Highlander (Season 2, Ep 30): Revenge of the Sword

Welcome back to Highlander: the Series. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

Duncan is pulled into a dispute between Charlie’s friend Jimmy and the Tong gang when the Tong attempt to kill Jimmy while he is filming a movie in Duncan’s dojo. Jimmy is a former member of the gang and they do not want his movie – about their group – to be made.

Duncan and Jimmy take down the group together, after their mutual friend, a Buddhist monk named Lao, is killed by the gang. Jimmy is himself almost killed in the process. Duncan ultimately convinces Jimmy to testify against the gang rather than exact a fatal vengeance against its leader.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Our episode begins with Charlie’s participation in a martial arts movie along side guest star Dustin Nguyen. Charlie’s character dies as our guest star screams “no!” toward the ceiling. When the director for the movie-within-our-episode finally yells cut, we find out that the movie is being filmed in Duncan’s dojo and that Nguyen’s character is named Jimmy Sang.

[Note: Some of you might remember that Dustin Nguyen also guest starred in the season 1 episode The Road Not Taken where he played a character named Chu Lin.]

We learn quickly that Jimmy Sang is, uh, arrogant. Charlie introduces him to Duncan and says that he taught Jimmy all of his moves and says that he’s going to be a star. Jimmy replies that he already is a star, right before walking off to yell at the crew about how he is dying of thirst. Duncan asks Charlie if he taught Jimmy humility, too. Charlie excuses Jimmy’s behavior by saying he is ‘in character.’ The director, Lisa Scott, thanks Duncan for the studio and says that they can use all the freebies they can get. She then calls over to one of the extras, Terry, who is lying on the floor, and says that they are done shooting for the week. Terry does not move. Duncan goes to check on Terry and learns that the man is dead.

In the next scene, Duncan throws Charlie to the mat and Charlie calls it quits. Jimmy Sang is there, looking on, and tells Duncan that he must think he’s pretty hot.

Duncan: Adequate.
Jimmy: That’s what I think too. Adequate.

Duncan tells Jimmy that he has a couple of nice moves. Jimmy asks if he knows anyone better. Duncan tells him that for a movie star, he is great. He gives Jimmy a sword. Jimmy flourishes it and stops just short of Duncan’s neck. MacLeod carefully pushes the sword away and tells him that one death on his movie is probably enough.

Charlie calls over to Duncan from his office. We learn that Terry was poisoned. Jimmy says it must be a mistake and Charlie pushes back saying that they conducted an autopsy. He says the poison was in some ginseng tea. Duncan points out that ginseng tea is what Jimmy was asking for after the take and then he points out that maybe the stunt guy drank the tea intended for Jimmy.

Jimmy: Give me a break. Why would someone want to poison me?
Duncan: Now you’d know that better than we do.

Duncan advises Jimmy to keep a low profile and Jimmy pushes back saying that he is on a train right now, and that if the train stops, his career is over. Duncan asks him what happens to the train if he is dead. Charlie asks him what a few days will hurt.

Jimmy: Up yours, Charlie. And when did you become such a wuss?

After Jimmy leaves, Duncan sarcastically says that he guesses Jimmy is still in character.

Sometime later, the movie director Lisa Scott bangs on MacLeod’s apartment door. When he opens the door, she barges in and tells Duncan that he and Charlie had no business telling Jimmy that he should temporarily shut down production. She points out angrily that this is her production.

Duncan: I guess it’s just my cautious nature. I was thinking of his life.

She tells MacLeod that she pays for security and that there is no proof it was an attempt on Jimmy’s life. MacLeod sarcastically agrees and says that all they have is a dead body. Duncan asks her why she does not have the police investigate and she decides to tell him about the movie business. She says that if she shuts down production, her movie will not be delivered on time. And her movie will go into the toilet.

Lisa: I know it’s your dojo but I’d really appreciate it if you stay the h*** off my set.

Sometime later, Charlie approaches Duncan and asks if he will give Jimmy a break. He tells Duncan that Jimmy’s father kicked him out when he was sixteen.

