Previously on Poldark: Francis, being supremely stupid, wagered Grambler in a card game he was already losing and, predictably, lost the mine and his only real source of income. Ross agreed to be the public head of a new smelting company, so he and the other mine owners could actually get a good deal on their copper. Verity and Blamey started secretly dating again, aided by Demelza, and Jim got pinched for poaching.
This was not a great episode, guys. I found it to be a frustrating slog that just made me hate the main character. That’s not good. It also had a couple of strange moments. You’ll see what I mean.
The prison where Jim is appears to be quite a miserable place. No surprise there.
Meanwhile, Jinny’s keeping track of how many days he’s been inside. She marks another off and goes to help Demelza with the laundry. Demelza notes that Jim’s getting out soon. Jinny worries that Jim will have changed, but Demelza says it only matters that he’s come this far.
Francis has now apparently become the 18th century version of those I bankers who lose their jobs and expect everyone to feel sorry for them because they can’t afford their country club fees and their wives can’t get the new season Prada and waaaah! He’s out scything his own lawn. Ross rides over and refuses to indulge Francis’s self-pity but says he wishes Francis could join them for the auction that day. Francis says that George wouldn’t approve, and he doesn’t dare do anything his bestie won’t approve of. Ross rides off and Francis whines about his blisters as he stomps off in a snit, passing his wife and Verity. Elizabeth asks if Verity needs to speak to Francis, but Verity says she can wait.
Ross rides along the coast (drink!) and arrives in town for the annual copper auction. The first mine’s ore goes up and is sold to the Carnmore Copper Company, which is the new smelting company. Wheal Leisure’s copper goes to Carnmore as well. One of the other buyers gets annoyed, but he can’t do anything about it. Carnmore cleans up. That buyer stands up again and asks for proof that Carnmore exists and has a guarantor. Another man stands up and claims to be the company’s agent. The other buyer demands the names of the men behind this company and someone else demands the same from him. He (figuratively) hides behind the Warleggans. The auctioneer calls for peace so they can finish up here.
Keren, clearly bored as hell, joins her husband outside and is briefly amused that he’s tamed a bird for her. She urges him to do more with his life, but he points out that he’s gone about as far as he can go, since he’s not educated. He says he knows she could have done better than him and could have gone for some ‘scholarly chap.’ He goes back inside and she smiles at Enys as he rides past, then eyes a ladder leaning against the house.
The auction has concluded, and the other buyer is in a right snit as he leaves. The other men gather and talk about more riots and more mine closures, which means that the jails are full to bursting and now rife with fever. Ross and the Carnmore agent—Jinny’s dad, I believe—exchange worried glances.
Mark kisses his wife goodbye, and as soon as he’s out of sight, she climbs up the ladder and jumps (presumably).
A young girl runs for Enys, who’s tending to some of the mine workers, and brings him back to tend to Keren.
On his way out of the inn, Ross runs into Ruth, who tells him that there are rumours about Verity.
Verity herself goes to Ross’s and tells Demelza that the Warleggans are giving a ball, and they’re all invited. Demelza’s excited, but also nervous since she has no idea what to wear or how to dance or behave. Verity promises to teach her, once she gets back from her clandestine date with Blamey. She admits to Demelza she hasn’t had a chance to speak to Francis about this.
George and Cary talk about Ross. Cary accuses his nephew of having underestimated Ross, but George claims it was Cary who thought Ross an overbred idiot trading on his name instead of his wits. Cary clearly got Ross mixed up with Francis there, but as we’ll see later, it’s an understandable mistake. George muses that Ross is made of sterner stuff than Francs. Cary says the company’s a threat and they need to know the names of the other shareholders.
Enys tends to Keren’s injured wrist and tells her to stay in bed for a while. She simperingly promises to do whatever he says.
Verity and Blamey walk along the shore and talk about going to Lisbon. He warns her that his quarters are not lavish, but she couldn’t possibly care less. He urges her to talk to Francis before the ball and she kind of promises to, but says they probably shouldn’t be seen together beforehand.
Ross rides home and finds Demelza practicing a song at the pianoforte. She’s really coming along, isn’t she? Playing music, reading, writing. For a young woman who couldn’t even curtsy when she first arrived, she’s come quite a long way. He greets her affectionately and she tells him about the ball and asks if they can go. Jinny comes upon them and Ross asks if she’s heard from Jim. Not since the previous month, but he was fine then.
