Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Thirteen

h3.jpg

It’s something I’ve touched on before, but Howards’ Way – despite the fact it was sometimes labelled as a show which embraced Thatcherite ideals – often took pains to spell out that business success counted for nothing without personal happiness. And that’s very much a theme of this final episode as three characters – Jan, Abby and Charles – discover.

Jan’s not had the most interesting things to do this year, but finally things pick up. For the first time in ages there’s a fashion show, which means there’s plenty of attractive models flouncing about whilst Jan (armed with a walkie talkie) prowls around looking stressed. Her single-minded focus on ensuring that the show goes off without a hitch means that she has no time to speak to Lynne, which is spelled out by the way she shuts her down on more than one occasion.

The fact that Lynne had important news – her pregnancy – to impart is a weapon later used by Kate. She tells Jan that it’s no use being a successful businesswoman if you neglect your family. With Leo suffering traumas over the custody of Thomas and Lynne sobbing in her room it’s fair to say that Jan’s not been offering a great deal of support to either of them. But in previous years her business focus (and the way it was detrimental to her family) was more explicitly stated – in series six it’s remained undiscussed until this final episode. That’s slightly disappointing, had it been raised earlier it would have given Jan something dramatically satisfying to play with – certainly more than the endless scenes of her looking stressed in the office (which has been her main contribution to the series this year).

Has Jan learnt her lesson? Things seem to end optimistically when she touches base with Leo, but only the unmade seventh series would have revealed whether she could reconnect with those she’d neglected.

Abby’s story is by far the most intriguing and certainly the one with the darkest ending. Again, a seventh series might have reversed this episode’s conclusion, but at this point it’s hard to see how a reconciliation between her and Leo could have been on the cards.

A rare meeting between Ken and Gerald enables Ken to air some unpalatable home truths – he believes that Abby, as the child of Polly and Charles, is now showing her true colours. Gerald reacts angrily to this, but since he later repeats it to Abby’s face it does seem that, on reflection, he’s come to the same conclusion. Abby’s manoeuvring – albeit with Orrin’s assistance – has removed Charles from the chairmanship of Frere Holdings, with Gerald neatly slotted in as his replacement.

For a successful businessman, Gerald does have some scruples – he reacts strongly when Abby tells him the news – but he’s plainly also a realist as he does later accept the position. The father/child relationship (with both her natural and adopted fathers) has reversed totally, with Abby now in a very dominant position. That would have set up a number of possibilities had the series continued.

Abby’s exit – taking Thomas to America (ignoring the joint custody agreement arranged with Leo) – leaves us with an unresolved cliffhanger. Would she have returned or made a new life for herself in America with Orrin, William and Thomas? I’d favour the latter, but others may disagree.

How does Charles take the news that Frere Holdings is no longer his? Not very well. Drinking heavily and raising his glass to the portrait of his father that for some reason he’s not taken down, it’s the darkest we’ve ever see him. Bitterly applauding his father for triumphing from beyond the grave, Charles seems set on a downward spiral (angrily telling Lynne to leave him alone). But as with Jan, there’s hope for the future since we later see Charles negotiating a reconciliation with Lynne. Easy to see how his story would have continued – plotting to regain control of Frere Holdings, whilst juggling a possible wife and child – but would he have been able to maintain the correct balance in his life which had (up until now) proved impossible? Another of those imponderables.

I have to confess that keeping track of the various businesses and their share holdings has become a little confusing over time. It seems unlikely that Charles could have been levered out of the chairman’s seat so easily, especially when all previous attempts had failed. True, Abby and Orrin now have access to Sir Edward’s shares in Frere Holdings (plus Pierre Challon’s minor holding also played a part) but it’s hard to imagine that would have been enough. Just how did Sir Edward manage to gain control of such a large block of shares, and if he did have them why didn’t he attempt to force Charles out in the past?

Equally perplexing is the way that Ken regains control of Leisurecruise. Orrin’s shares were enough to tip the balance, but again this seems a little too convenient to be true. Ah well, it least it gives us one final Ken/Laura confrontation, this time with Ken gloatingly telling Laura to clear her desk. Ken might be the only one who seems content with business success alone, but even he’s given a small personal beat of regret (at the end of the episode he looks longingly at Jan – strengthening my suspicion that they might have got back together sometime in the future).

