Ok, as of this episode, I’m declaring Verity Too Dumb to Live. I’m so annoyed by her I’m not even bothering with her name anymore. She’s now Discount Blake Lively.
So what did DBL do to make me resort to this around every 30 seconds throughout the episode?
Nearly got herself burned or hanged as a witch, that’s what. And she did it by being incredibly, mind-bogglingly stupid.
Here’s the deal: Redwick and Farlowe are pretty sore about Jocelyn humiliating them last week, so they decide these wimminfolk need to be put in their place. Since she’s a favourite with the governor and all, there’s not much they can do about Jocelyn, other than publicly rubbing it in her face just how second-class a citizen she really is. So, they go after a slightly easier target: DBL. She’s putting on quite a show these days (or nights, rather) at the tavern, mocking her husband to an appreciative crowd (and in all honesty, Meredith doesn’t seem to mind all that much).
Redwick drags her out one morning, puts her in the stocks, dumps something absolutely disgusting over her head, and tells her she needs to learn her place. Scolds will not be tolerated. Alice begs Jocelyn to do something, even though it was made very clear just the day before that Jocelyn is fairly powerless against these men. Nevertheless, Jocelyn gets all steely eyed and tells Alice she may be able to accomplish something here. As Redwick turns away from the stocks, she hands him one of his gloves, which she claims he dropped.
Why is that significant? Because not too long ago we saw her steal belladonna from Dr Christopher. So of course we now all figure she’s soaked that glove in it.
And, indeed, within hours Redwick’s in bed, deathly ill, being tended by Christopher (and hey! If you had ‘leeches’ on your period drama bingo card, you can cross that off now!). Under normal circumstances, this probably wouldn’t get much notice by anyone, except when DBL was released from the stocks, she very loudly and publicly cursed Redwick for putting her there.
This is what gets me about characters like this. It’s like they’re aliens who have just arrived on the planet and haven’t quite figured out how things work yet. They hanged and burned people as witches during this time, and they didn’t need much in the way of evidence to do so. It’s not like this was a purely American colonial practice either–this period was the height of the European witch trials. So, it’s not as if DBL would have been unaware of the danger she was putting herself in here. No one in their right mind, no matter how angry, would be stupid enough to do this.
And seriously, she’s even got Alice begging her to STFU. Good girl, Alice. You know the deal. You, at least, seem to belong in this world, from a historic perspective.
And poor Alice has her own dramas to deal with; she doesn’t need DBL’s nonsense. Alice thinks things are going just fine, now Henry’s dead and she gets to make out with Silas whenever she wants. Unfortunately, James Read, the blacksmith, has taken a shine to Alice and petitions to marry her himself. Since he has the means to pay the debt of her passage, it looks like it’s going to happen. Silas offers to take on the debt himself and pay it off, but is turned down, presumably because Messenger’s still sore about not getting that land out of him.
Alice, of course, is really unhappy about this and begs Read to leave her alone. He retaliates by sharing his suspicions that Silas killed his brother. She brings said doubts to Silas, who comes entirely clean with her, telling Alice the whole story about how he basically just sat back and watched his brother burn to death. Curiously, she does not have a problem with that. But then, Henry was incredibly horrible to her, in the short time they knew each other. Still, though, if I were her I think I’d be pretty horrified that a man who talks so much about all the things Henry did for him and their younger brother could so easily just watch him suffer a horrific death. It does not speak well of Silas’s loyalty or humanity.
But back to our cursing idiot. She curses Redwick, and then he falls ill that same exact day, so of course the priest (your typical zealot-type) starts screaming ‘witchcraft!’ Things only get worse when others get sick and start dying. One of those who fall is Mercy, Samuel and Jocelyn’s servant girl, who’s apparently got a romance going with the youngest Sharrow brother. Mercy’s another character I really can’t stand, because she’s so grovelling and idiotic, basically standing in the doorway of the house and screaming, ‘I’m really concerned about you having BELLADONNA, madam! You know that’s dangerous, right? It can kill people! And I don’t think you should have so much BELLADONNA about your person!’ She’d better turn out to be some kind of spy or Machiavellian servant girl out to undermine Jocelyn, because otherwise I’m forced to assume she’s just incredibly simple-minded.
