While I do honestly love this series, this episode drives me to vulgarity on occasion. It’s how I show I care! Plus I occasionally put swear words in the mouths of the characters.
You know they were thinking them anyway.
We start as we ended the last episode, with a body. Okay, now I believe that Marston’s body/dummy is under the water; the hair’s actually moving.
Well, at last we know why there are so many graves on the beach; it’s where Johnson holds his services, since there’s as yet no church. A whole bunch of people have gathered for a funeral. Anne and Mrs. Johnson exchange glances, no doubt thinking about their previous exchange. James smirks at one particular bit of scripture being read out by Letters Molloy, “I was in prison and you did not visit me,” (very appropriate) before catching sight of a boat full of marines heading out into the bay. He frets that they might be getting close to where Marston’s body is. Tommy can’t tell if it’s that exact spot; it was pretty dark last night, after all.
Johnson starts a big speech. “Shall I tell you what I love about this place?”
(The spiders? The snakes? The heat? The fact that you don’t have an actual church yet and your graveyard is on the beach? The fact that you’re all on quarter rations? The fact that the marines are apparently entitled to the bodies of the female convicts? The fact that the guy in charge of the marines wants to hang innocent people to get everyone else to toe the line? The fact that there is the constant threat of attack by natives, even though we never see any Aboriginal people in this show? The fact that you yourself nearly had to execute a guy the day before yesterday? The list goes on and on.)
Tommy reassures James that the body’s twenty fathoms down, so the soldiers won’t find it. He doesn’t seem too sure, though. Well, James and Tommy, maybe if you didn’t want the body to be discovered, you should have chopped it into bits, wrapped those bits in bubble wrap and duct tape and then scattered them in the bay.
Getting back to the plot: what Johnson loves about their current situation, it emerges, is that God can hear their prayers much better here, as opposed to the constant babble he must get from England – and, presumably, other Protestant countries – with all its churches and worshippers. But here, as the only (white) people on the entire side of this continent on the other side of the world from all those other people and their churches, with no church of their own, God simply can’t ignore their prayers!
“Do I hear an Amen to that?” Johnson asks. He gets one. “And a hallelujah?” He gets that too. “Who will help me build a church?”
Oh all right, they don’t; Letters Molloy and William Stubbins – who’s cropped up in the show before now but I think only gets named in this episode – volunteer their services. When asked their deepest desires, Letters says he wants to see Tashan Lake once more before he dies, and William wants to return to England to be with the woman he loves. Ooo, tempting fate there. Johnson assures him that he will achieve his goal, though, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.
So Johnson was fishing for labour at a funeral. Wow. Time and place much, Reverend? As they get on with the consigning of the body to the sand, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, James is nervously absorbed in watching Captain Collins, who is attending the funeral as well but has wandered off to see what the soldiers are doing.
And then when the soldiers start waving and shouting, Collins starts shouting back that he can’t hear them. Even more rude. James naturally assumes they’re telling him they’ve found something and rushes off to see what’s happening the minute the last prayer’s finished; so rude! Everyone else does the same. Johnson looks rather disappointed at how little everyone’s invested, considering how eager they are to get lost.
Collins orders MacDonald to get Major Ross. MacDonald is not pleased at the prospect. James is even less pleased.
Major Ross, as it happens, is already rather occupied. Katherine is marched to his tent by who else but Buckley, of course, and has to be all but shoved inside, sending Ross a glare. Ross is annoyed, since she was using her tried and tested method of hiding from him the day before; even when he sent soldiers to look for her and told the convicts to notify her, she still didn’t turn up. Fancy that. Katherine has a snarky comeback for everything Ross throws at her, no doubt riding on the high of having outsmarted him. As Timmins arrives on the scene, Ross starts talking about how he has authority and will have respect, dismissing Buckley.
Buckley instead starts lecturing Katherine about following orders and doing what she’s told, as he would do, since he’s a soldier, see? Except he clearly didn’t just follow orders and leave like he was told to. Yeah, great show of discipline and obedience there. I wonder that you will still be talking, Private Buckley; nobody marks you.
Buckley finally leaves, and Ross gets to continue with only slight undermining. He asks Timmins where he was on the list to pick a female companion. Wait, Timmins was 19th??? I know a sergeant doesn’t rank that highly in the grand scheme of things (this website actually really helped with sorting out ranks in the British Army, even if it’s modern day rankings) but he’s probably one of the higher ranking soldiers we see on screen; shouldn’t he have been higher up this oh so special list, especially since Ross apparently didn’t pick anyone? Anyway, Timmins chose Sarah Parkinson. Ross is curious why he picked “an ugly, foul-mouthed hag” when he could have had someone like Katherine McVitie?
Timmins isn’t happy about this – really, when is he? – but he cannot tell a lie! He admits he didn’t see Katherine, since she was busy hiding herself away and all.
Ross places the same facts before Katherine that he did with her lover; if he capitalizes on MacDonald helping Katherine to squirrel herself away, MacDonald ends up dead. Apparently there’s no punishment for Katherine for doing so, apart from the agony of watching her boyfriend be sentenced to death; he’s not a savage, you know!
Ross looks back at Katherine. “Shall we arrest him, Katherine?” he asks her, almost in a whisper. She glares right back. And of course, just then the soldier outside announces MacDonald’s approach. Ross lets out an actual tiny sigh of satisfaction; this couldn’t be any more perfect. He ‘smiles’ at her, for want of a better word.
