Howard’s Way – Series Four, Episode Seven

howards s04e07-01.jpg

This episode pretty much picks up where the previous one finished, so we see Barracuda pulling into port with an ambulance crew waiting for Jack. Although the incidental music is still set on “sinister and anxious” at least he’s awake and is his usual cantankerous self (which is a good sign). “Where are you guys taking me? I’m not going to St Hilda’s. I had a wisdom tooth out there”.  Three guesses which hospital he ends up at …

I like the way that Tom later insists that Leo should stay with Jack at the hospital (Tom never seems to stop and consider that maybe he should stay). Leo is slightly whiny (“why me?”) but you know that since he’s such a good natured-soul he’ll be happy to do so. And so he does.

The way that the episode deals with Avril’s reaction to the news is very interesting. Tom calls her (she’s at Jan’s house – helping to investigate the saga of the stolen designs) and when she takes the receiver we see her face suddenly fall. But then we cut to Tom (“oh, no, no, Avril, it’s all right”) and we don’t cut back to Avril again.

What’s very notable is that after this moment Avril doesn’t mention her father for the remainder of the episode. All of her scenes are business related – jousting with Charles and Gerald, wining and dining new recruit Sarah – meaning that her father seems to be low on her list of priorities. Harsh? Maybe, but whilst we’re told that she does visit Jack in hospital, we don’t actually see it (whereas we are witness to Kate’s visit – where she dishes out a typical dollop of good old-fashioned common sense, much to Jack’s disgust!)

This foregrounding of Avril-as-businesswoman may have been intentional or it could just be the way the scripting turned out – but it does seem odd that we never learn what she thinks about her father’s hospitalisation (even Polly – hardly Jack’s biggest fan – is given a moment to react with dismay at the news).

Jack, you’ll be glad to hear, isn’t too bad at all. He does have an ulcer, but as long as he lays off the booze, cigars and adopts a healthy diet then all will be well. Yes, I can see three things wrong with that picture too.

Dr Bishop (Alexandra Mathie) is something of a tarter, but the fact she’s a woman (something which Jack can’t help but blurt out) seems to stun him the most. Has he not visited many hospitals recently? When she quizzes him about his habits, can you guess what he says when she asks him about drink?

“Oh that’s very kind of you, I’ll have a small scotch please”.

Predictable, yes. But it still raised a smile.

I can’t help but be intrigued by the fact that Alexandra Mathie’s fairly limited cv includes the film Paper Mask (set in a hospital) and television series such as Doctors, Casualty and Coronation Street (where she played a doctor). Was it just coincidence that she seemed to so often play roles which were medically based?

Abby and Polly are continuing to get on well, something which is slightly surprising (I’d have thought by now they’d have regressed to their usual habits). The question of William does slightly divide them, but once again Polly’s attempting to help, as seen when she later visits Charles and asks if he can intercede. This he’s disinclined to do – whatever else he thinks of his father, he knows that he’s more than capable of wresting William away from the Hudsons.  Although he does admit that if and when William does arrive in the UK it will then be advisable to prise him out of Sir Edward’s clutches. Abby clearly doesn’t seem to have appreciated that Sir Edward may have an agenda for his grandson which is different from hers.

Things are not going well for Ken. He asks Sir John if the bank will front for him on Guernsey since he can’t apply for trading status directly. As he bitterly admits, he doesn’t wear the old school tie (an ironic comment, especially as he wasn’t allowed into Sir John’s club straightaway since he wasn’t wearing a tie). Ken’s status as an outsider – barely tolerated but never accepted by those he wishes to emulate – is never clearer than in this episode.

There are some fine cardigans on display in this episode. One is worn by John Reddings (Stephen Grief). Yay, Travis Mk1! He may lack the eyepatch, artificial hand and psychopathic tendencies of Travis, but Reddings is still dangerous in his own way.

Ken employs him to recover Jan’s stolen templates and we learn here that it was Ken who paid for them to be pinched in the first place. The rotter. But he’d intended that the designs would be destroyed, not taken to Taiwan and copied, which suggests that Ken wanted to ruin Jan a little, but not too much.  That sort of makes sense I guess (since he wanted to buy back into her company).