Even by HW‘s own standards, the resolution of Brigette Dupont’s claim on Lynne’s perfume was dealt with in a very half-hearted way (Admiral Redfern dropped by to casually let Jan know that Ms Dupont didn’t have a leg to stand on). Goodness knows why they raised this plot-thread in the first place if they were going to dismiss it pretty much straightaway.

Jack’s decision to leave the Mermaid for another yard where he can work in wood (he likes wood you know) is also rushed through at breakneck speed. But this does allow the series a sense of closure as well as an air of new beginnings – Jack exits the yard for the final time and Leo takes over. Leo’s story is also at a crossroads – following in his father’s footsteps at the yard, he sees his design for the America’s Cup accepted by Admiral Redfern’s consortium. That’s a remarkable (if not to say totally improbable) development for a novice designer. And when Jenny came home from her round the world trip, would it be into Leo’s arms or would Abby have returned to stake a claim on him? Alas, we’ll never know.

And that’s that. Seventy eight episodes which were sometimes confusing, sometimes infuriating but almost always highly entertaining and never dull. If Howards’ Way lacked the tight scripting of Glaister’s previous soapy drama – The Brothers – then the performances of the regulars always helped to paper over most of the cracks. It’s certainly a series I’ve revisited a number of times and I know I’ll come back to it again in the future. The world of Tarrant is always an enjoyable place to visit.

h17.jpg

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Twelve

h8

Charles and Lynne’s relationship continues to blossom – mind you, being in Bermuda (even if it’s largely on business) probably doesn’t hurt. Although Lynne is doing her best to try and distract Charles from paperwork – taking a dip in the ocean whilst Charles rifles through papers aboard his yacht, she does the old “give me a hand up” trick and then pulls him into the water. An astute man like Charles should have spotted that one coming ….

Ken continues to taunt Laura. Now he’s back in the ascendant again he’s merciless about putting the screws on although later we’ll see that Laura is hatching schemes of her own. It’s always good to see these two cross swords, but even more interesting is Ken’s later dinner date with Jan. Fair to say that these two have had a chequered history but despite all they’ve been through, crafty Ken is still able to make Jan laugh. Clearly she’s got a short memory and has totally forgotten that Ken attempted to ruin her last year.

Another of those “what ifs”. Had HW gone to a seventh series, could Ken and Jan have finally got together? It might have happened, and if so would have been rather interesting.

Kate’s on the prowl – attempting to chivvy up Leo (his mind is understandably elsewhere these days). There’s more fun with Kate later as a stuttering Admiral Redfern attempts to express his feelings for her. The fact that Dulcie Gray and Michael Denison were a real life couple adds a little extra spark to this nicely played scene.

There are a few points of interest elsewhere – such as Jack and Vanessa winning a boat race (although it’s only a fairly fleeting plot point) and Jan’s attempts to stabilise the fluctuating fortunes of the House of Howard – but the meat of this episode takes place in Bermuda where the question of William and Thomas rumbles on.

Previously I’d marvelled at Gerald’s attire, this time it’s Orrin who impresses – his golfing clothes includes long shorts and white knee socks. Abby’s also wearing some eye-catching togs, but I need to be strong and pull myself away from this trifling fashion talk in order to concentrate on the plot. Robert Hudson (Bruce Boa) is back and we also see the often-talked about but rarely glimpsed William (Daniel Bortolli).

William’s a lad of a few, if any, words. But given his upbringing it’s no surprise that he’s not exactly a voluble, friendly child. In clothing he’s thoroughly Americanised and although he’s happy for Orrin to give him a piggy-back ride there’s no such happy reunion with Abby. She later tearfully tells Gerald that he didn’t even recognise her, which floats the possibility that even if Abby did regain William, he may not match up to her idealised dreams.

