Friends, Romans, Afterelton/Backlot.com-ers—lend me your ears. And if you have ears like Colin Morgan, you’ve got plenty to spare. No, seriously, I’ve been perhaps a bit harsh on Merlin over the past couple weeks—deservedly so, I’d argue—but this week I promise to present a more balanced look at the show and point out a few things Merlin does as well as anyone else on television.
And I’d like to start with crossbow crotch-shots. How many others shows on television so prominently and blatantly feature crossbow crotch-shots? I don’t remember that on Revolution or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Avengers’ Hawkeye never quite shot his load the same way as demonstrated on this week’s Merlin. And oh, yes, Hunger Games, you may have made bows and arrows trendy again, but even you would not pander to your happy gay demographic with such an awesomely cheap shot of a crossbow planted right in a dude’s crotch.
I got to hand it to you, Merlin; that was pretty cheeky of you. Or, perhaps I should say, that was pretty bulgy of you.
But on with the recap. We open with a young lad breaking his way into Camelot. It’s good to know that the crack Camelot security team is still on top of things. Seriously, Camelot has more visitors in the middle of the night than a 24-hour doughnut shop next to a 24-hour marijuana dispensary.
Anyway, this particular lad, Daegal, is looking specifically for Merlin. But first Guinevere and the Pips find the lad. He tells them he has been out catching frogs, and to prove it, he shows them all the frogs he caught. Which is none. Whoops! But Guinevere, who loves all things except her husband, his benignly despotic rule and his fabulously toothy grin, smiles sweetly on the lad, pats his head, and sends him on his way.
Daegal ends up in the castle, where he tells Merlin that his sister is very ill and she needs a doctor right away. He also shows off his Druid tattoo. Merlin cannot resist helping a fellow outcast in need. He tells Gaius that he is going to the Valley of the Fallen Kings, which is apparently the most crime-ridden spot in the kingdom—I guess that makes it the Detroit of Camelot. Gaius objects, but Merlin goes anyway.
In Camelot, Arthur Pendragon is calling for Merlin rather testily. It appears he cannot find his comb. Fortunately, his murderous wife swoops in to aid him:
Arthur: “It must have been under something.”
Guinevere: “Your nose.”
Arthur: “You have this way of seeing things.”
Guinevere: “Yes, two of them, they’re called eyes.”
Another point of praise for Merlin; this week’s episode featured a lot of enjoyably snappy dialogue. I like both dialogue and peas that snap.
Arthur is amusingly helpless without Merlin. He cannot comb his hair, he cannot dress himself, and as for who brings the Charmin after he makes a royal number two—well, you get the idea. Since Merlin is absent (Arthur believes him in the tavern,) Gaius is conscripted to aid Arthur in getting dressed. However, Gaius is as clueless as Arthur, and somehow they manage to put the king into the queen’s nightdress. (I’m sure that’s not the first time that has happened.) Poor Gaius! What does he know about fine attire and accoutrements? Have you seen what he generally wears? He dresses like a depressed Pope.
Guinevere, meanwhile, sneaks out of the castle and into the woods, leaving something at the base of a tree. Is it a hidden treasure? Is it fertilizer (maybe this is where the king’s royal doody ended up?) Is it the lost ring of Mordor? No, it’s just a message for the crazy sorceress pony express. Morgana finds the note and gets all smiley-happy-evil-snake-hair. Seriously, Morgana, if Leon can find the time to condition his fabulous curls, so can you.
Elsewhere, Daegal is leading Merlin through the woods. Daegal tells Merlin about his sister, Lox, and his mother, Cream Cheese. Merlin is nice to him, which Daegal is not used to. He is acting oddly, but in the grand tradition of Merlin, our boy sorcerer does not notice a thing. At least until they come across some bandits and Merlin tries to telepathically warn Daegal, as all Druids are apparently telepathic. You know, that’s even handier than texting. I wonder how many mental messages Merlin gets under his current plan? Does he get rollover mind messaging? Or does he have to use them all up every month? And I wonder how mind sexting—“mexting”—works. I imagine Merlin has been mexting Arthur for years now, but, sadly, it probably does not work on natural blonds.
Once he realizes that Daegal is not a Druid (oh, Merlin, we’ve all been fooled by henna tattoos, trust me,) Merlin does the only sensible thing—he just keeps going. That’s right, he doesn’t confront the lad, he doesn’t head back to Camelot, he doesn’t do anything but keep going. And then, only when he walks straight into the trap, does Merlin smugly say he knew what it was a trap all along. Then why did you go, Merlin?
Morgana attacks and then pours some slow-acting poison down Merlin’s gullet. Really, Morgana? Didn’t we learn our lesson from last week that slow-acting is not the way to go? You know what works faster than your slow-acting poisons, Morgana? Fast-acting poison. Or how about a rock. A really big rock. And hey, this message isn’t just for Morgana, but for all the Bond villains, evil doers, redneck cannibal hillbillies, and other assorted crazies out there. Slow-acting might as well be no-acting. I get that delaying the action may be fun—anticipation always adds to the zeal of things—but has that ever really worked out for you? Huh? Think about it.
