Highlander (Season 3, Ep 46): Line of Fire

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 plot 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:

One of Richie’s ex-girlfriends, Donna, arrives in town claiming that Richie is the father of her baby. Despite Duncan’s advice telling him that Immortals cannot have children, Richie decides to take on the responsibility of being a father, anyway. Meanwhile, Immortal Kern arrives in town to challenge Duncan. Kern is the Immortal responsible for massacring a Lakota camp that Duncan lived with during the 1870s.

Eventually Kern crosses paths with Donna, her son, and Richie in his effort to track down Duncan. The feeling of being helpless to protect Donna and her son from Kern convinces Richie to break things off with her so that his Immortality might not put them in that type of danger again. Duncan and Kern face off and Duncan kills him using a Lakota spear.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

Our episode begins with Richie and a black friend playing basketball and talking trash to one another. Suddenly a woman walks up that causes Richie to end the game. He stops and stares at Donna. As Richie’s friend asks if they are going to play ball or not, Richie walks toward the newcomer and waves his friend off saying he will catch him later.

Richie tells Donna that he hardly recognized her. She replies him that she cleaned up her act and says that it took two months just to get the purple out of her hair. When she says that it has been a while, Richie clarifies that he has not seen her in two years. He asks where she went and she says that she lived with her aunt in Philly for a while. Richie asks if she is going to stick around and Donna tells him that there is someone she wants him to meet. Richie asks if it is a new boyfriend and Donna tells him that her guy is a real hunk and that she really thinks Richie will like him. When Richie says he can’t wait, Donna picks up a toddler that she names Jeremy.

Richie is surprised for a minute and then says that she and Joey had a kid. Nervously Donna tells Richie that Joey is not the father – he is.

Richie goes to the dojo and finds Duncan doing jump rope while Charlie is doing bench press. Duncan tells Richie to let him know what the formula is.

Richie: Formula?
Duncan: For getting in shape without training.

Richie apologizes for being late to their workout and tells Duncan that he needs to talk to him because something has come up. He asks Duncan if he remembers Donna and then tells her that she is back in town and brought someone with her.

Richie: Mac, she brought my son.

Charlie is listening and congratulates Richie. Duncan does not stop doing jump rope while they are talking – to the point of creating awkwardness. When Charlie finally asks Duncan if this is great news, MacLeod replies that it is unbelievable. Charlie leaves and Richie, appearing to be irritated, asks Duncan if he is going to say something. Duncan motions toward his office. Inside, he tells Richie that Donna has made a mistake.

Duncan: Immortals can’t have children.
Richie: Exactly Mac. This happened before I became Immortal.
Duncan: That’s not the way this works.

Duncan tells him that he wishes it could happen but he says it cannot. Richie tells him in reply that it just did happen and he suggests that maybe he is the first.

Sometime later at Richie’s apartment, he and Donna are watching Jeremy. Richie asks her why she did not tell him before and she says that she was confused and afraid. She tells him she was afraid he would not want them. Richie promises her that they will work something out and that everything will be okay.

Elsewhere, outside of a biker bar, a man walks up at closing time. He says he would like a beer, please. The man in charge of the bar tells him to take off. A few moments later we see him ride his motorcycle through the bar’s glass window. Once inside he gets off of his motorcycle.

“I said please.”

The bouncer tries to throw him out and is absolutely pummeled. Eventually the man gets himself a drink and rides his motorcycle back out of the bar.

Duncan visits Richie’s apartment. Duncan tells him that they did not finish talking earlier and he suggests that now might be a good time. Richie in turn says that there is someone he would like Duncan to meet. Richie guides Duncan over and introduces him to Jeremy. As Richie says he is a good looking kid, Duncan stares into the past…

FLASHBACK!

Duncan is living with the Lakota Sioux in 1872. He has been helping a young boy learn to paddle a canoe. When they reach the shore, Duncan fondly tells the boy that his father would have been proud of him. At the shoreline, the boy, Kahani, asks Duncan if he is going to leave them. Duncan asks if the boy is angry that his father left them and the boy says he is. Duncan tells im that his father did not choose to leave – he was taken. Hen then places a necklace around the boy’s neck. Duncan tells Kahani that he will never lear him. Kahani asks Duncan if it the necklace is medicine and Duncan replies that it is great medicine. He tells Duncan that he will never take it off. He then grabs fish and runs into camp with them.