Last time Hudson was on the scene he was very much running the show, but now the power dynamic has shifted with Abby and Orrin (especially Abby) firmly in the driving seat. Abby is the one who offers Charles a settlement of fifty million dollars whilst Orrin symbolically stands directly behind her, rather than by her side. Once again she’s icy and controlled – is this something of an act to intimidate Hudson and Charles or has Abby really crossed over to the dark side? That’s something else that might have been explained and explored in a seventh series.

A few late items of interest. Lynne reveals that she’s pregnant to an overjoyed Charles. Either they’re quick workers or their relationship has been developing off-screen, since it only seems like a few episodes ago when they re-met. And Claude’s mother, Brigette (Carina Barone), pops up. It’s pleasing to know that Claude’s silly accent runs in the family, although since Barone seems to be French, I’m not quite sure why she sounds as if she’s putting the accent on. Maybe HW had employed too many faux foreigners over the years and by now I’m programmed to regard all foreign accents as false?

Brigette has come to stake a claim in Claude’s perfume line, but the matter gets more intriguing when it’s revealed that she’s being bankrolled by Laura. Eek! So there’s just one more episode to go – will all these plot-threads be neatly tied up? We shall see.

h7.jpg

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Eleven

h3.jpg

The great and good of Tarrant are on the waves today, competing in a race organised by Charles. Leo and Jenny make for a very attractive team (maybe the lad should forget all about Abby and hook up with young Jenny instead). The equally comely Charles and Lynne are crewing another boat – and whilst it’s maybe a little odd to see Charles enjoying himself rather than sitting at his desk fretting about share prices, since he’s keen to beat the Relton boat it’s not just a pleasure cruise for him.

Jan and Robert make for the oddest combination. Way back in series one, Jan had a cordial dislike for mucking about on the water, but now she appears to be an old hand as she takes the wheel with a nonchalant air. Given that she spends all her time running an international fashion business (including designing all the clothes herself) I’m not sure where Jan’s found the time to become a first class sailor as well. Does she never sleep?

Who wins? Leo and Jenny, whilst Charles is a man overboard. Luckily there’s no damage done, indeed as Lynne hauls him back onto the boat he has a little chuckle. Certainly this is a much more relaxed Charles than we’ve seen for a long time. Has he finally escaped from the imposing shadow of his father?

If Jan and Robert also share a few laughs on the water, then it’s not long before she’s wearing her more usual expression (pained). This is after she learns that Robert has also been handling Charles’ affairs, although there seems to be nothing in this (Robert tells her that he only deals with Charles’ personal affairs, meaning that there’s no conflict of interest). We learn a little more about Robert – he’s divorced with several children – and indeed the rush to humanise him continues at a rate of knots. We later see the pair of them share a smoochy dance (to The Lady In Red, the slushy song of choice from this era) which suggests that they’re slowing falling in love. They’d better hurry up though, only two episodes after this one.

Jack’s been on a bit of a roll recently. After his entertaining antics last time, there’s more fun today – first when he comes clean to Vanessa and tells her that Tony could be his son. This is topped by the arrival of Bill who admits that Tony might actually be his son ….

Clearly Tony’s mother was a generous hearted woman (although, possibly thankfully, no further suspects step forward). This sort of material was like gold to Glyn Owen, who doesn’t disappoint after Bill drops his bombshell. The pair then decide to break the news to Tony, who confides that he’s no longer interested in the identity of his father. So this plotline rather staggers to a conclusion with no resolution.

It’s not all fun for Charles today. It’s revealed that he was behind the break-in at the Mermaid (sponsoring Hector Burrage to dislodge Admiral Redfern from the chairmanship at the bank). It’s a mildly interesting nugget of information, although you have to wonder why Charles – if he finds Redfern so disagreeable – doesn’t simply move his business to another bank.

The saga of William rumbles on. Abby and Orrin are in Bermuda (certainly makes a change from the south coast of England). They seem close – holding hands for example (plus there’s a non-explicit bedroom scene) – and are very much of one mind. Gerald, having headed out to Bermuda to advise, finds himself surplus to requirements. But his presence is worthwhile for the sight of Ivor Danvers in shorts. Not something I’d thought that I’d ever see.

