Recap: Merlin S 01 E 04 The Poisoned Chalice
The Poisoned Chalice
As with the last episode, the show once again opens on Nimueh standing over her stone basin and staring down into the water within it. She chants a spell and adds blood and a flower petal to the water before placing it gently within a silver chalice.In the Camelot throne room Uther, Arthur, the knights and the rest of the court stride forward in order to greet King Bayard of Mercia, who has arrived in order to sign a peace treaty. The two kings shake hands as the rest of the court applauds, but among Bayard’s collection of retainers is Nimueh, disguised as a servant.Whilst carrying bags for the guests Merlin is pleasantly distracted by Nimueh, who “accidentally” trips over in front of him and introduces herself as Cara. Merlin is rather flattered at her attention, and watches starry-eyed as she leaves. What he doesn’t know is that she’s heading straight for Bayard’s quarters, which she unlocks with a spell before replacing a silver goblet in a ceremonial chest with the identical one that she enchanted earlier.Merlin helps Arthur prepare his clothing for the banquet that night, and Arthur informs him that he’s expected to attend in the capacity of a cup-bearer. He even gets to wear a special outfit for the occasions, though Merlin’s gobsmacked expression at the clothing Arthur holds up suggests that they’re not entirely to his liking. Sure enough, at the banquet that night, Merlin is forced to wear a giant feathered hat.Guinevere joins him and has a giggle at his new outfit, but soon notices that his gaze is drawn to Nimueh across the other side of the room. As Bayard and Uther finish signing the treaty, Bayard steps forward to present two matching goblets to Arthur and Uther as a token of their newfound friendship.At this point Nimueh rushes up to Merlin and tells him that she needs to talk to his about something serious. Merlin follows her out into the corridor where she frantically whispers that she saw Bayard poisoning Arthur’s goblet. Merlin doesn’t hesitate. Just as Bayard toasts the royal family and they raise their goblets to drink, Merlin rushes in and takes the goblet from Arthur.He insists that the goblet is poisoned, and the knights of Mercia and Camelot instantly draw their swords. Uther reminds Bayard that he’s outnumbered and as the tension rises, Uther demands to know why Merlin thinks the goblet is poisoned. But Merlin promised “Cara” that he wouldn’t divulge her name to the king, and after both Bayard and Arthur offer to drink from it, Uther decides that Merlin should do it.Arthur protests, but Uther is adamant: if Merlin dies, they’ll know he was telling the truth. If he lives, then he’ll get handed over to Bayard to do with him as he wills. Arthur, Gaius and Gwen watch in growing alarm as Merlin agrees to drink from the cup. Nimueh watches from the shadows, smiling in glee. Merlin carefully toasts Arthur and then downs the contents. For a moment it seems that nothing has happened, but just before Merlin is about to be handed over to Bayard, Merlin begins to choke and collapses to the ground.Uther orders that Bayard and the knights of Mercia be arrested, as Gaius and Arthur rush up to Merlin. Arthur hoists him over his shoulder and Gwen collects the goblet as they head for Gaius’s chambers.In the physician’s quarters Merlin is laid down upon the bed. Gwen tends to him with a cool cloth on his forehead as Gaius discovers the flower petal in the goblet and looks it up in one of his books. It is a petal from the mortaeus flower, which only grows in the caves beneath the Forest of Balor, guarded by a vicious cockatrice. Arthur takes a moment to consider, and then says:
- Arthur: Sounds like fun.
- Uther: What's the point of having people to taste for you if you're going to get yourself killed anyway?Arthur: I won't fail, no matter what you think.Uther: Arthur, you are my only son and heir. I can't risk losing you for the sake of some serving boy.Arthur: Oh, because his life's worthless?Uther: No, because it's worth less than yours.Arthur: I can save him. Let me take some men.Uther: No.Arthur: We'll find the antidote and bring it back.Uther: No.Arthur: Why not?!Uther: Because one day I will be dead and Camelot will need a king. I'm not going to let you jeopardise the future of this kingdom over some fool's errand.Arthur: It's not a fool's errand. Gaius says that if we can get the antidote...Uther: Oh, Gaius says? That's exactly what makes it so.Arthur: Please, Father. He saved my life. I can't stand by and watch him die.Uther: Then don't look. This boy won't be the last to die on your behalf. You're going to be King. It's something you'll have to get used to.
- Morgana: And what kind of king would Camelot want? One that would risk his life to save that of a lowly servant? Or one who does what his father tells him to?
- Uther: You knew about this, didn't you? Morgana...don't lie to me.Morgana: Arthur's old enough to make decisions for himself.Uther: He's just a boy.Morgana: Have you seen your son recently? You have to let him make his own mind up.Uther: Even if it means letting him go to his death?
