This week’s Poldark episode reminded me of that famous quote from the great philosopher, Maimonides (and I paraphrase), “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime; frame a man for stealing a fish and you can force an innocent young girl into a miserable, loveless marriage to an oily peacock to improve your social standing, all in one easy step.”
One stone, many birds. Unfortunately, none of those birds is the Cornwall county vulture/magistrate. More’s the pity.
The Sixteen Essentials of Poldark, Season 3, Episode 5
16. Feats of Derring-Do
Ross visits Aunt Agatha, at the off-limits Trenwith, right under George’s nose, all while clueless George and Elizabeth lounge in bed upstairs eating strawberries. Of course, Ross didn’t realize George’s nose was in residence, and when George eventually finds out Ross was there, said nose becomes quite out of joint. For her part, Aunt Agatha is excited to see her favorite nephew and hear about his heroic adventures fighting for truth, justice, and the Poldarkian way. Anything else is dull. When Agatha gives away that George is actually home, Ross prepares to run for his life, but not before Morwenna knocks on the door. He offers to bring a message to Drake, and she wants to give him one, until Agatha’s death stare makes her relent. Ross then makes haste, but before he flies he asks Morwenna to take care of his aunt. She says she will. And with that he is off. As he dashes down the stairs to make his escape, he hears Valentine cry and pauses but, resigned, keeps going to gallop away (without a moment to spare).
Birthday Girl: Aunt Agatha is also pretty excited over an upcoming birthday because it means she will have outlasted any other Poldark in family history (though she doesn’t divulge the number). For the occasion she wants a new gown, a notation in the family bible, and a pony.
15. Amphibious Assault
Drake has been restocking the Trenwith pond with toads as fast as George’s toadie, Tom Harry, can remove them — and George is having a conniption. As he becomes increasingly vengeful, George is also becoming increasingly twitchy and nervous. Is it because there is the tiniest sliver of a conscience in there? Or is it because the toads, and what they remind him of, are freaking him out?
We don’t know for sure, but with this we open The George Warleggan File. In it we find out some of the why’s of some of his history in general, and his the aversion to toads in particular (and the connection to Ross). It seems that back in school, Ross used to put them in George’s britches. One supposes that was the 18th century version of a noogie. Given what we’ve seen of George it is hard to have sympathy for him, but should we?
14. Goin’ to the Chapel of Expediency
Now that Ross has rescued a Boscawen nephew from certain tortuous death (merely a stroke of luck, thinks George), and as a result, now has potential entry into the aristocracy (so fears George), George is even more keen to force Morwenna into marriage to the slimy Mr. Whitworth, making him and Elizabeth Godolphin-adjacent. He has finally dropped the last veil — it’s nothing but a naked competition with Ross. Poor Morwenna is merely a pawn. Does he think that if he gets to the aristocracy first he can block Ross from entry? Does he think Ross would care?
13. Think Positive
Toad-gate causes George to discover that Ross has been there. Elizabeth says someone must be held responsible, and that “someone” always equals Morwenna. Under questioning she admits he’d been there just that morning. George informs her he’s tired of waiting for her answer on Whitworth, and he will be coming to visit. But don’t think of it as being sold into sexual slavery. Think of it as saving your mother and sister from a life of penury; a hooker with a pension plan.
12. This Little Piggy
The Reverend Mr. Whitworth keeps his kinks on the down-low, but it turns out he has a foot fetish and a fondness for ladies of the marmalade persuasion. Could that be why he has the big debts? And is that why mama Godolphin wants him married off so quickly? Whitworth is in a part of town we haven’t noticed before, where painted ladies (with no hairbrushes) trawl the streets. (Apparently Truro’s the red candle district.) As they stroll down the Truro street themselves, Ross and Demelza unwittingly bump into him leaving a house of ill repute. Reverend Mr. Whitworth volunteers that he’s there doing holy work, pedicures door-to-door. (That’s what they all say.) They are none the wiser, though Ross pulls a rather curious face, so maybe he is.
11. Trouble In Paradise
Dr. Enys is one of the walking wounded. His body has returned from war, but his mind is still in that horrific French prison. He is not sleeping, not eating, not anything but jumping at shadows. It is what we now would recognize as PTSD. The fact Caroline likes to pop up and yell, “SURPRISE!” at odd moments doesn’t help. Neither does her wondering out loud why he has become “so girlish.” In her own limited way, Caroline is trying, but cannot possibly understand the trauma he has experienced because, all along, she had been told he was receiving the best possible care.
When she suggests heart thorne for his troubles, Dwight says opium is better for inducing oblivion (which makes us wonder, is that what’s in Elizabeth’s little brown bottle?) Concerned, Ross calls in reinforcements: he brings Lt. Armitage by for tea and sympathy and Dwight gives his old comrade an enthusiastic embrace. Caroline doesn’t get why Dwight is back to his home and wife but that is not enough for him. Ross just says (cryptically, to her), “be patient with him.” Could he be a little more specific? See that confused face and offer her just a little more detail?