Laura is making a bid to muscle in on the House of Howard by attempting to snaffle some shares. This late development feels a little odd – so close to the end of the series it probably would have been wiser to try and tie up all the existing loose ends rather than create new ones. Unless there had originally been some thought to carrying on with a seventh series.

Leo and Jenny kiss. And why not. Since Abby and Orrin seem to be coupling, you can’t blame the lad for seeking succour elsewhere.

Jack exploding for no good reason is a HW staple. This episode has a humdinger of an example – unhappy at Leo being given more control over the yard, Jack tells Avril that she’s “devious” and on exiting her office, informs Pierre Challon (James Coombes) that he’s a “frog”! Hovering around the periphery of the series for a while, Pierre slightly moves more into focus today – sharing a meal with Avril, there’s just the hint of a spark between them. In 2017 Coombes provided the voices of the Kraags in the BD/DVD reconstruction of the Doctor Who story Shada – a nugget of information which probably isn’t of interest to many people, but I thought I’d share it anyway.

Back to Jack, he’s still fuming that anybody – not least his daughter – could boss him about in his yard (his mood wasn’t improved after Avril told him that it’s not his yard anymore – Relton own it) and so he decides to quit. We’ve seen Jack threatening to leave the Mermaid Yard before, but this time could he really mean it?

h10

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Ten

h1

We left the previous episode with Charles and Lynne in a tentative clinch (he seemed keen, she was very conflicted). In true Howards’ Way fashion their relationship has now accelerated at a rate of knots as today they’re remarkably pally and tactile. Quite why and how this sudden sea change occurred isn’t made clear – as ever, you just have to grin and bear it.

Jan’s not really been well served by the plotlines this year. Most of the time she’s been stuck in the office, complaining as Robert pours cold water on yet another business idea. There’s plenty of that today as well – enabling Jan Harvey to once again unleash her trademark irritated stare – but there are other developments too ….

Given that Leo no longer lives at home (allied to the fact that Jan’s remained unattached for a while) it’s easy to understand why her character has been work, work, work orientated – it’s just puzzling that it hasn’t been addressed before. But who invites her out for a spot of dinner? Why Robert of course. This does take a minute of processing, but it appears that Robert is actually a human being with a sense of humour and both have an enjoyable evening. Nice to see Jan laugh for a change, although there may very well be a twist in the tail at a later date.

This is a good Jack episode. Many of his well established traits are given another airing – together with Bill he berates the fact that working in wood is becoming a lost art, he tells Leo in no uncertain terms that he’ll do what he likes in his yard, etc – whilst (glory be!) Tony’s plotline begins to move. You might have seen this coming, but Tony finally confesses that he’s looking to trace his father, who might have worked at the Mermaid Yard.

When Jack learns the identity of Tony’s mother he goes a little white. Could Tony be his son? Hmm, it seems possible. Although we have to wait until the next episode for the ultimate punchline – when Bill admits that he could be the father too! Jack and Bill squabbling for parental supremacy would have made a decent spin-off sitcom.

Whilst the scenes between Jack and Tony (the lad still coasting along in blissful ignorance) are entertaining enough, there’s even better to come. Kate turns up – with a face like thunder – seeking an audience with Jack. We haven’t had a good Kate/Jack face-off for a while and whilst this one isn’t an all-time classic there are still some fine moments (Jack’s delight at learning Kate may become a councillor, for example).

But most of the entertainment is saved for later, when a reluctant Jack is forced to meet with Hector Burrage (Michael Lees). Burrage was the recipient of the incriminating document apparently stolen from the Mermaid (which implicated Admiral Redfern and Kate). Jack – in splendid form – is able to laugh the whole thing off, thanks to a few dodgy memos of his own. Lovely stuff from Glyn Owen as always.

Vanessa offers Avril a cheque for £250,000 to cover the fraud perpetrated by her brother. I do like the way that Avril half-heartedly murmurs that she couldn’t possibly accept it – within seconds she’s grabbed it and passed it over to Gerald for safe keeping! That solves that problem you would think, but since Vanessa had to sell some of her Relton shares to raise the money it’s put the company in danger of a takeover bid from Charles. A touch convenient the way this happens (also, given Vanessa’s links to Relton I can’t believe she’d sell her shares so willingly).