ABRUPT FLASHBACK! (no long stares or flashback music – just a quick cut)

Duncan is told by his father that he is not his son.

ABRUPT RETURN TO PRESENT!

Charlie asks Duncan if he thinks it’s easy having his life turned upside down.

FLASHBACK!! (this time, with the flashback music)

Sometime in the late 1400s, Duncan’s father and two of his other clansmen are on horseback. Duncan jumps out into the path in front of them, on foot, to speak with his father. The other two men mutter about the devil and ride away.

Duncan: It’s me. Duncan. [Duncan approaches his father and speaks to the horse] You know me, do you not? [turning to his father] He recognizes me but my own flesh and blood does not?
Duncan’s father: You’ll not beguile me thus. Be ye from heaven or hell..
Duncan: I am your son!
Father: No! And you never were!
Duncan: Then where do I come from? Where do I come from? Where do I come from? [His father begins to ride away] Father no, don’t go! I need to know! Where?! Where do I come from?! Where?! I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod!

Back in the present, Charlie is still telling Duncan that Jimmy has a few rough spots from coming up in a tough environment. Duncan asks Charlie what he wants him to do. He asks Duncan to keep an eye on Jimmy with him. He says he already cleared it with Lisa. Duncan asks where Jimmy is now and Charlie tells him that Jimmy is at a park doing demo for some kids. Duncan says that he is making himself an easy target.

We are introduced to a man praying in what looks like a Buddhist temple. He is approached by two other men who wait for him to finish praying. The man rises and walks toward them. He tells them that he was praying for understanding, for wisdom, and for answers. He asks them why they did not follow his commands. One of the two men addresses him as Mr. Leong. As he is about to explain the situation with Jimmy, Leong cuts him off with a hand gesture.

Leong: Instead of an obituary I read about a show he is giving today. And the wrong man died. It brings me great disappointment.

One of the two men says that they were trying to make it look like an accident. He replies to them that Buddha teaches to learn from mistakes. He says that if we do not learn from our mistakes, we must be corrected. With another hand gesture, he bids them to leave.

At a park, Jimmy is walking and talking with Charlie. He asks Charlie if he believes in fate and tells Charlie that he believes. He says that every since he was a kid he has known that he would grow up and be somebody. Charlie asks if making the movie makes him a somebody and Jimmy replies that he is a star. Charlie says that he got really lucky and Jimmy says that luck had nothing to do with it.

Jimmy: I’ve got the talent. I’ve got the drive. Nothing’s going to stop me.

He tells Charlie that Charlie never thought he could make this happen and Charlie admits that Jimmy has come a long way. Jimmy apologizes for what he said to Charlie earlier and Charlie tells him to forget it. Jimmy says that he owes him and that he will not forget it. Jimmy invites Charlie to come with him after he wraps the current picture. Charlie declines. He says he can get Charlie stuntwork and Charlie again declines. Jimmy says he has another idea. He says that they can open a dojo together, in Malibu, and call it ‘Dojo to the Stars.’ When Charlie says no again, Jimmy asks him why not.

Charlie: I like where I am.
Jimmy: And where’s that? No offense, but you don’t even own your own place anymore.
Charlie: And is that what it would take, man?
Jimmy: What was that?
Charlie: For me to be somebody.
Jimmy: [long pause] Charlie, look, I didn’t mean it that way.

Jimmy conducts his show in the park while Charlie is close by and Duncan stands farther away keeping an eye on things. As Jimmy breaks boards and bricks to a captive audience, Lisa Scott stands next to MacLeod and tells him that most stars cannot wait to get away from where they came from. She says Jimmy comes back home to perform like this all the time. She says he is arrogant, but he is also a star, and that arrogance comes with the territory. MacLeod asks her about producers and she asks if she can have a clean slate with him. She tells him that she appreciates what he is doing by keeping an eye on this event, and he says that she does not think it’s necessary.

