Ross and Demelza. Photograph: Mike Hogan/BBC/Mammoth Screen

Poldark Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: Watching for Pilchards

Previously on Poldark: Elizabeth and Francis had a son, and Francis started going to a really dark, dissolute place. Demelza started obsessing over Ross, who paused in his work getting the mine going again to have sex with and then marry her.

Demelza walks along the cliffs with Garrick in the evening, gathering flowers, while back home Prudie and Jud bitch about the marriage and how not right it is. Demelza returns home and notes that Ross is late that night.

Ross, of course, is galloping along the coast (drink!). He arrives home to find Demelza singing to herself while she kneads some bread dough. She hears him and is startled, calling him ‘sir’ by accident. He comes into the kitchen and gets flirty, kissing her and asking why she’s up so late. She says she has chores and he playfully tells her he has other plans for her.

Later, they cuddle in bed and she tells him people will wonder about their relationship. Oh, honey, no they won’t. They’ll know exactly how this all came about. Ross doesn’t care what other people think and has no intention of keeping any of this secret.

Ross rides to Wheal Leisure the next morning and sees some of the local women standing along the shore, looking out at the sea. He asks what’s up and hears they’re looking out for the annual arrival of the pilchards. The fish are late that year, and everyone’s worried they’ll skip Cornwall entirely, leaving these people with nothing to live on that winter. Ross doesn’t like the sound of that.

At his own mine, Francis is having some trouble with workers having the audacity to demand their wages. Ross comes sauntering up and Francis immediately accuses him of having been sent by his father to tell Francis what he’s doing wrong, or by Elizabeth to yell at him. Ross comments that Francis might want to ease up on the gambling and sleeping around, even if it is the sort of thing plenty of other gentlemen do. Not Ross, of course, because now he’s a respectable married man. Francis is shocked to hear that. He gets serious and warns Ross that marrying such a woman would effectively shut him out of the local polite society. Ross thinks that sounds nice and peaceful and asks Francis to spread the word amongst the family.

Everyone at Trenwith is taken aback. And word spreads fast: even that prostitute at the inn hears soon and comments to Ross when he stops by that he never seemed like the marrying kind. She asks if Demelza is rich (no), beautiful (eh, she’s ok), or if he’s madly in love (we get on). Elizabeth’s mother and the Warleggans think Ross has lost his mind. Cary says that Ross will lose his investors and his ventures will soon fail. Verity, of course, immediately sits down to write Ross a congratulatory letter.

He reads it aloud to Demelza, who’s dealing with enough stress on her own, because Jud and Prudie are giving her all sorts of attitude. Demelza tells them to leave her alone, because this is weird to her as well, and anyway, this is kinda sorta their doing, for teaching her everything she knows. If she’s become fit for a better life, it’s their fault. They like the sound of that. Oh, Demelza, don’t feed the idiots.

Things are not going well at the mine. All they seem to find is ironstone, which usually means copper eventually, but they still haven’t found what they’re looking for. And they’re running out of money.

Ross calls the shareholders together to ask for more cash. Demelza sees him off before the meeting. He’s not optimistic, guessing his former friends may now be reconsidering the relationship. She looks a little sad when he says that, knowing that he means his marriage to her has damaged things.

Ross and the investors walk along the wharf, where more women are watching for the pilchards. Dr Choake sarcastically wishes he had nothing to do but to admire the view. What an asshole. This is a man who has almost certainly lived most, if not all, of his life in this area. He must know what these women are about, since they do this every single year. And if he doesn’t, he’s an ignorant jerk. Ross says the women would happily swap places with any of them, since they’ll all have food through the winter. The guy goes on to snarl that ‘those who cannot feed shouldn’t breed.’ Oh, of course he’s one of those. One of the other guys pulls focus by congratulating one of the other men, whose son, John, just married Ruth Teague. Wow, that was a quick hook up and engagement, wasn’t it? How long have Ross and Demelza been married? It can’t be long, if word is only now starting to spread. Speaking of that, the men remember that they have a bridegroom amongst them and congratulate Ross. Ross thanks them and goes to speak with Henshawe ahead of the meeting. Once he’s gone, Choake says that Ross’s recent behavior speaks to a certain unsteadiness that makes him nervous.

