Highlander (Season 2, Ep 33): The Fighter

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 runs into his old Immortal friend, and boxing manager, Tommy “Sully” Sullivan after Tommy’s fighter George won a big fight. After the run-in, Duncan also opts to become a business partner of Tommy so that his less financially successful Immortal friend does not have his fighter poached by a wealthier promoter named Coleman.

After getting into business with Tommy, Duncan learns that his old friend has a habit of murdering the people who cross him. Coleman and Coleman’s bodyguard turn up dead. Not long thereafter, George is also murdered when he tries to leave Tommy for another manager. Ultimately, Duncan puts an end to Tommy’s killing by dueling his old friend and taking his head.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Every single thing Duncan MacLeod does looks cool. Walking. Looking through sunglasses. Standing on the roof of a parking garage. Everything.

The episode begins with a montage of real life footage of boxing matches.

As the montage ends, a fight trainer and his boxer walk around a corner. The trainer tells the fighter that he told him – left jab followed by a right hook – would work and it apparently did. Th happy fighter says to Tommy the trainer that he did indeed tell him. A moment later, Tommy pauses because he senses the presence of another Immortal. Duncan walks up.

Duncan: Great fight, Sully.
Tommy: [joyous] AHHHH!!! [hugs MacLeod]

Duncan congratulates the fighter, too, and then introduces Tommy to Charlie DeSalvo who is with him for the fight. While the four of them walk together, the camera pans over to two other men. The music turns ominous as one of them says that the fighter shows real talent and that he sees money when he looks at a boy like that. Not much farther down the hallway, two other men tell Tommy that his boy got lucky. One of them asks Tommy how much he paid the ref to stop the fight. Pushing and shoving ensue all around. Tommy tells Duncan – during the melee – that this is just like old times.

Sometime later, Tommy is talking with Duncan and Charlie. He explains that for thirty grand, you get ten percent, and he deems this to be quite a bargain. Duncan is not interested in being a fighter investor and Charlie says that the money is too rich for his blood. Tommy walks out into the hallway and appears to be talking to other potential investors. Charlie leaves MacLeod because he has a date with someone named Helen.

The two men from earlier, who noted Tommy’s fighter’s talent, enter the room as Charlie leaves. They want to make the fighter an offer. Tommy does not want to hear it, though. After a short argument, Duncan tells them that Tommy asked them to leave. There is a stare down and then the men leave. After they leave, Tommy tells Georgie – the fighter – that Mac is going to take them out for a few drinks.

At he bar, we meet someone new who is asking the bar tender for one more shot. The bartender tells him that Iris said no. He replies to the bartender that Iris is his sister, not his mother, and the bartender in turn says that it is Iris’s tab. Rodney, the bar patron, asks for a beer instead. Rodney is again denied. Just then, MacLeod enters asking Tommy why they came into Coleman’s place (the bar) and Tommy tells Duncan that it is not Coleman he came to see. Georgie the fighter leaves Tommy and Duncan at this point to see someone else. Duncan asks “Sully” again who they have come to see. Tommy Sullivan then looks over and sees a beautiful waitress. [The music on the show gives her an angelic score and the lighting guys put a halo on her.]

The waitress approaches Tommy and says that she heard his guy won. Tommy gets tongue-tied so Duncan tells her that he got hit on the chin and cannot talk. She places a hand on his cheek, says “poor baby,” and says she heard that Tommy took on half a dozen guys to protect George. She also says she always knew that Tommy is a hero. After she goes, Tommy tells Duncan that he needs a helper. He describes himself as a guy’s guy who is good with guys. Tommy points out to Duncan that as MacLeod just witnessed, he is not good with women.

FLASHBACK!

Duncan is laying in bed with a blanket pulled up to his chin. Tommy enters the room with him and says that they need to get to the fights because there is a man there willing to pay $1,000 for any man who can go three rounds with him. Duncan says that it is a good thing then that Tommy is a great bare knuckles boxer. Tommy replies that the problem is they will not let him fight the man because he is too small. He says that the larger Duncan will have to fight the man. Just then, Duncan pulls down his blanket and reveals that a woman has been hiding in the bed with him. Tommy is immediately embarrassed. He backs out of the room mumbling about how Duncan should lock his door as Duncan and the woman laugh. Duncan says that everyone else knocks.

