I love the contrast between this chapter's title and the previous one. We go from the whimsical "A Short Cut to Mushrooms" to the rather ominous "A Conspiracy Unmasked." There's nothing truly ominous about this chapter, however -- just Frodo coming to realize he's not as clever as he thought.
And now I'm going to talk about Sam some more. Here, he's the first to leave his comfort zone, crossing the Brandywine for the first time and striking out into territory that, while still in the Shire, is unfamiliar to him. Frodo, Merry, and Pippin have been here before, so for them, it's not that big a deal, but to Sam, wow. Enormous.
But before you can get yourself all comfortable with the idea of Sam Gamgee as a simple, one-note country lad, you find out he's a spy! And granted, he's just been spying on Frodo in a fairly innocuous way, but I think it would be harder to spy on someone who knows you well than on a stranger. Not that I'd know anything about such goings-on, of course ;-)
And we learn what lovely, loyal friends Frodo has. Merry and Pippin and Sam, of course, but also Fredegar "Fatty" Bolger, who got cut out of the movies and isn't in the book a whole lot either, but is equally doughty when it comes to pitching in to help his friend. What marvelous hobbits they all are.
Finally, I really like the little song Merry and Pippin got ready for the occasion of their departure. It really does work with the tune used in The Hobbit (2012).
Sam was the only member of the party who had not been over the river before. He had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adventure lay in front (p. 97).
"We can't begin life at Crickhollow with a quarrel over baths" (p. 99).
Merry describes friendship this way: "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin -- to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours -- closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo" (p. 103). What do you think constitutes true friendship?
Quick Note: This will probably be the only chapter I post this week, as I've just finished having company and will be hosting a big Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, so... I'm kinda swamped.