Francis is whining about having to go to this ball with no mine, his estate in ruins, and his wife in a made-over dress. Oh, for heaven’s sake, Francis, get over yourself. Elizabeth tells him it’s no big deal, because Demelza’s not going to be fancying herself up. Francis sniffs about unsuitable marriages and Verity gets up and leaves. Not the right time.
In bed, Demelza notes that Ross is staying awake, worried. He admits that Jim’s one of his concerns and then changes the subject to Verity and Blamey, asking his wife if he’s heard the two are meeting up again. She pretty much responds, ‘maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.’ He says that bothers him and wonders how the two came together again.
Demelza practices her dance moves outside, watched by Garrick. Ross finds her and urges her to keep practicing so he can claim the first dance at the ball. He rides away and she gets back to it.
He goes to the mine and Jinny’s dad tells her that there’s word that the fever is ripping through the jail. Ross immediately rides to fetch Enys and the two head over there.
Keren pays a visit to Enys’s home and finds only Demelza there. Demelza explains hat Enys is away, but while she’s here, a word of warning: there’s gossip about Keren having a roving eye, which some of the local wives are a bit concerned about. Keren and her giant attitude reassure Demelza there’s only one man thereabouts she cares to look at. ‘Mark?’ Demelza asks. Keren remains silent and defiant. Guess that answers that question.
Enys and Ross arrive at the jail. Enys asks if there’s a plan here and Ross admits there isn’t. Well, that’s a good start. He knocks on the door and says he’s brought Enys to tend to James Carter, whom he’s heard has typhus. The man in charge lets them in and takes them down to the cell. The place is a particular horrorshow, and Jim is, unsurprisingly, doing really poorly. He’s down on the floor, wracked with fever, with an arm that looks horrifically infected. Ross orders the jailer to open the door, or he’ll have him fired.
Verity and Elizabeth talk about making over a dress for Elizabeth to wear to the ball. Elizabeth doesn’t care what Verity does with it, just so long as Francis thinks it’s a new gown. See, that’s just how backwards Francis’s thinking apparently is. He shouldn’t want his wife to be spending money on a new gown, those gowns were hella expensive. He should want her to be making something over. If she makes it over well enough that other people think it’s new, that should be fine. He can know the truth. But this is all just to soothe his vanity. He’s a complete manchild. Verity apologises for her disappointing brother and Elizabeth shrugs that in the first flush of love we think anything’s possible, but we need to learn to lower expectations. Yowch. That’s grim.
Enys and Ross take Jim to a hut or something near the beach and Enys says that Jim might have survived just the fever, but that plus the gangrenous arm… Ross urges his friend to try to save the young man and promises to help. They give Jim some booze, tie kerchiefs over their faces, and get ready to chop the dying man’s arm off. Jim croaks that he’s coming home to Jinny.
Jinny sits by the fire with Prudie and Demelza, the two women snuggling their babies, and for a horrifying second I thought one of the kids was going to get typhus from Ross or Enys. Thankfully, that’s not the case, probably because Ross had the sense to burn his clothes after tending to Jim, who didn’t pull through. He emos his way back home and Jinny’s parents break the news to her. Oh, man, and he was so close to coming home, too!
Ross tells Demelza that he and Enys buried Jim by the sea, and he’s pretty sure Jim knew him at the very end. He growls that the magistrate should have been there to see what their ‘justice’ accomplished. He bewails the fact that these gentlemen sent a man to prison for trying to catch game to feed his family, which was actually not really true, and also, what Jim did was theft. Sorry, but acting like he was totally the innocent victim here is pretty inaccurate. Game was expensive to rear and was meant to feed many people on the estate it was reared on, not just the estate’s owner. And it doesn’t seem like Jim really needed to be poaching: he had a decent job, the promise of an even better one, and Ross was willing to bend over backwards to help the kid out. He was told multiple times to stop poaching, and yet he told his wife he was going out ‘just one last time.’ That’s addict speak right there. Poaching was serious, and he got caught and punished for it. Did he deserve to die? No, certainly not, but it’s not like the magistrates just grabbed some innocent kid and framed him or something.
