Be warned; while I love this series, it sometimes drives me to profanity.
Or else I just imagine the characters swearing because it’s funny.
A new day has dawned in the Australian bush. The sun is shining. Birds are tweeting. What I presume to be a kookaburra is sitting in what I presume is the old gumtree.
And James Freeman is fleeing for his life, with Timmins and some marines in –
-actually not so hot pursuit. Because Timmins, who I am pretty sure has gotten a stitch judging by the way he’s clasping his side (I feel your pain, buddy) halts his men once they come to a clearing. “We go any deeper, we die.” Instead he fires a rifle into the air, then gets two other marines to do the same, giving the illusion they were firing at James.
On the beach, as Marston’s body is brought on shore, Tommy and Elizabeth hear the shots and expect the worst.
Ross marches to his tent, and he is seething.
Once inside he has to take a moment to compose himself before he starts interrogating poor Katherine about her midnight swim and how she ‘got into difficulties’. He doesn’t believe her any more than he did MacDonald. Supposedly this suicide attempt will get her sentenced to one hundred lashes. (Yes, that’ll really make suicidal people more inclined to live. Once again: boy, are they strict!)
“You might think your life miserable now, but it will be a lost worse after one hundred lashes.” Ross’s voice trembles on the now, coming apart at the seams again, perhaps half willing to carry out the punishment himself, because – ah, yes, here it comes: “How dare you do this to me?!”
Second verse, same as the first:
Buckley, for a wonder, is not smirking but actually looks like he feels sorry for Katherine. There are some things even he doesn’t find amusing – or maybe he just wants to escape from the whole heap of awkward this ‘love triangle’ has become. Either way, will wonders never cease???
Once Buckley’s gone, Ross really allows his emotions to get the better of him. He’s almost pleading as he demands to know how Katherine can prefer death, rather than being touched by his hands again. Katherine refuses to answer or look at him and turns her head away, letting his anger flow over her. That only infuriates him; he just grabs her by the chin so she can’t look away and starts ranting about he’ll not be humiliated by a whore, so she’s failed in her aim. MacDonald is equally infuriated by Ross and positions himself to rush the major and stick him with the pointy end, only to get seized by the throat as Katherine looks on in horror. Ross tells MacDonald that the next time he tries this, he’ll die. Clear? Crystal. MacDonald retreats.
Now, where was he? Oh yes, ranting at Katherine about also trying to create a guilt trip for him by killing herself. How ungrateful of her! She turns her face away again and only lets one tear out as he goes on about the need to for soldiers to share the women, can’t she understand that? MacDonald’s on the verge of tears as well. Infuriated all over again by Katherine’s refusal to react, Ross calls her a “stupid, selfish bitch!”
Katherine finally focuses on something and, distracted, he turns to see what she’s looking at.
It’s Philip, who arrived just in time to catch that last part of the ranting. He’s got something to show Ross.
On their way to their destination, with Tommy in tow and under guard, Philip asks how many soldiers fired at James. Ross – rattled from being caught with his trousers down, as it were – says it was three. Yeah, they all missed, but there was subsequent gunfire and he has no doubt Freeman’s dead. You think that, Ross, if it gives you comfort.
They arrive at Collins’ tent. Exhibit A: Marston’s corpse. All the ‘higher ups’ are present, including the Johnsons; the vicar needs to absolve Marston’s spirit of his sins, of which there must have been quite a few. Philip grills Tommy on whether he could ambush Marston, kill him, drag him to a boat and out to sea and dump him full fathom five. Tommy answers in the negative. Well, if he’d need help to do it, so would James. Philip lists the wounds: a blow with a truncheon or cosh (I guess they didn’t notice the strangulation marks since the body’s so discoloured) and wounds made from an axe or hatchet. Correction from Collins: on reflection, the wounds were made with a spade.
(Question; has Collins ever even held a spade in his life, let alone used it? Let alone again whacked someone else with it? Because if he has, I am both impressed and alarmed.)
