Highlander (Season 4, Ep 87): Judgment Day

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.


From Highlander Wiki:

Watcher chief, Jack Shapiro, tricks Joe Dawson into coming to Paris to face a Watcher trial for treason. With the best intentions, Duncan MacLeod tracks Joe down to where he’s being held, complicating the situation. Methos reluctantly agrees that he owes Joe, and tries to play both ends against the middle without endangering his cover or his friends. Meanwhile, Immortal Jacob Galati is tracking down and killing Watchers.


Joe gets a call from someone named Jack who tells him that Duncan MacLeod is dead. He tells Jack that he will be on the next plane to meet up with him. We next see Joe in Paris, giving a terminal report on the Immortal Duncan MacLeod, into a recorder. Coincidentally, Duncan – very much alive – is out jogging in the place where Joe is making his recording and approaches him. Before he can get all the way to Joe, though, a car pulls up, men jump out, throw Joe inside, and they speed away. Duncan is able to grab the car, but the drive makes a hard turn that throws him off, onto the pavement.

♫Born to be kings.♫

Later, Duncan senses an Immortal and narrowly avoids attacking Methos. He relays that he saw Joe Dawson outside the barge early that morning and that he suspect whoever took Dawson may have been after him. Methos tells him that something is going on with the Watchers and security is intense. Duncan tells him that he needs to ask around about Joe. Methos pushes back on this idea, pointing out that if he does that, someone will start asking him questions in return that he does not want to answer. Duncan tells Methos that he owes Joe for keeping his secret.

Methos: That was his choice.
Duncan: Yes, it was.
Methos: [irritated] Okay, I’ll find out what I can.
Duncan: Thanks.
Methos: [to himself] I’ve spent years losing my conscience only for him to go and find it again.

Joe is blind folded and walked into a nice room, before he captures remove his blindfold and leave him alone, locked inside.

Sometime later, Methos meets secretly with Duncan to tell him that Joe was taken by the Watchers, that Duncan’s barge is being watched, and its wires are tapped. He tells Duncan that he does not know for certain why Joe was taken, but that the rumor is that the Watcher Tribunal is putting him on trial for treason.

Former Watcher Headquarters for Western Europe

Duncan approaches and senses an Immortal on a motorcycle riding away as he drives up. Duncan then walks up to the facility and asks a woman standing outside of the estate is for sale. She tells him that it was sold some time ago and that the for sale sign should be taken away. He asks if the man on the motorcycle is the new buyer and she replies that he was someone looking to get into touch with the old owners. Duncan laughs and says that is a coincidence becaue he also wants to get in touch with them.

Woman: I am afraid I cannot help you, either. The state was listed under a holding company. All the business was done by phone.

He presses her, asking if she knows where they bought elsewhere and she answers that they did not make a new purchase through her and that it was likely not in Paris, or she would have heard about it.

New Watcher Headquarters
Lyon, France

Joe is hustled along into a dark room, where he finds Jack, the Watcher friend who told him MacLeod was dead over the phone. Joe asks him what this is about, and he tells Joe that he is here to judge him. Another man steps forward out of the shadows to tell Joe that he is charged with betraying his oath, consorting with an Immortal, and falsifying chronicles. Jack asks Joe how he pleads. Instead of answering, Joe asks if they really hauled him all the way to Paris for this.

Watcher: In the last three years, we’ve lost 80 agents. In the fifty years before that, we’ve lost 2.
Joe: So?
Jack: So… it’s been three years since you had your first little talk with MacLeod.

Jack tells Joe that he should have kept his mouth shut and another man says now they have to shut it for him. Joe says fine, and adds that they don’t need to let him have a gold watch. The other Watcher tells Joe that things have gone well beyond mere dismissal.

Watcher: If we decide you are guilty, the penalty is death.

Duncan is casing a building when he senses an Immortal. Methos speaks up and says that they need to stop meeting like this, or else people will talk. Neither of them tells the other how they found out where he was being held, but they agree to go in together.

