Welcome back to Highlander: the Series, Season 1. There will be spoilers ahead for this episode. Proceed with caution.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) is an Immortal thief, circus performer, and former love interest of Duncan. When a spurned former partner in crime, Zachary (Jason Isaacs), comes for her head, she offers him $10M and Duncan’s head instead.
To that end, she invites Duncan to the circus. When he is there, she says that an Immortal is after her. Soon thereafter Zachary attacks. The first fight between Duncan and Zachary ends prematurely due to onlookers. After the fight, Richie spies on Zachary and Amanda. He learns that Amanda and Zachary are working together but that Amanda is not doing it willingly.
Amanda and Zachary attempt a museum heist to pay Amanda’s promised money to Zachary. Duncan interrupts the robbery and fights a duel with Zachary. Duncan wins the duel. Before he can take Zachary’s head, Amanda does it first.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
The episode begins with a man, in a straight jacket, taking out two police officers in close quarters using nothing but his legs. Who is this man? Why it’s none other than Lucius Malfoy! Well, Jason Isaacs is playing the character. We don’t know his name yet. And he has short black hair.
He gets out of his straight jacket, kicks open a window to the police van transporting him, and jumps from the top of the van to the top of a trailer pulling cars in the other direction down the highway. He unhooks the car from the trailer, hot wires it, and drives away with a smirk on his face.
In the next scene we are at a circus. Someone has anonymously sent Duncan tickets so he, Tessa, and Richie all go. Richie seems excited to be there, but in the kind of way where he cannot believe what life around Duncan is like. The Amazing Amanda, a tight rope walker, comes to the stage and the score lets us know that she is a fellow Immortal.
Duncan appears to be in a romantic relationship with Amanda. In the middle of the night, after a romp with Duncan, Amanda dresses and leaves Duncan sleeping. She meets up with Malfoy (I am going to call him that until they tell us his name) and gives him jewels she has apparently stolen. He wants MacLeod’s Quickening but she says he would have to fight a troop of soldiers to get to him.
Amanda leaves the Baron’s signet ring on the table beside the bed where Duncan is sleeping. As a result, the Baron’s troops believe Duncan stole the Baron’s wife’s jewels. Shirtless and surrounded, while in bed, Duncan fights off a group of men and escapes out the window through which Amanda earlier exited. Thoughtful thieving Amanda left a shirt outside and boots on the ground for MacLeod to find and wear.
Duncan tells this story to Tessa and Richie. He concludes by saying that when he caught up with Amanda, she said she had not meant to get him into any trouble.
Wait a minute. You mean you tried to see her again?
Just then Amanda calls out to Duncan. The last time the two have seen each other was in 1926. Amanda seems surprised that he said that in front of others and Duncan points out that Tessa and Richie know about Immortals.
Amanda: Well I’m sure they don’t know everything.
Tessa: You’d be surprised.
Duncan reminds her that she was wanted for a string of burglaries by a federal Marshall in 1926. It sounds like – as with the flashback – Duncan was left to answer the questions of the authorities in that instance, too.
Tessa: You don’t look like someone who would worry much about forgiveness.
Richie: Tess… you do know that they all carry big swords with them?
Amanda takes up Tessa’s antagonism and tells Duncan that if he ever wants to run away with the circus again he should look her up. MacLeod says bye. Richie hangs behind and flirts with Amanda, encouraging her to come by the barge and giving her a business card.
As the three of them leave the circus, Tessa walks in front. Duncan catches up with her and says, “so now you’ve met Amanda.” Tessa coldly replies, “now I’ve met Amanda.”
[The tour of Duncan’s Immortal ex-girlfriends is not going as well with Amanda as it went with Grace.]
Later that night, someone tells Amanda that there is someone waiting for her in the tent. She goes inside, smiling, and says “so you couldn’t stay away.” Lucious Malfoy stands in the shadows. Amanda, no longer smiling, tells us Malfoy’s character on Highlander is named Zachary. [I will begrudgingly call him Zachary for the rest of this post.] He is not happy with Amanda. She seems to have left him answering questions from authorities at some point, too, and he landed in a maximum security prison (from which we saw him escape as the episode began.)
When Zachary is about to take Amanda’s head, she tells him that she can give him MacLeod’s head.
This is apparently enough to save Amanda’s life because we see her walking toward the barge while Richie is removing his laundry from a line where it had been drying. What, no electric dryer on the barge? She asks when Duncan will be back and he decides to play coy. She changes tactics and asks Richie his name. Young Mr. Ryan stumbles over his words a bit before introducing himself as Richard.
Amanda: Ah, Richard. The Lionheart. I knew him.
Richie: You knew him? What was he like?
Amanda: [standing closer] He lion heart wasn’t his only animal attribute.