Abby and Orrin are now in America. Not surprising that the series didn’t have the budget to make the trip over, so a little suspension of disbelief is required when we see both of them in a brief street scene. To be fair, the location does look a little like the US (the yellow cab helps as well). Abby’s still in her power-dressing mode and now seems to be the dominant partner – for the moment, Orrin is content to defer.

Once again, you have to question whether Abby’s actions are motivated purely by her desire to do the best for William or if it’s more to do with personal gain. Or even a little of both. And indeed, even if her actions are selflessly directed towards William’s future, how will this single-minded stand affect her personal relationships? Time will tell, but we’ve only got three episodes to find out. Although she’s only onscreen for a few minutes, Abby certainly makes an impression (and it’s a chilling one when she tells Orrin that Ken is now under her control).

Avril and Gerald and Charles and Laura are independently called to a meeting in Malta, where the future of the Poelma Corporation will be revealed. This has to be one of my favourite end-of-episode moments – as Ken strolls in to drop the bombshell that he’s now the chairman of Poelma! Not a twist I was expecting, but delicious nonetheless.

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Nine

h1.jpg

There’s another example of “tell not show” at the beginning of today’s episode. Kate, indulging in a spot of pruning, sees two police officers approaching. The scene ends before we learn what they want and indeed we don’t hear a peep out of Kate for the next fifteen minutes – not until a horrified Jan answers the phone (although we’re not privy to the other side of the conversation).

A brief moment of tension is therefore created, but it’s instantly dissipated as the next scene shows Jan and Kate leaving the police station. A recent burglary at the Mermaid Yard has implicated Kate (connected to the documents she assembled last year when launching her abortive attempt to save the yard). It’s not really anything to worry about then – Kate isn’t set for a diet of bread and water – but you do feel that a little more could have been made out of this moment.

The burglary seems to be linked to the new chairman of the bank, Admiral Francis Redfern (Michael Denison), who – as we’ve previously seen – is an old friend of Kate’s (was the break-in an attempt to smear his name?). The urbane Francis (like so many before him) is forced to feel the rough end of Kate’s tongue for a few moments – although she’s mollified to learn that his position at the bank might mean a smoother ride for Jan in the future.

It’s highly characteristic that Kate automatically assumes they’ve now got a friend at court, although Francis is quick to point out that any support he can offer is dependent on Jan’s business proposals ….

Leo and Abby have a short, unhappy conversation which ends with Abby giving him a hard slap (this occurs after a taunting jibe that her only values are now monetary ones). Gerald also shares this disquiet, but he remains publicly supportive. It does seem now that she’ll meet with anybody – Orrin or even Ken – who will be able to help her achieve her ultimate goal. Mind you, given that HW was often said to embrace the Thatcherite ideal (even though 1990 were the dying days of Thatcher’s premiership) she’s not doing anything that many others – such as Jan – haven’t previously done. But is it about the money or is it about regaining William? Others have their opinion, but only Abby knows for sure.

Charles and Gerald arrange their parting. As with all of their business dealings, it’s handled in a straightforward and correct manner – although it’s notable that Charles seems to be the one with the most regrets. He once again states that his decision to contest his father’s will was in Abby’s interests and there’s something in his pleading tone which makes me inclined to believe him. You possibly won’t be shocked to hear that Gerald later takes up a position at Relton. With Gerald and Avril now on the same side, this sets up intriguing possibilities for the future (or would have done, if the series wasn’t hurtling to a conclusion).

Jack and Vanessa’s honeymoon hits a little bump when she learns the truth about her brother, but things soon get back on an even keel. The fact that Vanessa is keen to reimburse both Laura and Avril the money they’ve lost (well over half a million pounds) clearly suggests that she’s a woman of considerable financial means – but if she did so it would close off another area which could be mined for drama.

Although Laura puts a brave face on her loss (telling a gloating Ken that losing £300,000 is inconvenient but not disastrous) it may be that she’s not being entirely truthful. Hitting the reset button thanks to Vanessa would put us back to square one and negate the whole David Relton plot-thread. Let’s keep an eye on this one.

