Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Two

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Last time we were left on a dramatic cliffhanger – would Avril live or die? That question is resolved rather speedily at the start of this episode as she opens her eyes and we’re told that she’ll make a full recovery.  This can’t help but feel like something of a let-down (if you’re going to ramp up the tension then it’s rather a cheat to let it dissipate so quickly) but we do later learn that Avril’s suffering from periodic memory blackouts, so it may be that her road to recovery won’t quite be as straightforward as it first appeared.

Jan’s still fretting about her stolen designs, worried they could be on their way to Taiwan by now (and then later appearing on a market stall near you).  She’s pinning her hopes on getting the chain-smoking Antonia Rogers (Annie Lambert) to buy her some time by stalling the distributors.

Antonia is a hoot. I love the fact that she’s organising a fashion show in what appears to be the foyer of a posh office block.  No catwalk for her models then, instead some are traipsing up and down the stairs whilst two unfortunate girls have to attempt to walk a few paces within the confines of a cramped lift.  Well, it’s certainly different.  A pity that Antonia only appears in this episode and the next.

Jan’s mulling over who could have tipped the crooks off.  Only a handful of people knew – Kate and Polly, for example.  It’s hard to imagine sensible Kate as a hard-bitten criminal but Polly … hmm.  Polly’s very keen to inject some of her capital into the business, making it’s plain that just running a boutique won’t satisfy her requirements, she wants a piece of the action as well.

Whilst Jan’s on something of a downward professional curve at present, the Urquharts are on the up and up.  Polly’s new job is one of the reasons why – and this new-found independence may explain why for the first time she’s been able to connect with Abby.  But there’s more to their new-found relationship than that.  Abby’s grown up since she’s been away and – also for the first time – has come to understand precisely how much work is involved in rearing a child (it’s easy to believe that Abby wasn’t the most docile of babies).  But given that this is HW, one shouldn’t be too surprised if the current air of détente doesn’t last too long ….

Shock news!  Charles announces at a press conference that he’s resigning as Chief Executive of Frere Holdings with immediate effect and has appointed Gerald as his replacement.  As we saw last time, the accident has deeply affected him and he’s come to realise that business is not the most important thing in his life (slightly hard to believe, but never mind).  He wants to spend more time with Avril and the daughter (Abby) he’s only just realised he has.

That won’t be easy though, as Abby’s ensconced with Sir Edward and he’s attempting to prevent her from contacting his son.  This episode there’s much less of the contrite Sir Edward and a good deal more of the ruthless tycoon.  This is also demonstrated when he discusses his possible forthcoming marriage to Jan.  Sir John tells him that financially (if not personally) he’ll be fine in the event of a divorce, provided Jan signs the appropriate pre-nuptial papers.  The way that Sir Edward confidently tells him that this won’t be a problem is a telling one – Sir Edward always gets what he wants, so why should this be any different?

Sir Edward’s tentacles are beginning to spread.  He’s behind the consortium designing a boat for the America’s Cup and Tom is delighted to accept a place on the team.  Emma, his current squeeze, will be his assistant, although Jack’s not happy.  Howards Way wouldn’t be Howards Way if Jack wasn’t sulking about something, so it’s reassuring to know that things are back to normal.  He’s concerned that Tom’s involvement in the America’s Cup will have a negative impact on the Mermaid whilst he’s never taken to Emma and her computers.  Expect sparks to fly in the traditional manner.

Sarah and Sir Edward have a meeting.  She’s been less than thrilled about Ken’s attitude of late (he rarely seems to consult her before plunging ahead with his schemes) so wants Sir Edward – who organised a bridging loan for Leisure Cruise – to clip his wings.  Sarah tries to spice things up by telling Sir Edward that Ken is still interested in Jan.  This is another of those layered plotlines which is simmering away nicely.

Amanda might be long gone, but her father’s still around.  Given that he was never keen for Leo to marry his daughter in the first place it seems a little unlikely that now he’d have so dramatically reversed his opinion – offering Leo a tidy sum if they get back together.  Leo’s not interested and eventually Mr Parker seems to get the picture.

Leo’s not downhearted at the thought of his failed marriage for long though as he and Ken head out for a spot of powerboat racing.  Leo’s thinking of a career change – rather than selling boats he wants to race them.  Whatever happened to the young lad who was so keen on the environment and righting wrongs?  Ken and Leo do look rather sweet in their matching overalls though.

Jan and Tom have a candlelit dinner.  As with most of their meetings since their divorce, it’s a polite and respectful affair.  Tom gently tells her that she doesn’t need his blessing to marry Sir Edward but Jan responds that she’d still like it.  These days Tom is understanding and kindness personified.

If episode one’s cliffhanger turned out to be something of a damp squib, then this one is much more promising.  Ken meets up with Antonia, who confirms that Jan’s in serious trouble and once Antonia (on Ken’s urging) leaks the news to the international press then her problems will only intensify.  “I want Jan Howard to be taught a very expensive lesson, Antonia, one she’ll never forget”.

Even this early on, things are shaping up nicely – especially when Sir Edward introduces Jan as his future wife.  Just a pity she hasn’t said yes yet ….

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Howards Way – Series Four, Episode One

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For those who hadn’t seen – or had forgotten – the series three finale, there’s a helpful recap here as a news report brings us back up to speed.  Charles and Avril are feared lost at sea, somewhere off the coast of Ireland.  Stock footage of Royal Navy ships is intercut with shots of a reporter called Andrew Chater (Michael Walker), clutching a very large microphone and advancing towards the camera in a slightly menacing fashion.

The opening few minutes are film heavy as we cut from the over-enthusiastic reporter to Sir Edward at Highfield (being comforted by Jan) and then to Gerald, who finds himself doorstepped by a whole posse of reporters.  Some of them are quite well dressed (one’s even wearing a black bow tie).  And though it’s obviously sad that Charles and Avril are missing, they seem more interested in the stability of Frere Holdings, given Charles’ absence.

Jack is barely holding himself together.  Eyeing a portrait of Avril on his office desk, he refuses to move (despite the entreaties of both Tom and Kate) until he receives news.

Not everybody’s paralysed by grief though.  Ken is quite chipper, organising a photoshoot for a sales brochure (this involves cheesy music and a swimsuit clad model, who he delights in, ahem, touching up).  “That’s it! That’s better. Beautiful!” Ken beams, as he unzips her just a fraction more.  Good old Ken.

He’s also not adverse to scooping up some business which might have gone Relton’s way, but now – due to the uncertainty surrounding the company’s stability – now lands in his lap.  “I’m very sorry for them, but … life has to go on”.  Ken Masters = heartless.

Leo and Sarah later discuss him.  “He’s got a taste for success and is hungry for more and he’ll use you, me, anyone to get it. Just wait and see” she says.  Oh good, I think we’re going to have some fun with Ken this year.

He continues to sniff around Jan, although she remains cool.  Is it me, or does Ken sound slightly different during this scene?  Less rough and tumble and more refined.  Is Kenneth attempting to assimilate himself with his social betters by mimicking them?

The series clearly had a fairly decent budget by this point as they were able to afford hiring a rescue helicopter.  It’s possibly a little surprising that Charles and Avril are found so quickly (some ten minutes in) but their exact conditions aren’t clear at first (only that Avril is unconscious) so there’s still there’s still a lingering sense of uncertainty for a while.  Given Jack’s face (Glyn Owen was always so expressive) I hope he receives good news soon, otherwise I can foresee him keeling over.

Oh dear.  Avril’s sustained head injuries and is still unconscious.  With the constant beeping of the life support machine, Jack holds onto her hand and hopes for the best.  It’s better news about Charles as he’s young and strong and so should make a full recovery, but Sir Edward is still melancholy.  He confides to Jan that he was never much of a father.  Does this mean that he really intends to turn over a new leaf, and even if he does will the equally stubborn Charles be prepared to meet him half way?  If S3 saw Sir Edward attempting to reconcile with his son via the business route, it looks as if here he’s going to try the personal touch.

Father and son are reunited and as you might expect it’s not a joyful encounter.  Charles is hardly in the best shape (bruised and bandaged up) but even had he been A1 it’s doubtful that things would have turned out differently.  If Sir Edward really does want to reconcile with his son then it’s long to be a long, hard road.

The fact that Sir Edward paid for Abby’s passage back home and is putting her up at Highfield is an interesting wrinkle.  Maybe if his relationship with Charles doesn’t work out then he’ll simply transfer his attentions up a generation or two – granddaughter Abby and great-grandson William.

It’s interesting to see how the dynamic between Bill and Tom has changed over the years.  During the early part of S1, Bill had little time for Tom (especially his well meaning attempts to streamline the running of the yard).  This has all changed now, as Bill specifically asks Tom, in Jack’s absence, to have a word with the lads, who are still unsettled (reporters are sniffing around).  It’s a pity that, following the departure of Davy a while back, the lads have become little more than a group of extras, but it’s always good to see them every so often as it helps to remind the viewers that there’s more to life at the Mermaid than just what takes place inside the office.