MacDonald comes into to find this nasty little tableaux, but doesn’t hesitate to tell Ross that Collins needs him. See, Buckley? That’s professionalism! Ross looks back at Katherine.
Katherine doesn’t want to. It’s the last thing she wants. But she looks at MacDonald, bows her head and agrees to come to Ross that night. Timmins looks regretful of having helped cause this. (Is Timmins’ role in this series basically to stand around and looked ashamed?) Ross mildly thanks her, and says he expects to see a smile on her face
OH NO HE DID NOT JUST TELL HER TO SMILE. AND HE WAITS FOR HER TO DO IT.
Katherine ‘smiles’ while her heart is breaking, no doubt fantasising about gutting Ross like a fish.
James, Elizabeth and Tommy watch Ross go out to where all the fuss is going on in another boat. Yes, because that wouldn’t be suspicious at all. James decides that if this is to be his last hour of life, he’s going to enjoy it. And he doesn’t mean having a fishy on a little dishy when the boat comes in.
Which means marching himself over to Philip’s house – which I am pretty sure would have had marines guarding it in real life, or would at least have had a locked door to prevent the convicts getting in, but as I constantly remind myself, suspension of disbelief. At least Deborah is more than mildly alarmed when James lets himself in, and he actually takes his hat off as he asks her not to be scared.
Turns out James is here for the rum. Did Philip send him for it? Sure, let’s go with that. Probably in James’ mind he feels that, since Philip is intending to take away his life, it’s only fair he gets some of his rum before he goes. Deborah, not entirely convinced, still directs him to the alcohol. Which she immediately regrets when he pours out quite a lot of it into a tumbler, and is now thoroughly unconvinced. James fesses up. She warns him he’ll hang for drinking Philip’s rum. James simply cannot be bothered about that.
Rum gained, he gives her an appraising look, then asks her if it’s true about her and Philip? Deborah’s clearly been worried about this, so she’s not that surprised when James says word on the underground convict vine is that Philip sent her husband to New Cape Town so he could have her all to himself. She denies it, of course. James finds this all too funny. Would she like the rumours to be true? He’s touched a nervy nerve. Deborah tells him to leave, and off he goes – although the amusement wears off enough for him to promise she’ll get the tumbler back at some point, as well as apologising for scaring her.
And of course Buckley sees him leaving Philip’s house. Of course he does. Deborah is not having a good day.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, Elizabeth, Tommy, William and another of their chums sit on golden sands and watch the ships. Boats. Whatever. Don’t they have work they need to be doing, even if it is a Sunday? James shares the rum with Tommy, who’s a mix of impressed and horrified when he learns it’s the Governor’s.
Elizabeth comes over, and she gets a swig as well, and is likewise impressed that James stole the rum, although she’s also not impressed. Half impressed? James, drunk on his own daring as much as anything else, points out that Philip can’t hang him twice.
Well, no, he can’t, because it turns out the soldiers were actually fussed about the nets being slashed and ruined, which they hold up and display the holes in. Apparently by the native people, who are angry about the amount of fish being hoovered up by the colony. Philip’s angry, since they hardly catch any fish anyway, and stalks off.
(All right, it’s time to address one of the biggest problems with this series. We hear Native Aboriginal People mentioned a lot, mostly in the context of being savage and a threat to the colony. Philip talks about the marines protecting the camp from them, justifying their right to the bodies of the women. We have them sabotaging the colony’s nets. Later in this episode we’ll hear them being talked about in more benign but still patronizing terms. But, as I’ve said, we never actually see a single Indigenous person through seven episodes, a fact which several critics pointed out and condemned, and quite rightly.
By contrast, The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant, a 2005 miniseries that also explored Britain’s first colony in Australia through the viewpoint of a real life woman who managed to organize an incredible escape – seriously, check out this miniseries and anything you can find on Mary Bryant, she’s amazing – had several appearances of Aboriginal actors. This wasn’t perfect representation by any means; only one Aboriginal actor had a speaking part, and a pretty small one at that, while the other actors mostly just threatened the British characters, stood around in the background and, at one point, provided a handy solution for one of the antagonists. But they were still present, meaning the series didn’t give the impression that the native people of Australia just sat and watched the British setting up shop without ever once reacting or attempting to interact with the invaders.
Now, full credit to Jimmy McGovern, he tried to avoid the trap of simply having Aboriginal people as set dressing, pointing out that this series takes place over only a few weeks rather than months or years:
In the drama the action takes place during the first weeks of settlement before the characters have had any direct interaction with the Indigenous people. I chose not to include any Aboriginal characters as I was clear that story [a story about a love triangle and how Australia got its first hangman] needed to be told properly, and that Indigenous people shouldn’t be included in a tokenistic way as simply background characters.
He went on to say that, due to previous experiences with the BBC that he goes into further in the article, he only agreed to write Banished in the first place if
…the BBC allowed me to introduce Indigenous stories (fictional and non-fictional) written by Indigenous writers in any subsequent episodes. The BBC agreed to that and I then approached several Indigenous writers to tell them of my plans and to see if they were interested in writing with me.
So, if Banished had gotten a second season – sorry, spoilers by the way if you didn’t already know, the Beeb decided not to renew it; cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth – supposedly the colony would have started to interact more with the Indigenous people, and we would have gotten good, well-written and well-researched characters from skilled writers. Does that prospect make up for not having them now?
Not really, no. But I appreciate that McGovern tried his best.)