The boy finds his mother, Little Deer, and brings her the fish. She says that it looks like MacLeod taught him well today. The boy tells her that they saw an eagle and asks Duncan if they can hunt for bear tomorrow. Duncan is hesitant and Little Deer tells Kahani that he better just stick to fish for now. The boy proudly shows his mother what Duncan gave him. When she reaches to touch it, he pulls it away and says that it is very strong medicine, only for warriors. The boy walks back over to Duncan and asks about the bear. Duncan tells him they will learn to hunt deer first, then the bear.

After Kahani runs off, Little Deer tells Duncan that he has been good to Kahani, and her, since her husband died. Duncan replies that her husband was his friend and that he does not think he would mind Duncan taking his family as his own. Duncan asks what she thinks. She replies that she is young and that a warrior should have many children. Duncan recoils a bit at the talk of children but he covers by telling her that he is at peace for the first time in his life and he adds that she is all he will ever need. She smiles at him and tells him that sometimes she forgets that he is a white man. Duncan asks her about the blue coats and she tells him that he is too serious. She argues that it is a wide land and if the blue coats move to them, they can move their camp. She asks how much space could they really need and Duncan tells her that they want all that they can take. They kiss and Kahani returns to wrestle with Duncan.

Back in the present, Donna asks Duncan what he thinks of Jeremy. He replies that he thinks Jeremy is a beautiful boy. Donna tells Duncan that he looks just like Richie.

Later Duncan and Richie are walking down the sidewalk as Richie argues he is just trying to do the right thing. They are interrupted by a priest who asks where they have been. When they tell him Paris, he goes on about having been there in 1972.

Priest: All those women, all that wine… of course, that was beore I entered the priesthood.

Duncan & Richie: [grinning] Of course.

After the priest goes, Duncan tells Richie that being a father is a lifetime commitment. He asks Richie what he plans to do when Donna grows old and he does not. He asks what he will do when Jeremy looks the same age as himself. Richie replies that he does not know but what he does know is that they need him.

Duncan: Is this about their needs or yours?

Duncan and Richie suddenly sense another Immortal. Richie asks who it is an Duncan tells him it is Kern. When Richie steps forward Duncan tells him that this is his fight. Richie asks who it is and Duncan tells him that it is a dead man. Then in broad daylight, Duncan walks toward Kern – who is on his motorcycle. Both men draw swords. Kern rides toward Duncan and swings at him from his motorcycle – like a cavalry officer might from horseback. He dismounts and the two men walk toward each other and begin dueling.

Their fight takes them up the stairs of a church. They break through the glass doors which lead into the building and interrupt a wedding in progress. The priest asks Duncan what is going on as Kern grabs the veiled bride and molests her face with his tongue after congratulating her. As the priest – the same one they saw earlier – is lecturing Duncan that the church is not a field of battle, Kern leaves, pointing at Duncan, and warning him that this is the right time but the wrong place. Duncan chases him out of the building but Kern is already on his bike driving away.

Later in the dojo, Duncan is shirtless and practicing with a quarterstaff. Charlie is in the middle of lecturing him about how poorly he is handling Richie becoming a father. He tells Duncan that he should be encouraging Richie. Just then Richie walks in and Charlie abruptly pretends to be talking about something else. Charlie sees from Richie’s face that he is tired and tells him to hang in there.

After Charlie walks away, Richie tells Duncan that he was not sure he would find him alive. He asks what happened. Duncan tells Richie that both he and Kern lived. Richie tells Duncan he has never seen him so angry and asks about his history with the biker from hell.

Duncan: His name is Kern and I’m gonna kill him.

Richie asks Duncan if that is all he will say. Duncan replies that it is his problem and points out to Richie that he is dealing with enough right now. Richie accepts this and then tells Duncan that he was up half the night thinking about what Duncan said to him. Duncan guesses correctly that Richie plans to give it a chance anyway even though Richie now agrees that Jeremy is not his own.

Richie: I can’t turn him away. That’s what my father did to me. Mac, this is my chance to have a normal life.
Duncan: [looong pause] Good luck.

FLASHBACK!!

Duncan is with the Lakota but eating alone by a fire. He senses an Immortal and calls out to Connor. It is not Connor – it is Kern. Kern greets him with a handshake and says that he is not hunting today. Kern tells Duncan that there are not many of their kind around these parts. After talking for a while, Duncan asks Kern if he works for the blue coats. Kern is surprised to hear that term used.

Kern: Blue coats? You sound like a d*** Indian. You look like a d*** Indian! Yeah I work for the blue coats. I’m the best d*** scout in the territory. I found a little village ten to fifteen miles due west of here this morning. It was a pretty little place. At least it used to be!

