Oh, how many times during this episode did I find myself kind of rolling my eyes and thinking, ‘Really? This AGAIN?’ Anyone else?
Right, let’s talk about our B plot first, since the A plot was pretty much the whole episode and the reason why I was starting to feel the deja vu twitch. Morwenna’s deeply depressed, as we know, and her hag of a mother-in-law has finally managed to do what her POS son failed to do: procure a doctor willing to call Morwenna crazy. I think most physicians at the time would have just pointed out that she’s a recent widow, and pregnant, so of course she’d seem sad–that’s only proper, really, but you can always find a quack if you look hard enough, right? This quack’s totally fine with locking Morwenna up as soon as she has the baby.
But then, Morwenna miscarries. I’d almost never be one to say, ‘Yay, miscarriage!’ but I think in this case we all felt a little relieved, no? She (and the rest of the world) are freed from the burden of another Whitworth spawn, but this does mean that Lady W’s nefarious plans can be sped up a little.
Before she can be carted off to the looney bin, Morwenna escapes the house and goes to see Drake to explain herself. She tearfully tells him that, although she loves him, she’s been so thoroughly traumatised that she can’t even begin to think of another human being touching her, let alone showing her any affection. It’s the worst kind of triggering, and my heart breaks for her. After that, she leaves and we know no more of what her plans are, for now. I really, really hope they don’t involve a long walk into the sea, though the way this girl seems to be feeling at the moment, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Meanwhile, off in London, Ross and Demelza seem to be enjoying the honeymoon they never had. It’s a nearly non-stop bonkfest, punctuated by idyllic rows on The Serpentine and trips to the pleasure gardens with Dwight and Caroline. The family Warleggan are back in Town as well, and George has hit on a way to finally get the people he wants to attend one of his parties: make it a fundraiser for the new foundling hospital. I mean, you can’t turn down an invitation to help homeless kids, right?
Nope! Everyone shows up, including Ross and Demelza, who’s been Cinderella’d out by her new fairy godmother, Caroline. She looks great, and quickly catches the eye of Monk Adderley, who at this point is just oozing sleeze. He takes one look at Demelza and basically says, ‘I’m gonna tap that. Right now. Maybe next to the buffet, even.’
He sets his young ward on Ross (and I find myself asking: who the hell would make Monk Adderley responsible for their daughter? Historically speaking, it would have been really bizarre for a young bachelor with no near female relatives living with him to be in charge of a girl of marriageable age, but it seems especially odd in the case of this guy, who’s so gross he’s actually slavering over her. His ward! Ew!) With Ross distracted by something shiny, Monk makes the moves on Demelza and is so incredibly sloppy, obvious, and off-putting I can’t imagine why or how he has success with anyone. It seems, for a bit, like Demelza’s more repulsed than anything else, but we’ll soon see that Demelza doesn’t seem to know what the hell is going on or how to handle even the most basic human interactions.
We learn something important about Monk in this scene, by the way: he’s an expert duellist. He has a lock of hair from every man he’s killed and has had them made into buttons which he wears on his party suit. Why this doesn’t send Demelza screaming to the other side of the room I’ll never know. She kind of tries to catch Ross’s eye a few times, but he does that Ross thing of his where he just kind of shrugs and is like, ‘What? You’re fine.’ And he’ll continue that attitude until he decides that she is not fine, and then he’ll get mad at her.
For whatever reason, Demelza makes arrangements to entertain Monk later on that week. Ross starts to get snippy and sulky, because now he’s decided this isn’t at all fine, and Demelza then doubles down on the stupidity by keeping and prominently displaying an elaborate bouquet Monk sends her. This only makes Ross moodier, and Demelza pulls this oh-so-innocent bullshit where she’s like, ‘Oh, did I do the wrong thing? The flowers are pretty! And I just have noooo idea how to act around polite society people.’ Which is nonsense, because she’s been mixing with them quite successfully for years now. It seems she only starts to screw up and act like a naive child when it suits the plot for Ross to be upset about something. This woman is way more savvy than this and I hate seeing her just reduced to a simpering idiot who claims not to know how to manage some odious creep who’s barely half a step away from sexually assaulting her.
I should mention that at the party, George and Monk make a wager over Monk’s ability to get Demelza into bed. Ten guineas, with Monk betting for his own success and George betting against but secretly hoping it’ll happen.
Ross starts to sulk and glower, because remember how Demelza cheated on him that one time? And we spent about two thirds of this season with the two of them talking and talking and talking about it and then just deciding to put it behind them? Well, now we’re right back with that again, and that’s the point at which I started throwing up my hands and yelling, ‘Can’t we just MOVE ON?’ Seriously, constantly circling back to this is not narratively interesting. I feel like we spent about an eighth of this amount of time on Ross’s cheating, and yes, I realise it was different for men back then, but still. Let’s find another source of drama, shall we? Because this well is dry now.
