Written by Jane Hollowood. Tx 22nd February 1983
N2, along with Miss Mooney and Mr Baxter, are in Wales, at the Rhowniar Outward Bound Camp. It’s no surprise that Mr Baxter is present – his character was always good value on school trips (the doomed French Trip during series four immediately springs to mind).
It’s clear within the opening minutes that Roland is going to give him more than a few headaches during the week. Everybody else has been sensible enough to pack their belongings in a suitcase, but Roland being Roland decides that plastic bags will suffice. Needless to say, once Mr Baxter removes them from the back of the coach they split open, exasperating the teacher.
Miss Mooney and Mr Baxter are introduced to Simon (Leo Doe), Doug (John Ratcliff) and Anne (Matyelok Gibbs) who will steer the children and teachers through the week’s programme. They favour informality – first names only, for example – although neither of the two teachers seem delighted with this, since it means the kids will be able to call them Teri and Geoff.
The two children who will clearly struggle the most during the week are Roland and Diane. Roland, because of his weight, finds certain tasks (such as clambering over a wall) to be an insurmountable problem, whilst Diane, due to her physical slightness, is placed at a disadvantage whatever she attempts.
Roland doesn’t seem to care though. When Doug leads the others down a very narrow opening to explore a dirty tunnel (which surely Roland could have never fitted through) the boy simply remains above ground and tags behind the others when they re-emerge. This scene does highlight that the instructors aren’t terribly observant (something which we’ll return to in the next episode). Doug doesn’t notice that Roland isn’t amongst his party as they set off – you’d have expected he’d have done a quick head count to ensure that everybody was present and correct. For all he knew, the boy could have been trapped underground!
Another odd moment occurs later in the episode. Roland is sent back by Mr Baxter to change into proper mountaineering boots. Fair enough, but the next time we see him he’s changed into trainers and a jumper (before this, he had on a crash-helmet and waterproofs). The script seems to imply that he’s got lost on his way back to the outward bound camp, but his change of clothes makes no sense of this. But if he had made his way back, changed, and was heading back to Mr Baxter this makes no sense either, as now he’s wearing totally the wrong clothes for mountaineering.
No matter, since isolating Roland from the others was simply a way to make him meet Mr Price (Mostyn Evans). Mr Price is a local farmer and is able to reassure Roland that he was in no danger from a field full of bulls (they were cows). He’s able to teach the boy some words of Welsh, tell him about the type of cows he had a close encounter with, and generally give the town-based Roland an insight into life in the Welsh countryside. It’s a nice part of the episode, developed further next time, which shows that although Roland may not be able to join in with many of the outward bound activities, he’s still able to gain something from the trip.
No such luck so far for Diane though, who continues to cut an isolated and tragic figure. Although most of the girls – even the tactless Annette – are friendly, there’s still the odd one (like Sarah) who continues to treat her as something of a pariah.
Later, we see that Miss Mooney looks rather fetching in dungarees as she pours out her recent romantic heartbreak to one of the outward bound tutors. She’s clearly hoping for some solace, although Mr Baxter (Michael Cronin once again in good comic form) seems less than sympathetic as he harrumphs from his corner of the room.
The episode ends in time-honoured comic fashion as the boys rig a trap in their dorm which empties a bucket of water over Mr Baxter’s head. Although in the ensuing merriment Roland falls off the bunk bed, spraining his ankle. Not the most high-octane cliffhanger then …..