Back to the plot. James is thrilled that he isn’t going to be hanged! …except he stole the Governor’s rum. “Shit!” He starts running back to the house. And the soldiers aren’t going to find that suspicious at all?
Deborah watches him approach from a distance, and when he knocks this time opens the door with the most knowing of expressions.
Well, at least he brought the tumbler back! James fully acknowledges how stupidly he acted, and asks her to pretty please not tell the Governor about the curious incident of the rum in the daytime. Deborah takes the tumbler, considers him, then asks what he did to end up in New South Wales. Her decision will depend on his answer. James fesses up, although he still puts a spin on his crime, managing to amuse Deborah by mentioning all the noble things he didn’t do to get transported. After a dramatic pause, it turns out…he’s a pickpocket. Yeah. Especially awkward, given the current circumstances.
Deborah, however, has a deal for James; if she doesn’t tell Philip about the rum, he squashes any rumours about her and Philip getting down and dirty, especially since her husband volunteered to go to Cape Town. James of course agrees, rather surprised and maybe a bit touched that one of the higher ups is actually being this considerate.
Deborah apparently had a really quiet life back home, since she’s never been pick-pocketed. James takes a leaf out of Stannis Baratheon’s book: it’s “had your pocket picked.” Deborah is by this point so bored of the tedium that she invites James to ply his trade upon her, taking off her pearl necklace in a completely innocent manner that nonetheless has the potential to look utterly filthy.
James easily snaffles the necklace as soon as Deborah turns around. Deborah looks so enchanted, and it’s really depressing that this is probably the most exciting thing that’s happened to her in ages. She wonders how James ever got caught. James looks as if he wonders that sometimes as well. He leaves and Deborah watches him go, and the whole thing is shot as if it’s supposed to mean something. Is this the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
James walks back to the sleeping hut, and comes in just as Tommy’s telling everyone what they did next with Marston’s body. The bald man whose name I can’t remember says they’ve all sworn an oath of silence on the matter. James and Tommy wonder why such a thing was even necessary in the first place; surely none of them would ever grass on each other, right? William is nominated and says they want Tommy to speak to Philip about the cut in rations. Tommy’s distinguished himself by being willing to die for a principle; cometh the hour, cometh the man. Tommy points out that here also cometh the noose; if he starts getting too big for his britches, Philip may well change his mind about that death sentence. Bald guy points out that the convicts are many and the marines are few; if they chose to rebel against the rationing, would the soldiers be able to stop them? But maybe Phillip will take a word of warning from a man that he respects.
Elizabeth chimes in with her own plans – since she and Tommy can’t go back to England in any case, they aim to start a new life for themselves. Which means keeping their heads down, their noses clean, not rocking the boat, etc, essentially staying alive so that they can have a family one day. Compared with that, rebellion is most unappealing. For that reason, they’re out.
Anne is summoned to see Johnson, under the pretence of fetching the laundry should Mrs. Johnson show up. Johnson wants to know how Anne found out about the couple’s dead children. Anne gives him the same answer she gave his wife; she read it in her eyes. The eyes have it! Johnson warns Anne that talk like that, stranded in a colony full of backward hicks, as it were, could get her burned at the stake. (Even though British witches were hanged. But then again Johnson’s Scottish, and they did burn accused witches in Scotland, so I retract my statement.) Anne spots the underlying threat in Johnson’s warning, and agrees to stop talking about dead children. And to stay away from Mrs. Johnson. And to not mention this discussion to anyone.
Turns out that the robe and stole Johnson was fiddling with during that last conversation? He’s getting ready to officially bless the wedding of Tommy and Elizabeth. Everyone troops down to the river, with flowers in their hair for the ladies and James escorting Elizabeth. Tommy waits for Elizabeth on a rock, beaming. And also Buckley’s there, because of course he is. As well as a load of other convicts who are using their hard earned time off to attend a wedding.
As everyone gets into position, MacDonald winks at Kitty. It is adorable.
Oh, apparently it’s a double feature, with Johnson first blessing those who’ve come forward to help build the church; may it be the first of many. Killing two birds with one stone, I see. Then he gets started on the wedding – but, uh oh! Here comes Philip and Collins. Philip asks what’s going on here. Um, blessing the marriage of Tommy and Elizabeth? He literally just said that, Philip. You were within earshot. Oh, no, he meant the raising of that cross over there. Johnson says that the convicts did it themselves, but Philip isn’t impressed that they did it in their own time, in the heat of noon. He tells everyone that it’s their day of rest and that after the service they should go and relax, instead of working.
Elizabeth really looks like she needs to. Collins notices and asks if something’s wrong, which she quickly denies. Philip asks Johnson to come and see him that evening, and refuses to clarify when Johnson worriedly asks if they’ve done something wrong. Philip and Collins out!
Johnson continues with the ceremony with much less enthusiasm, and then Elizabeth starts going weak at the knees from something other than emotion and, whoops, timber!!! Although she only goes to her knees. (Boo, I was expecting a full out faint – but considering they’re shooting this scene on an actual rock, they probably couldn’t risk it.) Elizabeth recovers at once and tells Tommy she thinks she’s pregnant. Tommy promptly announces this to the world at large, and everyone cheers him. Nice. At the mention of BABIES, Anne of course looks at Mrs. Johnson, who’s looking both joyful and pained at the prospect of yet another woman having what she can’t have.
