Previously on Parade’s End: Christopher was injured in the war and returned to London, where everyone—even those who should really know better—was gossiping about the affair he’s allegedly having with Valentine. When he attempted to make the gossip true, he was inadvertently thwarted by her brother. Back to the Front he went.
At a fancy house in London, posh people with big jewels are having a fancy dinner party and talking about the war. Sylvia’s there, of course, bored to tears by all the war talk. Someone mentions she wants to go to France to see her husband, which a general thinks is a lousy idea. Someone else spies a newspaper and notes a headline about how much bungling’s been going on at the Front. Sylvia finally asks everyone to stop talking about it, but then, of course, the war itself makes itself heard in the form of an air raid.
At the Wannops’, Valentine’s taken refuge under a table while her mother finishes up a letter to Chris. Mrs. W joins her daughter at last and tells her Chris hasn’t been in the casualty lists, thankfully. Valentine reminds her that his brother got him a safer job, away from the front lines.
Back at the dinner party, Sylvia and that friend of hers are freshening up. Her friend drops the bombshell that she’s running off with some fat guy she’s been having an affair with, and she wants Sylvia to be a pal to her husband after she’s gone. After all, she wants to do her best for him. Apparently her best doesn’t include being faithful. Sylvia says she’s not going to be available, because she hopes to head to France.
At his glorious French chateau cum HQ, General Campion complains about Sylvia bugging him. His assistant mentions that there’s been an order to move Chris to another post—dealing with the horses, how perfect. But General doesn’t want to part with Chris because Chris is the only officer who can get his regiment together. He suggests sending a Captain McKeckney instead, once the guy gets back from divorce leave (wow, was that actually a thing in WWI? Divorce was so rare back then, I’m surprised there was actually provision for it). Anyway, apparently Cpt. M is back already, undivorced, despite the fact that his wife was messing around with someone else. They’ve agreed to share her. How civilized. Campion’s enraged by that, but reflects that the man’s rather brilliant, like Chris, so maybe they can be brilliant together.
In England, Val wanders into the teachers’ lounge at work (I think) and finds a gossip rag with a picture of Sylvia out partying. She immediately takes it to Mark, who’s surprised to see it, but apparently what really caught Val’s eye was a mention of Chris having been in hospital. He reassures her that it was just for pneumonia, not a wound. Chris is miles away from the Front, kitting out new soldiers before sending them off to the slaughter.
At the infantry base depot in Rouen, men train, a band plays, and a huge tent encampment has sprung up in what I’m sure used to be a lovely garden. Chris gets the message that Cpt. M will be joining them, and then moves on to a discussion of fire extinguishers that basically serves as a way to show us how effed up the bureaucracy at the Front was during the war.
Sylvia’s gone to visit Mark too, to ask him for help getting to France. It seems she wants to see Christopher to get his written permission for her to live at Groby. Why does she want to live at Groby? We have no idea. She always seemed like more of a city girl to me, but whatever.
Campion’s got another note from Sylvia, informing him of her intention to just come on over. He won’t have “skirts” around his men, so he tells his assistants to make sure she stays away. He’s also pissed off that there are no soldiers prepared to go to the Front, aside from Chris’s. A French soldier tells him there’ll be trains available for them whenever they need to go.
Sylvia shows up at the train station and just so happens to run into Potty, who’s heading to France in his capacity as King’s Messenger. What luck!
Rouen. Campion’s holding a champagne get-together for the officers in the Canadian regiment Chris has been in charge of getting ready for the Front. He calls them for attention and launches into a rah-rah speech while Chris is distracted by yet another tabloid photo of Sylvia, this time at the theatre. Meanwhile, Campion’s assistant has been taking a phone call. He hands a quick note to Campion, who reads it and finishes his little speech, then calls Chris aside. Out of earshot of the men, Campion tells Chris that the regiment is being held back after all, for reasons unknown.
Campion takes off to find out what’s going on, and then comes back to tell the men they’re headed for sunnier climes. The phone rings again while he’s speaking. After he’s done, his assistant tells him that was Potty, calling for a driver. And oh, by the way, he’s got Sylvia with him.
Potty arrives at Campion’s HQ, and the general takes a moment to hiss angrily at him before pasting on a smile and going to say hi to Sylvia.
