Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Thirteen

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As Ken arrives at Highfield, Sir Edward’s sumptuous country pile, the incidental music is erring towards “moody and sinister”, so that gives us fair warning that the upcoming meeting might eventually turn out to be a sticky one for Mr Masters.

Sir Edward is in full country squire mode – flat cap, old jacket and shotgun (shooting some unfortunate clay pigeons to within an inch of their life).  Ken, on the other hand, is favouring white trousers, a yellowish shirt and a chequered jacket (complete with rolled-up sleeves).  Not quite Sir Edward’s style I feel ….

When Ken confides that he’s always imagined one day owning a place like Highfield, Sir Edward shows considerable restraint by not laughing in his face (the viewers at home might not have been so restrained).  Sir Edward – with the smile of a friendly shark – is Ken’s best new friend.  He’s happy to bankroll Leisure Cruise and with his money maybe one day Ken might be in a position to take over Relton Marine.  Ken Masters as a major player, crossing swords with Charles at Relton?  Difficult to see, but it’s an intriguing image.

Ken’s happy to get into bed with Sir Edward, but Sarah isn’t so sure.  He agrees with her that Sir Edward is using them but is also confident that they’ll be able to emerge on top if they just hold their nerve. “There’s a whole world out there waiting for us Sarah. Sir Edward holds the key”.

Tom and Jack are discussing their potential design for the America’s Cup.  Well, Tom’s discussing it and Jack’s shouting.  Jack doesn’t take Tom’s suggestion that they bring Emma on board terribly well (a woman helping to design a boat?).  Although it’s easy to argue that Tom has a vested interest – he and Emma have become closer over the last few episodes – it’s also undeniable that her skills would be an undeniable asset.  And at the moment when Jack’s really going off the scale about Emma, she walks in.  Timing – in soaps as well as sitcoms – always tends to be immaculate.

Jan’s hosting a fashion show.  Rather daringly, considering that Tarrant’s weather tends to veer from the awful to the miserable, it’s being held outdoors.  As a parade of models traipse up and down wearing a selection of interesting togs (I admit I’m no fashion expert) Jan’s on the microphone, giving us a running commentary.  Jan’s wearing a nice hat it must be said.  Given that all the models have to parade by a pool I was waiting for one of them to fall in – no such luck I’m afraid (an opportunity missed).

The show is a success and a journalist tells Jan and Anna (sporting some very impressive shoulder pads) that Anna’s designs should see her go far.  “Today, an unknown designer, tomorrow Europe. Before too long I’m sure your designs will be known throughout the world”.  Just don’t let her go anywhere near a speedboat and everything will be fine.

Charles and Mr Serozawa are examining the latest piece of barren land which Charles believes could be transformed.  He promises that it will boast “sporting and recreational facilities”.  In other words, a golf course which will enable Mr Serozawa and his chums to get a quick eighteen holes in whenever they decide to visit.  Given that Charles has been buying areas of land for redevelopment since the start of series one, I’m a little amazed that there’s anything left in the Tarrant area he hasn’t built on.  And where are the environmentalists, protesting that the natural beauty of the area is being spoilt?  Nowhere to be found it seems.

Charles is getting concerned.  He knows that his father is up to something, but what? Gerald assures him that a full takeover would be impossible, but could Sir Edward be targeting Charles’ American subsidiaries? Charles isn’t interested in calling a truce though, he believes that with Serozawa’s help he can force his father out of the business park.  So a quick trip to New York is in order.

Reconciliation’s in the air between Charles and Avril.  It’s rare to hear him speak of personal priorities, but his relationship with Avril this year has humanised him just a little (not as much as Paul Merroney’s marriage to April in The Brothers though).  He asks Avril to come with him to America, so they can combine business with pleasure.

Kate and Sir Edward enjoy another day at the races.  He drops her off home where he meets Leo for the first time.  Both are polite, although once again the incidental music (downbeat) is rather obviously underscoring the mood we should feel.

A glammed-up Anna invites Leo to join her and her friends for a night out.  It looks as if he’s sooner spend the evening at home, alone with his thoughts and the television (although there’s nothing on).  But at the last minute he changes his mind (incidental music = happy, just to hammer the point home that this was a good move) which suggests he’s begun the process of moving on from his ruptured marriage.  It’s interesting that the last we ever see of Amanda was in the previous episode where she exited in a very low-key way.  Possibly she deserved a little better, but as we’ll shortly see her presence was no longer required.

Cindy Shelly had been absent from series three in order to concentrate on stage work.  But now Abby’s makes a most unexpected return.  It would have been just as easy to hold her back to the start of the fourth series, but her wordless appearance here is a masterstroke as it provides us with another strong hook into the next batch of episodes.

Presumably if Shelly hadn’t decided to return then Amanda and Leo might have got back together.  That would have been an interesting plotline to develop, but sadly it wasn’t to be.  Anyway, who’s the first person that Abby goes to see?  Need you ask? She looks at Leo, Leo looks at her, their eyes fill with tears (probably a large section of the audience gets a little misty-eyed too) and they hug.  Aww.

I like the way that Sir Edward looks just a little shifty when Jan asks him about his links with Ken.  If Sir Edward, through Ken, destroys Relton then the Mermaid (including Jan) will end up as collateral damage.  He’s a smooth one, that Sir Edward, especially since his next move is to proffer her a rather impressive piece of jewellery.  “Yes, my darling, I am proposing to you. You would do me a very great honour if you would consider being my wife”. Crikey!

As we reach the end of the series, let’s summarise.  The state of play between Sir Edward and Charles still isn’t clear.  Leisure Cruise are now a public company, making Ken and Sarah paper millionaires (they celebrate – how else? – by quaffing champagne).  Leo and Abby are reunited.  Jan’s considering whether Sir Edward is the right man to make an honest woman out of her. Ken’s Mermaid-designed boat, the Puma, is launched (he takes the opportunity to grab some more champagne).  Anna looks set to become an internationally renowned designer.

Everything’s going swimmingly then, but there has to be a sting in the tail somewhere.  Tom, Bill and Emma have a heated inaudible discussion, making it plain that something’s up.  And just as Sir Edward and Jack are meeting for the first time, Tom sidles over.  “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. There’s been a message from the coastguard. An aircraft went down in the early hours of this morning. Avril was on board. And so was your son.”

It’s more than a little convenient that Jack and Sir Edward were together when Tom had to break this unhappy news, but nobody said HW was ever connected to real life.  Closing on a piece of wreckage floating in the middle of the sea, it’s a strong image to end on and with so many intriguing plotlines unresolved there’s no doubt that the opening episodes of series four will be very interesting indeed.  There was very little flab in the third series of HW and I wonder if the standard will be maintained?  Shortly we’ll find out.

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Thirteen

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Although Tom’s been ever-present throughout series two, he’s not exactly been front and centre of too many storylines.  The final episode of S2 somewhat makes up for this, as the fallout from the Lynnette’s break-up becomes the key theme.

Tom’s been haunting the yard every day, desperately searching for a reason “why” the catamaran broke up.  Avril believes he’s simply torturing himself (“three days of prowling around in a hair shirt”) but Tom needs to understand.  To this end he visits Mrs Travis, which is an understandably awkward encounter.    When she tells Tom that she feels sorry for him, it’s a statement that can be taken several ways – but the meaning becomes clear after she serves a two million pound writ on the Mermaid yard.

It’s fascinating to see how Avril and Jack deal with this crisis.  To begin with, Jack is convinced there was a design flaw in the catamaran – he maintains that you can’t simply become a skilled boat-designer overnight, it takes decades of hard work, not months or years.  Avril is initially more supportive, but she’s the one who decides they have to serve a writ against Tom and suspend him as the Mermaid’s designer.

She believes that she’s acting in everybody’s best interests – if the worst comes to the worst then at least they have a chance of salvaging the yard.  It’s telling at this point that she tells Tom that Jack shouldn’t have to lose his yard (he instantly picks up on the comment that it now appears to be Jack‘s yard).  And at this point Jack does something of an about turn.  Although previously he was dismissive of Tom’s design, he now supports it and is reluctant to side with Avril.

But side with her he does and the writ is served.  It’s a throwaway moment but it goes to prove that for all his bluster, Jack Rolfe isn’t quite the buccaneering individualist he often claims to be.  Although he made a half-hearted attempt to convince Avril that they needed to stand by Tom, not isolate him, in the end she got her way.

It’s easy to see the sense in Avril’s actions – at this point, with a question mark hanging over the Lynnette, it seems logical that Tom steps away from the design board, but he believes her true motives are quite different.  Charles has invited Avril to take over as managing director of Relton Marine and she’s accepted.  Oddly, we don’t see Avril tell Tom this (it’s only reported second-hand).  It’s a little hard to understand why such a key scene like this wasn’t played out.

If Howards’ Way has an unconscious theme, then it appears to be that successful career women are required to sacrifice any hopes of a successful personal relationship.  We’ve already seen this with Jan and now Avril seems to be heading the same way.  Tom is convinced that Avril accepted this new job at Relton in order to rekindle her relationship with Charles, whilst she maintains that it was the only way to safeguard the Mermaid’s future.  It’s hard to side with Tom at this point, meaning that his character flaws (jealousy as well as the previously seen desire not to heed other’s advice) are now quite pronounced.

As with the end of series one, the fate of the Mermaid hangs in the balance and we’ll have to wait until the S3 to see how things play out.

Abby’s story seems to have reached a natural conclusion.  Her time with Curtis is terminated very swiftly (again this is something important which happens off-screen).  He asks her if she’d like to go up to Birmingham with him, as he has to show the red-card to a man who kicked his dog to death.  Abby clearly didn’t realise precisely what would happen (presumably she thought he’d just give him a severe ticking-off).  Instead, Abby tells the ever-sympathetic Leo that Curtis viciously attacked the man, continuing to kick him even after he was unconscious.  It proves that Leo was right all along to be suspicious about Curtis, although he’s mature enough not to crow about it.

The Abby/Curtis relationship is of special interest because it’s the reason why Abby discovers that Charles is her real father.  This is done in a slightly contrived way though – Polly is concerned about Curtis and asks Charles to do some digging on her behalf.  That’s reasonable enough, but then she asks Charles to visit Abby and tell her what he’s uncovered.  If he does so then it seems obvious that Abby’s going to put two and two together (Charles Frere’s not the sort of person to pop around doing good turns like this for anybody).

Why didn’t Polly do it?  It’s true that her relationship with Abby is strained, but they’re at least speaking at present (Abby didn’t leave home this time because of a spat with her mother – it was more about making a bid for independence).