As the show ends, Duncan notices a car slowly approaching the park with windows rolled down. When a man from inside the car pulls a handgun, Duncan yells at Charlie – who then tackles Jimmy to the ground. The gunman fires multiple rounds, hitting nothing, before fleeing.

Duncan chases after the car, landing on its hood. He hangs on for several seconds as the car tries to maneuver him into letting go. Duncan finally backflips off the car and lands on his feet and the car drives away. Everyone from the movie set runs over to check on Dunacn.

Charlie: You crazy b******, you think you can fly?
Duncan: I thought I just did.

Lisa asks Duncan if he is okay and MacLeod says that he will live. He then sarcastically tells her that he guesses those are a couple of Jimmy’s fans that love him so much. Later, back at the set, they learn that someone has completely trashed the set. Lisa asks aloud why someone would do this and Duncan tells her that he suspects someone does not want her to make the movie.

FLASHBACK!!

I think we are in the late 1800s or early 1900s and in New York City. Duncan is talking to an Italian friend, Guiseppe, to find out who broke his store window. After some cajoling, his friend shows him a piece of paper that came through the window with the rock. It has a black hand print – apparently standing for The Black Hand. They want Guiseppe to pay for protection.

Guiseppe: Protection from what? Protection from them!

Duncan finds out that his friend would not pay. MacLeod asks for some names so that he can talk to them. He tells his friend that he can be very convincing. Guiseppe declines and Duncan encourages him to go to the police instead. Guiseppe says that The Black Hand owns the police and Duncan argues saying that they do not own all of the police. The two agree to go to the police the following morning. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, a couple of men being pulled down the street on a cart open fire on Guiseppe. MacLeod was also injured in the melee.

In the present, amidst the ruined set, MacLeod recognizes the red ax calling card of the Tong gang. Charlie says that he thought the Tongs were finished and MacLeod corrects him saying that they simply do not advertise their presence anymore. Lisa notes that their movie is about the Tongs. Jimmy says that the script is just a story he made up = though Duncan immediately does not believe him.

Lisa decides that they need to shut down production because Jimmy’s life is not in the budget. He tells her to walk and says that he can replace her.

Jimmy: It’s my way or the highway.

When she says that he cannot do this, he shouts at her that he is the star. She shouts that she will sue him. The walk off together arguing. After they are gone, Duncan tells Charlie that he needs to convince Jimmy that this stuff is for real.

Charlie: It’s not gonna be easy.
Duncan: Well make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Later, Duncan approaches Lisa and asks her if her argument with Jimmy represents ‘creative differences.’ She says that the work can make a film feel like one’s baby. Duncan asks her who gets custody and she replies that the lawyers do. Lisa asks Duncan if he believes that the stuff from the script is real and he tells her that Jimmy grew up in that community and likely saw what was going on around him. She asks if she could call wardrobe and ask for bulletproof Armani. He laughs and says that they’re after Jimmy, not her, but says that if she needs anything she knows where to find him. After he leaves, she looks, uh, appraisingly in Duncan’s direction and says that she may just do that.

Duncan visits a Buddhist temple and speaks with Grandfather Lao. Lao recognizes Duncan and addresses him before he turns to see him. When Duncan asks how he knew it was him, Lao replies that every soul has an aura and that Duncan’s aura is strong. A moment later, he adds that he saw Duncan’s car drive up.

Duncan asks Lao if he knows Jimmy. Lao replies that when Jimmy used to live there, the two of them used to talk. Duncan asks him what Jimmy is like and gets a vague reply.

Lao: A man travels many roads to find his true nature.
Duncan: Was he involved in the Tong?
Lao: That is something you will have to ask him.
Duncan: He won’t tell me.
Lao: [smiling] Then neither will I.

Duncan asks instead for the name of the person who is head of the Tong. Lao replies that even for someone with an aura as strong as Duncan’s, the Tong is something to be feared.

Duncan: I once heard it said that fear is sent to warn us of the danger, not make us afraid of it.
Lao: [laughing] You know, sometimes I think it is you who should be wearing these robes.