Kern goes on, calling Duncan a squaw man and expressing disgust at the idea of one of their kind with one of them. Kern walks over to his horse and pulls some… scalps out of a bad. He asks Duncan which one of them is his squaw. MacLeod throws a spear at him and then charges at him holding an ax. He shouts to Kern that he will kill him. They fight briefly, with Duncan getting the better of it, before he abandons the fight, jumps on his horse, and rides back to the Lakota camp.

[Who Wants To Live Forever by Queen begins playing]

Duncan finds dead bodies in all directions at the camp. Duncan runs from person to person checking for signs of life but not finding any. He finds the necklace he gave Kahani lying on some rocks. Then he find the body of Little Deer. He rolls her over, holds her, and weeps. That night, Duncan burns the body of the people from the camp on a massive funeral pyre.

Sometime later, Duncan is dressed in slacks, a button up shirt, with suspenders. He is still holding his gift for Kahani. He says something in Lakota that sounds a lot like a vow.

Back in the present, Duncan still has his gift for Kahani. He ties it around his own neck.

Duncan walks into a bar and looks around. Joe Dawson emerges from behind the bar and asks if the new place suits him. Duncan tells him that it feels a little bit out of character. Joe replies that he was not born in a museum. Joe sees what Duncan is wearing around his neck and the look on his face and asks him who it is. Duncan replies Kern. Joe says that he has never heard of him. Duncan knows that Joe is lying and demands that Joe talk to him and tell him where Kern is. Reluctantly, Joe tells Duncan that the last he heard, Kern is somewhere around the east docks.

Joe: MacLeod, he kills for fun.
Duncan: I know.

Duncan asks around and finds the building here Kern is staying. In the lobby, Duncan tries to get the large man behind the desk to tell him where Kern is staying. He pretends not to know. Duncan angrily grabs him by the beard. He admits to Duncan where Kern is staying. Without letting go of his face, Duncan tells him to take a key and to see if Kern is in or not.

Once they are at Kern’s room, Duncan pushes the man out. He starts looking through his room and then, frustrated, he begins throwing things. When MacLeod finally gives up, he leaves a small feather on a shelf for Kern to find.

Richie and Donna are watching Jeremy walk and discussing a bigger place to leave. Donna then finds Richie’s sword while cleaning up.

Richie: Uh, Donna, that’s just something I have.
Donna: Richie, people just don’t have swords like this.

They begin to argue about the sword. She tells Richie that she does not like having it around. Richie tells her firmly that the sword stays. She asks again why he has it and Richie replies that he cannot tell her. She then asks if he is trying to get rid of her and he says no. Richie asks her how she knows that he is the father. She avoids answering by telling him that this reaction is why it took her two years to tell him. She tells him that he was a kid then and still is one. Richie tells her that he is trying and she tells him to try harder.

Later, Richie goes to see Joe at his bar. Joe asks him about lighting for the stage.

Richie: Whatever.
Joe: Whatever. I get all these changes in my life, a new place, and does anybody care?

Richie apologizes and Joe asks him what he needs. Richie asks Joe for advice. Joe points out that he could ask MacLeod. Richie says that Joe is easier to talk to and notes that he thinks Duncan has been around so long now that he thinks he has forgotten what it was like the first time. Richie then asks if any Immortal ever had children – even before they became Immortal. Joe tells him that it has never happened. Richie asks if Joe is absolutely sure. Joe replies that they have been keeping records for centuries and that it has never happened.

Joe: the kid isn’t’ yours.

Richie finally seems to accept this now having heard it also from Joe. He thanks him and leaves.

Donna is at the church speaking with the priest we have now met three times. They are talking about baptizing Jeremy. The priest asks if they have decided on a godfather. She replies that they are considering Duncan. The priest tells Donna that there was an episode with DUnan the other day but all and all he believes Duncan would be an excellent choice.

Just then Kern goes into the confessional booth. The priest sees him and breaks off his conversation to take confession.

Priest: How long has it been since your last confession.
Kern: What day is it today?
Priest: Tuesday.
Kern: That makes it a little more than five hundred years.

The priest laughs and says that he sees Kern has a sense of humor. He tells Kern to open his heart and confess he his sins that he may receive absolution. Kern plays along humorously. He asks if the priest really wants to hear all his sins and asks if he has the time. The priest says that he does. Kern begins confessing and the tone of the situation changes. He admits that he used to enjoy torture. He tells the priest that it got old after a while so he branched out to rape and killing. The priest seems to be increasingly alarmed and fearful as Kern tells him that he torched a couple of villages and burned an abbey or two.

