Merlin and Arthur are galloping through the woods, stopping to look down at a tavern nestled at the foot of the hill. Arthur decides to treat himself to a tankard of mead and check out the mood of the population whilst he's at it. Once inside, the land-lady Mary seems rather taken with Merlin, much to Arthur's disgruntlement. Merlin on the other hand, suddenly thinks that coming here was a great idea.
That's the cue for a burly, scarred, leather-clad, nasty looking man (called Dagr
) to waltz in the door, upset the tray of one of the barmaids, and demand a share of money from Mary. When she doesn't hand over enough, he pulls a knife on her. At that point Arthur intervenes, and seems to have the upper hand - at least until the man whistles for his gang to come join him. Immediately the tavern is filled with ruffians armed to the teeth. A bar patron with fabulous hair gets to his feet, hands over his mug to the thug, and cheerfully punches him in the face. A full scale Bar Brawl
commences. Merlin helps out with his magic where he can as Mary hits people over the head with plates. Merlin slides behind the bar and passes a jug to the helpful stranger - he takes a swig before breaking it over someone's head, also finding time to introduce himself as Gwaine. Arthur is having trouble with Dagr who throws him to the ground and pulls a knife on him. Gwaine throws himself between them and tackles the man to the ground. On trying to get to his feet, he realizes that he's been stabbed in the leg with the knife and collapses, hitting his head on a seat as he does.
Outside, Dagr is put in the stocks and Arthur and Merlin prepares to take an unconscious Gwaine back to Camelot. As he leaves, Arthur promises Mary that if she's ever troubled by thugs again, all she needs to do is send a message to the castle and he'll have soldiers sent. Mary is delighted at the thought of Prince Arthur in her tavern and leads the fruit-throwing at the thug in the stocks.
Back in Camelot, Gwaine is put into Merlin's bed (where else?) and Gaius tends to his wound. Arthur mentions that Gwaine saved his life, and so should be given anything he needs. Gwaine wakes up the following morning to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings and mysteriously missing his shirt. Merlin arrives with breakfast to tell him what happened, and Gwaine derides himself for saving "a noble". Merlin tries to defend Arthur, but Gwaine isn't interested in getting any thanks, especially not from the king.
Merlin: Why did you help us?
Gwaine: Your chances looked between slim and none. I guess I just kinda liked the look of those odds.
In Arthur's room, Arthur asks after Gwaine as Merlin watches the knights arrive for the melee. As usual, Merlin isn't keen on the entire of a tournament, whilst Arthur insists that it's a necessary test of courage and strength.
Elsewhere, Dagr from the tavern and one of his cohorts are buying artifacts known as the Stulorne blades from a nervous looking old man. Though they appear blunt, they're actually razor sharp. After receiving his money, the old man fetches two crystal necklaces and mutters a spell over them. They glow with power and he hands them over, stating that the wearer of the crystals will be able to take on the form of whoever's blood they touch. As soon as his back is turned, Dagr stabs him (Hmm, that seems familiar...
) and tells Ebor that they're going to take their revenge on Prince Arthur of Camelot.
Back in Camelot, Gwaine pulls on his boots but neglects to put on a shirt. On hearing bells outside, he slowly walks over to the window and looks out, all the better for the audience to admire his Shirtless Scene
. All done? Okay, moving on... He strolls through the lower town (with shirt), checking out some of the girls and then spots Guinevere passing the other way. He nabs a daisy from a nearby basket and hurries after her.
Gwaine: I believe this belongs to you.
Gwen: I don't think so. It's not my colour.
Gwaine: Let us see.
He slips the flower behind her ear.
Gwen: I bet you've got a whole bunch of those to hand out.
Gwaine: Yours is the only one. I'm Gwaine.
''Gwen shakes his hand and tries to move past him. He keeps hold of her hand and spins her back around to face him.
Gwaine: You haven't told me your name. You look like a princess to me. So it's probably something like Sophia or Esmeralda. That's it. Princess Esmeralda!
He bows in front of her, and Gwen looks around, a bit flustered.
Gwen: Stop it. People are staring.
Gwaine: Not until you tell me your name.
Gwen: It's Gwen.
Gwaine: There, that wasn't so hard, was it?
He makes an attempt to carry her laundry for her, but soon realizes that he's really not getting anywhere with her. Gwen amiably gives the flower back to him, suggesting that he give it to the next girl who captures his fancy.
In the forest, Dagr and Ebor approach the campfire of two knights and attack, quickly dispatching the men and their servants. Ebor brings out the crystals and wipes his bloody sword over them. By placing it over his neck, he takes on the form of the dead Sir Oswald lying at his feet. Ebor does the same with his own crystal, and the two ride for Camelot to take their place in the melee. Arthur greets them happily in the courtyard, recognising Oswald as an old friend and being introduced to Sir Ethan. Arthur offers Merlin's services to each of them.
The fake Oswald and Ethan waste no time in exploiting the situation. Comfortable in their guest quarters, Merlin is made to lug their heavy luggage up seven flights of stairs and shift it either side of the bed, before lifting it up onto a nearby cupboard. A flick of Oswald's sword and all of its contents rain down on Merlin's head.
