Previously on Banished: Elizabeth slept with Buckley so she could get a message to James, and Buckley lost his temper after losing a game of cards and told Tommy all about it. Anne started helping Mrs J deal with her longstanding grief over the stillbirths of all of her children, Ross started making actual emotional inroads with Kitty, and Molloy lied to William about the nature of his Dear John letter.
Buckley hurries back to the soldiers’ tent and immediately starts loading his gun, telling Timmons that he’s afraid Tommy’s going to kill him for sleeping with Elizabeth. Timmons asks for an explanation, and when he gets it, he grabs Buckley’s gun and tells him that he deserves what he’s about to get. Damn, Timmons.
Elizabeth, meanwhile, is insisting to her husband that what Buckley says isn’t true, while also telling James not to let Tommy leave the tent, because if he does, he’ll kill Buckley. Tommy keeps asking if it’s true, and Elizabeth finally cracks, admitting that it is, but explaining that she had to do it so she could get a message to him about her flogging. Curiously, it seems like it’s the fact that she slept with a soldier that upsets him, not the mere fact that she slept with another man.
James rushes to Buckley and warns him to run, because Tommy’s out for blood. Buckley won’t flee and be made a laughingstock, though, so James goes back to the morgue tent and he and Tommy and Elizabeth all start shouting at each other and Tommy manhandles James and Elizabeth screams and tells Tommy that he’ll have to do the same to her if he wants to leave the tent and it’s all very intense and shouty. James grabs a stool and threatens to knock Tommy out, but Tommy lands a punch and stalks towards the soldiers’ tent hilariously bellowing ‘Buuuuuucccckkleeeeyy!’ Buckley and Timmons come out of the tent, and Timmons warns Tommy that, if he hits a soldier, he’ll hang. Nonetheless, Tommy starts delivering one hell of a beatdown on Buckley, and Timmons stands by for a bit, telling the other men that the man has it coming. After a little while, he takes a pistol and gets Tommy to stop. Damn, Buckley’s a mess. Tommy gets one last punch in, then gives himself up and is thrown in jail.
The next morning, Elizabeth goes to visit her husband, who warns her to get away. She ignores him, begging him to ask the governor for mercy and not leave their child fatherless. He keeps telling her to stay away, but she’s determined not to see him hang.
Buckley tries to tell Philip and Ross what happened, but his face is so swollen he can’t be understood. Ross looks down at the young man and asks if he at least managed to land one or two hits himself. Buckley lies that he did.
Elizabeth sits in the jail with Tommy, who finally calms down enough to start making weak jokes. They kiss through the bars.
Philip comes into the jail and tells Tommy he’s left the boy half dead. He asks Tommy for the details of what happened and Elizabeth tells the whole story. Philip asks if Tommy will apologise to Buckley. Of course he won’t, because he’s a hotheaded, selfish idiot, and perhaps my least favourite character on this show. I seriously don’t care much what happens to him. Philip asks for the names of the other players in the card game, but Tommy remains silent.
Johnson makes a plea for Tommy’s life in the governor’s cabin, reminding Philip that being in NSW is basically already punishment enough, so why hang a guy and release him from that punishment? He also points out that if Tommy had been a fellow soldier this wouldn’t even be an issue. Ross tells them that rules are rules, and if a convict hits a soldier, he hangs. Johnson keeps trying to argue, and Philip, being reluctant to kill off a lead character, agrees to think this over and render a decision later. Ross tells him that’s not ok, because his men need to hear him upholding the local law. Philip will not be bullied. Ross warns him that, when he cuts rations again, which will happen soon, he’ll need the soldiers on his side more than ever, so he can’t go alienating them. Philip still digs in his heels and calls for other business. Ross pivots and asks how many of the 28 current patients in the hospital are likely to recover. As the answer is ‘none,’ he suggests they stop feeding these people, since they have precious little food as it is and can’t go wasting it on the dying. The others are plainly a bit horrified, but they can’t really justify sacrificing precious food to the dying. Ross pushes things by calmly suggesting they then feed the dead to the convicts, without their knowledge. Johnson can’t believe he’s even hearing this and tells Ross that cannibalism is a serious sin. Ross says it’s not a sin if you’re doing it unwittingly and points out that feeding human flesh to the convicts frees up more food for his soldiers. Philip agrees to stop feeding the sick but won’t offer a final decision on the other matter just yet.
Outside, Ross tells Johnson that Mrs J asked Ross if her husband needed a gun. He apparently told her that his men would protect the Johnsons. Rev hesitantly thanks him and Ross warns him that he’d better hope that’s always the case.
Ross takes off for the jail and tells Tommy that Buckley claims he landed a punch. Tommy says he did no such thing. Ross taunts him a bit with a description of how awful it is to hang and Elizabeth asks if the governor’s decided her husband’s fate, then? Ross tells her he hasn’t, not just yet.
