Banished: The Hangman

3b470846-bcb7-406b-abdb-943f34f07d13-620x372Previously on Banished: Marston’s body was found by Kitty during an aborted suicide attempt, sending James running into the woods. Anne told Mrs J she could talk to the Johnsons’ dead children, and the rev warned her that kind of talk could lead to a good old-fashioned witch burning.

James runs through the woods, with Timmons and his men behind. They reach a certain point, however, where Timmons tells his men to hold up, because if they go any further they won’t make it back. They fire three shots into the air and turn back.

Ross, having worked up a good head of steam, goes into his tent, where Kitty and Macdonald are waiting. Just barely holding his temper in check, Ross demands to know what happened. Kitty lies that she went for a swim and got into ‘difficulties.’ He knows she’s lying and accuses her of attempting to drown herself. Apparently trying to kill yourself gets you 100 lashes. Yeah, that should encourage someone in despair to want to keep living. He then goes about making this all about him, asking how she can dare to prefer death to being with him. He grabs her chin and tells her he won’t be humiliated by a whore. Macdonald reaches for his bayonet and Ross whirls on him, saying this is the second time he’s considered using that on his superior and there will not be a third. Macdonald backs down. While Ross is yelling at Kitty again, Philip comes in and takes Ross away. They go to Collins’s tent, accompanied by Tommy, and stand around the body. Philip asks Tommy if he thinks James acted alone in this murder. Philip knows it’s unlikely that James was able to move this man by himself. Tommy admits that’s probably true. They go over the injuries: crushed skull, and a cut on his chest from a spade, according to Collins. Is Collins their doctor and their lawyer? Or at least their lawyer and their ME? Man, he’s truly a man of many talents, isn’t he? Also, that’s really exact, being able to discern that that particular injury came from a spade and not an axe or any other weapon-like thing. Philip asks Tommy if he was involved and Tommy denies it. Philip, unable to do much here, sends Tommy to dig the man’s grave. Because that worked out so well last time.

Tommy takes off and Johnson, who’s been hovering by the body this whole time, brings up Kitty and the fact that she so clearly was trying to drown herself because she was being messed with by Ross. Ross calmly says he hasn’t been raping her or anything, he’s just doing a girlfriend share, like everyone does. Mrs J jumps in to say that Kitty’s not the type of woman you share around, meaning she’s not a prostitute. Ross calls on Collins to back him up in his assessment that Kitty’s a whore and Collins says that, to the best of his knowledge, she is. Johnson reasonably points out that whores don’t try to drown themselves because men are paying attention to them, and he demands Ross leave Kitty alone. Philip, too, suggests Ross find someone else. Ross asks if Philip will stop seeing his housekeeper and Philip indignantly denies that he and Deborah are lovers. Ross refuses to leave Kitty alone, so Johnson banishes him from religious services. Damn, Rev, that’s kind of hardcore. I applaud you for that. I have no idea why he and his wife are so attached to this one woman out of many, but I support it. Ross calls on Philip to intervene and make Johnson stop being so mean to him, but Philip will not. Ross pouts his way out of the tent.

Tommy digs the grave and Marston is properly buried. Anne attends the ceremony, for some reason (would you attend your own bully’s funeral? Eh, maybe, just to make sure he’s well and truly dead. And to spit on his grave, if you’re so inclined.) After the ceremony, Mrs J catches up to Anne and notes that Anne has a gift for putting herself in other people’s shoes, but she just uses it to exploit people. Anne, a bit squirrelly because the reverend’s nearby, admits that she tricks people and that she lied about Mrs J being able to speak to her children. Mrs J tearfully asks her what she expected to get from saying she could and Anne shrugs, ‘food?’ Sounds reasonable.

Ross finds Kitty down at the beach with the other women, gathering shellfish or something, I guess. He grabs her basket and puts it aside while she stands there in a ‘please don’t hit or kill me’ kind of posture. He pulls her a little away from the others and lies that he just saved her from the flogging Philip wanted to give her. She woodenly thanks him. He goes on to say that he believes she’s an innocent woman and that the lord tried to rape her. She asks him to send her home, then, and he says only the governor can do that. He abruptly asks if it’s the sex that bothers her, because if it is, they could do away with that. They could just keep their clothes on and talk. Now she’s really confused. She confirms that he won’t try to have sex with her and he agrees, saying he won’t touch her until she’s ready for it, and if she’s never ready, well, so be it. Huh. She nods.

Johnson and his wife work at building their church, starting with a cross. As they work a cross-cut saw, she takes a break to wrap her blistered hands up. They raise the cross and pray. Afterwards, he asks her what she talked to Anne about and she tells him Anne admitted she couldn’t talk to the dead children. He admits to having warned Anne away from his wife.