Reddings does the job, but at a price. He has a tape-recording of Ken’s admission he organised the theft and is unabashed at requesting hush money. A pity that Reddings doesn’t reappear, since an actor as good as Stephen Greif shouldn’t be wasted with just a handful of scenes.

Here’s something I never thought I’d see – Tom and Charles all pally. They too are sporting nice cardigans as they head off to Charles’ tennis court for a quick game. Charles is still attempting to woo Tom to accept the design job so it’s not entirely a pleasure trip, but the fact that Tom accepted shows that he’s mellowed (or that despite himself he’s interested in the offer). We only see the first point of the game – Charles thunders an ace past Tom – but it may serve not only as an indication of who won, but also Charles’ desire to win everything at any cost.

We don’t see much of Sir Edward. Apart from leaving yet another plaintive message on Jan’s answering machine, he doesn’t pop up until the last ten minutes or so. Am I the only one to find his constant endearments (“hello, my love”) slightly intimidating? The man’s not taking Jan’s “no I won’t marry you” as an answer, so has bought her a flashy sports car as a blatant bribe. Jan initially pulls a face (she’s standing by the sink, filling the kettle whilst he’s waggling the car keys behind her back!) but we don’t see her categorically refuse the present ….

Michael sets off in the Barracuda – one of a score of boats making a solo transatlantic crossing.

Sarah breaks the news to Ken that she’s leaving to take a plumb job at Relton. He doesn’t take it well. “That bitch doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet, does she?” he mutters, referring to Avril. And he doesn’t seem to rate Sarah herself any higher. “What the hell does Charles Frere want with deadwood like you?”

He then roughly prevents her from slapping him (holding firmly onto her arm) but although he’s physically stronger, it’s Sarah who seems to have won the business battle. He does tell her not to come crawling back to him for a job when Relton have no further use for her, but this just seems to be a case of Ken trying to keep his own spirits up. This year hasn’t been a good one for Ken, will his luck change anytime soon?

howards s04e07-02

Advertisements

Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Six

howards s04e06-01

Jan’s business woes move up a notch as she discovers that all her major suppliers now regard her to be a bad credit risk.  She spies the evil hand of John Soames at work – miffed that she wouldn’t share his big bed – but is disinclined to ask Sir Edward for help.  So Jan faces having empty shops with nothing to sell unless she can find a solution ….

Meanwhile, interest in the marina at L’Ancesse over on Gurnsey is hotting up.  Ken is keen to buy it as it’ll provide him with a nice little tax haven and so has persuaded Sarah to put a bid in (Ken’s, ahem, colourful past means that he has to stay in the shadows).  But Charles wants it too as Sir John explains to Sir Edward.  “Well, she wants it because Masters wants it. Masters wants it because Charles wants it. And god alone knows why Charles wants it”.

Charles’ reasons quickly becomes clear.  The America’s Cup, he says, is not the showpiece event it once was (thanks to the way that the Americans have excluded many top performers) so he plans to establish his own world class race – to rival, or even surpass it.  And where better to start the race from than the picturesque L’Ancresse?

Charles wants to assemble a team to build a world class boat too, which means he needs the very best designer – so naturally he approaches Tom.  Mmm, I know what you’re probably thinking – since Charles could pick just about any designer in the world, why would he choose Tom?  Lest we forget, they’re not exactly the closest of friends.  In story terms it makes perfect sense, but in the real world it’s slightly harder to swallow.  But as I’ve said before, there’s no point in equating HW with real life.

And as it happens, Tom’s at a loose end as he’s just angrily resigned from Sir Edward’s America’s Cup team.  The final straw came when Tom received a package which was full of photographs of their rival’s boats.  Sir Edward sees nothing wrong in this – all’s fair in business – but Tom, always a moral man, won’t have any truck with stealing.  So in a rather good little scene, Tom and Sir Edward face off.  Tom’s implacable whilst Sir Edward, radiating menace, murmurs that not many people cross him.  Watch this space, as I daresay Sir Edward has a long memory.

