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:
Duncan and Joe are on the scene when a masked man shoots an Immortal named Cord. We learn that the shooter is Charlie DeSalvo and that Cord is a friend of Joe’s who saved his life during Vietnam. In the years since Joe knew cord, the other Immortal has turned to dealing defective arms – which is hwy Charlie wants him dead.
Duncan agrees not to fight Cord, for Joe’s sake, but his mercy ends up being a bad idea. Cord leaves Duncan and kills Charlie. Duncan kills Cord after, but his friendship with Joe is damaged.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Duncan and Joe arrive at the airport, where they encounter Immortal Andrew Cord being shot by a masked man – who turns out to be Charlie DeSalvo. Duncan chases down Charlie and learns that his former dojo manager viewed the shooting as a righteous action. Duncan warns him that he cannot handle this situation.
Joe recognizes Cord as his former platoon sergeant from Viet Nam, a soldier dedicated to maintaining unit solidarity and who then saved Joe’s life.
Joe and Cord a Vietnamese woman who has just been raped by a member of their platoon. Cord tries to negotiate her silence, to keep her from telling about what happened. Joe is appalled by the rape and it outside, while Cord talks to her inside. Just then the platoon comes under sniper fire. Joe sees Cord die before he is thrown through the air by a grenade that lands at his feet. A short while later, Cord rescues Joe from the water he has landed in.
Back in the present, Joe tells Cord that he knows about Immortals. He asks Cord if he knows who shot him. The other man says he does not know. Cord inquires about Joe’s friend. Dawson tells him Duncan MacLeod’s name and says he is a very good friend.
That night, Joe meets with Duncan in his Seacouver apartment and tries to guarantee that Duncan will not go looking for Cord. MacLeod assures Joe that if Cord is not looking for him, he will not go looking in return. Joe asks about the sniper and Duncan lies, saying that he got away.
Joe: That’s good. The poor b****** doesn’t know who he’s taking on.
The next day, Charlie visits MacLeod at the dojo. He expresses disbelief that nobody in the local hospital, or the newspaper, is reporting that anyone died the previous day. When Duncan suggests to Charlie that he did not get him, Charlie pushes back and says he knows that he shot the other man in the heart. Duncan asks him why he did it and Charlie says it is because of Mara. Duncan then asks what happened to her.
Charlie and Mara are in the Balkans discussing a raid that Charlie ordered on her behalf. The raid failed, despite a tactical advantage, and Mara blames the rifles the men were using. Charlie says that if there is one thing the Russians know how to make, it is rifles. He then realizes that Cord must have sold them cheap imitations. He leaves to go confront Cord.
While he is gone, Cord arrives to see Mara. Charlie tells her to take her complaints about the rifles to quality control. When she asks how he could do this to their men, he corrects her to say that those were her men. Meanwhile, Charlie knocks on Cord’s hotel room and finds it empty. He hurries back. Cord tells Mara that he will take his money and leave. She draws a handgun and tells him that he will take nothing. Cord notes that the gun in her hand is one of his and he says that it will not fire. Charlie hears a gunshot outside of where he left Mara and runs inside to find her dead and Cord standing over her.
Charlie: You’re dead.
Cord: Sorry, Charlie, I have a reputation to think of.
Cord begins shooting at Charlie, but Charlie gets away.
In the present, Duncan tells Charlie that he understands, but warns him to forget about Cord. He also tells Charlie that the other man is not dead. Charlie is agitated and Duncan tells him that he is his friend. Charlie is not consoled and storms out. Duncan leaves and goes to visit Joe at his bar. Duncan requests that Joe set up a meeting, but Dawson is very reluctant to so do.
Joe wakes up in a field hospital in Vietnam. The doctor informs him that Cord died and suggests that the explosion confused Joe regarding who brought him in. Joe insists that he did not forget who carried him for sixteen miles on his back. Joe then asks if something can be done about the pain in his legs. The doctor tells him that it is phantom leg syndrome.
Doctor: Sometimes the pain continues even after a limb has been amputated.
Joe weeps. He wakes up a while later, holding a pistol, and looking as though he might use it on himself. Just then a man named Ian Bancroft appears to Joe and tells him that Cord is the one who carried him in and also that Joe really did see him die. He tells Joe that he belongs to a secret organization called the Watchers, and he shows Joe his wrist tattoo.
Joe: Watching who?
Ian: Those who can’t die. Like Sergeant Cord.
Bancroft recruits Joe to join their group.
In the present, Joe tells Duncan that if it were not for Cord, he would not be one of the Watchers. The two joke about hoe Duncan needs to learn more about Joe’s history given that nobody knows more about Duncan than Joe. Duncan then finally admits to Joe that the sniper was Charlie DeSalvo. Joe asks why Charlie would do that and Duncan says that is why he wants to talk to Cord – for Charlie’s sake.
Joe finds Cord playing paintball and comments that it hardly seems fair for someone like him to play. He asks Cord about meeting Duncan and the other Immortal cautiously agrees.
Duncan and Joe are waiting for Cord at Joe’s Bar when Charlie walks in. They try to rush him out but before they succeed, Cord arrives. Charlie is shocked and tries to attack Cord before Duncan wrestles him outside. Duncan tells him that there are things about Cord he does not know and he says that Charlie will die if he tries to kill him. Charlie asks what he is supposed to do, and Duncan asks him to wait a day, as he is trying to save Charlie’s life. Charlie agrees, reluctantly.