At the meeting, he tells Ross he doesn’t intend to invest further. Ross asks if the others share his opinion. Thankfully, many of them do not and pay up.

Ross returns home and gives Demelza a couple of gifts: a book for her to practice reading, and some ribbons for her hair. He shortly tells her to give them to Prudie if they don’t suit. Like she’d ever give Prudie ribbons Ross bought for her. Ross adds that he’s written to Demelza’s father, which she thinks is really just a waste of time. She says that not much about her circumstances have changed, aside from her getting less sleep. Heh. Ross tells her it’s about time for her to make an official visit to the mine. She’s aghast at the idea, thinking it’ll look like she’s giving herself airs, but he reminds her that she’s his wife, and this is one of her duties.

Charles is determined to be out and about and is trying to mount a horse, saying he has to go to the mine since Francis is totally useless. Francis, of course, is standing right there and sarcastically thanks his dad for his faith. Charles overreachs and has another heart attack.

Demelza joins the women looking for pilchards for a little while Henshawe tells Ross he’s never seen such a mass of ironstone. They look over at the women and Henshawe comments that mining and pilchards are their lifeblood, and surely both won’t fail? Demelza sees them coming out of the mine and joins them. Ross introduces her to Henshawe, who’s very nice and polite to her. She makes a little small talk and then excuses herself, forgetting herself for a moment and starting to bob a curtsey (a no-no, since Henshawe is now technically her social inferior, or at least her equal). Ross pulls her away and walks her home, and she admits she just doesn’t know how to be with people. She’s also worried about how Ross’s relatives will receive her.

As they approach the house, she sees Jud stealing away with the pie she’d prepared for Ross’s dinner, and she loses her mind and jumps the man, bringing him down into the dust. Hey, that useless idiot deserved that. He’s stealing your food! Ross drags her off, reminding her that she can’t behave that way anymore. She obediently promises never to do it again. Time for her to train Garrick to sic balls, I think. Ross decides there’s only one way to help her feel like mistress of Nampara: to engage a servant of her own. She goes and hires Jinny as the new kitchenmaid. Jinny’s overjoyed and Demelza smiles to herself, pleased.

Ross next suggests a visit to his uncle, but Demelza makes excuses so she doesn’t have to go.

Ross goes alone. Charles is in bed, being heavily bled by Choake, who promises Charles will be up and about and ready to eat a Christmas dinner before long. Charles gently jokes about Ross’s wife and then verbally claps the boy on the back for being such a rascal. Verity, hovering nearby, congratulates Ross and Charles says that Francis saw the benefit of the coupling, figuring that now Ross was less likely to steal Elizabeth from him. He laughs and laughs and then has another heart attack. And this looks like a bad one.

Later, Francis emerges from his father’s room and tells Ross Charles wants to see him. Ross squeezes his cousin’s shoulder and goes in. Charles asks Ross to look out for Francis, who Charles says is not the man Ross is. Well, Charles, you really only have yourself to blame for that. You think your son is useless? Well, who was the one who refused to give him any responsibility at all? If you withhold responsibility from someone because you don’t think they’ll be able to step up and handle it, they’re likely to just become a self-fulfilling prophecy and not be able to handle it because they’ve had no practice doing so their entire lives. And then all of a sudden it’s thrust upon them, and that almost never goes well for anyone.

Ross takes his uncle’s hand and gives his word. This is especially sad because the actor who played Charles actually died in real life just a few weeks after this was filmed, so we’re watching his very last moments on film here.

Ross attends the funeral and has a word with Francis, who admits he won’t miss his dad and feels nothing but relief because nothing he ever did pleased Charles. Ross points out that his choice of wife sure did and Francis says that Charles told him Elizabeth would make a fine mistress of Trenwith, and Francis an indifferent master. Damn, Charles. You never did let up on this guy, did you? And there’s not even much of an estate to speak of, since half of it’s mortgaged and the other half soon will be. But apparently, Francis is still one of the most important men in the county.