He collects Timmons on his way out and tells him Philip may not hang Tommy. Timmons agrees that’ll be a mistake, especially with morale being low. If they see a convict get away with assaulting a soldier, it’ll go lower still. After he confirms that Timmons owes his allegiance to Ross, Ross orders him to arrest Philip if he refuses to hang Tommy. Timmons freaks out a bit, knowing this will only result in him being hanged. Ross says he won’t hang, because he’ll be following orders. Timmons reluctantly agrees.
Ross next goes to the soldiers’ tent and finds Kitty there, holding her statue. He’s pleased to see that she seems to like it and asks where Macdonald is. She directs him to the north section.
Ross finds Macdonald there and asks him what they should do with Tommy. He readily says that Tommy should hang, and he’d do the deed himself, if it came to that. He tells Macdonald that he’d like to entertain Kitty that evening, and he’s no longer going to give her extra food, because that’s too much like payment, and she’s not a whore. He does call Macdonald a pimp, though, and Macdonald reminds him that he was basically given a choice between sharing his girlfriend and death, so no, he’s not a pimp at all.
Collins and Mrs J give some of the convicts reading lessons. Mrs J is with Anne and asks if she can come by and see her that evening. Anne says yes, of course. William approaches Mrs J and asks her to write ‘I will always wait for you, my darling.’ She does, immediately, and he, no dummy, compares the words with his wife’s letter and is a bit confused when they don’t appear. He asks Mrs J to show him where the words are in his letter, but of course she can’t find him, and when she hears that Molloy told him that’s what the letter said, she suggests he go chat with Molloy. Collins has been watching this interaction, but there’s not much he can do now. William realizes he’s been had and hurries off, as Mrs J apologises.
Tommy is brought to the governor’s cabin, accompanied by Elizabeth, for sentencing. Philip asks what the stakes in the game were, and when he hears Tommy was gambling his wife, it kind of undercuts any defense that he acted out of rage at the idea of another man sleeping with her. There’s a very uncomfortable (to a modern viewer) undercurrent of ‘women as property’ in this episode. It’s totally appropriate to the period, don’t get me wrong, and I do commend the writer for going there without making a big production out of it, but it still makes for uncomfortable viewing. See, the real issue here is that Buckley sullied something that belonged to Tommy. It doesn’t matter that the sex was consensual (though reluctant, on Elizabeth’s part), she belongs to Tommy, and that’s what really enraged him. And everyone agrees that he has the right to be enraged that another man helped himself to Tommy’s property.
Philip reminds Tommy of the rules against attacking the soldiers, of which he is aware. Ultimately, he has no choice but to condemn Tommy to death. But he gives him a good last night: he’s allowed to entertain his friends, and all the soldiers have to give Tommy his rum ration for the night, so he can get good and drunk. Elizabeth desperately looks at the people around the cabin, hoping for an ally, but no one can help her.
She wanders away, and James, working nearby, sees her and guesses what’s happened. He rushes to comfort her.
Kitty wanders along the beach, because apparently this is the most laid-back penal colony ever and she doesn’t ever have to do any work. Macdonald comes along and tells her Ross wants her that night. She’s cool with that. He asks if she’ll speak with Ross again and she says she will, because isn’t it better that way? He asks if she would do anything for him and she says she would, so he asks her to just have sex with Ross and not talk to him. She’s horrified by what he’s saying. He asks for the details of the story Ross told her, and she repeats it. Macdonald, clearly not the brightest guy, doesn’t get what the story means and Kitty explains that it shows Ross suffered for being kind and is now wary of ever being kind again. Ross shouts in frustration and starts to get upset and says he’s losing her.
James, Elizabeth, Molloy, William, and one of the other convicts join Tommy in his jail for the last night and agree not to watch Tommy hang. Other convict agrees to be the one to tell them all when to turn away.
Kitty goes to Ross’s tent and agrees to chat. She asks about the letter he’s writing—it’s to his fiancée, so she asks a little about her, and we learn that she’s named Emily, is pretty, educated, sophisticated, and rich. They lie down on the bed together.
Mrs J joins Anne in her tent and gives a rundown of her experiences giving birth to stillborn children, and man, it’s even more harrowing than you would have thought. The first time, she got lots of care and sympathy: her husband and in-laws held her tightly and comforted her. But by the fourth kid, Johnson didn’t even look at her (which seems quite unlike him), and the in-laws were no better. Mrs J had one job to do, and she failed. Useless goods, undeserving of sympathy. She thanks Anne for listening.
Tommy and the others speculate as to who the hangman is. Elizabeth says they’ll have to cut the man’s throat as soon as the hanging’s done. Elizabet’s willing to do it herself, killing any soldiers in her way first. James is looking kind of freaked out and, when Tommy says Elizabeth will probably be his woman after he’s gone, he starts bawling. But he agrees that Elizabeth could cut the man’s throat if necessary.
