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The immortals apparently have a radar sense that tells them when other immortals are nearby. That only tells them a fellow immortal is near, not which person in a crowd is immortal.

How do any immortals recognize other immortals?

I only saw the original film so if you know the answer from the subsequent films (or TV series), please share.

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    Clearly, the swords and the way they look at your neck is a dead give-away :D
    – Hans Olo
    Jun 22, 2019 at 17:49
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    They have a secret handshake. Jun 23, 2019 at 13:29
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    @OrganicMarble - One that ends by chopping the other person's head off? That's a hell of a grip
    – Valorum
    Jun 23, 2019 at 14:28
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    "I only saw the original film so if you know the answer from the subsequent films (or TV series), please share." No need to see anything but the original film. When it comes to the Highlander story, there can be only one.
    – RichS
    Jun 25, 2019 at 3:20

3 Answers 3

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The very short answer is that they don't, at least not in the original film/s. They know that another immortal is nearby (courtesy of their 'immortal radar'), but until one or the other reveals themselves as being ready to fight, they're given no specific indications of which individual is an immortal although the original film script suggests that there may be some indication of range.

Striding past rows of cars. FOOTSTEPS ECHOING in the Garden's underground garage. MacLeod senses a presence. It's very close

MacLeod, for example, fights a Zulu warrior in the Highlander novelisation. Kastagir tells him that the man is an immortal and MacLeod believes him. When he turns out not to have been an immortal, Kastagir has a good laugh at MacLeod's expense. It's clear that Kastagir's continued presence means that his 'radar' is effectively non-functional.

MacLeod was stunned. Hadn’t Kastagir said that this man was an immortal? Kastagir! MacLeod looked around for him, but it wasn’t until Cetewayo wanted to talk to MacLeod that he saw the Ethiopian. He was standing by the king.
Kastagir cried, ‘Cetewayo thinks you are a fine warrior. He praises you.’ The king nodded, as if to confirm.
Thanks a lot,’ replied MacLeod, sarcastically. ‘I could have killed him that way half an hour ago, if you hadn’t lied to me. You said the warrior was an immortal.
A joke,’ smiled Kastagir, and though he obviously did not understand the words, Cetewayo nodded violently and shouted something in Zulu. The nation responded warmly. Kastagir said, ‘You know what great humorists us Zulus are.

Obviously immortals might also recognise each other in other ways;

  • From past acquaintance. This which is how Macleod recognises Fasil, Kastagir and the Kurgan.
  • From descriptions of their (non)deaths. This is how Ramirez finds MacLeod
  • From their general poise and composure.
  • Because there's no-one else around at the time.
  • By killing everyone else in the vicinity (a technique favoured by the Kurgan)

Both men had been wounded many times during the melee, but still sat upright in their saddles, one at either end of the valley. Between them lay hundreds of bodies: the dead on either side.
The dark one, Kurgan, called to the Mongol ‘There can be only one!’ but whether the knight from the far Orient heard and understood was not evident from his posture or any gesture.

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    They sense the presence of another immortal but don't know any details, neither identity nor gender. In The series Duncan McLeod is sometimes alert from sensing another immortal until he sees the face and recognizes an (immortal) friend. And in one episode he senses such presence and hears a woman's loud cries. Assuming the worst (a male immortal raping or otherwise molesting a female victim) he enters the hut from where the screams come and starts his challenge words, then realizes it is a female immortal acting as a midwife to a woman giving birth - she spits at him "if you want my head... Jun 27, 2019 at 9:47
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    ... wait until i'm finished here" - of cause, McLeod does not fight but assists and then befriends her. Jun 27, 2019 at 9:49
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    @Volker - I've not seen that episode, but I'm guessing she's a gorgeous brunette in her early 30's. McLeod definitely has a "type"
    – Valorum
    Jun 27, 2019 at 16:49
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    It is decades since I saw the series, so I don't remember her hair color, but she definitely was attractive (like, mysteriously, (almost) all females in movies and TV are much better looking than average RL-females ;-) ) and the age was somewhere in the range between late 20's and late 30's. That first meeting mentioned above was in a flashback in - I think - 18th century France while in modern time she was working as a medical researcher trying to find a cure for cancer. It was an episode during Duncan's Paris-years, but I was not able to identify it in an episode guide yet. Jun 28, 2019 at 8:55
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    @VolkerLandgraf - Season One - Saving Grace; highlander.fandom.com/wiki/Grace_Chandel
    – Valorum
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:34
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In this franchise all immortals have what's known as The Buzz, a type of extra sensory perception that "goes off" in the presence of another immortal. It seems to be a sound or vibration that happens in their head, similar to Peter Parker's Spider sense. However, unlike that early warning system, its very, very general; it seems to work within about 50 -100 feet, but isn't very specific; two unknown immortals may get a "Feeling" about someone, having grown accustomed to their fellows showing up randomly, and knowing what signs to look for... but they wouldn't [by all indications] be able to "pick each other out" specifically of of a crowd, sight-unseen.