It’s a remarkable coincidence that Charles happens to ask Tom (via Emma – Charles isn’t foolish enough to approach Tom direct) to be a part of his team on the very day that he walks out on Sir Edward …..

Tom’s yet to agree, but another personnel movement seems much more likely.  Avril offers Sarah a job – helming Relton Power.  This serves several purposes – as Sarah’s already been negotiating for the L’Ancresse site, having her at Relton would strengthen Charles’ bid, and as a bonus it’ll tick Ken off.  And Ken’s been in a filthy temper today, shouting at Sarah and generally treating her like dirt.  So she’s more than keen to jump ship, question is will Leo join her?

Jack’s still in a good mood, although he’s been getting a few twinges which are worrying him.  With a sense of the dramatic, he tells Kate that he’s not long for this world, although Kate – sensible as ever – takes no nonsense from him, telling him to see a doctor and pull himself together.  It doesn’t seem to be too serious, but as we’ll see things take a dramatic turn later.

But before that happens there’s one of my favourite Jack scenes from all of the six series.  Jan, desperate for clothes to sell, elects to send Kate out to buy up stock from other shops.  She persuades Jack to help her and this leads to the wonderful sight of a bashful Jack – arms full of ladies clothes – desperately attempting to reach the car before anybody spots him.

Unsurprisingly he doesn’t make it as Bill happens to ride past on his bike (Tarrant’s a very small place) and despite Jack’s best attempts to hide, the terrible truth about Jack Rolfe and women’s clothing comes to light!  Glorious stuff.

Abby and Leo continue to have a distant relationship.  Although they agree to call a truce, they’re finding it increasingly difficult these days to connect in the same way that they used to.  Possibly this is because Leo now has his own interests and responsibilities and is no longer able (or willing?) to always be on call.  This is demonstrated when he’s unable to stay in and watch a video of William (Sarah’s invited him to dinner).

It’s difficult to blame him – Sarah’s one of his bosses after all – but it leaves an emotionally fragile Abby alone with only her memories of her son.  Luckily, Kate later pops up to hear Abby’s story and wipe away her tears.

Tom and Jan have another meal.  As Leo tells Sarah (they’re sitting a stone’s throw away in the same restaurant – remember, Tarrant’s a very small place) it’s slightly strange to see – they couldn’t live together and now they can’t seem to live apart.  Sarah drops her bombshell about leaving, forcing Leo to contemplate his own future.

Another series, another top fashion designer.  In this episode Jan confirms what the audience had probably already suspected – Anna won’t be returning.  So Jan needs another young, gifted (and cheap!) world class designer to fall in her lap.  Does Julian Fitzsimons (Jamie Roberts) fit the bill?  The fact that he only appears in this episode suggests that from now on Jan’s designers may be talked about, but they’ll rarely be seen.

If Jan’s business finally seems to be picking up (Sir Edward, much to Jan’s irritation, deals with her credit problem), then her personal life is still somewhat messy.  She finally plucks up the courage to tell Sir Edward that she can’t marry him.  He’s quite calm about this – mainly because he’s confident that over time he’ll be able to change her mind.  Sir Edward is not a man who takes no for an answer (a cliché I know, but it’s absolutely true).

The episode concludes in a highly dramatic fashion as Jack suffers an attack whilst he, Tom, Leo, Abby and Michael are out on the water.  Heart attack?  Testament to Glyn Owen’s quality as an actor, but seeing Jack – someone we’ve grown to love – in such distress is uncomfortable.  No doubt he’ll bounce back, but it’s a very unsettling scene.

howards s04e06-02

Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Five

howards s04e05-01

Whatever happened to all the environmentalists down Tarrant way?  A few years back the proposed Marina development had them out in droves, but Ken’s new plan to turn a bird sanctuary into an oil field doesn’t attract even a murmur of protest.

Not even Leo, once upon a time the Earth’s friend, seems bothered.  Although it may be that he doesn’t know that Ken has earmarked the sanctuary (and presumably most of the birds) for destruction, even though he is aware that Ken’s interested in oil.