Leo’s looking rather sharp today.  White suit, blue shirt, black and red tie.  He’s off to meet Abby, but that’s not the reason why he’s smartly dressed (at this point he’s still a thrusting young powerboat salesman).  They’re at one of their favourite locations – the ruined Abbey – where she tells him that her mother has changed.  Polly now genuinely seems to care.

She then drops the bombshell that Charles Frere is her real father.  I’d have liked the camera to linger on Edward Highmore for a few more second whilst he digested this news, but there’s a lot to pack into this opening episode, so time was very clearly of the essence.  If Jan and Sir Edward do decide to tie the knot that will result in some interesting familial links between Leo and Abby.

Poor Leo now realises that Abby didn’t come home to be with him, instead she’s still working out whether or not she has a future with Orrin.  “I’m not even in the picture at all, except as a friend. Reliable old Leo”.  Aww.

A late-night meeting between Charles and Jack (Charles has been able to extract himself from his hospital bed, Jack is in the hospital chapel) is an awkward one.  Charles is conciliatory (unusual to see) whilst Jack wears a face like thunder.  What’s notable about this scene is that whilst Jack intensely disapproves of Charles, it’s less about the accident and more to do with the way Charles hurt Avril when they broke up for the first time.

Glyn Owen – as ever – is wonderful.  Jack tells Charles that “I held that girl in my arms when she was one hour old. Watched her grow into a woman. So don’t tell me anything about loving my daughter, Mr Frere”.

It’s clear that the accident has affected Charles, as the arrival of Gerald to talk business isn’t entirely welcome for him.  Gerald might be concerned about the shareholders but Charles is fixated on the death of the pilot (“how do I assess that kind of profit and loss?”).

The soundtrack suddenly goes all dramatic as Jan realises that someone’s pinched all of her designs and Jack’s told that Avril’s condition has taken a turn for the worse.  Slightly odd that both of these moments are scored the same way as I know the one I think is the more serious (and it doesn’t involve clothes).

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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 Three, Episode Twelve

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Breaking news! It’s a sunny day in Tarrant which makes Charles and Gerald’s breakfast business conflab aboard Charles’ boat visually appealing.  Charles, of course, is continuing to attempt to out-manoeuvre his father – maybe a new business associate, Serozawa, could turn out to be something of a lever or possibly David Lloyd might hold the key.  He promises to spill some juicy information about both Ken and Sir Edward ….

I should have known it, the bright spell doesn’t last.  After Tom and Avril return from a sail (business clearly, but they seem more relaxed in each other’s company than they have for a good while) Jan’s on hand to break the bad news.  Ken’s cheque for the next instalment of the powerboat has bounced and it seems the Tarrant weather taps into their mood by darkening considerably.

Ken might be bouncing cheques and coming increasingly under pressure from the bank (Ken’s banker, Sir John, remains a firm associate of Sir Edward remember) but he seems curiously unconcerned.  Feet up, reading a magazine, he affects an air of casual indifference whilst Sarah frets that Leisure Cruise’s days are numbered.  I wonder if Ken has a plan or maybe he simply has the Jack Rolfe mentality – always content to wait for his luck to change.

Ken’s encounter with Sir John is an uncomfortable one, albeit masked with a veneer of courtesy.  Sir John’s old-world charm never dims as he politely informs Kenneth why the bank has decided to call in Leisure Cruise’s loans.  Sir John does suggest a way out though – if Ken can raise venture capital (from someone like, say, Allan Parker) the bank would be content.

At present it seems if Ken is being used as an unwitting pawn in the endless chess game being conduced by Charles and Sir Edward.  The parallels between their manoeuvres and chess is an apt one – a few episodes earlier we saw Sir John playing several chess matches as his deliberations with Sir Edward continued, providing us with a not-so subtle visual signifier.

After indulging in some typically acid banter with Jan, a suited Jack’s heading off for a rendezvous.  Vanessa’s the lucky woman and the pair of them share an intimate moment aboard a boat (where else?) .  It’s obvious that, her marriage notwithstanding, Jack’s more than keen to restart their relationship (this would happen eventually, but she doesn’t pop up again until series five). I wonder if the original plan was to include Lana Morris in S4, but for some reason she wasn’t available?  If not, then this is an impressive piece of forward planning.

Leo and Amanda seem to have both decided that their marriage was a mistake.  They come to this conclusion on top of a windy hill whilst the incidental music plays out a synthy, sad refrain.  Much as I love Simon May’s various bombastic sailing themes, some of the other music (such as this piece) are rather less successful.  So I think this scene might have played better without any musical accompaniment.  We finally maybe get a glimpse of the real Amanda – a confused young woman who admits that she doesn’t really know what she wants.  Leo, sporting a bright blue jacket, is suitably mournful and doesn’t attempt to talk her around.  He too, seems to have come to his senses.

Leo’s jacket is a thing of beauty, but that’s not the only fashionable treat on show.  Charles is a vision in a white dinner jacket (clearly auditioning for James Bond) whilst Avril is glammed up as well as they, and the rest of Tarrant’s fashionable society, head off for the marina launch.  But both are mixing business with pleasure (with Charles is there any other way?) as they entertain Hitoshi Serozawa (Vincent Wong).

Serozawa’s father was ruined by Charles’ father, so this explains why Charles is interested in bringing him on board.  And when Serozawa catches sight of Sir Edward, it’s fair to say he’s not chuffed.  Our clothes-watch continues with Jan, who looks rather stunning in a pink sleeveless dress with a jaunty hat.  Hopefully the sight of her will take Sir Edward’s mind off the sight of the son of an old business enemy.

One more point about this moment.  As Serozawa stares from a distance at Sir Edward, the music – jaunty jazz – doesn’t quite match the mood.  This wasn’t soundtrack music of course, but it’s a slightly odd moment anyway.

Glyn Owen is just wonderful.  Jack-related treats in this episode include his sheepish hangdog look when Tom catches him out in a lie (he claimed he was at a sales conference when in fact he was canoodling with Vanessa).  But there’s even better to come – as a drunken Jack in full flight is a joy to behold.  Here, with Leo and Bill as his willing drinking companions, he expounds his theory that the Howard men are all reasonable people whilst the Howard women (especially Jan) aren’t.  Jack’s full-blooded assault on Sailing (he manages to encourage the rest of the locals in the Jolly Sailor to join in as well) is yet another top moment.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Amanda was the anti-Abby.  Apart from the obvious (both their names start with an “A”) they also had very similar backgrounds.  Born into wealthy families, they were both indulged from an early age and possessed a driven, business-like father (who we can assume was rarely approachable) and a mother with whom they couldn’t really bond with (we’ve had plenty of evidence of Polly and Abby’s stuttering relationship whilst Amanda’s mother – in the brief moments we’ve spent in her company – has never seemed like the sharpest knife in the draw).

But whilst both had similar upbringings, from there on their paths diverged.  Amanda became a hedonistic playgirl, desperately searching for something to fill the void in her life.  Leo seemed to be the answer, but wasn’t.  Abby didn’t take this route, her quest to find contentment took in various causes (notably animal rights) but it was the birth of her son which finally – after much anguish – seemed to centre her.

As for Leo, he’s spent the last few years denying that Abby was ever anything more to him than a good friend.  Late last year it seemed as if he was finally going to tell Abby what he really felt, but at the last minute he backtracked.  But here, for the first time we hear him tell Tom that Amanda’s not the woman for him, Abby is …..

This is a noteworthy moment which leads nicely into the final episode of series three.

Charles and Avril’s personal relationship seems to have hit a bump.  She’s always been appalled at his ruthless business streak but has somehow managed not to let this interfere with their non-business life.  But now, as Charles gleefully outlines the way he plans to bring his father to his knees, it’s plainly a bridge too far.  She tries to tell him that any eventual victory will be a hollow one if he has no-one to celebrate it with.

But with Sir Edward also confident that he now has the means to bring Charles to heel, it’s fair from clear who will finally emerge triumphant.  Will the season closer give us an answer or will their fighting spill into S4?  Next time we’ll find out.

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Eleven

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Leo’s not the free spirit he once was as he’s now a be-suited 9 to 5 man.  Amanda’s not keen to join him in the rat race though, she’d much sooner just have a good time – which leads to her swanning off for a day out with some very tactile friends.  This leaves poor Leo standing on the sidelines and looking more than a little downcast.