10. He Loves Me; He Loves Me Not
Dwight and Armitage settle in for a serious chin wag and later, when Caroline tip toes by, she overhears Dwight complaining about her and how their existence is so vacuous compared to where they’d been and what they’d done. Caroline now mistakenly thinks Dwight no longer loves her. Armitage says he also has the same issues, but with his mother, and must remind himself she has not lived as they have lived — and neither has Caroline. At Ross’ urging, Dwight finally explains to her what he’s going through, and how it helps to have someone like Armitage, who’s been through the same thing, to talk to until the horror is talked away. She innocently asks if it has been now, which brings a smile. It’s a start, which is something at least.
9. The Pursuit of Happiness
Drake plans to leave the village as soon as he’s healed from his prison break injury. He feels there’s nothing left for him there without Morwenna. But now Demelza is advising him that hope is not necessarily lost after all. She doesn’t want to lose him. Even Sam gives encouragement (although he is still worried about his eternal soul and fears love will damn it). Inspired, Drake goes to the Trenwith pond and finds Geoffrey Charles and Morwenna giggling over his four-legged handiwork. They leave Geoffrey Charles to walk in the woods. She warns him of the risk he’s taking by continually taxiing toads, but he doesn’t care as long as it brings her joy. Drake lives to elicit smiles. While Morwenna feels hemmed in by duty, he thinks there is a duty to find happiness, so why shouldn’t they find it with each other? Exasperated, she says that that’s not the way the world works and they cannot be together because it goes against the world’s rules. He says he’ll go if she tells him she doesn’t love him. She can’t. They share a passionate kiss instead.
8. Old MacDonald
This episode finds Ross donating some of his land to the village people so they can farm it and feed themselves. They set about clearing the long field and have a day of community spirit and a jolly old time.
7. Mighty Mite
Agatha has taken to referring to Valentine as “the crooked mite,” tormenting George about how the children will tease him in school, when he puts on airs, and cannot run fast enough. George agrees they can be cruel to one whose grandfather was a blacksmith. She tells him that what he never understood was that it was not his background that made him a target; it was him putting on airs.
6. These Toads Are Made For Walkin’
Fed up, George orders all staff to guard the pond all night. They are going to try to catch the toad depositor in the act. Family carrier pigeon, Geoffrey Charles, runs to give Drake a warning note, but the note is delayed until Demelza gets back for farm laboring. Drake is already walking into a trap. Demelza goes after him to try and save him, but before she runs out she instructs Prudie, “not a word to Ross,” so of course Prudie (thankfully) tells Ross. Drake sneaks onto the Trenwith grounds and drops his toads as usual, but is pinned down behind enemy lines by the security patrol. Just then Demelza comes out of the bullpen and throws a rock into the pond, creating a diversion that gives Drake cover to run, but not fast enough. He gets hit in the back by Tom Harry’s expertly thrown club. Just then, as Tom Harry moves in for the kill (or the whatever he was planning to do) Ross arrives and clubs Tom Harry from behind. They make a hasty escape without their identities being discovered.
Back home, Ross admonishes Drake. Doesn’t he realize that George would like to catch any of them doing anything that puts them under his power? When Drake explains why he was there, Ross laughs about its continuity with the old family tradition of toads and George. Back at the Trenwith breakfast table George is livid that Tom Harry let the intruder get away, without even deciphering his identity. George puts two and two together and gets Ross. It must be. Who else would do it? Geoffrey Charles stifles a laugh, causing George to announce he’s going to Harrow next term. And isn’t that just fine and dandy? Elizabeth can try to beguile, but she has no final say.
5. Feats of Derring-Don’t
That next term must be starting right quick because Geoffrey Charles brings Drake a goodbye gift saying he can open it later. Drake says he doesn’t need it. His friendship is enough but Geoffrey Charles insists. When Drake asks what will Morwenna do now that he’s leaving, he innocently tells Drake that Morwenna is engaged, that it’s been arranged and she’s not too pleased, but that mummy thinks it’s a good match so she’ll come around. Drake says he’ll accept the gift on one condition; that he takes a note to Morwenna.
When Geoffrey Charles returns to Trenwith, George sees him hand Morwenna a note and has house gorilla Tom Harry tail her, to the dunes where she is secretly meeting Drake. When she greets Drake with a hug, he flinches. Not knowing they are being spied upon, she asks to see his injury, so he takes off his shirt, and she proceeds to kiss it better. She tells him that she is to be wed. He asks if the reason they cannot be together is because he is low born. Drake tells her he wants to ask for her hand but wants to make a goodly living first; that Ross is setting him up with a business and as soon as he can provide for her properly, he will ask. For now he just asks her to wait for him. She promises she will. More passionate kisses, and then she goes. Tom Harry sees it all, and because Drake’s shirt is off, sees the big bruise on his back — evidence he’s the frog man.
