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:
Richie crosses paths with Immortal Brian Cullen at Joe’s Bar. Cullen – who was very drunk – attacks Richie and falls on his face in the process. The embarrassment of this leads Cullen to target Richie later . He attempts to run over Richie with his car. Richie avoids him but Cullen’s efforts cause a crash with a bus instead. Duncan has been pursuing Dr. Anne Lindsey romantically. He is at the hospital when the bus crash victims arrive – including Cullen. We learn that Cullen is his old friend and has had a long-standing drug problem. Duncan helps him escape from the hospital after he revives from dying. He then takes him home.
Duncan and Cullen run into Richie at Duncan’s apartment. Duncan has to act quickly to diffuse a fight. He sets out to try to help his old friend overcome his drug habit. Cullen repeatedly rebuffs Duncan’s outreach and ultimately gives Duncan no alternative except to kill him in a duel.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
The episode opens in Joe’s bar as a rough-seeming and intoxicated Immortal demands another drink from the bartender, Mike. As the Immortal is told no, Richie enters the room. The unnamed Immortal approaches Richie and asks him if he is here for a fight. Richie says no and points out that they are in public. The Immortal takes a swing at Richie and ends up on the floor. Richie tells Mike to call the man a cab.
Duncan is jogging. Dr. Anne Lindsey crashes into him while on her bike. After they crash, she points out to him that they are on a bike path. Duncan apologizes and points out how funny it is that they continue running into each other. She suggests that Duncan get collision insurance. Duncan asks if she is going to sue him and she says she is thinking about it.
Duncan: How about we settle out of court.
Anne: That depends on what you had in mind.
Duncan suggests that they go to dinner the following night and she agrees. She tells him that he can pick her up at the hospital. After their encounter ends, she rides away. Duncan finds her pager lying on the ground.
We see the rough-seeming Immortal from Joe’s Bar driving down the highway singing Oh Danny Boy. He finishes with a rock and roll flourish before parking his car. He gets out binoculars and watches the road. Not long after, we see Richie riding down the highway on his motorcycle. He pulls his motorcycle over when he senses the other Immortal. After looking around, Richie gets back on and rides away. The other Immortal snorts some cocaine, gets back behind the wheel of his car, and then gives chase. As the still unnamed Immortal chases Richie in a convertible, he resumes singing “Oh Danny Boy.” Richie manages to avoid the other Immortal’s attempt to crash his motorcycle. However, the other Immortal fails to avoid being hit by an oncoming bus.
At the hospital, Anne learns about the bus crash. The result of the crash is that one person has been killed, several others seriously injured, and still more suffered minor injuries. As Anne gets caught up to speed, she runs into Duncan who hands her the pager she dropped earlier. He tells her that he thought she might need it. She tells Duncan that she would love to talk to him but that there is a bus accident. Duncan firmly tells her that he will see her tomorrow and wishes her good luck.
After letting her go, Duncan watches the scene. He sees Anne caring for patients, including a small girl. Anne looks at the Immortal car driver and pronounces him dead as he lies on a gurney. After she goes, he revives. When he revives, Duncan suddenly senses him. The Immortal on the gurney mutters that he hates this part and he rolls off. He sneaks into a closet and begins changing clothes. Duncan follows the man into the closet. He senses Duncan and hides. When they see each other, they recognize each other. Duncan addresses the other man as Brian.
Brian tells Duncan warmly that he has heard he is still around. Duncan tells Brian that he looks terrible and Brian says getting in a bus crash will do that. Duncan tells him that he heard a lot of people were hurt and Brian says somberly that he heard the same. Duncan asks him again if he is sure that he is alright and Brian says that he is. He also points out that he needs to get out of the hospital before the staff starts counting bodies. Duncan looks at how Brian is dressed and points out that he is going to attract a lot of attention. Brian says he always does.
Switzerland – 1810
Duncan and Brian are riding in a carriage playing “I spy with my little eye.” Duncan is intoxicated. Brian complains about the surrounding scenery – the Alps – and asks how long it will be before they reach France. Duncan tells him that it will be another day.
Brian: What the h*** do the Swiss do for excitement?
Duncan: They build cuckoo clocks.
Brian: Aye, they would.
Brian produces a flask from his coat pocket. Duncan asks where he got it. Brian answers vaguely “any port in the storm” before saying that at least it’s cognac. Duncan say it is only barely cognac. Just then a young rider on the road, well dressed and wearing a top hat, stops the carriage. He calls out for Brian Cullen. The carriage stops, both Duncan and Brian relieve themselves, then Brian responds to the young man. Cullen insists upon a fight. Brian asks for a moment to retrieve his sword. The young man assents. As he goes, the young man tells Duncan that Cullen is in no hurry to fight him.