(So, how long have the convicts been here? And how long have Tommy and Elizabeth been shacking up without any of the authorities noticing? Long enough for her to get the first symptoms of pregnancy, at any rate. The timeline for this whole series is so confusing.)
Much hugging between James and Tommy and Elizabeth and Katherine, who I realise now is her bridesmaid even though I don’t think they’ve even shared a scene before now, let alone spoken. Buckley watches bitterly. You’re such an arse, Buckley. And Katherine and MacDonald are apparently so overjoyed by this wonderful news that they go off to snog and have sex by the lake.
William pulls out a letter, looks at it, then looks out to the water. In the next scene he’s in Philip’s house, marvelling at the splendour of it all, when Philip comes in from – whatever it was he was doing throughout the afternoon. Deborah introduces the two, and William volunteers himself as the colony’s new blacksmith. Why he hadn’t already done this before now I don’t know; maybe he was working up the courage. What can he make? Nails, and that’s about it, but he can repair things, which is what they’ll need at the moment, and as for the rest, it’s surely only a matter of practice, right?
That seems good enough for Philip. He tells William to get an apprentice (and Marston didn’t have one why?) and get started. William, very nervously, asks for something in return. He’s got a wife back in England, you see; “she means the world to me.” She wrote in that letter he was looking at that she’ll wait for him, but his sentence is 14 years, which is a very long time for waiting. Philip promises that, if he does a good job, he can be home in four or five years instead. William, nearly in tears, leaves, and Philip and Deborah share a glance and the warm feeling of having made someone’s life better.
Aaaaaaand then he puts his hand on her arm in a comradely manner, she clearly recalls what James said earlier, the moment is ruined and she hurries away, leaving Philip looking a bit confused but still content.
William happens upon the bridal party coming home from – whatever they were doing throughout the afternoon, and congratulates them. Then he comes upon Letters Molloy who has the bad news that Philip’s not allowing them to work on the church anymore. He tells Letters that prayer works, since God heard his pleas, and runs off elated. Collins, who happens to be passing by, smiles at this display, and enters his tent to find –
Ross. Sitting at Collins’ desk and looking through some documents. Collins is not pleased.
Why is Ross here? Apparently what Katherine said during their last encounter but one somehow got through to him, because he talks about her declaration of innocence. Give Ross a smidgen of credit; he entertains the possibility that she could be telling the truth. Collins, once more fulfilling his role in the plot, somehow doubts it. According to the court records, Katherine was a downstairs maid and wouldn’t have had access to the upper portions of the house, such as the bedrooms. Sorry for crushing any expectations you may have had? Ross says there’s no need for an apology; what does it matter? “She’s only a whore.” Although he does pause for a moment after that, in contemplation. (Issues, Ross. You have so many. Count them!)
(Also; see, this is what I mean about Collins and exposition back in episode 1. Whenever one of the ‘upper crust’ of the colony want to know about a convict’s past, they usually ask him. Elizabeth and Tommy, for instance, never brought up the fact that they’re already married back in England; it’s up to Collins to provide the goods, and the next piece of conflict.)
On his way out, Ross suddenly backtracks, wondering how Collins knew all that. Maybe secretly hoping that the captain was just making something up to suit himself (or Ross’s sensibilities)? Collins points out it was in her file. Yeah, but there are a thousand convicts here, each one with a file. Why is he so familiar with Katherine McVitie’s? Collins innocently says he’d heard Ross and Katherine were getting rather…close, and did a little background reading in preparation. Ross acknowledges the hit and leaves, while Collins seats himself and death-glares after him.
The newlyweds have apparently been having a party in the married couples’ tent, and Elizabeth goes out to get something. Elizabeth looks so happy; it’s a real shame that’s about to be spoiled by, of course, who else but Buckley! He points out the child could be his. What, do you want a medal? I highly doubt it. So does Elizabeth, although she’s thinking more in terms of what’s between Buckley’s legs than timescale: “It needs a man, not a shirt button.” Buckley threatens to tell Tommy. Elizabeth remembers what happened the last time Tommy got angry, does not want to be going down that path again, and recommends Buckley keep silent.
And of course, in exchange for his silence, Buckley wants Elizabeth. (So I’m guessing Buckley also didn’t get assigned a woman/warm body/sex slave in this fabled list, the process of which we never actually got to see.) Elizabeth reminds him that, hello, she hates him. He really wants to sleep with someone who hates him? He points out that everyone here hates him – “So yes, I would get pleasure from it!!!”
Elizabeth just stares at him for a beat or two, very calm. Then proceeds to call his bluff by suggesting they go and talk to Tommy about all this. Didn’t think of that, did you, Buckley? And while, as he points out, Tommy might kill Elizabeth for sleeping with a soldier (unlikely) he would definitely kill said soldier. Dude’s got a temper.
Buckley’s got nothing to say to that, and off Elizabeth goes to do – whatever she’s going to do tonight.
Buckley storms off the other way, only to be stopped by Ross, who apparently gets more light to shave by outside his tent than inside. Somehow. After mildly noting Buckley didn’t salute him, Ross notices his subordinate’s distressed state, and asks him what’s wrong. The answer is, of course, nothing. Ross tells him to bring Katherine. “Drag her, if you must,” he says, still managing to look threatening while covered in shaving foam. (Oh come on; that’s not fair!!!)