Philip concludes from all this that James didn’t act alone. Tommy is a proper champ, holding up very well under all this questioning. The two of them stare at each other. Philip points out that Marston was worth ten of the other convicts. Tommy’s sorry about that. (Sorry that Philip’s lost a resource, or sorry that Marston, a horrible human being, was considered more important than others? More important than Tommy’s friend?)
Philip gives him a considering look. Glances at the body. Looks off camera. Goes over to pick up the spade
and bangs it down in front of Tommy. Is he accusing him? Calling his bluff? No; he only tells him to go and dig Marston’s grave. And off goes Tommy, cool as can be.
But even if Philip hasn’t been able to serve justice in this case, he can administer it somewhere else. And since they’re all already here anyway… “Reverend?”
Johnson states that when Katherine discovered the body, she was trying to drown herself. Ross backtracks at once, claiming she was ‘swimming and got into difficulties’. Basically copying Katherine from five minutes earlier.
Johnson isn’t having any of it; despite Ross and Katherine’s claims, she was trying to drown herself, because of Ross’s treatment of her. Ross pulls out the old ‘I’m just sharing, everybody’s doing it, she’s a whore anyway, who cares’ argument yet again. Although thank god that this time it doesn’t fly. Mrs. Johnson, rather passionately for someone who’s barely spoken to Katherine before now, protests that the girl’s not someone to be shared; not a whore. Ross insists she is, dammit, and has Collins back him up, though Collins looks as displeased and sombre about this whole mess as everyone else.
Johnson loudly points out that a whore does not try to drown herself when she’s being pestered by a man.
(And you know what? He’s right. She’s just supposed to do it to atone for the wickedness of her life when she gets fed up with it all. Seriously; prostitutes committing suicide by throwing themselves into the Thames was apparently so common that it became a source of inspiration for 19th century poets and artists.
Philip now pipes up, the memory of Ross’s treatment of Katherine obviously still fresh as he ‘suggests’ that Ross find someone else. Ross responds by pretending to sniff the air, and then talk about the stench of hypocrisy and asking if Philip will stop seeing Deborah, in that case.
After a pretty funny argument of “You think I’m banging Deborah?” “Um, yeah?” “Am not!” “Sure you aren’t.” “Am not!” (argument might not be depicted entirely accurately) Philip has to retreat because he’s literally speechless with rage, while Johnson re-rails the discussion; Ross needs to leave Katherine McVitie alone. Ross refuses. Fine: he’s barred from all future religious services.
(I heartily approve of this motion – although I’m curious about how Johnson plans to actually enforce his decision; it’s not like anyone’s going to stop the leader of the military contingent rocking up to mass if he wants to. Especially since they don’t actually have a physical church yet, and attendees can seemingly come or go as they please. Maybe Ross can’t partake in communion, if and when it occurs? Or would Johnson just refuse to acknowledge Ross and do the Protestant version of declaring him anathema?)
Ross throws a strop and whines that it’s not fair since Johnson’s the only vicar available and he has no other options for spiritual matters. He appeals to Philip – over Johnson’s continued insistence that this right here is a spiritual matter, not a secular one YES GO ON MY SON – expecting the man who he literally just accused of shtupping his housekeeper to be on his side.
He’s not. What a shocker.
Ross exits stage right, though not before damning them all. He’ll be revenged on the whole pack of them! (Wow, that’s a lot of concern over being kept away from a mere whore, huh, Ross?)
Tommy starts on the grave –
– and we cut right to Marston’s funeral, a pretty pathetic one compared to whoever got buried last episode; the only convicts there are the ones who got roped into putting him in the hole. And Tommy, who has to bury Marston one more time. And also Anne, who probably attended just to make absolutely positively for certain sure he was dead. Considering he came back roaring for blood after getting strangled, I don’t blame her.
One the service is done, Mrs. Johnson tries to waylay her, and thinks that talking about how Anne puts herself in other people’s shoes and uses that to deceive them will get her to stop and talk to her.