But she doesn’t and Charles does, leading to the inevitable conclusion.   Given that she despises Charles and all he stands for, it’s no doubt something of a shock, but that’s not the major plot-point here.  Rather, it makes Abby finally understand that she shouldn’t have given William away, since it’s exactly the same mistake that her father made with her.  So she sets off for America, to be reunited with William and a possible marriage to Orrin.

This could have served as a fairly tidy ending to Abby’s story, but as we’ll see that proved not to be the case.  Although it’ll be a little while before we see her again.

The other major event in this episode concerns the death of Claude, mown down by a speedboat (a pity the man steering it wasn’t looking in the right direction).  Although it doesn’t operate as a cliffhanger (in the way that Lynne falling into the water at the end of S1 did) it’s still highly dramatic.  Lynne sheds more than a few tears (that’ll be the last we see of Tracy Childs until the sixth and final series) and even Jan is a bit teary-eyed.

It’s interesting how Claude’s fight for life is intercut with Jan bustling around, preparing to launch Claude’s collection.  The undeniable impression given is that the fashion world seems even more trivial when matters of life and death are being decided elsewhere, but in Jan’s defence she was unaware of the accident.  It seems a little strange that nobody decided to tell her how seriously ill he was (or even that Claude was in hospital) although this does give us a moody final scene as Jan, together with Leo (who’s travelled down to London to break the news of Claude’s death), both sit alone amongst the discarded clothes and rubbish from the fashion show.

The mood, as so often this year, is broken by leading into the end credits and the warbling of “always there” but no matter.  Series two built nicely on the first, with a largely stable cast of returnees.  The third series would see a little more fluidity amongst the regulars, with several notable absentees and some heavyweight new arrivals ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Twelve

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Abby decides to leave home again.  This concerns Polly, who – rather out of nowhere – has suddenly developed a strong interest in her daughter’s welfare.  Compare and contrast this to her attitude from S1.  Back then, after Abby snuck out to Southampton in the middle of the night Polly reacted with calm indifference (even pretending for a while that she was away with friends).  But now she’s somewhat frantic after Abby stays out for a single night.

When Abby does return, it’s basically only to pack and to give her mother a brief (and rather sketchy) summary of her plans.  She’s going to move to Southampton again – initially with Curtis (although that’s something tactfully not mentioned).  For once Polly seems keen to talk, but Abby isn’t.  So their relationship remains one of total non-communication.

Elsewhere, Jack is still being pursued by Mrs Davis-Seegram.  Even though she doesn’t turn up in person, simply the mention of her name or a phone call from her is enough to give him the shakes.  Glyn Owen was tailor-made for this sort of material.  There’s something rather wonderful about seeing Jack (after receiving an expensive present from her) airily informing Bill that “she’s wasting her time. There’s no way any female is going to get on top of Jack Rolfe”!

The punchline, of course, is that as he’s speaking he’s on his way to answer the phone.  No prizes for guessing who it is.  Jack’s tone instantly moderates from aggressive to conciliatory (bringing to mind Captain Mainwairing’s telephone conversations to his wife Elizabeth).  He later tries to pull a sickie (coughing down the phone) to try and wriggle out of a dinner engagement, but to no avail.

If Jack’s not running scared from Mrs Davis-Seegram then he’s clashing with Tom and Avril.  Charles’ successful takeover of Relton Marine could have huge implications for the Mermaid (possibly the new Relton board will decide not to continue producing the Barracuda).  Jack’s not bothered, he says they’ll simply go back to producing wooden boats.  Even though Tom and Avril both tell him that the market for wooden boats isn’t there anymore (and he himself, given how few have been produced in recent years at the Mermaid, must know this to be true) he continues to maintain a relaxed air.  He’s not under the influence of alcohol, so it’s probable that – Macawber like – he just expects something to turn up.

Jan’s being a little more understanding this episode.  She rushes over to see Kate (although she can’t resist telling her mother that she’s had to put back her meeting with the PR men until the afternoon in order to do so).  Kate explains that she needs to sell her house in order to pay off her debts and Jan asks her to move in with her.  This is an ideal solution which Kate gladly accepts.  But there’s also the vague sense that Jan still has her business head on – after Kate offers to pay her way, Jan doesn’t demur and later admits that it could work out financially in her favour.  Some people might not want to charge their elderly parent for board and lodgings (especially when they’ve had to sell virtually everything they own) but Jan is clearly made of sterner stuff.

There’s a small hint of the way the series will develop next year, after Sir John refers to a business deal he previously organised with Charles’ father.  Charles doesn’t react terribly well to this and we’re left with the very strong impression that his father is an equally successful businessman who’s exerted a strong influence over Charles’ life.  So whatever Charles does now, he does so in his own way – comparisons to Frere Snr are clearly not welcome.

There are two major developments in the Leo/Abby relationship.  For the first time we hear both of them express, in part, their feelings for each other (although frustratingly they don’t do so at the same time).  Abby tells Leo that “you know, no matter how much I try to deny it, I realise now you mean a hell of a lot more to me than just a friend”.  This isn’t something that Leo can respond to – verbally at least – so they part with a brief kiss on the lips and a hug.

We later see Leo clear the air with his mother and for the first time in a long while they have a quiet, considered conversation where both listen to the other.  It’s here that we learn precisely what Leo feels for Abby (a shame he couldn’t say this to her face though).  “It’s like she’s got a hold on me and I can’t let go. Can’t seem to walk away. When Orrin was over here, I tried but I couldn’t. If she ever needed me, I was always there. Now she’s seeing this other person and I’m still there. I don’t want to be, but I am”.  I’m rather warming to young Leo.

Ken tries to win Jan back with a takeaway Chinese meal.  This is presented as the height of sophistication – so either the mid eighties rated fairly low in the culinary stakes or it’s just another example of Ken’s lack of class.  He throws in a cod Chinese accent as well, so I favour the latter over the former.

Jan’s not interested in a reconciliation and once again she doesn’t have a clear reason why.  Ken’s convinced that she dropped him as soon as he started to have financial problems, which she denies.  But the reason why she’s cooled – the divorce with Tom hasn’t yet come through and she’s not ready to settle down anyway – didn’t seem to bother her before.  It’s hard to feel sorry for Ken, but if Jan wasn’t interested in a long-term relationship, why did she let their affair develop?  Possibly it was simply because she was vulnerable after her marriage imploded.

The prototype of Tom’s catamaran, Lynnette, has been purchased by Mr and Mrs Travis (Ian Collier and Pamela Salem).  Introduced in the previous episode, they seem like a perfectly nice couple (it doesn’t hurt that they’re played by familiar television faces) which makes the ending of this episode even more jarring.  Tom receives the news that there’s been an accident – Lynnette is lying in pieces in the water and we then see a blanket placed over the dead body of Mr Travis with his shocked wife looking on ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Eleven

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Episode eleven opens with Curtis Jaeger lurking in the shadows.  It quickly becomes apparent that the men he’s tailing are part of an illegal dog-fighting ring.  This affords us a rare glimpse into the seedier side of Tarrant life as we see Curtis keeping tabs on a crowd of baying men, all of whom are urging one of two dogs to rip the other’s throat out.

Previously Leo had cast the methods and motives of Curtis in a very unflattering light, but there’s no doubt that his actions here (breaking up the fight by himself and taking one of the dogs) was a brave – if foolhardy – move.  He later explains that the police didn’t show up, which makes his one-man crusade a little more understandable, but had he been caught then it would have been him (rather than the dogs) on the receiving end of some considerable punishment.

He manages to escape with nothing more than a few cuts and bruises and is surprised to find Abby waiting for him at his flat.  The sight of his bloodied (not his own) face obviously stirs some animalistic instinct deep within Abby as within moments they’re in each others arms.  It’s an interesting touch that these two scenes are intercut with Leo on the phone, trying and failing to contact Abby.

Shortly after we’re witness to the delightfully awkward sight of Leo and Polly both waiting for Abby to return home.  We later learn that Leo’s been there for an hour and given the fact that he and Polly have precisely nothing in common it must have been an excruciating period of time for them both.  When Abby finally does arrive, Polly is at her acidly polite best – berating her daughter for being so late and then adding that “you really ought to be more considerate.  You know how he likes to keep tabs on you”.

Leo and Abby’s relationship, whatever that might be, has hit a rocky patch.  If he’s ever entertained the hope that it might develop into something deeper than friendship, then her comment that “you’ve been a good friend to me, I’ve appreciated it, you’re kind … ” implies this isn’t going to happen.  He cuts her off short (telling her not to be patronising) and things roll downhill from there.

Curtis Jaeger is the problem, although Leo does seem to be concerned more about Curtis’ character and suitability for Abby, rather than viewing him as a potential love rival.  So at present Leo and Abby seem to very much be cast in a brother/sister mode, although the next episode does suggest otherwise.

Gerald and Polly are also concerned about Curtis, although in Polly’s case it’s more a question of social standing ….

If Polly makes herself scarce, then Gerald does at least make an effort to diffuse the situation by offering Leo a drink (the classic HW solution to all of life’s ills).  Leo doesn’t take up the offer, but it’s another nice moment which shows how Gerald cares for Abby (the way he embraces her after Leo leaves is another sign of this).  It’s impossible to imagine Polly ever having such a tactile relationship with her.

Leo has another flashpoint later on, this time with Jan.  She’s once again condescending and dismissive (wondering if Abby’s still got him “wrapped around her little finger”).  When Leo opines that her mother has little or no interest in him, it’s notable that she doesn’t answer straight away – instead it’s Kate who protests.

Leo’s clearly carrying a fair amount of pent-up emotion, but it’s hard to disagree with the points he makes.  We’d earlier seen how Jan had interrupted Lynne and Claude’s honeymoon (she’s fretting over her new collection) whilst her justification for not paying attention to her son is somewhat dubious.  She tells him that her life recently has been a dismal failure, so the business is a chance for her to salvage some self-respect.  Once again, it’s very hard to empathise with Jan.

Elsewhere, Charles’ attempted takeover of Relton continues. But Tom seems to have been paying very little attention as only now does he seem to understand there’s a very real possibility that he and Avril (but especially Avril) might shortly be working for Charles Frere.  And that’s not something he’s too pleased about.  Nor is he chuffed to learn that Jack’s using a twenty year old design for Mrs Davis-Seagram’s boat – as the Mermaid’s designer in chief, he considers it to be a breach of etiquette.