Collins plays the piano in his tent. I’m surprised he was allowed to bring that all the way over from piano.
In Ross’s tent nearby, Kitty asks Ross if he didn’t anticipate being called a grass when he fetched the teacher. Ross says he didn’t think about it, he just wanted the beating to stop. He concludes that she’s been thinking about the story and, by extension, him. She admits to it. He asks if she ever told the priest about the wobbling statue. She didn’t, figuring that someone else would mention it, if it happened for them, and if it was just for her, then it was her own private miracle.
The folks in the jail are pretty wasted. Molloy is drunkenly singing while William stares at him murderously.
Outside, Philip and Collins approach the jail and call Timmons aside to accuse him of conspiring to overthrow the governor. Timmons denies it. They know all about the plan, how it was Ross’s order, but Timmons is loyal to his man and insists Ross gave no such order. Philip reminds him that he was put in charge of the soldiers, and if he’s not in charge anymore, they won’t be soldiers, they’ll be rabble. Message received: help us keep out of chaos, Timmons.
Back inside, Molloy asks William why he keeps staring at him and William says he’s trying to muster up the courage to kill him. He tosses Mrs J’s paper to Molloy and orders him to read it, asking why these words aren’t in his letter. Molloy has no explanation but the truth: he just wanted to make William feel better. William orders Molloy to read the letter out loud, for real this time, and he does. William collapses onto the floor in despair within two lines. It’s not a mean letter, quite apologetic, really, and you can’t blame the woman for hitching her wagon to a new guy when her old one was being shipped off to Australia for the next decade. Molloy apologises to William, and William offers to be the man to tell the others to turn away from Tommy’s hanging. The other convict tells him to wait until he’s sobered up to volunteer. William leaves in a rage. Molloy explains to the others that William was never going to see the woman again, so he just tried to do the guy a good turn, and how was he to know he’d go and learn to read?
Kitty asks Ross if he’ll hang Tommy and he says he will, and is she glad? She’s not, because she likes Tommy. She says Macdonald could never hang a man, but Ross points out that Macdonald’s a soldier, trained to kill and to enjoy it. She says that if Macdonald could really just kill robotically then Ross would be dead. Rossputs that down to being Macdonald’s commanding officer, something men put above everything, even the love of a woman. He suddenly sits up and tells her she should go. She admits that Macdonald would rather Ross sleep with Kitty than talk to her. Ross turns to her and says that having sex at this point would be a tiny betrayal, since they’ve already talked. She says it would be a huge betrayal, to her. Ross asks her if it would be quite so unpleasant as it used to be, making love to him, and she admits it wouldn’t be. But she’s still not willing to go there. She asks if there’s food for her and is annoyed when he says there isn’t. He doesn’t explain why, though, so she leaves in a huff.
She heads out into the night and sees Macdonald hanging about nearby. She snappishly tells him it’s annoying that he’s hanging about like that, because it means that everyone knows when she’s in Ross’s tent. He says he’s sorry, which is pretty much his daily refrain at this point. Macdonald does something stupid that annoys Kitty, Macdonald apologises, lather, rinse, repeat. She’s clearly starting to get tired of it. He asks if she talked to Ross and she says she didn’t. He asks if she said hello and goodbye, and she did, so that means they talked. Heavens, Macdonald, chill out! For someone worried about losing his girlfriend you sure are doing everything you can to push her away. She tells him about the no food thing and he explains why that’s the case, and she seems rather touched by Ross finally not thinking of her as a prostitute. She tells him to stop questioning her and runs back to Ross’s tent, where she asks him to go ahead and have sex with her. The what now? I mean, I get that she’s annoyed with her boyfriend and that she and Ross are making some connections, but this seems extreme and pretty bizarre. It is kinda hot though, I have to admit.
Time is running out for Tommy. He asks James to do what needs to be done to this hangman and James promises. Tommy hugs everyone and bids them goodnight, and Molloy jokes that it’s all right for Tommy to party, but some of them have work in the morning. They all laugh like that’s the funniest thing ever.
Macdonald returns to the tent and doesn’t find Kitty there. HE asks where she is and Timmons responds with, ‘where do you think she is?’ Macdonald sadly wanders over to Ross’s tent and hovers outside, listening to the unmistakable sounds of lovemaking coming from inside. Damn, not only do you know your boss is having sex with your girlfriend, you and the rest of the camp also get to listen? That sucks. And I kind of feel for this poor young man. He’s a bit awkward and makes mistakes and puts his foot in his mouth and all, but he’s young, and we’ve all been there. He’s in a high-pressure situation in a number of ways, and he just can’t seem to win. Poor kid.
James wanders up to the gallows and puts his head in the noose, grasping the handle of the trapdoor with his hand.