Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Thirteen

howards s03e13-01

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.

howards s03e13-02

Advertisements

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Twelve

howards s03e12-01.jpg

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.

howards s03e12-02

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Eleven

howards way s03e11-01

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.

howards way s03e11-02

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Ten

howards s03e10-01

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 ….

howards s03e10-02

Howards’ Way. Series Three, Episode Nine

howards s03e09-01

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!

howards s03e09-02

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Eight

howards s03e08-01

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 ….

howards s03e08-02

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Seven

howards s03e07-01

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.