One of Chris’s officers asks for permission to let one of the soldiers say goodbye to his mom, who’s come all the way from Montreal. Chris warns him that the soldier will be in huge trouble if he doesn’t get back on time. The officer promises he’ll be fine.
That night, the camp’s enduring an air raid. Cpt. M has arrived, and seems to be a whiny sort, sniveling and wailing about the bombs while Chris tells him to pull himself together for the sake of the men’s morale. Chris’s sergeant exposits that the draft’s movement’s been pushed back yet again. He then gets up and hustles the two enlisted men out to go run an errand. Cpt. M kind of loses it and snivels at Chris that he knows all about his wife stepping out on him. Chris calmly tells him to chill out.
In a quieter corner of Rouen, Sylvia’s having a lovely dinner at Campion’s HQ with the French assistant, whom she met back when she was staying in Rouen with Potty. And she’s actually dumb/socially suicidal enough to bring that up. Sylvia asks the general why she can’t go see Christopher right now and, through rather clenched teeth, Campion points out that there’s an air raid going on, which means all social visits are off for the time being. His other assistant pipes up that Christopher’s on duty, so no get togethers with the wife. He also drops that Chris never sleeps at the hotel with the rest of the officers but prefers to bunk down with the men.
Meanwhile, the air raid is still going on and Cpt. M is still useless. Chris is trying to get some lanterns lit in his office while Cpt. M talks about how many languages he speaks. One of the enlisted men who headed out on the errand earlier comes back and gives his report, so Chris tells him to seek shelter nearby. He prefers to wait for his friend, who soon comes back bleeding profusely from a nasty head wound. Chris rushes over to the man while Cpt. M comments that he’ll “get all sticky”. Wow, even Blackadder was a better officer than this douchebag.
Later, Chris washes the blood off his trembling hands while the surviving man, Thomas, somehow manages to hold himself together while cleaning the blood the dead man left off of Chris’s boots. He also reassures Chris he’s a good officer. Man, this kid’s a trooper!
And by way of contrast, Sylvia’s spending her evening getting a bit trashed and telling her dining companions that Chris must be spending all his nights with Val and their kid, both of whom he’s surely stashed in France. Right, because that would be a spectacular idea, what with there being a war on and all! English assistant changes the subject to the recent legislation giving women the vote, like Sylvia cares, and Sylvia turns to Campion and tells him she’s not going to the hotel until she sees Chris with her own eyes.
The air raid is apparently over, or on break. Christopher takes a moment to look rather upset before rejoining Cpt. M in his office. Cpt. M tells him there’s a note from Campion, scolding Chris for being unable to control “his woman.” Chris suddenly sits down at the desk and tells Cpt. M to give him a list of words and he’ll turn them into a sonnet in two and a half minutes. Um, ok, is this some kind of coping mechanism? Cpt. M responds by saying he’ll translate it into Latin in under three minutes. WTF? Talk about nerd one-upmanship.
An older, rather genial looking man named Hotchkiss chooses this moment to come in looking for Chris, and Chris is really short and strangely angry with the man, who takes it all in stride. Hotchkiss is there to take command of the horses and to take Chris’s men to Bayeux. Chris seems to only be half listening, because he’s starting in on his sonnet.
And Sylvia has arrived at the gates to the camp, along with the English assistant.
Hotchkiss is nattering on while Chris writes. Chris sends him off to report to someone else and hands the sonnet back to Cpt. M, who clocks Chris at two minutes eleven seconds. Impressive. In comes the English assistant, who wonders why the Canadian draft hasn’t left yet. The sergeant tells him all the crazy, conflicting orders they’ve been given that basically boils down to: this whole damn war is completely screwed up and nobody knows what the hell is going on anymore. Assistant sort of shrugs and tells Chris he needs to bend his ear for a moment. Chris follows him outside and Assistant tells him he’s come with a woman who’s dreadfully worried about Chris. Chris misunderstands completely and assumes it’s Val who’s come, and he takes off running towards the gate, where Sylvia’s car is waiting. She’s gotten out and is being reassured by some soldiers on duty that Chris is alive and well, so she flirtatiously thanks them all, gets back in the car, and drives away, rudely leaving Assistant behind. Chris just manages to catch a glimpse of her as she leaves.