- Uther: You disobeyed me.Arthur: Of course I did, a man's life is at stake. Do not let Merlin die because of something I did.Uther: Why do you care so much? The boy is just a servant.Arthur: He knew the danger he was putting himself in, and he knew what would happen if he drank from that goblet, but he did it anyway. He saved my life. There's more. There was a woman at the mountain. She knew I was there for the flower. I don't think it was Bayard who tried to poison me.Uther: Of course it was.Arthur pulls out the flowerArthur: Gaius knows what to do with it.Uther takes the flowerArthur: Put me in the stocks for a week, a month even, I don't care. Just make sure it gets to him. I'm begging you.Uther crushes the flowerArthur: NO!Uther: You have to learn there's a right and a wrong way of doing things. I'll see you're let out in a week. Then you can find yourself another servant.
- Merlin: That's disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself. You're old enough to be her grandfather.
- Gaius: It wasn't Bayard. The poison was magical. And I'd recognise the hand that made it anywhere: Nimueh.Uther: You must be mistaken.Gaius: I wish I was.Uther: It can't have been. We'd know her. That witch's face is not easily forgotten.Gaius: She's a powerful sorceress. She can enchant the eye that beholds her. We never knew it was her.Uther: Have you any proof?Gaius: The poison used against Merlin was made more potent by the use of magic.Uther: Are you saying that she conspired with Bayard to kill Arthur?Gaius: No, Bayard is innocent. Look at what's happening. This is what she's wanted all along. A war to bring strife and misery to Camelot.
- Uther: Arthur? The woman you met in the forest, what did she tell you?Arthur: Not much. She was too busy trying to get me killed. It was strange, though.Uther: In what way?Arthur: I was at her mercy. She could have finished me off, but she chose not to. She said it wasn't my destiny to die at her hand.Uther: You must've been scared.Arthur: Had its moments.Uther: Those who practice magic know only evil. They despise and seek to destroy goodness wherever they find it. Which is why she wanted you dead. She is evil.Arthur: Sounds as if you know her.Uther: I do. To know the heart of one sorcerer is to know them all. You did the right thing. Even though you were disobeying me. I'm proud of you, Arthur. Never forget that.
- Arthur: Yeah, well, it was nothing. A half decent servant is hard to come by. I was only dropping by to make sure you're alright. I expect you to be back to work tomorrow.Merlin: Oh yeah, yeah of course, er, bright and early.Merlin: Arthur. Thank you.Arthur: You too. Get some rest.
- Gaius: Seems someone else knows you're destined for great things, Merlin.
- Abusive Parents: The way Arthur talks to Uther about putting him in the stocks suggests that it's something that has happened before.
- A Light in the Distance: Merlin conjures a ball of light to help guide Arthur out of the caves.
- Batman Gambit: Nimueh bets on Uther's short temper and Merlin's Chronic Hero Syndrome to poison the latter and start a war between Camelot and Mercia. Even if Merlin hadn't intervened, she still would have successfully poisoned Arthur and caused chaos between the two kingdoms.
- Cargo Ship: That giant feathered hat is rather popular amongst the fandom...
- Clothing Damage: Nimueh's artfully torn dress.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Knights and servants of Camelot wear red; knights and servants of Mercia wear blue.
- Decoy Damsel: Nimueh in the forest.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Merlin to Nimueh when she accidentally bumps into him.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The telepathic bond that Merlin seems to have with Arthur has not been brought up again.
- Chekhov's Gun: It shows up again in The Diamond of the Day ,over four seasons later, when Merlin warns Arthur about Camlann.
- Find the Cure: Arthur's quest.
- Giant Spiders
- Kick the Dog: Uther throws away the morteus flower to teach Arthur a lesson rather than simply give it to Gaius.
- Nice Hat: Gwen utters these exact words when commenting on the feathered monstrosity on Merlin's head.
- Psychic Link: Merlin and Arthur appear to have one when Merlin sends a ball of light to guide Arthur through the caves. However, this has never been mentioned since and on waking up, Merlin doesn't even seem to be aware that it's happened at all.
- Tampering with Food and Drink: The titular chalice.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Merlin may or may not have guided it, but that scene comes before it's clearly shown Merlin can affect events as well as watch.
- Too Dumb to Live: Uther, if you would like the next person who suspects a poisoning attempt against your family to tell you about it and not just let you die, you might want to reconsider making them drink the thing they said was poison.
- Villain Opening Scene: Just like the last episode, it opens with a scene of Nimueh in her cave.
- Weapon Twirling: Arthur feels the need to twirl his sword in his hand before throwing it into the cockatrice.
- Withholding the Cure: Uther refuses to take the morteus flower to Gaius in order to save Merlin's life, believing it was more important that Arthur be taught a lesson in obedience.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Nimueh pulls one of these in the forest.