Charles and Sir Edward meet again.  Now that Charles and his father are business partners they have to find a way to work together – although on Charles’ side there’s a very clear sense of unease.  We see Sir Edward on horseback (and sporting a very jaunty cowboy hat to boot) which is another passion he shares with his son (Charles can often be found in the saddle).  Presumably this is another subtle reminder that there’s more than unites them than divides them.  But maybe the fact they’re so similar  – despite Charles’ erlier comment that Sir Edward, unlike him, isn’t interested in the future – is the reason why they don’t get on.  An icily polite press conference with the two of them is something of a treat – this sees Charles forced to wear his happiest face.

Ken’s keen to float himself the open market (Ken Masters PLC) although with David Lloyd (in reality, Charles’ man) advising him, it’s seems probable that he’s heading for a fall.  Amanda’s father Allan Parker, a top stockbroker, is well placed to advise Ken – although Mr Masters isn’t put off by the warning that if things don’t work out he’ll take a considerable financial hit.  It seems that everybody Ken approaches has links to the Frere family.  Last time it was David Lloyd and Charles – here it’s Allan Parker and Sir Edward (although the hapless Allan looks set to be a decoy in Sir Edward’s latest devious scheme).

Tom and Jan, for a divorced couple, seem to be getting on very well.  They enjoy a convivial boat trip (in S1, Jan was positioned as the outsider in the Howard family regarding boats – Tom, Lynne and Leo were all keen, Jan wasn’t) with a moment of tenderness once they reach dry land again.

Jack and Tom, still smarting over Barracuda, aren’t happy to deal with Relton again, although Jan is.  This leads to the unusual sight of Jan and Avril being on the same side (although it’s just business of course).  Tom’s won over by Jan’s argument and Jack – aware that he’s always going to be outvoted – is happy to go along with the consensus.  I don’t like it – Jack’s far too pliant at present.  Either he’s booze-sozzled or he’s got a plan ….

There’s another lovely scene between Jack and Kate.  Jack seems to have given up using Kate as a conduit to try and reign Jan in, although he can’t resist making it plain that his newest business partner is a mere novice compared to him.  “The only time your daughter will be able to tell a good year from a bad one is when she’s been in the business nearly as long as I have”.

Kate’s not pleased to hear Jan spoken about in this way but Jack doesn’t pay heed to the warning signs and so continues to pour fuel on the flames.  “She’ll never learn because she never listens. She’s headstrong your daughter”.  Kate’s comeback is priceless.  “Well, at least she’s not a stubborn old boating museum, forever living in the past”.  And what better way to end the scene than with Glyn Owen giving one of his hangdog looks?  Wonderful.

Richard Spencer, ace powerboat racer, and Avril have another business lunch.  He continues to regard her with longing (his tongue isn’t hanging out but it might as well be) whilst she treats him in a cool, professional way.  The tinkling piano in the background slightly wrong-footed me – it took a few minutes for me to work out whether it was playing in the restaurant or on the soundtrack (it tuned out to be the latter).

It’s interesting that in this episode Anna seems to be a much more confident personality – speaking to Jan as if she was an equal.  Maybe this is because she’s finally broken free of her father’s influence (or it might be slightly inconsistent scripting).  And whilst Sir Edward and Jan might be apart in this one, there’s still a sense of closeness between them (he calls her “darling” which is an endearment I don’t believe he’s used before).

Ken hasn’t given up on Jan.  “I feel we should seriously think about getting back together again”.  Jan doesn’t say anything, but she doesn’t dismiss it out of hand.  At present it seems that Jan’s cup runneth over – with Sir Edward, Tom and Ken all jostling for her favours.  Leo isn’t so fortunate though.  He’s only got Amanda, and it seems he hasn’t actually got her at all.  When she returns home, late from her day out, he’s not at all pleased.  They have another argument, which ends with her flouncing off and him staring into space with a pained expression.  I think their marriage is already on the critical list and fading fast ….

Anyway, Richard Spencer demonstrates his powerboat prowess to Charles, Avril and the watching media  It’s plain that there’s trouble on the horizon though – another boat is weaving an unsteady course through the water, its driver swigging from a can (with Sonic Boom Boy playing on the radio for good measure).  The rapid intercutting between the two boats suggests that a collision is imminent, but what happens is even more entertaining.  Spencer’s blown off course and his boat mounts the bank (in a somewhat James Bond-ish way).  Thanks to his lightening quick reflexes, he leaps out just before the boat explodes (it’s a good stunt, if slightly unbelievable).

This week’s cliffhanger finds Leo yet again observing Amanda from a distance.  It seems plain that she’s two-timing him, so this is the cue for Edward Highmore to once again deliver his anguished look.  Something he’s been doing an awful lot of recently.

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Ten

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After a quick opening scene in which Sir Edward spells out his endgame for those not previously paying attention (he’s been buying up companies in order to establish himself as Charles’ business partner) we switch to an unusual POV shot, as a mysterious stranger approaches Anna.

It turns out to be her father (the always wonderful Burk Kwouk).  It’s fair to say though that Kwouk hasn’t exactly been stretched during his appearances, since Mr Lee hasn’t been called upon to do anything more than look menacing and unapproving.  Anna’s story – a young woman caught between tradition and the desire to strike out in her own right – would have been a decent one to explore, but it’s been tackled in a fairly superficial way.  No doubt this is due to the fact that Anna has never been really established as a character in her own right –  instead she’s more of a cipher, designed to fulfil the plot function of strengthening (and then weakening) Jan’s business empire.

Most of the regulars are still in Cowes, toasting Tom’s victory, and this is where Avril and Emma meet.  Icy best describes their brief chat although Tom and Avril do enjoy a brief moment of rapprochement.

The triumph of the Barracuda is also the point at which many of the rifts in the Howard family are healed.  Jan tells Tom that she’s proud of him, which is a sharp reversal from her position in S1, where Tom’s desire to join the Mermaid and design the Barracuda was the cause of a great deal of strife.  Leo’s also on hand to share in the sudden glow of warmth that exists between his parents and although Lynne is far away, in one way she’s present (via a congratulatory letter).

It’s notable that since Leo and Amanda got so unexpectedly hitched, we’ve not spent any time with them alone.  All of their scenes have been with others, which has made assessing their current state of happiness difficult.  But the cracks seem to be showing here as Leo – sporting the rolled-up jacket sleeves look again, sadly – and Amanda don’t seem to be able to have the briefest of conversations without bickering.  And when he sees her flirting with Ken, the blood pressure begins to rise ever so slightly ….

Leo returns home later, bunch of flowers in hand, keen to apologise for his recent moodiness.  But the sight of Amanda jiving to the sounds of Rick Astley with a couple of friends doesn’t please him at all.  This is just another flashpoint in their brief, but unhappy, marriage.

I had a feeling that Jan’s good mood wouldn’t last long.  She’s less than pleased that work on her boat design is progressing so slowly.  Tom tries to tell her that it’s a process of trial and error whilst Bill is even more blunt.  “It might not matter if a dress doesn’t fit. You can always pull it together with a safety pin. Not the innards of a boat though”.  As so often, Jan is cast as the villain – impatient and arrogant (which is a pity since it rather reduces her character).

The continual pressure she’s been heaping on Anna also doesn’t show her in a good light.  Once again Jan’s placed her own business interests first, not caring that Anna’s been in a state of turmoil for some time.  This all comes to a head during a fashion shoot at Sir Edward’s country house – she keels over, with Sir Edward coming to the rescue (he scoops her up in his arms).  That he seems more concerned about Anna than Jan does is another telling moment.  Is this because, for all his hard-bitten business attitude, he’s got a core of old-fashioned decency or is it more to do with the fact that he recognises Anna is an asset?  Without Anna, Jan’s fashion business would be a dead duck.  There’s no right answer, so the viewer can make their own choice.

Jack’s business relationship with Jan isn’t going terribly smoothly.  He seems to have accepted he can’t remove her, so instead he beetles round to Kate and asks her if she could possibly have a word with her daughter.  Poor Jack.  His tale of woe (Jan accused some of the lads of being lazy and then told Jack he didn’t know his own job!) leaves Kate unmoved.  It’s a delightful moment when Jack explains why Kate’s the right woman for this job. “I mean, you stick your nose in here, there and everywhere.  I think that’s where Jan gets it from”.  Jack and Kate have enjoyed some lovely comic scenes over the years, but this must be one of the most enjoyable.

Charles has given Gerald several days off which allows us the unusual sight of Gerald and Polly out and about and enjoying each other’s company.  Their time together is also the catalyst for Polly to make an important life choice – she’s going to get a job.  She wants to work at one of Jan’s boutiques but is hesitant to ask her old friend, feeling that it would encroach on their relationship.  But wouldn’t you know it, before she can ask for a job, Jan’s offered her one.  Spooky!  Jan denies that Gerald had pulled any strings so it must just have been synchronicity.

