— -- While fans rejoiced at the return of "The Walking Dead" last night, many were left scratching their heads at one character's disappearance and the introduction of a mysterious group of survivors.
Here are burning questions as we head into the remainder of season 7.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
Where's Father Gabriel?
Leaving his Bible behind, Father Gabriel cleaned out the pantry of weapons and food and loaded the supplies into a car. He then drove off with a shadowy figure in the passenger seat.
Last night, episode 9, picked up where we left off at the closing of the first half of the season. As Gabriel took the nighttime watch over Alexandria, we see someone watching him from afar.
This unknown character may be the same person who was watching Rick and Aaron when they were traveling via rowboat on a supply run. The giveaway? He or she is wearing the same, muddy boots. Later, Rick finds a note left by Gabriel reading "BOAT" which leaves us wondering what the connection is between the mysterious person, the boat and why Gabriel, presumably, left with this person voluntarily.
Who's the new group?
At the end of the show, Rick and the gang go back to the spot where the boat was only to be cornered by a large number of survivors. They are surrounded by this new group who put guns to their heads. Before Rick can start reasoning with them or defending his people, a huge grin appears on his face.
The fact that Rick is smiling, which he rarely does lately, hints at possible reasons. Rick's main focus right now has been to enlist as many supporters as he can as he prepares to fight Negan's group, the Saviors.
Despite a group of Hilltop residents offering to join Rick's army, King Ezekiel refuses the proposal, noting that he would not risk the lives of his people even if it means the Kingdom continues to serve Negan.
This puts a dent in Rick's plan because he knows that without strength in numbers, his people could never take out the Saviors.
Whether they're holding guns to their heads or not, the encounter with this new group at the close of the episode has Rick elated. Could they join the people of Alexandria and the Hilltop in the fight? Let's hope they're not just as violent, or worse than the Saviors.
What will happen if Negan and the Saviors find the explosives?
After meeting with King Ezekiel, Rick leaves Daryl at the Kingdom for his safety since he's on the run after escaping captivity with the Saviors. On the way back to Alexandria, the group comes across a walker booby trap created by the Saviors with explosives attached. Rosita disarms it, allowing the group to swipe the incendiary materials.
Considering Alexandria gets a visit from the Saviors every couple of weeks, where will Rick and the crew hide the explosives? And if they are found, what will Negan do? Hopefully they're used in battle before he and Lucille drop by for a pickup.