Harlots: Temptation

Hey, we can now cross ‘Big Damn Party’ off our Period Drama Bingo Cards! Unusually, though, this was actually a ‘Big Damn Orgy Party’. You don’t get that one too often.

So, Lucy’s now ‘in society’ but not doing so well at it (understandably). Margaret’s set her up with a high-end client, but as nice as the guy is, even he can’t ignore the fact that Lucy’s technique seems to essentially be ‘lie back and think of England.’ Margaret presses him to take Lucy on permanently, and the poor guy tries to get out of this whole thing gracefully, but finally has to admit that Lucy’s pretty frigid, and that’s just not what he’s looking for right now.

Margaret, baffled, lies to Lucy that the guy was keen to take her on but his finances left something to be desired. Margaret, I appreciate you’re trying to preserve your newbie daughter’s fragile ego, but at some point, you two are going to have to have a frank talk, if for no other reason than she needs to confide in someone about what happened to her.

You would think that Lucy might confide in Charlotte, because Charlotte, having been with Repton as well, seems like the perfect person to support and help her sister. But Lucy says nothing about it when she joins Charlotte for a little girl time. She does admit that she’s struggling a bit, so Charlotte gives her a quick lesson in handjobs, telling her sister that the male organ is a fairly simple thing, and it’s easy to get it to do what you want. George overhears her and gets super pouty, like he though he was all complex or something. Oh, George. Don’t think so hard.

Quigley’s getting pressure from Justice Cunliffe to find another virgin, but she’s not interested in continuing this particularly dangerous work unless she gets something out of it. She wants a name for this mystery client, and she gets one: Lord Fallon.

Since she’s gotten what she wants, she has to give him what he wants. She goes out and finds yet another poor girl and locks her in the usual room. But even Cunliffe notes that her conscience appears to be pricking. As we later learn she had a daughter whom she gave up, does she see her own girl in these young women she’s procuring? Could the Quigley girl have fallen prey to someone like, well, Quigley?

She also, unexpectedly, finds her hands full with her son. Mr Osborne, aka ‘The Short Straw’ is not poxed (that we know of) but he did clearly learn his lessons well at the Repton School of Seduction, and now Emily’s covered in bruises. Emily yells at Charles for failing to protect her and tells him to stand up to his mother and be a man, so he goes to his mummy and tells her that Osborne is not to see Emily anymore. Quigley invites him to tell Osborne as much, warning Charles to keep the man happy. Charles bungles it, and Osborne stomps out, enraged. But at least Emily and the other girls won’t have to deal with him anymore. Win?

Florence Scanwell’s causing a bit of trouble, camping out on Margaret’s doorstep to preach continuously about the sinful nature of what’s going on inside. She preaches herself sick, and tells Quigley she wants to quit, at which point Quigley blackmails her by threatening to reveal Florence’s history as a notorious lady about town herself.

Her daughter, Amelia, is starting to feel the temptations of the world. While out one day, she sees Violet, one of Nancy’s girls, pickpocket a man. She says nothing, and later, when Violet asks why she didn’t alert the watch, Amelia rather weakly replies that she didn’t think it was for her to judge. Amused by this innocent young thing, Violet befriends her.

Margaret complains about ¬†Florence to Charlotte, who tells her to embrace it, because the woman’s making Margaret’s place notorious in a good way. I mean, if you’re running a house of vice, what better advertising than someone prosthelytising right in front of your place, talking about how horrendously sinful it is?

That night, Charlotte takes Lucy to a party of mostly high-society gentlemen, so she can introduce her sister around and they can spread word of a masquerade Margaret’s planning to throw. George is still in a sulk, and is now managing to just get kind of scary, because he’s clearly looking for any excuse to be angry with Charlotte. Charlotte introduces Lucy to Lord Fallon (!!) and Lucy scrapes up the courage to invite him to Margaret’s party, even getting a bit coquettish about it. Oh, dear lord, don’t let this poor girl end up with him next. She’ll never recover.

When Charlotte stops to talk to Marney, George loses his temper and orders her home. She tries to tell him he’s making an ass of himself, but he doesn’t care. This is about power to him. She has sexual power over him, so he needs to exert some sort of power over her. Publicly.

