Some day soon, I'm going to post about something that isn't Merlin, but tonight is not that night. Here are some thoughts about The Secret Sharer:
We find Agravaine over at Morgana's place, engaging in pervy face-fondling and cooking up a cauldron of Cup-a-Soup while she engages in an eye-rolling flashback about last week's episode. In case you'd forgotten, old!Merlin knocked her unconscious; she didn't faint due to her increasingly stringent corsetry. "Urgh, that nasty old man killed my pet snakey and ruined my plans!" she sulks. "There, there, sweetie pie," says Agravaine. "I bet it was that old meanie Gaius, who can be conveniently blamed for our own inadequacies." "Great, let's go and torture Gaius!" says Morgana. "It'll get me out of this bloody hut, if nothing else. It's either this, or one of those paint-your-own-ceramics classes."
Wakey-wakey Arthur! It's time to get up and you've got a million things to do today. Make speeches, open anachronistic supermarkets, show off your arms, show off your chest, have things shoved into your mouth, lie slumped in Merlin's arms and let him drag you around like a sack of particularly well-groomed potatoes, the list goes on. Fanservice doesn't just do itself, you know. You have to work HARD at it.
Of course, the delightful flirting can't continue indefinitely because Arthur's first job of the day is to be totally and conveniently convinced by Agravaine's latest bout of bullshitting. Fortunately he manages to get an extra bit of shirtlessness in while doing this, so it's not an entirely wasted three minutes of screentime. Who said that men can't multitask, eh?
Morgana takes a day trip to somewhere where they have shining golden domes, turbans, incense and tigerskins. Judging by the accent of shiny-headed wizard Alator, this means Scotland. The most interesting thing about Alator, apart from his Caledonian growl, is his half-naked muscular boyfriend-slash-bodyguard who follows him everywhere. Charmingly, they've even got matching sets of hipster tattoos, although Alator's rather resemble two rows of ants marching up his neck and into his ears. However, he's also got a very big and knobbly wand-stick so I bet the long winter evenings simply fly by.
Back at Camelot, Agravaine has a go at his charming-but-evil interrogator act, asking Gaius whether he's a sorcery-loving communist who is inadequately loyal to Justin Bieber the kingdom. Arthur is so embarrassed by it all that he skulks at the back of the room fiddling with his rings and practising his most moodily-lit pout.
"Hello, young man," says Agravaine to Merlin. "Would you like to come and polish this dagger that I'm going to suggestively brandish at you? And then leave it in Arthur's room, for vaguely defined distraction-slash-alibi reasons?" "Certainly," says Merlin. "I'm always hanging around Arthur's room in the middle of the night. And I'm ALWAYS willing to provide slash alibis..."
In return for Morgana's slightly battered bracelet, Alator brings his half-naked chum to Camelot, sets free a horse with hair extensions, grabs Gaius and carries him off. Meanwhile, Agravaine scuttles in and hides a copy of The Boys' Big Book of Evil Magic Shit in Gaius's room. Yep, that'll totally convince everyone. Or at least Arthur, who long ago passed the barrier marked "DIM" and is now hurtling towards the precipice marked "FOR LEMMINGS ONLY".
Like me at this point, Merlin is heartily bored with listening to Agravaine droning on and on, and has a good old weepy strop with Arthur about his priorities. But of course, Arthur supports the "we must maintain the ridiculous plot status quo!" party, leaving Merlin on his own to fix everything. Plus ça change, as they say in the Guild of Harness-Polishers.
"Oh, bloody hell", says Gaius, when Morgana wakes him up to listen to her dull mitherings. "Kill me now." "No, no," says Morgana, "we're going to torture you first! But in a family-friendly before-the-watershed way, so at least your genitalia are safe. Be thankful for small mercies!"
Gwen turns up to give Merlin a bit of a hug and to show him her cleavage. Oddly enough, it doesn't cheer him up. (Still, nice to see her behaving like the friend she's meant to be.)
If you were making a list of the Merlin cast members you'd like to see lying on their backs moaning, Gaius would probably not be at the top of the list, but we must work with what we are given. "Feel the fire deep within you! Feel your thoughts begin to simmer!" says Alator, sounding like some kind of avant-garde chef. Despite this Hell's Kitchen approach, Gaius manages to get his sorcery on (yay!) but only for a minute. He's Nigel Slater to Alator's Gordon Ramsay; in a balls-out fight, there's no competition.