Over dinner with Gaius, Merlin complains about Oswald's treatment of him. This is surprising to Gaius, who remembers him as a gentle man. Merlin Spit Takes
soup all over Gaius's face when he's reminded that not all masters are as good to their servants as Arthur is. At that point Gwen opens the door, looks mildly confused as to why Gaius has soup all over his face, and tells Merlin to come with her. She takes him to the local tavern where Gwaine has rung up a very large bill. The tavern-keeper is agitated that Gwaine has no money and demands that Merlin find someone who can pay. Gwaine is no help, choosing that moment to collapse on the floor.
Merlin helps him back to his bed (the Ho Yay
just writes itself) to the sound of Gwaine's declarations that he's his best friend and that he'd love to see Arthur's face when he gets that bill.
Merlin: What is it with you and nobles?
Gwaine: Nothing. My father was a knight in Caerleon's army. He died in battle, leaving my mother penniless. When she went to the king for help, he turned her away.
Merlin: You didn't know him?
Gwaine: Just some stories I've been told.
Merlin: I know how that feels. I met my father just briefly before he died.
Merlin: He was banished.
Gwaine: What had he done?
Merlin: Nothing. He served the king.
Gwaine: But the king turned against him. That doesn't surprise me.
Merlin: Arthur's not like that.
Gwaine: Maybe. But none of them are worth dying for, huh?
The following morning Merlin brings Arthur breakfast, only for Arthur to confront him with the tavern bill of the night before. Merlin tries to explain and then offers to pay for it himself - Arthur thoroughly agrees. The next scene has Gwaine and Merlin scrubbing the boots of all the knights. Merlin points out that if Gwaine admitted that his father was a knight, he'd be let off. Gwaine refuses, telling Merlin that the one thing he learnt from his father's life was that titles don't mean anything.
Outside on the training pitch, Oswald challenges Arthur to a bit of sword-fighting practice. Arthur easily bests him, and Ethan quietly tells his companion that in the melee, they'll have a greater chance of killing him.
Merlin begins to tidy Oswald and Ethan's rooms when he discovers the Stulorne blades. Thinking that they're blunt, he mishandles them and ends up with a bleeding finger. Oswald enters and Merlin hurries away to tell Gaius what he's discovered. Gwaine identities the blades, having seen them in action before, and agrees with Merlin's assessment that the men want to kill Arthur, using the melee as a cover. Merlin decides to go back and fetch the blade as proof of their treachery.
He sneaks into Oswald's room and carefully lifts up the chest where the sword is kept. As Oswald rolls over in bed, Merlin notices the crystal around his neck. Peering into it, he sees Dagr's true face. It's at that moment Oswald wakes up and grabs Merlin around the wrist. Back down in the physician's quarters, Gwaine decides that Merlin has taken too long and decides to check on him. Merlin is currently pinned to the wall, getting daggers thrown at his head. As Oswald lunges forward with his sword, Gwaine arrives and intervenes. A swordfight ensues in which Gwaine easily defeats the other two, only to be distracted by Sir Leon's arrive. As Leon demands to know what's going on, Oswald punches him in the face and demands an audience with the king.
Merlin fills Gaius in on what's really going on as they enter the council chamber. Gwaine is brought before King Uther with his hands tied and accused of murder by Oswald. Gwaine is defiant.
Oswald: You see, sire, how he behaves.
Uther: I've heard enough. For a commoner to attack a nobleman is in violation of the knight's code.
Oswald: I couldn't agree with you more, sire. He must be made an example of.
Arthur: Sir Oswald, please.
Oswald: Nothing less than his execution will give me satisfaction.
Arthur: Father, I understand how this must look. It's an embarrassing situation. Sir Oswald is a dear friend and our guest here in Camelot. But Gwaine is my guest here too. He may not be of noble birth but he has a noble heart.
Arthur manages to talk Uther into settling for banishment instead of execution, and he's given until dawn to leave the city. Once they're on their own, Ethan worries that Merlin knows of their plan - but Oswald points out that a commoner can't accuse a knight.
Merlin apologises to Gwaine as he gets his things ready. Gwaine is taking it in his stride, stating that he never stays in one place for very long. He tells Merlin to watch out for Arthur, conceding that he's the one noble that might be worth dying for. Outside in the corridor he meets Guinevere, who tells him that he did a brave thing. She assures him that one day Arthur will repay him, and gets a little dreamy-eyed when she talks about what a great king he'll make. Realizing that this is the reason that Gwen turned him down earlier, Gwaine says his goodbyes.
Knowing that Arthur won't back out of the tournament, Merlin decides to keep a careful watch on the fighting and use his magic if necessary. As the day breaks on the day of the melee, Merlin gets Arthur's weapons organised. Uther brings Arthur the sword that he used to win his
first melee, and reminds him that all of Camelot is eager for a victory. Elsewhere, Guinevere looks out over the people heading towards the tournament grounds with a worried look on her face.
Oswald and Ethan prepare in their tent whilst Merlin tries to caution Arthur. He replies that the melee isn't some stupid game; it's about proving to the people that he's fit to lead them.