Lao gives Duncan the name Johnny Leong. They walk and talk, exchanging proverbs, when Lao tells MacLeod that he is glad of the visit. He also tells Duncan that he grows old and has a feeling that they may not walk together again.

Duncan: That would be a great loss for me.
Lao: Why? Only my body would leave. And who can say? Maybe someday I will return as one of these carp.

They say goodbye to each other and Lao tells MacLeod that perhaps he should not eat any of the fish, just in case.

Duncan walks up to Tong headquarters. At the door, he finds one of the men from the earlier shooting. The other of those men points a gun at Duncan and tells him that Mr. Leong wants to see him. Duncan smiles and the three men go inside.

In Mr. Leong’s office, Duncan quips that death must be good business. Leong replies that it is not effected by recession. Leong points out a vase and says that it is from the Ming dynasty. Duncan picks it up and notes that it is a forgery. Leong, impressed, says only a few men in the world would know that and MacLeod replies that flattery will get him nowhere.

Leong asks Duncan where Jimmy is and Duncan will not tell him. Leong draws a six shooter, places a single bullet in, and asks Duncan if he is a gambler. Duncan asks him why he wants Jimmy and Leong replies that Duncan is not there to ask questions. Leong pulls the trigger and notes that Duncan has luck when no bullet was in the chamber. Before he can fire again, Duncan offers to make him a deal.

Duncan: Leave him alone, stop extorting money from your people, and I’ll leave you alone.

Leong pulls the trigger and again no shot was fired. Duncan smiles.

Leong: One has patience with children and small dogs…
Duncan: And men with no honor.

Leong tells Duncan that his luck just ran out. However, Duncan takes the gun and turns it on him. He tells the other men in the room to drop their own guns. Leong instructs them to do as Duncan says. Duncan pulls the trigger and shoots the vase before running from the room.

Charlie is interrogating Jimmy about his script. He tells Jimmy to say that the stuff in the script is true. Lisa marches in and instructs Jimmy to tell Charlie the truth. Jimmy replies to her that he remembers firing her. She says that she put her life into the movie and that he cannot get rid of her that easily. Jimmy refuses to tell either of them when Duncan arrives, too.

Jimmy tells Duncan that he has had enough of him and Duncan says that he has not. They begin fighting. The fight does not go well for Jimmy. When Jimmy still will not tell Duncan what his ties are to the Tong, Duncan tells him that he’s on his own.

Sometime later, Lisa takes the elevator up to MacLeod’s apartment and apologizes for Jimmy. Duncan tells her that this is not only about the movie – he believes this is personal between Jimmy and the Tong. She says Jimmy will not get out of this trouble without Duncan’s help. A few moments later, Charlie comes up the elevator too and tells him that Jimmy split. He asks Duncan to help him look for Jimmy.

Later, we see Jimmy with a small crowd outside the Buddhist temple. The kids are asking him if he can beat Steven Segal. Jimmy tells them that one studies the martial arts so that he can have the wisdom not to go out looking for fights. As he is giving out this advice, Grandfather Lao approaches Jimmy and he tells the kids he needs to go. Lao notes that it has been a long time since he has seen Jimmy and he asks the younger man what has changed. Jimmy replies simply that everything has changed. Lao says that others have been looking for him, too, and we see Duncan walk up. MacLeod tells Jimmy that he wants to talk to him about Johnny Leong. He also points out that Lao did not tell him about the leader of the Tong.

Jimmy gives his life story. He tells Duncan that half of his family died on a freighter in route to the United States. Those that arrived lived in cramped conditions. He joined the Tong as a way out of poverty and as a way to protect his family. As he is telling Duncan this, a member of the Tong approaches them from a distance.

Duncan tells Jimmy to go to the police. Jimmy replies asking if he is crazy.

Duncan: You joined the Tong to protect your father. What are you protecting now?

The man we saw approaching a moment ago opens fire on them. Duncan runs after the man, tackling him, disarming him, and knocking him out. However, we find out that the man shot and killed Lao. Duncan confirms that Lao is dead and notices that Jimmy has left.