Back in the present, Duncan tells Tommy that he has talked to women before.

Tommy: She’s not *a* woman. She’s *the* woman.

He asks Duncan again to tell him what to say, what to be, and what to do. He says he will never ask Duncan for another favor again.

FLASHBACK!!

Once more in the past, and now fully dressed, Duncan and Tommy discuss the fight that Tommy wants Duncan to have. Tommy wants to split the money fifty-fifty. Duncan says he does not fight for money. He also says that he does not know why he would split the money which causes Tommy to explain that MacLeod will need a trainer to fight Joe Brock. Duncan is now in disbelief.

Duncan: You want me to fight Joe Brock? They say the guy could butt heads with an ox and walk away.

Tommy asks Duncan if he thought someone would put up $1,000 for him to fight Tommy’s landlady. He also asks what MacLeod is afraid of. He says that Brock will not knock his head off. MacLeod tells him to forget it. Tommy appeals to MacLeod’s pride as a man of the British Isles.

Just then, the two of them walk up on the fight promoter. He calls Tommy a “little mick” and asks if he has found a fighter yet. Duncan replies no. Brock, who is standing there, punches Duncan in the face and says that he just wanted to show him what he is missing. Tommy restrains Duncan from fighting back and advises him “not here.”

Again in the present, Duncan tells Tommy that he will think about helping him with the waitress. She brings their food. After she leaves, Tommy tells Duncan that he has always been a faithful friend.

Tommy: Show me a man who understands loyalty and I will show you a king.

Duncan and Tommy notice that Tommy’s present-day fighter is talking to the fight promoters who wanted to speak with him earlier, right after the fight. Duncan tries to calm Tommy “Sully” by pointing out that they are just talking to him. However, Tommy is on his feet and angrily approaching them before Duncan stands up to follow.

Tommy talks to the other fight promoters and tells him that he thought he made himself clear earlier. The other man says that he can get Tommy’s fighter George a shot at the title within a year because unlike Tommy, he has money. Tommy replies that he has money, too, which causes the man to laugh. Duncan then speaks up and says that Tommy has money and he has a partner. Now, the man finally asks Duncan who he is and Duncan gives his name. The man, who Duncan calls Coleman, says that he just wants what is best for the boy. Duncan tells Coleman to give it a rest and then he leaves. After he’s gone, Tommy says earnestly that he will kill Coleman. Then he laughs off the statement and says he is just kidding when Duncan looks at him suspiciously.

Sometime later, Duncan finds “Sully” (Tommy) in the dojo training George. Sully takes a break from training to ask Duncan when the lessons for helping him with the ladies will begin. He suggests poetry to Duncan and is told in reply that poetry is not the answer. While MacLeod is in the process of telling Tommy that he cannot help in this area, Charlie enters the gym, too, with a beautiful woman named Helen. She is holding flowers as Charlie gives her a long kiss goodbye. She leaves Charlie with the flowers. Duncan and Tommy are both brought to a stunned silence. Charlie enters the dojo and tells the two of them that he had a great night last night. He sees them staring at the roses he is holding and says “yes, she got me flowers.” Duncan then passes off his romance lessons for Tommy, to Charlie. Duncan offers to do some rope work with George while this occurs.

FLASHBACK!!!

Duncan is being punched in the face repeatedly by Brock in a bare knuckles fight. MacLeod manages, despite the beating, to stay on his feet until the bell rings. In the corner, Duncan says the other man is punching like a mule. Tommy tells him that he does not have to win the fight, just avoid a knockout. He implores Mac to last just one more round. The fight resumes and it goes much the same way. However, Duncan manages to avoid being knocked out for one more round. As the bell rings, the police arrive to break up the fight. Duncan and Brock fight each other some more in the melee. This time, Duncan knocks the other man out .

In the present, Charlie is telling Tommy that he needs to be more natural. We quickly learn that the two men have been talking and practicing for hours. Tommy asks an exasperated Charlie why they cannot just write down what he will say to Iris at the restaurant.

Charlie: [pretending to be Iris] Can I get you anything?
Tommy: Yes, please. We’d like to see a menu before we order. No. We’d like to see a menu. There, how’s that?
Charlie: Pretty lame, man.

