Highlander (Season 4, Ep 81): Promises

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.


Duncan saves the life of Hamad from an assassination attempt. He learns that his Immortal friend Kassim works for the President of the fictitious North African country, but was secretly behind the plot Duncan foiled. Kassim calls upon Duncan to fulfill a promise Duncan made to him two centuries earlier and complete the attempt himself.

When Duncan refuses, the man that Kassim had hoped to ascend to power is blamed for the attempt on Hamad’s life, ad is killed by Hamad’s men. Kassim challanges Duncan over the fact that Duncan broke his word, and Kassim loses, though Duncan lets him live rather than taking his head. After this, Duncan goes ahead and kills the North African president, anyway, because he killed his political rival.


Duncan and Rachel MacLeod are walking through Paris. She comments that her feet are killing her, so Duncan picks her up and throws her over his shoulder. She shouts that he is embarrassing her, and he replies that it’s not possible to do that in Paris. He finally puts her down and asks her where to next, and she responds by asking (while laughing) to go home. Duncan tells her that the barge is at her service, but now more seriously, she says she meant the Highlands. Duncan just says “someday” before changing the subject.

He notes that she has been with him for two weeks now but has not yet asked him about him.

Rachel: I know everything I want to know and I’ve learned not to question magic.
Duncan: I’m not magic.
Rachel: No. You’re Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, a legend from my childhood, a man who lived 400 years ago. And here you are.

Duncan says that there is an explanation, and she guesses time travel, reincarnation, and that he is a fallen angel, before Duncan joking says it’s the last one. She says that he does not have to tell her. They walk for a few more steps and then Duncan senses another Immortal. Rachel asks Duncan what is wrong, and he asks her to stay where she is, and to trust him, while he walks toward a group of men standing around a car, not far ahead. As he gets closer, he notices a man standing and watching them. When Duncan approaches the man, he pulls a pistol, intending to shoot someone standing outside the car. Duncan grabs the gun and disarms him. Another man approaches them and shoots the man Duncan stopped.

♫Heeeere we are.♫

The man who was the intended target is fine and gets to his feet, saying he is fine. He tells Kassim, the man who killed the would-be assailant, to bring Duncan to him. Kassim fetches Duncan and introduces him to the President, who then shakes Duncan’s hand and tells him that he is a hero, and that Hammad Bin Salem is forever in his debt. After the presidential greeting is over, Kassim steps aside with Duncan to tell him that it is good to see him alive.


North Africa – 1755

Duncan is eating something over a fire, at night, when a man named Reza approaches him. He offers Reza some food, and the other man says he does not accept charity. When Duncan tells him to suit himself, Reza says that perhaps it is hospitality, rather than charity, in which case he accepts it. As he eats ravenously, Duncan asks what has him out at night. The other man says proudly that a man can travel when and where he wishes. Duncan adds that is especially true when he is being followed. Reza looks over his shoulder, alarmed, and Duncan laughs that it was only the wind. Reza tells Duncan that he is a bootmaker’s son from Tunis and that he is nobody worth following. Duncan says that he has nothing to fear and wishes to him that God smiles on his journey. Reza stands and begins trying to talk Duncan into traveling with a companion, suggesting that he could be very useful to Duncan.

MacLeod takes stock of Reza and notes that he has no horse and is dressed in rags. He asks him what he has to offer. Reza says that he is a great bootmaker and Duncan muses that he could do with a new pair of boots.

Sometime later, during the daytime, Duncan is traveling with Reza. They cross paths with Kassim. Reza disappears when Kassim walks up, so Duncan introduces himself. Kassim lets Duncan know that he is the prefect here. Kassim tells him that they are looking for a boy, and MacLeod plays dumb and tries to leave, before Kassim’s men stop him at sword point. A moment later, someone else drags a struggling Reza forward. They begin to beat Reza, as Duncan shouts to ask what his crime was. Kassim tells him that Reza violated a man’s daughter by speaking to her in public as if she were a common whore.

Reza: That’s a lie! I love her!
Kassim: You are not fit to lick her boots.

Duncan begins fighting Kassim’s men, until Kassim puts his blade against Reza’s neck and instructs Duncan to put up his sword. Duncan complies. They drag Reza off as Duncan tells Kassim, ominously, that they will meet again.

In the present, the President, from his car window, invites Duncan to be his honored guest at a party that night. Duncan declines, but the man insists. Kassim gets into the car and warns Duncan that it would not be polite to refuse the President’s generosity. They finally all leave, and Duncan returns to Rachel, who is waiting not far away.

Rachel: It’s like you knew that was going to happen. How did you do that?
Duncan: That’s Paris. Never a dull moment.

She asks if this happens to him every day, as he begins trying to talk her into attending with him. When she says she has nothing to wear, Duncan dances around her and says that her fairy godmother is at her service.