Duncan: He’s in no hurry to kill you, you young fool. He’s the best swordsman in all of Europe.
Young Man: Not for long, he’s not.
Duncan walks over to Brian and the other Immortal asks Duncan why they won’t stop coming for him. Duncan replies that they will not because he is the best. Duncan tells the other Immortal that he will wait for him in the carriage but Brian says that it will not be necessary to wait. He promises to catch up on the young dandy’s horse.
Duncan takes Brian back to the dojo to help him get some clothes. Brian thanks Duncan and shares with him that he lost everything in the car wreck. Brian then tells Duncan that he is looking for a guy – that kind of guy. Duncan replies that he thought he will not fighting much these days and Cullen replies that he is still the best. In the elevator up to Duncan’s apartment, both Immortals sense another Immortal. Duncan tells Brian that it’s a friend and to take it easy. In the apartment, Duncan calls out to Richie.
Richie: I’m glad you’re back, Mac. Some lunatic came after me with a car this morning.
[sees Brian Cullen] Son of a b****.
Cullen draws his sword as Duncan takes in what is happening. Duncan says that he takes it the two of them know each other. Duncan reminds Brian that they are in his home. He asks what this is all about. Brian says no one makes a fool of him and then he tells Duncan that Richie sucker punched him in a bar. Richie replies that he never actually touched him. He says Brian was so drunk that he fell down. Cullen tells Richie that they ned to fight. Duncan is clearly worried for Richie and tells Brian to wait and tells him that Richie is his friend.
San Francisco – 1854
Duncan is walking with a pretty young woman. They narrowly avoid a collision. She comments on all of the newcomers to the city and she says that they seem surprised that they actually have to dig to find the gold there. When she says that they think the whole city is made of gold, Duncan tells her that in a way it is. He points out that thirty new houses are being built every day. He adds that there are also music halls and gambling parlors being built, too.
Duncan: And who knows, maybe one day, a bridge across the bay. The gold will run out but the city wil still be here.
Duncan senses another Immortal. He looks around and pretends to the woman he is with, Katherine, that he forgot about an appointment. He gives her his top hat and asks her if she can look out for it, for him, and he promises to return as soon as he can. He wanders onto a dock and looks around. When he finally announces his name, Brian jumps out and greets him. Brian wants to go grab a drink with Duncan. Just then, another Immortal approaches them. Brian continues to insist that they leave and go to get a drink. Duncan asks if he knows who hte other man is. Brian tells Duncan that he wants to let the other man live another day.
The Immortal newcomer is a large, well-dressed and well spoken man, who announces that his name is Zoltan Laszlo. He asks which of the two of them is Brian Cullen. Duncan turns to the newcomer to mediate. When he turns back, Cullen is gone. Laszlo asks Duncan if he is also a coward. Duncan draws his sword and says that he fights when challenged. Laszlo tells him that he is here for Cullen. He tells Duncan to advise his friend that he will be waiting for him in the city.
Back in the present, Cullen tells Richie that he is only alive because he is Duncan MacLeod’s friend. Richie tells Cullen not to do him any favors. Duncan mediates and tells Richie that if you don’t have to, then don’t. Cullen smirks and tells Richie he would not last ten seconds. He thanks Duncan for his help and then leaves. After he goes, Richie confirms from Duncan that this guy is actually his friend. Duncan says that he is. Richie reiterates to Duncan that Cullen tried to run him over with his car. He asks Duncan for advice. Duncan tells him that Cullen is very good and that he should both practice and try to stay out of the man’s way.
Later, Duncan finds Anne at the hospital. She has pulled an all-nighter. Duncan offers to buy her breakfast. She tells him that she can barely see straight and that she wants to go home and go to sleep. Duncan asks her if she wants to dream about this and she tells him that she is too old for nightmares. SHe asks if Duncan is as well and he tells her no. He suggests that she might not be, either. She asks Duncan how he knows so much and he offers to share with her over breakfast. She smiles and says she will go wash up and go with him.
They get breakfast on a patio with a beautiful view of the bay. She tells Duncan that he was right and that she would much rather go home and dream of a place like this. As they discuss life and death, and the fragility of it all, Anne tells Duncan that they found amphetamines all over the car of the guy who crashed into the bus. Duncan seems troubled to hear this. Anne comments that people do crazy things while on drugs and that other people die as a result.