As we have seen in the past, Richie is easily seduce-able, and Amanda succeeds in getting Richie to say when Duncan will return. Even though he knows he was easily manipulated into giving away Duncan’s itinerary, nothing ever dampens Richie’s spirits:
Yeah! Richard. The Lionheart. I like that!
Amanda enters the barge and talks to Tessa. She notes that Tessa is an artist and the Queen tells her that she is a sculptor. Amanda then says she knew Rodin and modeled for him… among other things. Tessa now has a thin layer of amusement for Amanda (above the deep dislike beneath) and says that Amanda will have to tell her about those “other things” sometime. Duncan returns as Tessa leaves.
The ghost of Christmas past came to pay you a visit. Don’t unwrap any presents while I’m gone.
Amanda tells Duncan that she felt an Immortal presence the previous night. She lies and says she does not know who it was, but she asks him to keep an eye out for her.
In the next scene we see Zachary at a sword shop. After the shopkeeper shows him a few blade that are replicas, Zachary insists on seeing an original. He is shown an original made with Damascas steel. When the salesman tells him that the sword will cost 40,000 francs, Zachary says that he does not have quite that much on him. Then he stabs the store owner with the sword and walks out.
Amanda and MacLeod are walking through the circus area together. She tells Duncan that there have been a lot of times when she missed him and that she knows the feeling is not mutual. He says “there never was another Immortal, was there.” Amanda tells him she is not that hard up and says good bye.
MacLeod is not far from the trailer where he left Amanda (err, where Amanda left him) when he does feel another Immortal. Zachary charges at MacLeod and does a forward flip with sword in hand. Amanda emerges to watch the duel. The caged tigers are growling all around. Eventually circus folk emerge and the two Immortals put their swords away. Zachary appears to know Duncan and have anger toward him. Duncan does not recognize him. After Zachary leaves, Duncan sees Amanda and she shrugs in a “see, I told you so” kind of way.
In the next scene, Amanda tells Duncan she has never seen Zachary before. Duncan says that her circus friends know who to look out for now and she should be fine. She flirts with him and says “you haven’t let me thank you properly for saving my life.” Duncan removes her hands from the front of his jacket and leaves.
In the next scene, Duncan is doing research via 1993’s internet. He notes that a man who escaped from prison recently, Zachary Blaine, looks like the guy who attacked him at the circus. Duncan learns that Blaine made two prior escape attempts, both of which included walking out on a telephone wire.
Richie: Like a circus guy?
Duncan: Just like a circus guy.
In the next scene we see Tessa talking to a very old circus man. He had a vaudeville act. She is asking him about high wire acts. When she brings up Amanda, he knows who she is talking about. The old man volunteers that she performed with a man named Zachary. He even has an early 20th century poster that he shows to Tessa with both of their pictures on it.
Back on the barge, Tessa has told Duncan what she learned and he admits they are in it together. Richie volunteers to follow her. Duncan objects but I think Richie is going to do it anyway.
We see Amanda – wearing sunglasses and a shawl covering her head – walking down the street. Zachary accosts her. She tells him that if he had come an hour later, she would have had MacLeod drugged and unconscious. He threatens her that he either gets MacLeod’s head or her head. When the two walk away, the camera pans back and looks upward. Richie walks in front of the camera with a smug “I’m a master spy” type look on his face.
Amanda leads Zachary to a museum. She tells him about a plan to steal a multi-million dollar book on display there and describes the alarm system that the museum has in place. Richie is watching them from a distance. Amanda glances in his direction once and we (the audience) are not clear if she saw him or not [She may be doing some of this conversation with Zachary for Richie’s benefit.] She looks to her left and definitely sees Richie this time. She makes a face which gets Zachary’s attention. While denying that anything is amiss, Richie leaves.
Back on the barge, Richie gives his report. Tessa is concerned that Duncan is getting himself into trouble. Duncan replies that dealing with Zachary is non-optional because of how badly Zachary wants to fight. Richie points out that Amanda does not seem happy.
Tessa: After all that she’s done to you, why do you care whether she’s happy or not?
Duncan: I don’t know, Tessa. She made me laugh when there weren’t too many things to laugh about. Maybe that doesn’t seem important but those are the things I remember of her.
Tessa: She makes me feel like I have to compete with her. Maybe if I’d been a lady pirate or something…
Duncan assures Tessa that Amanda is no competition. Then he leaves to deal with Amanda and Zachary.
We find Amanda explaining to Duncan her history with Zachary. They were former partners in high wire walking and thievery. When he started to get greedy, she staged her own death and he was convicted of the murder. Duncan asks why Zachary has “hated [him] for centuries” and Amanda clears that up, too.
Because he’s always felt second best. I guess that’s because I told him he was.