Finally Kern reaches through the booth to grab the priest by the neck. He demands to know where MacLeod is. The priest pleads with him that he does not know. On his way out, he steals from the church but he returns to the priest’s booth to confess that he forgot to mention stealing during his confession.

At the dojo, Duncan is fashioning his quarterstaff into a Lakota spear. Richie is with him. The young Immortal tells Duncan that Donna found his sword. Richie asks Duncan what he should tell her Duncan replies that Richie has two choices – either he tells Donna everything and lets her into his life completely so that she at least has a choice about how she lives her life and how Jeremy does. Alternatively, Duncan says, Richie has to let her go.

Duncan: You send her away, tell her whatever you have to, but send her away and never look back.
Richie: I can’t do that, Mac. I told you I don’t care if Jeremy is mine or not.
Duncan: This isn’t about you being a father. It’s about you being an Immortal.

Duncan opens up and tells Richie that he knows how much this means to him. He tells Richie that he cannot protect them. He says that it does not matter how much he loves them or how hard he tries – he just can’t. Richie nods and thanks Duncan who in turns tells Richie that he is sorry.

Donna is pushing Jeremy in a stroller down a sidewalk. She runs into Kern. He tells her that he is looking for an old friend – MacLeod. She tells him that she does not know him. Kern lets her know he heard her say Duncan would be a great godfather. He then picks up Jeremy. As he begins to threaten her, he sees two police officers down the street and hands back the baby. He tells her to run along.

Kern watches her as she enters her building and smiles. Inside her apartment, Donna gathers herself as Richie enters. She apologizes for flipping out earlier. Richie tells her that she was just being honest. He tells her that he needs to be honest too. He lets her know that he cannot have kids, he never could, and therefore he knows Jeremy is not his. Donna tells Richie that she really wanted it to be him and that she always thought he was special. He tells her that he does not care if Jeremy is not his. He wants to be there for them. She hugs him. Suddenly Richie senses an Immortal and sees Kern outside his window. He tells Donna that she needs to get Jeremy and get away. He tells her to go to the dojo and tell MacLeod right away.

A moment after Donna flees, Kern kicks open the door. He mocks Richie’s sword, tells him that he really wanted the squaw man, but that he expects Richie will do. They begin to duel in Richie’s apartment. Overmatched, Richie breaks a window, jumps through it, climbs along the side of a building, and jumps face first into a flatbed of tomatoes being pulled by a passing truck. All the while Kern is yelling at him in the background to run to MacLeod.

At Duncan’s apartment, Donna knocks and enters with Jeremy. She tells him that Richie is in trouble. She says a freak on a motorcycle was breaking the door down when she left. After leaving her in his apartment, Duncan grabs the Lakota spear from the wall downstairs in the dojo. Richie runs in covered with tomatoes.

Duncan: I think you need some oil and vinegar.

Richie tells Duncan that Kern would have killed Donna and Jeremy and he could not have stopped them. Duncan replies gravely that it has happened before. Duncan leaves with spear in hand.

Duncan finds Kern outside of Richie’s apartment and they duel. Kern gets a cut on Duncan’s side. Duncan wipes the blood under his eyes, like war paint, and starts speaking in Lakota before doing a high pitched war cry. Their duel resumes. MacLeod eventually runs Kern through with the spear. He pulls it free and while Kern is hunched over, he unleashed another war cry before beheading Kern.

During the Quickening, Duncan sees a vision of Little Deer and Kahani in the sky. He holds aloft Kahani’s necklace as if trying to hand it to the vision of him in the sky. After a few seconds, Little Deer and Kahani leave him. The Quickening ends.

A couple of days after, Richie talks to Donna on a sidewalk. He tells her that things will not work between them. She is flabbergasted about the change and asks him why he lied to her before about wanting to be a family. He promises to help her with money or a place to stay but she slaps him and says that they needed him. She and Jeremy leave. As Richie watches them leave, Duncan steps up next to him from out of nowhere. Richie says that they will not be back and Duncan says he knows. Richie says she hates him and Duncan assures him that he did the right thing.

Richie: Did I?
Duncan: Yeah. They’re alive.