Tommy asks Charlie why he can’t tell her that her eyes are a pool of light and Charlie laughs, asking what century he is living in. Tommy asks what he is supposed to say and Charlie says he should say anything.

Charlie: Just talk to her like she’s one of the guys.
Tommy: That’s disgusting.

They return to the dojo and MacLeod asks them where they have been. For an answer, Charlie tells Duncan that Tommy is all his. Alone together, Duncan warns Tommy that he cannot spend all of his time doing this. He says George waited for him, for an hour, before going home. Duncan says Tommy might lose his fighter to Coleman. Tommy says he will make it up to George tomorrow. Duncan says that he needs to be setting up fights for George and Tommy brushes the concern off saying that George knows about loyalty.

The next morning, Duncan and Charlie are doing a morning run. Charlie asks Duncan to take over romance training and then he asks of Tommy ever fought professionally. Duncan says he did before Charlie’s time and that he was one of the best. Charlie is doubtful that Tommy is old enough to be too much before his own time. He asks Duncan if he ever thought about fighting professionally and MacLeod says it would not be worth the money to have his brain scrambled. Charlie says that when he was growing up, he wanted to be like Ali.

Charlie and Duncan: [together] Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

Charlie asks Duncan who he wanted to be like growing up and MacLeod says he does not remember. When pressed though, Duncan says he wanted to be like a distant relative named Connor MacLeod.

Duncan: He was a great warrior.
Charlie: Ah, he was in the service, right?
Duncan: Yeah, sort of.

Duncan asks Charlie if he is supposed to be going to the bar that night with Tommy and Charlie tries to pass the job off to Duncan. MacLeod says he would not deprive Tommy of his trainer.

That night, as they walk in, Charlie tells Tommy to stop messing with his clothes. They quickly – and sarcastically on Charlie’s part – rehearse Sully’s lines. Just then, Iris approaches and asks him if he would like to see a menu. He immediately freezes. Charlie and Iris stare at him. He finally awkwardly says that she probably wants to get them anything. She leaves to get another patron a beer. While she is gone, Charlie is unaware of how mumbled his words just for and Charlie tells him that he needs to try to relax. She comes back complaining about her job. She says that if she could put two nickels together she would quit. Tommy is not listening and he starts talking to her about her eyes. He cannot complete his thought, though.

Sully: Your eyes… are very… very…
Charlie: Lovely?
Iris: Why thank you? Would you like to hear the specials?

Iris asks Sully if he is alright. Charlie says that the specials would be good. Coleman, the rival right promoter, approaches Iris and whispers something in her ear. She excuses herself and leaves. They watch her have an awkward conversation with a young man who tells her not to do this. He says she is doing this for him. She goes up the stairs, anyway. At the top of the stairs, she finds Coleman with Tommy’s fighter, George. Coleman tells George that *his* fighters get everything they want. Coleman tells Iris that she will be talking with a future champion before leaving the two of them alone.

Back downstairs, a new waitress, Marilyn, asks Tommy and Charlie if she can get them anything. Marilyn lets them know that Mr. Coleman told her Iris will not be coming back this evening. Tommy looks around before going up the stairs that he saw Iris ascending a few moments ago. Charlie looks over to another table to see Coleman hiding laughter behind his hand.

At the top of the stairs, Tommy sees George kissing Iris. He yells out her name. Then he runs over and attacks George shouting that he will kill him. The two men brawl before rolling down the staircase to the floor of the crowded restaurant at the bottom of the stairs. Charlie pulls Sully from atop George. The Immortal continues kicking the younger fighter and Charlie pulls him away. We see Coleman laughing as this appears to be playing out exactly as he had hoped it would.

The young man who told Iris that she did not need to go up the stairs approaches Coleman and tells him that he went too far this time. As Coleman laughs, the man tells Coleman he cannot use people like this.

Coleman: I can’t? Why? Because you’re going to stop me?
Man: Maybe.
Coleman: What exactly are you going to do, Rodney?

Coleman laughs some more as Rodney walks away.

Sometime later, Coleman leaves the restaurant. He asks his drive to open his door and the man does not respond. Coleman opens the driver’s door and the man falls out of the car. He is deceased. Coleman looks around worriedly.