Kate decides to sell her cottage and for once she needs Jack (rather than the other way around) to act as a pillar of strength, luckily he’s more than up to the task.  Ken continues to make googly eyes at Sarah, which she reciprocates.  It’s made plain that her husband’s one and only love is power-boats, so crafty Ken spies an opening …


Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Ten

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The character of Curtis Jaeger continues to drive a wedge between Abby and Leo.  Like Orrin before him, he’s a character who somewhat shuts out Leo’s access to her.  Leo’s dislike and distrust of him is again made plain within the first few minutes.  Abby’s crusading spirit still burns – that she’s reading a book on animal experimentation and Jaeger is an activist who’s keen on action not words, suggests the course that this storyline will take over the next few episodes.

Jaeger is a mildly unsettling figure.  Although dressed somewhat scruffily, he’s well spoken and articulate – although this clash still means that he seems out of place in the Urqhuart’s tastefully designed house.  His brief meeting with Polly serves to discomfort her.  He asks if her bag is crocodile, she says that it is and asks him if he likes it.  He responds that he likes crocodiles.

Polly and Abby continue to live in completely separate worlds.  This is highlighted when Abby attempts to find out again who her real father is, whilst Polly at the same time is wittering on about Lynne’s forthcoming marriage.  That neither are listening to the other reinforces the reason why Abby is so keen to leave home again.

Jan’s hard-edged business nature is explored once more.  Her relationship with Ken has cooled considerably of late – this might be because she’s still annoyed at the way he hired thugs to beat up Leo, but it seems more likely that she’s unhappy that he’s not been able to put money into her new venture.  He spells this out to her and she doesn’t contradict him, which is telling.  “I never made conditions Jan.  I helped you when I could. And I can’t now. I’m sorry. Well, I thought what we had didn’t depend on business. You’d have slapped me down if I thought otherwise. And now I’m being punished because I can’t help, because I don’t see it as good business. How the hell is that supposed to make me feel? Was that all I was good for?”

But lest we feel too sorry for Ken, there’s a sense that new horizons are opening up.  He meets Mark Foster and his wife Sarah (Sarah-Jane Varley) to continue discussions on a new business venture.   Although we were introduced to Mark last episode, it’s abundantly clear now that Sarah is the one who makes all the decisions (she does most of the talking whilst he cradles his drink).  Sarah’s a very attractive and confident businesswoman who knows her own mind and instantly catches Ken’s eye.  The look on his face makes it clear that he might not be adverse to explore pleasure as well as business ventures with her ….

But he’s not totally given up on Jan and attempts to bring an unlikely ally (Kate) on his side.  Given that she’s never hidden her contempt for him, he seems to be on a hiding to nothing with her.  But Ken dangles the possibility of a full-time job at the boutique in front of her eyes and then asks her if she’ll talk to Jan on his behalf.  This is maybe a more emotionally honest Ken than we’ve seen before, and Kate seems impressed.

But hard-edged Ken is never too far from the surface.  Shortly afterwards he meets Dawn, who suggests they might resume their relationship.  “Look Dawn, you did me a favour. I’m not mean. I’ll give you a finder’s fee. Five hundred quid. All right? But that’s it. Nothing else. There’s no going back. No more lovey-dovey stuff. That’s all washed up”.  This would be Dawn’s final appearance.  Sally Farmiloe, who died of cancer in 2014, would later hit the headlines when her affair with Jeffrey Archer become public knowledge.  Obituary.

Charles’ stealthy acquisition of Relton Marine is gathering momentum.  He currently owns about 13%, with Sir John suggesting that once he’s got 20% he should make a public offer.  Where could the reminder come from?  It’s suggested that since David Lloyd owns 3% he might be open to an approach.

Tom’s been absent for most of the episode, only popping up some fifteen minutes before the end.  Maurice Colbourne makes up for it with a wistful speech to Lynne, as he remembers the way things were.  “What a busy life we had in those days. Houses, boats, school, work. No chance to sit back and enjoy it all. Still, I suppose it’s the same for most people. Pity.”

There’s a couple of onlookers cooing as Lynne leaves the house for the wedding ceremony (“doesn’t she look lovely?”).  A bit of a mystery as to who they might be (neighbours, friends?).  No matter, as we’re soon at the church where all the women are decked out in some mightily impressive hats.  Kate’s is very large and therefore eye-catching, whilst Abby’s is possibly not the most flattering – it seems to have been designed to obscure as much of her face as possible (if she chose it herself it’s possibly a subconscious statement that she didn’t want to be there).  Leo’s the best man, although we never had a scene where Claude asked him, nor do we see him fretting about the responsibility.

It’s a nice touch that the car carrying Lynne and Tom to the church passes a bustop where Dawn, suitcase on the ground, is waiting for transport to take her away from Tarrant.  Shame about the organist hitting a few bum notes as Lynne walks down the aisle – perhaps they should have gone for another take or at least dubbed over that part.

There’s not a dry eye in the church as Claude and Lynne repeat their vows.  The happiness continues afterwards, although this is intercut with a wistful Avril, standing on the sidelines and unable to join in with the family celebrations.  So Claude and Lynne look set for a long and happy life together.  Hmm, I wonder how that will pan out?

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Nine

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Tom is downcast that the beam on his catamaran broke during its trial.  Bill believes this vindicates his earlier concerns but Tom is convinced that Bill’s still wrong and he’s still right.  It’s interesting that Tom doesn’t mention this problem to either Avril or Jack – instead it’s Bill who breaks the potentially bad news.

Charles agrees to take Gerald back, but Gerald is forced to do a little grovelling first.  He later admits to Polly that it was somewhat humiliating and it certainly highlights the master/servant relationship that exists between Charles and Gerald.  The lingering awkwardness is touched upon later in the episode, after Charles tells Gerald to fire George Johnson (Wensley Pithey), a managing director of one of Charles’ companies who has failed to deliver.

For a brief moment it looked as if Gerald would decline to be Charles’ hatchet man, but in the end he said nothing.  Given that Charles has so often been totally ruthless in business, I wonder why he didn’t tell Johnson to his face that he was out?  The fact that Charles instructs Gerald to get rid of Johnson seconds after talking affably to him suggests that he doesn’t relish personal conflict (or is it simply that he’s a master of delegation?)

Kate’s minding the boutique whilst Jan’s away.  She proves to be an excellent saleswoman, although she’s not above telling potential customers that the dresses they’ve chosen really don’t suit.  Which is a potentially dangerous course!  Ken is surprised to see her manning the till, whilst Kate continues to view him with barely suppressed loathing.  He attempts to mend fences by telling her he wasn’t involved with the people who beat up Leo.  We know that’s not true, although I suppose he could claim that he didn’t know Leo would be singled out (although maybe he did instruct them to target Leo, with Ken you never can be sure).

Apart from crossing swords with Kate, he’s also attempting to restore his fortunes and – thanks to Dawn – has a meeting with Mark Foster (Graham Pountney).  Mark services speedboats and also has a franchise to sell them – although given the fact that they’re luxury items, sales are slow.  Ken has a suggestion – if Mark moves to a prime site that he owns then they’ll be much more visible, and if Mark starts racing again (and winning) then sales should go through the roof.  Mark seems to be a man who knows his own mind, although next episode – when we meet his wife, Sarah – it becomes clear that she’s the dominant member of their partnership.  And as we’ll see during the next few series, it’s Sarah who’ll stick around.

If it was thought that Orrin’s departure would enable Abby and Leo to spend more time together, then the arrival of Curtis Jaeger (Dean Harris) rather puts a stop to that.  Jaeger is an activist who believes in action, not words.  Abby is taken with him, whilst Leo stands in the background looking disapproving.

Jan is told that if she wants to use the house as collateral then she needs Tom’s permission.  Remembering the way that she was so reluctant to allow him to do so when he wanted to buy into the Mermaid, she’s more than a little diffident about approaching him.  But Tom is instantly agreeable.  No doubt this is partly because (the catamaran excepted) things are going well for him at present, but it’s also evidence that he’s always been supportive of her.  Whether Jan has been equally supportive of him is a moot point ….

Jack’s depressed, which leads to another heart-to-heart with Avril (she’s more than a little upset that he’s drinking heavily again).  The reason’s the same as before – with Tom’s fancy non-wood designs taking over the yard he feels surplus to requirements.  But luckily salvation’s on hand – in the shapely form of Mrs Davis-Segram (Christina Greaterex).  However, Jack does all he can to avoid her to begin with (calling her “a fat old bag”!).  What he doesn’t realise is that the late Mr Davis-Segram remarried, so the new Mrs Davis-Segram is a much more agreeable proposition than the old one was.

This has been the year when Jack Rolfe’s interest in the opposite sex has become abundantly apparent.  Yes, you can make the case that he’s wining and dining her simply because he wants her business, but it’s also plainly no hardship for him.

His wooing seems to have paid off though, as she decides that the Mermaid is the yard for her.  She orders a forty footer in solid wood which causes him to crow to Bill.  “You can forget about Tom Howard’s fancy designs. The old firm is back in business, Bill. And this time … she’s here to stay.”

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Eight

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Episode eight opens with William’s departure.  It’s obviously a sad moment, although the mournful incidental music rather hammers this point home.  It’s characteristic that Gerald, instead of Polly, is the one who consoles Abby afterwards.  Even at this point, with Abby at her lowest ebb, Polly obviously can’t summon up even a smidgen of maternal instinct.

The revelation that Abby is Charles’ daughter was enough to make him drop the marina project, but the fallout continues here.  Gerald always knew he wasn’t the real father but was unaware that Charles was.  This places Gerald in an untenable position – businesswise – and he resigns.  Charles sees no reason why it should make any difference, but he makes no attempt to stop him either.  This is a typical reaction from Charles Frere – he values Gerald as an associate, but is not prepared to beg him to stay – if he wants out, then he’s out.

It leaves Gerald looking like a man of principle, but also as someone who’s rather weak and foolish.  He later tells Polly that he’ll be able to set up on his own, but even he doesn’t sound convinced by this.  Polly, of course, is far from pleased.  She can see her comfortable lifestyle evaporating, once Gerald starts again from scratch (which isn’t something that she’s prepared to accept – divorce would be better than that).

It’s been established in the previous series that Abby and Gerald have never really connected in a daughter/father way.  They seem to be making up for this now, although his next conversation with her – he tells her about her parentage – is a difficult one.  Abby’s reaction is interesting – she’s not particularly upset (or if she is, then she hides it well).   Instead, she treats it as an explanation as to why she’s never fitted in (she later admits that she could easily believe that Polly wasn’t her real mother as well).

Abby and Polly have a heated discussion later, which ends with Polly giving her daughter a hard slap.  Ouch!

Dawn is a fast mover.  Having only just met Jack, she already seems to have moved in (we see the pair of them first thing in the morning, making it obvious that Dawn’s spent the night).  If Jack’s sudden interest in all thing carnal seems to come out of nowhere, then the revelation that he owes nearly ten grand to a bookie is another bolt out of the blue.

