The Barracuda pulls into harbour and Robert Hudson (Bruce Boa) emerges. Abby’s father-in-law, he instantly casts an imposing presence (we’d previously seen him back in series two and he hasn’t changed since then). He’s a genial chap on the surface, but it’s plain that underneath there’s an even more ruthless and implacable type than Sir Edward or Charles put together. And this is the man who Abby hopes will meekly hand William back to her? The omens don’t look good ….
Hudson’s come complete with a small entourage – a female secretary whom he quickly dispatches to London and a male assistant who seems to be multi-skilled (does one of his attributes include functioning as a bodyguard?). Sir Edward is on hand to welcome him and for the moment it’s all smiles.
Later, the pair have a horseback chat. I have to say that Bruce Boa doesn’t look terribly comfortable in the saddle – he rather wobbles around from side to side, even though the horse is barely clip-clopping along. Nigel Davenport, by contrast, looks much more secure.
The soundtrack for this episode is a little different from the norm – with no sailing scenes to speak of, the usual score – honking saxophones – isn’t called for. Instead (and reflecting the tone of this instalment) there’s a subdued, twanging guitar feel – which compliments the anxious feeling generated by Hudson’s presence.
A good example of the thorough way Hudson operates is demonstrated when a photographer (hiding in the bushes) snaps Abby and Leo, mid-embrace. Previously we’ve seen how Leo was offended by Sir Edward’s suggestion that he should steer clear of Abby (at least until the question of William’s custody has been decided) but moments like this make it plain that he knew what he was talking about.
The meal between Hudson, Sir Edward, Jan and Abby is as monumentally awkward and awful as you might expect. Abby’s gone to some trouble – cooking Hudson’s favourite food, doing her hair, popping on a nice dress – but none of that is going to cut any ice with him. And when Abby impatiently wonders why they’re sitting around chit-chatting, rather than discussing William, the fragile peace shatters.
Hudson’s not interested in negotiation and decides that Abby – especially now he has evidence of her canoodling with Leo – doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. And what does Sir Edward do? Not a lot really. It’s strange to see him so impotent and unable to respond, but as he later admits to Jan, there was nothing he could do. Both he and Charles had independently attempted to find some chink in Hudson’s armour – a way (via business) to bring him to heel, but there was nothing doing.
And so it’s goodbye to Bruce Boa again (until the twelfth episode of series six). Hudson’s appearance here may be brief, but the discord he sows lingers for some time.
Elsewhere in Tarrant, the question of Sarah Foster’s position at Relton is causing friction between Charles and Avril. First their personal relationship ruptured, now it looks as if their business relationship might go the same way. Charles wants Sarah fired, Avril doesn’t. If Charles pushes, then Avril threatens to resign – although she won’t stop there. She’s mulling over the possibility of launching a bid to take over Relton herself.
She discusses this with Jack over dinner (where else? At our favourite restaurant of course). Now that I’ve started to notice how often the great and good of Tarrant use the same very small restaurant each episode, I can’t un-notice it. Michael and Sarah were in there earlier on, although at least they did sit by the teeny-tiny bar (which isn’t seen too often).
Jack continues to be on fine form. There’s a lovely scene in the Jolly Sailor where – yet again – he’s extoling the virtues of orange juice. Kate eyes him suspiciously, meaning that you can possibly guess the punchline. She takes a sip and it turns out to be practically neat vodka! This is just one of a number of occasions when Jack’s called upon to give us a hangdog look.
The dinner-party from hell seems to signify the end of the teetering relationship between Jan and Sir Edward. She returns his gift – the flashy sports car – and sets off on the long walk home. But then Ken happens to drive by and she gladly accepts a lift. Even though she knows that Ken can’t be trusted an inch, there’s a little frisson between them. Could they hook up again? Surely Jan wouldn’t be that stupid.
The day after the night before, Abby ends up on the dockside, rather the worse for wear. She’s tired and emotional, telling Leo that the chances of her regaining William seem remote. Wailing that she hasn’t got a friend in the world, it’s the cue for the ever-loyal Leo to her that she’s got at least one ….