That night, Rachel and Duncan arrive dressed for a formal ball with a President. Duncan tries to calm her nerves as they walk through the ballroom, and gets her a glass of champagne. Just then, the President and another man walk up, and the server accidentally spills Rachel’s drink. The President tells the server that she will be punished, but the younger man, says that it is okay. The President introduces the younger man to Duncan as al Deneb, one of their more liberal ministers, and a man in charge of the people’s education.

President: They love him as much as they hate me, do they not Monsieur? He sends their children to school, I send them to war. I think perhaps that, um, I would rather have his job.

Al Deneb suggests that they can switch jobs any time he wishes, but the President replies that for that, al Deneb would have to kill him, and he says the other man is far too moral for that. The President spots the U.S. Ambassador and jokes that he shall have to go be friendly. He leaves Duncan alone with al Deneb, who tells Duncan that no gift from their country is worthy of the deed he has performed. Duncan says no reward is necessary. They part. Kassim approaches and asks Duncan if he is impressed by their country’s leader, and when Duncan admits he is not impressed, Kassim comments that this is good as it means he will not be too troubled whenthey kill the man.

Duncan is incredulous but Kassim responds that Duncan has met the man, describing him a a tyrant.

Dunan: Murder’s not the answer.
Kassim: ‘Tis the only answer. For 800 years I have served ruler upon ruler, emirs, governors, presidents. Some have been fair men, some even good men, and some have been like Hamad. But none have been fit to rule. Non have been of the house of Al Deneb.

Duncan infers that Kassim is talking about the young minister and the other Immortal responds that Duncan has now met him, adding that he is of royal blood, and the last of his line, the last of the house. He then begins telling Duncan a story about an event from 1460.


Spain – 1460

We see Moors, including Kassim, fighting armored Spanish and losing. Kassim narrates that he had sworn undying allegiance to Boadin al Deneb. He says that a more enlightened ruler never lived, and that he would have killed a thousand men for him. He says that no matter how many he killed, though, there were always more. We see al Deneb suffers a wound from an arrow. Kassim removes it, but the other man will obvious die from his injuries. He tells Kassim to stay with him as he leaves this world. He also notes that Kassim will survive all of this and remarks that he knows Kassim is not as other men, with his wounds becoming whole. The dying man says that Kassim will watch over his family and he says someday someone from his house will rule again.

al Deneb: Swear it.
Kassim: If it takes a thousand years, the House of al Deneb will arise again.

Moments after Kassim swears, the other man dies.

In the present, Duncan realizes aloud that Kassim was the one behind the assassination attempt earlier that day.

Kassim: Your timing was unfortunate, but Providence has spoken, and you shall be her hand. You shall kill Hamad for me.

Duncan objects and Kassim presses, listing Hamad’s crimes and failings. Duncan says that it’s not for him to judge Hamad, and Kassim agrees, but says that he will be the judge and he decrees that Duncan will be the other man’s executioner. When Duncan says that he cannot, Kassim says that he must and that Duncan gave him his word.


Duncan goes into the jail where Reza is being held. He beats up the guard and takes the keys. Reza begins listing all of the tortures they will suffer before they die, if they are caught, and asks Duncan why he came. Duncan quips that it must be Reza’s camel jokes. On the stairs, as they are leaving, they run into Kassim. Duncan tells the other Immortal to let the boy go, and suggests that they can settle this, and Kassim answers that they can settle this but the boy will go nowhere.

Duncan asks Kassim if the princess knows about this and how she would feel if she knew the boy was going to die, just for loving her. Kassim responds that there is no other way. Duncan proposes that he and Reza could leave tonight, never to be seen again, and Kassim asks what Duncan will give him in return if he agrees.

Duncan: Except for my sword, you can have anything.

Kassim asks what that would be and jokes about Duncan offering him a rough pair of boots or a poor horse. Duncan offers him his friendship, for as long as he lives. Kassim interprets this as a promise to deliver a favor for a favor, or a life for a life, and Duncan agrees and gives his word.

In the present, Kassim asks Duncan if his memory has become weak. He instructs Duncan to be at a restaurant the following night at 7:30. Duncan asks him not to make him do this, and Kassim reminds him that he made a vow of a life for a life. Just then, Rachel approaches and asks if she is intruding. After learning her name, Kassim asks if she is Duncan’s wife. She laughs and names herself a distant cousin, and says it is a long story. Kassim excuses himself and tells them both to enjoy the party.

The next day, Rachel notes that Duncan has been quiet all morning. Duncan is evasive as to why, but when Rachel goes to the door, to visit the post office, she meets a man delivering a package for Duncan. She notes that it is heavy, so she opens it and sees that it is a gun. Duncan tells her that this is a little difficult to explain, but she interrupts him to say she shouldn’t’ have looked. Duncan steps out of the barge. Before he goes, though, she tells him that she knows he would not do anything that did not need to be done. He nods and goes.