Still in San Francisco, Duncan finds Cullen smoking opium in Chinatown. He asks his friend why he ran and Cullen admits that he was scared to death. Cullen admits he never thought this would happen to him. He tells Duncan that the opium helps him to forget what he is and what is waiting out there.
Duncan: Everyone’s afraid sometimes.
Brian: I never was. Don’t ever be the best, MacLeod. Everyone wants a shot at the best. God help you if you lose your nerve. And they keep coming.
Duncan tells Cullen that opium is not the answer but Cullen answers saying that Duncan has interrupted his dreams. He tells MacLeod to go away.
In the present, Cullen is buying cocaine from a dealer and using a dangerous (for mortals) amount of it immediately. The dealer is concerned and warns him to go easy. Cullen tells him that he is having a bad day. Just then, the police raid the room. Cullen fights them off taking a couple gun shots in the process. On his way out, he compliments his dealer on the excellent quality of the drugs.
In the dojo, Duncan runs into Richie while holding a bag of groceries. Richie tells him that Cullen is upstairs. He says he had to help the man up there because he was higher than a kite. Richie tells Duncan that Cullen does not seem like his type. Duncan tells Richie that he needs help. Richie suggests that age should have taught Cullen to know better and Duncan agrees. He then takes the elevator up.
Duncan finds Brian doing more drugs when he gets upstairs. Cullen invites him to join. Duncan tells Brian that he is trying to remember who he used to be. He says that there was no better swordsman in all of Europe nor was there a better friend. Cullen tells Duncan not to pity him and he says that one day this will be Duncan, too. He says eventually Duncan will lose his nerve too and he advises Duncan that it is easier to let go than to constantly look over his shoulder.
Duncan: Immortality isn’t one big fencing match. What about all the good times we had and all the things we’ve seen?
Brian: I forgot.
Cullen tells him that he would trade it all for a normal life. Duncan tells him that they do not get to choose. He asks Cullen if their lives are worth less because they are longer. Duncan takes the drugs from his friend and Cullen challenges him to fight right here and right now. When Duncan tells him to go away, Cullen asks him who is afraid now. He suggests that Duncan thinks he can take him due to the drugs. Cullen tells Duncan to keep the drugs. As he leaves, he tells him that he will need them.
Duncan’s phone rings. Anne calls to ask if they are having dinner tonight. She can tell from Duncan’s voice that something is troubling him but he tells her that he is just saying goodbye to an old friend. He tells her that he will see her tonight.
A few hours go by and Duncan emerges in the dojo very well dressed. Richie sees him and is impressed. He starts quizzing him about whether he is going on a date, who she is, and whether he should wait up. Duncan forcefully tells him that it is none of his business and Richie backs away promising to mop the dojo and clean the place up. He tells Duncan to have a good time.
Duncan takes Anne to Joe’s bar. They toast to out of court settlements and first impressions. Anne does not actually drink her glass. Duncan asks if she does not like champagne. She tells him that she is on call. He playfully tells her “pity” and then asks if she dances. She says that she does like a giraffe on roller skates. When he tells her that he doubts it, she tells him that when other girls in high school were picking out prom dresses, she was dissecting frogs for extra credit. Duncan tells her that he is sure that the girl in the hospital appreciated it. She asks if he was watching her and for how long. Duncan tells her he watched long enough to know that she has a real gift.
They appear to be completely alone in the bar. With no music playing, she asks if he still wants to dance. Then they do. As the moment begins to get romantic, Anne’s pager beeps. She tells DUncan that she knew this was too good to be true. She tells him that her job is not always like this before saying that it is. He tells her it’s okay and then she leaves. A few moments after she is gone, Duncan senses another Immortal. He goes upstairs and calls for Richie. Cullen attacks him. The two men fall over the side of the staircase railing. As they land on the floor, both get up armed. Duncan beats Cullen quickly. The down Immortal begs Duncan to take his head Duncan does not. Cullen leaves and he promises Duncan that the next time he will not walk away.
At the dojo, Duncan finds Richie in his office. He asks Richie why he is there so late. Richie tells him that Duncan asked him to manage the place so he is managing it. Richie sees that Duncan is edgy and disheveled. He asks how the date went and Duncan tells him simply “Cullen.”
Richie: You mean the lady saw the light show, huh?
Duncan: There wasn’t a light show.
Richie: You left him alive?
Duncan: He’s got problems Richie, he’s gonna pull himself through.
