Seriously, most of what has happened so far is made utterly pointless. Gandalf tells the Trio that Merry and Pippin are A-OK and don't need their help anymore, and everyone heads to Edoras. Which means almost 1/4 of the book was Padding.
Were I the author or the editor, I would have encouraged coming up with a reason for Merry and Pippin to head to the Ents, and the Trio to head to Edoras right off the bat. Then we don't have unnecessary "Hunt for the Hobbits", nor do we make the Trio look like a-holes for leaving the Hobbits behind.