The episode opens with Arthur preparing for the feast of Beltane. Merlin’s in the other room, putting another hole in the king’s belt. Arthur doesn’t think it’s needed, but then he struggles to buckle it … so he swears Merlin to secrecy. That’s something our favorite wizard is good at, methinks.
Outside, Agravaine throws what amounts to a stinkbomb into the midst of some Camelot guards. The guards are knocked unconscious, allowing the king’s traitorous uncle to signal someone in the distance. Looks like the plan he and Morgana made is coming to fruition now, eh?
At the feast, Arthur wonders at his uncle’s absence. Then Merlin brings out one of Arthur’s favorite foods, and comments the king should be careful–they wouldn’t want to put another hole in his belt or anything. Which of course leads to Arthur threatening Merlin. But then that’s nothing new.
Outside, Agravaine lets in the vanguard of Morgana’s forces. They march into the courtyard and spread oil over everything, which allows Agravaine to drop a torch and set things ablaze.
Inside, Arthur talks about how much he misses Gwen. He’ll look for her in the room, see she’s not there, and then remember why. Ah-yup, dude still loves her.
Morgana and Helios look on as flames burst from the castle courtyard; the time for the invasion is now arrived. And oh boy do they run roughshod over the defenders. The lower town is quickly lost, and Leon is forced from his defensive post to retreat outside the city.
Arthur and the knights at banquet leap into action, but it’s not enough against the invaders already within the castle walls. Merlin and Gaius initially treat the wounded; a discussion about Agravaine’s treachery realized forces Merlin to find Arthur before the king is killed.
It’s as Merlin and Arthur are slipping away that the king sees Agravaine marching beside Morgana and Helios. Arthur tries to attack, but Merlin holds him back. There’s too many soldiers there.
At last Helios walks into the audience chamber, where Morgana lounges on the throne, and tells her Camelot is theirs. However, she wants Arthur captured … that’s the hard part. But Helios assures her the king is still in the castle; there’s no where left to run after all.
Arthur, by the way, is being treated down in Gaius’s laboratory. Percival and Gwaine barricade the door, and tell Gaius and Merlin they have mere minutes before the enemy breaks through. To force Arthur to flee, Merlin casts a spell that removes his willpower. Gwaine stays behind to cover their escape, and so does Gaius–he says he’ll only slow them down.
Morgana breaks through after Merlin and Percival cart Arthur free from the city. Gaius declares her victory short-lived, and so she orders them to horses so they can hunt the king down. Gwaine and Gaius are taken alive, by the way.
Percival and Merlin run into Elyan in the woods. Arthur pauses to watch Camelot burn for a moment before Merlin calls for him to move. Hoofbeats sound behind them soon enough, and the four men bolt through the woods. However, Morgana casts a spell that sends them flying to the ground. Elyan and Merlin grab Arthur and flee–Percival’s nowhere to be found. Then Elyan stops at a chokepoint, forcing Merlin and Arthur to run while he holds the soldiers back.
This allows Arthur and Merlin to escape, and time to find a cabin in the woods where they can get Arthur out of his kingly clothes. Arthur without a will is getting on Merlin’s nerves a bit by now, especially with how close the king keeps getting to him. But they at last place Arthur in some ill-fitting peasantwear, and Merlin takes his gold for safekeeping. At first Arthur protests, but his lack of will makes him instantly agree with Merlin’s suggestions.
Back at Camelot, Agravaine declares the entire city to be under their control. All the knights have either fled, died in battle, or been locked in the dungeons. Morgana asks if the people have accepted her as their queen, but Agravaine says they will swear allegiance to no one but Arthur. So she orders the crops burnt–perhaps the people will be more pliant when their children starve.
Elyan is brought in and put through interrogation via pain-causing serpent. He at last tells Morgana that Arthur is headed to Ealdor. She tells Helios and Agravaine this, and then sweetly informs Agravaine that should he fail her again … he’ll find himself in Elyan’s place. Ye-ouch!
Elyan is thrown in the dungeon with Gaius and Gwaine, where they try to treat him for the serpent bite.