That night at the restaurant, Hamad comments that when he is Paris, he expects to eat French food, but Kassim apologizes, saying that after the day before, he could not take any changes, adding that he knows this place is secure and that its owners are their friends. As the group takes a seat at the table, Duncan aims a gun at the President. Kassim sees him in acknowledgement but gives nothing away. Duncan takes so long that Kassim begins to look suspicious, the President notices him, and Kassim is shot and killed.

Sometime later, Rachel finds Duncan on the top deck of the barge, sitting alone and looking troubled. She asks if he’s okay. He tells her that when he was young, he fought in many wars before he met a man who had given up killing. The man did not care who was right or wrong, and believed that life was more precious than principles.

Rachel: And you think he was right.
Duncan: I think there are some things worth living for and dying for — and some things worth killing for, if you have to.
Rachel: But not tonight.
Duncan: No, not tonight.
Rachel: Then your friend would be proud.

Duncan says that he wishes he knew and that he wishes that friend was here. He tells her that he made a promise to someone that he couldn’t keep, and when she says she is sure he had a good reason, he wonders aloud if that is enough. He says that sometimes he thinks a man of honor does what he swears and does not care about the consequences. Rachel tells him that she thinks a man of honor lives with whatever he does.

The next morning, while Rachel is still in bed, Duncan senses Kassim outside the barge. Kassim asks Duncan if he knows what he has done, and when Duncan says that it was too much to ask, as he is not a murderer, Kassim is incredulous. He tells Duncan that he has betrayed him and he has betrayed himself. Duncan tells the other man that there had to be another way, and suggests leaking the negativity to the press, or pushing someone else to speak up. Kassim asks if heis a fool as well as a coward. Kassim tells Duncan that Nasir wil not live out the week, as he will be blamed for Kassim’s part in the events from the previous night, as Kassim’s support for Nasir is well known.

Kassim: And because of you, I am dead, I can no longer serve him. I can no longer protect him. The last of the line of al Deneb will die out because you couldn’t honor your word.

He tells Duncan that if he cannot serve Nasir, he can at least avenge him. He draws his sword. When Duncan tells him not to do this, the other Immortal asks if he at least has enough honor to accept his challenge. Duncan refuses to fight the other man. Kassim holds his sword to Duncan’s neck and says threateningly that he will fight and he will die. Then Kassim leaves. When Duncan turns, he sees that Rachel has been watching them from a distance.

Later, Duncan visits the President. While he wits, he sees a woman and requests that she put him in touch with Nasir al Deneb, warning her that the man’s life is in danger. He tells her that he will see him, but does not want to wander through every single hall, opening every single door.

She shows Duncan where to find him. Duncan requests two minutes from the man after he telsl Duncan he should not be in private quarters. Nsir relents. Duncan warns him that Hamad wants to have him killed. Nasir replies that the President would not dare, due to his popularity with the people. Duncan replies that this popularity is exactly why Hamad plans to have him killed. Nasir abruptly tells him thanks for his concern, but notes that his two minutes are up. He opens the door to tell guards that Mr. MacLeod was just leaving. As he goes, Duncan warns him that he is making a mistake.

Shortly thereafter, we see Duncan speaking with the President, who notes that he heard Duncan was speaking with Nasir. Duncan replies that he bumped into him while looking for him. Hamad asks Duncan if he likes Nasir, and Duncan replies that he does not, so the President tells him Nasir is arrogant and wants to rule his country.

Hamad: He thinks that with his Cambridge education and his family tree that it is his right

Hamad then lists his accomplishments as leader, including bringing order to the country and providing enough food for his people. He asks Duncan why he is here.

Duncan: You said I was entitled to a favor. I’ve come to claim it.

Duncan asks Hamad to spare Nassir’s life. When the President replies that this is a strange request, given that Nasir and Duncan barely know each other, Duncan says that it is still what he asks. Hamad brusquely tells Duncan that al Deneb is safe from him, before adding that he does not want to see Duncan again.

Duncan: Well, you won’t see me again, as long as you’re a man of your word.
Hamad: Should I be afraid of you MacLeod?

Duncan leaves. A few moments later, we see Hamad telling Nasire about Duncan’s request, before asking him why Duncan made it. Hamad tells Duncan that he is a clever man, but says he cannot afford to have a clever man at his side.

Meanwhile, Duncan returns home to find the barge on fire.

Nasir tells Hamad that he would not dare kill him. Hamad agrees, but says that when the truth of Nasir’s involvement in the assassination attempt came to light, guilt brought Nasir to suicide.

Nasir: You would be overthrown within the year.
Hamad: Perhaps. But not by you.