Demelza worries that Ross will get into trouble for busting a prisoner out of jail but he’s practically hoping for it, because apparently he’s forgotten that he has a mine full of workers, not to mention a wife and child, all of whom depend on him for their very subsistence, and if he goes to jail, they could all very well starve. But no, let’s forget all of them and focus on a perceived injustice to one guy who knowingly and repeatedly broke the law, because it gives you a chance to whine and drink and feel sorry for yourself because you couldn’t save him. Nice self-indulgence there, Ross.
The ball’s off, too, for Ross and Demelza at least. He tells her they couldn’t possibly go and smile in the faces of the people who sent Jim to jail. Apparently it’s not just the magistrates, but everyone who even happens to be in their vicinity who’s guilty. Prudie comes in just then with a box from the dressmakers, containing a ballgown for Demelza that Ross ordered for her. He tells her she can wear it some other time. She looks at it and loves it.
Keren once again goes to Enys’s and asks for something to ease the pain in her wrist. He’s clearly still upset about the loss of Jim and doesn’t want to deal with this woman’s clinginess, so he asks her to wait on the doorstep while he fetches something.
Ross is sitting around getting wasted. Nice, Ross. Verity comes by and says how sorry she is, and Ross tells her not to talk about it, because if he’s forced to relive the whole experience he may explode. Way to make this sad situation all about you, Ross. And that self-pity well must be seriously crowded, what with Francis already living down there. You two really are related, aren’t you? Verity warns him he must compose himself before the ball, and yes, he really should go, to appease the magistrates and hopefully make them think twice before sending him to jail for busting out Jim. ‘Your arguments disgust me,’ he growls. Verity says she’s pretty grossed out as well, but she lives in the grown-up world of reality and understands, as he does not, that he has other people to consider. That finally brings him back to earth. Apparently this is the first time he’s actually considered the fact that his actions have consequences that could negatively effect his wife and child. What a self-centred asshole.
So, they go to the ball and things start to get a little strange. It’s shot very dreamily as they arrive, people laughing and exchanging knowing glances in a slightly disjointed way. Demelza is nervous and Ross, already drunk, abandons his wife so he can get drunker. Ross is really starting to bother me. He’s such an absolute shit to his wife. She’s worked incredibly hard to fit in with his crowd, to be the sort of wife she’s expected to be, and he’s responded by teasing her, making her as uncomfortable as possible, failing to meet her even halfway or try to understand her feelings about things, and, when he’s feeling nice, just buying her things. He really doesn’t seem to get her, and he’s not even trying to get her, whereas she’s trying very hard to get him. Sigh.
A maid delivers a gift to Demelza from Ross. It’s a pretty necklace. Why he had that delivered at the ball I don’t know. She worries about wearing such a thing with Jim so recently dead and Jinny bereft, but Verity says she should totally wear it.
George finds Elizabeth and asks if the Poldark cousins are at war these days. She says she can’t speak for Ross, but Francis pretty much hates the whole world.
Verity barely has a chance to finish promising not to leave Demelza alone at the ball when she spots Blamey and rushes off to speak to him before he finds Francis. Demelza steels herself and heads down the stairs into the ballroom, watched by most of the guests who are probably all waiting for her to pee on the floor or say something wildly inappropriate or whatever it is they think poor people do. She thankfully spots Enys, who introduces her to Sir Hugh, a neighbor of theirs. Sir Hugh compliments her, asks if she hunts (nope, she has ‘some sympathy for the foxes’) and seems amused by her.
George approaches Ross and tells him that Sanson, the man who took Grambler off Francis, wants a game with Ross. Ross turns them down, explaining he’s accompanying his wife and shouldn’t abandon her. They note that Sir Hugh is entertaining her, so why not just have a quick game? Ross agrees.
As he passes Ruth, she gossips to a friend that Margaret, who’s also present at the ball (unlikely, considering her profession), has thrown over Francis, who can’t even afford a new dress for his wife. She concludes, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, that Ross is also regretting his marriage to Demelza, who’s being shown to the dance floor by Sir Hugh. Looks like Verity’s lessons have paid off.
Speaking of Verity, she’s begging Blamey to leave, but he’s come on a mission and desperately wants to speak to Francis. She begs him not to, because Francis is still a manchild who hates Blamey for no good reason.
