Arthur, Merlin, and the knights are riding to the Valley of the Fallen Kings when the episode opens; something that Merlin says it’s a terrible idea, since no one in their right mind would go there. Which, by the way, is precisely why Arthur likes the ruins there– they happen to be secret.
Not all that secret, because mercenaries rush down the hill and attack our heroes. Arthur gets pulled from his horse and is battling on the ground, when Merlin uses magic to knock an enemy from his horse before he can shoot the king with a crossbow. Another rider blasts Merlin square in the chest with a mace, knocking him to the ground.
Night falls, and Arthur sneaks Merlin away from the battle while the enemy seeks them out. They’re trying for safety, because although Arthur says he’s seen worse wounds … I’m sure he’d prefer to not lose a servant like this. Cue the requisite bonding between Arthur and Merlin.
In the morning, Arthur throws Merlin over his shoulder against protests. They run into a pair of enemies, and Arthur sets Merlin down to clear the road. Just after he kills both men, more men rush him. Merlin magics up a rock fall, blocking Arthur from the soldiers and saving the king. The enemies lift a passed-out Merlin and carry him away.
He’s lain at Morgana’s feet, and she berates Agravaine for losing Arthur. He has to get back to Camelot though, because Gaius already suspects he’s not on the up and up. Morgana tells her uncle he should take care. If he’s discovered, she might not have a use for him. Agravaine moves to kill Merlin, but Morgana stays his hand because her brother is “strangely fond of the boy.” Instead, she plans to turn him to their purposes. To that end, she wakes Merlin so they can “catch up.” And we’re given a litany of all the ways Merlin thwarted her, something which makes him rather proud.
Arthur meets up with his knights and heads to Camelot, where he promises Gaius they’re going to find Merlin. Predictably, they scour the forest and find absolutely zero sign of Merlin except for a burned piece of leather. The king wonders now how those mercenaries knew of their route; only people inside the castle had that knowledge. This leads Leon to suggest there’s a traitor in the castle, and Gaius looks right at Agravaine. Ruh-roh, Raggy.
Morgana heals Merlin’s wounds, which of course confuses the hell of out him. She then uses a fomora, a creature of dark magic that looks like a miniature Greek hydra, to put Merlin under her spell. She gives him one thought that will consume him completely–kill Arthur Pendragon. And then sets him loose. I got me a baaad feeling about this, Chewie.
Arthur wakes up to a new manservant, George, who’s rather awesome. He already polished the king’s armor, sharpened his sword, laid out his clothes, and had breakfast brought up. Arthur, however, likes Merlin as his manservant, and so determines to travel to the forest to look for him. Gwen follows him into the castle courtyard, begging for him to not go alone. Gwaine shows up, confirming he’s going, and Arthur tells Gwen she’s now condemned him to a day of mindless chatter. And she’s all right with this. Sheesh … Arthur tells a woman he loves her and she’s suddenly acting all queen-like. How dare she, amirite?
Arthur and Gwaine ride into the forest and quickly find a dirty, covered-in-mud Merlin. They take him back to the castle, where Gaius cleans him up and feeds him what he says is his favorite soup. Merlin takes a taste and claims it tastes like the bog Arthur found him in. Clue number one something’s not right. Clue number two is he asks Gaius what the strongest poison he has is. Oh sure, he hides it by saying he had a chance to poison the bandits’ food and nothing to do it with, but I don’t think Gaius believes it. Merlin declares he’s going to keep the aconite on him at all times now. Sign three!
Sign four is that he tells the cook she smells worse than her food. Sign five is that he’s rude to Gwaine in the hallway, when the knight tries to snag a piece off Arthur’s plate. Granted he should’ve been rude there, but it’s unlike Merlin. Incidentally, Merlin gets to serve Arthur and Gwen’s already there. Giving him perfectly safe, non-poisoned food. The very nerve!
Merlin gets all snippy about it, berating Gwen for always wanting to be by the king’s side. She said she was trying to give Merlin a break after the ordeal he’d been through. He doesn’t want a break, and switches out the non-poisoned food for the poisoned plate. Arthur switches them back, declaring it a simple misunderstanding. “Well of course you’d take her side,” Merlin says. An attitude which just confuses everyone. Arthur dismisses his servant, saying he’ll be happy to get his assistance with the knighting ceremony later.
On his way back to Gaius’s lab, Merlin hurls the poisoned food in with the pigs. Merlin paces back and forth in the lab, which makes Gaius ask if he’s all right, and then Merlin treats him to a diatribe about the problem with many factors he’s wrestling with. Gaius offers to help, because of course two heads are better than one. But Merlin says not when one of them is Gaius. Sign six! I love picking these out.
Merlin heads down to the armory, where Leon finds him and asks what he’s doing. He says Arthur wants a crossbow, but Leon tells him the one he’s got is ancient and wouldn’t hurt a fly. Instead the knight hands him a super-powered crossbow that destroys a barrel when it’s accidentally fired. Leon asks Merlin what he’s planning, and the wizard says he’s going to kill Arthur. “Driving you mad is he?” Leon laughs, and Merlin replies with “Not for long.”