This is the first episode in which we hear Sir Edward express an opinion about Ken.  “Barrow boy” is his summation, so you can expect that any business dealings between them will be brief and unpleasant.  But it looks as if Ken will be facing problems on several fronts, as one of his new employees – ex Relton-man David Lloyd (Bruce Bould) – turns out to be a mole for Charles.  So whilst Charles hasn’t mentioned Ken recently, it appears that he’s still interested in crushing him like a grape ….

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Howards’ Way. Series Three, Episode Nine

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There’s funky music as we open at Cowes Harbour.  I love the DJ’s cheesy chat. “Whoa. Level 42 and Hot Water. Taking you from Hot Water to choppy waters”.  Steve Wright would have been impressed with that link.

In addition to the traditional Fastnet race, there’s also the Wolf Rock – a handicap race in which Tom’s entered the Barracuda.  Aussie journalist Michael, along with Leo, Amanda and Jack, are crewing – although Jack’s disappeared and Michael seems more interested in taking photographs of the alluring Amanda.  Can’t really blame him for that.  But tempers flare later after Leo starts to become rather ticked off at the attention he’s paying her.  It’s not really a major scrap, Leo gives him a bit of shaking and that’s about it.

Jack’s nipped off to meet an old flame, Vanessa (Lana Morris).  Never mentioned in the series before, her appearance therefore comes as something of a jolt.  During their conversation a few details are teased out – Jack’s the one who contacted her after realising she was in the area and he muses how he ever let her slip away.  There’s a straightforward explanation – when they knew each other Jack was still married and now she is.  Given that he’s rarely shown any interest in the opposite sex – apart from a brief infatuation with Dawn – this scene helps to broaden Jack’s character (although it won’t be until series five – when Vanessa becomes a regular – that things really start to develop on this score).  Romantic Jack? That’ll take some time to get used to.

You have to love coincidence.  The Barracuda has set off without him, so Vanessa begs Richard Spencer (John Moulder-Brown) to give Jack a lift to the starting point.  Richard recognises the Rolfe name – he hopes to work with Avril in the future – and is happy to assist.  The sight of Jack, lounging in the back of Richard’s speedboat as they cut through the waves, is a delightful one.

Gerald has a meeting with Charles.  Having been AWOL, Gerald is bracing himself for trouble but Charles confounds him (and possibly the viewers as well) by being more than understanding.  Giving Gerald a blank cheque to cover the money he had to pay out for James’ treatment is just one way that Charles demonstrates how much he values Gerald’s business skill (and yes, friendship.  He mentions friendship too).

So following Charles’ glowing appreciation of his friend and colleague (I believe this is the first time it’s been acknowledged that they’ve known each other since their university days) it’s a neat twist that when Gerald returns home, Sir Edward is waiting for him ….

Sir Edward has a tempting offer and a stern test of Gerald’s loyalty.  Leave Charles and come and work for him for a vastly increased salary, a chauffeured car and a swanky foreign apartment.  Will Gerald put material gain over friendship and loyalty?  The way that Polly’s eyes light up at Sir Edward’s offer make it plain that she’s all for it.  Gerald’s not, but after his recent streak of wilful independence, it seems that he’s retreating into his shell as Polly persuades him not to say yea or nea straight away.

Gerald wants to stay with Charles.  Partly due to old fashioned concepts such as integrity and principle, but also because he quite enjoys working with him.  Polly can’t quite understand this, but she tells him that it’s his decision.  For the moment this is a new, improved Polly.  But how long will it last?

You might have assumed that Jan would be delighted to see Anna again, but she’s still furious about being left in the lurch.  “I picked you out from a college line-up to follow in the footsteps of a designer of international reputation. Have you forgotten what that means?”  Jan seems to have no understanding that Anna’s very youth and inexperience are partly the reasons why she’s been so torn about her impending arranged marriage (which she’s finally decided not to go ahead with).  We never really see Jan react to this news – in her world, her interests come first and everybody else trails distantly behind.

Is it just me, or has series three of Howards’ Way  been somewhat fixated on backsides?  After having previously been invited to appreciate the rear-ends of both Sarah and Leo, this week it’s Avril’s (admittedly attractive) derriere which is on display.  As the smooth-talking Richard, having hot-footed his way from Cowes, meets with her, the camera lingers on Avril’s bottom as he looks on (the way his eyes briefly flicker downwards seems to suggest he’s not unappreciative of the sight before him).  And is it just a coincidence that Avril’s line (“it’s very impressive”) is delivered as her back’s turned and her bottom’s to the fore?

Ken and Jan have a convivial meal.  Their upwardly mobile status is confirmed by the choice of food (the lobster’s very good apparently, it comes from Devon) and whilst Ken has to concede that he’s not in Sir Edward’s league yet, he’s blithely confident it won’t be long.  Is he still attempting to rekindle their relationship or is it more about business?  With Ken, you can never be sure, but I’ve a feeling that business will always win out.

Now that Jan’s a shareholder in the Mermaid, she’s popping up at the board meetings at Relton Marine and crossing swords with Charles.  Her relationship with Sir Edward is something which Charles finds disquieting and when Avril and Jan both team up to push for the Barracuda to go back into production, no doubt that also serves to slightly irk him.  A later private meeting between Charles and Jan is as awkward as you’d expect although once again you have to be impressed with the way that Jan’s become an expert in the boat world in such a short space of time.

Charles asks her to maintain the confidentially of Relton’s board meetings.  So when Sir Edward later asks her what Relton intend to do with the Barracuda, does she hesitate at all before breaking this confidence?  Nope, she’s quite happy to blab away with no compunction (Sir Edward must be delighted to have such a pliant spy in the enemy camp).

Barracuda wins the Wolf Race of course, was there ever any other outcome?  This means that Charles is finally forced to put it back into production.  Hurrah!

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Eight

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Tom, tinkering with the Barracuda, is approached by a journalist called Michael Hanley (Michael Loney).  Michael’s an Australian (if this wasn’t obvious by his accent, then the fact his first word was “G’day” might have been a not terribly subtle clue).  He wants to write the story of Tom’s life and Tom – desperate for any good publicity – is happy to agree.

There’s anger in the air at Leisure Cruise.  Ken’s more than a little miffed about the way Sarah spoke to a potentially important client and he makes his feelings plain – firstly through snarled comments and then with a raised fist.  Stephen Yardley’s certainly not holding back in this scene, although had Ken not been wearing a stripey jacket which looks something like a deckchair then possibly it might have been a little easier to take him seriously.  Sarah-Jane Varley’s ramping up the histrionics too – Sarah gives Ken a slap and as he walks away she collapses into a contrite, sobbing heap.

A tear-stained Sarah decides not to sell out to Relton after all (she still looks gorgeous through the tears) whilst Ken is dignified and stoic, telling her that they both have to live with the guilt of Mark’s death.  Is it wrong of me to suppose that this guilt weighs much less heavily on Ken than it does on Sarah?

Avril’s very much the hard-headed businesswoman these days.  Colin Linsdale (Peter Penry-Jones) has been a key member of Relton Marine for some time – but not any more after Avril fires him with very little ceremony.  Had he really fallen down on the job or can his removal be partly explained due to Avril’s increasing closeness to Charles? (i’s tempting to ponder whether she’s beginning to think and act like Chares Frere). Although Colin’s featured regularly from series two onwards he’s never been a central character, so losing him won’t impact the series in any way.  But he serves a purpose as a handy sacrificial lamb, illustrating the back-stabbing world of big-ish business.

Here’s something I thought I’d never see, Ken and Tom shaking hands and acting friendly.  Ken wants the Mermaid to build him a boat, although Jack (when he learns it’s a speedboat) isn’t interested.  But when Ken mentions that he’d like it built in wood, Jack perks up somewhat! Jack Rolfe seems to be somewhat more kindly disposed to Jan these days – she’s still hanging around the office and he’s not raging about it, so that’s progress of a sort.

It’s interesting to record that although the previous episode had seen Jan mentioning she’d be something of a sleeping partner – her own business interests being so plentiful – that’s not been the case so far.  The fact she’s suggested a new design possibility for Tom to look into (a lightweight craft, able to be towed behind an ordinary car) supports this.  It’s slightly hard to believe that on her first day she could pinpoint a lucrative gap in the market that neither Tom or Jack had previously considered, but this is fiction after all ….

An unshaven and ghastly looking Gerald staggers home.  It’s yet another tour-de-force scene for both Ivor Danvers and Patricia Shakesby.  Gerald finally confirms what most of the audience would have suspected for some time – James, who has just died, had been suffering from AIDS.  Maybe it’s Gerald’s bitter grief which makes him turn on Polly somewhat, acidly reassuring her that she’s in no danger (suggesting that their loveless marriage has never been consummated).