That night, Sylvia’s awakened by the sound of soldiers marching. She goes to the window and looks out, while out in the hall, Potty slinks over to her door and tries the handle, only to find it locked. He whisper-shouts her name a couple of times before heading back to his own room.
Chris wakes in his tent and is told that the draft is back again. Oh, and that kid Christopher gave the pass to so he could see his mum? He was late and got nabbed.
Chris’s first order of business of the day is to meet with the kid and the jerky MPs who caught him. It turns out the boy would have been on time if the MPs hadn’t insulted his mother, him, and his Canadian heritage, thus holding everything up. Chris dismisses the whole thing and tells the MP he’s a moment away from drawing up charges against him. The MPs leave and the sergeant warns Chris that this won’t go down well, because General O’Hara loves his police. Chris, of course, doesn’t care. He leaves to go to some tea party Campion’s throwing.
Outside, Chris notices that his favourite horse is being tied up outside, even though he gave explicit orders for the horse to be stabled. Seems this is Hotchkiss’s doing. Chris angrily tells the soldier grooming one of the horses to put the horse away, give it warm food, and to hell with Hotchkiss.
At the hotel, Potty’s whining a bit to Sylvia about having locked her door. Sylvia seems bored, but then spots Christopher coming in to collect her for the tea party. He sees that she’s with Potty and sends her a note, but Sylvia tells the bearer to tell Chris that she’s busy. Potty’s writhing with embarrassment, wondering what Chris will do, but Sylvia knows Chris won’t do a damn thing, aside from the right thing, like stick by his unfaithful wife. She tells Potty she’ll make his “wooden face” wince yet and bring him to heel. Bitch. Chris heads off and she asks Potty if Chris has a girl in town. Potty snorts that of course he doesn’t, he’s way too upright for that. He goes back to the subject of her locked door and asks if she’ll leave it unlocked tonight.
Chris has gone up to her hotel room to freshen up. There, he sees her nightgown draped over the back of a chair and he presses it to his face briefly. Um, ok. Since when did he get all gushy about Sylvia? Guess war does strange things to people.
He gets it together and leaves without giving Sylvia a second glance. Sylvia sees him go and tells Potty to escort her to the tea party. He calls her a cruel fiend and Sylvia tells him she’s trying to get her husband back, and that she’d follow Christopher around the world in her shift if he so much as tossed her his handkerchief. He awesomely calls bullshit on that and she pouts a bit and tells him she’ll leave her door unlocked, for that. So, she’s rewarding him for saying that, then? I really don’t understand why this woman does half the things she does. I don’t think she understands either.
Tea party. French assistant introduces English assistant to the head of the French railways, and English assistant tells the guy he sucks at his job. Chris, meanwhile, is being scolded by Campion, who’s bizarrely telling Chris that Sylvia’s the kindest, cleanest…something. Sylvia shows up and interrupts to ask Chris if he spends his nights with a mistress. Chris tells her all about the crazy back-and-forthing with this Canadian regiment, but of course this is Sylvia, and she couldn’t possibly care less, because it’s not about her. Chris asks after their son, who hasn’t written in a while, and Sylvia says the kid hardly knows Chris. Yes, well, he’s kind of been away at war for a while. She tells him she’s there to settle things between them and asks him to stop by the hotel later. Their loaded moment is interrupted by Campion, who sidles up and tells Sylvia she’s leaving in the morning. She agrees.
Val’s at work, getting her gym class ready for their next class. They ask her if she’ll get to vote soon and she says she has to wait until she’s 30. One of the girls asks if she has a sweetheart in the war, but thankfully she’s saved from answering by two other girls playing a prank on another one.
Chris arrives at the hotel, as ordered, and runs right into General O’Hara, who’s really angry with him for coming down so hard on his MP. Chris asks him to instruct his MPs not to be such huge assholes towards the Canadians, which doesn’t sit well with O’Hara at all.
