a bald man exits Stephanie’s apartment building. Eugene knocks and knocks to no answer. Inside the darkened apartment, Stephanie hurriedly packs her bags.

At the Commonwealth Tribune, Connie wants to tell Trooper Davis’ story. He wouldn’t risk getting kicked out of Commonwealth for no reason. Connie’s editor, Jan (Aneesh Sheth), says he wasn’t — they have a statement from his doctor backing up his PTSD claim. “I don’t trust the military doctors any more than I trust the military command. Something happened to Tyler Davis. Something that he blames Governor Milton for. Something worth confronting her in public over. And they clearly have a reason for suppressing the truth.”

Connie protests it’s more than just a “mental health crisis.” In his outburst at the Governor’s masquerade ball on Halloween, Trooper Davis said there are thousands more like him. What does that mean?

Kelly (Angel Theory) hesitates to translate the rest: Connie wants to print the truth about what happened at the ball.

Eugene visits the radio room where Stephanie failed to show up for work. Visiting the hospital with Kelly, Connie digs to find out what Trooper Davis thinks Governor Milton did to him.

Connie questions a trooper posted outside Davis’ room: Does he have a lawyer? What are the charges against him?

General Mercer (Michael James Shaw) opens the door — and shuts it without a word.

At Stephanie’s apartment, Trooper Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) and Trooper Livits (Jason Fernandes) perform a wellness check to no answer. Rosita reports to Eugene the apartment is empty and tells him to come to the station to fill out a missing person’s report.

Outside the walls of the Commonwealth, Carol rides with Lance Hornsby in a horse-drawn carriage. Hornsby wants Carol to see how the Commonwealth works because he wants her to be a part of it. They visit a nearby drug farm unofficially affiliated with the Commonwealth: their poppies make opium for the hospital. Meeting Moto (William Mark McCullough), Carol and Hornsby are told the workers are holding the harvest hostage for a raise.

Jan sends Connie and Kelly on a Commonwealth Army ride-along to “write propaganda.” Mercer is there.

Princess checks in on Eugene at his apartment. A pin board documents a conspiracy: the mysterious disappearance of Stephanie Vega. Eugene recounts his investigation and its prime suspect: Roman Calhoun (Michael Tourek), the bald man seen leaving Stephanie’s apartment building. Calhoun claims to be a plumber called in to fix a clogged sink. He doesn’t recall anything suspicious.

Eugene points out there were no city service carts on the street that night, and this pretend plumber wasn’t wearing an identifying uniform or carrying any tools. “I found it very peculiar that the one person I knew was there the night she disappeared happened to have such a flimsy alibi,” Eugene tells Princess, revealing he tailed Calhoun.

Calhoun leads Eugene to a base of operations: a dark building in the warehouse district purporting to be Ruby’s Plumbing Co. Eugene’s stakeout determines Ruby’s is a front for something more insidious, something involving the same four people. A shadowy fifth person — Male Suspect #3 — is who Eugene suspects to be the Head Honcho, “the mastermind of some sort of rogue element within the government that Stephanie somehow ran afoul of.”

Princess questions Stephanie being kidnapped by the government. Eugene’s evidence is a work-transfer request signed by Stephanie on the day of her disappearance, found in her file at Union Station. Eugene witnessed Beanie Hat Man and a team of movers cleaning out Stephanie’s belongings and taking them to an unknown location.

“The man who filled in for her at the radio room that day told me she gave no notice whatsoever. Such orders could not be falsified or fabricated without direct influence from within the halls of power. She knew they were coming for her,” Eugene posits. “When she eluded them, they filed that false work transfer to cover up her disappearance. They took all her belongings to recover any evidence she may have gathered, and now silencing her is the last step in repairing that leak. If I’m right, her only hope is for me to expose them before they find her.”

Elsewhere, Hornsby fishes with Moto. They talk business. Carol notices two women watching. Hornsby proposes a compromise: the works get a raise, but they earn it. Produce more, make more.

Back at the ride-along, Mercer cuts through a small pack of walkers to save an overwhelmed trooper. Afterwards, he meets with Connie: “This is the part where you ask me the questions they sent you.” Kelly hesitates to translate Connie’s signing, but relents: “‘It’s been a month since Trooper Davis has been in the hospital under armed guard. What is he being charged with?'”

Mercer knows it’s an unapproved question. Connie closes in.

“Does it have anything to do with the fact that the woman he took hostage was your sister?”

He was wondering when she was going to figure it out. “For the record,” Mercer says, “the answer is, my sister doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with it.”

Trooper Davis was loyal and recommended for early promotion — by Mercer. But, Connie and Kelly point out, the disillusioned soldier ended up feeling the military was being manipulated by the politicians. “If I was you, I would be really interested in who I was risking my life for.”

“And if I were you,” Mercer replies, “I might wonder why I’m out here digging for answers that we both know will never see the light of day.”

Kelly signs to Connie: Asshole.

Eugene is on stakeout with Princess. He says he’s repaying what he owes and tells her about pursuing his dream of becoming a science fiction author. It’s a story he relayed to Stephanie over the radio.