Although she finally gets Anne to stop by asking. Anne points out that the vicar is watching them. And that yes, she tricks people. Mrs. Johnson chuckles because otherwise she’s going to cry, hints at how the loss of her children has hurt her, and to have the merest hope of speaking to them being dangled in front of her and snatched away…Anne is apologetic, but sticks to her guns; she lied, deal with it. “You cannot speak to your children; you’ll never speak to them.”
As Anne walks off, Mrs. Johnson wonders what she expected to get from this whole deception. Anne pauses and gives her a look. Isn’t it obvious? “Food.” Mrs. Johnson is left behind and bereft. Tommy gets to work filling in the grave, working in the hot sunshine.
Aaaaaaand now it’s bleak, cloudy and blustery. Unusual weather we’re having in New South Wales. Ross marches along another part of the shore to where Katherine, along with Elizabeth, is collecting any oysters and such that may have washed up on the beach. Or they’re just collecting seashells, I don’t know. Ross ‘relieves’ Katherine of her basket and summons her a little way away from where Anne and another woman are mending nets.
Ross starts by straight up lying that the other higher ups wanted her flogged, but he managed to talk them out of it. He babbles on a bit about how suicide is such a grave sin, etc. ‘What, you think I don’t know that?’ Katherine bleakly thanks him. Great; now he’s got this to hold over her as well. Terrific. Ross, in an effort to get Katherine to actually react to him, tells her that he believes her. Success! She looks up. Encouraged, he carries on in the same vein; he believes that the noble she was working for tried to rape her. She wonders why he doesn’t send her home, then.
Ah. Well, he can’t; only the governor can do that, and they both know he’s not going to let the governor in on this little meeting. Thanks for nothing, Ross.
(Does Ross really believe her? I’m undecided. On one hand, he’s already lied to her about the other higher-ups wanting her flogged and how he saved her from such an awful punishment, ‘Aren’t I so nice? Please love me.’ He wants to look good in her eyes so that she’ll return to him again, willingly, and if he has to lie some more – well, it’s no great matter to him.
On the other hand, he did seem legitimately shaken by her final words to him in the previous episode. The fact that he’s making this offer at all, couched in these terms, might be his own way of coming to terms and acclimatizing to what he’s learned about her. So hey, maybe he really did have some realisation of what a shithead of the first order he’s been. It could happen!)
Her hopes quickly crushed, Katherine asks if she can just go now. Please. Ross hesitates, then asks if it’s the sex that she doesn’t like.
Because if that’s the case, she could still visit him, lie next to him on the bed and talk. So, basically bundling bags without the bags. He even gives her the option of being naked or fully dressed! Isn’t that nice of him?! For some strange reason, Katherine actually goes along with this, possibly just out of morbid curiosity about where exactly this will end up. She obviously prefers to be fully dressed, which he agrees to. And no sex? “Not until you are ready for it.” She points out that she will probably never be ready, which Ross calmly accepts.
She gives the slightest nod of assent. He nods back and leaves.
Back near the bush, where the sun is shining once more, the Johnsons are hard at work building their church; at present sawing a log with a two handed saw and making a pretty good go of it. Johnson rattles on about how Christ carried his own cross, clearly meaning that this hard labour is nothing compared to what their Lord and Saviour went through. Mrs. Johnson is more concerned with the blisters forming on her hands, which are quite nasty.
Her husband gives her a handkerchief to protect her hands, and they continue gamely on. Continuing the Christ imagery, they next carry the enormous cross up the rocks, and manage to secure it in an upright position. End of the first day, and all they have to show for it is one sawn up log, one upright cross and blistered, swollen hands. No wonder Johnson falls to his knees and asks the Almighty for help in finishing the Church, since no mortal aid seems forthcoming. Although while it may be Johnson’s ‘one desire’, not so much for Mrs. Johnson.
