"Rock in the Road" is the ninth episode and mid-season premiere of the seventh season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the ninety-second episode of the series overall. It premiered on February 12, 2017. It was written by Angela Kang and directed by Greg Nicotero.
In the pantry, Gabriel hurriedly fills crates with food and weapons. His bible falls to the ground as he skims through the weapons registry with shaky hands. He loads the crates into a car and leaves Alexandria. A mysterious, dark figure is seen rising from the passenger seat, as the car drives away.
Meanwhile, Rick, Maggie, Sasha, Carl, Michonne, Tara, Rosita, Daryl and Jesus meet with Gregory in his office at the Hilltop. He refuses to help them in the fight against the Saviors. Gregory tells the survivors that they owe him twice over -- for not killing the Saviors as promised, and for his personal risk in harboring Maggie and Sasha.
Daryl reasons that they may not need a large army – if they find the right supplies, they can "blow 'em up." Tara brings up the fact that there are civilians inside the Sanctuary. Rick suggests they return to Alexandria before the Saviors arrive looking for Daryl. Jesus reveals a long-range walkie-talkie stolen from the Saviors; they can listen in and hear if Negan dispatches his men to Alexandria. He then proposes they visit King Ezekiel.
Jesus leads Rick's group to a decayed parking lot. Richard and another Kingdom guard, Alvaro, arrive on horseback. Jesus makes introductions and explains that they have similar interests. After some hesitation, Richard invites them to follow him.
Richard, assuming Rick is interested in becoming a trade partner, confides in Jesus. He stresses their need to battle the Saviors. Jesus assures Richard that he has good news.
Richard takes Rick's group inside the Kingdom, where they reunite with Morgan. Morgan keeps his word; he admits to Rick and Daryl that he found Carol, but says that she subsequently left the Kingdom without revealing her location.
Richard takes Rick's group to the theater, where they meet King Ezekiel. Rick asks Ezekiel to help them fight the Saviors. Ezekiel reprimands Jesus for telling Rick about his deal with the Saviors. They plead their case; in the process, Richard urges Ezekiel to fight the Saviors before things get worse, Morgan – asked for his opinion by Ezekiel himself – advises that they must find a non-violent course.
Ezekiel agrees to give Rick his decision in the morning and invites them to stay the night.
Benjamin runs into Carol in the woods while practicing his walker-fighting skills. She gives him advice on staying quiet and tells him to go home.
Ezekiel puts Henry, Benjamin's younger brother, down to bed. Benjamin urges Ezekiel to help Rick's group fight against the Saviors. Ezekiel thanks him for his counsel.
The next morning, Ezekiel explains to Rick that even though the Kingdom seems idyllic, they had to fight for it. He lost many people in a battle against the walkers, that’s why he refuses to violate the peace he holds with the Saviors. However, he offers Daryl asylum within the Kingdom walls.
Rick's group makes their way out of the Kingdom. Sasha vents to Rosita about Ezekiel. Rosita blows her off and refuses to be friends because Abraham left her for Sasha. Rick explains to Richard that they don't have the numbers to take out even one outpost. Richard realizes it's not just about the numbers; they're making the Saviors stronger every day by providing food, weapons and supplies. Rick urges Daryl to stay behind for his own safety, and to potentially change Ezekiel's mind.
On the drive back to Alexandria, they encounter a blockade of cars on the highway, set up by the Saviors. They start moving the cars out of the way. Michonne peers through her binoculars and spots something down the highway.
Rick's group finds a tripwire rigged across the road; a steel cable is stretched between two cars on opposite sides of the road, explosives carefully strung along the cable. Carl recalls Saviors talking about a tripwire trap for a large herd of walkers. Rosita leads an effort to dismantle the explosives so they can take the dynamite and RPGs with them.
Rick's group hears Negan's voice over the walkie, giving a fond eulogy to Fat Joey. Negan finds that Daryl has escaped and dispatches a search party to Alexandria. As they hurry to dismantle the tripwire, the large herd approaches down the road.