Margaret throws her party, a masquerade on the theme of hell, and it’s…quite a thing. Harriet watches the crowd arrive, puts on a red dress, and shows up ready to work. She’s spotted by Repton, who arrives with a goat (??), his wife, and Marney. Repton basically licks his lips, and Harriet immediately shows just how much she learned from Lennox, as she skillfully works Repton, who is basically putty in her hands.

Fallon shows up, as well as Charlotte and George, who are now so uncomfortable together I’m amazed it didn’t end up putting off the people around them. Florence, under pressure from Quigley, drags herself from her sickbed to go preach outside again. Violet watches for a little while, then ropes in a male prostitute she knows–whom everyone knows is a spy for Quigley–and asks him to do her a favour.

He obliges, approaching Florence (who’s blind) and telling her that he’s a rector, come to take over the preaching for her. Florence stands down, Amelia flashes Violet a grateful look, and Violet shows her a spare mask she has, so Amelia can go join the revelry. Amelia gives in to temptation and slips inside with Violet. They eat oysters and share a few moments, and a kiss, and then Amelia freaks out and flees.

Charles Quigley (sigh) has got it into his head that he’s going to take a bunch of their girls to Margaret’s party and steal some clients. He does not take Emily, who’s been desperately trying to escape, only to find that the doors are all locked. Emily begs Marie-Louise, one of the other girls, to get a message to Margaret saying she’ll come back at any cost. Marie-Louise refuses to deliver the message, but once she gets to Margaret’s house, she takes a look around, likes what she sees (I’d imagine the unlocked doors were a huge selling point) and offers to deflect. Margaret happily takes her on.

The party gets wilder and wilder. Lucy finally manages to scrape some gumption together and sits down at the pianoforte to play and sing. She’s not a great singer, but I give her a lot of credit for doing this. Not long after, George, still enraged with Charlotte and once again wanting to get back at her, reminds Lucy that she owes him a lay, and takes her upstairs.

Marney has apparently been brought along for Lady Repton’s amusement. He briefly escapes, to find Charlotte seeking respite in the kitchen, but then Lady Repton finds him and orders him to have her right there on the kitchen table. Man, everything about the Reptons is strange and sinister, isn’t it? Charlotte’s face is about fifty shades of ‘awkward!’ and she heads back upstairs. But there, she only finds George screwing her sister. She screams at him, calling him disgusting, and Lucy begs her to just go.

Charlotte leaves and goes home, sniping at Haxby, who snipes right back at her, and before you can say, ‘called it!’ they’re having hate sex up against the wall. Again, this is more about power than desire. The look he gives her afterward–a sort of smug, malicious look, suggests this is not going to blossom into any sweet romance. Sex and sexuality are powerful weapons, and one of the few these ladies have in their arsenal, but money and position are powerful weapons as well. More powerful, it would seem, and the men tend to wield one and the ladies another, and thus we have a constant clash and the scary tightrope all these women are walking all the time.

Margaret’s party could be considered a great success. She gained a new, potentially high-earning girl (two, if Harriet chooses to take on clients), Lucy started to come out of her shell a little bit (here’s hoping that time with George doesn’t send her scuttling right back in again), and she’s become the talk of the town. She doesn’t know the cost to her daughters. Or that, by bringing Fallon under her roof, she may be setting herself up to become another procuress a la Quigley. And she’s got another thorn in her side in the form of Benjamin Lennox, who sees his father’s investment in Margaret’s house as basically meaning the place can be his personal playground. See: she has the sex, which he wants, but he has the money and the position and the right race and gender, so despite the fact he’s about half Margaret’s age, if not more, he, ultimately, has the upper hand.

Stray notes:

Margaret welcomes men coming to her party by cackling: ‘Welcome to my fiery hole!’ Maybe not the best tagline for a whorehouse, Margaret.

As horrible as the context was, this conversation between Cunliffe and Quigley made me laugh:

Cunliffe: The Spartans are preparing for their sacred games. They would like a sacrifice to auger their success.

Quigley: Oh, spit it out: you want to spoil another virgin.

Cunliffe: Allow me my metaphors!

You just know he spent ages coming up with that. Cunliffe is ridiculous, and Quigley doesn’t have time to mess around.

But although Cunliffe clearly has no problems arranging rapes, he does draw the line at his employees enjoying dirty quickies in alleyways with Nancy’s girls.

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