Jimmy goes to Tong headquarters, disarms a guard outside the building, and takes his gun. He then goes inside. Tong Headquarters is located at Golden Dove Funeral Services. He enters Leong’s office for a confrontation. Jimmy pulls out a dagger and proclaims that Leong is finished. Unfortunately for Jimmy, two extra guards show up and restrain him. Leong asks if he really believed that he would be given the pleasure of killing him. He then takes the dagger from Jimmy.

Leong cuts Jimmy across the palm with the dagger. He gives a speech about tradition and then notes that the traditional death for a traitor is both long and painful. The men put Jimmy inside a casket and Leong opens the door of an incinerator. Leong asks Jimmy if he is afraid and points out that Jimmy will soon be begging for death.

Duncan arrives. He sees a closed casket moving toward the incinerator. He leaps out to fight two of Leong’s guards and also manages to push the stop button on the conveyor belt sending the casket toward the fire. The bad guys quickly push the other button to get it going again. As Duncan is slowly fighting off the two guards, Jimmy begins kicking his way out of the casket, eventually freeing himself entirely.

Leong sees that things are not going well for his plans and attempts to pick up a discarded handgun on the floor. However, before he can pick it up, Jimmy gets it first. Jimmy points the gun at Leong and says that this will be for Grandfather Lao. Duncan has finally won his two on one fight and tells Jimmy not to do it. He convinces Jimmy that he should not leave this legacy for his fans and he further tells him that if he will just testify against the Tong, Leong will be put away forever and the Tong will die. Ultimately, Jimmy decides not to shoot Leong but he does slap him across the face.

Later, Duncan finds Jimmy working at the Buddhist temple. He quips that he did not know movie stars got their hands dirty. Duncan informs him that Lisa said the studio loves what they have seen of the movie so far. He tells Jimmy that he will have to leave the garden someday and go make movies. Jimmy replies that he (Lao) loved this garden. Duncan says that he still does. Jimmy then asks Duncan if he believes in that stuff about coming back and then states that he hopes it is true because he is not getting it right this time.

Duncan: You know I once heard it said that the main difference between a wise man and a fool is that the fool’s mistakes never teach him anything. Once you’ve learned your lesson, it’s time to move on.

Duncan leaves and says that this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

REACTION:

As much as I like Dustin Nguyen – and in particular the beautiful mullet he was wearing in this episode – I have really just not enjoyed the two episodes of this show he has been in. This one at least had the virtue of not taking itself very seriously.

The episode began filmed in the style of a bad martial arts movie – because it *was* a bad martial arts movie. Duncan rattled off a bunch of corny movie lines throughout the episode. Duncan and “Grandfather Lao” had an enjoyable exchange but the dialogue kind of read like a fortune cookie talking to another fortune cookie. The Tong appears to have about four total members. The episode did not go out of its way to convince me to take them as a serious threat because Duncan clearly did not take them as a serious threat. It… just was not a good episode.

I think at this point in the run of this show, the writers were still trying to make a show that was as much about fighting as it was about being Immortal. Duncan has been a crime fighter alongside Randi the Reporter, the local and Parisian police, Joe Dawson… and now Charlie has been bringing local crime situations into Duncan’s life lately. The best episodes though are when Duncan is interacting with other Immortals (go figure.) Last episode’s focus on Amanda and immortality as it relates to relationships with mortals was superb. This week… well, not so much.

I also wonder if Richie’s turn toward Immortality is why he’s suddenly missing episodes of the show. It’s like including him in the script will force the show to be about Immortals and the writers don’t want it to be about Immortals. It’s… strange.

There was one bright spot in this episode. I always love the flashbacks to Duncan’s time in the Highlands. “WHERE DO I COME FROM?!?!” is tremendous even if it falls into a pretty clunky overall episode.

My favorite line of the episode:

Duncan: How did you know it was me?
Lao: They say that every soul has its aura. Yours is very, very strong. Besides, I saw your car drive up.

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