Everyone seems to be getting laid tonight except Buckley; Timmins is winding down in the company of the aforementioned Sarah Parkinson, while MacDonald has shrugged off his post-coital bliss and is suggesting to Katherine that they could run away from the camp, into the bush. Katherine – who’s fine with making love in the great outdoors but draws the line at attempting to survive in it – flat out says they’d die out there. MacDonald says that Jefferson, the runaway, didn’t die, because he hasn’t come back! Which could just mean he died out in the bush. QED.
Buckley comes in just then, asking for Katherine, but MacDonald flat out ignores him and just keeps going on about how they could go right now, in the dark, with apparently no one stopping them. And he’d protect Katherine from all the intriguing wildlife Australia’s had the chance to evolve over the millennia, and Buckley is ruining the moment by interrupting, he just keeps throwing off everyone’s groove today. Buckley says that he has orders to drag Katherine there if he has to, which, fair’s fair, he does, but he’s still an arse.
Timmins, probably sick of standing around and feeling guilty about the nasty things he’s ordered to do, steps up and starts laying into Buckley. No doubt remembering how toadying Buckley was to Ross earlier in the day. And really it’s hard to watch, with him pointing out how MacDonald has to share Katherine but at least she’s there for him, Buckley has nobody (Again, why? Was he not on this magical list at all?) and all he has to content himself with is being Major Ross’s pimp, and he’s a very ugly man inside and out. He forces Buckley to repeat it. Dammit, episode, stop making me feel sorry for Buckley!!!
Buckley retreats to tell Ross that Katherine will be with him in half an hour. MacDonald acknowledges what Timmins did for them-
Buckley comes right back into the tent and challenges Timmins to a fight wait what the actual hell are you doing ya eejit?
So. Buckley challenges his sergeant to a fight. And I know he’s angry and humiliated and “fed up of being treated like shit” but seriously, no. No. I cannot believe he is that stupid. And yet the evidence is just building up.
Timmins, of course, declines, because Buckley clearly just needs to go down and lie down before he hurts himself and think about what an idiot he’s been – but then Buckley calls him a coward, so naturally now it’s on. Timmins strips off his shirt
and proceeds to beat the living snot out of Buckley with epic boxing. That’s the way to do it!
Humiliated and with what could possibly be a broken nose, ouch, Buckley now has to go give the news to Ross about Katherine not arriving yet. Ross is just as confused as I am over this whole fight subplot and naturally asks “The hell happened to you?” (Reproduction of this statement might not be entirely accurate.) Buckley claims he fell over, because there aren’t really any available doors for him to have walked into. Can he go, sir? Ross considers. And the fact that he’s crying? Tears of anger, sir! Ross, cleaning his fingernails,
asks why he’s angry. Buckley, on the verge of more tears, says it’s because he fell over.
Okay, FINE; I’m pretty sure Ross is thinking
At least he lets Buckley go.
This episode is really pulling out all the stops to make me feel for the little bastard; now we find him sitting by the lake, sobbing and sniffing. Timmins comes to find him and presumably bring him back to the fold. After a rather awkward pause, Buckley asks the sergeant to teach him how to box; he’s going to need to defend himself after everyone saw Timmins humiliate him and conclude that he’s easy pickings. Timmins points out that maybe he shouldn’t have challenged his sergeant to a fight in the first place seriously what the hell was he thinking? Buckley retorts that he had to: “There’s only so much contempt a man can take!!!”
In the face of Buckley’s tears and anguish, Timmins sits down and tries to get to the bottom of the matter. If people hate Buckley, there must be a reason. (No comment.) Buckley claims he’s no worse than anyone else here (yeah, right; although he has a point when it comes to Marston) but that in a place like this, someone needs to be at the bottom of the heap. So much for Philip’s shiny new law and order. Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss. Buckley wants to fight back against that hierarchy and buck the trend. Hence, boxing lessons. Timmins wonders if Buckley will use what he learns to get revenge on his teacher, considering the aforementioned beating he gave out, but Buckley promises that won’t be the case. (And seriously, I’m surprised Timmins is worrying about Buckley being a threat to him any time soon, even if he’s a really good teacher.)
Still unwilling to commit, Timmins asks what Buckley’s even doing in New South Wales in the first place. Buckley spins a tale of expecting the native women lining up, naked and ready for sex. Plus loads of fruit. Ee-yup. Sadly, he’s getting none of the former and very little of the latter.
(Fun fact: the actor who plays Timmins, Cal MacAninch, actually worked on some backstory for his character with Jimmy Mcgovern, and had an idea that Timmins was one of the surviving marines accompanying Captain James Cook, who was butchered in Hawaii at the hands of the local people after he tried to kidnap their king. So imagine Timmins going through all that palaver, being one of the few to get back to the ship alive, and then listening to Buckley here babble on about believing he could get jiggy with the locals.)
You know what Buckley could get, though? Boxing lessons. Timmins is somehow still not convinced by what he’s heard so far, shock horror, so Buckley pulls out the big guns: Timmins likes himself. Buckley, frankly, doesn’t. Like himself, I mean. Boxing helps Timmins be the kind of man he likes. Boxing could help Buckley be that kind of man too, in time. Timmins considers, then says “We’ll start tomorrow,” with perhaps an undertone of ‘don’t make me regret this.’ Buckley nods frantically, and actually smiles as Timmins walks away. Things are going to change around here.
Letters is writing a missive for William, letting his wife know about his new job and the potential reduction of his sentence and WOAH
Um. I’m sorry. Letters just has really nice handwriting.
