If it's Saturday, it must be Merlin, so here are some thoughts about Goblin's Gold, a.k.a. The One Where Someone Wants Gaius's Body:
Oh look, it's Geoffrey of Bulletbaxter, eminent librarian, pagan celebrant and bushybrowed style icon to the Camelot masses. What does he do all day, down in the extensive but very un-busy library wing? Certainly not dusting, given the cobwebby state of the place.
Okay Merlin, you have a choice. You can completely ignore the strange talking box that is absolutely certain to cause all sorts of trouble and go off somewhere to have a cup of anachronistic tea and a quiet life, OR you can open the box and make yourself look like an idiot, but ensure that there's a plot for this week. So Merlin, deal or no deal?
Of course, Merlin chooses to make the writers happy and yanks open the box to reveal Dobby the house-elf's low-budget CGI cousin, who's equipped with a nasty blue rinse, copious earrings and hipster tattoos. The goblin speaks in the voice of Arthur Weasley (who must either be short of work or a friend of the director, to turn up for such a thankless bit of nasal voiceovering) and is by far the most rubbish aspect of this episode. You'd be forgiven for assuming the rest was going to be rubbish as well and turning the telly off, but do hold on a moment, because things are going to get better in a minute. Yes, honestly. But before they do, there's a bit of pointless chasing, throwing things and someone suspecting Merlin of stealing ladies' clothing. Same old, same old.
However, things take a promising comedy turn with the arrival of Bald!Uther! Of course, the amusement is not so much in the lack of hair but in the grumpy facial expression that he accessorizes it with. Don't sulk, Uther. If it doesn't grow back, you're a shoo-in to host a revival of The Crystal Maze.
I was a bit confused when Merlin found a box full of gold under Arthur's bed. Wasn't the goblin looking for gold under there earlier, with no success? But hey, who cares? We're only here for Arthur's gratuitous shirtless scene of the week! I'm very amused to note that once again, it takes place 10 minutes into the episode; it seems you can actually set your watch by him these days.
Now, I ain't saying that Possessed!Gaius is a gold-licker, but he's certainly not messing around with THAT tongue action. And Richard Wilson certainly seems to be having the most fun he's had in years, what with all the gurning, scheming and general-purpose fun stuff such as:
Going to the pub and engaging in his own personal tribute to the Superman II arm-wrestling scene!
Doing lewd tongue gestures in front of a half-naked muscle man!
Belching and saying "a mouth like a badger's ar...mpit" (hee!)
Being refreshingly bitchy to Morgana and seeing the EVIL (TM) in her soul!
Scaring peasants by telling them they're going to die a horrible lonely death!
Ripping off Gwen by threatening her with "big pussy boils"! (Yes, that's what he said!)
Slapping Uther around his slapheady head!
And to provide a sort of fanfare for this gleeful mischief, Goblin!Gaius even orchestrates a throne room fart-a-thon worthy of Blazing Saddles. However, to my mind, his thunder is stolen by Uther with the following fabulous combination of serious headgear and serious face:
Uther Pendragon and Fred Basset: separated at birth?
But as soon as Uther gets his coiffure back, he realizes he hasn't burned anyone for witchcraft this season and Merlin gets dragged off down to the dungeons for a traditional spot of sprawling in the straw while the guards snore scenically outside.
Aww, look, Sir Leon Regular-Speaking-Part is allowed to go down the pub with his mates. Obviously, the conversation must be a bit rubbish since the others don't have any lines, but at least it leaves more time for serious drinking. Or in this case, for being copiously (or suggestively) spat at by Gaius, slipped a mickey and subsequently given a dose of something very unsightly. Crikey, I'm glad this show is designed for family viewing. I hate to think what stories they'd come up with if it was for grown-ups.
Before Merlin can be burned for witchcraft, he does a jailbreak and hides out with Gwen, which at least gives her some screentime this week. Then they have a discussion about whether farting in front of a man means you've ruined the relationship, which seems to have been lifted wholesale from an episode of Sex and the City (this one, in fact). "All girls do it... don't they?" says Merlin. Gwen resists the temptation of making up a biologically unsound lie at this point (e.g. "Yes we do, but it plays a tune and smells of roses"), just to see whether he spreads it around the castle.
Aw, bless Arthur for not being a total arsehole and spotting that Gaius was a fake. Of course, as always happens when Arthur does something sensible, he promptly gets knocked unconscious so he can't do it again and mess up the plot.
Oh dear, not only is Arthur a figurative ass, he's now a literal ass too. Then he does his sad donkey face and makes sad donkey noises, and Gwen strokes his ears. My higher brain functions may have been rolling their eyes at this stage, but the rest of me was having a giggling fit.
It was a long time since Arthur had felt the comfort of a woman's hand on his hairy bits.
Having ascertained that Goblin!Gaius has an oral fixation with precious metals, Merlin decides that pouring poison all over his coin collection is the best way to resolve the plot, give or take a bit of helpful squealing from Gwen and some tedious business with dropped bottles to spin out the suspense for another couple of minutes. But at least we get to find out the answer to a much-debated question, i.e. whether Merlin spits or swallows. Yep, he most definitely spits. And his aim's not bad either.
Arthur and Gwen's eyerolling determination to never speak of these events again was corny but endearing. I also let out a BIG groan at the end when it transpires that Arthur's still feeling a little hoarse. I reckon that he's also secretly got other donkey-like attributes and that Merlin's going to be taking advantage of those later on...
Overall: a resoundingly ridiculous episode, with a premise that sounds like a leftover from a children's programme and an unpromisingly dodgy CGI-based start. Yet somehow, due partly to its willingness to push the envelope of silliness through a series of ever more ludicrous letterboxes and partly to the cast's collectively fabulous face-pulling abilities, it was surprisingly entertaining and actually made me hoot with laughter a number of times. Who'd have thought it?
Next week: we're having a melee, we're having a brawl, we're having a melee, and that's not all...