4. Lucky Escape? Not So Fast
Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, energized Morwenna returns home and she tells George and Elizabeth that she has decided to refuse Whitworth’s hand. She walks out, momentarily relieved, until she hears George howl her name. He has gotten a report from Tom Harry and calls her in for another interrogation. He tells her she has tainted the family and cannot stay. She is being sent home to her mother. She says she understands and exits, leaving Elizabeth upset she didn’t seem more upset by her punishment. That’s because Morwenna isn’t upset; she’s actually thrilled.
Later at the dinner table, Elizabeth asks Geoffrey Charles what happened to the Bible that sits by his bed, and the next thing you know, Tom Harry and some other goon do a search of Drake’s hut and find Geoffrey Charles’ gift, still wrapped: It’s an ornate leather Bible. They claim it was stolen. Despite Demelza’s protests, Drake is dragged off to Truro jail, and because George claims it is worth more than 40 shillings, it is a hanging offense. And since George is the magistrate the verdict is a forgone conclusion. Demelza (again) asks why didn’t Ross accept the magistrate’s job when he had the chance. His reply? “The thought has occurred to me.” A day late and a dollar short, bud.
True History: Shillings were a British currency, used from 1707 up until 1971. There were 20 shillings to a pound. So Drake’s “theft” would have accounted for £2. In 2017 value that would be about £246 (or $325). And for that he could hang. Life was cheap.
3. Let My People Go
Ross see George to try and negotiate Drake’s release. When he arrives, George opens by playing a little power game to infer importance: he pretends to ignore Ross, to be reading something while Ross waits. He moves his lips so we (and Ross) know. It’s those airs again. But Ross doesn’t fall for it. He picks up a book and starts to read himself. Rumbled, George spouts off a list of charges, claiming that not only has Drake stolen, but he has manipulated Geoffrey Charles and ruined Morwenna, and repeatedly polluted his Trenwith grounds. With what, asks Ross. “A type of amphibian.” He can’t even say it. Ross replies (sincerely) that that was wrong of him. George is momentarily stunned, and maybe moved? In this moment the conversation is about what is not being said. He accuses Drake of attempting to gain influence through the affections of Morwenna. Clearly George doesn’t understand friendship, or relationships. Every interaction has ulterior motivations. Ross might have been making some progress until he asked if marrying Elizabeth wasn’t the same. Uh oh. Hit a nerve.
Ross tries another tack, saying that if the case goes to trial, Drake’s relationship with Morwenna will be exposed. George brushes it off saying Morwenna is no longer his care, she’s being sent away, so he can forget about blackmailing him with that. Seeing nothing else, Ross gets up to leave, but before he goes, he reminds George that there is unrest in the district and it has been only his influence that has prevented another pitchfork and torch situation (like the one that ended last season — and almost ended Trenwith). This influence must be why he’s being considered for Parliament. But, he gives George a word of advice and warning, if Drake hangs, influence or not he will not be able to stop the villagers.
Morwenna was thisclose to a clean getaway, and then Whitworth decided to drive a hard bargain. In a gambit that likely came from mummy, he turns up claiming several other parties are now clamoring for his hand (and feet) and wants to be released from his agreement. Oh yeah, I bet they’re lined up for this prize (she said sarcastically). Elizabeth is fine with saying OK so they don’t have to admit the disgrace of Morwenna’s beach romp, but this has given George another idea. He uses Drake’s predicament to make Morwenna an offer she can’t refuse, forcing her into marriage to a repulsive toad (Whitworth) to save the man she really loves (Drake). And he wastes no time getting them up the aisle.
1. Wedding Bell Blues
Ross is putting a defense case together for Drake; Dwight and Armitage will testify as character witnesses. But before they can saddle up and head to court, Drake comes walking across the fields. He was released and charges were dropped. He doesn’t know why, but they are all about to find out. Ross had given Drake the happy news that Morwenna’s engagement was off, but Aunt Agatha sends a cryptic note that says something else. Unfortunately it arrives too late. Before Ross, Demelza, and Drake can get to the church, the “I do’s” are done. The church was empty but for witnesses George and Elizabeth. Not even Geoffrey Charles was there. As Morwenna comes back down the aisle on Whitworth’s arm, she looks like she’s walking to the gallows. And the look on George’s ever-punchable face is the very definition of smug. Morwenna is not his concern. All that matters is that he just scored a point on his sworn enemy Ross — just like when he married Elizabeth. What do you call couple like the Warleggans? The Aristocrats! But what of the traded and disposed-of Morwenna? Is her life now lost to this? Is there anything that can save her from this travesty now?
True History: “One stone, many birds”: I was curious about the origin of this idiom George used, the British version of “killing two birds with one stone.” What I found was that there are numerous theories as to where it originated, and different cultures each have their own versions of it. Probably my favorite, (and the kindest to the birds) is from Italy where they, “catch two pigeons with one fava bean,” and a nice chianti (naturally).
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