Wow, sorry for the evil Tony Robbins moment there—well, “evil Tony Robbins” may be redundant. Anyway, in Camelot, the king and court are all a-twitter about the arrival of The Sarrum, a guy so obnoxious that—like The Situation and The Gambia—he needs to use a definite article to introduce himself. Just call me The Unimpressed. But Arthur is. He does his best to put out the welcome mat for The Sarrum.
By the way, if his official name is “The Sarrum,” does that make the guy’s first name “The”? Could you imagine that? It’s the most common word in the English language! I can see it now:
Random Person: “I want to talk to the—”
The Sarrum: “Yay! It’s me!”
Random Person: “I was going to say the parson.”
The Sarrum: “Oh, poop. Why was my mother the least creative person in the world?”
Apparently The Sarrum once held Morgana and her pet dragon prisoner for two years, so Arthur thinks the two have something in common (besides, he has been experimenting with “The Arthur,” so he wants to get The Sarrum’s opinion on how it sounds.) But The Sarrum is not a nice guy. He delights in torture and treachery, whereas Arthur delights in fair play and reason. And Guinevere delights in Sara Lee. Hey, even a bat-sh**-crazy scheming nasty treasonous demon queen doesn’t not like Sara Lee.
Sneaking off into the woods, Morgana and Guinevere discuss this week’s evil plan to kill Arthur. Guinevere will offer herself to The Sarrum, and once he assassinates Arthur, they’ll plot to have Camelot’s knights kill him. Two for the price of one! I can respect a girl with an eye toward a bargain.
The knights of Camelot and The Sarrum’s men fight in a tournament—seriously, if we’re going to have gym class, couldn’t it be shirts and skins?—and Arthur is battling The Sarrum’s lead warrior, The Other Guy. The Other Guy wins, but The Sarrum is complimentary toward Arthur’s skills. Hmm. Maybe they will have a truce despite the Queen’s plotting after all? Nope. She waylays The Sarrum in The Hallway and has The Talk with him about The Betrayal of The King.
In the woods, Merlin remains largely inert, which sadly pretty much describes my every Friday night. Daegal, feeling guilty that he helped get Merlin killed, tells Merlin that he will help him get better. Merlin tells him the herbs to gather to make a cure for the potion. Daegal prepares it for him and Merlin takes it, but then he has a seizure and seems to die. Okay, if Jennifer Love Hewitt shows up and has to start “whispering” to Merlin, I am turning off this show for good. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen, and eventually Merlin wakes up. Daegal tells Merlin that Morgana and Guinevere have designs on the king, and the two make their way back to Camelot.
Gaius heads to the king’s bedchamber, hoping to find Arthur and get him to send out a search party for Merlin. He finds Guinevere instead, and when Gaius mentions the search party, Guinevere just shrugs and says, “Merlin just went for a cart ride through that mountain pass with that lovely Donner family from next door. I’m sure they’ll be fine.” She thinks that Camelot needs all of its guards handy since The Sarrum is around. Because they generally do such a bang-up job with security, right?
Guinevere meets with The Sarrum and plots to give him one third of Camelot in exchange for his arranging for the assassination of Arthur. The Sarrum eagerly takes the bait, but tells his henchman that once Arthur is gone, all of Camelot will be ripe for the pickings.
Merlin and Daegal are caught by the bandits, and Merlin is forced to use his magic to save them. Daegal says to Merlin, “Now I know your secret,” to which Merlin replies, “Only one of ‘em, kid.” It turns out Daegal’s mother knew magic, and Uther killed her for it. Then he says to Merlin, “Did you know my mom? Because you have magic and she had magic? Don’t all magic people know each other?” Merlin just rolls his eyes.
In Camelot, Gaius finally corners Arthur and tells him he is worried about Merlin. He wants to send out a search party but Guinevere intervenes, saying that Merlin is out visiting a girl. Please, sister! No one buys that flimsy story for two seconds—well, no one except Arthur. My, but he is pretty though, right?
Now we finally get our crossbow crotch-shot, as The Sarrum’s assassin climbs to the terrace above the round table room to shoot Arthur with his bow. Meanwhile, Merlin bursts into the castle, but Arthur is already in the council room. He rushes there but sees the door to the open stairway and realizes the real danger lies up the stairs. He races up them and suddenly I realize—Merlin is recreating the climactic scene of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country! I love that movie! I half expect Ensign Sulu to come beaming into Camelot, grab Merlin and Arthur, and tell them, “It’s okay! Just say Takei!”
Merlin and Daegal interrupt the assassin in time. Merlin uses his magic to throw the assassin’s arrow back at him, causing the assassin to miss and hit The Sarrum instead. Turns out The Sarrum is now The Dead. Sadly, Daegal did not attend school the day they learned dodge ball in P.E. class, because he forgets to duck and takes a knife right in the gullet and dies.
Arthur laments the boy’s passing, saying that the lad saved the king but Arthur does not even know his name. Actually, Merlin saved the king for the 188th time, but who’s counting? Arthur then needles Merlin about his girlfriend, and everyone watching is rolling their eyes about Merlin lying—again!—to cover up for the inside-the-castle-traitor—again! Gaius and Merlin bury Daegal and vow they have to do something about Guinevere. But what? Ay, there’s the rub. Here’s my advice: whatever it is, whatever you decide to do, just make sure it isn’t slow-acting.