Back at Nampara, Jinny works some pastry and asks Demelza why she isn’t at the funeral. Demelza says it’s only for fancy folks and family. Jinny reminds her that she is family but Demelza says she kind of is and kind of isn’t, hovering between the servant and the gentry world.

At the after-funeral party, the Warleggans note that Francis isn’t looking too good these days. His prostitute and fialing mine are both taking their toll.

Verity finds Elizabeth taking a moment upstairs. Elizabeth seems disappointed that Demelza didn’t come, but Verity points out that this isn’t the time for a meet-the-family. Elizabeth asks Verity to give Ross her good wishes, because she herself doesn’t quite know what to say. Sure, just dump all your responsibilities on Verity, Elizabeth.

Downstairs, Francis is getting a bit pouty and mean. He tells Verity that at least she isn’t the only member of the family to disgrace them with an unsuitable attachment. Damn, Francis. That was seriously cold. Ross, meanwhile, tries to say hello to Choake, but gets completely brushed off. George sidles up to Ross instead and guesses he likes thumbing his nose at society because he thinks he’s above the social niceties. Ross says he’s not above them, just indifferent.

George next hits up Choake and asks if he might be interested in selling on his shares in Wheal Leisure.

Work continues at the mine. The pilchards still haven’t come. Nothing is looking good just now. Even Francis is now staring out at the sea.

Ross seeks out Demelza and happily tells her they have a guest staying with them for a few days: Verity! Demelza is not exactly overjoyed. Verity keeps up a stream of polite conversation over lunch, but Demelza says little, clearly nervous. When she goes to check on the custard, Ross tells Verity that Demelza thinks Verity is a great lady who’s just come to check that Ross has made a terrible mistake in marrying Demelza. Distressed, Verity asks how she can disabuse the poor girl of that notion. Ross smiles wickedly, says he’s sure she’ll think of something, and leaves.

After lunch, the ladies sit in awkward silence and embroider. Demelza suggests tea, but Verity gently says it’s a little early for that. Verity tells Demelza that Ross is very dear to her, and when she heard that he’d married Demelza, she was relieved, because before he met her he was broken and lost. She was relieved to think he’d found someone to console him, but now she sees that it’s more: Demelza has given him hope. Speaking from experience, she says that a life without love and hope is bleak. Demelza says that, while she loves Ross quite a lot, she doesn’t think he loves her. He’s never used that word, and she doubts he ever will. But she seems to have resigned herself to that. Verity comments that it’s life’s greatest treasure, to love and to be loved in return. With feeling, she tells Demelza she doesn’t care at all what her background is or who her father was or whether she can curtsy. Demelza says she’d like to curtsy and asks Verity to teach her.

By the time Ross gets home, the girls are gigglingly moving the pianoforte into the parlour so Demelza can learn how to dance. Verity obligingly shows her some steps, as well as how to curtsy and set a proper table and work a fan. Demelza is endearingly gawky at all of these things, but she’ll get there.

That night, Demelza asks Ross about Blamey and whether anything has been ehard of him. No. She scolds Ross for not standing up for Verity. He dismissively says she’ll stop loving him eventually. Demelza doubts it. But then Ross gets sexy and she gets distracted.

Francis is back with Margaret the prostitute, getting dressed and looking miserable while Elizabeth snuggles her baby.

Verity takes Demelza shopping. On the way home, Demelza worries that it was all a lot of wasted effort, because, well, her measurements might be changing soon, if you know what she means. Verity practically squeals in excitement. Demelza asks her not to say anything just yet, because she’s worried Ross will lose interest once she’s waddling around like a duck. Verity doubts that.

At the mine, they’re blasting through the ironstone, but they only have enough gunpowder left for one last blast.

The pilchards have come! Everyone rushes to the shore, and Ross grabs Demelza so they can help. Before they go, however, she has a weird moment where she pouts that she feels like she displeases him sometimes. He half-apologises for his brusque manner by explaining that he’s used to giving orders and not having to nice things up, it doesn’t mean he’s mad at her. She’s ok with that.