That night, Methos drives up to the gate, as Adam Pierson, and tries to be let in to do research. He has a discussion with the gate guard who tells him to come back next week. While they talk, and the guard is distracted, Duncan scales the wall to get inside.

We find Joe turning down a meal, just before Duncan knocks out the guy who served it to him. He tries to get Joe to hurry, but Joe points out that it will not work because there are security cameras all over the building and that the Watchers likely already know Duncan is inside.

Next we see Duncan and Joe together in the dark room where the Watchers Tribunal is meeting. They are alarmed that Duncan followed Joe to this location and explain to Duncan that Joe knew the rules of their organization and violated those rules. They argue that Duncan’s presence here proves how dangerous it is for a Watcher to reveal their organization’s existence to an Immortal. Jack asks Duncan how many other Immortals he has told about them, and Duncan answers back vaguely that he has only told those that he trusts.

Jack: And do you trust all the ones that they told? You see, that’s how it starts Joe, and it ends in death.

Jack starts discussing Watchers all over teh world who have been killed by Immortals, and Duncan argues that they cannot try Joe for crimes he did not commit. Jack tells Duncan that he knew what he was doing when he trashed his oath, and Duncan fires back that Joe had no choice because Duncan found him.


[Duncan narrates about the murder of Darius as we see the scene of Duncan’s first meeting with Joe. He explains that the other Watches gave the game away, despite Joe doing a good job covering.

As the flashback continues, Joe explains that if he had not told Duncan the truth about their group, and Horton, Duncan would have thought all Watchers were murderers.

The flashback continues and we see Darius’s murder, and Duncan telling Joe about Horton.]

In the present, Jack says that Horton does not matter, and that MacLeod became more important to Joe than his oath. Another Watcher points out that Duncan’s fight with Killian was part of the Game, and that Joe used the Watchers to interfere in that fight.


[We see the scene, from the episode where Duncan fought Killian, where Joe told Amanda where to find Killian. Joe defends this, in narration from the present over the scene as it plays, by saying Killian had crossed a line and was totally without conscience. We see the scene where Killian’s Watcher tells Joe that Duncan is locked up in a cell in an abandoned Air Force base, and the follow-up scene wherein Joe and Amanda arrive to rescue him.]

In the present, a Watcher tells Joe that he has been breaking the rules for years. Duncan aggressively defends Joe, asking the men in the room how much innocent killing they would tolerate before they did something to stop it.


[We see a the scene of Immortal Quentin Barnes killing a priest. We then see the follow-up scene of Joe telling Duncan where to find Barnes and Duncan taking his head.

We next see Joe telling Duncan how to find evil Immortal Nicholas Ward and Duncan taking Ward’s head.]

In the present, one of the Watchers tells Duncan he has made his point.

Joe: You see that rule book — it looks a lot different out in the street than it does down here.
Watcher: So you made up your own rules and now you will suffer the penalty proscribed in our code.
Duncan: Which is?
Joe: They’re gonna blow my brains out tomorrow. Tradition.

Duncan is outraged and demands that the Watchers let Joe be judged by his actual peers, not people like themselves who do not do the work in the field. Jack asks Joe if that is what he wants, and Joe says that he does not want any of this, but if he is on trial, he wants a jury. The Watchers whisper together and Jack tells Joe he can have a jury.

Jack: But only if you’re judged with him, MacLeod. If he’s found guilty, you’re found guilty. If he dies, you die.
Joe: [shocked] Mac, please don’t do it.
Jack: Agreed
Duncan: Agreed.

Sometime later, Duncan is waiting with Joe and abruptly gets up and destroys the security camera in the room. After, he asks Joe how much they know, and Joe replies that they know enough and that he has been doctoring his reports for a while now. Joe says that he underestimated the Watchers.

Joe: I was Watchin gyou and they were watching me.

Joe tells Duncan that he should save himself and that he dug this hole for himself. Duncan replies that he did not dig it alone, and adds that if they get out, they are getting out together. A moment later, Watchers enter the room with guns drawn and tell Duncan that privacy is not an option here.

