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© BBC / Larry Horricks

Image Credit: © BBC / Larry Horricks

'The Musketeers' recap: Will the champion come forth?

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “The Challenge” | Aired Aug 10, 2014

After last week’s emotional episode, it’s time to get more physical this week. Instead of hearts breaking, it’s time for bodies to break. This week is all about the big fight.

The Musketeers lead a prisoner through the streets tied up with rope. A member of the Red Guard approaches saying that he has a warrant for their prisoner, Martin Lebarge (Vinnie Jones).  Aramis argues that he’s already been arrested for killing two musketeers, but apparently the warrant overrules this. Athos warns that the guy is very dangerous, but the Guard doesn’t seem concerned. Big mistake, because Lebarge soon overpowers all of them.

Treville and the Cardinal argue in front of the king over which group is better. They decide to make it an official challenge for the Musketeers and the Red Guard to fight it out. Each will choose a champion. The king endorses the idea enthusiastically.

After finally getting it on in last week’s episode, D’Artagnan and Constance are not ashamed to show their affection towards each other—except when her husband comes home.

constanceDTreville tells his men about the competition and everyone is excited about it—that is, until he tells them there’s an entry fee of 30 livre, which is way more than most of them currently carry around on a normal day.

The Cardinal tells his men that he’ll double the prize money if they win. They tell him that their best shot at a champion had been killed by Lebarge.

D’Artagnan can’t compete because he still hasn’t been commissioned by the King to be an official Musketeer (thus answering everyone’s question). The other guys suggest he go to Treville to ask permission, since he pretty much does everything else a Musketeer does. Athos is the only one who does not need anyone to pay his entry fee because he comes from a wealthy background; however, Aramis and Porthos don’t have the money and decide to go find patrons, which means staking out funerals to find rich widows.

Porthos finds a young widow, Alice Clerbeaux (Zoe Tapper). There’s awkward small talk, with him acting as if he knew her late husband, who died a year ago. There’s also some subtle flirting with her that seems to work, because she accepts his offer to walk her home. She gets back and decides that it’s finally time to get out of her mourning clothes and move on. During lunch they continue to talk more about her former husband, and she offers him one of her late husband’s possessions in memory of him. It so happens that the worth of it is just enough to cover the entry fee.

Athos and D’Artagnan practice-duel and Athos gives him some advice: He fights with too much emotion and he needs to control it. He also slips that Lebarge, who had burned down D’Artagnan’s farm, is in the Bastille. D’Artagnan goes to the Cardinal to complain that since Lebarge has destroyed everything of his, he has no income and cannot wait until the trial. The Cardinal offers him a position as a member of the Red Guard and throws it in his face that Treville still has not pushed for D’Artagnan’s commission.

The Cardinal is not impressed with Milady’s independence and the fact that she has some interest in both D’Artagnan and Athos. He chooses to take matters into his own hands and uses Constance’s husband to find out information. The Cardinal will make him the chief supplier of cloth to the Red Guard if he can get him information about D’Artagnan—particularly of any female companions.

Furious that no one will help him, D’Artagnan sneaks into the Bastille dresses up like a Red Guard, and finds his way to Lebarge’s cell. He intends to fight and defeat him, but he’s not prepared, and Lebarge nearly kills him. Luckily for him, Athos followed D’Artagnan and manages to save him.

Milady approaches Athos. They have a discussion about what her connection is with the Cardinal (she needs money) and what she does for him (acts as his soldier). She attempts to play toward his emotions and asks him why he still wears her locket, kissing him. Sorry, girl, Athos has a good memory and holds grudges. He’s not going to forget what you did to him. She tells him to leave her alone. Look, girl, you came to him.

Constance decides to help D’Artagnan cover his entry fee by selling some silver, which turns out to be in vain, because Milady stops by to give him money as well as a locket. This is all turning into one big, tangled web.

Porthos must have taken some lessons from Aramis because he has fully wooed Alice. In fact, she offers him a life away from the Musketeers. It’s tempting. He’ll get to start his life over again, this time with wealth.

The Cardinal chooses Lebarge to be his champion even though he isn’t a member of the Red Guard. If he succeeds, he’ll walk free. If he loses, he’ll hang.