Deborah serves up some fish for dinner. Philip invites her to share it with him but she gently refuses. He sits down and tells her about Ross accusing him of having an affair with her. He figures she’s heard the rumours too, and that’s why she’s been acting so strangely lately. He says they need to nip this in the bud but she tells him there’s no need, because her husband would never believe such a thing.

Mrs J goes to one of the women’s tents that night and finds Anne meeting with some other prisoners. She promises never to breathe a word of any of this to anyone. Anne agrees to try and get in touch with the kids, sending the others away first.

Ross goes to see Johnson and apologises, promising not to touch Kitty if it means he can still attend chapel. His faith means a lot to him, apparently. He asks about the church and the rev informs him that work has come to a halt, since he and his wife alone can’t manage it. Ross offers up his own men and Johnson thanks him, hesitantly. Ross asks if he can have Johnson’s blessing to continue seeing Kitty, as long as there’s no sex against her wishes. Johnson considers it, then gives his blessing. You could argue that Ross is only doing this to get back into Johnson’s good graces, but he does actually seem in earnest, and after what comes later, I think what he really wants is some intimate connection with someone else. That seems to be what everyone in this series wants, which makes sense, because that’s a totally human urge. We’ll just see how this spools out.

With Anne, Mrs J starts to cry and apologises for letting her kids die. Anne reassures her that they never blamed her. Anne invites her to name the two unnamed babies, and after she does, Anne tells her that there is a soul out there waiting for Mrs J to give birth to it. Mrs J hopelessly says it’ll die but Anne says that things tend to be a bit topsy turvy in New South Wales, so you never know, right?

Tommy washes his wife’s hair while she sings to him. In the background, Buckley gets a boxing lesson from Timmons.

Meanwhile, Kitty goes to Ross’s tent. As promised, they lie down, fully clothed. After a moment, they both turn on their sides and he notes that he can smell the sea on her. After a brief silence, he tells her about his school days, at a place called Minehead. Some Marston-type kid started beating up on another boy in Ross’s year, and it got so vicious that Ross ran for a teacher, who came slowly, and once he finally showed up, he just told everyone that Ross just grassed. What an asshole. Ross says that, since then, there have been many times he’s felt the urge to show compassion, but he’s always suppressed it. Dear god, is another character getting…dimensions?

In bed in their own tent, Mrs J asks her husband to make love to her. He’s surprised, because apparently they made a no-sex pact, since she couldn’t deal with the grief of losing baby after baby. He warns her that she could get pregnant and she says she wants that, parroting Anne’s line about this place being upside down, so maybe it’ll be different this time. Here’s hoping! They get their holy freak on.

Kitty gets a bit bored just lying there and asks if she can go. Ross says yes, if she wants. He directs her to some rice on the desk and she thanks him, still clearly confused by all this. Before she goes she tells him that she used to go to confession at St Cecelia’s and there was a statue that wobbled, and the truer Kitty’s confession, the more contrite she was, the more the statue wobbled. So, now they both know a little bit more about each other. She grabs the rice and bids him goodnight. Interesting little moment there.

She makes her way to Macdonald, tending a pot over a fire, and tells him that she and Ross just talked. She adds the rice to the pot as Macdonald pumps her for details of what they talked about. She gives very few, evading his eyes, and fibbing that she didn’t speak, just listened. He pouts a bit that he’d almost rather they just stuck with the sex. It’s hard enough having your boss sleep with your girlfriend, but just talking is a greater intimacy. What’ll happen if Ross starts to give her the feels? Macdonald realises that was a crap thing to say, but it’s a bit too late. Kitty stomps off in a snit. As she should.

Overhead shots of some gorgeous scenery, then we join James, sitting in a cave, trying to find a little water. He keeps going through the woods and then just so happens to come across the escaped convict, Jefferson (not Jephson, sorry!). The man’s roasting some kangaroo over a fire. James greets him happily, but Jefferson responds by pulling out a knife and pursuing him back into the woods. James manages to hide, and Jefferson pretends to be friendly for a bit, in an effort to bring him out. He then changes his tune and threatens to smoke James out. James starts running again, Jefferson pursues. More lovely overhead shots!

The camp starts its day. Collins makes his way to the blacksmith’s hut to see Stubbins, hard at work. He says he heard about Stubbins’s letter from his wife and asks to read it. Stubbins hands it over and Collins confirms the contents. He lies that it’s lovely and offers to keep it safe for Stubbins, but the man likes to carry it around with him. Collins then suggests he might be too busy for his reading lessons, but Stubbins wants to keep going. Strike two, Collins. He gives up and suggests they meet up later for another lesson.

Some of the soldiers work on raising the church, under the direction of the rev.

James makes his way through the woods and finds himself at the edge of a massive cliff. Things are not looking great for him.