Anyway, William has Letters add one more line; that he hopes to write the next letter himself. Collins is teaching him to read and write, you see! He reassures Letters not to worry, it’s not going to happen overnight, and other people in the colony will still need his services. Letters is not reassured. William, a bit surprised and hurt now (he probably thought that Letters would be so happy for him!) apologises if he’s injured Letters. Letters pulls himself together, and writes the last line as requested.
Deborah’s necklace breaks, because of course it does; god forbid you can feature a necklace in any form of media without it breaking at some point. It’s a good thing it didn’t snap while she was on her way home, at least. She goes to her knees to pick the pearls up, then starts when she hears Philip approach. He lowers himself into the shot to help her in her task, by necessity bringing their heads very close together. It doesn’t help that he starts talking about how Elizabeth’s pregnant. Apparently in England that would be a scandal. (Would it, Philip? Really? It’s not even like she’s begun to show yet.) He wonders why it isn’t one here. Probably because the only one who’d care about that sort of thing is Johnson, who thinks Tommy is the Second Christ anyway? Deborah suggests that it’s because they’re 100, 000 miles away from the rules and society they’ve all known for so long. Philip wonders how far away they must be for the rules to change.
The two lock eyes. Deborah’s bosom heaves. The fire crackles in the background. Deborah hems, breaking the gaze; she can take it from here, thanks all the same. Philip reassures her that he was only thinking aloud. Of course he was. And then they are saved by the bell, as Johnson arrives for that dreaded talk about the church.
Johnson starts off by assuming Philip wants to know what the church is going to be called. They’re going to name it after the governor, of course! Which makes it really awkward when Philip has to say Johnson really should have discussed building a whole new structure with him first. In an effort to make this more civil, he offers Johnson some rum.
Johnson’s surprised that there’s still any rum left, but Philip rations himself one month so he can indulge the next. Very smart. As Deborah goes to fetch the booze and screams inside, Philip tells Johnson the hard truth; that while he knows how important the church is to him, he doesn’t think the convicts should be the ones who have to build it. Deborah comes over with the guilty decanter (why she doesn’t think to fill the glasses over by the sideboard, I don’t know) as Philip points out the convicts are overworked and half-starved.
And speaking of half-starved, he notices the rum’s gone! Well, half gone. Deborah, mindful of the promise she made to James earlier, lies and claims she’s been sneaking sips in order to help her feel less nervous and tense. She offers to replace it (why she didn’t do that before now, I also don’t know) but Philip seems more concerned about her state of mind. I mean, just look at this man.
He still asks for two small glasses. Johnson suggests he save it for himself, but Philip insists. Poor Debbie. As she pours out the rum, the men debate over the strength of the convicts. Philp hands Johnson a glass, which he holds like a ticking bomb. Johnson harps on the idea of spiritual strength, and that will help them to build a sacred building. Philip isn’t so sure about that. Deborah rushes off rather earlier than usual, leaving the pair rather confused and, in Philip’s case, worried. Women, am I right? Getting back on track; the convicts have plenty of work to be getting on with already, like clearing the land and building things other than churches. In other words, the church is the building the colony deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
Johnson takes it fairly well, all things considered. He and his wife will simply build it themselves, so there! He’ll show Philip what spiritual strength can do! And no, Philip hasn’t offended him at all. He bids the governor goodnight, putting down his untouched rum. When Philip invites him to finish it, he says that he prefers not to drink alcohol at all – “I do not feel the need.”
Johnson leaves Philip’s house, obviously not looking forward to having to tell his wife ‘Hey honey! Guess what we’re doing tomorrow!!!’ Wending his way back to his tent, he passes MacDonald and Katherine on their way to Ross’s tent.
Katherine reassures her lover than she won’t speak to Ross this time; she won’t give him any more ammunition to hurt them. (Especially her.) “He can have my body, yes, there’s nothing I can do about that, but he will not have my mind…or my heart.” The guard outside Ross’s tent looks away uncomfortably as the two embrace, and then Katherine breaks away from MacDonald and goes on alone, into the beast’s lair. As she pauses on the brink, the guard mutters to her that Ross is ten times the man that MacDonald is, and twenty times the soldier. I’m pretty sure he was trying to be comforting, but it doesn’t really change the fact that Ross is holding McDonald hostage for Katherine’s compliance. God, you’re such a bastard, Ross.
Speak of the Devil and he shall appear; Ross emerges and tells Katherine to go in. As she does so, Ross spots MacDonald, watching her go and close to tears. Ross, all powerful and triumphant, dismisses him – but in doing so he catches sight of Johnson, who’s seen the whole thing. This might come up later.
Inside, Katherine mechanically strips to her stays and chemise, her face locked down tight. Ross runs through what she said last time about Lord Campbell trying to rape her, then confronts her with Collins’ inside info. Katherine sits on the bed and says nothing. Her features only twitch slightly as Ross tears apart her story, her confession. Ross accuses her of enticing her employer, in the hopes of stealing his wallet while he slept; much like he warned her against doing during their last night together.
(Ross, it was probably the middle of the day and they had other places to be afterwards. And besides, not EVERYONE gets so worn out after sex that they immediately have to sleep it off.)
So, Ross thinks he’s got Katherine’s number. But she’s come to understand something about him too, and she keeps silent and still, looking off into space. Ross, confused and then irritated, comes to crouch in front of her, looking up into her face, wondering if she simply has no defence to what he’s said? He quickly twigs what she’s doing, though; the good old silent treatment. He claims that, as a soldier, he likes his women naked and dumb, so this doesn’t bother him in the slightest. “So please, tell me why…you are not speaking.”