Meanwhile, in Agravaine's bedroom, Slytherin green is still VERY in for evil bedsheets this season. Bravely, Merlin dares to open a box under Agravaine's bed and is startled to find that it does NOT contain porn OR schmoopy love letters to Morgana, but just a collection of basic sorcery books from eBay. He also finds some boots with red dust on them, which confused me somewhat. Has Agravaine even BEEN to those caves at this point? Perhaps he and Morgana went househunting for suitable lairs and an estate agent showed them around?
As if further proof were needed that Agravaine's getting too cocky for his own good, he now attempts his own shirtless scene! But before the audience can yell "Put it away, man!" he's interrupted by Merlin's not-very-sneaky sneak-out, and his villainous nipples fortunately remain under wraps. Phew.
"Got bored of playing soldiers, and I thought I'd come and see how you were." - Oooh, hello Gwaine. Don't you look lovely by candlelight? Last week I waxed lyrical about how much I missed Gwaine and Merlin's flirting friendship, and although this was a fairly perfunctory taste of what has gone before, at least it showed that Gwaine still cares, bless him. (But hands up if you were disappointed that he didn't lick the iron ore straight off Merlin's thumb? You know he really wanted to...)
Back in the cave-based edition of Who Wants To Win A Novelty Bracelet?, Gaius is finally forced to answer the 64,000 groat question, "Who is Emrys?" At least he manages to spill the beans in a suitable melodramatic way: Merlin is Emrys and will bring the time of Albion and is generally great and wonderful, cheers cheers cheers, stirring music in the background, can I go home now?
So, another one on the list of "Dodgy Spells Merlin Somehow Happens To Know" is "Make a large muscular bloke fall on top of my friend", is it? Good, just checking.
Sadly, the Gwaine and Merlin double act gets split up again (BOO!) for the sake of plot convenience. Gwaine catches Agravaine in the evil act, but Aggie manages to weasel his way out of it. Sadly, it seems that the brain of Gwaine can't think well under strain. Still, at least he looks good dithering by torchlight.
When will Morgana ever learn? Trying to stab Merlin REALLY slowly while explaining your evil plan AND gloating? That was never going to work out well. Poor woman, you're not one of nature's multitaskers.
As anyone who heard the swelling heroic music earlier when Gaius was singing Merlin's praises might have guessed, Alator is Not That Evil! In fact, Alator feels Merlin's pain and knows what it is to be shunned and persecuted and gay! Better not tell him that his boyfriend accidentally got stabbed in a homoerotic self-defence incident then, eh? All that new loyalty might well fly out of the window...
Undaunted by the failure of the same tactic earlier on, Gwen tries to heal Gaius by showing him her cleavage. He pretends to be asleep. It's probably for the best, Gwen.
Morgana once again wakes up on the floor. "Why? Why?" she wonders to herself. Her thing used to be waking up in a tizzy, then it was smirking, now it's getting thrown across the room every ten minutes. Firstly, surely random unconsciousness is Arthur's old schtick? And secondly, isn't it murder on the hair? Still, at least she's got her anti-headache bracelet back to take the sting away.
At the very end, we get a heartwarming Merlin & Gaius & Arthur reunion scene, which goes some way to dispelling the slight tedium of what has gone before, despite the obligatory "we have to let Agravaine carry on being evil for plot reasons" handwaving part. It's followed by an Actually Useful (Perhaps) Gaius & Arthur chat in which Gaius tells Arthur that he luvs him (aww), and that Magic Is Not Actually Bad, Mmkay? Emrys only knows whether it's changed the status quo at all, but it certainly forces Arthur to do his "Thinking Very Hard" face.
In conclusion: after a jolly good run so far, the season finally hits a lacklustre episode, mostly due to the focus on the singularly uninteresting Agravaine and Arthur's quite phenomenal plot-blindness. The early scene in Arthur's room was great, admittedly, but then the character stuff took a downhill turn, with occasional upward bumps for Gwaine's smile and Merlin's teary-eyed stoicism. Could do much, much better, people.
Next week: a spurious magical lady makes the knights bitch-fight each other in the woods for her own perverted amusement! Well, who wouldn't?