The crowd stands and cheers as Uther joins Morgana in the royal box. Everyone takes a seat, including Gwen up in the stands. Two lines of knights get ready down either end of the field. Uther makes the signal, and the two sides gallop toward one another. The melee ensures, with knights getting thrown off their horses, dragged through the sand, and sword-fighting on foot. Merlin tries to keep track of what's happening, and watches as Arthur is pulled off his horse. Oswald nearly kills him as other knights are taken off the field in stretchers. Another rider enters the field and Merlin uses his magic to force him off his horse. Arthur and Oswald continue to battle and soon Arthur finds himself facing Ethan as well. At that moment, another competitor enters the field and backs up Arthur. No prizes for guessing who it is. Merlin notices Gwaine's trademark move (catching his opponent's sword) as he dispatches Oswald and Ethan. Finally Gwaine and Arthur come face to face.
Arthur: They'll expect us to fight to the end now.
Arthur takes off his helmet and concedes the field of battle to Gwaine. He removes his helmet and reveals his face to the crowd. Uther ain't happy, and orders Gwaine to be seized.
Outside the medical tent, Gaius declares that Oswald and Ethan are dead. Uther tells Arthur that Gwaine should be immediately executed, but Gaius yanks off their crystals and removes their helmets to reveal Dagr and Ebor. Arthur states that once again he owes Gwaine his life.
In the corridor outside the council chamber, Merlin and Gwaine wait for Arthur to join them. Arthur tells them that though Uther is prepared to overlook the fact that Gwaine fought in the melee, Gwaine is still banished from Camelot. Merlin wants him to change his mind, but Gwaine understands and doesn't hold Arthur responsible. Gwaine and Merlin say goodbye for the second time, with Gwaine declaring that he could never serve under a man like Uther.
Merlin: You could be a knight, like your father. You and Arthur, you fought well together.
Gwaine: Maybe one day we will again.
From the battlements, Arthur and Merlin watch as Gwaine leaves the city. He turns back to wave goodbye, and Arthur laments the fact that Gwaine could never be a knight because of his low birth... only to get distracted by the fact that Gwaine meets up with Gwen in order to say his goodbyes. Their friendliness riles him up, and Merlin points out that Gwen can hardly set her sights higher considering she's just a commoner who could never
consort with a nobleman. Below, Gwen kisses Gwaine goodbye (on the cheek) and Arthur reminds Merlin to shut up.
- Bad-Guy Bar: Subverted. The bar is fine, it's the protection racket that causes trouble.
- Bar Brawl
- Broken Aesop: The moral of the story is that nobility is based on a person's worth, not their birthright. It's somewhat ironic then that the man epousing this motto is a nobleman pretending to be a commoner, and the nobles that he condemns are in fact thuggish commoners in disguise.
- Foreshadowing: Arthur does not like Guinevere showing affections towards other men. It's Played for Laughs here, but the next time it shows up isn't half so funny.
- Flower in Her Hair: Guinevere, particularly in the promotional material (see picture).
- Hair Flip: Gwaine has lovely locks that fall over one eye.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Played with during the practice fight between Arthur and "Oswald". Arthur becomes suspicious at the fact that Oswald is using his right hand when he should be left handed, and Oswald claims to have been doing this trope. He then switches to his left hand, and is noticeably weaker and easily defeated by Arthur.
- I Owe You My Life: Arthur to Gwaine, twice over.
- Living Prop: Morgana gets to do nothing this episode but silently sit in the stands and glower at everyone.
- Lovable Rogue: Oh Gwaine.
- Oh Crap!:
Dagr: (to Arthur) Gonna make you pay for that.
- Dagr looks Merlin's way, who quickly turns his head, then whistles and a crapload of Dagr's minions appear. Merlin's face says it all.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. When Gwaine takes a knife to the leg, he passes out from blood loss and they have to get him to Gaius before infection sets in.
- Scenery Porn: There's a truly gorgeous shot of Camelot when Gwaine looks out from Merlin's room. Partially obscured by Gwaine's back but that's not too terrible a sight either.
- Shirtless Scene: An unashamedly gratuitous one in which Gwaine slowly crosses the room and stands on a stool to gaze out the window. The camera lingers.
- This Is the Part Where...: From Merlin at the beginning.
Merlin: This is the part where I tell you something isn't a good idea and you ignore me, isn't it?
- Too Dumb to Live: Dagr and Ebor. As two of the very few people lucky enough to survive a fight with Prince Arthur, do they ride off in search of easier pickings? No. Do they go on exploiting the same tavern, knowing that they can get safely away in the day it will take Prince Arthur's soldiers to get there? No. Do they threaten the villagers that anyone taking so much as a step in the direction of Camelot to send word for help will be disemboweled? No. Two guys whose whole resume consists of beating up defenseless villagers decide to assassinate the greatest warrior in the land. What could go wrong? And if they succeed, it will gain them precisely nothing - not even the revocation of the order to help the tavern keeper.
- Transformation Trinket: The crystal necklaces that transform Dagr and Ebor into knights.
- You Just Had to Say It