Fair's fair. Enid, of all people, got her own moment to shine this season, so now we check in with Tara and Heath (remember him?) who've been totally disconnected from everything happening with everyone else in the show. Think back to what seems like forever ago, when Rick and the Alexandrians snuck into the satellite station to kill a bunch of people in their sleep. Tara and Heath left straight from there to do a two-week scavenge for supplies, so as far as they know, the Saviors have been wiped out, Hilltop is supplying Alexandria with food, and everyone they hold dear - including Tara's girlfriend Denise - is still alive. It feels a little slapdash, but it's a stark reminder of one of The Walking Dead's major themes: everything can change in an instant, which is either a good reason not to get attached to anyone, or exactly the reason why you should.
It's that very point that Heath and Tara are arguing about as they try to decide whether to keep foraging or head home. They haven't had much luck, and Heath is feeling extremely disillusioned. The people of Alexandria had no idea how things really worked in the world, and he kind of preferred it that way. Tara, bless her heart, tries to convince him that they were doing what they had to do to survive, and people helping each other is the way forward, and everything good that's left in this world is hidden, so to find it you just have to keep looking. It's a bit of an on-the-nose summary of what's about to happen, but the scene lays out the two core philosophies at play in this new world: the belief that 'we're all in this alone' versus 'we're all in this together'.
Their camper is low on gas, but Heath concedes to one more day of searching, and eventually the pair comes across an abandoned encampment on a bridge. There's an enormous pile of sand blocking one side of the bridge, which turns out to be chock-full of beachy walkers. There's a scuffle, Health and Tara get separated, and she gets knocked over the side of the bridge into the river. She washes up on a beach and is discovered by a young girl, Rachel, who wants to kill her because killing strangers on sight is the rule of their village. She also, it must be said, is kind of murder-happy. I don't know if this girl was a sociopath-in-training in the before times, but she sure is now. Yeesh. Cindy tells Rachel to shove off, drags an unconscious Tara up out of the water line, and leaves her some supplies. Quick etiquette question: what's the right response when someone leaves you food, but the food is disgusting? I mean, on the one hand, can't turn down a meal in the apocalypse, but on the other hand, salted perch? Ew. More importantly, Cindy's act of kindness touches on another one of The Walking Dead's larger themes, that kindness often leads to disaster.
Tara follows Cindy back to her village, and is having a good snoop around when she's spotted and chased by the residents. Oh, and shot at, because holy wow, do these ladies have guns aplenty. Tara manages to ambush one of the women chasing her, taking her gun but sparing her life, which turns out to be a good move because it's the only thing that saves her neck when she's caught just a few seconds later. The people of Oceanside, which is where we are now, find themselves in a pickle - on the one hand, they can't let Tara go to potentially reveal their location, but on the other hand, just shooting her in the face seems a bit rude, all things considered. They discuss this conundrum with Tara over dinner, finally revealing why they're so strict about secrecy and why the village is entirely women. Another group (any guesses who?) lined up all the men over ten years old and shot them; rather than live in constant fear, the entire community slipped away with just the clothes on their backs, eventually finding the Oceanside Motor Court and establishing a new life. They invite Tara to stay with them, and even offer to help her find Heath and let him stay there, too. Tara counters by proudly telling them about how the Alexandrians took out the Saviors to protect themselves and Hilltop. Remember, as far as she knows, they were successful and the Saviors are extinct now. She proposes that Alexandria and Oceanside work together, because people helping people is how the world gets back to normal. People helping people by killing other people in their beds, if need be.
Cindy's grandmother, Natania, agrees to sending a guide out with Tara first to find Heath, and then to inspect Alexandria, and thus Tara sets out the next day with a couple of well-armed escorts. She eventually realizes how seriously they take their secrecy and runs away, but as we've seen earlier, evasion isn't exactly her strong suit. One of the women finds her, informs her that no, you didn't take out the Saviors, you just pissed them off, your people are probably dead and we're not risking them finding us, so, see ya. Cindy takes her out just before she pulls the trigger, and offers to get Tara back to the bridge, but only if she swears that she'll never tell anyone - even her own people - anything about Oceanside. Tara swears, but she doesn't pinkie swear, which seems like a massive oversight on Cindy's part, frankly, but they make it back to the bridge where Tara discovers tire tracks that imply Heath maybe got away. Good on ya, Heath.
Eventually, Tara makes it all the way back to Alexandria on foot, where Eugene brings her up to speed on current events. Rosita begs her for any intel she might have on guns with which they can fight back against Negan, but Tara keeps her promise to Cindy. They'll just have to find another way.
While not as aggressively terrible as last week's episode, Swear is emblematic of what's wrong with this season. It's a bad sign when you could skip an episode entirely and not feel like you'd missed anything, which is absolutely true of Swear. Not every episode needs to be wall-to-wall action - quiet moments can be just as powerful, if not moreso. But Tara isn't an interesting enough character to carry the episode on her shoulders, and the moral questions she explores with Heath, Cindy, and Natania is all ground we've been covering for years. Swear is just like the supply run that Heath and Tara were on in the first place: a meandering journey that ends up back where it started with nothing to show for it.