True, we’d seen earlier on this series that he’d helped Kate to win a tidy sum at the races (plus it was mentioned in passing last episode that he was spending all his time at the racecourse rather than at the yard) but it would have been better had this plotline been developed a little more.  Otherwise it all ends up feeling rather artificial.  In order to settle his debts, Jack offers 25% of his stake in the Mermaid to Relton Marine, which Avril later buys back – at a price.

Once Dawn knows that Jack’s got financial problems she beats a hasty retreat.  No-one can say that she’s not a transparent sort of person.  She then runs into Ken, who after rubbishing Jack as a “sugar daddy”, make her an offer she can’t refuse.  Ken might be down at present, but with Dawn’s contact (in the power boats business) he’s already planning to bounce back …..

Leo continues to keep Abby’s spirits up, although his choice of venue (as she says herself, “a ruined Abbey”) possibly wasn’t terribly tactful.  The later conversation between Jan and Leo is a revealing one.  She’s tagged Abby as manipulative and self-centred and tells Leo that when he’s no longer of any use, she’ll drop him.  This is a terribly unflattering analysis which says more about Jan that it does about either Abby or Leo.

Is she subconsciously thinking about herself and Ken?  Both Jan and Ken have declared their love for each other on numerous occasions – but Dawn accurately surmises that Ken is partly interested in Jan due to her breeding (he sees her as his entry ticket into a higher social circle) whilst Jan is undeniably interested in his money (without it, she can’t grow her business).

If Jack’s problems with the gee-gees comes out of nowhere, then the engagement between Lynne and Claude is something else which happens with unseemly haste.  Partly this is due to the fact that there’s only thirteen episodes to play with across series two, but it’s all a bit sudden and whirlwind.  Jan’s not happy (once again Jan Harvey gets to practice her disapproving face) but she later comes round a little.

The Mermaid Yard are moving into the future.  They’re going to buy a computer!  No prizes for guessing that Jack’s less than impressed (“that thing’s going back, right?”).  And when he retreats into his office for a quick swig of booze, it’s further evidence that he’s gone off the rails again.  The late arrival of Kate, with her mission to chivvy Jack into mending his ways, is a delight.  Kate Harvey, as ever, delivers a good dollop of common sense and Dulcie Gray is once again immaculate.

Tom’s boat design continues to be called into question by both Bill and Avril, although Tom is still ignoring them.  Last time you could explain this away (Lynne was adrift and uncontactable in the Barracuda, so Tom was preoccupied) but his continuing pig-headiness is harder to understand.  At times he seems more inflexible and autocratic than Jack, but the events at the end of this episode suggest that he should have listened to them ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Seven

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Howards’ Way seemed to spend a great deal of time in one hospital or another.  This episode opens with Leo propped up in a hospital bed (looking much the worse for wear) with Jan and Tom by his bedside.  Leo looks to have been the only person to have been beaten up by Ken’s thugs, which seems to prove he was born under a bad sign.

Jan’s still in a state of denial over Ken’s involvement in the tussle.  She tells Leo that it was obviously Charles who paid for the bullyboys, apparently not even considering that Ken might have been responsible.  At first I wondered if her voracious capitalistic streak had taken hold (not willing to rock the boat with Ken, since she still needs finance for her and Claude’s business venture) but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When Polly later off-handily confirms that Ken was the guilty party, there’s genuine shock on Jan’s face – so maybe she was simply a little gullible.  Ken’s contrite (telling her that he’s never done anything like this before) but it’s somewhat difficult to believe him – is he just sorry he’s been found out?

Ken goes through the wringer in this episode.  With Abby, Leo and (presumably) others receiving court summons, they have to decide whether to go to the Magistrates or Crown Court.  Crown Court would generate a great deal of publicity, which is precisely what they want (and Ken is anxious to avoid).  Charles is wonderfully laid back throughout – maintaining that since he’s done nothing wrong he’s not bothered either way.

But Ken – increasingly stuck in a vice-like grip – sees disaster ahead, so sells his marina shares to Charles for the knock down price of £250,000.  This means he’s taken a considerable financial hit and now has to count the cost of his bruising encounter with Charles.  It’s been obvious from the start, but this simply confirms that Ken is a complete novice in business terms compared to Charles.

Jan has another brief, but very telling, moment later on.  She’s looking to use the house as collateral in order to finance her business.  Remember that last year she was less than impressed when Tom did the same thing.  Since the divorce hasn’t gone through yet, it’s strange that she hasn’t discussed what she’s doing with Tom (who presumably still owns half of the house, unless he’s signed it over to her).

It’s unconvincing stock footage ahoy again as we join Lynne and Claude on their cruise home.  Claude is his usual annoyingly smooth self, telling Lynne that he’s had awful trouble in keeping the deck lounger next to him free (because, no doubt, hundreds of women were panting to get at him).  Meanwhile Lynne cheerfully tells him that initially she thought he was a frog pursuing her mother, but now she’s of the opinion that he’s just a frog with some redeeming features.  Lynne’s looking particularly attractive during the scenes when they trip the light fantastic on the ballroom floor.

Ken’s former girlfriend, Dawn, turns up behind the bar at the Jolly Sailor.  Jack’s immediately taken with her.  “If you need someone to show you around the place, I’m your man. So how about it? I could take you to the village duck pond. Morris dancing, marbles match, conker-bashing. We could really live it up”.  This is a different side to Jack.  Although we’ve seen him enjoying Kate’s company, they were – as the phrase goes – just good friends.  Jack’s never shown an interest in the opposite sex before, certainly not one as young as Dawn.

This doesn’t go down well with everyone.  Avril looks slightly askance at the fact her father’s been entertaining someone as young as she is, whilst there’s another pressure point later on – the launch of Tom’s catamaran.  Jack’s invited Dawn to do the honours, whilst Avril has also asked someone – Kate, in fact.  No-one could do well-bred disdain like Dulcie Gray.  Her comment upon meeting Dawn is priceless.  “Your niece, is it, Jack?”

One of my favourite scenes in this episode occurs when Abby visits Leo in hospital and explains the reason for her present of nuts  “Grapes are bourgeois.  Men don’t appreciate flowers and chocolates are bad for your teeth.”

It’s a brief moment of levity for Abby, as elsewhere there’s not many laughs for her.  It’s the arrival of Orrin’s father, Robert (Bruce Boa), which is the problem.  Canadian-born Boa had a lengthy career playing Americans, often of the very stroppy type (he doesn’t order a Waldolf Salad in this one, but it’s easy to imagine him doing so and being less than impressed).

The appearance of Robert Hudson helps to define Orrin’s character a little more. Up until now it’s been difficult to decide exactly what Orrin’s motivations were.  Did he want to marry Abby because he loved her? Was he more interested in ensuring that the rich and powerful Hudson family didn’t have the scandal of an illegitimate child? Or was he simply designed as a character to come between Abby and Leo?

The influence of his father over him is plain to see (in sharp contrast to Abby, who rarely listens to her parents).  Left to his own devices Orrin’s been somewhat relaxed, but Robert’s dominant (indeed overbearing) personality eventually seems to subsume his own, meaning that by the end they are both of one mind – if Abby doesn’t want to get married then baby William will return with them to America.

This then leads into one of the most intriguing moments in the whole series.  Everything is set up for Abby to declare that she’d sooner die than see her son taken away from her, but instead she somewhat meekly accedes.  It’s just so unexpected (it would have been easy to see this becoming a major storyline) but it’s good that the show doesn’t always do the obvious.

The episode ends with a revelation that wasn’t completely unexpected (hints were laid during the first series) but it’s nice to have it out in the open anyway.   Charles is Abby’s father ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Six

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The spectre of potential tragedy has brought the Howards together – with predictable results (Jan stares into the distance, misty eyed and with a drink in her hand, blaming Tom for everything).

Charles continues to play with Ken rather like a cat toys with a mouse.  Construction on the marina is due to begin, but Charles tells Gerald to cancel it (and pretend that the furore from the protestors has made them pause).  Charles is smoothness personified when he explains to Ken, but Ken smells a rat ….

The fact that the Baraccuda is missing begins to cast a little doubt on Tom’s design.  This mainly comes from Jan of course, but when Bill queries the specifications of Tom’s catamaran there’s a definite sense of tension in the air.  The sensible course, as suggested by Bill, Avril and Jack, would be for Tom to recheck his figures but he’s unwilling to do so.  His concern for Lynne is clearly influencing his decision making (witness the way he erupts after Jack tactfully suggests they take a look at the design again).

Crusading local reporter Steve Windom (Bill Thomas) isn’t happy with the way that planning permission was pushed through without a protest and decides that Ken’s been indulging in corrupt practices.  To be honest, Steve isn’t exactly a Woodward or a Bernstein, but there’s still an effort made to ramp up the tension – such as late night meetings in shady rendezvous as Steve begins to build his case.

It’s interesting that Leo is under no illusion that their protest will fail, but he tells his mother that it’s more important that Charles and Ken realise they “can’t just buy any piece of land and build on it.”  Jan doesn’t come out of this conversation terribly well since she then asks Leo to call off the protest – that would ease Ken’s cashflow problem, meaning he might then be able to invest in Jan’s boutique.  Jan’s being incredibly selfish here, but I guess it was the “me, me, me” eighties.

Lyne pops up about midway through the episode, looking somewhat green around the gills and desperately attempting to get someone to acknowledge her radio calls.  Eventually she does (is it just me, or is there a whiff of Tony Hancock’s The Radio Ham here?).  Lynne’s travails was one of those plotlines which you could sense would have a happy ending.  Had they killed her off it would have created an even bigger fault-line between Tom and Jan (but since it probably would have meant that Jan would never be able to crack a smile ever again, it’s just as well they didn’t).

Down at the protest site, things are hotting up.  Morgan Griffiths (Mark Crowdy), a member of Earthguard, pledges his support – which begins with hot meals and fresh placards.  He zooms in on his motorbike and then out again almost immediately, like a leather-clad guardian angel.

Later, Ken sends in the heavy mob.  Although they’re big and ugly, their language doesn’t quite match their appearance (“why don’t you naff off?”).  Pre-watershed, of course.  And it’s poor Leo who’s first to receive a knuckle sandwich.

Lynne arrives in America, which looks suspiciously like the English coast. Still, it’s amazing what a few American flags, a sprinkling of stock footage and some fake accents can do.  Neither Jan or Tom can make it over, so Claude deputises for them.  The beginning of a beautiful friendship maybe?

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Five

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Lynne, making good headway in the Barracuda, refuses to heed Tom’s request to turn back.  When he understands how resolute she is, Tom doesn’t seem too unhappy.  Of course it’s plain that Jan’s not going to take it quite so calmly ….