Another episode, another argument between Leo and Abby.  This one takes place at Leisure Cruise and only the sudden arrival of Ken puts an end to hostilities.  I do like the way that Ken mutters “don’t mind me” and then daintily walks past them.  A little bit of Stephen Yardley business maybe?

Ken’s feeling very pleased with himself.  If Gerald and Sir Edward decide to join him in his oil venture then he’s convinced they’ll all make a great deal of money.  And even though he’s yet to get their signatures on the dotted line, he’s already eyeing up ways to spend his new fortune.  Do you get an inkling that this is all going to come crashing down very soon?

Avril and Gerald are also having a humdinger of an argument, although this is business, not personal.  The arrival of Charles, in a natty blue suit, gives them pause – although both are a little disappointed that he’s not returned to take over the reigns.  But Charles does say he will be back “sometime” which is something of a change from the previous episodes, where he seemed to have retired for good.  A slight inconsistency in the scripting or is it more that we should never believe everything Charles says?  Like his father, Charles Frere can be a devious man.

Jack’s in a jolly mood today.  A very jolly mood.  Singing Yellow Submarine, he’s a little ray of sunshine (something which isn’t appreciated by everybody – especially Emma).  Sir Edward pops by the Mermaid and although he’s disappointed that Tom isn’t there, decides not to waste his time and asks Jack to dinner at Highfield.  Bill may not have any lines during this unexpected invitation, but Robert Vahey steals the scene anyway – mainly due to the way his eyes dart from Jack to Sir Edward and then back again.  Those eyes speak a thousand words.

By rights Jack should be a little down in the dumps, since Gerald has rejected his new boat proposal.  But he’s not at all downhearted and decides to raise the money via a three horse accumulator.  Kate, of course, is the racing expert, so he heads off to the boutique to seek her advice.  Jack/Kate scenes are always a joy and this one is no exception – plus we have the added bonus of Polly in the middle (who clearly regards Jack as the lowest form of life imaginable).  When he ever-so-politely asks Polly if he can use their phone, she tells him that no, he can’t.  “This is a boutique, Mr Rolfe. It is not the tap room of a pub, or the billiard hall”.

Jan’s in Italy (although the production clearly never left the UK).  Quick stock shots of the colosseum and a policeman do their best to create a continental atmosphere.  Jan’s popped over to speak to Anna and we later learn that they had a good conflab, although we never actually see her (she’s not a character who returned this year).

Jan then encounters John Soames (David Saville), an English accountant working for a top Italian fashion house.  He’s smooth (very, very smooth) and Jan is happy to accept his invitation to lunch.  Soames quizzes her about her marital status – Jan tells him that she’s divorced and admits that it’s something she regrets (was this the first gentle step to paving the way for an eventual Jan/Tom reconciliation?).  It’s telling that she doesn’t mention Sir Edward …..

Everything’s going swimmingly until Soames casually tells her that he’s got a company flat with a very large bed.  Would she like to stay over for a couple of days?  Uh oh.  She tells him not to be so silly and in an instant he switches from convivial to menacing, muttering that he’s going to ruin her company (given the already perilous state it’s in, he may not have to bother).  A little hard to believe that Jan, already with more than her share of bad luck, would instantly make such an implacable enemy, but this is Howards’ Way, not real life.

Sir Edward’s rather jealous when Jan, back in Blighty, tells him about Soames although their argument (today’s episode is a very combative one) is cut short when Tom arrives.  It’s all a bit awkward, Tom walking in on a tiff between his ex-wife and her (possible) new beau, but Tom’s more concerned with Sir Edward’s autocratic handling of the America’s Cup team.  Earlier he told Emma that Sir Edward was “a madman” and this meeting doesn’t do anything to ally his fears.  Tom wants to pick the people he works with, but Sir Edward isn’t having it.  Not at all.  Something’s got to give here.