Before Agravaine leaves, he warns Morgana to remain cautious despite having conquered Camelot. Trust no one, except for him, since he’s her one true friend in the entire kingdom.
Merlin and Arthur hitch a ride with Tristan and Isolde, a pair of smugglers, to Lot’s kingdom. There’s a song and dance and a few threats exchanged before Merlin offers to pay for passage in gold. He discovers they’re smugglers when he opens a chest and finds frankincense inside.
Late that night, Merlin tells Arthur about how rude he is normally. And then he has a bit of fun by having the king wash their soup pot and scrub down the horses. Arthur kicks Merlin awake in the morning–looks like the king’s back to his old self! Merlin explains they’re traveling north to Ealdor in the company of smugglers, and sadly Arthur has to stay in character as a simpleton.
Tristan sees Arthur carrying a sword, and upon inspecting it comments the only place you see workmanship that good is the royal forge of Camelot. Merlin immediately explains he won in it a card game; the simpleton carries it because it makes him feel safe. Tristan comments he hopes that’s true–he’d hate to be traveling with a knight of Camelot. Except then Isolde laughs at the very idea, and the male smuggler agrees–the knights are stupid but they’re not simpletons.
Merlin tells Arthur he won’t have to act the idiot for long. As to how long? Well an arrow fires out of the woods and kills a smuggler. Not that long at all apparently. Agravaine’s men attack, and Arthur and Merlin leap into action to cover Tristan and Isolde. It’s when they’re hiding behind a tree that Arthur reveals who he is, and that sparks an argument about taxes. Then the men attack again, and Tristan and Arthur fight them off. Not before Isolde is injured though.
It takes a bit of convincing to get Tristan’s agreement that he’ll travel with Arthur and Merlin to Ealdor. He hates the king something fierce; all his kind brings is misery to the land apparently.
Back at Camelot, Morgana comes down to the dungeons to visit Gwaine, Gaius, and Elyan. Gwaine demands food for Gaius, since he can’t survive much longer without it. Morgana agrees to give them some … if only Gwaine will sing for it. Uh-oh. I got a bad feeling.
Arthur, Tristan, Isolde, and Merlin stand at the border to Lot’s kingdom. Ealdor is a half day away from that point, and Arthur declares they’ll camp at the border. Merlin carries Isolde away for him to build a fire, and when Arthur offers Tristan some water the other man declares instead he’ll find his own.
Singing for supper in Gwaine’s case involves battling one of Helios’s men. Big guy too … wields two weapons. I’m not keen on Gwaine’s chances, but then he’s survived a lot of crazy stuff.
While Tristan and Isolde sleep, Arthur and Merlin discuss the king’s apparent difficult with recognizing traitors. Merlin peps him up–he’s not to blame for the destruction of Tristan’s people after all. And then he also convinces Arthur that one day he will be the greatest king the land has ever seen. This is without a doubt.
Gwaine defeats his opponent after much taunting and dancing around each other. His reward for defeating the man is half a loaf of what looks like moldy bread. Morgana says he’ll have to do better if he wants more, and then two men advance on him to the cheers of the crowd.
They reach Ealdor, where Merlin’s mother almost immediately greets them. Merlin then at last has the chance to care for Isolde, and tells Tristan that so long as she rests she’ll be fine. Arthur takes the chance to apologize for bringing misfortune on the couple, but Tristan says at least he still has Isolde.
Merlin and his mother walk and talk outside. Merlin hasn’t been home at all since he left for Camelot, something his mother does understand what with how important it is. Then Merlin asks how someone is, and we see Gwen in profile through an open door. It takes time to mend a broken heart is all.
Inside the hut, Gwen bandages Arthur’s ribs. He wakes up and is shocked to see her. The emotional reunion ends with them hugging it out. You have my permission to say “awww” now.
But not for long, because Agravaine and his forces invade to search the village. Merlin covers their escape with a burning wagon, but not well enough because Agravaine sees the five of them flee and orders his men to give chase.
If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Merlin: The Hunter’s Heart’ recap to catch up.