The mysterious Tony continues to mooch around the Mermaid, throwing knowing looks at regular intervals. This is a plot-thread which has been given time to breathe, but I think by now it’s been as stretched about as far as it can go. But alas, we still don’t know the truth about him, so it’ll rumble on for at least another episode.

Lynne’s not had a great deal to do so far this series. Most of her scenes have been with Jan and Robert and have played out in the same way (Jan and Lynne attempt to push their business ideas forward, the ever cautious Robert hums and haws). This episode does do something more with her though – first, she and Leo venture out on the water as she attempts to heal the breach between him and Abby.

A later encounter with Charles is even more intriguing. That the flame still burns between them is suggested when they kiss (although she pulls back after a moment). Given that their previous fling was brief and ended rather unhappily (with Lynne taking an acrobatic plunge into the water) it seems a little improbable that they would simply pick up where they left off after a gap of several years.

But this is Howards’ Way, where the improbable often becomes probable, so never say never ….

h9.jpg

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Eight

H1.jpg

The shockwaves of David Relton’s departure continues to reverberate. Of course this is old news for the viewers, who’d already been presented with evidence that he was a crook last time, so today is more a case of watching the likes of Laura and Avril catch up.

Laura (sporting a new hairstyle) is the first to twig. Orrin doesn’t do a great deal in this episode, but what he does – politely hammering the point home that Laura was somewhat foolish to trust David – he does very well. So not only has Laura had her heart broken (I won’t mention again how hard this is to swallow) she’s also lost a considerable sum of money.

Avril at least has the compensation of not being unlucky in love, but the way she frittered away £250,000 of Relton’s money is understandably giving her the jitters. I’ve touched upon this point before, but in the early days of Relton Marine, combative boardroom scenes were quite common. These have totally disappeared over the last few years, leaving the unfortunate impression that Relton Marine is only run by Avril and Leo. It’s difficult to fathom why they went down this route, as feisty boardroom battles seem to be an obvious way of generating drama.

Speaking of generating drama, this episode has the rather annoying habit of stopping scenes just before a juicy revelation arrives. So we see a meeting between Gerald and Avril, but it ends before the key moment (Avril offers Gerald a job). Given that “show not tell” is a basic storytelling rule, this seems odd.

One notable moment occurs when Avril desperately attempts to find Vanessa, keen to break the news that her long-lost brother is a cheat and a crook. Considering that Vanessa’s getting married in the morning you have to say that Avril’s got a slightly skewered sense of priorities. It falls to Jack (for once the voice of reason) to tell his daughter that it’s best to say nothing for the moment.

Entertaining though the sight of Laura and Avril’s woebegone faces are, there are two key aspects to this episode – Abby’s choice and the wedding between Jack and Vanessa.

Abby’s choice is certainly something which continues to generate debate whenever grizzled HW fans meet. Maybe her endgame is regaining custody of William, which explains why she’s keen to abide by the provisions of Sir Edward’s will (even if it means cutting Leo out of her life). Or, as Kate believes, is it simply that she’s changing into a new person? If power and money corrupts, has the prospect of untold wealth already begun to warp her persona?

h12.jpg

There’s an absolutely key scene (played out to Talk Talk’s Life What You Make It) in which Abby peruses various high-end shops, eyeing a complete makeover.

Baby, life’s what you make it
Celebrate it
Anticipate it
Yesterday’s faded
Nothing can change it
Life’s what you make it

The arrival of the new improved, power-dressed Abby comes as something of a shock. It’s certainly a world away from the lumpen fashions we saw her modeling during the first series. It appears that her reclothing has created a shell which will steel herself for the battles ahead (behind the glossy new exterior she’s still somewhat hesitant). As Abby passes Leo his ring back, it’s plain that she’s now made her choice ….

Earlier, Charles had vainly attempted to persuade her that his decision to contest his father’s will was in her best interests. Abby (and later Gerald) disagreed, but the truth isn’t so clear cut. We’ve seen so little of Charles the man (as opposed to Charles the marina development businessman) that it’s hard to believe he isn’t operating with an ulterior motive, but maybe, just maybe.

