Instead, here's what DID happen...
It's a bit rich of Arthur to mock Merlin's clumsy lack of stealth skills, when Arthur's supposedly elite knights are all trailing around in impractical red cloaks that stand out brightly in the dark forest and will probably get caught on branches as soon as they start to boldly run away. It must be the Star Trek redshirt effect. Nonetheless, Arthur is wearing a rather nice outfit at this point, so I'll forgive him.
"The creature you describe has all the characteristics of the Questing Beast." Gaius fails to mention whether the legend specifies a CGI leopard with the head of a CGI cobra pasted on, yay, but that's what we got. Nonetheless, it's a nasty brute of a thing, and despite the fact that Merlin remembered the incantation he so time-consumingly learned back in the Lancelot episode, he's unable to prevent TRAGEDY.
Yes, Arthur has been bitten and it is surely fatal! And yet at the same time, it can't be fatal, because as Merlin points out, "We haven't done all the things we're meant to do." As to what he is referring to, you may wish to supply your own
And lo, it is Arthur's turn to lie in bed, suffering prettily. He does a certain amount of sweating and grunting, but refrains from mumbling Merlin's name, which is more than Merlin managed in similar circumstances.
All the extras in Camelot think it's the end and are desperate for Uther to come out for a soulful rendition of his heartbreaking hit ballad, "I Don't Believe In Miracles".
But no, Uther is too overwrought to sing, and instead chooses to do an impression of the statue standing next to him.
Meanwhile, on the dragon's orders, Merlin sets off, armed only with a crappy map and a rabbit's foot (which wasn't very lucky for the rabbit), and crosses the novelty boating lake to the Isle of the Blessed. Does anyone else live on the Isle of the Blessed, BTW? If not, where does Nimueh get her hair products and groceries from? Do Waitrose make deliveries in the little boat?
Merlin will willingly give his life for Arthur's, but thinks twice about downing one of Nimueh's special "cocktails". Instead, he takes it back to Camelot for Arthur to try. It's probably revenge for that rat stew incident a couple of weeks ago.
Still, at least the magic water gives Merlin an excuse to sit around with Arthur's head in his lap, and not only do the grown-ups not complain, they positively encourage proceedings. Then there's joy all round as Arthur wakes up, but clearly this is not The End (TM) because we're only halfway through the episode. Yes viewers, there are lots more pained expressions to come.
Arthur shocks Gwen by revealing that he heard her say "something about the man I am inside". She fails to mention that what she ACTUALLY said was "the man I've seen inside you". It can't be denied that these things are totally different. So what HAS Gwen been secretly watching? And who was inside of whom? The public need to know.
Oh noes, Merlin's mum got the Dreaded Lurgi and Merlin is outraged. The dragon is equally cheesed off and they have a bit of a fiery spat. "I am your kin!" shouts the dragon, which would be a bit of a shock if it were literally true. I'm tempted to ask how it would work, and then I remember the Donkey out of Shrek. (Little mutant Merlin babies!)
Little did Arthur know that when Merlin said "Just don't be a prat", what he really meant was "I love you". Fortunately, the audience did know it, and all got a bit sniffly at this point.
"Dear Merlin, I have gone out to nobly sacrifice myself. If you wish to stop me, I'll be on the Isle of the Blessed. Before you come out, you might want to watch the DVD of the Heroes series 1 finale for reference. It's in the cupboard under the sink, where we keep all the anachronistic vegetables. Love, Gaius."
So, in the blue corner, we have Merlin's best Peter Petrelli impersonation. Not bad.
And in the red corner, Nimueh's best Sylar impersonation. Needs a bit more work in the eyebrow area, I feel.
First we have the obligatory "Join forces with me..." speech, which is pointless, because as any decent villain should know, it never bloody works. Then... FIGHT!
How do you stop an exploding witch? Answer: you don't. Boom!
Don't cry, emo Merlin, because Gaius is Not Yet Dead (TM). Awww.
Morgana wakes in a panic at the thought that there might not be a second series. She's clearly hoping to be given something else to do other than wake up looking attractively dishevelled in a nightie.
Phew. Thank goodness for that.
So overall, it's an entertaining but silly end to a silly but entertaining series. I for one will be a little lost without its fluffy presence in my weekends, and next autumn seems awfully far away.
Still, there's always the mystic allure of bad fanfiction...