Merlin sets the crossbow up in the armoire in such a way that it’ll fire when a door’s opened. He tests it, lodging a bolt in one of the posts of Arthur’s bed. Then Arthur comes in, complaining about having a knighting ceremony when there’s a traitor in Camelot. He suggests, joking, that one of the knights … and maybe even Merlin … wants to kill him. Then he looks at Merlin’s face and tells him he doesn’t really think the wizard wants to kill him.
Gwen finds the dead pigs, and takes a bit of the food to Gaius. The physician tells her it was aconite, which reminds Gwen how angry Merlin was when he realized Arthur wasn’t going to eat the food he brought. Gwen and Gaius rush off, convinced Merlin isn’t in his right mind. They run into Leon on the way, and he tells them about what happened in the armory.
Meanwhile, in Arthur’s room, Merlin sets the crossbow up while Arthur strips behind a screen. Arthur suggests Percival might be the traitor, but Merlin puts the kibosh on this idea. We see the fomora move beneath Merlin’s skin right when Arthur grabs hold of the armoire. It looks like the king’s going to die … but then the crossbow doesn’t fire. Anyone else thinking this is like Wile E. Coyote and the road runner?
Merlin opens the armoire and ducks the bolt, which embeds itself in the bed again. Then Arthur asks for his ceremonial sword, saying Merlin is the only person he can trust. Merlin hefts the sword, points it at Arthur, then runs straight into a column when Arthur steps away. Gwen and Gaius come into the room in time to see Merlin threaten Arthur with the sword from behind. Arthur only sees Merlin on the floor, sword near his hand, so he shrugs and picks up the blade. Arthur leaves, and Merlin starts to rise. But Gwen bashes him in the head with a water jug. Worst. Assassin. Ever.
Gaius cuts the fomora out of Merlin’s neck and throws it in the fireplace. Gwen wonders aloud if that’s it, and despite Gaius’s assurance I’m skeptical. Oh and Gwen throws out the whole “now Arthur is safe” statement, which we all know isn’t true. Since, you know, Agravaine’s still a traitor.
And speaking of our traitorous uncle, it looks like Arthur’s figured it out. He visits Agravaine, and comments on how lightly the man seems to be taking the traitor in their midst. Arthur knows none of the knights had the chance to betray him, and only three of the counselors knew of the treaty. Of those, only Agravaine knew of the route they would take. Arthur reveals he doubts Agravaine’s loyalty, and the snake uses this chance to cast suspicion on Gaius instead. Sneaky Agravaine. I like it.
Gaius wakes up to Merlin putting some vials in a sack. He asks what Merlin remembers, and we find out the answer is nothing. Gaius is glad of this, until Merlin turns away and he sees another fomora moving in his student’s neck. Ruh-roh. Looks like it’ll take more than cutting the serpent out.
Merlin pours a bath while Arthur strips, and he dumps some acidic compound in it. Gwen and Gaius race down the hallway, burst into the room, and Gwen whacks Merlin with the water jug again. Gaius sets him aside right when a naked Arthur steps out from behind the screen. He’s shocked to see Gwen there in his room, and she very clearly doesn’t look at his … ahem … equipment. He asks where Merlin is, and she lies that there was a problem with the bathwater. Merlin’s gone to remedy it, and she stops Arthur from putting his hand in by saying she doesn’t think he can have a bath today. Everyone stands around in awkward silence until Arthur creeps back behind the screen to dress.
Gaius puts the serpent to sleep again, but instead of cutting it out he wakes Merlin and explains the situation. Our wizard has a day, no more, to confront Morgana and kill the mother fomora. A dangerous task, but Merlin plans to head there as Emrys and not himself.
He rides into the forest and changes into an old man. When Merlin tries to get back on his horse, Leon and the others appear and order him away at the point of a sword. Umm, something tells me this isn’t turning out as planned. Merlin uses magic to defeat them, and knocks Percival, Elyan, and Leon over in such a way that he walks them up to mount the horse.
Agravaine tells Morgana of casting doubt on Gaius. She’s not terribly impressed though, seeing as Gaius isn’t even feeling poorly. Merlin sees Agravaine leave the hut ahead of Morgana, which bodes poor for our traitor. Merlin sneaks into the hut and when Morgana sees him, she scurries outside terrified as a rabbit. Merlin is still looking when Morgana comes back again, and repeats to herself that he’s not really there. She lunges at him with a knife, but he knocks her back and grabs the jar with the fomora mother inside.
Morgana follows him outside and knocks him down with magic. After a back and forth battle that ends with Merlin casting a big wind spell, Merlin conjures a fire and destroys the fomora.
Back at Camelot, Gaius removes the dead fomora from Merlin’s neck. Gwen comes back in and is overjoyed at Merlin’s return to himself. However, Arthur is not pleased with him right now. Gaius told him Merlin was in the tavern. For two whole days. So Arthur sets Merlin to train with George for a week.
The episode ends with Agravaine finding Morgana where she lay after the battle. He carries her to her hut as the credits roll.
Next week: Gaius is kidnapped and Emrys’s identity might be revealed.
If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Merlin: His Father’s Son’ recap.