When that doesn’t work – not even a flicker of an eye down at him, and how that must burn! – he takes a moment to decide what to do next. An idea comes to him, and he harks back to her major concern the last time around. He tempts her with extra food? Would she like some dried peas? All she has to do is say yes, speak, let him in.
Katherine says nothing.
Ross starts in on her major weak spot: MacDonald. He says the corporal doesn’t love her, there’s only lust. Sharing her doesn’t hurt him, since she’s only a whore – especially poor choice of words if you hoped to get anywhere with her, Ross.
Katherine says nothing.
Ross dismisses her cold silence, her only defence and protection against all the ways he can hurt her, as ‘silly’. They both know she wants to get out of here as soon as possible and back to MacDonald, but Ross isn’t going to begin until she’s spoken. “We could be here until morning,” he says, although not all that confidently. Did I detect a brief hesitation?
Katherine closes her eyes. It takes time for her to come back from wherever she sent herself. But: “What would you like me to say?”
Ross considers. How about something truthful?
Ross wants the truth? Fine, he’ll get it. Katherine swallows rage and fear and – every word given to her enemy a major effort – she tells him that he is right: she hates him. But he’s wrong when he thinks she has nothing but contempt for him. Because just occasionally, she feels sorry for him.
Now Katherine waits for the blow to come.
The camera pans to Ross.
Whatever he was expecting, it definitely wasn’t that. He is not best pleased. “I think I will begin now.”
Thankfully we cut to a card game between Tommy, Elizabeth, James, William and the bald man from earlier, debating upon the benefits of learning to read and write. William for some reason knows Tommy left a letter for Elizabeth, but he had to have Letters Molloy write it for him. William believes that no man has the right to know the content of another man’s most intimate missives, even though Tommy claims Letters is one of the most honest and trustworthy men in the colony. (Although he must have told William about Tommy’s letter, so maybe not quite so trustworthy?) Elizabeth wants to know what was in the letter, but Tommy fobs her off, since he ain’t dead yet. James asks if he’s going to have the king card already, and Tommy takes it just to needle him. James proceeds to put down his hand and apparently wins the game, laughing gleefully.
(This whole scene was just lovely. It honestly warmed my heart.)
Collins is having a spot of tea in a really nice tea cup.
Letters Molloy comes in to return a book Collins lent him, and is eager to accept when Collins offers him another. Of course, this is Collins we’re talking about, so it’s The Annual Register of 1762. Thrilling stuff, but Letters thanks him nicely anyway. He hums and haws, then brings up that Collins is teaching William to read, and that he’s happy to keep on writing the letters, it’s fine, honest! Collins cuts in, saying the convicts really want to be able to do it for themselves. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, and all that jazz.
Letters cracks, but it turns out his concern isn’t for himself, it’s for William. That letter from his wife, that William mentioned to Philip earlier? It doesn’t say what he thinks it says. When he first received it on the prison ship and asked Letters to read it to him, Letters was seriously worried he’d kill himself. So, when it turned out to be a “Dear John” letter (a term I don’t believe existed until the 1940s and World War II, but whatever, just roll with it) Letters lied to William that his wife promised to wait for him. Which, now that William is learning to read, he’ll soon realise is not the case. All Letters can do is apologise for the mess he’s now dragged Collins into as well.
Katherine’s hands shake as she fastens up her bodice. Ross pulls on his clothes and his authority once again, but his hair’s wild and escaping. (Coming apart at the seams, much?) He’s close to ranting about how he’s a major in the marines, how he has wealth and power, and how Katherine is so very low beneath him, he wouldn’t even look at her back home! (Well, you certainly want her to look at you here and now, Ross.) It turns out that Ross, unlike William, actually does have a woman waiting for him back in England, which explains why he didn’t participate in that flipping list until he clapped his eyes on Katherine. And his fiancé is educated, and refined, and how dare Katherine treat him like this! (How dare she pity him?)
Katherine barely keeps back the tears, all her defences gone, as she asks permission to leave. “No.” Where Katherine was the one who was somewhat in command of the aftermath of their first night, blindsiding Ross and setting the rules, now he’s determined to establish himself as the one in control. He decides, spur of the moment, that he’ll have Katherine three nights per week in the future. She knows where the peas are. Now she can go.
Katherine moves to the exit, crushed, ripped open, sucked dry and spat out. But not wholly defeated. She takes what she refused to give Ross earlier in the evening and makes it into her weapon, her parting shot. She tells him that the chambermaid was absent that day, having an abortion to get rid of Lord Campbell’s baby. Arranged by his Lordship, naturally. Katherine was in the bedchamber because she was covering for her.
And she leaves Ross staring. He was wrong. Was he wrong? He can’t be wrong, he’s a major and he has power and he demands respect, and she’s a whore, a whore, he constantly reminds everyone she’s a whore, he’s told himself she’s a whore.
MacDonald waits for Katherine down by the beach, rather than in their tent; maybe because he doesn’t want to face any of the other soldiers right now. I presume Katherine actually knew to meet him here, and she wasn’t just wandering around the camp despondently for ages? They embrace. Katherine pulls back, looks MacDonald in the eyes and tells him about Ross’s demand that she comes to him three nights a week. Their hearts break as one yet again. “What could I say?” She looks at his face as if she’s trying to memorise it, pulls him down for a kiss, breaks away and turns towards the sea.