Richie points out that Cullen tried to kill him but Duncan says that it was not Cullen, it was the drugs.
Still in San Francisco, Duncan is brought to the opium establishment to deal with Brian who has a sword at the throat of the man who was bringing him opium. Brian’s paranoia is such that he thought the old man was after his head. Duncan talks him down.
Brian: Help me. Please.
In the present, Richie is telling Duncan that his friend is gone and that now he is just a stone cold junkie. He asks Duncan how he could do that to himself. Duncan tells him it was fear. Richie asks if Duncan ever crossed that line. Duncan tells him that everyone has critical moments where their life can go one way or another.
Duncan: I think who you are can depend on who you meet. I mean, who would I be if COnnor MacLeod had never found me? If I’d never met Fitzcairn or Tessa or you?
Richie: Well, I know who I’d be if I hadn’t met you. I’d be dead.
Richie asksk Duncan if he thinks he can be that guy for Cullen, too, and Duncan says he does not know. He wonders if it’s too late.
Elsewhere, Cullen robs his drug dealer of his entire supply of crystal meth. He then calls Duncan to tell him that he needs help. He says that he is trying to kick this but that he cannot. Duncan goes to meet him.
They meet in a large empty parking garage. Cullen emerges behind the wheel of a van and tries to run Duncan over. Jus as he succeeds, Duncan stabs the other man through the windshield of his van. Both men die. As they both revive, Cullen rolls out of the van and chases Duncan to fight him. He throws Duncan’s sword and then a four way tire iron at him. Duncan – still very much recovering – picks up the tire iron to defend himself. They fight. Duncan is attempting to stop and disarm his friend rather than to beat him. As a result, Cullen cuts him deeply on his face. Duncan makes a run toward his sword. When he gets it in hand, he tells Brian goodbye. Brian jumps at him. Duncan decapitates him mid jump.
After the fight, Duncan grieves his friend.
We see Duncan waiting for Anne at teh hospital. He is still clearly distraught. She asks if he had a rough night. When he does not answer, she suggests nightmares and that she should buy him breakfast. She leads him away as the episode ends.
I really liked this episode. Usually when we meet a powerful Immortal, he goes bad in a psychopath with a god complex kind of way. Cullen implodes from the stress of being challenged all the time. Does it make sense that the lives Immortals lead would cause the occasional Immortal to develop a serious drug problem? Of course it does. There are literally people trying to chop their heads off all the time.
Cullen is not the first good guy who self destructs that we’ve met in the series. We met Gregor during Season 2’s “Studies in Light” and he had a similar downward slide as Cullen. However, I think Cullen’s episode here is better executed. Gregor felt a little over-dramatic and unrealistic as a result. The actor playing Cullen – John Pyper-Ferguson – was really good. He sold me.
This is also a “don’t use drugs” story. TV used to push moral messaging like that. However, to the credit of this episode, it never felt like a PSA to me.
The heart of this story was this conversation that Duncan has with Richie.
Duncan: I think who you are can depend on who you meet. I mean, who would I be if Connor MacLeod had never found me? If I’d never met Fitzcairn or Tessa or you?
Richie: Well, I know who I’d be if I hadn’t met you. I’d be dead.
I think about this type of thing all the time. One element of it that Duncan does not say to Richie – but we see him put it into action within the episode – is the element of choosing who you meet. He watches Anne and sees that she is someone worth meeting. He then pursues a relationship with someone worth meeting. Your odds of benefitting from a good relationship go way up when you endeavor to surround yourself intentionally with good people. If you are who you are because of who you meet, you are allowed to stack the deck in your own favor when possible. If you don’t put some work in on that, on your own, then there might not be enough good people around when you need them.
Speaking of Anne… I maintain that there is a decided lack of chemistry between her and Adrian Paul’s Duncan. Is she beautiful? Of course. Is she good-hearted and talented? Yes. But there is something missing. It did occur to me while watching this episode that Anne (Lisa Howard) looks quite a bit like Amanda (Elizabeth Gracen.) Is that a coincidence? Or are the writers projecting that Duncan might have Amanda on his mind subconsciously? I’m not sure but I have my own head canon.
We also learn here that Richie is now taking over Charlie’s job running the dojo. That gives him a good reason to be more consistently in stories. I’m in favor of this.
The fight at the end was brutal. It only showed up on screen for a split second but the look on Duncan’s face when Cullen cuts him was supremely well executed. You could see in a flash both panic and a decision to kill his friend.
This is a really good episode and this has been a really good season thus far.