Even though her husband gives her an expensive necklace and tells her that better things are coming for them, Constance still goes to D’Artagnan. She tells him she saw Milady give him the money and admits she’s jealous of her. D’Artagnan reassures her of his love and they kiss. Unfortunately, her husband sees them, and when she enters the room, she realizes he knows. He asks why, and she tells him that even though he wasn’t cruel, he didn’t realize she was unhappy. He orders her to leave, to which she responds that she won’t give up D’Artagnan and that she loves him. He tells her that she needs to give him up and make him hate her, or else he’ll die.

This scene got under my skin a bit. I am not a big fan of adultery used in storylines. While the chemistry and flirtation between Constance and D’Artagnan was fun at times, there’s not really any justification as to why Constance was unhappy; we’ve barely seen any interaction between her and her husband, and she already admitted that he had not been cruel to her. Sure, D’Artagnan is young and handsome and may be a better fit, but it’s not really right of her to do what she did. There’s also the fact that she won’t leave her husband for D’Artagnan, possibly because D’Artagnan has no money. I’m guessing at her train of thought, but it seems as if she wants to have her husband simply provide for her and then leave her free to carry on with D’Artagnan.

Meanwhile, Treville does some spying and sees whom the Cardinal chose. He decides he should be the champion for the Musketeers. This probably sounded like a good idea in his head, but seems pretty unfair to everyone else. I mean, they had to pay up thinking that they could get the chance, and now their captain, who was supposed to choose from one of them, chooses himself? I’d call shenanigans on this. Which is exactly what Athos does when he tells Treville that he should have given it to D’Artagnan, so he could win his commission in front of the King.

D’Artagnan goes to Constance to tell her the bad news. Her response to him is that they can’t be together and this whole thing has to end. She says she doesn’t love him and that he can just go to Milady and have her be his rich mistress. He storms out angrily while her husband nods his approval. Even if he didn’t have the added incentive from the Cardinal, this probably is still a huge blow to him.

The day of the fight has arrived. Everyone has come to watch this, including Alice, whose presence makes Aramis tease Porthos: “You only needed 30 livre, not a wife.” Milady is also in the stands, watching. Her hair is completely down during these scenes, which seems very out of place for this time period. If she’s supposed to be portrayed as a respectable woman, at least to the outside world, she would not have gone out in public like this. It feels like the viewer is supposed to ignore proper decorum and just accept this fact. While there are other anachronisms throughout the series, this felt to me like the most obvious one.

When Lebarge is brought out, the Musketeers realize why Treville chose himself. The planned matches of shooting and wrestling are canceled; only swordfighting will determine the champion.

Treville puts up a good swordfight, but he’s no match for Lebarge’s brute strength. Lebarge uses his fists and bulk to take down Treville pretty easily. He gets him on the ground and then breaks his arm. The Musketeers rush out to defend their captain, which brings out the Red Guard, and a massive fight occurs.

The King orders everyone to stop. He says the Cardinal’s men broke the rules and the champion’s fight must go on. The Cardinal then nominates D’Artagnan to fight in Treville’s place. The fight is a good one, but D’Artagnan takes down Lebarge by impaling him with his sword.

When the fight ends, the King declares that since the rules were broken, the prize money is now forfeited to the treasury to pay taxes. There’s not nearly enough complaining as there should have been from the Musketeers. The King asks D’Artagnan to kneel and FINALLY commissions him to become one of his Musketeers.

Sadly, Porthos and Alice decide to part ways—he can’t give up his life as a Musketeer, and she can’t see herself as a soldier’s wife. The killing and danger is too much for her. He seems like he’ll be OK, though it’s obvious he wishes it hadn’t ended this way. This series is determined to make all these men unhappy in love.

PorthosD’Artagnan leaves Constance’s house to officially move into the garrison. On his way, he is stopped by Milady, and thanks her for her patronage. She invites him to join her but he declines, which seems to shock her. It’s apparently not going to be that easy to win him over.

This was probably my least favorite episode of the series, for reasons I stated earlier. Plus, other than D’Artagnan getting his commission, I felt that the other characters didn’t really get to do much. The Cardinal’s storyline seems hit-or-miss; like his near-death experience, it did not seem to have an affect on him in this episode.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this episode. Did you like it? Anyone else get frustrated by Constance being wishy-washy, or annoyed by Milady’s historically inaccurate hair?

The Musketeers airs on Sundays 9/8C on BBC America. 

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