Highlander (Season 3, Ep 56): They Also Serve

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:

Rita Luce, a Watcher, gets too attached to her young Immortal Michael and helps him win fights by feeding him secret information. This causes Joe to question his own closeness to Duncan. Rita eventually finds out that Duncan will be on Holy Ground alone and swordless and she sends Michael to attack an unarmed Duncan.

Despite being unarmed, Duncan takes the other man’s sword and wins their duel.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:

♫I am Immortal. I have inside me blood of kings.♫

The episode opens in Hong Kong and in particular with an Asian woman practicing some Olympic style diving into a swimming pool. A man watches her from outside the pool while holding a sword. She senses him while in the water and surfaces to find him standing at the edge of the pool. She surfaces and tells him that if he wants a fight he should let her get her sword. He says that he does not want a fight, only her head. Then he beheads her.

A woman watches from a distance as the young male Immortal, with long blonde hair, receives a Quickening. Later, in an RV, she gives the Immortal, Michael, a back rub as she tells him that the killing went exactly as she had planned. She warns him against carelessness and choosing targets poorly in the future.

At Joe’s Bar, Joe Dawson meets a man named Ian Bancroft. Ian tells Joe that the bar suits him and he adds that one can take the boy out of Chicago but not Chicago out of the boy. Joe responds by saying that Ian is the only person who gets away with calling him boy. Ian is a Watcher, we learn, and he is seeing Joe to obtain a reassignment. Joe is shocked that May-Ling is dead.

Later we see a card game occurring amongst a group of Watchers. The woman we saw earlier with Michael arrives late and says she did not know they are having a party. Joe introduces her to the table as Rita Luce. Rita tells Ian that she is sorry about May-Ling and says that she knows how hard it is to lose an Immortal. Ian tells her that when she lost Gasper, he was her first assignment, but that she should know better now not to get attached. A couple of Watchers at the table, who appear to be married, mention that their Immortal, Trent, is moving to Boulder, Colorado. Rita becomes very interested in him suddenly and asks them what the man is like. They mention casually that in three years of watching him, they do not think they have seen him use his sword once.

They sit around talking about Immortals they know about, and were surprised to see die, and one of them mentions that they never thought they would learn that Grayson died. Joe says he only saw the beginning of the fight and left before it finished because he did not want to see MacLeod die.

FLASHBACK!

We see the entire MacLeod-Grayson fight from Season 1’s episode, “Band of Brothers.”

Back in the present, Rita says that the lesson is never to underestimate MacLeod. Joe nods and says that he has surprised a few people. Rita comments that Duncan does not seem to have any weaknesses and Joe agrees again saying that there are none he has seen. The husband of the married Watchers pairing tells Rita that he is surprised her guy is still around and says that with as young as Michael is, he would have thought the Immortal would be easy pickings.

Rita: Maybe he just works harder than anybody else.
Ian: You sound like his manager.

Rita defends her rooting interest in her Immortal which causes Ian to suggest that she needs a new assignment because she has lost her perspective. Rita becomes angry and Joe sides with her. Joe says everyone tends to root for their guy and says it is an occupational hazard. Ian replies that occupational hazard or not, it does not make it right. Ian again tells Rita she is too close to Michael and she angrily asks him who he is to judge. She begins naming now deceased Immortals, one by one, asking if they are just cards in a game to him. She seems to be having a mental breakdown and Joe finally intervenes by saying her name. She leaves and tells the others to keep on playing because they’re just cards. The poker game ends.

Some time later Joe visits Duncan to tell him that May-Ling has died. Duncan asks him who killed her and when and Joe shares that it was a young Immortal named Michael Christian. Joe also gives MacLeod May-Ling’s journal.

FLASHBACK!!

Outer Mongolia 1780

Duncan approaches a gathering where two men are sparring. An older man tells Duncan that the local champion has not been defeated in five years. Duncan suggests that he needs better opponents and agrees to challenge him. The Mongolian champion hip tosses Duncan into the air, and onto his back, about five seconds into their fight. After, the older man asks Duncan if he wishes to learn that but Duncan puts him off saying that he is seeking a Master. The older man points Duncan toward the end of the village.