When Gerald confirms that he’s in the clear, Polly expresses heartfelt relief, although he fails to understand why.  This is another fascinating character moment which asks us to reassess what we’ve learnt about these two characters during the last few years.  Gerald has always appeared to be an affable, dutiful husband (never able to give Polly much time or any love, but still content to keep his side of the bargain) but his recent diatribes suggest that his true feelings towards his wife are much bitterer ones.

In contrast, Polly has tended to treat both Gerald and Abby with disdain and indifference, although – again – this isn’t the whole picture.  She tells him that “through all these years, through our wreck of a marriage, you have never wanted me. But I need you, Gerald. I love you”.  Polly’s always been an isolated character, but this year her disconnect has been total (not even Jan, her best friend, has spent any time in her company).

Tempers are fraying at the Mermaid with Jan and Jack (an odd couple) keen to take Ken’s commission and Tom opposing them.  Tom wonderfully taunts Jack that he’s only interested in the job since it’s made of wood.  “This yard might stand a better chance of surviving if everything you built didn’t look like the Mary Rose”.  Hah! A great line.  The notion that Jan and Jack would be on the same side is a delicious one, although they’ve got very different motives – Jack just wants to work in wood whilst Jan (facing the prospect of her fashion business dwindling to nothing now that her designer’s gone AWOL) spies a money-making opportunity and Jan loves money ….

Just when you think things can’t get any better, the door opens and Leo and Amanda walk in.  Howards’ Way is certainly firing on all cylinders at the moment – witness the nonplussed reactions of Jack, Tom and Jan after Leo breaks their happy news.

Is it just a coincidence that Emma looks very similar to Avril?  Given that Emma and Tom are becoming increasingly closer – and he’s only just broken up with Avril – possibly not.  She’s been keen to take their relationship further but he (thanks to his chaotic recent life) has been reluctant to commit.  But since they’re staring into each others eyes as the romantic, slow version of the HW theme plays, it’s fairly obvious that a lock of the lips is only a few seconds away.

I  love Kate’s greeting to Amanda.  “You are Amanda? Well you’re very pretty”.  This is delivered in the no-nonsense way that Dulcie Gray excelled at.  When Amanda’s father, Mr Parker, makes an appearance, stormy waters seem to lie ahead – but Tom is neatly able to direct him into a safe harbour when he suggests they both go off for a drink.  Tom’s good humour is nice to see.  After having been something of a haunted, wretched figure for the first half of S3 it’s pleasant that he’s finally sparking back into life.

Jan has to come clean to Sir Edward about her missing designer.  Manhandling a big cigar, he’s very much playing the businessman, which seems to discomfort Jan, who was probably hoping that Edward – the man – would have made an appearance.  He does make a good suggestion though (find another designer) which given the way Anna fell into her lap does sound a reasonable one.  I wonder why Jan hasn’t considered it?

Tom and Jan present a united front over the marriage of Leo and Amanda.  They may both have doubts, but they also both realise that the young couple have to find their own way – Leo and Amanda will either sink or swim, but they’re the ones who have to steer their course from now on (sorry, that’s the last nautical metaphor, I promise).

There’s a decent cliffhanger as Jan opens the door to … someone.  We don’t see who it is for a few seconds, but her shocked expression makes it plain that it’s an unexpected visitor.  Anna’s back ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Seven

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There’s going to be choppy waters ahead ….

Jan toddles up to the Mermaid, champagne in hand, keen to celebrate her new shareholding in the yard.  Tom’s face is a picture – he’s still not been able to pluck up the nerve to break the news to Jack, although it turns out he doesn’t have to.  When Jack rolls in from the Jolly Sailor, still chuffed about finding the pieces of the catamaran (which proves that the break-up wasn’t a design fault), he’s aghast to find Jan with her feet firmly under the table, already dishing out orders and offering suggestions.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.  The sight of Jack’s appalled face suggests that this new partnership isn’t going to be plain sailing.  The fact that he tells her she has no place in his yard (it’s his yard again, mind) and pours away a proffered celebratory drink only reinforces this point.  “Damn him” says Tom, although Maurice Colbourne could have ramped up the anger just a touch more.

It’s a little hard to credit that Jan – after all the carping she’s previously made about the Mermaid – would want to sink her money into the business (although I guess you can explain this away by the fact that she’s changed considerably since S1 and now views the yard as purely a good investment).  But you could – if inclined – also view it as the first stage in a reconciliation.  Jan helps Tom out financially and in time they get back together.

Jan asks Bill to give her a guided tour.  She receives some wolf-whistles from the men and when Jack saunters by (“you still here? Thought you had some knitting to do”) she really hits the roof.  Jan then gives them all a stern lecture – whilst she may not know how to build a boat, she knows how to run a business (“which clearly none of you do”).

The irony is that Jan’s brilliant business empire is having a slight wobble.  The departure of Anna (due to the pressure of being forced into an arranged marriage) throws Jan into a tizzy.  Anna asked Leo to give her mother the news and it’s entirely characteristic that mother and son both view Anna’s plight very differently.  Leo emphasises with the way Anna feels trapped between two worlds whilst Jan simply wails at her son, wondering why she didn’t attempt to prevent her leaving.  Doesn’t he realise that without Anna she’s sunk?

Another partnership under pressure is that of Ken and Sarah.  She’s still keen to sell her shares to Charles – so what can the diplomatic Ken say to win her back round to his side?  “God, you’re sick, do you know that?” Hmm, possibly not the best opening gambit.  But Ken’s always a man keen to broaden his business portfolio and sets his sight on Leo.  Since Leo hates Ken’s guts with a passion this seems like an odd approach, but once Ken gives him a spin in his powerboat he’s putty in his hands …..

Meanwhile, Gregory de Polnay and his comedy accent returns.  Werner Grunwald’s function in the plot is to put Charles under pressure (he spies unfriendly takeovers and problematic venture capital looming).  The ins and outs of the financial dealings aren’t terribly interesting, but the way that Charles – for pretty much the first time – is being placed under extreme pressure, is.

Leo has an uncomfortable meeting with Amanda’s parents.  Mother is vague in the extreme whilst father is still convinced that Leo’s nothing but a gold-digger.  But the more he attempts to warn Leo off, the more dogged Leo will be in declaring his love for Amanda.  And since Leo lacks a common-sense voice in his life at present (both his parents are too wrapped up in their own worlds to offer coherent counsel) there’s no-one around to give him advice. This helps to explain why he later makes a life-changing decision.

The familiar face of James Warwick pops up as Geoffrey Silberston, a smoothie who catches Polly’s eye whilst Tom and Emma enjoy an embrace.  At the moment this is all business related – she once again comes up with some good suggestions about how he can restablish his professional reputation – but maybe business will turn into pleasure over time.

Jack’s grumpy mood continues – not even the common-sense beacon that is Kate Harvey can make him see sense over Jan – whilst Amanda and Leo go to the ball.  I’m not sure whether it’s due to Francesca Gonshaw’s slightly distracted performance or simply the way that the part was written, but Amanda is something of an unfathomable character.  Whether she actually loves Leo or is simply toying with him is a moot point.  Both lose their clothes when playing spin the bottle (a scene which has something for everybody since both are reduced to their underwear) but it’s the aftermath – Amanda decides they should get married and Leo agrees – which is the key moment.  And they don’t let the grass grow under their feet – one quick trip to the Registry Office and they’re Mr and Mrs Howard.

With an increasingly flaky Polly fretting that Gerald’s withdrawn £100,000 from their account and then disappeared (“Gerald, what have you done? Where are you?”) things are shaping up nicely as we approach the last half dozen episodes of this run.

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Six

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The episode opens with Mark’s funeral.  Sarah – a vision in black – is still clearly very distressed, but it doesn’t take long before business matters rise to the surface again.  Now that Sarah owns two-thirds of the business, Ken’s in a vulnerable position.  Sir John pops up to break this bad news to him (and remains the only person to call him Kenneth).  The later twist that she plans to sell her shareholding to Charles is a delicious turnabout.

Leo’s turning into quite the lad.  He’s all hands on with a lady windsurfer, helping her to get a grip of the board (this he mainly achieves by moving his hands up and down her body!).  Amanda seems to have a spasm of jealousy about this, but it quickly passes.  I’m just glad that Leo’s not topless this time ….

Jan’s delighted with her life – now that she has three outlets she’s convinced that the whole of the South Coast will shortly fall to her.  But she’s so busy dreaming of future conquests that family concerns – such as Leo – fail to interest her.  Despite Kate’s pleading, Jan doesn’t want to waste time connecting with Leo (Kate’s convinced that he’s still pining for Abby).  But Kate leaves her with a very telling remark – if she’s not careful then one day when she returns home all the rooms will be empty.