She looks back at MacDonald for a beat, her last look at the man she loves, then turns back to the waves. The pain and anguish flow out of her.
She walks forward into the water.
MacDonald…just stares after her and calls her name weakly, and doesn’t even do anything until one of the big waves knocks her down. Then he rushes in to save her, which is a bit late in my opinion, but better late than never.
Katherine is – actually managing quite nicely in her huge, cumbersome gown, in a fairly choppy ocean. It helps that the water seems to be fairly calm where she is, as opposed to the rough waves MacDonald’s floundering about in. She finally stops paddling, flips onto her back, and lets herself sink.
And promptly bumps into Marston’s corpse. Wow. What are the odds?
Funnily enough, that rather puts her off the prospect of dying, and she splashes around screaming and whatnot until MacDonald finds her and starts pulling her back to shore. We get another shot of Marston’s
OH WHAT THE ACTUAL SODDING HELL?? THAT’S THE SAME SHOT FROM THE END OF THE LAST EPISODE!!! I’m not kidding, and I’m not reusing my own screen captures either; that is the exact same shot from the end of episode 2. Plus it’s rubbish continuity, since the corpse was floating on the surface to terrifying Katherine, and yet now Marston’s tethered back under the water again. HOW LAZY ARE YOU, SHOW???
Morning has broken, like the first morning! Kookaburra has spoken, like the first bird! (Okay, that was probably too obscure. And yes, I did look up whether the kookaburra is native to eastern Australia for the sake of accuracy. Your point?)
Ross, MacDonald, Buckley and a few other marines who aren’t important enough to have names row out to where Katherine happened across Marston’s corpse, because apparently the body didn’t drift out to sea during the rest of the night at all. Ross grills MacDonald about Katherine having swum a hundred yards out to deep waters and hold on just one second.
(Now, I understand Marston’s body needed to be discovered, otherwise there’d be little to no story for the rest of the series, but this is one of the bits of this show that really makes no sense. Bear with me.
So: Katherine swam a hundred yards. A hundred yards doesn’t look like much on paper, but in real life and on screen it’s ninety one metres, so either three full grown blue whales lined up nose to fins, or the length of a football field. Katherine swam the rough, presumably cold, extremely choppy length of a football field, while wearing this:
At one point in my now distant childhood, while learning to swim I had to practise swimming in my pyjamas, preparing for the possible future event of needing to jump off a boat fully dressed and get to safety. It was hard. It was very hard, and I was only swimming the length of an average size swimming pool in relatively calm water, wearing a pyjama shirt and bottoms over my costume. And, fair enough, I was only eleven or twelve at the time, whereas Katherine is…I don’t know, nineteen, twenty, and presumably used to manual labour and physical hardship. It doesn’t change the fact that her dress would be heavy when it got wet, assuming it’s made of cotton or linen. It would be incredibly heavy.
How did she manage to swim a hundred yards out to sea? How did she manage forty yards? She might have been determined to kill herself, but I think a death wish only gets you so far when your clothes are utterly saturated, have absorbed 20-35% of their dry weight and are dragging you down with them.)
But, okay, for the sake of the plot, fine. Katherine swam a hundred yards out to sea. In the dark. Ross does the maths and, despite MacDonald’s protests, concludes she was trying to drown herself. Is he shocked? Ashamed of what he drove her to do? Remorseful? What the hell do you think? “How dare she? How dare she?!”
(Fun fact: I christened this screen-cap ‘MacDonald is so done with Ross’.)
Katherine sits glumly and watches the boat return, after having been comforted by the Johnsons and, hopefully, spilling the beans about what’s been happening between her, Ross and Macdonald. James, who still appears to have plenty of free time to spend on the beach, comes up to see what’s going on. Katherine brokenly tells him that the jig is up and that the marines are bringing in Marston’s body. James demands to know how she knows, and in in the midst of his growing panic and misery he does take a moment to react with what I hope is shock and pity, when Katherine says she was swimming so far out because she was trying to kill herself.
As I said, bumping into a bloated rotting corpse rather put Katherine off dying; she didn’t want to look like that! James gives her a much more annoyed look before finally starting to make a run for it. Once again, James, if you didn’t want the body to be discovered, maybe you should have done a better job of hiding it!
None of the soldiers running past to meet the boat stop James, so Tommy, who just happens to be on the beach at this exact moment as well, grabs his friend in the midst of fleeing and points out he can either run or stand his ground. Yeah, standing’s not an option; Philip said he’d hang James if they found a body, and guess what, here’s the body, so running it is. Elizabeth, who also happened to be on the beach at this exact moment, gets James some fresh water so that he’ll just die eventually, rather than almost immediately. He aims to find the much fabled runaway Jefferson, or maybe some friendly natives, and hope they don’t eat him. He bids his friends farewell in a manner that is touching, that is heart-jerking, that is rather awkward when he loudly declares his love for Elizabeth when her husband is standing right there, man, and that…
…really takes far too long. Wasn’t he in a rush to get away?
In fact, he takes so long to say goodbye that Ross actually has time to get back to shore, clamber up onto the beach and order some spare soldiers to shoot at him, and Tommy and Elizabeth have to drop to the ground so as not to get caught in the crossfire.
James flees into the jungle, hides for a bit from Timmins and the other pursuing soldiers, freaks out when he finds a leech on his arm and flees again, deeper into the bush and the great unknown – while a panning shot showing the vast expanse of forest pads out something like the last thirty seconds of the episode.