And she doesn’t.  When the news about Lynne comes over the car radio she does a screeching turn and heads back for Tarrant for a typically awkward conversation with Tom.  He’s bursting with paternal pride (“she’s as good a sailor as I’ve ever met”) whilst she’s only seeing negatives (“you’d risk your daughter’s life for a publicity gimmick?”).  But it does generate good publicity, with a brace of favourable newspaper headlines (my favourite being “storm tossed beauty”).

As the weeks pass by, we’re treated to a series of monologues from Lynne.  “I’ve never seen my own weaknesses so clearly before. All the things I shouldn’t have done or said. I can’t change them know. But I suppose I’m learning my strengths too, now that I’m responsible for everything that happens to me.”  She spent S1 as a fairly feckless and self-obsessed character, but it’s clear that she’s recently undergone a considerable change for the better.

Charles still wants the Mermaid Yard and decides his way in will be to buy Relton Marine.  Once he has Relton, then he’ll have a stake in the Mermaid.  Given that he transfers three million for Gerald to start to buy shares in Relton, it’s plain that money in no object.

There’s another entertaining encounter between Charles and Ken.  Ken is starting to get a little anxious about the marina development (he’s pledged over a million, which is a considerable undertaking for him) whilst Charles is coolness personified (he’s obviously delighted to twist the knife a little).   Ken later decides that a little bribery will help to oil the wheels.

We get our first sight of the protest lobby.  They all seem rather worthy.  On the other side is Steven Moffat (John Ronane), Ken’s tame councillor (and the recipient of a hefty bribe from him).  Nice to see Ronane pop up in this one, although he doesn’t do a great deal except look a little twitchy.

Leo organises a protest meeting at home, with a couple of dozen people attending, which doesn’t please Jan.  Poor Jan Harvey, her default expression always seems to be set to disapproving.  Ken, who comes in with Jan, is condescendingly amused by their efforts (no doubt he believes they’re no threat at all).  Delightfully, Kate then arrives and announces she’s going to attend the meeting, shooting Ken a filthy look en-route.  As ever, Kate makes her feelings about Ken crystal clear.

I love Ken’s attempt to buy Claude off (“how much would you take not to come back at all?”).  Our Mr Masters is not terribly subtle!  Claude’s open-mouthed shock is somewhat amusing as is his stern response (“you can’t buy me off”).  Quite why Ken should continue to obsess over Claude when it’s been made clear that he’s got no personal interest in Jan is a slight mystery – presumably it’s an attempt to highlight Ken’s general paranoia (one of his many character flaws).

Richard Shellet makes his final bow.  A pity, but it would have stretched credibility for him to keep on popping up from time to time, vowing revenge and lobbing the odd bomb around.  His face-off with Jack is short but sweet – with Jack playing an interesting psychological game (luckily he guessed right).

Tom loses radio contact with Barracuda.  And with Lynne now entering stormy waters in the North Atlantic it’s the cue for a good deal of anxious acting from Maurice Colbourne and Jan Harvey.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Four

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Shellet continues to lurk about, this time he’s casting his disturbing shadow down at the Mermaid.  The incidental music takes a sudden turn for the sinister as Shellet looks over the boat that Jack’s due to take out shortly, which gives us a clue as to what might happen ….

Polly, glass in hand, demands an apology from Gerald over his accusations of her extravagance.  Patricia Shakesby and Ivor Danvers sparkle here – Polly declaims that she provides good value for money as a hostess whilst Gerald counters that it’s all she does do (once again highlighting their marriage of convenience).  It’s slightly odd that Gerald raises the point about tightening their belts though, since this wasn’t really the reason for his outburst last time and – as a trusted lieutenant of Charles Frere – it’s doubtful Gerald will be on the breadline anytime soon.

Charles pays another visit to Avril, once again entering her house without her permission, in a scene which highlights their differences.  Charles offers her a seat on his board, which she refuses outright.  For Charles, it’s purely business (they may have been lovers in the past, but that’s over) whilst Avril can’t see past their failed relationship.   And when Tom walks in, the tension level rises a little more.  Tom and Charles have another brief, but entertaining, face-off.

Shellet may have no money but he’s obviously a man of resourcefulness, as he’s able to knock up a quick homemade bomb and pop it into Jack’s boat.  As Jack (once again nattily attired with a bobble hat) takes the boat out, the incidental music helpfully provides the right mood (eerie and faintly disturbing, rather than the more usual blast of the Howards’ Way theme that normally accompanies sailing scenes).

When the explosion comes, it’s a nicely shot sequence – with Jack being flung overboard following the aftershock.  If one were being picky, then a freeze-frame shows that he’s already got a bruise on his forehead before he’s struck by the sail, but not many viewers would have been watching this frame-by-frame back in 1986.  Kudos to Glyn Owen for taking a dip in the cold and unfriendly-looking water – the scenes of an unconscious Jack slowly sinking deeper and deeper are striking.  Luckily, Jack’s rescued by a passing boat but the fact that his rescuers can’t find a pulse is a worrying sign.

Jack obviously makes a recovery off-screen as he’s later ensconced in the hospital.  He’s quizzed by a police officer called Gray (Albert Welling).  Decades later, Welling would pop on a moustache to play Adolf Hitler in Doctor Who.  Avril is a concerned visitor, but Kate’s a more entertaining one.  “Are you all in one piece or are there some parts missing?”

Having made a speedy recovery of her own, Lynne’s now rediscovered her love for all things nautical.   She offers to sleep aboard the Barracuda in order to safeguard the expensive equipment aboard.  This naturally brings her closer to Tom at the expense of Jan, who’s not very pleased at all.  Jan claims that she’s concerned about Lynne’s welfare so soon after coming out of hospital, but since Kate tells her that she’s fine now, it seems more likely that Jan’s dismayed to find Lynne taking Tom’s side once more.  Jan then mutters that “it’s all so bloody unfair” which is a very telling moment.

But the arrival of Claude soon cheers her up.  Claude (or “Clod” as Ken usually refers to him) still has the silly ponytail and the even sillier accent.  Oh well, he won’t be around for ever.  Claude’s later revelation that his marriage is now off is a strange bit of plotting – it seemed to have existed in the first place purely to provide a not terribly involving cliffhanger, meaning that it’s now reversed with alacrity.   Ken’s continuing dislike of Claude means that he won’t support the business proposal forwarded by him and Jan – meaning that Jan’s prepared to strike out by herself.

Leo’s getting more involved in the campaign to save the nature reserve.  Abby’s as keen as he is, whilst Orrin is much more reserved (no pun intended).  Is fighting this cause Leo’s way of filling his time now that Abby and Orrin are a sort of item, or would he have done so anyway?  A little of both maybe.

Charles is thinking big with the marina development.  He doesn’t just want a hotel (part of an international chain preferably) but also an office block.  Even Gerald looks slightly askance at his ever-developing plans – as if it all goes ahead then it would change the look of the local community for ever.  With great zeal, Charles continues.  “I’m thinking of small to medium-sized businesses who wouldn’t be able to afford or who wouldn’t have the requirement to run the whole range of communications and computer equipment.  Secretarial pool, digital and off-peak transatlantic telephone connections.  Boardrooms and conference rooms for hire. Word processing and computer rental. Post offices and banks. The possibilities are endless.”  Oh, then he decides a Casino would be good too ….

With Jack out of action, discussion turns to who could take the Barracuda on its solo Atlantic crossing.  In a not terribly surprising end of episode revelation, we see that Lynne has snuck out aboard the Barracuda and appears to be well on her way.  I can just picture Jan’s face.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Three

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Ken’s attempting to interest Charles in a new business venture – the purchase of a large stretch of land, currently in use as a nature reserve, to be transformed into a marina.  The difference between them is again thrown into sharp relief after Ken tells him that they could build some chalets as well.  Charles, on the other hand, believes a five-star hotel would be better.

It would be a difficult sell to the locals, but Charles decides that the job creation angle (a very Thatcherite concept) would work well on that score whilst Ken declares that it would still be good for the wildlife (all those masts that the birds could perch on).  This line is delivered straight (presumably Ken actually believes what he’s saying) although Charles’ expression speaks volumes.

When Leo finds out about Ken’s plan for the nature reserve he’s not at all happy …

Charles jaunts over to France for a meeting with Viscount Cunningham (Richard Wilson).  Naturally enough, Cunningham arrives by helicopter (the only way to travel, clearly).  Charles’ meeting with Cunningham is designed to try and head off any protests from the environmental lobby, re the proposed purchase of the nature reserve.

Charles pays lip service to the idea that the views of the nature lobby should be taken seriously, but he’s also concerned that whoever makes the final decision should be “objective, someone who has the best interests of the county at heart and who is totally, totally impartial.”  Or in other words, someone who knows what the right decision is.  And in this case, that means what’s right for Charles Frere.

David Lloyd (great, super) wants Avril to join Relton Marine full time.  At present, the members of the Mermaid all take turns to attend Relton’s board meetings – and today it’s Jack’s turn.  The prospect of Jack mingling with the suits obviously gives plenty of scope for both drama and comedy and although we don’t actually see what transpired, Jack returns to the yard to tell them what’s been decided.

A solo crossing of the Atlantic by the Barracuda will give them just the publicity push they need … and Jack’s offered to sail her.  Avril looks appalled, Tom looks pleased, whilst Jack begins to have second thoughts.

Tom and Ken run into each other at the Jolly Sailor.  As with the recent meeting between Avril and Jan there’s a distinct lack of warmth.  Ken tells him that Tarrant’s a small place, so he can’t spend the rest of his life avoiding him.  Tom counters that “I’d appreciate your trying.”  Maurice Colbourne shines during this scene, his intensity plain to see.

Lynne’s back at home but she’s still yet to regain her memory.  Tom offers to take her out in the Flying Fish – and thanks to a spot of psychology from Tom it does the trick.  Before that we see Jack (nice bobble hat, sir) set out for a quick sail, but he comes back in a bad temper, unhappy with the rigging on the boat (and therefore the standards of the yard).  Glyn Owen’s on his usual fine form as Jack annoys Avril (placing his boots in the filing cabinet was the final straw).

Shellet keeps on popping up – at Jack’s house and then round at the Urquharts.  Gerald, whilst not as cutting as Charles in the previous episode, still sends him away with a flea in his ear.  We do see a spark of anger from Gerald when he deals with him though, which continues when Polly wonders why her husband let such a repellent creature like Shellet through the door again.  “It’s part of my job. This house, the clothes you wear, the trips you make, your expenses, extravagance. Where do you think it all come from, eh? Sometimes I have to get my hands dirty.”  This brief outburst is all the more noteworthy as up until now Gerald has been a fairly neutral character.  It’s the first sign that there’s more to him than his public façade would suggest.