As Duncan reaches the edge of the village, he senses another Immortal. He eventually finds May-Ling Shen. Upon seeing her, he sheathes his sword and says he has not come to fight her. She asks why he is here. Duncan tells her that he is here to learn and he adds that a man named Kim-Sun told him he could find a Master here to teach him. May-Ling tells Duncan that Kim-Sun is a good man but a poor student.

Duncan marvels that she was Kim-Sun’s teacher and then suggests that it must have been hard for her to find a teacher as a woman. She knocks Duncan to the ground and tells him that she refused to be refused. She teaches Duncan and seems to soften on him. After Duncan expresses to her, while fighting, that he thought he was supposed to feel the weight of the mountain, she explains that he must let the weight pass through him but not anchor him. She realizes that Duncan was taught by a samurai and Duncan tells her about Hideo Koto.

FLASHBACK-within-FLASHBACK!

We see the training all of the training scene between Hideo Koto and Duncan, from the episode “The Samurai.”

Back in Mongolia, May-Ling notes that Hideo was obviously a master and asks if he and Duncan had a disagreement. Duncan explains how and why Hideo died.

FLASHBACK-within-FLASHBACK!!

We see the death scene for Hideo from “The Samurai.”

In the present, Duncan paces while holding May-Ling’s journal. He looks distraught and stares out his apartment window.

Rita is with Michael. She tells him that his next target is Trent. Michael asks why they are not targeting MacLeod and she tells him in turn to be patient. She tells him Trent is an easy target. He asks what the point is in killing a librarian and she slaps him and says he should do it because she said so.

Rita: You’d be dead without me. You want to stay alive? You do as I say.

Joe meets with Ian. Joe asks Ian if he believes in hindsight that he was too hard on Rita. Ian defends what he said and states that Rita is too close to Michael. Joe tells Ian that after Rita’s son died Michael became more important to her. Ian reminds Joe that the Watchers have rules. Joe asks Ian, who was Darius’ Watcher for thirty years, if he felt nothing when he was killed. Ian admits that Darius was different.

FLASHBACK!!

We see a bunch of clips from “Band of Brothers” and “The Hunters” including Grayson’s confrontation with Darius, MacLeod and Darius discussing it after, Horton’s group killing Darius on Holy Ground, and then Duncan’s reaction to discovering Darius’s body.

In the present, Ian bemoans that they killed him. Joe corrects him to say that they did not kill him, Horton did. He then says that what Ian felt for Darius, Rita feels for Michael Christian. Ian says Michael is no Darius but Joe says that maybe RIta thinks he is. Just then Duncan enters and Ian clearly disapproves of Joe’s friendship with the Immortal he is watching. After introducing Duncan to Ian, Joe pulls Duncan aside. MacLeod asks if he can take May-Ling’s journal out of town with him for a few days before returning it. Joe tells him that he can.

Duncan leaves and Ian rounds on Joe.

Ian: What did you think Joe that no one would ever find out? Is that why you are defending Rita?
Joe: I defended Rita because I don’t think she’s wrong.
Ian: Then you’re as far gone as she is.

Ian asks Joe if he is out of his mind and Joe asks the other man if he thinks Joe planned this. Joe says Duncan found him and asks what he was supposed to do. Ian says Joe should have been reassigned immediately. He fiercely tells Joe that there are rules and that he has a vow. Joe tells him that sometimes you have to do moer than just watch.

FLASHBACK!!!

We see the scene from “Unholy Alliance Part 2” where Joe shoots Horton.

Back in the present, Ian lectures Joe that if Watchers ignore their code, their entire organization will fall apart. Ian asks Joe why he thinks Michael Christian is in town and adds that perhaps Duncan is next on his list. Joe insists that he is not about to interfere and adds that Michael stands no chance against Duncan anyway. Ian reminds Joe that he stood no chance against May-Ling, also. Before he goes, Ian tells Joe not to think of Duncan as his friend. He tells Joe that Watchers and Immortals cannot be friends.

FLASHBACK!!!!!