Sometime later, Duncan and Tommy are at George’s apartment. They tell him that they want to patch things up. Tommy says that he wants to apologize. George is not willing to hear it. Duncan tells George that the two of them were set up and he tells George to think about who benefits from the fight.

George: Tommy, if I’d have know you liked her… you know me, I’d have never done nothing like that. Never.

George and Tommy hug.

Later, Tommy is back to training George at the dojo. Duncan sees Charlie and says he is happy for Tommy to see them back at it. Charlie replies that he should be happy for George because signing with Coleman would not have done him much good.

Charlie: They found Coleman and his bodyguard outside of the bar this morning, both dead.

Duncan watches Tommy suspiciously as Charlie leaves the dojo.

FLASHBACK!!!!

The day after the fight Brock, Tommy visits Duncan to give him his half of the money. Duncan is surprised that Wilson paid him for the fight but Tommy tells him that the man paid the previous night. In a flashback within the flashback, we see Tommy visiting the man the night before. The other man tries to argue that Duncan did not make it three rounds. He says instead that Tommy is mistaking sound from the police sirens for the sound of the third round bell.

Tommy: I would not welch on a bet with Thomas Sullivan.
Wilson: What are you going to do, sue me?

We do not see what happens next. Instead, we see Tommy offering MacLeod a drink – as MacLeod will not take his share of the money – as a small token of thanks. Duncan catches Tommy off guard and says that paying him must have been the last thing Wilson ever did. Tommy feigns confusion. MacLeod says that he heard they fished Wilson out of the river three hours ago.

Tommy: Really? He’s dead? Lucky for me he’s a man who pays his debts. I think we should drink a small toast to his memory. [takes a drink – then smiles broadly]

Back in the present, Duncan asks Sully to speak with him inside his office in the dojo. Not mincing words, Duncan asks him if he killed Coleman and his body guard. Tommy nods yes and says he would do it again. Tommy says that Coleman was blackmailing Iris with her brother’s life. He explains that Rodney came to is place the previous night because he owes money all over town.

Tommy: Coleman bought up his markers. Then he tells Iris to make good on the markers or else.

Duncan is still not happy that Tommy killed him and Tommy shouts at him that the guy was scum. He insists that MacLeod knows him and he says that he would never kill anyone unless they deserve it. Duncan is not satisfied but he says that they will finish the conversation later.

Later, Duncan is speaking with Iris at the restaurant about her situation with Coleman. Duncan explains that Sully told him because they are friends that go way back. Iris explains that fighters are not the only people Coleman owns.

Iris: First he owned Rodney. Then he owned me.

Iris admits that Coleman was using her to get between Sully and George. She says she is not ashamed to say that she is glad Coleman is dead and she goes further, saying that half the people in the restaurant would say that whoever killed Coleman should get a medal.

Back at the dojo, Charlie gives MacLeod a certified letter. He asks Duncan what it says. Duncan tells him that George is changing management and that his new managers are offering to buy Duncan’s ten percent of his contract with George. Charlie says that he feels bad for Sully. Duncan mutters under his breath that he feels bad for George.

Duncan goes to George’s apartment and finds him dead on the floor.

Duncan goes to the restaurant and runs into Rodney. Rodney asks him if he heard about Coleman and Duncan sarcastically replies that Rodney must be all broken up over the man’s death. He asks where Sullivan is and Rodney says he is with Iris. Duncan asks him where they are.

Iris approaches Tommy. She asks him what this meeting is about. He tells her that he knows they do not know each other well but he says he “has never felt” before trailing off. Iris tells him that she knows he likes her. She says that she likes him and she tells him that he does not have to lie to her to get her to meet with him. Tommy asks her to come away with him.

Iris: [laughs] You mean right now?

He confirms and says yes, tonight. He tells her that he cannot stay there anymore and asks again if she will come with him. She apologizes and says she cannot just pick up and leave. Suddenly Sully senses the presence of another Immortal. He asks aloud if Mac is there. Duncan walks up and asks him how he could do it. Tommy asks if they can talk about it later and Duncan tells him that they have to talk about it now. Tommy walks back over to Iris and tells her that she should leave. He says he will meet her at the bar later. She looks concerned but she goes.