“She told me, ‘You can’t wait till after you’ve lived through it, ’cause ready or not, right now is all we’ve got.’ She gave me the courage to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and when someone can do that for you, well… words like love seem insufficient.”

Eugene pressures Princess into breaking into Calhoun’s apartment. Carol has figured out Moto is robbing the female workers. She talked to one of Moto’s lieutenants: he’s pocketing the money Hornsby gives them for raises and beats the women to keep them quiet. Moto went too far the other night, explaining the strike. Hornsby will make the workers whole with their money, plus the raise he promised. Hornsby orders Moto arrested.

At Calhoun’s apartment, Princess and Eugene’s mark returns unexpectedly. Eugene uncovers a kit of weapons and ammunition, but the intruders are caught sneaking out of the building.

Back at the hospital, Mercer finds Trooper Davis’ room empty. He questions a nurse about the patient in M-33 and learns he was moved without Mercer’s authorization.

Eugene and Princess are jailed. Hornsby tells them Calhoun is a plumber at Ruby’s, and he has the paperwork to prove all of it. Asked about the “kidnap kit” in Calhoun’s apartment, Hornsby explains Calhoun is a full citizen with a license for the weapons — part of a go-bag in case of emergency. Hornsby tells Eugene to sign a statement declaring he was “emotionally distraught and in a paranoid state” following the disappearance of his girlfriend. If Eugene does that and agree to stay away from Calhoun, he won’t press charges.

When Hornsby leaves, Eugene tells Princess the conspiracy goes deeper than he thought. She thinks he’s delusional over an apparent breakup. Eugene say he has one piece of data she doesn’t: he knows how it felt. It was real.

Connie and Kelly have drinks over the latest issue of the Commonwealth Tribune: “TASK FORCE HOLDS THE LINE – SECOND WAVE EXPECTED.” Kelly reminds her sister they’re not going to be at the Commonwealth forever — it’s a temporary relocation.

Someone slides a note under the door. On it, a list of names. At the bottom: TYLER DAVIS.

Eugene infiltrates Ruby’s. He finds Beanie Hat Man before a woman floors Eugene with a kick to the stomach. It’s “Stephanie.” Hornsby enters with Calhoun.

“You played me. I knew. You corroborated Calhoun’s bogus alibi, I was certain you were involved with covering up Stephanie’s disappearance. But now I realize the depths of my self-delusion, because Occam’s razor should have led me to this conclusion before a well-placed kick to the belly ever did… There was never any Stephanie.”

Eugene angrily confronts Hornsby over his undercover agent-slash-suspect con artist.

“You used her to pull at my heartstrings and to trick me into telling you everything you wanted to know about our communities. Well, it worked. She led me to the train yard, where we were captured by you! You thought I was an easy mark, the most trusting of the police, so you split off my friends one at a time, thinking I’d break, but I didn’t break. Then she led me to the radio room, where we were captured again. Oh, and you certainly got your money’s worth there. I actually fell for that one twice! She’s the one that told me I can trust you! And I did. She even read my book so that she could get any helpful autobiographical information that might serve your needs! But now that you’ve gotten everything you wanted, what?! No need to continue the ruse?! Is that it?! But you didn’t see this twist. I am gonna make absolutely certain that everybody knows exactly who and what you are.”

“Okay,” Hornsby says, shrugging. “And who or what is that, exactly? The villain? The boogeyman? Or the best goddamn thing that ever happened to you?”

Hornsby admits he lied — just like Eugene and his traveling companions lied to get into the Commonwealth’s walls. “I did what I had to do to get you here. And you know what? You should be thanking me for it,” Hornsby tells him. “It’s not my fault you people are too stupid to know a good thing when it landed in your laps.”

Eugene sobs. The woman he fell in love with was a fiction. Hornsby tried to rip the bandaid off easy when the relationship started getting serious, and tried to do everything he could to get Eugene to stop looking for Stephanie, but he wouldn’t. “At least you can stop now, right? It wasn’t gonna get better for your people, Eugene. They were about to starve. And now you’re here and your community is getting fixed and you’ve got everything, from concerts to cancer surgery. And literally the only thing we’ve ever asked of you all in return is to be productive members of society here for as long as you choose to stay. So, tell them whatever you want.”

The statement Eugene signed to get out of jail says he’s suffering from “paranoia as a result of nervous strain.” No one will believe him. Hornsby is sorry for Eugene’s heartbreak, but in the balance of things, “I still think it worked out in everyone’s favor.”

“By the way,” Hornsby says, leaving, “Stephanie’s real name is Shira. And she hates Iron Maiden. But she genuinely enjoyed your book. You should stick with it.”

Outside, Eugene burns Stephanie’s missing posters. His manuscript follows them into the flames. Behind him, the silhouette of a woman. It’s Max (Margot Bingham).

“Tater Bug. This is Blue Weevil to Tater Bug. Please come back.”

Stephanie’s radio call sign.

“Who are you?”

“It’s me,” Max says. “I’m the one you were talking to on the radio.”


New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season air Sundays on AMC and AMC+. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for TWD Universe coverage all season long.


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