We see Duncan sparring with May-Ling in Mongolia. Duncan asks about her teacher and she replies that the relationship became complicated because her teacher began to view her as more than a student. She says she had to teach the teacher a lesson. When Duncan asks about the lesson, she kicks Duncan in the groin and says the lesson is that one of Man’s greatest assets can be a great liability as well.

Sometime later, May-Ling tells Duncan that she has taught him all she can. She invites the student to leave but says the man may remain. Duncan asks if she is now regarding him as more than a student and brushes his fingers against her face.

In the present, Ian’s car pulls up beside the RV shared by Rita and Michael Christian. She tells him to hide while she talks. The other Watcher tells her that someone has been feeding Christian inside information, the type that only Watchers possess. He says he wants her off of this assignment and out of the field. She tells him to forget it.

Rita: Christian killed your Immortal and now you’re taking it out on me. Well, get used to it. He’s going to kill a lot more before he’s done.
Ian: Forget reassignment. I’ll see to it that you’re out. For good. And we’ll see how your precious golden boy does without you.

After Ian goes, Christian comes out of the back room. She tells him that it’s okay and that nothing will happen to him. A little while later, we see Rita hit Ian with her car, killing him. [NOTE: I am shocked the stunt man lived through this stunt. Holy cow.]

Joe visits Duncan and tells him about Ian. He adds that sharing this news with Duncan is the last thing Ian would have wanted him to do. Duncan asks Joe if he thinks Ian is right. Joe says that the last thing they did together before Ian died is argue about it. Duncan insists that Joe doesn’t have to choose between Watching and being his friend. Joe asks what gives him (Joe) the right to decide for himself how to do things when they’ve had a code for thousands of years. Duncan tells Joe that he is a man and he adds that part of life is making judgment calls and choosing your own friends.

Duncan dramatically walks to opposite sides of his apartment and asks Joe if he regrets their friendship. Joe says no fiercely before reconsidering and hten saying he does not know. Joe says he should go and Duncan walks him out. On the way out, Duncan advises Joe to follow his instincts. In the dojo, they run into Richie, who then offers Duncan and Joe courtside seats to a game. Joe declines the offer and walks out.

Richie follows Duncan into his office and asks if everythign is okay. Duncan says that it is but that he is going to the island. He tells Richie that he will be back tomorrow and he asks the younger Immortal to keep an eye on his sword while he is gone. Richie objects to Duncan leaving his sword behind but Duncan insists and says that the island is Holy Ground.

Joe meets with Rita at his bar. She gives her condolences and describes Ian’s death as a loss. Joe looks sideways at her but she says that she knows she and Ian had words but that does not mean she and Ian were not friends. Joe agrees that it doesn’t. Richie shows up and pulls Joe aside at this moment. He asks to talk to Joe and explains that Duncan went to the island alone and unarmed. Rita overhears this.

Later, Rita finds Michael in their RV and tells him where Duncan is and that he is unarmed. Michael objects to MacLeod being on Holy Ground but she smiles and points out that he has to return from Holy Ground.

Joe plays the blues, alone at his bar, and thinks about his friendship with Duncan. We see short clips of his interactions with Duncan from numerous episodes with his music playing in the background.

Duncan is canoeing on the island.

Sometime later Rita visits Joe’s bar. Joe asks her how Christian is. She says he has not been up to anything. The married husband from the Watcher couple tells her that Christian took out Trent yesterday. She turns to look at Joe, unable to disguise her evil intentions, and he accuses RIta of setting Trent up. He says she must have set up May-Ling, too, and then he asks where her Immortal is now. Rita’s reply is that it’s too late to stop it.

Duncan calls Richie and explains that an Immortal will be targeting Duncan when he leaves the island. He advises RIchie to quickly take Duncan’s sword to him.

Rita: What have you done?
Joe: I’ve just leveled the playing field.

Rita makes to leave but Joe does not let her. He tells her that now they will do what they are supposed to do – wait.

We see Christian confront Duncan when he leaves the border of Holy Ground. He immediately attacks the unarmed Duncan. Duncan runs to a narrow bridge. When Christian follows, MacLeod disarms him and throws the other Immortal’s sword over the side. Christian holds up well in hand to hand combat on the bridge. Both men fall over the rail and into the water below. We see Christian’s sword lying not far away just as the two Immortals see it also.

