After a quick opening scene in which Sir Edward spells out his endgame for those not previously paying attention (he’s been buying up companies in order to establish himself as Charles’ business partner) we switch to an unusual POV shot, as a mysterious stranger approaches Anna.
It turns out to be her father (the always wonderful Burk Kwouk). It’s fair to say though that Kwouk hasn’t exactly been stretched during his appearances, since Mr Lee hasn’t been called upon to do anything more than look menacing and unapproving. Anna’s story – a young woman caught between tradition and the desire to strike out in her own right – would have been a decent one to explore, but it’s been tackled in a fairly superficial way. No doubt this is due to the fact that Anna has never been really established as a character in her own right – instead she’s more of a cipher, designed to fulfil the plot function of strengthening (and then weakening) Jan’s business empire.
Most of the regulars are still in Cowes, toasting Tom’s victory, and this is where Avril and Emma meet. Icy best describes their brief chat although Tom and Avril do enjoy a brief moment of rapprochement.
The triumph of the Barracuda is also the point at which many of the rifts in the Howard family are healed. Jan tells Tom that she’s proud of him, which is a sharp reversal from her position in S1, where Tom’s desire to join the Mermaid and design the Barracuda was the cause of a great deal of strife. Leo’s also on hand to share in the sudden glow of warmth that exists between his parents and although Lynne is far away, in one way she’s present (via a congratulatory letter).
It’s notable that since Leo and Amanda got so unexpectedly hitched, we’ve not spent any time with them alone. All of their scenes have been with others, which has made assessing their current state of happiness difficult. But the cracks seem to be showing here as Leo – sporting the rolled-up jacket sleeves look again, sadly – and Amanda don’t seem to be able to have the briefest of conversations without bickering. And when he sees her flirting with Ken, the blood pressure begins to rise ever so slightly ….
Leo returns home later, bunch of flowers in hand, keen to apologise for his recent moodiness. But the sight of Amanda jiving to the sounds of Rick Astley with a couple of friends doesn’t please him at all. This is just another flashpoint in their brief, but unhappy, marriage.
I had a feeling that Jan’s good mood wouldn’t last long. She’s less than pleased that work on her boat design is progressing so slowly. Tom tries to tell her that it’s a process of trial and error whilst Bill is even more blunt. “It might not matter if a dress doesn’t fit. You can always pull it together with a safety pin. Not the innards of a boat though”. As so often, Jan is cast as the villain – impatient and arrogant (which is a pity since it rather reduces her character).
The continual pressure she’s been heaping on Anna also doesn’t show her in a good light. Once again Jan’s placed her own business interests first, not caring that Anna’s been in a state of turmoil for some time. This all comes to a head during a fashion shoot at Sir Edward’s country house – she keels over, with Sir Edward coming to the rescue (he scoops her up in his arms). That he seems more concerned about Anna than Jan does is another telling moment. Is this because, for all his hard-bitten business attitude, he’s got a core of old-fashioned decency or is it more to do with the fact that he recognises Anna is an asset? Without Anna, Jan’s fashion business would be a dead duck. There’s no right answer, so the viewer can make their own choice.
Jack’s business relationship with Jan isn’t going terribly smoothly. He seems to have accepted he can’t remove her, so instead he beetles round to Kate and asks her if she could possibly have a word with her daughter. Poor Jack. His tale of woe (Jan accused some of the lads of being lazy and then told Jack he didn’t know his own job!) leaves Kate unmoved. It’s a delightful moment when Jack explains why Kate’s the right woman for this job. “I mean, you stick your nose in here, there and everywhere. I think that’s where Jan gets it from”. Jack and Kate have enjoyed some lovely comic scenes over the years, but this must be one of the most enjoyable.
Charles has given Gerald several days off which allows us the unusual sight of Gerald and Polly out and about and enjoying each other’s company. Their time together is also the catalyst for Polly to make an important life choice – she’s going to get a job. She wants to work at one of Jan’s boutiques but is hesitant to ask her old friend, feeling that it would encroach on their relationship. But wouldn’t you know it, before she can ask for a job, Jan’s offered her one. Spooky! Jan denies that Gerald had pulled any strings so it must just have been synchronicity.
This is the first episode in which we hear Sir Edward express an opinion about Ken. “Barrow boy” is his summation, so you can expect that any business dealings between them will be brief and unpleasant. But it looks as if Ken will be facing problems on several fronts, as one of his new employees – ex Relton-man David Lloyd (Bruce Bould) – turns out to be a mole for Charles. So whilst Charles hasn’t mentioned Ken recently, it appears that he’s still interested in crushing him like a grape ….