Elizabeth’s mother asks who Demelza is, and when Elizabeth explains, she hisses ‘the scullery maid!’ ‘I see no scullery maid, mama,’ Elizabeth replies.
Reverend Halse, the man who locked up Jim, is invited by Francis to join the card game. He sits down and Ross takes a drink and starts looking intense.
Elizabeth’s mother warns her that people will gossip, seeing her so neglected by Francis on their first outing in months. George oozes over and asks Elizabeth to dance. She accepts. He compliments her mother, and as the couple heads to the floor, she sighs that it was a shame to waste Elizabeth on a Poldark.
Ross starts getting passive aggressive with Halse, who warns him to mind his manners. Ross invites him to start mixing with the common folk he looks down on and to check out the disgrace of a jail he oversees. Halse goes to leave and warns Ross that he’ll probably be called before the justices before long. Excellent job appeasing the people who could toss you in that very jail, Ross. Ross is totally fine with that, and is so rude to Halse that Halse loses his temper and calls Ross an offensive young drunkard before all but promising to arrest Ross presently. Francis, too, leaves the table for some air. What the hell was he playing with? The stakes were high: a guinea (which was a pound and a shilling, if I’m not mistaken), not chump change. If he can afford those stakes, Elizabeth should be able to afford a new dress, and Francis could certainly afford someone to cut his grass for him.
The dance ends and George says that Elizabeth should really get out more, and oh yeah, bring Francis with her. Elizabeth’s like, ‘uh, thanks, but I think my husband’s done enough gambling, don’t you?’ George promises not to play with Francis again but Elizabeth tells him her husband’s an addict and will play no matter what George does. She doesn’t seem to notice, but George is practically drooling all over her.
Francis goes into an unoccupied room and starts to cry. Or maybe he’s having a panic attack, it’s a bit hard to say. Either one would make sense just now. He gathers himself and comes out…and runs right into Verity and Blamey. This is the worst possible timing. Francis tells Blamey to get lost and throws a punch, which Blamey easily deflects, looking at Francis in some disgust before leaving the ball. Francis forbids Verity from ever seeing Blamey again. Francis, you should be delighted by the idea of not having to feed or clothe another person.
Demelza sees Verity from a distance and excuses herself from her admirers to go comfort her. She’s waylaid by Elizabeth, Ruth, and Elizabeth’s mother. Elizabeth compliments Demelza’s dress and Ruth meanly asks where Demelza’s father has been since the christening. Demelza proves she’s learned a thing or two from Ruth and says he’s rather picky about the people he spends time with. With a simpering smile, she’s off again.
She sits down with Verity, who’s crying and says she should have spoken to Francis, but she was too timid, and cowardice is the one weakness Blamey can’t abide. She’s sure he’s done with her now. Demelza squeezes her hand.
Ross keeps playing and drinking. Francis rejoins the game, bringing an entire wine bottle with him. Elizabeth comes in and warns the boys that absentee husbands make for wandering wives, and if they want to retain the ladies’ favour, they need to give them some attention.
Ross stumbles out to the main room and drunkenly asks Demelza if she needs anything. She gives him a bit of attitude and he drinks and talks about how ashamed he is to be one of these overstuffed peacocks. This is another point where things get a little weird and dreamlike. They’re standing right in the middle of the ball having this conversation, in which he slags off absolutely everyone there, and yet nobody but Demelza seems to hear him. It’s kind of like watching a stage play, and it’s oddly out of step with how the rest of this programme has been shot and presented up to now. I guess it’s supposed to show how distant and disjointed he is from everything around him just now, but if that’s the case, we really should have seen some of this with Demelza as well, as she struggled to fit in during the earliest days of her marriage. Throwing it in now feels like it’s been lobbed in out of nowhere.
Demelza tells him that fat ignoramuses can be found in any class and he won’t right any wrong by blaming these people for Jim’s death and drinking and gambling and abandoning her at her very first ball. He threatens not to allow her to go to another ball, if she continues to behave like this and lay so much truth on him, and she retorts that if he continues to behave like this, she won’t want to come anyway. Glad someone finally called him out. He stomps back into the gaming room and keeps losing. And drinking. Totally mature reaction.
