Plot: Ricardo pays a visit to Anna-Maria, a box under his arm. He discovers Diego there already, enjoying a bowl of chocolates set out on the table. Diego had said he was going to inspect some cattle with his father, but Ricardo had also said he'd be otherwise occupied. And Diego told Anna Ricardo was out visiting his grandmother in Santa Barbara, so the lies are flying pretty thick. Ricardo tries presenting his gift to Anna, an empty box with a Z carved on the interior. It was supposed to be full of chocolates, and it's about then they realize none of them set out that bowl of chocolates, so it must have been Zorro.
Seems like harmless fun, but Ricardo takes candy theft seriously, leading to his calling Zorro a coward. Then he writes up a public proclamation stating as much, and challenging the outlaw to a duel, which he posts all over Monterrey. Sergeant Garcia observes that since Zorro is sure to answer the challenge, all he and Reyes must do is follow Ricardo until Zorro appears, then capture him. Unfortunately he says this aloud, so some bandits overhear and decide it's a good plan. So Ricardo soon has a real procession following him everywhere.
Diego has other problems. Anna wants him to escort her to the duel (she was initially against it, but when Ricardo refused to be talked out of, decided she wanted to see him humiliated). Ricardo expects Diego to serve as his second, and the sergeant would like Diego to help him capture Zorro. And he has to show up as Zorro, naturally. One other problem: Ricardo's no slouch when it comes to violence. Not only is he a fine shot (when shooting at defenseless pine cones), he's an expert with both whips and swords, putting Bernardo and a Monsieur Gerard, respectively, to shame in sparring sessions with those weapons. Which has the effect of getting Diego more interested in the duel, since he isn't certain he can win.
But he'll have to get Ricardo away from his troop of followers to find out. Reyes and Garcia are easily dealt with by convincing them it will be easier to follow Ricardo by following his second (meaning Diego), since Diego is retiring to his room at the inn for the night. He doesn't know about the bandits, though, so they're still a looming issue as Zorro and Ricardo square off at the ruins of the old mission. Zorro still handles Ricardo without much difficulty, disarming him fairly quickly, but then the two have to contend with the bandits. Zorro does most of the work, but Ricardo does stop one that was about to shoot at Zorro, and our hero rides off, at least glad his old friend isn't a total scumbag.
Quote of the Episode: Anna-Maria - 'You men are always using honor as an excuse to act like little boys!'
Times Zorro Marks a "Z": 1 (5 overall).
Other: I was pretty pleased with Garcia when he had that brainstorm of following Ricardo. Then he went and opined that Ricardo might be an even better swordsman than Zorro. C'mon, sergeant, though I suppose he's never seen Zorro's best. He's not good enough himself to bring it out, and none of his commanding officers have been either. Monastario had his moments, but Zorro mostly seemed to toy with him. Ditto Guerro last week.
Along similar lines, Gerard says he was the fencing instructor to Napoleon's court, I guess as way of a resume. Was Napoleon's court known for its fine swordsmen? For all we know, the guy got the position because he knew a guy who knew a guy. At any rate, it was going to be an exceedingly hard sell that Ricardo is that good a swordsman. The fight isn't bad, and you could draw comparisons to a match between two chess masters where it's still settled in relatively few moves (Zorro does seem much more patient and inclined to wait than normal). Still, Ricardo's the one who tries to hop on the remains of a wall, then falls off, then gets snippy when Zorro chooses to let him regain his footing before continuing. He says he won't thank Zorro for not running him through, but it's like, you're the moron who decided to take the battle onto the wall, don't blame him for your making a bad decision.
I suppose it's likely he's still angry about how close he came to dying while pretending to be Zorro last week. Plus the fact Zorro not only saved him, but then made him look the fool for trying to co-opt Zorro's identity into his stupid scheme.
That said, his argument that there's a difference between his jokes and Zorro's is a load of nonsense. He claims it's different because he does his stuff face-to-face, but that's not entirely accurate. Ricardo is always trying to put one over on Diego, but also always trying to pretend it's an accident or a coincidence. If he had managed to get Diego with the soot from the bellows last week, he would have pretended it was mere happenstance. He and Diego would both know it's a lie, but he'd still try it. Is that really being face-to-face about? Besides, trying to use that as an excuse reeks of the same attitude you hear from people who say cruel things and try to justify it by arguing that they're just telling it like it is. They're still being asses, they're just trying to not be called on it themselves.