Charles Frere is a perfect example of this – a businessman who has no other life.  And indeed his father is pretty much the same – Sir Edward might have been married, but it’s already been made clear that he didn’t treat his late wife very well at all.  Throw in Gerald and Polly’s loveless marriage of convenience as well and the point is obvious – you can be a success in the business world or you can have a rich, nurturing home life, but you can’t have both.

Sir Edward (spotting a roll-neck sweater) and Jan (a vision in one of the boutique’s dresses) enjoy another dinner at his country house.  As she’s about to leave you can tell that he’s itching to give her a kiss, but her momentary hesitation throws him off course.  He’s not to be denied though and, approaching her from behind, nuzzles her neck like an elderly Dracula.  Jan’s expression is hard to read – is she disgusted or aroused?  Given that she turns around and they lock lips I think we can safely say the latter.

The next day we learn that she stayed out all night, a fact which ticks Leo off no end.  Kate’s concerned that Leo’s anger will push him into a disastrous relationship with Amanda (this helps to partly explain why Leo’s been acting so erratically recently).  Tom approaches Jan for financial help – but he doesn’t want a loan, instead he suggests that she buys some of his shares in the yard.  This is an interesting move which will tie them together professionally, even though their personal relationship is now severed.

One of the drawbacks with Avril’s placement at Relton is that these days she’s rarely in the same room as her father.  That’s a pity as Jack/Avril scenes are always good fun.  But there is a nice one in this episode as Jack pushes her for more money to keep the Mermaid afloat.  Jack’s an arch manipulator and is quite happy to use a touch of emotional blackmail – Avril rails at this, but she can’t bring herself to say no to him.  So she promises to speak to Charles (or Charlie, as Jack calls him – albeit not to his face).

There’s a tender scene between Ken and Jan.  Ken, despite the combination of a yellow shirt and a blue tie, is in a humble mood – telling Jan that he’s pleased she’s made such a success of her life.  “I still miss you” he says and Jan’s later wistful look, as she heads off to join her dinner party, suggests that she still has some feelings for him too.

Patricia Shakesby and Ivor Danvers continue to impress.  Gerald’s now being pushed to the limit whilst Polly looks on – a concerned, but powerless, spectator.  When she tells him that she wishes he’d just go back to being himself, the response is immediate and angry.  “Myself? What, you mean the man that you’re used to walking all over, Polly?”  When Gerald then wearily responds that his life gives him no pleasure, it’s yet another bleak moment which Danvers delivers well – after all this time playing the yes man, its plain that he’s relishing some juicier material.

Emma continues to burn the midnight oil, looking for a solution to Tom’s problem.  She believes that the Lynnette collided with something – but proving it will be difficult, if not impossible.  But she’s reckoned without Jack, Leo and Amanda who manage to find the wrecked hull, even though it must have been like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Hurrah!

If Jack’s been a bit quiet for a few episodes then the balance is redressed here.  He delivers a long and heartfelt speech to Tom, apologising for his attitude and the way he’s failed to appreciate Tom’s hard work in the yard.  For Jack, a man never known for admitting he’s in the wrong, it’s a surprising moment.  It rather takes the wind out of Tom’s sails though, since he was about to mention that Jan’s going to buy into the yard.  But after such a glowing testimonial from his partner, Tom slinks away (deciding to fight that battle another day).

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Five

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The first step in Leo’s quest to become a tycoon starts here.  He can’t help but crow a little to his mother and grandmother about the fact he’s now a man of business – albeit bankrolled by a shady lady.   Series three was obviously the point when it was decided to turn Leo Howard into the series’ hunk, as these days he seems to spend some time each episode with his shirt off.  Although it’s nice to see that equality between the sexes is maintained – last time we were invited to ogle at Sarah’s backside, this week it’s Leo’s rear which is prominently displayed (and also receives a slap from Amanda for good measure).

Meanwhile, Sarah’s frantic.  Mark’s disappeared and she’s fretting that he’s gone straight to a solicitor to initiate divorce proceedings.  You won’t be surprised to learn that Ken’s taking things much more calmly, although his male ego is clearly bruised after Sarah tells him that her husband means more to her than he does.  But he doesn’t want to lose Mark either – good business partners are hard to find.  Jan continues to be a hard-headed businesswoman as we see her effortlessly managing to negotiate the best price for the latest part of her ever expanding business empire.

Anna needs a heart to heart with someone and in Jan’s absence naturally gravitates towards Kate. Where’s Jan? Back noshing at the big house with Sir Edward and crowing about what a top businesswoman she is.  Mmm, given that Tom’s looking slightly more hopeful these days (convinced that he can prove the catamaran design is sound) there must be an equal and opposite downturn on the cards for Jan soon.

Just as Bill has taken over some of Avril’s function in the yard (as a sounding board and a buffer between Tom and Jack) so Avril herself has rather displaced Gerald as Charles’ closest confidant (and their personal lives are becoming ever closer too).  Their latest wheeze is selling business units to the “right people” and Jan is an interested party, although when she learns that she’d have to deal with Avril it’s not surprising she’s rather less keen.  They do meet though – a delightfully awkward experience for both of them, although Jan once again manages to put her business ahead of any personal feelings.

Charles is a hard-headed rational businessman, except where his father’s concerned. At that point he loses all reason – if he feels threatened by him then he’s going to go all out to attack, no matter what the financial consequences might be.  This reckless attitude appals Gerald, who angrily wonders why Charles bothers to pay him if he won’t listen to his advice.  The cracks in their relationship are beginning to show and it concerns Charles enough to seek out Polly.  Is Charles operating under the guise of friendship or is it purely business?  Business of course.

Polly discovers the identity of Gerald’s terminally ill friend – James Gittings – and he explains that he’s paying his passage to America as there’s a chance that new medical research there might help him.  It’s not spelt out yet exactly what’s wrong with him, but it’s not difficult to guess.

Tom meets Emma Neesome (Sian Webber).  She’s an engineer who may be able to help him in his quest to vindicate his design for the catamaran.  Tom’s offer to buy her the most expensive dinner she’s ever had doesn’t seem to impress her that much (but we shouldn’t judge by first impressions).

Amanda and Leo continue to enjoy each other’s company – frolicking in the sea following a powerbike ride for example.  But then her father, Allan Parker (Leon Tanner), pops up and drops the bombshell that Amanda’s already engaged, which manages to wipe the smile off Leo’s face.

Tom and Jan celebrate their divorce with a glass of champagne.  They seem much more at ease with each other now that their marriage is over (which has lead many to surmise that had Maurice Colbourne not died and HW had gone to a seventh series, Tom and Jan would have got back together.

Mark – briefly – returns and although he doesn’t get the chance to duff up Ken he does exit very much in a blaze of glory.

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Four

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Leo’s continuing to keep an eye on his father.  A spot of father/son sailing takes Tom’s mind off his troubles – but only temporarily, as always in the background is the shadow of the broken catamaran.  As I’ve touched upon before, good weather in Tarrant is usually a rarity and this sailing day is no different – so quite why Leo’s wearing sunglasses when they get back to the dock is anybody’s business.

One of my favourite Ken moments occurs about five minutes in when he stares at Sarah’s shapely bottom as she’s bending over doing a spot of filing (typical Ken!).  But Sarah’s backside fades into the distance, as it were, after Mark grizzles that Ken’s entered the big powerboat race (£10,000 to the winner) without informing him.  So Mark vows to enter as well, setting up a juicy head to head between them (not only the race of course, but the question of Sarah too).

One of the more unusual developing relationships (even harder to swallow than Leo and Amanda) is that of Jan and Sir Edward.  After Jan makes her presentation to Sir Edward and the board, he suggests they discuss her work further over dinner.  Uh oh ….

It’s interesting that Jan won’t tell Leo who she’s going to be having dinner with.  Leo’s more forthcoming, telling Kate that he’s heading out for a date with Amanda.  It’s a small world, as Kate is able to tell him that Amanda’s grandfather used to be a beau of hers.

It’s not only a small world but Tarrant is obviously also a small place since Jan and Sir Edward choose the same restaurant as Ken and Sarah.  Sarah’s impressed with Jan’s dinner-date (“not bad, if you’re attracted to the mature type”) but Ken’s convinced that Jan’s interest is purely financial.  The way Ken laughs off Sarah’s suggestion that he’s jealous of Jan’s new companion is nicely done.

Leo might have been a bit quiet on the causes front recently, but the inequality of life clearly still rankles with him.  And Amanda, one of the idle rich, becomes his latest target as he asks her whether she ever feels guilty about her aimless existence.  “Driving around in a fancy car, owning a boat you never use, doing nothing with your life”.

Leo’s clearly not one for diverting smalltalk then, admitting to Amanda that he’s never really had a girlfriend.  He briefly chats about Abby – mainly touching upon the fact that she’s everything that Amanda isn’t.  Then Amanda decides that she’d like to invest her money in Leo – they’d become partners (not only in business, but personally).  This has all the hallmarks of ending very badly ….