Eventually, Demelza finds him there and takes a seat nearby to watch. He wagers his watch, a family heirloom, because why not? What matters in this world anymore? So much for being a better man for your daughter, you selfish asshole. Ross ups the bet, cards are exchanged, and he loses the hand. Sanson taunts him a little bit with the watch and Ross urges him to continue, using ‘assets he can realize.’ Demelza freaks out and immediately hands over her necklace instead, and Ross, being, as I just said, a selfish asshole, just takes it and continues playing. Demelza goes and sits down, clearly hurt and devastated by this, and tries not to cry. Ross loses again but calls for yet another game, this time betting his stake in Wheal Leisure. Jesus Christ, Ross, did you learn nothing from Francis? The crowd they’ve attracted is horrified, because they all have functional brains, but Ross pushes forward. And then he proves that Sanson was cheating by palming cards, a fact confirmed by both Enys and Francis, though George tries to deny it. Ross grabs Sanson and throws him down on the table. Sanson calls for Cary and George to help him, but Cary just gives him a, ‘you totally deserve this’ smirk. Ross apologises for assaulting George’s friend, but tells him he should really keep such fellows on a leash.
It’s dawn, and the party’s finally breaking up. As they leave, Demelza asks Ross when he first knew Sanson was cheating. He replies it was almost at once, but he wanted to be sure before he challenged the man. Hey, Ross, while you were at it, why didn’t it occur to you to ask for your grandfather’s watch, your wife’s necklace, and your cousin’s mine back, since they were all won through cheating? And is Ross’s behaviour now just ok with everyone, simply because he proved the guy was cheating? No, none of this was acceptable. He behaved stupidly and appallingly. This might all be easier to swallow if we were given a reason to care about Jim, but honestly, he was around for such a short time that we really don’t. Shame he’s dead and all, but it’s not a character death likely to affect me. I was sadder when Charles died.
Before they leave, Demelza is passed a note by one of the footmen, and Elizabeth tells Ross that his exploits at the jail were much discussed. There was some sympathy for his intentions, but not, as Enys guesses, their actions. Before he gets into the carriage, Francis reminds Ross that some of his partners in Carnmore are magistrates and might not look too kindly on Ross’s recent exploits. Also, Sanson is a cousin of George’s, so that complicates things as well. Amazing how things can go pear-shaped so easily when you act impulsively and thoughtlessly, eh, Ross? Not that this is out of character for him, but you’d think at some point he’d start to learn.
Thunderclouds of foreboding gather as Demelza and Ross arrive home. Jud tells them Mark has been looking for him and Demelza explains that there’s gossip about Keren and Enys. Ross asks if there’s anything else she knows about, maybe about Verity and Blamey? She says she knows as much as Ross.
While Ross and Mark meet, she opens the note she received. It’s from Blamey, asking for her help in this matter with Francis.
Mark, meanwhile, tells Ross that people are saying Keren will throw herself at other men. He can’t bring himself to ask her if she’s got a roving eye, because if a man can’t trust his wife, who can he trust? I’m not sure how he expects Ross to help out in this matter.
Keren, meanwhile, goes to Enys’s cottage and offers to help him with his work, because she can write and take notes and needs to use her wits for something or she’ll go mad. He can’t refuse.
At Trenwith, Aunt Agatha reads tarot cards and says she sees an omen. ‘What’s the matter with the women of this family?’ Francis snarls. ‘The men,’ she responds. Hee!
Cary and George discuss Ross and the weakness they’ve found in him: he plays straight. Also, the Warleggan spies have found out the location of Carnmore, which is on land owned by one of their clients, who has substantial loans with the Warleggan bank. Put enough pressure on him, and hopefully he’ll give up the names of other shareholders.
A funeral is held at Jim’s gravesite. Ross wishes Jim could have seen his child grow up. Demelza reassures Ross that he did all he could and he can’t fight the whole world, all he can do is make his own small corner a better place. He rubs her shoulder and they watch as some of the women place flowers on the grave and help Jinny away. Keren gives Enys a look as she passes him on her husband’s arm. Piece of work, that girl. It’s a funeral. Demelza asks Ross if anything will come of the jailbreaking. He’s not sure. He urges her to lay the flowers she’s brought and admits this is the first time he’s been sober in five days. Nice.