Amanda tries to talk Duncan into going on the run with her. He refuses and says he is sorry. She says “me too” in an ominous way. A bunch of circus toughs are in the tent she has walked Duncan into. After Duncan appears to fight them off successfully, several more enter the tent and a net drops down on Duncan. They hold him down.
They promised not to hurt you unless they had to. Now just be a good boy and they will let you go in the morning.
We find Duncan tied up to a chair and surrounded by circus people. MacLeod begins sewing seeds of doubt with his captors by telling them that he is also a circus man and that Amanda is away committing grand larceny. He tells them a probably true story about his past in the circus and his equestrian act, “The Great MacLeod.” One of the clowns continues calling Duncan a rube. lol.
Next, we see Zachary, dressed in black, breaking into the museum. He does a highwire walk to reach an access point. Now comes Amanda, also dressed in black, doing the same high wire walk behind Zachary.
Back at the circus, the circus folk have untied Duncan and put him on horseback so that he can prove that he has an equestrian act. His act, as it turns out, is a knives throwing act. He rides in a small circle and throws knives at a series of targets. We see Duncan successfully hit a bullseye on two targets before he climbs up to stand on the horse as it trots in a circle. His third knife throw is not at a target. Instead, he throws a knife at an electrical power cord. The light inside their tent goes out. In the dark, Duncan escapes.
Back at the museum, in the dark, Zachary is lowering Amanda down to the book using a pulley and rope. As she touches the book, we see a now smiling MacLeod watching on from a distant opposite balcony. Once she picks up the book, MacLeod switches on the lights.
You know, you’re really good. I should let you get away with it. You know what? I’ll toss a coin. Heads I let you go. Tails I call the police. Okay?
Duncan tosses the coin and intentionally misses catching it, letting it fall to the floor below This sets off the alarm. “Oops.” The two thieves flee the building, book in hand, as the police arrive.
Amanda and Zachary escape. As they are catching their breath, she asks where MacLeod is. Zachary suddenly feels as though this is a set-up. Amanda pulls out a sword and challenges him. Zachary, though, pulls out a pistol. As he is about to shoot Amanda, Duncan arrives and disarms him.
A moment later the three Immortals are standing in a circle, each with a sword drawn. MacLeod and Zachary begin a duel and Amanda steps back. After a furious duel, Duncan finally knocks the sword from his hands. At this point Amanda steps forward and beheads Zachary. Duncan looks at her wonderingly and Amanda just shrugs. Then she gets the Quickening.
Amanda again asks Duncan to go away with her.
Amanda: I have a beautiful villa in the Greek islands. [pause] She’s going to get old.
Duncan: I don’t care.
Amanda: Oh well. It was worth a shot.
As she is leaving, Duncan says Amanda’s name. He tells her to leave the book. He pulls it from her hands and smiles.
Jason Isaacs is so good. I wish the show had given him a meatier role and/or a recurring role. His swordsmanship is as good as we have seen on the show. Beyond that… he just does menacing so well.
Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen) somehow outshines him as a guest star. Her character is really a unique one for women in story-telling. Amanda is essentially a female rogue. Beside her obvious beauty, she steals, toes the line of danger, loves men and leaves them, but ultimately she does not want anyone to actually get hurt. On the surface, throughout the episode, she is a pretty terrible person. Gracen gives the performance in such a way, though, that as a viewer, you are inclined to give her some benefit of the doubt. She clearly loves MacLeod.
Regarding her decision at the end of the episode to take Zachary’s Quickening? I believe the rule against 2 against 1 is specific to the actual fighting. She did not take his Quickening until the fighting was over. I also think she wanted to alleviate Duncan’s concern that she might take *his* head while he was recovering from the Quickening. It was an act of trust in Duncan, on her part, to be weakened in front of him.
The Duncan-Tessa relationship is beginning to feel doomed. When the show began, there was a weird undercurrent of distrust between the two of them. Then there were a few episodes where Tessa seems to regret not having children. Lately, we keep meeting other potential love interests for MacLeod – including Immortal love interests. Tessa’s confession that Amanda makes her feel as though she has to compete is as weak as we have seen her. Weakness does not fit her well.
I thought Duncan gave a really interesting answer regarding why he cares about Amanda. He values that she makes him laugh. To some extent I think he finds Richie’s enthusiasm funny, too. Duncan is kind of a sorrowful warrior character. The laughs are often few and far between in a life spent fighting either a war or a fellow Immortal to the death. In between the fighting, he watches every mortal he loves get old and die. It makes sense that he would cherish levity.
The funniest scene in the entire episode was the interrogation scene where the circus folk have MacLeod tied up. I wish that clown could get a recurring role on this show. Maybe now that he no longer has an Antique Store, Duncan could start doing some circus work.