Jack’s wearing a suit, so he and Tom must be on their way to the inquest. For those who need this to be spelled out, walking in front of them is a barrister in a white wig. The drama of this storyline isn’t milked very much as we don’t see inside the courtroom – instead Tom and Jack simply trudge wearily back to the yard later, with Tom breaking the bad news that an open verdict, pending a surveyor’s enquiry, was delivered. So the waiting goes on …
Before this we see Bill fielding calls from interested parties, concerned about whether the inquest will impact the yard. Possibly this is another example of cost-cutting – much cheaper to have Bill on the phone, pretending to be speaking to someone, than it would be to hire a couple of extras, as reporters, to mill around the yard asking questions.
Charles isn’t able to visit Relton for another round of icily polite fighting with Avril, so Gerald is sent to deputise. He’s as affable and friendly as Charles is brusque and unforgiving. But whilst Gerald claims that he’s merely here as an observer and has no wish to interfere, it could very well be that he’s of the same mind as Charles – it’s just that his style is much more conciliatory.
Where’s Charles? Off for a painful meeting with his father. Based on what we know of this family so far, it’s entirely in keeping that Charles should tell Sir Edward’s butler that he has a meeting with his father at ten o clock. The notion that Charles could simply turn up for an unscheduled chat is clearly unthinkable.
It’s quickly established that they haven’t seen each other for some considerable time, although exactly how long isn’t clear. The constantly shifting power dynamic between the two of them is established right from the start and over the most trivial matters – Sir Edward was hopeful that they could have lunch but Charles demurs, he’s far too busy. But Sir Edward rallies and is at least able to offer his son some coffee.
There’s some lovely character building moments as we see Sir Edward attempting to reconnect with his son. He asks Charles if he remembers the time when, as a boy, he climbed a tree in the grounds of their palatial country house and refused to come down (he was reluctant to return to school). Charles replies that he does and also recalled that his father was away on business at the time, which leads Sir Edward to formally respond that “I was fully informed of the incident by your mother”.
Like father, like son – Charles has clearly fashioned himself in his father’s image (a driven, single-minded businessman) although he’d no doubt be appalled if anybody attempted to draw this comparison. Sir Edward wants them to join forces – Charles isn’t interested – but the look on Nigel Davenport’s face as Charles and Sir Edward part makes it clear that a whole heap of trouble is on the way for Frere Jnr ….
Amanda begins her pursuit of Leo and turns up at the yard. She has a pretext – her boat requires some work – but it’s the unfathomable and mysterious Leo which has clearly drawn her to the Mermaid like a moth to the flame. Most young men would be flattered by her approach, but Leo continues to glower at her. Maybe it’s the poolside dip he enjoyed or possibly it’s her playful nature, but at present there seems to be no connection between them. The fact she later unwittingly dupes Leo into sailing a boat which she doesn’t own (the arrival of the police confirming this) is another example that she’s a rollicking loose-cannon and just about everything that he isn’t.
Polly’s back at the boutique, snapping up clothes like they were going out of fashion (sorry). This ties back to the previous episode which saw a distraught Polly railing at the futility of her empty life to a concerned, but ineffectual Gerald. He suggests a charity job – but this didn’t go down well. It seems that, for all their fighting, she’s missing Abby (at least when her daughter was at home she had someone to talk to, even if the conversations were rarely civil).
Gerald does do his best to be supportive, but – as ever – finds Charles in his way. Gerald’s plan for a quiet dinner with Polly is shattered after Charles demands his presence elsewhere. Polly doesn’t take the news well. “I fully understand. Your business is clearly far more important to you than you wife”. Relations at Chez Urquhart look set to be distinctly chilly from now on, especially since Gerald has personal problems of his own – although he’s unwilling to discuss them. The sight of Gerald and Polly, sitting in their comfortable living room, drinks in hand, unable to connect to each other is a slightly chilling one.
You have to accept that a few plot contrivances will occur from time to time, but the way that another totally unknown, very talented, designer drops into Jan’s lap is a little hard to swallow. There are several things in Anna Lee’s (Sarah Lam) favour though – she doesn’t have a silly French accent nor does she posses a ponytail. Maybe somebody on Howards’ Way was a fan of The Adventure Game – Sarah Lam had been a regular during its final series whilst Charmian Gradwell, who would appear throughout HW’s sixth and final series, had been another Adventure Game regular.
There’s been a distinct lack of Jack so far this series, but there’s a nice scene in this episode. A downcast Jack, still smarting at the inquest verdict, is alone in his office, bottle of whisky at hand. Everything that we know of him suggests that he’ll shortly be drowning his sorrows but no – he heads out into the other office for a coffee instead. It’s an impressive act of self-control, but how long will it last? Answer, not very long.
It’s very marked that the closer Jan and Tom get to their divorce going through, the closer they seem to become on a personal level. They share another convivial meal whilst Tom’s later dinner initiation to Avril looks set to be a more sticky affair (she agrees, but doesn’t look delighted). Tom seems to conduct most of his conversations these days with a knife and fork in his hands although when Avril tells him that it’s over between them he doesn’t have a mouthful of food, which makes a change.
The tangled Ken/Sarah/Mark triangle hots up a little more. Mark finally seems to have twigged that Ken’s been making googly eyes at his wife whilst the unexpected arrival of Jan (keen that Ken should sell his minority shareholding in the boutique) makes Sarah just a little jealous.
Meanwhile Tom and Jack have a stand-up row in the yard about the state of the Mermaid’s finances. We’ve been here before of course, but this time it seems that there’s no other option than to lay off some of the men. And since that means last in, first out, Leo will be set for the chop.