Avril seems quite recovered after her funny turns last time, but now that her memory has returned in full she tells Charles she can’t marry him after all.  Like everything else these days, he takes it well.  Will nothing shake him out of his torpor?  Ah, maybe ….

And it’s all quite clever.  Sir John (on Sir Edward’s urging) lets Charles know that Gerald is considering a joint venture between Frere Holdings, Sir Edward’s company and Ken Masters.  What does Charles think of this?  “Ken Masters and my father? It’s a perfect description of hell on earth”. So this serves as the trigger to bring Charles back to his senses.  Gerald’s gratefully back to being a dutiful second in command, whilst Charles regains the hotseat.

What’s clever about this is that Sir Edward had no interest in Ken’s plan, but he knew exactly how Charles would react once he learnt that a joint venture was in the offing.  So it was Sir Edward who was able to manipulate Charles back into business (something which he’s blissfully unaware of at present).

This leaves Ken holding the baby.  With the clock ticking, he’s sitting in the bank waiting for his partners to show up.  They don’t of course, and since he can’t afford to seal the deal by himself, it’s all off.  Poor Ken – used and then tossed aside by Sir Edward.  For a brief few minutes he had the taste of the high life (expensive yachts, bikini-clad totty) but now he’s been brought back to earth with a bump.

howards s04e05-02

Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Four

howards s04e04-01.jpg

The start of this episode sees Avril trying – and failing – to reach Charles.  He’s out for an early morning jog, meaning that she’s forced to leave (another?) message on his answering machine.  But they’re not only separated by distance as they now hold very different outlooks and philosophies.

Compare and contrast to when we first met them.  Back then Charles was a hard-bitten businessman, interested in little else but the profit margin, whilst Avril, working at the Mermaid, was content to idle away her time.  Post accident, both have reacted in very different ways.  Avril has been keen to get back into business mode (in some ways she’s as focused now as Charles was then) whilst Charles himself has completely rejected his old life.

Referring to it as a cage, he now cuts a relaxed figure, pottering about in his new house or down at his new arts centre.  This is so completely unlike the Charles Frere we’ve come to know that it’s no doubt as incredibly jarring for the audience as it is for Avril.  It’s hard not to imagine that he’ll suddenly snap back into being a ruthless tycoon sometime, but at present there’s no sign of it.

Avril later makes a flying visit to the Mermaid, where she finds Bill manning the office.  This is a nice two-handed scene which gives Bill a little more material than usual to work with.  Generally Bill’s not called upon to do much else than act as a foil for Jack or feed the others with the occasional line.  But here he gets a little character time, as he tells Avril that he “can remember the day you were born. And Jack’s face. Like he’d finally seen a mermaid”.

Tom and Emma are heading off to see Ian Cartwright (Michael Simkin).  Ian’s another member of Sir Charles’ America’s Cup team and he and Tom instantly seem to be on the same page.   They launch into some technical talk.  “I reckon we’ve reduced the drag coefficient on the keel by 2% at least”.  No, me neither.  But luckily there’s not too much of this chat, human drama is much more to the fore.

Ian’s a talented designer but by his own admission is no politician.  The innocent and trusting Tom doesn’t think that’s a problem though – Ian’s keel design is a winner and he tells Sir Edward so.  Sir Edward smiles his usual crocodile smile and all seems well.  At least until later when Tom learns that Ian’s been fired.  Sir Edward Frere is not a predictable man ….

It’s notable that just before their meeting with Ian, Tom mentioned to Emma that he was a little concerned about Leo’s new career as a powerboat racer.  Conversely, Jan doesn’t seem to have registered that her son is now risking his life – no doubt her own business traumas are occupying all of her time.  This is also a characteristic touch, since we’ve seen before that Jan tends to be rather blinkered and, dare I say it, self-centered.

Polly makes another attempt to persuade Jan that she should buy into the business and once again she’s rebuffed.  Jan then mentions the “vultures” circling round, making it clear that she considers Polly to be one of them.  They’re supposed to be old friends, but it’s plain that Jan doesn’t trust her one little bit – which is possibly quite wise ….