Rick explains that they want the herd to stay on the highway because they may need it. As Rosita, Tara and Carl work to block the onramp again, the herd surrounds them. Rick tells Jesus and Sasha to return to the Hilltop, then Rick and Michonne hotwire the two cars holding the steel cable for the tripwire. They drive on opposite sides of the herd, slicing walkers with the cord. They make their way to the SUV and join Rosita, Carl and Tara. As the SUV drives off, some leftover dynamite explodes amidst the herd behind them. As Rick and Michonne catch their breath in the back of the car, she assures him they can make it. "We're the ones who live," she says.
Rick's group returns to Alexandria moments before Simon arrives with a group of Saviors. Rick innocently wonders why they are back so soon for tribute. Simon tells him they're looking for Daryl.
The Saviors search Alexandria but come up empty. Simon notes that the pantry shelves are bare. Aaron explains that they're having a hard time scavenging.
After Simon leaves, Rick asks Aaron about the pantry. Aaron and Tobin explain that Gabriel disappeared from his night shift, along with most of their food, weapons and a car. Rosita accuses Gabriel of stealing their goods, but Rick defends Gabriel, saying he wouldn't do that.
Rick finds Gabriel's bible on the pantry floor. He then leafs through the inventory notebook and finds a hastily scribbled note from Gabriel that says, "BOAT," referring to the boat where Rick and Aaron found supplies.
Aaron packs a bag to accompany Rick back to the boat. Eric begs him not to go; he knows they're taking on the Saviors. Aaron tells him he has to.
Rick's group arrives at the lake. They follow a trail of footprints to an overgrown urban parking lot. A large group quickly surrounds them, holding them at gunpoint. Rick smiles.
- Jordan Woods-Robinson as Eric Raleigh
- Cooper Andrews as Jerry
- Carlos Navarro as Alvaro
- Peter Zimmerman as Eduardo
- Karen Ceesay as Bertie
- Macsen Lintz as Henry
- Ilan Srulovicz as Wesley
- Brett Gentile as Freddie
- Jeremy Palko as Andy
- As of this episode, Austin Nichols (Spencer) is no longer listed under "Also Starring" due to his character's death in the previous episode.
- The title of the episode, "Rock in the Road", comes from a story told by Rick to Ezekiel. It's about a girl whose life changed after spending time and effort to dig out a rock in the road and found a bag of gold under it. Rick implies that The Saviors is the "rock in the road", which caused damage to many people but still exists, and like the girl, they will have to spend a lot of effort to get rid of them for a better future.
- This episode is 73 minutes long, according to AMC's schedule.
- This is the seventh extended episode this season, and the thirteenth extended episode overall.
- This episode was dedicated to James Heltibridle.
- When Father Gabriel is taking off in the car at the start of the episode, a figure can be seen rising right next to him in the car.
- Ezekiel read to Henry the speech "I Have A Dream" of Martin Luther King Jr. When he tells Benjamin "The King is very proud of you", he is refering to both himself and Martin Luther King Jr.
- The highway in this episode is the same location used to shoot the beginning of Season 2, when Sophia went missing.
- Over 300 walkers are killed in this episode, making it the episode with the most walker deaths.
- It also holds the record of walkers to be killed in the shortest time.
- Two of the extras seen in The Kingdom in this episode are Deven and Alyssa, son and daughter of this episode's director - Greg Nicotero. They can be seen shooting arrows as King Ezekiel speaks with Rick's group.
- The highway scene was filmed in just 2 days. (August 23rd-24th, 2016)
- The section of highway used, was the same stretch of highway from Season 2 where Sophia was lost.
- Due to filming conflicts, Alanna Masterson never actually appears in the theater scenes, due to her filming the Oceanside scenes for "Swear".
- This episode marks the last time Rick, Carl, Michonne, Tara, and Morgan see Sasha alive.
- Rick's group arguing with Gregory for not allowing Hilltop to join the fight against the Saviors is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 101, where Rick punches him for lack of info on the Saviors instead.
- Jesus telling Rick's group that is time to introduce them to Ezekiel is adapted from Issue 107.
- Rick's group arriving at the Kingdom and being received by two armored guards is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 108, where only Rick is received instead.
- Jesus introducing Ezekiel to Rick's group and forgetting to mention Shiva is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 108, where Jesus tells this to Rick instead.
- Rick's group being shocked to see Shiva is adapted from Issue 110.
- Upon Rick's group entering the Kingdom's auditorium, Tara appears to enter as well, but is mysteriously absent for the remainder of the scene.