Once they’ve quenched their thirst
Johnson quizzes his wife on what she and Anne Meredith talked about. He seems rather too pleased that Anne admitted she lied, and when his wife calls him on it, he quickly backtracks, saying it’s not ‘good’ that she can’t talk to their children, admitting that he warned Anne not to speak to her, looking rather satisfied with himself. Mrs. Johnson, suspecting what might have remained unsaid, wonders what would have happened in Anne insisted on speaking to her. Johnson reveals that he – not threatened Anne, but cautioned her with the possibility that she could be seen as a witch. I seriously hope this is the first time he’s done this sort of thing – although, judging by the look on his wife’s face…
Night time now, and Philip has something he needs to tell Deborah. He can guarantee she won’t like it, though. But then he gets distracted by the fact that she’s gotten a fish for his dinner, caught by Mr. Bryant.
(Fun fact; I like to think this is a nice little nod to Mary Bryant, who I mentioned last review/episode; she married William Bryant, who did indeed fish for the colony. I also like to imagine Mary herself and her escape attempt might have shown up in the series, if it had actually gotten that far – although it would have taken at least three seasons if Jimmy McGovern was going for accuracy, since she and her party escaped in 1791 and we’re still only in 1788.)
Philp asks Deborah to share the meal with him. (Philip, weren’t you just saying that you don’t like the rumours that you’re having an affair with your housekeeper? Sharing food is a pretty intimate activity! I know no one can see you, but this is not helping!) Deborah of course gently refuses, and Philip concedes her point. Tucking in his napkin, he tells her about the palaver with Ross earlier in the day, and how Ross accused him of having an affair. With her.
When pressed for what he said, he admits that the comment came rather out of left field and he didn’t really say anything. (Guessing he forgot his denials after the heat of the moment.) He says it was actually something of a revelation; now he thinks he’s got it sussed about why Deborah was acting so nervy and hitting the rum! She heard the rumours too! Well, he’s not exactly wrong. Deborah claims it hasn’t bothered her. “Oh, it has. I know it has.” The two share another intense look, before Philip looks away, saying they need to nip it in the bud, since it would be right awkward for Deborah’s husband to come back only to be met with rumours of them having a torrid affair. Deborah demurs that her husband will surely think such rumours as preposterous as they do.
Philip gets on with eating the fish. Deborah warns him to look out for bones and makes a hasty exit, leaving Philip once again looking thoughtful.
A cloaked figure, bearing a lantern, heads towards one of the tents – where Anne is having a sneaky séance with some fellow female inmates. She’s going to get her food one way or another, it seems; I highly doubt she’s doing this out of the goodness of her heart. She gets cut off in the middle of a monologue about one of the women’s deceased husbands as Mrs. Johnson comes in and reveals she knows what her husband threatened Anne with, that she knows how frightened she must be-
-but she promises not to breathe a word of this to a soul. (By which I presume she means the ‘higher-ups’; I doubt the convicts would care. They ain’t got time for superstitions!) She even offers to swear on a Bible. Anne takes this to mean that Mrs. Johnson does want to talk to her children after all, and Mrs. Johnson confirms it – even though they’ve both established that Anne was lying, multiple times? No matter. Mrs. Johnson offers to sit quietly and observe, but Anna takes the helm and says that since they’ll be speaking to her children, they should do that alone. “At least for the first time.”
Reverend Johnson, who doesn’t seem to be curious concerned by his wife going on a walkabout through the camp late at night, is put severely on edge by the arrival of Ross.
Apparently, Ross’s faith is everything, and not being allowed to attend chapel hurts. Hence, an apology. (Although it seems it’s not so important that he’s not willing to cheat on his fiancée. Also, we haven’t actually seen Ross attend any religious services as of yet, which rather undercuts his supposed faith. Maybe he just doesn’t want to worship alongside the convicts.)
Johnson warily accepts and invites him to sit. Ross innocently asks how the church is coming along. Johnson admits that they have abandoned it. (After one day? Seriously? And when Johnson was so enthusiastic? I would have expected at least two or three days of his spirit being ground down and broken by hard labour before he gave up and quit.) Ross questions why the convicts aren’t helping, and when he learns that Philip has forbidden it, he offers the services of his men, who aren’t working after all. (Oh, so they’re not guarding the convicts? Or protecting the camp? Or really doing any of the things that you believe entitles them to the bodies of the female prisoners? No, they’ve got plenty of time on their hands to build a church!)