But anyway, she gets sick, and Jocelyn sets aside her annoyance with this girl to tend her through the night. That, combined with an Indian remedy Christopher knows about, allows Mercy to pull through. Christopher then urges Redwick to take the cure as well, even though it’s from those evil natives and Priest Whitaker’s throwing up his hands at this accursed medicine. I don’t know why Christopher found it necessary to tell Redwick where he got this cure from at all. Just give it to him and call it medicine, Chris!
Despite the fact that people are now starting to recover and Christopher has figured out that the source of this plague is actually the town’s disgusting well, Whitaker hauls DBL into the meetinghouse and accuses her of witchcraft. He asks her to submit to a body examination for a witch’s mark (no way would he ask her for that–he’d just order it done). She refuses, and gives him so much attitude I just want to slap her. Shows like this always throw in a character like this–a woman espousing very 21st-century feminist ideals, indignant at the way women are treated in her own time and unable to stop herself from spouting off about it. I’m not saying there weren’t women throughout history who didn’t hate and resent their crappy position in the world (which is why we live very differently now–thanks, ladies! And yes, the fight continues!) but very few of them would have been this stupid, stubborn, and vocal about it. Especially when doing so would get you killed. And you know it would get you killed. She just isn’t a credible character–I don’t believe that she would have existed back then. And even if she did, she wouldn’t be this stupid. She’s displaying the same lack of self-preservation and general situational awareness that I find so irritating in Claire from Outlander, and at least she has the excuse of actually having travelled back in time!
And the stupid doesn’t seem to end. When she hears Redwick’s ill, DBL practically dances over to Alice and chortles about how great it is that she cursed this man and now he’s puking his guts out and may very well die. She does this in the middle of the town, in the middle of the day, in plain view and hearing of everyone.
Like I said: too dumb to live.
With some urging from Alice, DBL attends church (very reluctantly). Whitaker baits her by preaching about sinful women, and she finally stands up and screeches about how unfair all this is, because she made the monumental effort of attending church, didn’t she? Honestly, just not attending church regularly would have been enough for the shadow of suspicion to fall on her. Add in everything else and I think it’s amazing she hasn’t been ducked or worse yet.
It’s up to Jocelyn to save her. Actually, Jocelyn saves everyone this episode, and that’s why I’m starting to like her (even though she, too, falls a little bit into the ‘proto-feminist’ role). She marches up the aisle of the church, sucks up to Whitaker, and asks him to bless a piece of bread. After he does, she reminds him that the bible states that a woman in congress with Satan would choke to death on blessed bread, so why doesn’t he go ahead and feed this to DBL and see what happens? He does, and of course she doesn’t choke, so all this goes away. DBL, not knowing when to stop, puts on a show later, at the tavern, pretending to choke just long enough to freak everyone out, and then laughing her head off. Girl’s gonna get herself killed. Or, at least, she would, if she existed in any form of reality.
Jocelyn then pivots to saving Alice. She appeals to the governor to allow Alice to marry Silas, pointing out that, if someone pays the cost of Alice’s passage, she’ll be free to choose her own husband. The governor admits that’s true, then asks if Jocelyn plans to pay this herself.
Jocelyn: What, me? Handle money? In my flimsy little girl hands? Oh, my, no, no! I’m waaaay too stupid to do anything close to counting, right? Women are so useless! Of course my husband will pay it. Probably with my money, but what’s mine is his, now, right? Do we have a deal?
They do. Alice is free. And let’s hope she marries Silas quickly, because Henry’s recovering, under the care of some natives, and I’m sure it won’t be long before he stumbles back into town.