The brief meeting between Charles and Lynne was a poignant one. Not only in story terms (the pair had a brief fling at the end of series one) but also due to the fact that Anholt and Childs married around the time that this series was in production. Sadly they divorced in 1998.

Abby’s decision to walk away from Leo casts something of a pall over Vanessa’s last night of freedom (the likes of Jan and Lynne are keen to discuss the ins and outs, before realising that it’s rather tactless to gossip about a failed relationship just as Vanessa’s about to tie the knot) but the big day goes off without a hitch. It’s all really rather lovely and even this hard-bitten television watcher had to confess to getting a little misty eyed. Jan’s dress was rather dramatic, I wonder if she designed that one herself?

Howards’ Way – Series Six, Episode Seven

h1

Bill is a wise old bird. His comment (“Tarrant breeds quarrels, every day someone’s having a barney”) sums up Howards’ Way perfectly.

So who’s arguing today? Charles and Gerald for one. Charles’ inability to cease fighting his father (even after his death) is the bone of contention between them. Psychologists might have a field day with Charles’ decision to move into Highfield – is this because he wishes to exorcise the ghost of his father, or will he in due course turn into him? One shot – Charles in the foreground with a painting of Sir Edward looming in the background – seems to be a very deliberate framing.

The ever patient Gerald has clearly reached the end of his patience quota as the episode ends with him tendering his resignation. We’ve been here before of course, but maybe this time he really means it.

Their scenes are possibly the dramatic highlight of an episode that chugs along quite agreeably, even if it never quite clicks into top gear. Abby’s still looking mournful as she considers her future. Leo doesn’t feature a great deal, but in one way that’s understandable (Abby wants to make the decision for herself). So Leo is cast in a passive role, having already made his position quite clear (he wants Abby to stay, naturally). Unsurprisingly he takes her out on the water to explain this – important decisions have to be discussed when you’re bobbing up and down in a boat.

If this plotline is currently in a holding position, then the unlikely romance between David and Laura already seems to have run aground. As touched upon before, it’s hard to take this coupling at all seriously (given how limited David’s screentime has been) but it really does appear that hard-bitten Laura has fallen for him. So when a gloating Ken tells her that David and Avril are in Malta she’s not best pleased. Score one to Kenneth Masters.

Tarrant currently seems to be stocked with people who aren’t quite who they appear to be. Last time a young lad called Tony Munro (David Rhean) started working at the Mermaid, today Jack finds him rifling through the files. And following the departure of Sir John from the bank, Jan is stunned to find that Robert is now on the board.

There’s not enough data yet to explain Tony’s actions, but Jan may simply be getting a little paranoid about Robert. Her main criticism of his actions is that he’s constantly business minded (not a bad trait for a business adviser). He’s keen to cultivate Lynne’s support – business again, or does he also have pleasure in mind? Jan registers her concern by pulling a series of anguished faces. Jan Harvey was always very good at this.

Continuing the theme of untrustworthy types, questions are beginning to be asked about David Relton. Like his whirlwind romance with Laura, the subplot between him and Avril is begun and concluded so quickly that it simply isn’t credible. For these storylines to have any impact (or believability) David needed to be in place for a run of episodes (appearing in only three was never going to cut the mustard).

Avril and David are in Malta to meet with Pierre Challon (Michael Cochrane). Pierre sports the most outrageous French accent heard in the series since the late, unlamented Claude. But the twist – which by now most of the audience would have probably seen coming – is that he’s a con man putting on a funny accent (was this a tongue in cheek nod back to some of HW‘s comedy accents of the past?) So David and fake Pierre have conned Avril out of a quarter of a million pounds. This doesn’t say much for her business acumen, but as per the point raised before, had David been around Tarrant longer then her blunder would have been a little more more forgivable.

Elsewhere, Jack teases Laura that he’s going to ask David to be his best man, rather than dependable old Bill. Jack was only joshing of course and later he and Bill – along with Leo – enjoy a jolly evening at the Jolly Sailor (Jack counting down his last precious hours of freedom). By the end of the evening both Leo and Jack are quite insensible. How Bill managed to get them home is anybody’s guess …..

hw0.jpg