Johnson, wary of the Greeks bearing gifts, asking what Ross wants in exchange. Ross thinks. “Nothing. Well, the satisfaction of having done something for the faith, huge reward in itself, but apart from that…”
Johnson thanks him awkwardly. Ross hesitates, and then brings up Katherine.
But! Ross admits Johnson was right there as well! It was wrong to force himself on her, and it won’t happen again. But, again! Can he still ‘entertain’ her? (‘Entertaining’. Is that what they’re calling it nowadays? Or those days?) Johnson at once shakes his head, but Ross puts the same argument to him as he did to Katherine: fully clothed, no sex.
Johnson knows that Ross rather has him over a barrel – no ‘entertaining’ of Katherine, no church – so he reluctantly gives his blessing to the whole palaver, with the supposed assurance that she’s not going to get raped again.
Meanwhile, back in whatever random empty tent Anne and her fellows had appropriated for this occasion, Anne tells Mrs. Johnson that she feels her children, and asks the other woman if she’d like to talk to them. Poor Mrs. Johnson starts breaking down in tears as she apologises for letting the kidlets die. Anne plays both the con-woman and, I believe at least – somewhat the therapist, assuring her that the children never blamed her. Mrs. Johnson talks about her anguish at the fact that the prostitutes she and her husband lived amongst (not described in very complimentary terms, depressing but realistic) could still give birth to living children. Something she never could.
Anne asks if, having only named two of the deceased children, she’d like to name the other two. Mrs. Johnson tears up, smiles and reveals that she would have named the boy Thomas, the girl Joan, after her husband’s father and her own mother respectively. Anne takes her hands and tells her that she’s in touch with two worlds – not quite the living and the dead, but those who’ve passed on and those who’ve yet to have a crack at life. “There is a soul there waiting for you to give birth to it.” (I find that highly ominous, but then I’ve been obsessively watching Salem WGN. I presently distrust all televised children and pregnancies.) Mrs. Johnson says it will die, quite matter of factly, but Anne points out they’re in New South Wales, and what dies in England could thrive here. (No comment.) Mrs. Johnson looks less than convinced, but also like she’ll try anything at this rate.
Phew. That was very hard to recap. Hit very close to home.
Onwards! Outside the tent, camp life goes on. Tommy washes Elizabeth’s hair while she sings an appropriate folksong about wanting to wed and bed a man called Tommy, both of them looking very content, and neither of them looking too worried about James.
Katherine, meanwhile, threads her way through the convicts and campfires, with Buckley and Timmins having their boxing lesson in the background. As she reaches Ross’s tent, the soldier standing guard outside (still not important enough to have a name onscreen, it seems) asks if it’s true: that she tried to kill herself rather than be subject to Ross? If he’d been anything like Buckley I’d have wanted to slap him, but he’s honestly confused and concerned.
Kate flatly replies in the affirmative, and enters.
(That she’s come to the tent at all is interesting. That she’s come by herself, not escorted or supported by MacDonald is even more interesting. Obviously she’s probably worried that Ross can still try to do up MacDonald on a court-martial even if he’s not allowed to touch her anymore, but the sheer fact that she agreed to this new deal via capitulation instead of threats is intriguing.)
Ross is in the middle of washing his hands (do I detect a ‘will these hands ne’er be clean’ mentality?) when Katherine comes in. He’s tentative, uncertain. He wasn’t sure she’d come, and now she’s here he doesn’t know what to do with himself. So much of his power and physical dominance has been taken from him. I get the feeling Ross really didn’t think this through. It’s a kind of ‘bell the cat’ moment; yeah, Katherine’s here of her own relatively free will, but what exactly are they supposed to do now? Especially considering he’s sworn not to touch her, which rules out quite a lot of their previous types of social interaction.