The Dixon of Dock Green connections continue.  Last week it was Gregory de Polnay, this time it’s Nicholas Donnelly (here playing Peter Melrose, the solicitor placed in opposition to Jack and Tom).  The general opinion is that there was a design fault with the catamaran – something which Tom doesn’t take at all well (although his spasm of anger is brief).

While Tom continues to suffer, Jan’s upward mobility continues.  After mentioning to Sir Edward that she’s always admired his country house, he spies an opening and invites her for lunch and a guided tour.  Although he claims not to be lonely, the reality seems somewhat different as he rattles around his country pile.  Like Charles, his business is his life, but is Sir Edward looking for something more?

I think that Jack thinks more logically when he’s drunk.  Although he’s weaving dangerously from side to side at the Jolly Sailor, he still manages to come up with a good idea – if they can put the pieces of the catamaran back together then they’ll be able to prove that the break-up wasn’t a design fault.  Glyn Owen was always a top drunk actor (let’s be honest, as Jack he had plenty of practice).  Compared to him then, Maurice Colbourne’s pretty much a novice (he’s not a bad drunk actor, simply not in Owen’s class).  Jack’s attempt to lead the reluctant drinkers at the Jolly Sailor in a chorus of For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow is something of a treat.

It’s all smiles between Charles and Avril as they stand on the quayside as the big powerboat race is about to begin (Charles will be handing over the prize at the end, hopefully to Relton’s own boat).  Simon May cranks up the incidentals – wailing saxophones ahoy – as the boats set off.  But the smiles are soon wiped off their faces as Ken comes in first and Mark second.  Ken – a vision in yellow – can’t help but crow ever so slightly as he accepts his winnings from Charles.

There’s a sense that the rather misfiring love triangle between Ken, Sarah and Mark is finally coming to a head. Mark’s apparently set off on a business trip – but that’s just a ruse.  As Sarah and Ken canoodle aboard a boat, he’s standing on the shore, binoculars in hand, wearing a resigned expression (“oh dear” says Ken when they spot him).  But given how far the boat is away from Mark, they must have extremely good eyesight ….

Since the Tarrant weather once again isn’t very appealing, you have to give top marks to Sarah Varley for wearing a bikini without shivering.  As for the cuckolded Mark, he’s failing to exhibit much in the way of hurt or anger – mild inconvenience yes, anger no.  Will he finally decide to give Ken a well-deserved duffing up next time?  Fingers crossed ….

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Three

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It’s interesting to see how Bill’s moved more into the office this year (effectively replacing Avril as a – less attractive – buffer between Tom and Jack).  Tom’s not a happy man – the production of Barracuda has been temporarily suspended and he’s convinced that Charles is pursuing a vendetta against him.  Jack’s delightfully laid back about it all, as usual he’s quite happy that something will turn up to save them.

Tom and Avril have another confrontation.  I have to confess that Avril’s puffy sleeves captured my attention for a few seconds, but once Maurice Colbourne started ramping up the drama I snapped back into following the plot.  Tom’s paranoia continues to bubble away. Given the breakup of the catamaran it’s possibly no surprise that the Barracuda also has to be considered suspectl but he clearly doesn’t see it like that. Instead it’s obvious to him that Charles is interested in breaking him due to his relationship with Avril.

The thrusting wheeler-dealer that is Ken Masters has negotiated a deal with Robert McIntyre (Fraser Kerr).  Mark isn’t happy though, he’s convinced that McIntyre’s boats aren’t the sort of thing they should be selling (suddenly Mark’s turned into a mini-Jack, concerned about quality and craftsmanship).  Or does he suspect that his wife is embroiled with Ken? Hmm.

Jan effortless rise to the top continues apace.  Anna’s father, Mr Lee (Burt Kwouk), seemed to be a potential problem – but he quickly agrees that his daughter can go and work for Jan.  This seems all too easy – surely there must be a few roadblocks ahead?  Compared to Tom, who seems to be on an equally effortless rise to the bottom, Jan is leading a charmed life at present.   And then she spies an advert from Sir Edward Frere – offering venture capital for new businesses (her eyes light up at this).

There’s another brief insight into Gerald’s private life when he takes a call from a Dr Reynolds.  Even before we hear what the call is, the soundtrack helpfully (or too obviously, depending on your point of view) makes it plain that it’s bad news.  Polly hears the call (bad news about someone) but once again Gerald can’t – or won’t – share his worries.

But the tightly-wound Gerald can clearly not be wound any further.  When he discovers that Polly’s been on yet another spending spree, he reacts by smashing her latest purchase.  But this is only a pretext – it’s not her that he’s railing against, instead it’s his own internalised pain.  To give her credit, Polly is concerned and wants to help, but at present Gerald still can’t let her in.

Gregory de Polnay, probably best known as DS Mike Brewer in Dixon of Dock Green or possibly D84 (“I heard a cry”) in the Doctor Who story The Robots of Death, pops up as the slightly shady businessman Werner Grunwald.  His accent – I believe it’s supposed to be Swiss – is something to behold.

Do you remember the time when Avril wouldn’t even let Charles through her front door without a shudder?  Maybe it’s the passage of time, but now she’s moved into a swanky new flat things seems to have changed.  She accepts a housewarming present from him – an expensive picture – with an expression of delight (last year she probably would have smashed it over his head!)  But the increasing closeness of Charles and Avril does serve an important plot purpose – it allows Charles to articulate the feelings he has (mainly bad) about his father.

The ever-optimistic Leo decides to set up in business by himself as a general boat handyman.  And his first customer?  Amanda, of course.  Amanda is still madly keen on Leo, whilst he’d sooner just repaint her boat (he’s a strange lad).  She tells him it’s such a lovely day they should be enjoying themselves (that’s stretching it somewhat – it’s typically overcast in Tarrant).  So they go dry skiing – Amanda’s good, Leo’s not so good.  But he seems to be smiling a little more – which suggests he’s slowly coming round to her charms, although he initially refuses her later invitation to kiss him (he doesn’t refuse for long though).

Dulcie Gray’s husband, Michael Denison, makes his first appearance as Admiral Francis Redfern.  It’s only a brief appearance here, but he adds a touch of class to proceedings.

Tom’s moved out of The Jolly Sailor and is currently living in the paint store at the Mermaid Yard.  This – along with his wild-eyed, unshaven appearance – is a good indication just how far he’s fallen.  Jack knew about his problems but didn’t offer to give him a bed at his house.  So it falls to Leo, so often the conscience of the family, to step in.  He’s concerned about his father and wants to help – which leads into a nice moment of father/son bonding.

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Two

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Jack’s wearing a suit, so he and Tom must be on their way to the inquest.  For those who need this to be spelled out, walking in front of them is a barrister in a white wig.  The drama of this storyline isn’t milked very much as we don’t see inside the courtroom – instead Tom and Jack simply trudge wearily back to the yard later, with Tom breaking the bad news that an open verdict, pending a surveyor’s enquiry, was delivered.  So the waiting goes on …

Before this we see Bill fielding calls from interested parties, concerned about whether the inquest will impact the yard.  Possibly this is another example of cost-cutting – much cheaper to have Bill on the phone, pretending to be speaking to someone, than it would be to hire a couple of extras, as reporters, to mill around the yard asking questions.

Charles isn’t able to visit Relton for another round of icily polite fighting with Avril, so Gerald is sent to deputise.  He’s as affable and friendly as Charles is brusque and unforgiving.  But whilst Gerald claims that he’s merely here as an observer and has no wish to interfere, it could very well be that he’s of the same mind as Charles – it’s just that his style is much more conciliatory.

Where’s Charles?  Off for a painful meeting with his father.  Based on what we know of this family so far, it’s entirely in keeping that Charles should tell Sir Edward’s butler that he has a meeting with his father at ten o clock.  The notion that Charles could simply turn up for an unscheduled chat is clearly unthinkable.

It’s quickly established that they haven’t seen each other for some considerable time, although exactly how long isn’t clear.  The constantly shifting power dynamic between the two of them is established right from the start and over the most trivial matters – Sir Edward was hopeful that they could have lunch but Charles demurs, he’s far too busy.  But Sir Edward rallies and is at least able to offer his son some coffee.

There’s some lovely character building moments as we see Sir Edward attempting to reconnect with his son.  He asks Charles if he remembers the time when, as a boy, he climbed a tree in the grounds of their palatial country house and refused to come down (he was reluctant to return to school).  Charles replies that he does and also recalled that his father was away on business at the time, which leads Sir Edward to formally respond that “I was fully informed of the incident by your mother”.

Like father, like son – Charles has clearly fashioned himself in his father’s image (a driven, single-minded businessman) although he’d no doubt be appalled if anybody attempted to draw this comparison.  Sir Edward wants them to join forces – Charles isn’t interested – but the look on Nigel Davenport’s face as Charles and Sir Edward part makes it clear that a whole heap of trouble is on the way for Frere Jnr ….