Adderley starts getting deliberately provocative with Ross, who finally snaps and insults him in the House of Commons, so of course Adderley challenges him to a duel. And, of course, Ross accepts because… Ross. Enys and Adderley’s second try up until the very last second to end this lunacy, but neither man will budge. Adderley, having done this before, tells Ross that, should Adderley draw first blood, he’ll hightail it in the other direction and leave Ross to say he was set upon by robbers. He recommends Ross do the same. Ross agrees, because the punishment for being caught duelling is death, which makes this whole thing seem extra stupid. Isn’t it great how Ross never seems to consider the repercussions to his family if he were to die? Not that he really needs to worry about any of that, because Ross never has to face lasting consequences for his actions.
The duel goes forth, and both men manage to draw blood. Adderley hits Ross in the arm, while Ross catches Adderley in the groin. Apt, but also very, very bad. Enys tends to the badly wounded Adderley while Adderley’s second runs to get a carriage. And Ross? Well, of course he stays until the carriage arrives, even though he can’t do anything and, if caught with a wound himself, will just give himself away. He is such an idiot sometimes.
Once the carriage arrives he rushes home, alarming Demelza with his bloody self. Enys soon arrives and patches Ross up. Lucky Ross, it’s just a flesh wound.
Oh, come on. How could I not?
While Ross recuperates, Adderley dies. Before he goes, he tells the authorities that he accidentally shot himself doing some daybreak target practice in the park. It’s obviously a nonsense story, but the authorities aren’t interested in pursuing this further, so they record an official death by misadventure.
But George is not going to be satisfied with that, of course. George has been pretty chirpy this episode: Elizabeth’s pregnancy is coming along, he had a good party, and he’s now controlling two seats in Parliament. And Elizabeth is proving herself to be a surprisingly capable politician herself, doling out advice that will ensure her husband can maintain his power without having to listen to the pesky poors in his district.
But then rumours reach George about this duel, and he starts to go a bit crazy trying to find evidence that’ll get Ross convicted. So, we’re back here again: George trying to get Ross hanged, which really worked out so well for him last time! Good lord, does this man really have NOTHING better to do?
And then things go from bad to worse when Geoffrey Charles shows up for a family visit and, completely out of nowhere, looks at his little half-brother and shouts, ‘Wow! Has anyone else noticed that Valentine looks JUST LIKE UNCLE ROSS?’
I mean, first of all: no, he really doesn’t. He’s dark haired, but that’s about as far as the resemblance goes. Also: who says something like that out of the blue? It felt so strange.
Elizabeth could have laughed it off, but she has the worst poker face and just looks incredibly alarmed. George’s face hardens and now we’re right back at him doubting Valentine is his son. Sigh.
Apparently one of Monk’s last requests was to ask Ross to pay his bet debt to George. Ross, having no idea what the heck this debt was even about, spots George at the pleasure gardens and innocently hands over the ten guineas, explaining that Monk wanted him to settle up. Enraged by the thought that Ross gets to have everything, including a seemingly more virtuous wife, George just throws the money right back in Ross’s face and stomps off.
Turns out the coachman who took Monk home after the duel saw Ross (because Ross insisted on hanging around post-duel), so it’s possible George will get his evidence after all. But probably not, because of course not.
Demelza spends pretty much the whole second half of the episode crumpling her face and wondering why Ross is so mad at her.
Look, just to be clear: I do not think that women are or should be responsible for the creepy behaviour of predatory men. But they should be responsible for their own behaviour. Adderley made his intentions towards Demelza very clear right from the outset, in the most blatant and insulting way possible. He basically announced that he’d swing by and nail her and asked when her husband would next be out. Demelza should have shut that down right then and there. She should have told him in no uncertain terms not to come near her and walked away. Left the party, even. Instead she invited him to visit her and then kept and prominently displayed the flowers he sent her. And then she wondered why Ross got annoyed. Come on, girl! She encouraged a continuation of this acquaintance, and gave Adderley every reason to believe his attentions were welcome, even knowing that all this guy wanted to do was sleep with her. She knows that her relationship with Ross is precarious right now, so why did she do that? Her whining about how she was just trying to be polite seems ridiculous. We’ve seen her stand up to predatory men before and extricate herself from the situation with aplomb. She’s no child: she knows when a man is sexually interested in her, and she knows how to handle it. Monk’s behaviour was bad. Ross’s behaviour was bad. But her behaviour wasn’t stellar either. She was foolish, and I don’t for a second buy her rather childish, ‘Oh, London is so confusing!’ excuses either. It’s not that much more complicated than Cornwall, and Adderley was far less complicated than most.
Anyway, Demelza decides it’s time to go home. She catches a ride with Dwight, who’s decided he’s had enough of these wide-lapelled jackets and wants to get back to his patients. She leaves Ross a note, explaining where she’s gone and rather tragically adding that they’ll ‘see if there’s anything that can be repaired.’ Oh, for heaven’s sake, with the drama, girl! You’re not a teenager anymore, so stop acting like one! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m kind of on Ross’s side here: you were encouraging this guy! And I’m not even sure why. With Armitage, it made some kind of sense that she’d seek out someone else, considering how poorly Ross was treating her at the time, but there was no reason for her to do so this time, when things with Ross are apparently super good. So… ugh, I don’t know. This episode just felt like a frustrating two (at least) steps back, going back over things that should have been mostly settled. Can we please all just move on?