Chris continues upstairs, where Sylvia’s waiting for him, dressed in a fabulous white gown (perhaps an inappropriate colour for her, but the dress is so gorgeous I don’t care). She observes that Chris looks awful, probably because he’s barely slept in…however long. Months, probably. She hands over his letters, two from Mrs. W and one from Mark that apparently begins “Your bitch of a wife came to see me.” Ha! I love Mark. Also, Sylvia keeps insisting that Val must be Chris’s mistress, and I really wish she’d let that go. It’s also strange, considering at the end of last episode she knew he hadn’t slept with Val, so maybe this is all just some sort of joke she keeps telling? I can’t tell, it’s unclear. I blame Rebecca Hall’s delivery—if she’s supposed to be sarcastic at all here, she’s failing. Everything she says sounds the same.
Chris manages to drop off to sleep for a few moments, but then someone arrives with a message that the draft’s been called up yet again and he has to be back at the base by half four. Ick. Sylvia’s actually rather sympathetic and doesn’t think he should be out and about at all, since he’s not quite fit. Chris says that nobody at a depot is fit and then tells her that Groby’s at her disposal. She thinks he doesn’t intend to come back, which she assumes means he plans to get killed. She warns him that, if he does, she’ll cut down Groby tree, which actually makes his face twitch. She’s happy she finally got some kind of reaction out of him.
Sylvia swings into another subject altogether, telling Chris that, despite what his brother thinks, she hasn’t been sleeping around. Not at all. In fact, she’s been celibate for five years. Well, good for you. She brings up Potty and tells Chris that she must have been out of her senses to run off with such an idiot. She goes on to say that she broke under his forbearance, his forgiveness for her being such a total shit and trapping him into marriage with a kid that might not have been his. So, his not being a complete jerk to her made her go crazy? What a weirdo this woman is. Somehow what she says turns him on and he leaps up, grabs her, and kisses her. And just when things are getting serious, the door handle starts to turn as Potty attempts to make his way into the room. Chris punches him and sends him flying as he locks the door. Sylvia giggles. But O’Hara’s seen all and bursts into her room, demanding to know where “the hussy” is. Chris, attempting to remain somewhat dignified, tells O’Hara that this is his wife’s room and asks O’Hara to leave. O’Hara tells him he assaulted an officer and he’ll be under arrest. Chris bundles him out and then seems to realize fully what he’s done.
The next morning, Campion goes to see Chris, who can barely keep his eyes open. So, I guess he and Sylvia managed to get the mood back. Campion tells Chris that he’s there to inspect his camp cooks, or something of that nature, so Chris goes to give them the head’s up. Assistant follows him out and tells him he’s not going to be arrested anymore, which of course upsets Chris, because he’s so upright he doesn’t want to be let off of a deserving punishment. Even though it wasn’t really a deserving punishment, because Potty totally deserved to get punched in the face for invading the bedroom of Chris’s wife. Chris asks what Potty said and it turns out he told O’Hara he went to Sylvia’s room at her invitation, and the story’s gotten back to Campion, who’s devastated, because for some bizarre reason he’s always thought Sylvia was such a marvelous, upstanding young woman. Even though everyone else on earth knows otherwise.
Sgt. Case shows up and Chris tells him the general wants to do an inspection. Having done that, Chris returns to his office, where Campion’s waiting. Campion tells him he’s going to be reassigned as second-in-command of a battalion that’s heading to the Front. Awesome! It doesn’t seem to be Campion’s doing, though, and he seems to feel badly about it. Thanks to Chris’s stubbornness and Sylvia’s past with Gerald Drake, Chris can’t be put anywhere else—he can’t be put in intelligence because Drake’s put a black mark on him out of spite and he can’t be in charge of the horses because he’s put Hotchkiss’s nose out of joint. Campion’s mostly upset with Chris for misleading him about Sylvia being all good and pure. Apparently, Campion’s been disabused of this notion by his French assistant, who remembers seeing Sylvia in Rouen with Potty all those years ago. Campion doesn’t take kindly to being lied to about what she was doing in Europe during that time. Chris asks him just what a man’s supposed to do under those circumstances and Campion tells him his choices are either to divorce the harlot or live with her and act like it never happened. I vote for option A. Chris says that he was under the impression that one was always to keep up appearances and Campion tells him that’s all over now. And with that, he leaves and Chris prepares to march back into hell.
Sylvia, meanwhile, is heading home. She asks if the draft got off all right and her driver tells her it did, finally. So, there’s that, I guess.