This week’s episode of Merlin opens like so many have this season: with Merlin and Arthur alone, squabbling like an old married couple. Okay, now I get it. This is the HoYay, right? This is the “homoeroticism” everyone keeps talking about. No touching, no kissing, no nuzzling, no brief nudity or adult situations, just…bickering. If I wanted to watch a couple spend all its time quarreling, I’d just visit my parents.
Anyway, our intrepid couple is walking through the woods when they hear a scream. They rush to a village where the villagers are having their version of a Fried Green Tomatoes barbecue (“Secret’s in the sauce!”) by tying a very creaky old lady to a wooden stake and planning to set her on fire. Seriously, this lady is so old and so desiccated that she’d probably spontaneously combust if you just rubbed her forearms together. But I digress. Arthur intervenes, and the villagers explain the woman knows black magic and that she is a “dark lady.”
Excitedly, Arthur wonders if she also knows “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” and other songs from the Cher playbook, so her cuts her down and he and Merlin decide to take her with them. The old woman was apparently five minutes from dying on her own anyway, but before she croaks she tells Arthur he is a kindly sort and gives him her magic horn, which has the power to summon spirits. I’m not sure what it says about me when I was immediately hoping that the spirits in question included peach schnapps and aquavit, but of course Merlin being Merlin, she meant the spirits of the dead. Somehow, I don’t find summoning dead people as useful at a cocktail party as summoning booze, since dead people just eat all the canapés and never offer to help clean up.
Speaking of parties, upon their return from killing old ladies, there is a fabulous celebration in Camelot. It appears that this is the anniversary of Arthur’s coronation, but Arthur is not having a good time, mostly because his special dragon-shaped piñata did not arrive. Pensive, Arthur goes to visit the tomb of his father, who, carved in stone and in profile, looks weirdly a lot like Abraham Lincoln, or, I suppose, Daniel Day-Lewis, since he is apparently so “method” that they are going to put him on the five-dollar bill now. Merlin finds Arthur and asks him what he is doing. Arthur replies that he is deep in thought, and Merlin says, “You, thinking? Now I’m really getting worried,” whereupon Arthur takes his sword and cuts Merlin’s head off. No, of course he does not, but man, for a servant, Merlin has been pretty sassy lately. Instead, Arthur replies, “Leave it…I’m telling you, I’m the king of Camelot…” And Merlin, goofy and irrepressible as all servants are (they’re just a regular hoot on Downton Abbey, aren’t they? Especially that Bates, what a laugh riot!), smirks at his lord and master and says, “You’re threatening me with a spoon?” Whereupon we cut to the hallway and hear Merlin howl. Oh, Merlin. I suspect Arthur knows a lot of ways to make you howl, and only seventeen of them involve a spoon. And at least one involves forking.
The two set off again (road trip!) and travel to a set of standing stones, sort of like Stonehenge, only done a much smaller budget. Foamhenge maybe? This is where Gaius has informed the king, if he blows his horn right he can summon the spirits of the dead. Including, apparently, the spirit of the dead king and Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. Guest star alert!