REACTION:

Season 3 so far has been focused on filling in important stories from Duncan’s past… and I am here for it. Just as with the first episode of season 3, episode 2 is also heavily guided by a flashback scene and it works really well. You might remember that the series pilot gave us a very brief flashback to Duncan’s time with the Lakota Sioux. The massacre was portrayed as an event that deeply effected him. Here we finally revisit that, expand on it, and we see why this event – in a lifetime of blood and death – stands out for him to such a great degree. This moment in time is when Duncan really gives up on his heart’s biggest desire – to be a husband and father. The funeral scene with Queen playing in the background is just genuinely moving. You can see in hindsight how this event plays a role in the background of Duncan’s hesitant relationship with Tessa in Season 1.

Duncan’s time with the tribe is his attempt to “live a normal life.” It sets up the past-present comparison of Richie wanting to live a normal life now. With the Lakota, Duncan is an adoptive father and an adoptive husband (though it was crystal clear during Season 2 that Duncan has never been married.) He lost everything with the Lakota in an even more heart-wrenching way than he lost Tessa – if that is even possible. Adrian Paul plays his scenes with the Lakota with so much joy (prior to the massacre) that it adds subtext to his present-day scenes with Richie wherein he is giving advice to let Donna and Jeremy go. We know that Duncan wants badly what he is telling Richie to walk away from. His anguish in finding his camp murdered is the reason for his advice.

Speaking of Richie… the show did everything it can to convince us that we have met Donna before on the show. We haven’t. She is yet another in the long line of “Richie’s ex-girlfriend of the week” characters. He was not quite 18 years old at the time of the pilot. I mean… come on. Either he swapped out “serious” girlfriends every two weeks, before he met Duncan, or he was juggling them, or some of these girls are people he knew before he could legally drive. Also noteworthy is that Donna is WAY out of Richie’s league.

At this point in the run of the show, we know that part of Richie’s character is a blind reckless devotion to help any pretty face who asks for it. In about five minutes, he agrees to completely change his life, move in with Donna, and become a father. That’s just who he is for better or worse. I was less annoyed by his refusal to take Duncan’s advice, than usual, because he at least seems willing to admit that Duncan is right about the part of him not being the actual father. He was not openly hostile to Duncan’s advice, either. The show has show veered off course in the past when Richie reacts with anger toward Duncan’s advice – and that anger never made sense. He did not seem to absorb how big an issue him being Immortal is until it put Donna and Jeremy in danger. I think he understood Duncan’s advice, finally, when Kern kicked the door in.

This episode gives us something unique from Duncan – rage. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Duncan throwing things across the room in rage before.

To the extent I have an issue with this episode, it’s the fight scene with Kern. I’m not convinced Duncan could actually cleanly behead Kern with that spear point. Duncan using his own blood for war paint, speaking in the Lakota language, and his war cry during the duel is sensitively executed (for the 90s) but I am not sure that modern audiences and modern sensibilities would regard that scene well. It is worth remembering though that this episode exists in a 1990s context where it lives alongside Last of the Mohicans and Dances with Wolves.

The unquestionably bad part of the episode for me was the Quickening. Duncan has a vision of Little Deer and Kahani in the sky? Ugh. That did not land for me.

NOTE: Little Deer is played by Michelle Thrush. She previously played Sara Lightfoot in Season 2’s “Bless the Child” episode.

As villains go, Kern is one of my favorites in the show’s history. I don’t think the series has had any bad guy Immortals quite like him. He reminded me a lot of the movie franchise villain “The Kurgan” in the way he cracked jokes while being physically imposing and unspeakably evil. Randall Cob was really good in this important antagonist role. He (the actor) was a professional kickboxer and boxer prior to acting – and he brings that type of imposing presence to this character. He just felt like a real threat to Duncan.

While telling this story, well, the episode also managed to do a reboot for Joe Dawson. The Watcher is opening a blues bar. That’s a fitting change for actor Jim Byrnes who is himself a blues musician. The bar makes a lot more sense as a gathering point when characters need to seek out Joe’s advice, or get together, than the library. This is a smart change.

So far I’m really enjoying season 3. It feels like the show has found its footing.

3 thoughts on “Highlander (Season 3, Ep 46): Line of Fire

  1. 1 – I listened to a podcast about Tex Cobb being involved in a fixed fight that set off a whole series of events that ended with several attempted murders, boxing is (or was at least) a crazy world
    2 – Richie had it going on
    3 – I remember thinking the same thing about the spear but it did appear to be a hewing spear, not being a weapons guy I don’t know if the sides on those things were actually sharp but if I was a TV writer I could see pretending you could remove a head with it

    1. Yeah. Cobb’s life is wild. I’d watch a biopic about him.

      My big issue with the spear is both the size of the blade and how Duncan used it. My guess is that the blade could do the job but not in one swing. But as you say… it’s TV

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