Ross and Demelza help the locals unload basket upon basket of pilchards being brought in by the fishing boats. At the end of the day, they’re looking at more than a quarter of a million, according to one of the men. So, they’ll survive the winter after all. Yay!

Ross and Demelza walk home, hand-in-hand, and she tells him that the locals like him, because even though he’s a gentleman, he actually cares and gives them food and work and helps them out. He thinks that marrying her probably met with their approval but she says that doesn’t factor in, that nobody knows what to make of that. He kisses her and asks if she likes him. ‘I could learn to,’ she playfully replies. ‘And I you,’ he rejoins.

The seasons change, and still no end to the ironstone. And now Ross is out of capital and gunpowder. Henshawe estimates they have enough to go for just a couple of months.

Ross goes to see his banker friend, but there’s no money to be found, thanks to Choake. What a jerk that guy is.

He goes back to the mine and admits to Henshawe that marrying his kitchen maid might not have been the best business move, but oh well, too late now. Henshawe says they can last until the week before Christmas. Ross tells him to keep going until the week after, at least. He’ll scare up the funds for it somehow.

Demelza, Jinny, Jud and Prudie prepare Christmas decorations. Demelza dashes off to take care of some morning sickness, then goes and finds Ross mulling over a letter from Francis, inviting them both to spend Christmas at Trenwith. Demelza immediately says she can’t go, because they’ll be too grand an  look down their noses at her. Ross tells her to relax and accepts the invitation.

Mining continues. Ross and Demelza pass the mine on their way to Trenwith and he beats himself up for handing his employees a lousy Christmas. She points out that he gave these people a year’s worth of work they wouldn’t have otherwise had, so actually, he did a good thing here.

Verity comes out and greets them at Trenwith and ushers them inside. Demelza walks in and stares at the opulent surroundings, which include at least a couple of very anachronistic paintings. Elizabeth joins them and greets Demelza warmly before taking her to meet Aunt Agatha. Agatha clearly thinks that Demelza’s a member of the gentry, and Demelza’s trying hard to speak as little as possible, so she doesn’t give herself away by her accent. But Agatha doesn’t seem to care much either way and tells the girl to go sit by Elizabeth so she can see how the two measure up against each other. Awkward! Demelza does so. Agatha calls Demelza a pretty little thing. A bit coarse perhaps, but she’ll polish up nicely, Elizabeth reaches over and squeezes Demelza’s hand.

Later, in their room, Demelza tells Ross she thought Elizabeth would hate her, since Demelza would hate Elizabeth, if the shoe were on the other foot. Francis, meanwhile, is accusing Elizabeth of having ulterior motives, being nice to Demelza just so Ross will like her all the more. He’s really turned bitter, hasn’t he?

Demelza has a new dress delivered. Ross tells her this is just a family party, so no need to go all out. Sounding a little sad and uncertain, she said she asked Verity and got the green light. Ross carelessly tells her not to lace her stays too tight, because they put on a spread at Trenwith and he knows how Demelza likes to eat. That was kind of a douchy comment, Ross.

Ross heads downstairs, where Elizabeth is sitting by the fire, sewing. He comments that she’s kind to Demelza and Elizabeth basically says that anyone with an ounce of empathy would be. He concludes that she doesn’t despise his choice and she says she has no room to despise anyone or anything. She tells him that Grambler’s failing and her husband’s sleeping around and gambling away his inheritance. Ross gives nothing away, just says that Francis is an idiot if he’s got another woman.

Demelza’s having a little freakout to Verity, panicking that she’ll come across as vulgar and common. Verity offers to help her get ready, promising not to lace her stays too tightly. While she’s giving her a little pep talk, there’s a knock at the door. It’s the Warleggans, along with John and Ruth (formerly Teague). They manage to finagle themselves an invitation to dinner. Ruth asks if Demelza is about, adding a whispered ‘or should we seek her in the scullery?’ to Cary, who snorts. Oh, this should be fun.