With Orrin keen to marry Abby, Jan fretting that Ken won’t commit to her new business venture and Kate concerned that her racehorse trainer is overcharging her for oats (!), there’s certainly plenty going on in this one.

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Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode Two

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Lynne’s safe, but is far from well.  Jan and Tom rush to the hospital to find her dazed and confused – she’s suffering from complete amnesia.  We learn that she was fished out of the water after about ten minutes (although it’s not explained who rescued her).  It’s also not clear why it took so long for Lynne’s next of kin to be contacted.

Jan Harvey is the one who’s given the lines when they encounter her for the first time (as well a nice two-shot of Jan and an oxygen-masked Lynne) but Maurice Colbourne almost manages to steal the scene with a cutaway shot of Tom wearily closing his eyes.  Sometimes, less is more.

There’s another example of Tarrant’s bizarre eco-system, where it always seems to be sunny indoors (studio) and gloomy outside (film).  We switch from the inside of the Urquhart’s house, with Polly and Gerald discussing the imminent arrival of Orrin (Michael Ryan), to outside Charles’ abode, where he’s surprised to be set upon by Shellet (who’s been lurking in the shrubbery).

This is a great little scene.  Shellet’s now a desperate man (“I’m broke, I’ve got no money”) although Charles responds in exactly the way you’d expect him to.  “You’re trespassing, get off my property or I’ll set the dogs on you.”  The way that Charles looks him up and down with a sense of revulsion is another nice touch.

The party at Abby’s flat provides ample evidence that Leo and rhythm don’t really go together (however, Davy does cut some impressive moves).  The scene’s more of interest due to the way it highlights the current status of the Abby/Leo relationship – they’re more at ease with each other than ever before (she kisses him briefly on the lips and then tells him that “I’ve never been as close to anyone as I am to you”) but with the spectre of Orrin on the horizon, things will change.

Tom sets out with Henderson (Andrew Hilton) for another testing run in the Barracuda.  Henderson’s the possessor of a certain oily charm – when he learns that Avril isn’t joining them he decides that it’s “probably just as well. We don’t want too many distractions, do we?”  Avril wisely makes no response.

Last time, we saw how Avril was upset at the way Tom bailed on the yard’s business in order to search for Lynne.  Positions are reversed here, as Henderson forces him to stay out a lot longer than he’d expected – meaning that he’s unable to meet Jan as planned (the pair had arranged to travel up to the hospital together).

Tom could have told Henderson that his daughter was ill in hospital and there’s every possibility he would have been sympathetic, but instead he grimly carries on with the testing.  But on the plus side, it gives us a charged encounter between Jan and Avril, after Jan rushes to the yard, looking for Tom.

From the moment Jan enters the office you can sense the chill.  Avril is polite, but it doesn’t take too long before some home truths are spelled out.  She tells Jan that “when there was doubt about Lynne’s safety, Tom abandoned this yard when its future hung in the balance, knowing he was jeopardising his business’s survival and ours.  I criticised him, but I now realise his feelings for his family gave him no option.  Today out there he’s trying to make up for it and knowing Tom, I bet he’s sweating blood he’s not here to meet you.  Don’t you understand your husband at all?”  If looks could kill, then Jan’s stare would have finished Avril off once and for all …

The initial meeting between Orrin and Polly is an exercise in awkwardness.  Although given the fact that Abby and her parents are currently estranged, I’m not sure why Orrin came to Polly first – why didn’t he simply go direct to Abby’s lodgings?  The upshot is that Abby agrees to return home, where Orrin will also be, whilst Leo (lurking in the background) looks a little discomforted.

There’s another lovely example of Polly’s monumental lack of tact, after she decides that it would be nice for her, Abby and Orrin to go out for tea.  After all, Leo’s on hand to look after the baby.  It doesn’t occur to her that it might be courteous to ask Leo if he’d mind (something which he rather pointedly mentions) although the fact that he then tells him it’s no trouble is a characteristic Leo moment.

Jack dispenses some more of his words of wisdom after he and Tom visit the production line where the Barracuda is now being mass produced.  “Wood is a living material. A boat is a living thing.  I’m not being sentimental.  By that, I mean she’s the sum total of all the men who worked on her, sawed and steamed her planks and shaved her timbers. When she’s running before the wind, that’s what you feel beneath your feet.”

Later, Jack heads off to the races with Kate, where Aztec Boy (the horse she owns 25% of) is running.  The production team clearly went on a real race day, as the hundreds of race-goers demonstrate, it’s just a pity that they couldn’t afford to shoot footage of an actual race  This means we switch from footage of Jack and Kate (on film) to the horses (on videotape) and back to Jack and Kate (on film) which is a little distracting.  But there’s a nice comic compensation – as the race goes into its final stages, Jack is closely following it through his binoculars, which Kate then snatches off him (nearly strangling him in the process!).

This week’s cliffhanger – Jan learns that Claude has married a key figure in the French fashion world – falls a little flat.  Jan’s concerned that his marriage will impact the boutique, which isn’t something I confess to being too concerned about.  Although Ken’s on hand to soften the blow.  “Not jealous are you? Lucky for you, you’ve got good old reliable Ken. Here in every emergency.”  God bless Ken, he never disappoints.

Howards’ Way – Series Two, Episode One

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We open with a nice aerial view of the Tarrant marina.  And of course it’s another gloomy day (Tarrant – a place where the sun rarely shines).

Initially it seems that this shot was simply an impressive visual flourish, but it then becomes clear that Charles, in a helicopter, is hovering above the Mermaid Yard.

This is typical Charles Frere.  Most people would be content to lurk in the background in order to keep tabs on their rivals (the Mermaid are celebrating launching the Barracuda) but not Charles, he has to think bigger.

We then switch to the courtroom where the tug of love for ownership of the Mermaid Yard between Jack and Shellet is continuing.  But within a matter of minutes it’s all over as Shellet doesn’t exactly cover himself with glory in the witness box.  It’s a little odd to see this plotline wrapped up with such unseemly haste, although the aftershock rumbles on for a few more episodes.

The big unresolved question from the series one cliffhanger concerns Lynn.  We saw her tumbling into the water after reeling from the shock of finding Charles in bed with his wife.  It’s now the day after and there’s no sign of her, which concerns Jan.  Frankly, given that Lynne was stunned unconcious when she entered the water (and there was no-one about to help her) it’s hard to see how she couldn’t have drowned. Let’s wait and see though …

Jan asks Leo to stop at home in case Lynne calls, but Leo says he can’t – he’s got something important to do.

Ken (nattilly attired in a suit) shows his caring side to Jan, telling her that if they lived together he could share all her problems. When she mentions that she hasn’t heard from Claude for a while he’s not surprised or concerned. “What else can you expect from a Frog?” I love Ken, he’s a source of endless entertainment.

The hunt for Lynne brings Tom and Jan back together, although it’s an uneasy alliance. He’s as concerned as she is, but Tom (with no evidence) believes that the Jan/Ken axis has driven their daughter away. Given Tom’s dalliance with Avril this seems rather unfair. Jan Harvey is called upon to do a good deal of anguished staring into the distance acting during this episode.

We later find out what Leo’s important job was (of course it concerns Abby). Abby and her baby are leaving the hospital and Leo is on hand to play the devoted father. It’s a role he seems perfectly suited for (although since Orrin, the baby’s real father, is due to arrive shortly, it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing it for much longer). Despite being preoccupied, Leo does manage to provide a lead on Lynne, which sends Tom off on a collision course with Charles.

He’s not at his boat, but Charles’ secretary Samantha (Maria Eldridge) is. Samantha probably gets more lines in this one scene than she does in the rest of her appearances put together. Eldridge’s other credits aren’t extensive (a couple of Goodies episodes and a few roles elsewhere, playing challenging parts such as “Girl in Car” and “Girl with Gun”) which is a little surprising as she’s very watchable here.

With Tom not available to take the Barracuda out, Jack steps into the breach. He’s delighted (cue shots of the boat slicing through the waves with the Howards’ Way theme blasting out) whilst Avril’s not at all pleased that Tom’s left them in the lurch. Cue more anguished staring into the distance acting, this time from Susan Gilmore.

The tension concerning Lynne continues to ratchet up, although any eagle-eyed viewer would have spotted that Tracey Childs wasn’t listed in the opening credits – meaning that (unless it was a double-bluff) she wouldn’t be making an appearance. The final lines of the episode (Tom: “The police have just telephoned. They think they’ve found Lynne”) offers up a number of possibilities, although the mood is rather sabotaged by the fact that they dive straight into the end-credits – which this year features the dreaded vocal version of the theme. I’m not a fan …..

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Thirteen

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For the first time we see Polly shaken out of her usual amused self-control.  The sight of Abby being carted off in an ambulance is more than enough to finally bring her long-repressed maternal feelings to the surface.

They aren’t reciprocated though, as Abby screams when her mother attempts to join her in the ambulance.  And Leo offers no comfort either – looking blankly at Polly when she insists that Abby’s tumble down the stairs was an accident.  Since it clearly was (there’s not even a hint that she was pushed) why does Leo seems incapable of offering even a crumb of comfort?

The baby – a boy – is born, although Abby still refuses to have anything to do with her mother.  This results in a tear-streaked Polly leaving her daughter’s bedside, convinced that Leo’s the one who’s turned her daughter against her.  “I hold you responsible for this, Leo Howard. And you’ll regret it, I promise you. I’m going to make you pay.”

After a brief moment of self-insight last time, Jack’s back to his normal, bluff persona.  Telling Avril that, in the words of Aristotle, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and plonking his shoes into the filing cabinet are two early signs of that.

He later refuses to be kowtowed when David Lloyd and the others visit the yard to inspect the prototype.  Jack’s at his best here, refusing to stand on ceremony and inordinately proud of the craftsmanship of the Mermaid.  The fact that the prototype is made out of wood is something that’s mollified him – it makes him content that although the Barracuda will be mass-produced, at least the original was hand-crafted in wood.

Jan asks Tom for a divorce (which rather oddly happens off screen).  Ken’s delighted to hear this of course, although he has to ratchet down his joy when he realises that Jan’s more than a little traumatised.  Bless Ken, his social skills tend to be somewhat limited.

Sir John invites Ken to lunch at the golf club.  Once again there’s some lovely class-based comedy – Ken orders a gin and tonic (no doubt seeing it as the perfect drink for such an exclusive environment) whilst Sir John asks for a pint.  Once again, this a small moment which illustrates the difference between them – since Ken is anxious to fit in, he attempts to modify his behaviour accordingly whilst Sir John is secure with his place in the world and sees no need to change.