Outside the facility, the Immortal we saw briefly, earlier in the episode, is now outside the Watchers’ compound. He approaches a Watcher named David Shapiro and identifies himself as a fellow Watcher named Jacob Galatti, recently transfered in from South Africa.

David: It’s funny, there’s an Immortal named Jacob Galatti.
Jacob: I know. He just killed you.
[stabs Shapiro]

Inside the facility, Joe and Duncan observe the jury pool. Joe explains that the regional coordinators, fro mall over the world, have gathered to served.

The trial starts and the prosecutor begins by sharing examples of Joe falsifying records, including a failure to mention that Duncan killed the Immortal Thorne after said Immortal killed Joe’s then girlfriend, Lauren Gale.


[Joe narrates what happened as we see a scene from the episode where Thorne killed Gale. Duncan narrates that he had his own reasons for wanting to kill Thorne, and says he would have found and killed Thorne, sooner or later, and all that Joe did was save innocent mortal lives by speeding that time up.]

Duncan: [in the present] I would have fought Thorne anyway. Dawson didn’t change that.

As the prosecutor harps on Joe’s admission of violating the rules, Methos arrives, as Adam Pierson, and begs for two minutes to speak. His request is granted.

Methos (as Adam) presents a Watchers’ journal that he claims to have discovered in an Italian library, concerning Methos. He states that the Watcher kept the journal because he came to like Methos.

Jack: I know there’s a point in here, son.
Methos: They became friends, but because of our rules, he couldn’t put that in his report. Think about it. The man KNEW Methos. But — what stories they must have shared! What histories we might know if we didn’t force men like him and Joe Dawson to hide what they have learned. And how many others? How much more knowledge has been lost to us? I say let friendship thrive. Let him record all he has learned. Learn.
Jack: Are you through?

Duncan tells the room to think of the good that has come from Dawson bending their rules. Jack asks him if he means dead Immortals and murdered Watchers. Duncan retorts that if it wasn’t for Dawson, Horton would still be killing Immortals and everything they stand for would have been destroyed. Next, Duncan points out that if Joe had not worked with him against Kalas, the Immortal would have revealed the existence of both Immortals and the Watchers to the world. He reminds them that Joe didn’t tell Kalas about the Watchers, yet he found out anyway.


[we see Kalas torturing a Watcher to learn why he was following him and learning about the existence of the Watchers. As Duncan narrates that Kalas had a database of Immortals that he was prepared to use, we watch the scene where they meet to duel.]

In the present, Joe tells the jury that if he did not know MacLeod, and if they did not work together, Kalas would have told the world about all of them. Jack argues that Joe cannot chicken adn egg this thing, and that maybe if Joe had never met Duncan, Kalas would not have found the disk in the first place.

Duncan retorts that they are holding their rules in higher value than Joe’s life, and he continues by saying that he has survived as long as he has by valuing life. Duncan tells them that if they execute Joe, they are as evil and unprincipled as the Immortals he fights. Someone interrupts the proceedings to whisper to Jack. He then stops the trial to announce another Watcher has been killed – his son David – Duncan’s new Watcher.

Joe: Jack, you can’t blame him for this.
Jack: No, not alone – I blame you.

Jack says that the jury will withdraw to consider the verdict, but a woman from the group stands to say that they do not have to withdraw, and that they find Joe and Duncan guilty as charged.

Duncan and Joe aare escorted back into a room to await execution. Duncan disarms their two guards, knocks them out, and encourages Joe to go. Joe refuses to go with him.

Joe: I knew the deal when I signed on. I knew the risk if I broke the rules.
Duncan: Joe, they’re gonan put a bullet in your head, tomorrow. And you won’t be coming back.
Joe: I’m guilty MacLeod.
Duncan: Of what?!
Joe: I believed in that oath I took.

Duncan pleads with him, but Joe refuses to go with him. Duncan leaves, but leaves Joe with the keys to his handcuffs. Outside, Duncan talks to Methos who tells him that this seems like how Joe wants things to happen.