Alone with Duncan, Tommy asks him to look the other way this one time. He says that they go back a long way and that it has to count for something. Duncan tells him that he is giving no more favors. Duncan says that Tommy made all of this his business when he sold him ten percent of George’s contract.

Tommy But he betrayed us. He cheated me.
Duncan: Oh, and you kill everyone who cheats you.
Tommy: Of course.

Sully says that what they do is kill people and asks if they are going to try to kill each other now. Duncan replies that it’s what they do. Tommy replies that he always wondered which of the two of them is better. The duel ensues.

Tommy’s fighting style is effective – and it utilizes a lot of close-quarters punching in addition to sword play. He drives Duncan backward toward a boxing ring. Outside the ring, Duncan disarms Tommy. Tommy picks up a wooden chair and Duncan chops it from his hands. Tommy uses the pieces that are left to club Duncan – buying himself time to pick up his own sword from the canvas inside the ring.

The two men tell each other goodbye and renew their duel. Duncan soon disarms Tommy once more. This time, though, Duncan takes his head after. Tommy’s headless body rolls out of the ring and onto the floor. Duncan receives the quickening inside the ring while holding both his own sword and that of his former friend. After, a grief-stricken Duncan collapses to the mat.

Later, at the dojo, a shirtless Duncan is doing his customary “I just had to kill someone I like” tai chi. Iris walks in. He greets her and asks her what he is doing there. She tells him that she and her brother Rodney are leaving town and starting over. Duncan asks her what she needs and she asks him if Sully killed Coleman and George. Duncan carefully asks her if she thinks that he did. She replies no. He tells her that she has to keep believing that.

Iris: If you hear from Sully…
Duncan: I don’t think I will Iris. Take care.

She leaves and Duncan resumes the tai chi.

REACTION:

Has Tommy been living in Seacouver with Duncan this entire time? Why haven’t we met him until now?

It’s a very “Immortal problem” to have an old friend who turns out to be a little too murder-y in a modern context.

The episode did a good job of making Tommy likeable and relatable so that the somewhat predictable twist that leads to the fight felt like the gut-punch that the writers needed it to be. When we meet Tommy, he comes across as a bit down-on-his-luck and his inability to even speak with Iris is somewhat endearing. I think they dragged that joke out too long but it worked. That said, Bruce Weitz gave Tommy an edginess just below the surface that made the transition from good guy to villain work.

In this episode, we needed to relate to Duncan’s anger and grief over having to kill a friend – and we needed to believe it really was a friendship. Mission accomplished on both points. We had an episode similar to this before, “Eye of the Beholder,” which ends with Duncan killing his “friend” Gabriel Piton. This time, though, the reasons for Duncan liking Tommy are easier to see than they were with Piton.

One goal of the Highlander franchise is to give the audience a picture of the miseries of Immortality. Being forced to fight and kill people you like over and over seems… well… miserable.

My big gripe with this episode, to the extent that I have one, is that Duncan did not turn on Tommy for being a murderer during the flashback sequence. He had to know. Late 19th century / early 20th century Duncan would not have condoned murder, either. One hundred years ago, though, Duncan was willing to look the other way. I suppose the situation with George was just a bit too far removed from arm’s length for Duncan to let it go. Perhaps if Tommy had stopped his murders with Coleman and his body guard, while leaving George alone, his friendship with Duncan might have lasted another one hundred years.

My other gripe with this episode is that a lot of people died. Coleman, his bodyguard, George, and then Tommy. All of those dead people were connected to Duncan. That said… I suppose Duncan hid Tommy’s body? Maybe the police will be looking for him instead of asking Duncan questions.

I am not sure what it says about Duncan that he probably looks the other way if Tommy just leaves George alone.

Iris’s brother Rodney looked extremely familiar. It turns out, Rodney was played by Nicholas Lea. Lea is probably most famous for his role as Krycek on The X Files.

Richie was once again missing from the episode this week. I enjoyed Charlie attempting to give lessons in romance but handing that job to Richie would likely have been funny in a different way. Speaking of romance… Charlie has a girlfriend. And she buys *him* roses? Well done Charlie DeSalvo.

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