Sharpe and his Chosen Men are assigned to trade British rifles for captured deserters, but their mission is complicated by Provost officers and a woman searching for her missing father.
Tropes that appear in this episode:
- Beard of Evil: El Casco looks like Tim Curry's Cardinal Richelau in Conquistador armor.
- Beat Still, My Heart: Among the practices of El Cascos cult is cutting out the hearts of their victims.
- Big Bad: El Casco.
- Blade on a Stick: El Casco attacks Sharpe with a spear before getting nock-gunned by Harper.
- Bleed 'em and Weep: Ellie Nugent begins the episode by taking a boat from Ireland, riding on horseback across war-torn Europe up to the front lines, bullying her cousin Wellington into letting her stay at the camp, and beating everyone except Sharpe himself in a marksmanship contest. Then, when forced to shoot a man in self-defense, she bawls like a baby (and makes out with Sharpe). Furthermore, when Sharpe tries to tell her she "proved herself," she protests that women prove themselves when they have babies.
- Blown Across the Room: The fate of El Casco, courtesy of Harper.
- Cult: El Casco is the head of a cult that believes that they are the descendants of shipwrecked Aztecs.
- Damsel in Distress: Rescuing Ellie Nugent is the object of the climax of the film.
- Driven to Madness: Will Nugent, who has become a rambling zealot of the "flayed one".
- Enemy Mine: Sharpe and French Lieutenant Barbier join forces to combat the partisans led by El Casco.
- Human Sacrifice: El Casco's partisan group uses the Aztec practice of removing human hearts while the victims are still alive.
- Improbable Weapon User: El Casco uses an obsidian-bladed weapon against Sharpe.
- In Name Only: The only part of the movie present in the original novel is one of Sharpe's riflemen being caught stealing a chicken by a group of provosts. While the rifleman (named Skillicorn) was hanged in the movie, in the original novel he gets beaten by Sharpe. Furthermore, the Provost Lieutenant Ayres gets his comeuppance after Sharpe embarrasses him in front of the senior provost officers.
"I didn't use much of [the book]. I used the first ten pages, I think. Then I had an idea which would be more fun to do. It was all about magic by the time I was through with it."
- Screenwriter Nigel Kneale said of his adaptation:
- Manly Tears: Lieutenant Barbier sobs as he watches his men being sacrificed by El Casco.
- No Sympathy: Ayres goes through a Humiliation Conga, tries to ingratiate himself with Sharpe, and even displays some genuine heroism at the end, but Sharpe never gets over Ayres' cruel hanging of Skillicorn and shows the man nothing but contempt and, at best, apathy.
- Refuge in Audacity: In the books: Sharpe needs to get the titular gold out of Almeida, as it is pretty much required to keep the British Army in the Peninsula. However, his enemy, Colonel Jovellanos (a Spanish partisan looking to use it to set up his own fiefdom), has successfully faked orders saying otherwise, which the British garrison commander believes. Almeida is one of the largest, strongest, and most secure fortresses in Portugal, bristling with defences. So what does Sharpe do? He blows up Almeida. note
- Smug Snake: Ayres, although he does get a little better.
- These Hands Have Killed: Ellie is visibly shaken after shooting a French dragoon during a skirmish.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: El Casco kills Lt. Ayres by throwing a knife into his chest.
- Weapon of Choice: Ellie wields a Pennsylvania Flintlock rifle.
- Would Hit a Girl: El Cascos men kill Bess Nugent and try to cut out Ellies heart.