- We join Merlin and Arthur as they conclude a country day-trip with a drop-in visit to a popular gastro-tavern. Arthur is having an attack of "I want to drink like the common people" (all the better to drunkenly cop off with the common people later, perchance?), and thus he's amusingly put out when the landlady turns out to be immune to his fit-but-you-know-it charms and fancies Merlin instead.
- Then, in walks a local thug (his official name seems to be Dagr, but I think of him as Scarface Geordiebloke). Before you can say "ye olde protection racket", Arthur is speaking up for the oppressed, then the skinny wizard guy says "I'd like to see you try" and it turns into a bar-room blitz! Plenty of excellent face-pulling occurs amid the fray, particularly from Arthur, and I was particularly impressed to see Mary the landlady removing the pickled eggs from the field of action. Good job, you never know who'll be wanting a nibble afterwards.
- But who's this, striding manfully through the bar? Luxuriant of hair, with just a hint of muscular chest and shiny medallion (but don't hold that against him), it is the titular Gwaine, wandering studmuffin and low-level thrill-seeker. I'm not sure why he's opted for the spelling "Gwaine" rather than the more traditional "Gawain", but he works a linen shirt so well that I'm not sure I actually care.
- Hooray, it's the first proper sighting this series for anachronistic vegetables! Fling those tomatoes, peasants! Show the pedants what you really think about historical accuracy!
- Oooh, it's unexpected half-naked Gwaine in Merlin's bed, fulfilling this week's "shirtlessness within 10 minutes or your money back" quota! In fact, he clocks in at an impressive 7.5 minutes, beating Arthur's series record.
Gwaine flaunts the fact that he has everything a boy could want, packed firmly within easy reach.
Obviously, when someone gets stabbed in the leg and falls unconscious, it's vital to take his shirt off, in order to... um... check for other wounds, and stuff. And Gaius may claim that honey "helps fight the infection", but it's also quite delicious when lavishly applied to taut muscular flesh... um... sorry, what was I saying? Oh yeah, episode recap, I remember. Ahem.
- His pride wounded by the tomato-pelting incident, Scarface Geordiebloke pops into his local new age gift shop and witchcraft emporium. This week, there's a special offer on decorative feathers-and-pebbles-on-a-string hanging thingies, and it's "buy one, get one free" on Swarovski crystal pendants that give you shapeshifting powers (comes with complimentary gift box for storage), and blunt swords that are actually very, very sharp. Great, he'll have two of those, and one dead shopkeeper. *stab*
- If this episode wasn't Lancelotty enough, Gwaine's putting the moves on Gwen. Now, I like Gwen, but surely her man-magnet qualities are becoming as much of a running gag as Arthur losing his shirt. Maybe it's her deodorant, who knows?* However, it strikes me that the major obstacle to a Gwen/Gwaine relationship is the similarity of their names, which makes them sound like a cheesy singing duo (cf. Paul and Paula).
- Meanwhile, somewhere in a bit of forest, Scarface and his sidekick kill a couple of knights and use their new pendants to give both their faces and their outfits a magical makeover. "You look good," says Scarface's beardy henchgeezer, with what might just be a hint of suppressed homoerotic longing.
(In fact, part of my brain came up with an alternate storyline in which Scarface Geordiebloke and Beardy Henchgeezer turn into Sir Oswald and Sir Ethan BUT then become hugely distracted from their evil mission because they're both so enchanted with each other's newly improved looks. This is followed by lots of blushing and secretly watching each other undress, etc. and then the night before the melee they confess that they really fancy each other and spend a night of passion. During the melee, they lose their crystal necklaces and turn back into their non-handsome selves, and are forced to run away. Then they realize that they still love each other anyway and walk off hand in hand through a field of waving flowers in slow motion, proving that overweight middle-aged thugs need romance too. Darn, I should so write this show.)
- Anyway, when Not!Oswald and Not!Ethan turn up at Camelot, Arthur gives them a free pass to abuse Merlin for comedy purposes because the episode is running five minutes short on plot. Not because it would be funny or anything. Because it isn't. Yawn.