Kate aptly sums Ken up later as “a wolf in wolf’s clothing” and is baffled why her daughter should prefer him over Tom.  Minutes later they meet – briefly – for the first time.  Kate flashes him an incredibly filthy look and refuses his outstretched hand, so they’re plainly not going to be friends anytime soon!

Relationship traumas in the Howard household continue with Lynne.  She’s still besotted with Charles, even though he’s proving to be somewhat elusive (breaking their appointments).   Poor Lynne spends her time moping by the phone and staring into the distance, waiting for him to call.  Charles doesn’t seem at all bothered though.

There’s another example that Charles is a winner – we see him bouncing around the tennis court, playing a range of athletic shots, which eventually ends up with him emerging victorious.

Claude pops up again, much to Ken’s disgust.  Ken does a nice impression of Claude’s accent though!  Claude wants to purchase a fashion house.  Jan’s keen, Ken’s not.

Howards’ Way, like The Brothers, always understood the importance of carrying forward certain plotlines to the next series as well as closing each run of episodes with a strong cliffhanger.  The disputed ownership of the Mermaid Yard is something that’ll be settled early in series two (we see Jack enter the hearing, but aren’t told what happened).

As for the cliffhanger, an increasingly irate Lynne make her way to Charles’ yacht, only to find him in bed with another woman.  He introduces her as “Honey Gardner, my wife” which rather takes the wind out of Lynne’s sails.  She exits, sobbing, and in her haste to get away loses her balance on the jetty and falls into the water.

It might not be the best stunt ever mounted – rather than a simple stumble and fall, the stuntwoman falls to the ground and then seems to deliberately roll over into the water – but no matter, it’s still a strong way to conclude the first series.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Twelve

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Charles – a vision in white – is out for an early morning jog.  By the way that Tony Anholt labours his way across the marina, I’d guess he wasn’t a regular jogger in real life.  Once he’s puffed his way back to the yacht, Charles tells Lynne that he’s keen to spend the day with her – the fact she’s agreed to help her mother (it’s the grand opening of the boutique) doesn’t bother him.

If it hasn’t already been made obvious then here it’s explicit – Charles expects his own wants and needs to come first.  It’s what’s made him a successful businessman, although with one (failed?) marriage, the floundering relationship with Avril and (as we’ll soon see) the odd illegitimate child lurking about, possibly his controlling nature is the reason why his personal life is chaotic.

Shellet is also looking for female company.  His mild overture to Polly came to nothing (whilst the mind boggles at the pair of them together, a house-sharing comedy with Shellet as Polly and Gerald’s lodger would have been fab.  That’s one spin-off show we were sadly denied).  Anyway, he’s seeking solace elsewhere – eyeing the escort adverts in the local paper.  He doesn’t seem interested in either Adam and Eve Escorts or Madame’s Escort Agency, instead he circles the Pussy Cats advert.  I don’t know why, but this is a little detail that’s always amused.  We then have further evidence of Shellet’s uncouth and unstable nature – he slops his tea in his saucer.  Mind you, the strong hint later on that his relationship with his sister (Jack’s late wife) crossed familial bounds puts his tea slopping crime into perspective.

Avril and Tom are at Napier Marine, hopeful that the board will invest in Tom’s boat.  They can count on some support, but David Lloyd (Bruce Bould) is the one they really need to convince.  Bould was best known for playing the fawning David Harris-Jones (“great, super”) in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.  It’s very hard not to think of Harris-Jones whenever Lloyd’s on the screen – the fact that we meet him in a boardroom environment doesn’t help.

Avril’s in her element dealing with the board, which makes it plain that she’s somewhat wasted at the Mermaid, just trying to make the books balance.  Clearly the programme-makers thought so too, as in later years she’s shunted over to Relton Marine, where she became a high-flying executive.

Ken’s pushing to be an equal partner with Charles in the Marina development.  Will Ken really be able to raise the capital needed?  Time will tell, but at the moment all seems rosy.  I like the way that when Ken extends his arm for a handshake to seal the deal, Charles imperceptivity pauses, looks down at Ken’s hand, looks up again with the faintest ghost of a smile and only then shakes.  It’s subtle, but reiterates that Charles is still the dominant force.

Having packed in his job at the garage, Leo is looking for alternative employment.  He wants to change the world, but first is considering a factory job on the Isle of Wight.  Abby’s bump has expanded greatly (and she’s still happy, which is slightly unnerving).

Jack finally tells Avril about Shellet’s claim on the yard, which spells trouble for Tom’s boat (the Barracuda).  The scene is also notable for showing a rare reflective side to Jack.  Possibly it’s because he’s worried he’s going to lose everything, but there appears to be genuine regret from him about his disastrous marriage.  “She never forgave me for the way I treated her. I could see it in her eyes the night she died.  Sometimes I do feel guilty. I can’t help it. I can’t change the past, can I? God knows, sometimes I wish I could.”  Glyn Owen is often called upon to act as comic relief, but occasionally – as here – he gets an opportunity to play something a little deeper.

Jan doesn’t approve of Lynne’s relationship with Charles.  Mind you, as Lynne says, Jan can hardly talk – Ken Masters is surely nobody’s vision of a perfect partner.  There’s another classic Ken moment in this episode – he pops Sade on the hi-fi and, all by himself, smooches around the room.

Orin’s sent Abby another letter which, in her continuing absence, Polly unashamedly opens and reads.  Amusingly, Gerald initially registers irritation at Polly’s violation of their daughter’s secrecy, but a moment later can’t help but ask her what’s in it!

Polly agrees with Gerald that she’ll forward the letter on (although he doesn’t catch that she adds the word “personally”).  Thanks to the efforts of a private detective, Polly’s tracked her daughter down.  It’s not exactly a joyful reunion, since their brief squabble is followed by Abby falling down the stairs ….

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Eleven

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Shellet comes calling on the Urqhuarts.  Polly doesn’t exactly take to him, telling Gerald that “there’s a sort of person” to see him.  Shellet needs money for expenses and he also seems deprived in other areas (mentioning to Polly that it gets very lonely when he’s all alone in his hotel room).  Polly might have an eye for just about anything in trousers, but I’ve a feeling that Shellet is a bridge too far, even for her.

Lynne’s glammed up for her evening meal with Charles whilst Ken calls on Jan.  He plainly feels threatened by Claude (or “that froggy dressmaker” as he calls him) and seems to be fretting about the business trip to Cannes that Jan and Claude will shortly be taking.  Far away from home, he no doubt envisages that Claude will take advantage of her in just the sort of way he’s not been able to do so far!

It’s a sunny day in Tarrant, something of a rarity.  This makes Charles and Lynne’s champagne and caviar seem even more intoxicating.  He learns that Lynne’s father is conducting an affair with Avril (uh oh) and then outlines his philosophy of living, which revolves around power and freedom.  “Power to act and freedom to choose.” They’ve hardly finished the meal when he casually mentions that he’d like to sleep with her – which is as good an example of power and freedom as you can get.

Abby decides she wants to keep the baby.  This seems to have cheered her up – for pretty much the first time ever she seems almost happy.

And then we go to Cannes, well sort of.  In later years the budget would actually stretch to foreign filming, but that wasn’t the case here.  So we have a brief montage of stock footage (people lounging on the beach, etc) before cutting to a pool obviously somewhere in England.  But they made a bit of an effort to suggest exotic climes by having two topless women walk past Claude and Jan’s table in a casual manner.  That was a tad unexpected I have to say, especially considering that the episode originally went out just before 8.00 pm on a Sunday evening.

Ken might be right to be wary of Claude, but at present it’s her business acumen he wants (Claude’s attempting to woo her away from Ken – suggesting instead that they set up business together).  I’m afraid his silly French accent is beginning to get on my nerves ….

And then Ken pops up in Cannes, casually offering to take Jan out to dinner.  And of course being Ken he appears at her hotel door with a rose in his teeth and a bottle of champagne in his hand.  After a decent meal (off-screen, which saved a bit more money) they return to Jan’s hotel room and you can probably guess what happened next.

When they meet up for breakfast the next morning, Ken demonstrates that he’s an unreconstructed Englishman abroad since he’s not willing to try any funny food (bacon and eggs is what he wants).  The arrival of Claude sets Ken’s antenna twitching, but he acts casually in only the way that Ken Masters can.

The highly recognisable Hubert Rees pops up as racehorse trainer Stephen Bettins.  Kate’s part of a racehorse syndicate (each owning a leg) but it seems clear that she’s going to struggle to pay her share.  It might have been these scenes which inspired Glaister to later develop Trainer, which unfortunately wasn’t the same sort of success that both The Brothers and Howards’ Way had been.

Polly’s made it quite plain to Abby (before she ran away from home of course) that she viewed her daughter as an extreme disappointment.  But not any more.  After opening her mail(!), Polly’s delighted to read a letter from an American student called Orin Hudson.  He and Abby were obviously close for a while (as Polly so charmingly puts it – “God knows what this boy sees in Abby but it all sounds very lovey-dovey”).  And since he’s a member of an incredibly wealthy American family, Polly sees it as her duty to reunite the two lovebirds.  This is mercenary Polly at her best.

Jack’s solicitor lays on the line exactly how serious things are.  If Shellet’s claim is successful then not only will Jack lose the yard, he’ll also forfeit his house.  Tom will lose everything too, as all the yard’s assets (including the new boat) will be Shellet’s.  That’s a suitably dramatic way to bring the episode to an end.


Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Ten

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Tom and Avril have spent the night together aboard the Flying Fish.  For all that Jan’s been shrill and accusatory this year, it’s Tom who turns out to be the one who irreparably destroys their marriage.  Pledging all their money (including using the house as collateral) for his dreams of boat building started the cracks but when it’s revealed that he’s been conducting an affair with Avril there’s no way back.

As Tom and Avril lie in each others arms in dawn’s early light, a young chap is making his way over to another boat.  Presumably he must be a little hard of hearing as he doesn’t seem to notice the red beeping danger signal on the dashboard.  He attempts to turn the ignition switch and whoosh, there’s a rather large explosion.

Tom plays the hero and rescues the boy but it means that neither Tom or Avril have time to return home before Leo’s up and about.  And Leo can’t help but notice that neither his father or Avril seem to have spent the night in their respective beds (he’s still doing a spot of paining and decorating at Avril’s).  Quite how he worked out that Avril wasn’t in her bed isn’t explained ….

