Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 15th February 1983
Claire and Stewpot, still serving their suspension, meet clandestinely in the local Spar. This scene appeals for several reasons, not only for the fun in spotting long-vanished products on the shelves but also for Stewpot’s impressively striped jacket! Both have been forbidden from meeting each other and it’s plain that Stewpot’s father blames Claire just as much as Claire’s mother blames Stewpot.
So when Mrs Scott and Mr Stewart both independently head up to Grange Hill to try and convince Mrs McClusky to change her mind, it might be assume that sparks will fly. Mr Hopwood certainly thinks so and he gently berates Mr McGuffy for showing Mrs Scott into Mrs McClusky’s office. Mr McGuffy was unaware that Mr Scott was already there, but seems convinced that Mr Hopwood deliberately engineered the situation in order to create discord. We’ve previously seen (during Suzanne’s very brief infatuation with Mr McGuffy) that there’s been some needle between them, and this boils over now as they indulge in a blazing row.
The arrival of Mrs McClusky puts an end to it and they both slink away, somewhat abashed. I do like the later scene where Mrs McClusky informs Mr Keating of the argument. After learning the identity of both teachers involved in the fracas, he unbelievingly says “Mr Hopwood?” Clearly he has no problem in believing that Mr McGuffy could be involved in such a disturbance, despite the fact that we’ve rarely seen him raise his voice. Poor Mr McGuffy’s card is already marked though, as Mrs McClusky is convinced he’s behind the underground school magazine.
The meeting between Mrs Scott and Mr Stewart is a fascinating one. They both start off in a very defensive manner, blaming the other child for the suspension. But over a cup of tea in the canteen they revise their positions. Mrs Scott, in her few brief appearances, has tended to be pictured as something of a hectoring fusspot (very much along the lines of Mrs McMahon). However this scene allows her character to be painted a little more roundly – she’s aware that Claire’s growing up, but is regretful that this means their previously close mother/daughter bond has frayed. Mr Stewart has a similar story, he tells her that Christopher rarely speaks to him, as his son considers him to be old and out of touch.
But even though they combine forces to confront Mrs McClusky it has no effect – the headmistress is adamant that Claire and Stewpot must serve out their period of suspension. When she’s alone with Mr Keating, she does admit that she probably was too hasty in suspending them – but she can’t be seen to back down or reverse her position because that would be seen as weakness. This is another highly characteristic Mrs McClusky moment.
If most of the racial tension we’ve seen so far this year has been firmly white versus black, then the confrontation between Randir and Glenroy is a reminder (previously briefly touched upon) that other tensions exist. Glenroy isn’t impressed with Randir. “Sikhs, acting all superior and stirring up bad feelings.” But Woody is on hand to try and pour oil on troubled waters, telling them both that this sort of discord is precisely what Gripper wants.
With Gripper away, Denny cuts a forlorn figure. This episode gave Julian Griffiths the chance to have more than his normal few lines – the role of Gripper’s henchman always ensured that he tended to spend his time lurking in the background. Denny’s at his most human here and it seems, at times, as if he wants to try and repair some of the damage he’s previously caused. Can we believe him when he tells Mr McGuffy that Gripper used to bully him as much as anyone else?
It’s no surprise though that his classmates treat him with a mixture of scorn and contempt, which means that he derives an obvious relish at the end of the episode when he tells them that Gripper’s coming back the next day. Prior to this he had seemed keen to help Claire, Suzanne and Christine in their attempts to print another issue of the school magazine – this one focussing on Gripper – but the hapless Denny had the misfortune to run straight into Mrs McClusky, while clutching the paper.
In order to save his own skin, Denny implied that Mr McGuffy was involved in the magazine. As we’ve seen, this wasn’t true – he knew about it, but was always careful not to ask for any particulars. No surprise that Mrs McClusky isn’t bothered by the slender evidence – Mr McGuffy has long been a thorn in her side and this gives her just the excuse she needs to deal with him.