We see Nasir fly out from a high window.

Sometime later, Duncan is being interrogated by a French Inspector. She asks why someone would target him and he says he does not know. She comments that a few days ago, he stopped an assassination attempt, and Duncan states that he was in the right place at the right time. The Inspector says that perhaps not everyone shares that opinion with him. Duncan asks if there is anything else, and notes that someone he cares about is missing and his home is blown up. He raises his voice and says he is not the criminal here. As he leaves, she asks where he will be staying and he replies that he does not know.

Outside, a man gives Duncan a cell phone and then takes off running. He gets onto a waiting motorcycle to flee before Duncan can catch up. Seconds later, Duncan gets a phone call and asks Kassim what the deal is. The other Immortal tells Duncan to listen closely, then gives Rachel the phone. After she says Duncan’s name, and confirms that she is okay, Kassim takes the phone from her and tells Duncan that this remains true for now.

Duncan: Kassim leave her out of this.
Kassim: I wish I could, but Nasir al Deneb is dead. The last of my master’s line is dead because of you. Meet me and pay for it or one of your line will be next.

Duncan meets Kassim and learns Rachel is still alive. The other Immortal says he wanted to kill her, but notes that as a man of honor, he wanted to give Duncan a chance to save her life – something that is more than what Duncan gave him with Nasir. Duncan replies angrily that he tried to help Nasir but the other man would not listen to him. Kassim says that Duncan has destroyed, with his treason, what he has spent centuries working toward. When Duncan says he did what he could, the other man says he did not do what he should have.

They duel. Duncan disarms Kassim, but refuses to kill him. Kassim accuses him of being unable even to win with honor. Duncan gives him his sword, but the other Immortal says that this changes nothing. Duncan finds Rachel locked in a pantry and frees her.

Later, she asks if he will be able to buy a new barge. He answers that the insurance company wans him to sell it, and buy a new one, but he adds that he and the barge have been together a long time. She is on her way to the airport. He asks if she is sure she wants to go and she answers that she is not, but that while she does not knwo what Duncan is, she does not want to be used against him again.

Rachel: Well, if you ever get a yearning for the Highlands, you know where to find me.

She leaves in a taxi, telling him that she loves him as she goes.

Hamad sits in his office and finds Duncan inside. MacLeod tells the man that he shoudl have kept his word and then throws him from a window.

Duncan: A life for a life.


This episode is a colossal misfire.

In hindsight, was Kassim right about everything? Mostly. Ultimately, Duncan agrees with him about Hamad and does exactly what the other Immortal asked him to do in the first place. The problem is that Duncan just went out of his way to not keep his word until the potential good of that action was already gone. Duncan probably plunged an entire country into a civil war. He almost certainly caused a ton of problems between that country and his current home country of France. Kassim will certainly feel insulted that Duncan was willing to kill Hamad only after the last of the al Deneb line was dead first. I would expect eventual repercussions for that.

The episode does not paint an entirely glowing picture of Hamad, but we do not demonstrably see that he is an evil tyrant, either. He kills Nasir only after believing the other man is trying to have him killed. That’s it. He might have viewed the punishment as just, or as necessary for avoiding civil war. Nasir is certainly made out to be a better potential ruler for the fictional north African nation than Hamad, but the case is far from compelling on screen. Duncan causes Nasir’s death, both initially by linking the man with the failed attempt on Hamad’s life (Duncan is smart enough to know that link would be the consequence when he backed out of the attempt on Hamad in the restaurant.) Duncan’s visit to the embassy and his demand for Nasir’s life to be spared further guaranteed Nasir’s death, though it also gave Duncan a personal excuse for doing something about Hamad after Nasir’s death.

Duncan is worse in this episode, by far, by orders of magnitude, than he was during the Dark Quickening episodes. Dark Duncan didn’t plunge any nations into a civil war. Tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands, could die as a result of what Duncan does in this episode. Insanity. The only way to sell something like this episode is if preventing that civil war becomes a major arc in the show and I am willing to bet it will not.

For a lot of this episode, I was confused about whether Rachel was a romantic interest, or not. She seemed to be living with him, but their affection for each other felt very chaste. I think her primary function here was to represent Duncan’s mortal lineage in the same way that the al Deneb family is that for Kassim. All in all, it was probably for the best that she returned to Scotland. I don’t think they had great romantic chemistry – and would probably be better playing a familial pairing. It was also completely reasonable that she wanted to get as far away from Duncan as possible. Maybe she really started to wonder about whether he was a fallen angel, as he had joked near the beginning of the episode that he was, after she suggested it as an option. There’s definitely no way she can completely be sure he is an entirely good guy anymore. He is certainly incredibly dangerous.

Just… ugh. This might be the worst episode of this show, ever. I hope they fix the barge, at least.