Abby seeks out Charles.  Partly to thank him for the gift of a camera (Abby’s become quite the budding photographer) but mainly to try and establish a connection.  This is another fascinating scene in which the human side of Charles, so often buried, is now firmly out in the open.  Their parting is particularly nice – he holds out his hand for a formal handshake, but seconds later both laugh at this and embrace instead.

Ken’s on the up and up.  Gerald and Sir Edward are considering going into partnership with him, and if they do then all three will be hoping to strike black gold on the coast.  This is bad news for Sarah, who – having rejected a lucrative deal with some Russian clients – finds herself facing the full wrath of Ken.  She’d hoped that it would prove to him that she still had a voice in the company, but Ken – stripped of his thin veneer of politeness – makes it quite clear that she’s made a bad mistake.

Leo goes powerboat racing.  Cue an up-tempo soundtrack with plenty of honking saxophones and a very lengthy film sequence with a score of boats which obviously took a while to film (and also didn’t come cheap).  Truth be told, it’s ever so slightly dull (when you’ve watched one boat chop through the waves, you’ve watched them all) and by the time the chequered flag was waved, I was past caring whether Leo was first or second.

He’s second.  And he’s not happy about it, so he congratulates the winning driver by punching him!  Wouldn’t you know it, he turns out to be Michael Hanley, the Aussie journalist now turned powerboat racer.   This isn’t the first time they’ve come to blows (previously it was over Amanda) but any differences are soon buried as they crack open a bottle of champagne or two.

Prior to Leo’s race he’d had another Jolly Sailor bust up with Abby (this is getting to be something of a regular occurrence).  Once again it’s centered around Abby’s desire not to rock the boat (she’s not bothered that Sir Edward had told Leo to leave Abby alone, since Sir Edward is her best chance to regain custody of William).  We’ve previously heard from Leo that he’d hoped they’d be able to get together and now Abby seems to agree.  “I thought you and I were made for each other, that we’d end up living together, and I still do”.  This is promising, but Leo immediately shuts her down and rushes off to do battle on the waves.  So yet again their relationship, such as it is, will have to be deferred for another time.

Last time we saw Jack decide to walk away from the Mermaid Yard for good.  And now he’s back.  What did I say?!  It’s an interesting touch that it was Emma (not exactly his favourite person) who was able to coax him back, by suggesting that he design a new boat (made in wood, naturally).  There suddenly seems to be a market in wooden boats, although if this is so, why hasn’t Jack already designed one?  Still, ignoring the fact that this doesn’t make a lick of sense, it’s nice to have Jack back.  Now how long will it be before he has another tantrum?

Until now, Avril’s intermittent loss of memory hasn’t played a part in the story.  But at the end of this episode it’s featured with a vengeance.  First we see a very sweaty Avril tossing and turning in bed, haunted by the image of herself and Charles getting married.  With the incidental music tuned to “menacing” it seems to end with Avril in the water, post-crash, which would explain why she told Charles that was what her nightmare was about.  But it’s very significant that she doesn’t mention anything about wedding bells.

The next day she’s sitting in her office when she has another flashback.  This time she and Charles are on the plane and he’s just asked her to marry him.  Presumably before the events of the previous night, Avril hadn’t remembered this. So is she delighted to be reminded of his happy moment?  Um, not really – as she uses her paperknife to gouge a jagged line in her desk.

The way that the camera quickly pulls back (and also moves upwards) serves as a visual cue that all’s not well with her at present …..

howards s04e04-02

Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Three

howards s04e03-01

Jan’s not a happy bunny.  Sir Edward announcing their engagement without asking her was annoying enough, but it’s the continuing problems with the stolen designs that’s really ramping up the pressure.  It’s made the newspapers (complete with the most unflattering picture of Jan ever) which is one of the reasons why she’s somewhat flaky today (because it’s in the papers I mean, not because the picture of her isn’t terribly good).