The Buzz also doesn't seem to produce any other physical effects, nor does it get louder, stronger or weaker as an immortal gets closer or further away. Effectively, it's just an early warning system that let's them know another is near, so they can't be sneak attacked. As a narrative tool, it's pretty clever; its a nice way to even the playing field and wonder why the Game didn't end centuries before. I think, though this is speculation, that this is an more refined extension of the "Connection to everything" that Rameriez was trying to teach Connor MacLeod to explore when he first became an immortal.

William Panzer was part of Davis-Panzer Inc, the production company behind the Highlander franchise. He co-wrote screenplays for three Highlander films, and was the Executive Producer for Highlander: The Series. In an interview on the 2001 bonus material of the series season 1 DVD, Panzer defines the Buzz as:

a concept of Immortals being able to sense each other's presence from a reasonable distance. We called it the Buzz. That word was never used, but that's how it was featured in the scripts.

It's further expanded upon in the Fan wiki, based off interviews and DVD extras: https://highlander.fandom.com/wiki/The_Buzz

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  • Can you provide quotes or citations from canon sources to support the Buzz?
    – user89104
    Oct 16, 2019 at 4:54
  • William Panzer was part of Davis-Panzer Inc, the production company behind the Highlander franchise. He co-wrote screenplays for three Highlander films, and was the Executive Producer for Highlander: The Series. In an interview on the 2001 bonus material of the series season 1 DVD, Panzer defines the Buzz as "a concept of Immortals being able to sense each other's presence from a reasonable distance. We called it the Buzz. That word was never used, but that's how it was featured in the scripts." @LincolnMan, will that work?
    – Russhiro
    Oct 16, 2019 at 19:40
  • Do you have a link to that? You can also edit your answer to include an exact quote from William Panzer.
    – user89104
    Oct 18, 2019 at 18:42
  • @LincolnMan The fan wiki: A side effect granted by... the Quickening, the Buzz, as it unofficially labeled, is an extra-sensory perception which alerts an immortal when another of his or her kind is approaching. The range and intensity of the Buzz is varied, depending upon the age and power of the Immortals involved...the Immortal feels a prickling at the base of the neck, followed by what appears to be a surge of adrenaline. Physical senses appear to be enhanced, to the point where one Immortal can turn and zero in on the other without even looking .highlander.fandom.com/wiki/The_Buzz
    – Russhiro
    Oct 18, 2019 at 19:06
  • My issue with this answer is that it doesn't actually address the question of how (after they've radar-sensed/buzzed another immortal) they recognise another immortal.
    – Valorum
    Oct 18, 2019 at 19:13
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Also in the episode "The cross of st. Antoine" Amanda hides in a church to trick Armand Thorne/John Durgan into believing MacLeod is there.

Even though Macleod and Thorne met before Thorne doesn't recognize that it's not Macleod.

So from the Buzz alone they cannot recognize immortals. They'll need a visual clue, either by recognition of the other immortal from an earlier encounter or through behavioral clues like meeting eachothers gaze.

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