Duncan: If he wants to sit there, like a lamb goin to slaighter, then I’m not goin gback for him.
Methos: No, it wouldn’t be sensible.

The next day, just before Joe is slated to be shot, Jack asks if he has any last requests. Joe says that he would like to die of old age. Jack tells him that this is not his choice, and that he hopes Joe can believe that. He says it is a question of principle.

Joe: Principle’s not gonna give the order to shoot, Jack. You are. There is something you can do for me. Pull the trigger, buddy.

Jack cannot bring himself to be the one to shoot Joe. Just as another Watcher is about to pull the trigger, Jacob Galetti opens fire on everyone.

Sometime later, Duncan arrives to an open gate and a scene of carnage. He sees a helmeted Galetti drive away on a motorcycle. Duncan runs to find Joe and as he checks his vitals, the episode ends.

To be continued


This episode was a long time coming. Joe has been pretty flagrantly violating the rules for a while. It was just a matter of time before there were consequences.

As for the actual trial, I thought all of that was very well done. We heard both the pros and cons of Joe’s rule-breaking. He’s completely right that his relationship with Joe has probably saved their entire organization more than once. On the other hand, it’s also true that Joe has interfered in “The Game,” to Duncan’s benefit. I particularly liked Methos’ argument against their rules, and how abiding by those rules almost certainly hampers their ability to record the actual history accurately. I’d guess a lot of Watchers end up befriending their assignment to avoid suspicion for always being around.

The episode did a really great job of setting up a “guys in the field” vs. “guys behind desks” debate which was completely relatable to more accessible similar situations, such as the police or soldiers. It’s easy for someone “in the field” to get too close to the combat to keep perspective on the big picture, and it’s also easy for someone at a desk to be too far away from that combat to have perspective as to its realities.

I thought the stats at the start of the episode were jarring.

Watcher: In the last three years, we’ve lost 80 agents. In the fifty years before that, we’ve lost 2.
Joe: So?

If the organization is actually sincere, then this situation is obviously serious and they’ve probably been extremely patient with Joe so far. That’s a dramatic change. However, it’s also pretty obvious that Joe is the scapegoat for other things. Joe didn’t cause Horton or Kalas, he actually stopped both of them. Those two events alone were likely the driving force behind those Watcher death rates. The Watchers want to imagine a scenario where Duncan’s friends start killing Watchers rather than a more realistic scenario where a bad guy Immortal might have found out about them independently of anyone else (ala Kalas) or was told by another bad guy Immortal about the Watchers. We know Xavier knew about them before he died (and was working with Horton), but we do not know if he told anyone else. I’d also guess that these things probably go in waves. If an evil Immortal finds out about their group, it seems likely that a lot of people die for a while. Then when that guy is stopped, the killings likely slow for as much as decades.

My big gripe with the trial is that nobody brought up that Joe’s interference cost a mortal – Charlie DeSalvo – his life. That would have made Duncan’s defense of Joe more significant and Joe’s guilt more apparent.

So two things can be true at the same time. Joe shouldn’t be breaking the rules AND Joe isn’t why so many people re dying. The right action would probably be firing Joe, taking away his ability to aid Duncan with intel, but otherwise letting him live his life. We’ll see how things get handled if Joe survives this episode.

Overall, this is a good setup for the finale. It remains to be seen though whether the Jacob Galetti part of this story works out. So far, it seems contrived, and way too coincidental, but we’ll see how they tie it together before making any final judgements.

5 thoughts on “Highlander (Season 4, Ep 87): Judgment Day

      1. Yeah, I kind of miss those days of 22 episode seasons like we used to get with Star Trek and X-Files ect. Stories and characters were given time to evolve and grow naturally, no so many shows seem in such a rush to tick all the boxes and rush the story.

      2. Agreed. With shortened seasons, you avoid some of the bad episodes that come with extended seasons but you rush a lot of character development opportunities.

      3. Agreed. Ive been having a binge rewatch of Star Trek Voyager. Sure, some episodes were filler, but there were lots of great mini character arcs that evolved over time. Modern shows sometime seem in such a rush now.