Joe finds Cord playing paintball again, sometime later, and the Immortal is angrily obliterating the other players. Joe tells him it’s just a game and tries to get him to calm down. Cord says he wants another meeting with Duncan, but not at Joe’s Bar this time. Dawson tells Cord that this is not about MacLeod, it’s about Charlie. Cord argues that Joe knows what they are and how it is. He tells Joe, further, that he carried Joe for sixteen miles on his back.
Cord: I own your a**!
Joe: I owe you my life, not his.
Joe goes to warn Duncan, and asks him to leave for a few days so that he can try to work things out with Cord. Duncan tells him that running is not how it works for them. They are interrupted when MacLeod feels Cord approaching. Duncan meets Cord in the dojo and tries to talk him out of fighting and also into leaving Charlie alone. Cord admits that he went to a lot of trouble to flush Charlie out, explaining that Charlie finding him also meant that he found Charlie. He then raises his sword and tells Duncan to fight.
They fight. Duncan disarms Cord and tells him that Joe just saved his life, adding that this means he and Joe are now even. He tells Cord he can leave as long as he leaves Charlie alone. Cord seems to agree and leaves.
That night, Charlie meets with Joe at the bar. He explains his history with Cord and asks Charlie to leave him alone. Charlie says he cannot do that and Joe tells him that Cord will kill him. Charlie leaves and finds Cord outside. Cord mocks him, leading to a knife fight, where he then kills Charlie.
A little while later, back at the bar, Duncan has arrived. He and Cord feel each other. When Duncan goes outside, he finds Charlie dying. He holds Charlie’s hands while finally telling him the truth.
Duncan: You can’t kill him Charlie. You never could. Cord is Immortal.
Duncan: I promised I’d tell you the truth one day. Cord is Immortal. So am I.
Charlie: I always knew there was something weird about you, MacLeod. Now it all starts to fit. Don’t suppose you could spare some, could you?
Charlie notes aloud that there was no way he could have killed Cord, and Duncan agrees, but he tells that he can kill Cord. Charlie dies as the episode flashesback through their prior major experiences together.
Duncan finds Joe and demands to know where Cord is. Joe apparently tells him because Duncan finds him at the paintball facility after hours. Cord tells Duncan that he scouted the place specifically for this fight. It does not help him much as Duncan beats him relatively easily, taking his head this time.
After Joe meets with Duncan and blames himself. Duncan counters saying that Charlie is dead because he let Cord live. He says that he and Joe got too close.
Duncan: We’re different. There’s a reason we stay apart. We crossed a line.
This was close to being an excellent episode, but I just could not get over the too-coincidental story set-up. Charlie unknowingly getting sideways with an Immortal in the Balkans works. Joe being rescued by an Immortal and thus recruited into the Watchers – only to see that guy go bad – works, too. Charlie’s Balkans Immortal being one and the same as Joe’s Immortal rescuer was asking for too much suspension of disbelief.
Setting that aside, my other gripe with this episode is that Charlie died. “Unholy Alliance” was already an episode like this one (Charlie gets in over his head with an Immortal and nearly dies, not knowing the whole time that he had no chance to kill the Immortal he was after.) Did we need a repeat of that story where he actually dies? Honestly, I thought it would have been better, and still fitting well within the story, if these events had sent Charlie into the Watchers instead of into a cemetery. Big picture decision-making aside, I thought this was a pretty good send-off for Charlie. He finally learns the truth about Duncan. I really enjoyed his joke, as he was dying, about Duncan sharing some Immortality with him.
This is not the first time that Duncan has let his friendship with Joe get in the way of living his life the way he should. We’ll see how quickly the damage done here is repaired. My guess is that it will be repaired quickly.
One subtext of the plot was that both Joe and Duncan were willing to let Charlie die before telling him that Cord was Immortal. That reminds the audience again just how important that secret is, a reminder which is probably necessary due to Duncan and Joe’s friendship. Yet, you got a sense at the end that both regretted it, Duncan in particular. I thought Joe was going to tell Charlie about Immortals when they met up at the bar, near the end.
How evil is Cord? The flashback hints that maybe he was always a bit sketchy. I don’t know what he intended for the Vietnamese woman he was dealing with during the flashback, but I can’t imagine it was anything good. Is that offset by what he did for Joe? I don’t know. I think Cord was just being competitive as to the war itself, and rescuing Joe played into that. If there was more gray area to him, I wish it had been fleshed out a bit more.
That kind of gets to my overall impression of the episode. I think they crammed two episodes into one, and some of the character building nuance was lost in the rush.
The review probably seems more negative than I feel. Overall, this was not a bad episode. I liked learning Joe’s backstory, both regarding how he lost his legs and how he joined the Watchers. That flashback scene was great. Charlie’s send-off was good, too, complete with a montage of his series highlights. I liked the reminder that well before Game of Thrones, Highlander was willing to kill pretty much anyone in the cast other than Duncan. I just think there were two great episodes in this story idea, but instead it delivered one pretty good episode instead.