There’s also a journalist sniffing about and he speaks to both Leo and Ken.  You can just imagine Ken’s delight when he learns that Tom and Avril spent the night together, whilst Leo is understandably perplexed and troubled.  With immaculate timing, matters come to a head just as Lynne returns home in triumph (her boat won their class in the FastNet).

Ken, of course, is on hand to stoke up the fire.  Meeting Jan off the train from London, he can’t wait to tell her the news whilst elsewhere Leo confronts Avril.  “You may have all the looks, Avril, but that’s all you’ve got. Any woman who goes after a man knowing he’s got a wife and family is damn well nothing.”  Edward Highmore doesn’t quite spark into life, but maybe he’s a little less wooden than usual.

Jan confronts Tom who tells her that it could have easily have been her with Ken.  This is an astonishing statement as there’s been no evidence – the odd tango apart – to suggest that Jan’s even considered breaking her vows.

Perhaps it would have worked a little better had this storyline dripped out over a few episodes, with the rumours about Tom and Avril slowly gaining momentum.  As it is, it feels rather rushed.

If you need a little light relief from the strife at the Howards, then Jack’s still ensconced at the clinic, playing gin rummy with Kate and reluctant to join in any group therapy.  Fair to say he’s not the easiest patient.  Jack finally makes an appearance at group therapy, although he doesn’t take it terribly seriously (“I don’t drink a lot, I spill most of it”) leaving the therapist – Louise Silverton (Christine Kavanagh) – mildly irritated.

Elsewhere, Ken and Charles have a business lunch at the yacht club.  Lynne waits upon them and is introduced to Charles for the first time.  Once again there’s the wonderful contrast between Ken – anxious to appear cultured and intelligent – and Charles – who breezes through any social or business occasion with ease.  The business of the wine is a good example.  Ken suggests a bottle of Mouton Cadet but Charles wonders if the Chateau Montrose might not be preferable.  It’s a subtle example of one-upmanship which sees Charles emerge victorious yet again.

But Ken’s convinced that he’s won the war, telling Jan later that he’s got Charles “just where I want him. If he doesn’t go along with me, there’s nowhere else to go.”.  I’ve got a feeling that Ken’s counting his chickens rather too early.

After spying Lynne for the first time, Charles clearly likes what he sees, so he sends her hand-picked flowers and arranges a dinner-date with her aboard his yacht at 8:30.  He’s a smooth operator, that’s for sure.

We finally learn that Shellet is Jack’s brother-in-law.  When Jack receives a letter from him, he’s perplexed.  Kate can’t understand why, after all it seems perfectly natural that he should want to get in touch.  Jack has the perfect riposte.  “He’s been dead twenty five years, that’s what’s wrong.”

And now he’s made a claim for ownership of the Mermaid Yard.  But the end of episode twist (Charles is the one who’s put him up to it) is a great moment which adds yet another layer to the plot.  Ten episodes in and everything’s ticking along nicely.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Nine

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There’s a further example that Charles is a thrusting (and wealthy) businessman at the start of this episode – he arrives by helicopter.  I wonder if his comment that the weather in Geneva was even worse than back in the UK was an adlib to take account of the fact that yet again location filming took place on a gloomy day.  If the exteriors for series one were shot during the summer, then the sun rarely seemed to come out.

Charles meets Gerald outside a palatial country house – one of a number which Gerald has earmarked as potentials for Charles to purchase.  Since they make no effort to inspect the interior, landing here doesn’t make a great deal of sense – apart from the fact that (like the helicopter) it reiterates to the audience that Charles Frere is a man of substance.  This is also subtly acknowledged via the incidentals, as a plaintive string melody plays over shots of Charles’ chauffeur-driven car moving away from the house.

Lynne has arrived at the Isle of Wight, keyed up for the FastNet race.  A barrage of stock footage is employed in order to create the illusion of a massed phalanx of boats, which isn’t entirely successful due to some of the clips being on film and others being on videotape.  Phil pops up to taunt Lynne and the others – since they’re just a bunch of girls, surely they’ll have trouble even getting to the start?

In the most unsurprising twist ever, the two boats find themselves head to head (curiously there’s no other boats around at this point) and the girls easily pull ahead, leaving Phil floundering.  Hurrah!

One oddity is that Tom, Jan, Kate and Leo never express any interest about how the race is going.  You’d have thought they’d at least have mentioned it.

Jack’s in the Jolly Sailor, bending the ear of the unfortunate barman, Arthur (Patrick Carter).  This seems to be a common occurrence – no doubt whenever Jack gets plastered he reminisces about boats he has known (in this case, the first one he ever built – back in 1948).  Arthur is plainly desperate to get away, but with the politeness of a trained barman can’t bring himself to tell a valued customer to stop chuntering away.  Perusing the delights on offer in the bar, I wonder what Badger Export Bitter tastes like?

Kate’s still acting as his conscience, ringing up the pub to berate him for hitting the bottle again.  Jack’s eloquent comeback (“you old teabag”) is priceless.  Things take a darker turn later when Kate finds him collapsed at his home – she takes control straight away and calls an ambulance.  Luckily, there’s nothing seriously wrong with him, so she checks him into a clinic in order for them to dry him out.  This is going to be fun ….

Abby discusses with Dr Malik (Renu Setna), the possibility of terminating her unborn child.  Setna, still working I’m happy to see, has played an awful lot of doctors during his career (episode one of the Doctor Who story The Hand of Fear is one such which springs to mind).

Several characters make their debut here.  A mystery man, who we later discover is called Richard Shellet (Oscar Quitak), is seen lurking about.  He’s clearly a wrong ‘un – the way that the incidentals suddenly turn sinister and Shellet’s peremptory way of dealing with the hotel staff are two obvious signifiers of this.  Although he doesn’t speak, he later fingers a picture of the Mermaid Yard, so it may not be too hard to work out where this plotline will go.   It’s going to rumble on for a while (into the second series) and will provide considerable entertainment, not least because of Quitak’s performance – Shellet always appears to be a man teetering on the edge of insanity.

Ah, Claude Dupont (Malcolm Jamieson).  The devilishly handsome, smooth-as-silk, would-be fashion designer crosses paths with Jan.  She’s looking for a designer, he’s looking for work, it seems a marriage made in heaven.  It’s hard to take Claude that seriously, since this is another example of plot contrivance (a potentially world-class fashion designer who just happens to fall – as it were – into Jan’s lap) but Howards’ Way never really bothered too much about realism.  And why should it?  Mind you, his silly French accent is a little irritating.

Ken, invited to a swanky party organised by Charles, runs into merchant banker Sir John Stevens (Willoughby Gray).  Sir John will be a regular throughout the six series and for all that time always refers to Ken as Kenneth (the only person to do so).  A subtle put down, possibly?  Sir John is always politeness personified, but the clash of different worlds that occurs whenever he runs into Ken is not only obvious but also an endless source of class-based comedy.  Ken, dazzling in a white dinner jacket with a rose in his button-hole, is clearly overawed by Sir John.

The episode ends with Tom and Avril enjoying an idyllic time aboard the Flying Fish.  But I’ve got a feeling that their joy is going to be short-lived.

Howards’ Way – Series One, Episode Eight

howards' 08

This one opens with Charles steering his yacht en route to a business meeting with Ken.  Size, of course, isn’t everything, but it’s fair to say that Charles’ craft dwarfs most of the others in the marina.   His yacht serves several purposes – not only does it tell us that he’s a man of substance but it’s also a handy device to impress others.

And Ken is very impressed.  Dressed in a gleaming all-white outfit, he’s obviously a little overawed.  A breakfast meeting with champagne?  It’s a small taste of the high life that he’s incredibly anxious to sample more regularly (and no doubt Charles would have been well aware of this, so the location would have been no accident).  Charles suggests a joint venture – Ken builds the new marina, Charles runs it.  Ken asks for time to consider, but still seems confident that if he refuses then Charles will be stuck – since Ken owns a prime piece of property bang in the middle of the proposed location.

Charles isn’t bothered though, in true Thatcherite spirit he declares that “we live in a commercial world, Ken. Everything’s for sale.”

Time has clearly passed off-screen, as Jan and Ken are practically ready to open the boutique, whilst Tom’s prototype boat has passed its tests with flying colours.  We saw a brief moment of testing in the previous episode, but Tom’s boat has still sailed off the drawing board with unseemly haste.

As for Jan, she’s suddenly turned into a hard-headed businesswoman, easily able to gain very favourable terms from tailor Bernie Rosen (Harry Landis).  Bernie’s Jewish of course (this scores a full ten on the cliché ratometer).

Tom’s delighted to hear that his prototype is developing well and, in a moment of sheer joy, embraces Avril in the office.  Alas, Leo walks in at precisely that moment and if looks could kill no doubt both his father and Avril would have disintegrated on the spot.  I’m not sure whether Leo’s more annoyed that his father’s in the arms of anther woman of if he’s simply miffed not to be the one enjoying the embrace!  Edward Highmore continues to essay a performance which is low on subtlety, but perhaps that suits Leo’s character.  Whereas most of the other characters are capable of hiding their true feelings from time to time, Leo is very much a WYSIWYG type.

Leo tracks Abby down in Southampton, which is the cue for another burst of Abby’s theme (the plaintive guitar melody which, along with the theme, must be the most familiar part of the incidentals) and a somewhat surprising revelation – she’s pregnant.  Charles formally meets Jan for the first time, Lynne is offered a place in an all-women crew in the FastNet, whilst the other main point of interest concerns the continuing travails at the yard.

With the loss of the German contract, the bank are ready to foreclose but Tom is able to persuade them that his prototype will turn their fortunes around (but he needs Jan to agree to use their house as collateral).  Jack is still insistent that plastic toy boats have no place in his yard, but is shocked and stunned to realise that he no longer owns fifty percent of the company (and therefore is unable exercise a casting vote).  Tom has 25%, Avril had 25% but then bought an additional 5%, so she and Tom are able to outvote Jack.  The look on Glyn Owen’s face is priceless.  Presumably Jack must have been pretty drink-addled in recent months not to realise that Avril’s increased her shareholding.

Jack later articulates his feelings to Kate.  “I’ve fought for that yard, Kate. Lost sleep, sweated blood for it. And what’s it all been in aid of? Nothing. Everything I’ve specialised in over the years is gone.”  In her own way, Kate is as much of a traditionalist as Jack is – but she can see that everything has to change, nothing can stay the same forever.

Later Charles plays Avril another visit.  She’s still not interest in his proposals, this time he tells her he’s interested in buying the yard.  Whilst he claims he’s prepared to do it in order to help her father, she’s far from convinced.  “The only person you’re willing to help is yourself”.  This helps to ramp up the tension surrounding the Mermaid (plus Charles’ recent arrival also continues to shake things up nicely).