- "You must remember that not all masters are as good to their servants as Arthur." - Gaius gets a face full of pea soup for this little observation. This must be karma payback for what Goblin!Gaius did to poor Sir Leon last week.
- Gwaine gets very very drunk, just so that Merlin will drag him back to his bed and give him a chance to play the "you're my bessht mate, you are, gizzasnog..." card. However, they end up having a bit of "I miss my dead daddy" bonding instead, which was a nice little callback to The Last Dragonlord (see, show, you can do continuity if you try!)
- Not only is Arthur peeved about having his shirtless thunder stolen this week, he also gets terribly annoyed about Gwaine's huge bar bill, which includes four dozen pickled eggs. Why has Camelot gone pickled egg crazy this season? It's details like this that make me glad that the show isn't scratch 'n' sniff.
- While Arthur and the Not!knights do a bit of scrapping on the training field, Merlin decides to shunt this plot along with well-timed trip to their guest room, where he rifles through their weaponry.
Merlin has an avant-garde fashion revelation, but sadly the world won't be ready for it for a few centuries.
- Emboldened by his success in the previous sneaking-around scene, Merlin has a nocturnal encounter with unexpected naked Not!Sir Oswald and, hilariously, is caught in the act of fondling his big glowing rock. His standard excuse cuts no ice at all ("I was just rearranging the bedclothes" - is that what Arthur tells you to say, Merlin?) and Not!Oswald turns it into an excuse for a spot of unexpected semi-naked knife-throwing! Before you can say "homoeroticism, what's that?", Gwaine turns up for a spot of sword play AND Sir Leon marches into the room, afraid that the Camelot muscle boys club is having a meeting without him. Things couldn't really have got any camper if Gaius had turned up with a lute and started plucking out the chords to "It's Raining Knights, Halleluyah".
- "Look after Arthur... maybe that one's worth dying for." - Does Gwaine ship Arthur/Merlin? It certainly sounds like it. And there's another big tick in the slash box for Arthur and Merlin doing their obligatory pre-match homoerotic sword-fondling scene. Watching Merlin doing his "serious" face never gets old for me.
- Oh look, it's unexpected silent Morgana, apparently just back from a meditation retreat at the Camelot Holistic Wellbeing and Spa Centre. She looks a little peeved that she didn't get to do any evil smirking this week, AND her servant has forty-seven times as many love interests as she does. Or maybe she's just freezing cold from sitting outdoors in that flimsy cloak.
- The actual melee, when it comes, is rather
cheapdull, with everyone wearing very similar helmets in order to string out what little drama exists, Merln doing his obligatory mystic whispering from the crowd (combined with a bit of "let's explain this to the audience" match commentary), and Gwaine jumping in to save the day. But hey, it's a great afternoon for cheering peasants with no lines!
- In the interests of safeguarding the Camelot status quo (see subsection 3.69 regarding the Handsome Men Monopolies Commission), Gwaine gets thrown out of the kingdom and wanders off with a spring in his step. His similarities to Lancelot are manifold: flowing hair, good in a fight, looks foxy in a linen shirt, flirts with Arthur, flirts with Merlin, flirts with Gwen, gets conveniently banished at the end with the promise of possibly coming back later. The only major point of difference is that Lancelot is a commoner pretending to be a noble, while Gwaine is a noble pretending to be a commoner. There's a bit of me that wishes they'd tried a bit harder to make the two of them different, but hey! My shallow sense of aesthetics doesn't care all that much.
- I confess I cackled with laughter at Arthur and Merlin's final shoving match. Why are they so sweet together? Why? It's an eternal mystery.
- Overall: not exactly a bad episode - it had a few laughs, plenty of man-on-man crushing, and Gwaine was yet another of the long line of gratuitous Camelot foxes (where does this show find all its lovely men? And how do I get there from East London?). But the whole caboodle didn't really hang together awfully well and felt mainly like a retread of "Lancelot" with a few cosmetic changes and less CGI beast-fighting. Never mind. Let's hope they do better when the real Lance returns later in the series...
- Next week: Little Red Smirking Hood returns and this time, she's gone all stabbity. Time to break out the reinforced steel pyjamas, Uther!
* UK viewers of a certain age may recall what happens when a man you've never met before suddenly gives you flowers.