Tom’s installed a new computer at the Mermaid.  It’s pretty advanced – able to communicate with other computers up and down the country – but it’s only the first step in Tom’s America’s Cup plans.  He’s also ramping up the security at the yard (including an alarm system linked to the local police station).  Has Tom spoken to Jack first?  Of course not.  And what do you imagine Jack’s reaction will be?  Yes, that’s right, he goes through the roof.  Jack might be highly predictable, but that’s part of the fun.

Jack storms off and gets very drunk.  His later reappearance at the Mermaid, late at night, triggers off the new alarm which results in the police arriving.  Tom and Emma arrive just in time to see him being poured into a squad car.   Rather wonderfully he croons “I just called to say I love you” at them before disappearing.  It’s another of those hardy Howards’ Way perennials – Jack staggering around drunk – but it never fails to entertain.

When Jack’s not legless, he’s eyeing up one of his old boats, now owned by a man called Harry Sellers (Conrad Phillips).  Jack later buys the boat – The Grecian Lady – off Harry.

Abby and Charles meet.  He’s still a changed man, uninterested in business and happy to help Abby any way he can.  He’s aware that Sir Edward is also attempting to assist her with her battle to regain custody of William, but knows that his father has ulterior motives (whereas Charles seems only to want what’s best for Abby).  But for the moment Abby is content to remain with Sir Edward and doesn’t particularly want to get to know Charles any better.  Charles doesn’t seem to mind though, he’s content to wait ….

Leo and Abby have an argument.  He’s convinced that she’s simply using people (Sir Edward especially) in order to win custody of William.  She reacts angrily to this, taunting Leo that his life is an empty one (consisting of racing powerboats and little more).  They laugh and make up after this, but later Leo – with Sarah and Abby watching on – goes hell for leather when testing the powerboat.

And then the throttle jams, so Leo seems set on a one-way collision course with some very large rocks.  Eek!  For Sarah, looking on, there’s no doubt a nasty flashback to her husband’s death.  With the incidental music ramping up, things look sticky for a few seconds but then the throttle unsticks itself and all is well.  This moment serves as an indication that Leo’s thought processes might be a little cloudy at present – was it simply an accident, or was he racing with something to prove?

Ken and the cigarette-toting Antonia continue to scheme.  He’s keen to weaken Jan’s business so that he can buy back into it (“you’re going to need me soon, my darling, I’m going to make very sure of that”).  He and Antonia also frolic in the pool (at different times though).

The next day, the pair decide to have a canoodle in one of the Leisure Cruise boats.  With screaming inevitability Sarah stumbles across them.  She’s already spent the rest of the episode with a disapproving expression painted across her face – partly at Ken and partly at Leo’s reckless attitude on the water – and this latest escapade of Ken’s only serves to irritate her even more.  But she’s far too well-bred to make a scene, she simply proclaims that from now they operate on a strictly business level, before exiting.

Sir John is keen to join forces with Gerald and – joy of joys – Ken approaches both of them with a new business venture.  Oil.  You wouldn’t have thought that the coastline was full of oil, but Ken is convinced.  Is Howards’ Way going to turn into Dallas?  This is such a bonkers idea (any scheme that Ken Masters thinks is a sure fire hit has to be approached with caution) that I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Having previously restricted her scheming purely for her numerous extra-martial affairs, Polly’s now demonstrating that she’s got a keen eye for a business chance.  She continues to be desperate to pour her money into Jan’s business (and has visions of taking it over completely in due course – after all, once Jan and Sir Edward marry, surely he won’t allow her to work?).  But Jan, despite the fact her back’s right up against the wall, tells Polly and Kate that she intends to stand and fight.  The disappointment on Polly’s face is palpable.

Jack drops a bombshell.  He’s quitting the Mermaid Yard with immediate effect.  This is Jack Rolfe remember, a man who’s consistently inconsistent, so it’s hard to believe him – even when he sets sail in The Grecian Lady, seemingly content never to darken the Mermaid’s door again.  I’ll give him an episode before he comes back (two at the most).

howards s04e03-02

 

Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Two

howards s04e02-01

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 ….

howards s04e02-02.jpg

Howards Way – Series Four, Episode One

howards s04e01-01

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).

howards s04e01-02