Ross sits on the bed. Katherine stays standing. Ross fidgets and honest to god has to pat the bed in order to invite her to take a seat. Katherine slowly walks over, arms straight down by her sides, sits and, after some more gestures by Ross, consents to lie down on the bed.
After some swift rearrangement of limbs, they end up with Kitty resolutely facing away from Ross, and him right behind her.
Aaaaaaaand then Ross sniffs her hair.
He says that he can smell the sea on her. Which certainly puts her at her ease. Oh yes. This experience is going to be delightful for her. She feels more relaxed already! (Ross, I have a handy hint for you; women generally don’t find it appealing or much of a turn on to be sniffed. I speak from personal experience.
Don’t fret, gentle readers; I got swift and powerful revenge.)
Katherine understandably stays firmly where she is, so Ross sighs and gets comfy. Faced with the flat rejection of her back, he hesitantly tells a rather long and rambling story that basically amounts to: as a boy, he went to a boarding school from hell. One of his classmates got beaten up by some bullies. Ross ran to fetch a teacher so that said classmate didn’t get effing murdered. The teacher rolled up, stopped the fight and told the classmates that Ross ‘grassed’ on them. (Ross doesn’t go into details of what happened next, but I imagine they were depressing.) As a result, Ross has stifled all impulses to show compassion ever since.
Cut to another bed, where the Johnsons are trying to sleep despite the noise of the cicadas. Out of the blue, Mrs. Johnson asks her husband to make love to her.
The Reverend turns to stare at her, nonplussed. (Can you actually even be plussed?) It seems they’d agreed to no longer have sexual relations, 18th century methods of contraception being what they are. Mrs. Johnson doesn’t care about what they agreed. “Make love to me.” And what if she gets pregnant?
Johnson’s understandably iffy, and doesn’t want her to go through all the pain and heartbreak yet again. Mrs. Johnson’s certain that this child will live, repeating what Anne said about the upside-down nature of the place they now live in, and how what dies in England will thrive here. Johnson’s still reluctant, but she cuts to the chase and kisses him. He reciprocates.
Back in Ross’s tent, things are still rather awkward. Katherine asks if she can go already. Ross says she can if she wishes – another important change, giving her an actual choice in the matter- and gestures to some rice he’s left for her on the desk. Katherine sits up. Ross stares into space morosely, perhaps thinking of how miserable a failure this whole thing was.
Then he realises she’s not leaving.
Katherine, having taken the time to consider, speaks of her own accord, without being commanded or ordered or really any need to do so. She’s filled her side of the bargain, after all. But she’s weighed and measured Ross’s confession about himself, the secret he chose to share with her, and she aims to pay it back in kind.
She departs, leaving Ross yet again taken aback and confused.
Katherine makes her slow and ponderous way back to where Macdonald is brooding by a campfire. They kiss each other joyfully, glad that that’s over with. Macdonald asks if she wants to go to the sea, referring back to the last time she needed to get the Ross off her, but no, it’s fine! They just talked.
Katherine tries to deflate MacDonald’s obvious dismay: look, rice! Let’s cook it! But MacDonald’s refuses to be distracted. A bit relieved that Ross didn’t make her undress, he still quizzes her about what the major said. Katherine gives the bare minimum about Ross’s story, but when Macdonald asks her if she said anything in reply –
-she lies and says no, she just listened. Whether she just doesn’t want to deal with MacDonald’s questioning, or whether she wants to keep this confession she made a secret between her and Ross, an opening of her heart to him and his story was to her, she lies.
Macdonald continues to niggle at her. He’s a man who knows what’s going on. He knows that Ross is a much better wordsmith than him, and if he’s allowed to continue sweet-talking to Katherine unchecked, he may soon be able to win her over. He proves his point by making a complete mess of trying to say how Katherine in far more danger of being seduced by Ross’s words than by his physical possession and domination of her. He gets as far as saying he’d prefer Ross slept with her than talked to her before Kitty, quite understandably , runs off sobbing.
To be continued…