Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Eight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Seven

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There’s going to be choppy waters ahead ….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Howards’ Way – Series Three, Episode Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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