Molloy reads aloud to a small handful of convicts while Tommy performs a little magic trick for Elizabeth that’s basically an excuse to get his hand up her skirt and produce a flower. And then James comes stumbling back into camp. Wow, how’d he manage to find his way back? That’s a seriously good sense of direction. He collapses and Elizabeth screams for water.

He’s thrown in jail and given some food. Ross bursts in to confirm that he’s back and asks Timmons how this can be possible when Timmons claimed he shot the man. Ross demands James hand over the food, on pain of having his throat cut, and James hands it over. Elizabeth and Tommy, standing nearby, admit to having given him the food. Ross advises they not waste food on a dead man. He asks James if his men managed to wound him at all and James says they didn’t even come close. Ross orders him to tell Philip that the bullets whizzed right by his face. If he does so, he can have his food back. James readily agrees.

James is taken to see Philip and the other higher ups in the camp. Philip asks how James killed Marston. James claims he used rocks in a canvas bag, and he worked alone. He keeps his word and says the shots whistled by his ear during his escape, but didn’t hit him. Philip sentences him to hang before dawn, asking the others if there are any objections. There are none, though clearly Collins and Johnson wish they could say something. James pipes up that he objects, because he was acting out of self-defence. The man was, after all, starving him. When reason and appeals to the law failed, what other options did he have? Philip says he’s sorry, but this is just how the law is. James is taken away, swearing he’ll come back to haunt them. Once he’s gone, Philip says they’ll need to find a hangman amongst the convicts. Ross doubts that’ll be a problem, saying there are hundreds there who would hang their own mother for a price.

Maybe they would, but they won’t hang James Freeman. Philip tries appealing to the men personally, but nobody steps forward, not even when offered extra food, a reduced sentence, and an around-the-clock armed guard (how fun!). Collins meets with Molloy and asks him to be the hangman. Molloy says he can’t bring himself to harm anything, let alone a fellow human being, and furthermore, anyone who agrees to be a hangman is basically a dead man himself. Collins thinks Molloy is too important and well-liked by the others to be killed, but Molloy still won’t do it.

Johnson tries to persuade Tommy to do it, which is stupid, because he must know that Tommy and James are good friends. He goes on with his nonsense about Tommy being Christ-like (and what’s Christ-like about hanging people, rev? I don’t see your logic here) and Tommy flies off the handle, screaming that he’s not at all like Jesus, that he’s done some very bad things, so just stop saying that!

No luck. Philip comments to Collins that the convicts won’t tattle or hang each other. On those two points, they have quite a bit of integrity. Collins thinks it’s fear, not integrity. He continues that every time he’s impressed by a convict, he takes a look at the convict’s file and is reminded that this person is incapable of generosity or nobility. Harsh, Collins. Does that include the people who were there for really petty crimes, like pickpocketing?

Timmons is summoned to Ross for his scolding. Timmons says he figured James was a dead man out in the bush, so it wasn’t worth risking his men to pursue him. Ross asks what the risk to the men was and Timmons reminds him that there are hostile natives about, natives who aren’t afraid of guns, so they attack freely. Ross asks Timmons if he has anything he can say to keep from being shot for disobedience. Timmons swears on the bible never to disobey again. Ross promises to hold him to that.

James dictates a last letter to his sister. As he did with Tommy, Molloy advises saying James is dying of a fever. He could really just write these letters out ahead of time and fill in the relevant name, couldn’t he?

Tommy and Elizabeth bring word that a hangman has been found, though his identity is unknown. James sincerely tells them that, when Tommy was about to hang, he genuinely didn’t want his buddy to die, but a small part of him might have been ok with that, because it would have meant Elizabeth would be free. And maybe after a suitable mourning interval, she might have looked kindly at James. Elizabeth looks quite affected by this and puts her hands over his, through the bars. She tearfully thanks him. Tommy just kind of stands there. James asks if he can kiss her and Elizabeth agrees. Tommy, now just barely able to hold back tears as well, agrees too. James kisses her. Philip comes in with Ross, who handcuffs James. Elizabeth desperately lies that James found some amazing farmland, and if they spare him, he’ll take them all to it. Philip knows that’s a lie, because he would have mentioned it earlier. He tells James to say goodbye to his friends, refusing to allow them to come along to the hanging. They both embrace him.

James is taken to the gallows, where Philip is prepared to do the hanging. James admits he didn’t find this farmland, but he did find Jefferson. Philip thinks that, too, is a lie. Johnson trails them, praying the our father. James is brought up to the noose, his legs bound, the hood placed over his head. He begins to sob and hyperventilate. Philip asks if he wants to live. Of course he does. The hood and noose are removed. Philip says he can live, if he agrees to be their hangman. James has no choice but to agree. He’s freed. He begs to be flogged, because otherwise everyone will know he’s done a deal. Philip shakes his head and hands him his extra ration. For the hangman.



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