Demelza steels herself before going down, and the filmmakers here were nice enough to give her a great entrance. She looks beautiful, in a simple but lovely red gown, and Ross clearly appreciates what he sees. He joins her, takes her hands, and introduces her to the others.

Dinner goes nicely enough for a while, until Ruth brings up the fact that the whole county was talking about Demelza in June. Demelza neutrally says that people love to gossip. Cary asks how the mine is going and Ross only says they have reason to be optimistic. ‘At least one of us is prospering,’ says Francis. George whispers to his uncle that Choake has sold him his shares in Wheal Leisure. Ruth gets bored and decides to have a little fun, commenting to Elizabeth that they’re having trouble getting good servants because girls keep wanting to rise above their station. Trying to shut that down, Elizabeth says she hasn’t noticed that, and perhaps Ruth has been unlucky? Ruth goes on to say that her poor sisters are all looking for husbands, and time’s a-ticking, because after the age of 23 there’s basically no hope, right? Damn, what’s this woman’s problem? Why is she going after Verity now? What did Verity ever do to her? Not that Demelza did anything to her, but you can put those attacks down to snobbery and jealousy. Demelza says she doesn’t think there’s ever a reason to give up hope, sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting. ‘And seizing the opportunity when it comes?’ adds Ruth. ‘I bow before your expertise.’ Bitch.

After dinner, Demelza runs back upstairs to throw up what little she was able to eat. The poor thing then lies down for a moment to collect herself before going back downstairs, where Elizabeth is entertaining the company by playing the harp. As Demelza enters the room and Elizabeth finishes, Ruth calls on her to play something for them. Demelza demurs, prompting Ruth to ask nastily if her governess didn’t teach her music. How do people like this not realise they only make themselves look bad? Ross jumps in to say that Demelza sings, and under peer pressure, she agrees to perform. She sings a beautiful song (and props to the actress, she’s got a nice voice) and everyone’s entranced, none more so than Ross.

Later, Ross and Francis share a drink and look from afar at their wives. Francis comments that one envies a man for something he has, and then it turns out he doesn’t have it after all, but you do. He sincerely wishes Ross a merry Christmas and Ross returns the sentiment. That night, as Demelza sleeps, Ross whispers, ‘merry Christmas, my love,’ to her. Awww.

Ross and Demelza set off the next day, after hugs and kind words from the rest of the family. That actually went pretty well, didn’t it? On the walk home, Ross admits that they might soon be destitute. You may be less pinched for money, Ross, if you weren’t funding Jud’s and Prudie’s indolence and alcohol abuse. Demelza, having come from nothing, isn’t fazed by the idea of poverty. As they pass the mine, a bell begins ringing frantically. Ross races towards it and is told that copper’s been found. He drops to his knees in relief. The miners celebrate and the women embrace and dance around. Ross and Demelza hug and laugh.

That night, Demelza asks if she did ok at his relatives’. He asks if she knows why he married her. She doesn’t. He lists a couple of potential reasons, and then admits that he had few expectations at the beginning, figuring she’d at least be a distraction for a bit, but he was totally wrong about that. He sincerely tells her that she redeemed him, and he’s her servant and he loves her. Awww. She looks so happy! He kisses her and she says she hopes he’ll have a little love to spare. ‘For what?’ he asks. Duh, Ross. She tells him she’s pregnant. He couldn’t be happier. Best. Christmas. Ever!

5 thoughts on “Poldark Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: Watching for Pilchards

  1. Just rewatched this episode…wondering what happened to the horse? Ross galloped into the yard (sorry I’m from the US) grabbed Demelza and rode off to help with catch. Later they walked home.

  2. I suspect that the Warleggans knew Ross would be spending Christmas at Trenwith and invited themselves along so that they could gloat over his humiliation when his kitchen maid-turned-wife shamed him in front of everyone. They brought uber-gossip Ruth Teague Treneglos with them to spread the news far and wide. The were doomed to disappointment since Demelza has better manners than Ms Ruth.

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