Amanda begins her pursuit of Leo and turns up at the yard.  She has a pretext – her boat requires some work – but it’s the unfathomable and mysterious Leo which has clearly drawn her to the Mermaid like a moth to the flame.  Most young men would be flattered by her approach, but Leo continues to glower at her.  Maybe it’s the poolside dip he enjoyed or possibly it’s her playful nature, but at present there seems to be no connection between them.  The fact she later unwittingly dupes Leo into sailing a boat which she doesn’t own (the arrival of the police confirming this) is another example that she’s a rollicking loose-cannon and just about everything that he isn’t.

Polly’s back at the boutique, snapping up clothes like they were going out of fashion (sorry).  This ties back to the previous episode which saw a distraught Polly railing at the futility of her empty life to a concerned, but ineffectual Gerald.  He suggests a charity job – but this didn’t go down well.  It seems that, for all their fighting, she’s missing Abby (at least when her daughter was at home she had someone to talk to, even if the conversations were rarely civil).

Gerald does do his best to be supportive, but – as ever – finds Charles in his way.  Gerald’s plan for a quiet dinner with Polly is shattered after Charles demands his presence elsewhere.  Polly doesn’t take the news well.  “I fully understand. Your business is clearly far more important to you than you wife”.  Relations at Chez Urquhart look set to be distinctly chilly from now on, especially since Gerald has personal problems of his own – although he’s unwilling to discuss them.  The sight of Gerald and Polly, sitting in their comfortable living room, drinks in hand, unable to connect to each other is a slightly chilling one.

You have to accept that a few plot contrivances will occur from time to time, but the way that another totally unknown, very talented, designer drops into Jan’s lap is a little hard to swallow.  There are several things in Anna Lee’s (Sarah Lam) favour though – she doesn’t have a silly French accent nor does she posses a ponytail.  Maybe somebody on Howards’ Way was a fan of The Adventure Game – Sarah Lam had been a regular during its final series whilst Charmian Gradwell, who would appear throughout HW’s sixth and final series, had been another Adventure Game regular.

There’s been a distinct lack of Jack so far this series, but there’s a nice scene in this episode.  A downcast Jack, still smarting at the inquest verdict, is alone in his office, bottle of whisky at hand.  Everything that we know of him suggests that he’ll shortly be drowning his sorrows but no – he heads out into the other office for a coffee instead.  It’s an impressive act of self-control, but how long will it last?  Answer, not very long.

It’s very marked that the closer Jan and Tom get to their divorce going through, the closer they seem to become on a personal level.  They share another convivial meal whilst Tom’s later dinner initiation to Avril looks set to be a more sticky affair (she agrees, but doesn’t look delighted).  Tom seems to conduct most of his conversations these days with a knife and fork in his hands although when Avril tells him that it’s over between them he doesn’t have a mouthful of food, which makes a change.

The tangled Ken/Sarah/Mark triangle hots up a little more.  Mark finally seems to have twigged that Ken’s been making googly eyes at his wife whilst the unexpected arrival of Jan (keen that Ken should sell his minority shareholding in the boutique) makes Sarah just a little jealous.

Meanwhile Tom and Jack have a stand-up row in the yard about the state of the Mermaid’s finances.  We’ve been here before of course, but this time it seems that there’s no other option than to lay off some of the men.  And since that means last in, first out, Leo will be set for the chop.

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode One

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When we left Tom and Jan at the end of the second series both were suffering business traumas – the collapse of the catamaran had damaged the credibility of both Tom and the Mermaid Yard whilst the death of pony-tailed clothes designer Claude Dupont seemed to have halted Jan’s attempts to conquer the fashion world.

Polly’s looking on the bright side though.  Now that Claude’s dead, his designs are bound to go up in price, so she pops over to the boutique to snap a couple up before they all disappear.  Kate, once again stuck behind the counter, views her with politely-bred disdain.  Kate’s still very good at that sort of thing.

Tom’s rather down in the mouth about the catamaran and for new viewers who need to be brought up to speed there’s a handy moment when Jack picks up a newspaper report about it.  But since the camera only lingers on the newspaper for three seconds you would have either have to have been a fast reader or gone back later and paused your VHS recording.  Still, it’s a nice way to info-dump without having the characters laboriously spell out the ins and outs of the current situation.

The triangle of Sarah, Mark and Ken continues to simmer away, although Mark’s still totally oblivious that there is a triangle whilst Ken continues to eye the cool Sarah with longing.  His interest is so obvious that it’s a wonder that Mark hasn’t twigged yet, so maybe he really is a man who only lives for his racing.  Ken’s later pawing of Sarah (he kisses the top of her shoulder in a way that only Ken could) doesn’t quite bring him the result he was looking for though ….

Charles pays a flying visit to Relton Marine and isn’t particularly happy with what he finds.  He tells Avril that things will have to change (their icily polite conversation is an early series delight).  Charles continues to be in a snippy mood when he encounters Gerald later.

The big-money signing for this new series is, of course, Nigel Davenport as Sir Edward Frere.  He tells Sir John that it’s good to be home, which suggests he’s been away for some time.  But now he’s back there’s no doubt that sparks will fly between him and his son.

The other major new cast member debuting here is Francesca Gonshaw as Amanda Parker.  Gonshaw, thanks to her role in Allo Allo!, was a familiar television face and – having left that series – was clearly looking for new opportunities.  Series three of Howards’ Way would be her last regular television role though.

Before we see Amanda for the first time, we observe Leo gazing wistfully at a picture of Abby and attempting to write her a letter.  The number of scrunched-up balls of paper suggests that he’s being attempting this for some time.  I’ve commented before on Jan’s breath-taking indifference to her son and there’s another prime example here – she asks him what he’s doing, but isn’t really interested (she’s more concerned that he moves somewhere else, since the consultant from the bank is due to arrive soon).

But to give Jan some credit, she does attempt to gee him up a bit as she tells him that he shouldn’t spend his time reliving the past.  Especially wonderful is her comment about Lynne.  “She’s not sitting around moping about Claude, and he’s dead”.  It takes real skill to deliver dialogue like that with a straight face.

So Leo, taking his mother’s advice, heads out for a pool party.  You can tell it’s the 1980’s as Leo’s wearing a jacket with rolled-up sleeves.  Nooooooooooooooooo!

Since he’s fully clothed he obviously doesn’t intend to take a dip (at least not intentionally) and instead gravitates towards a group of beautiful(ish) young(ish) people gyrating to the hit sounds of Stevie Wonder.  And wouldn’t you know it, at exactly the point when Stevie sings “Isn’t she lovely?” the camera focuses on Amanda, who is – well – lovely.

There then follows a rather odd piece of direction.  Amanda, sitting with a male chum who’s sporting a rather colourful shirt, decides that Leo’s looking very miserable and the pair go off to cheer him up.  Maybe it was scripted that Leo was down in the dumps – staring wistfully into the distance, moping about Abby – but onscreen he’s talking animatedly to a couple of people.  Mind you, the brief snatch of Leo’s dialogue suggests that he’s pontificating about the woes of the world, so I daresay Leo’s companions were only too delighted to be rescued from his polemical onslaught!

That Leo continues droning on whilst the delightful Amanda is replenishing the others with champagne in characteristic, as is the fact that when she pours him a drink he chucks it away.  And then she pushes him into the pool.  The beginning of a beautiful friendship?  Well since he then chucks her in, possibly (this might very well be a Tarrant mating ritual).  Amanda later confesses that she likes his style.  Takes all sorts I guess.

Jack and Kate – both recovering addicts – compare notes.  Jack’s doing his best to stay off the drink whilst Kate admits that she’s had another flutter and is therefore happy to treat Jack to lunch.  Jack’s appalled – a woman paying for lunch?  But he comes round eventually.

Jan needs a new designer and fast.  She also needs £150,000 in order to open a chain of boutiques.  With no designer currently on board it seems more than a little risky to expand at this point, but Jan’s faith in her own abilities is clearly boundless.  There’s also the problem of Ken.  Jan wants to buy his minority shareholding of the boutique, but will he be agreeable?  Hmm, I wonder.

Avril and Tom have an awkward business lunch.  Charles’ presence at Relton Marine continues to concern Tom, who’s convinced that the interests of the Mermaid won’t now be her top priority.  And Tom’s jealous as hell too, of course (just as well he didn’t know that Charles dubbed him a “loser” in the business world then).

Although Charles and his father have yet to meet onscreen, there’s an early signifier of the battles to come – Charles finds himself outbid on a painting (a snip at a mere £225,000).  And the telephone buyer?  Of course it’s Sir Edward Frere ….

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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 …

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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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