There’s going to be choppy waters ahead ….
Jan toddles up to the Mermaid, champagne in hand, keen to celebrate her new shareholding in the yard. Tom’s face is a picture – he’s still not been able to pluck up the nerve to break the news to Jack, although it turns out he doesn’t have to. When Jack rolls in from the Jolly Sailor, still chuffed about finding the pieces of the catamaran (which proves that the break-up wasn’t a design fault), he’s aghast to find Jan with her feet firmly under the table, already dishing out orders and offering suggestions.
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. The sight of Jack’s appalled face suggests that this new partnership isn’t going to be plain sailing. The fact that he tells her she has no place in his yard (it’s his yard again, mind) and pours away a proffered celebratory drink only reinforces this point. “Damn him” says Tom, although Maurice Colbourne could have ramped up the anger just a touch more.
It’s a little hard to credit that Jan – after all the carping she’s previously made about the Mermaid – would want to sink her money into the business (although I guess you can explain this away by the fact that she’s changed considerably since S1 and now views the yard as purely a good investment). But you could – if inclined – also view it as the first stage in a reconciliation. Jan helps Tom out financially and in time they get back together.
Jan asks Bill to give her a guided tour. She receives some wolf-whistles from the men and when Jack saunters by (“you still here? Thought you had some knitting to do”) she really hits the roof. Jan then gives them all a stern lecture – whilst she may not know how to build a boat, she knows how to run a business (“which clearly none of you do”).
The irony is that Jan’s brilliant business empire is having a slight wobble. The departure of Anna (due to the pressure of being forced into an arranged marriage) throws Jan into a tizzy. Anna asked Leo to give her mother the news and it’s entirely characteristic that mother and son both view Anna’s plight very differently. Leo emphasises with the way Anna feels trapped between two worlds whilst Jan simply wails at her son, wondering why she didn’t attempt to prevent her leaving. Doesn’t he realise that without Anna she’s sunk?
Another partnership under pressure is that of Ken and Sarah. She’s still keen to sell her shares to Charles – so what can the diplomatic Ken say to win her back round to his side? “God, you’re sick, do you know that?” Hmm, possibly not the best opening gambit. But Ken’s always a man keen to broaden his business portfolio and sets his sight on Leo. Since Leo hates Ken’s guts with a passion this seems like an odd approach, but once Ken gives him a spin in his powerboat he’s putty in his hands …..
Meanwhile, Gregory de Polnay and his comedy accent returns. Werner Grunwald’s function in the plot is to put Charles under pressure (he spies unfriendly takeovers and problematic venture capital looming). The ins and outs of the financial dealings aren’t terribly interesting, but the way that Charles – for pretty much the first time – is being placed under extreme pressure, is.
Leo has an uncomfortable meeting with Amanda’s parents. Mother is vague in the extreme whilst father is still convinced that Leo’s nothing but a gold-digger. But the more he attempts to warn Leo off, the more dogged Leo will be in declaring his love for Amanda. And since Leo lacks a common-sense voice in his life at present (both his parents are too wrapped up in their own worlds to offer coherent counsel) there’s no-one around to give him advice. This helps to explain why he later makes a life-changing decision.
The familiar face of James Warwick pops up as Geoffrey Silberston, a smoothie who catches Polly’s eye whilst Tom and Emma enjoy an embrace. At the moment this is all business related – she once again comes up with some good suggestions about how he can restablish his professional reputation – but maybe business will turn into pleasure over time.
Jack’s grumpy mood continues – not even the common-sense beacon that is Kate Harvey can make him see sense over Jan – whilst Amanda and Leo go to the ball. I’m not sure whether it’s due to Francesca Gonshaw’s slightly distracted performance or simply the way that the part was written, but Amanda is something of an unfathomable character. Whether she actually loves Leo or is simply toying with him is a moot point. Both lose their clothes when playing spin the bottle (a scene which has something for everybody since both are reduced to their underwear) but it’s the aftermath – Amanda decides they should get married and Leo agrees – which is the key moment. And they don’t let the grass grow under their feet – one quick trip to the Registry Office and they’re Mr and Mrs Howard.
