There’s funky music as we open at Cowes Harbour. I love the DJ’s cheesy chat. “Whoa. Level 42 and Hot Water. Taking you from Hot Water to choppy waters”. Steve Wright would have been impressed with that link.
In addition to the traditional Fastnet race, there’s also the Wolf Rock – a handicap race in which Tom’s entered the Barracuda. Aussie journalist Michael, along with Leo, Amanda and Jack, are crewing – although Jack’s disappeared and Michael seems more interested in taking photographs of the alluring Amanda. Can’t really blame him for that. But tempers flare later after Leo starts to become rather ticked off at the attention he’s paying her. It’s not really a major scrap, Leo gives him a bit of shaking and that’s about it.
Jack’s nipped off to meet an old flame, Vanessa (Lana Morris). Never mentioned in the series before, her appearance therefore comes as something of a jolt. During their conversation a few details are teased out – Jack’s the one who contacted her after realising she was in the area and he muses how he ever let her slip away. There’s a straightforward explanation – when they knew each other Jack was still married and now she is. Given that he’s rarely shown any interest in the opposite sex – apart from a brief infatuation with Dawn – this scene helps to broaden Jack’s character (although it won’t be until series five – when Vanessa becomes a regular – that things really start to develop on this score). Romantic Jack? That’ll take some time to get used to.
You have to love coincidence. The Barracuda has set off without him, so Vanessa begs Richard Spencer (John Moulder-Brown) to give Jack a lift to the starting point. Richard recognises the Rolfe name – he hopes to work with Avril in the future – and is happy to assist. The sight of Jack, lounging in the back of Richard’s speedboat as they cut through the waves, is a delightful one.
Gerald has a meeting with Charles. Having been AWOL, Gerald is bracing himself for trouble but Charles confounds him (and possibly the viewers as well) by being more than understanding. Giving Gerald a blank cheque to cover the money he had to pay out for James’ treatment is just one way that Charles demonstrates how much he values Gerald’s business skill (and yes, friendship. He mentions friendship too).
So following Charles’ glowing appreciation of his friend and colleague (I believe this is the first time it’s been acknowledged that they’ve known each other since their university days) it’s a neat twist that when Gerald returns home, Sir Edward is waiting for him ….
Sir Edward has a tempting offer and a stern test of Gerald’s loyalty. Leave Charles and come and work for him for a vastly increased salary, a chauffeured car and a swanky foreign apartment. Will Gerald put material gain over friendship and loyalty? The way that Polly’s eyes light up at Sir Edward’s offer make it plain that she’s all for it. Gerald’s not, but after his recent streak of wilful independence, it seems that he’s retreating into his shell as Polly persuades him not to say yea or nea straight away.
Gerald wants to stay with Charles. Partly due to old fashioned concepts such as integrity and principle, but also because he quite enjoys working with him. Polly can’t quite understand this, but she tells him that it’s his decision. For the moment this is a new, improved Polly. But how long will it last?
You might have assumed that Jan would be delighted to see Anna again, but she’s still furious about being left in the lurch. “I picked you out from a college line-up to follow in the footsteps of a designer of international reputation. Have you forgotten what that means?” Jan seems to have no understanding that Anna’s very youth and inexperience are partly the reasons why she’s been so torn about her impending arranged marriage (which she’s finally decided not to go ahead with). We never really see Jan react to this news – in her world, her interests come first and everybody else trails distantly behind.
Is it just me, or has series three of Howards’ Way been somewhat fixated on backsides? After having previously been invited to appreciate the rear-ends of both Sarah and Leo, this week it’s Avril’s (admittedly attractive) derriere which is on display. As the smooth-talking Richard, having hot-footed his way from Cowes, meets with her, the camera lingers on Avril’s bottom as he looks on (the way his eyes briefly flicker downwards seems to suggest he’s not unappreciative of the sight before him). And is it just a coincidence that Avril’s line (“it’s very impressive”) is delivered as her back’s turned and her bottom’s to the fore?
Ken and Jan have a convivial meal. Their upwardly mobile status is confirmed by the choice of food (the lobster’s very good apparently, it comes from Devon) and whilst Ken has to concede that he’s not in Sir Edward’s league yet, he’s blithely confident it won’t be long. Is he still attempting to rekindle their relationship or is it more about business? With Ken, you can never be sure, but I’ve a feeling that business will always win out.
Now that Jan’s a shareholder in the Mermaid, she’s popping up at the board meetings at Relton Marine and crossing swords with Charles. Her relationship with Sir Edward is something which Charles finds disquieting and when Avril and Jan both team up to push for the Barracuda to go back into production, no doubt that also serves to slightly irk him. A later private meeting between Charles and Jan is as awkward as you’d expect although once again you have to be impressed with the way that Jan’s become an expert in the boat world in such a short space of time.
Charles asks her to maintain the confidentially of Relton’s board meetings. So when Sir Edward later asks her what Relton intend to do with the Barracuda, does she hesitate at all before breaking this confidence? Nope, she’s quite happy to blab away with no compunction (Sir Edward must be delighted to have such a pliant spy in the enemy camp).
Barracuda wins the Wolf Race of course, was there ever any other outcome? This means that Charles is finally forced to put it back into production. Hurrah!