The camera cuts to Richie driving quickly toward the fight on his motorcycle. As he stops, he sees the lightning from a Quickening. He picks up Duncan’s sword and prepares himself for his own fight as he waits beside Duncan’s parked car. A moment later he sensesan Immortal just before Duncan appears. Richie hands him his sword and tells him that it’sniceto see him. Duncan returns the sentiment.

Some while later Duncan walks into Joe’s bar and when Rita sees him, she becomes distraught and leaves. After she goes, Duncan thanks Joe and returns the journal.

Joe: What are friends for?

REACTION:

What a weird episode. It’s part clips episode, part solid story, the whole thing ends feeling truncated, but it’s all somehow also somewhat good.

It’s pretty obvious that the flashback scenes here are episode filler. There’s a little bit of “you missed some good prior episodes of this show so buy the DVDs/VHS” to the whole thing, too. The unfortunate part of this is that I would have LOVED more to the flashback with May-Ling. My suspicion though is that they just did not have a story to tell beyond “Duncan trains with a woman in Mongolia.”

Here we have yet another Evil Watcher episode. I think we should assume now that The Watchers have been interfering with Immortals this entire time and then lying about it and covering it up in their chronicles. The organization is so corrupt that it’s hard to imagine there was ever a time when it was ever well governed.

I will say in Joe’s defense, though I think Ian is mostly right, that if Joe did not befriend Duncan, Duncan was going to start a war with The Watchers. He knew about them. He would have started noticing people following him. He would have made is impossible to actually Watch him and he would have told other Immortals about them also – and those Immortals would have done the same thing. This was the best of bad circumstances initially. However, after a while, Joe could have and should have backed off, been reassigned, etc. The episode kind of ends with status quo for Duncan and Joe’s friendship but it’s a more uncomfortable status quo.

Speaking of Ian… that death scene was brutal. That’s one of the worst death by hit and run scenes I’ve ever watched.

The Rita-Michael Christians relationship was CREEPY. She was a weird mix of manager, mother, and lover. ICK. The dynamic is odd because she could not have been much older than him when she started Watching him and helping him out. How did that mother vibe evolve? When an Immortal’s love interest starts looking significantly older, is this a common outcome?

I have a few gripes with Rita and the story-telling. 1) May-Ling should have swam away from the edge of the pool. She likely beats Christian the same way Duncan did if she does the obvious. Her death was a bit of lazy writing. 2) Sending Christian to go after Duncan – even an unarmed Duncan – was really dumb on the part of Rita. Duncan is lethal even when unarmed and Rita knew that. She even commented earlier in the episode that Duncan has no apparent weaknesses.

When Duncan fights Christian, the young Immortal knows martial arts. Did he learn that by killing May-Ling and obtaining her Quickening? Did the Quickening transfer her fighting ability? If so, does that mean killing Duncan would have made him instantly one of the most dangerous Immortals alive? Does the Quickening only transfer fighting ability or did Christian know a bunch of languages before he died, too?

I’m not certain that it works that way. If so, though, Duncan got that type of upgrade during his season 1 fight with Grayson. As weird as it was to have a clips episode, seeing that Duncan-Grayson fight again was fun. It’s one of the best duels – if not the very best – of the entire series to date. It’s also one of the very few Immortals Duncan seemed genuinely afraid to fight.

There were no Dr. Anne Lindsey moments in this one. That helped the episode.

All in all, this is a poorly constructed episode with a lot of problems overall but it also somehow kind of works, too.

2 thoughts on “Highlander (Season 3, Ep 56): They Also Serve

  1. I kind of enjoy that they never really explain anything about the Quickening – it makes you better somehow. Maybe. Sometimes it does other stuff. “Okay, but how do the powers work in this show?” “Inconsistently!”

    1. The inconsistency certainly gives the writers the freedom to pick and choose how they want it to work within the story they are telling.

      There does seem to be some evidence at least though that a Quickening transfers some level of knowledge and power. I feel like somebody somewhere has studied this in depth.

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