With an increasingly flaky Polly fretting that Gerald’s withdrawn £100,000 from their account and then disappeared (“Gerald, what have you done? Where are you?”) things are shaping up nicely as we approach the last half dozen episodes of this run.
3 thoughts on “Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Seven”
Jan still talking to Tom in sweet and friendly tones… Tom raises another toast to the future… It was to be another hint of a “they lived happily ever after” finale but sadly, with hindsight, it sounds quite ominous.
Jack is a godsend of a role for a character actor and brilliantly played by Glyn Owen: on this occasion his ugly reaction to Jan shows yet again what an uncouth, totally unpleasant person he can be when vexed.
Parker wants to discourage Leo by voicing a very unflattering opinion of his own daughter: Amanda is a playgirl and a serial man-eater. It seems that Parker knows his daughter only too well… But would a caring parent say these things to a stranger? And who was responsible for Amanda growing up into a spoiled, capricious unbridled siren without respect for people or money? The seemingly strict daddy or her rather vacuous mummy who obviously has an eye for sweet young things? Amanda is anxious to ensure that Leo does not believe her father’s painfully vivid description of her character. Luckily for her, Leo – despite of his intermittent bouts of unease – is still very naive and trusting. And, as Kate was right to suspect, he is also still pining for Abby. Even Amanda guesses that Abby did something to hurt Leo… but did she? Abby could never really be sure if Leo was carrying a torch for her – he never told her. In fact Leo never declares his feelings directly to any of his ladies.
In the end, after a boozy evening and some naughty games in what looks like one of the most risque scenes of all the six seasons, Amanda at last succeeds in claiming Leo’s virginity (according to John Brason’s novelized version of the first three series). The next morning he wakes up without the slightest trace of a hangover and with the evidence of some brain disorder, because only a short time later, wearing the previous evening white tuxedo – which still looks spotless – he marries Amanda in her ball gown, in the Isle of Wight fairyland, with no proof of identity, no witnesses and maybe even using curtain rings… Love? Nah. He is convinced that Abby is happily settled in America and he feels he’s got nothing to lose.
Given Glyn Owen’s wonderful comic performance, it’s easy to forget that Jack – at times – is a far from pleasant character. We have good evidence of that here, although as so often the moment passes quickly. By the next episode his relationship with Jan has changed into comic resignation (leading into several wonderful scenes where he tries – and fails – to get Kate to exercise some control over her daughter).
Amanda and Abby are similar characters – up to a point. Both had similar privileged upbringings with parents who they would have struggled to bond with. But then they went off in very different directions – although it’s intriguing Leo seems attracted to them both.
Had Cindy Shelly not returned, I wondered if they would have developed Amanda and Leo’s marriage? The haste with which they dash over to the registry office seems to make it plain that their union is doomed from the start – so it would have been nice to have these expectations confounded.
But maybe it’s possible that Francesca Gonshaw was simply hired as a placeholder – designed to fill an Abby-sized hole for a number of episodes. That Amanda remained a rather undeveloped character (plus the fact she never had the privilege of seeing her name on the opening credits) suggests that she was always intended to be nothing more than a stop-gap.
Indeed – the mood and attitudes in Howards’ Way change, quite dramatically and often inexplicably, not merely from one series to another but also from one episode to the next. Apparently anything is possible in and around Tarrant and that’s what makes this programme such fun.
Abby and Amanda may have similar backgrounds but their character traits are vastly different, of course. Leo is attracted to Amanda only because Abby has disappeared from his horizon and, as Amanda persistently throws herself at him, he would have to be made of stone to resist her in the circumstances.
The character of Amanda was almost definitely a “stopgap” which is a relief for me as I am not a great fan of Francesca Gonshaw’s perfomance. If Edward Highmore’s performance is sometimes described as wooden, next to Gonshaw he looks unbelievably lively.
In Glaister & Evans’s book on producing the first three series there is no hint of Cindy Shelley never wanting to return to Howards’ Way and it seems Abby and Leo’s story was very high on Glaister’s agenda. Whether it was developing according to his original intentions, particularly in Series 6, is another matter.
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