Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Four

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The start of this episode sees Avril trying – and failing – to reach Charles.  He’s out for an early morning jog, meaning that she’s forced to leave (another?) message on his answering machine.  But they’re not only separated by distance as they now hold very different outlooks and philosophies.

Compare and contrast to when we first met them.  Back then Charles was a hard-bitten businessman, interested in little else but the profit margin, whilst Avril, working at the Mermaid, was content to idle away her time.  Post accident, both have reacted in very different ways.  Avril has been keen to get back into business mode (in some ways she’s as focused now as Charles was then) whilst Charles himself has completely rejected his old life.

Referring to it as a cage, he now cuts a relaxed figure, pottering about in his new house or down at his new arts centre.  This is so completely unlike the Charles Frere we’ve come to know that it’s no doubt as incredibly jarring for the audience as it is for Avril.  It’s hard not to imagine that he’ll suddenly snap back into being a ruthless tycoon sometime, but at present there’s no sign of it.

Avril later makes a flying visit to the Mermaid, where she finds Bill manning the office.  This is a nice two-handed scene which gives Bill a little more material than usual to work with.  Generally Bill’s not called upon to do much else than act as a foil for Jack or feed the others with the occasional line.  But here he gets a little character time, as he tells Avril that he “can remember the day you were born. And Jack’s face. Like he’d finally seen a mermaid”.

Tom and Emma are heading off to see Ian Cartwright (Michael Simkin).  Ian’s another member of Sir Charles’ America’s Cup team and he and Tom instantly seem to be on the same page.   They launch into some technical talk.  “I reckon we’ve reduced the drag coefficient on the keel by 2% at least”.  No, me neither.  But luckily there’s not too much of this chat, human drama is much more to the fore.

Ian’s a talented designer but by his own admission is no politician.  The innocent and trusting Tom doesn’t think that’s a problem though – Ian’s keel design is a winner and he tells Sir Edward so.  Sir Edward smiles his usual crocodile smile and all seems well.  At least until later when Tom learns that Ian’s been fired.  Sir Edward Frere is not a predictable man ….

It’s notable that just before their meeting with Ian, Tom mentioned to Emma that he was a little concerned about Leo’s new career as a powerboat racer.  Conversely, Jan doesn’t seem to have registered that her son is now risking his life – no doubt her own business traumas are occupying all of her time.  This is also a characteristic touch, since we’ve seen before that Jan tends to be rather blinkered and, dare I say it, self-centered.

Polly makes another attempt to persuade Jan that she should buy into the business and once again she’s rebuffed.  Jan then mentions the “vultures” circling round, making it clear that she considers Polly to be one of them.  They’re supposed to be old friends, but it’s plain that Jan doesn’t trust her one little bit – which is possibly quite wise ….

Abby seeks out Charles.  Partly to thank him for the gift of a camera (Abby’s become quite the budding photographer) but mainly to try and establish a connection.  This is another fascinating scene in which the human side of Charles, so often buried, is now firmly out in the open.  Their parting is particularly nice – he holds out his hand for a formal handshake, but seconds later both laugh at this and embrace instead.

Ken’s on the up and up.  Gerald and Sir Edward are considering going into partnership with him, and if they do then all three will be hoping to strike black gold on the coast.  This is bad news for Sarah, who – having rejected a lucrative deal with some Russian clients – finds herself facing the full wrath of Ken.  She’d hoped that it would prove to him that she still had a voice in the company, but Ken – stripped of his thin veneer of politeness – makes it quite clear that she’s made a bad mistake.

Leo goes powerboat racing.  Cue an up-tempo soundtrack with plenty of honking saxophones and a very lengthy film sequence with a score of boats which obviously took a while to film (and also didn’t come cheap).  Truth be told, it’s ever so slightly dull (when you’ve watched one boat chop through the waves, you’ve watched them all) and by the time the chequered flag was waved, I was past caring whether Leo was first or second.

He’s second.  And he’s not happy about it, so he congratulates the winning driver by punching him!  Wouldn’t you know it, he turns out to be Michael Hanley, the Aussie journalist now turned powerboat racer.   This isn’t the first time they’ve come to blows (previously it was over Amanda) but any differences are soon buried as they crack open a bottle of champagne or two.

Prior to Leo’s race he’d had another Jolly Sailor bust up with Abby (this is getting to be something of a regular occurrence).  Once again it’s centered around Abby’s desire not to rock the boat (she’s not bothered that Sir Edward had told Leo to leave Abby alone, since Sir Edward is her best chance to regain custody of William).  We’ve previously heard from Leo that he’d hoped they’d be able to get together and now Abby seems to agree.  “I thought you and I were made for each other, that we’d end up living together, and I still do”.  This is promising, but Leo immediately shuts her down and rushes off to do battle on the waves.  So yet again their relationship, such as it is, will have to be deferred for another time.

Last time we saw Jack decide to walk away from the Mermaid Yard for good.  And now he’s back.  What did I say?!  It’s an interesting touch that it was Emma (not exactly his favourite person) who was able to coax him back, by suggesting that he design a new boat (made in wood, naturally).  There suddenly seems to be a market in wooden boats, although if this is so, why hasn’t Jack already designed one?  Still, ignoring the fact that this doesn’t make a lick of sense, it’s nice to have Jack back.  Now how long will it be before he has another tantrum?

Until now, Avril’s intermittent loss of memory hasn’t played a part in the story.  But at the end of this episode it’s featured with a vengeance.  First we see a very sweaty Avril tossing and turning in bed, haunted by the image of herself and Charles getting married.  With the incidental music tuned to “menacing” it seems to end with Avril in the water, post-crash, which would explain why she told Charles that was what her nightmare was about.  But it’s very significant that she doesn’t mention anything about wedding bells.

The next day she’s sitting in her office when she has another flashback.  This time she and Charles are on the plane and he’s just asked her to marry him.  Presumably before the events of the previous night, Avril hadn’t remembered this. So is she delighted to be reminded of his happy moment?  Um, not really – as she uses her paperknife to gouge a jagged line in her desk.

The way that the camera quickly pulls back (and also moves upwards) serves as a visual cue that all’s not well with her at present …..

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4 thoughts on “Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Four

  1. Since his days with Amanda, Leo seems uncharacteristically inclined to assert his masculinity by landing an odd punch on some other people’s mugs. This, and his sortie into powerboat racing are presumably
    supposed to help the character shed his earlier “wet” label stuck on him – somewhat unfairly – by the relentless media. His relationship with Abby is, however, another matter. She is increasingly open on the
    subject and clearly tries to encourage him in no uncertain terms when she talks about them being made for each other and destined to be together. Despite all that, he remains his old reticent and righteous self,
    unwilling to take the matters to another level while she is still another man’s wife. After all she was only recently talking about a possibility of her returning to Orrin. But it’s not Orrin who she wants to be with – it’s her son William and William is with Orrin. And therein lies the quandary.

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  2. This part of S4 find Leo in a particularly uncommunicative mood where Abby is concerned. His reckless powerboat exploits seems to be his way of working out his frustrations (maybe he also believes that if he’s a winner on the waves it’ll impress Abby?). Their current impasse does clear shortly and it seems that – finally – they’re set fair for a meaningful relationship. But, hey, in HW nothing ever runs smoothly ….

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  3. On quick reviewing it actually looks like Leo suspects Abby of trying to use him by presenting him as a substitute father for William in her planned legal battle for custody.

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