When we left Tom and Jan at the end of the second series both were suffering business traumas – the collapse of the catamaran had damaged the credibility of both Tom and the Mermaid Yard whilst the death of pony-tailed clothes designer Claude Dupont seemed to have halted Jan’s attempts to conquer the fashion world.
Polly’s looking on the bright side though. Now that Claude’s dead, his designs are bound to go up in price, so she pops over to the boutique to snap a couple up before they all disappear. Kate, once again stuck behind the counter, views her with politely-bred disdain. Kate’s still very good at that sort of thing.
Tom’s rather down in the mouth about the catamaran and for new viewers who need to be brought up to speed there’s a handy moment when Jack picks up a newspaper report about it. But since the camera only lingers on the newspaper for three seconds you would have either have to have been a fast reader or gone back later and paused your VHS recording. Still, it’s a nice way to info-dump without having the characters laboriously spell out the ins and outs of the current situation.
The triangle of Sarah, Mark and Ken continues to simmer away, although Mark’s still totally oblivious that there is a triangle whilst Ken continues to eye the cool Sarah with longing. His interest is so obvious that it’s a wonder that Mark hasn’t twigged yet, so maybe he really is a man who only lives for his racing. Ken’s later pawing of Sarah (he kisses the top of her shoulder in a way that only Ken could) doesn’t quite bring him the result he was looking for though ….
Charles pays a flying visit to Relton Marine and isn’t particularly happy with what he finds. He tells Avril that things will have to change (their icily polite conversation is an early series delight). Charles continues to be in a snippy mood when he encounters Gerald later.
The big-money signing for this new series is, of course, Nigel Davenport as Sir Edward Frere. He tells Sir John that it’s good to be home, which suggests he’s been away for some time. But now he’s back there’s no doubt that sparks will fly between him and his son.
The other major new cast member debuting here is Francesca Gonshaw as Amanda Parker. Gonshaw, thanks to her role in Allo Allo!, was a familiar television face and – having left that series – was clearly looking for new opportunities. Series three of Howards’ Way would be her last regular television role though.
Before we see Amanda for the first time, we observe Leo gazing wistfully at a picture of Abby and attempting to write her a letter. The number of scrunched-up balls of paper suggests that he’s being attempting this for some time. I’ve commented before on Jan’s breath-taking indifference to her son and there’s another prime example here – she asks him what he’s doing, but isn’t really interested (she’s more concerned that he moves somewhere else, since the consultant from the bank is due to arrive soon).
But to give Jan some credit, she does attempt to gee him up a bit as she tells him that he shouldn’t spend his time reliving the past. Especially wonderful is her comment about Lynne. “She’s not sitting around moping about Claude, and he’s dead”. It takes real skill to deliver dialogue like that with a straight face.
So Leo, taking his mother’s advice, heads out for a pool party. You can tell it’s the 1980’s as Leo’s wearing a jacket with rolled-up sleeves. Nooooooooooooooooo!
Since he’s fully clothed he obviously doesn’t intend to take a dip (at least not intentionally) and instead gravitates towards a group of beautiful(ish) young(ish) people gyrating to the hit sounds of Stevie Wonder. And wouldn’t you know it, at exactly the point when Stevie sings “Isn’t she lovely?” the camera focuses on Amanda, who is – well – lovely.
There then follows a rather odd piece of direction. Amanda, sitting with a male chum who’s sporting a rather colourful shirt, decides that Leo’s looking very miserable and the pair go off to cheer him up. Maybe it was scripted that Leo was down in the dumps – staring wistfully into the distance, moping about Abby – but onscreen he’s talking animatedly to a couple of people. Mind you, the brief snatch of Leo’s dialogue suggests that he’s pontificating about the woes of the world, so I daresay Leo’s companions were only too delighted to be rescued from his polemical onslaught!
That Leo continues droning on whilst the delightful Amanda is replenishing the others with champagne in characteristic, as is the fact that when she pours him a drink he chucks it away. And then she pushes him into the pool. The beginning of a beautiful friendship? Well since he then chucks her in, possibly (this might very well be a Tarrant mating ritual). Amanda later confesses that she likes his style. Takes all sorts I guess.
Jack and Kate – both recovering addicts – compare notes. Jack’s doing his best to stay off the drink whilst Kate admits that she’s had another flutter and is therefore happy to treat Jack to lunch. Jack’s appalled – a woman paying for lunch? But he comes round eventually.
Jan needs a new designer and fast. She also needs £150,000 in order to open a chain of boutiques. With no designer currently on board it seems more than a little risky to expand at this point, but Jan’s faith in her own abilities is clearly boundless. There’s also the problem of Ken. Jan wants to buy his minority shareholding of the boutique, but will he be agreeable? Hmm, I wonder.
Avril and Tom have an awkward business lunch. Charles’ presence at Relton Marine continues to concern Tom, who’s convinced that the interests of the Mermaid won’t now be her top priority. And Tom’s jealous as hell too, of course (just as well he didn’t know that Charles dubbed him a “loser” in the business world then).
Although Charles and his father have yet to meet onscreen, there’s an early signifier of the battles to come – Charles finds himself outbid on a painting (a snip at a mere £225,000). And the telephone buyer? Of course it’s Sir Edward Frere ….