The Crimson Field: Boulogne’s Got Talent

The Crimson FieldPreviously on The Crimson Field: Catherine and Tom made an assignation, but then Catherine’s abusive husband showed up and traumatized her so much she suggested she and Tom just be friends. Joan has a German fiancé she’s trying to get info on, and Grace apparently has ‘exotic’ tastes, whatever that may mean.

Joan heads into the forest late at night, the scenes of her journey intercut with bits of her writing the letter to her fiancé. She checks a designated spot and finds a note from the Belgian that tells her to meet him at midnight the following night.

A new shipment of wounded arrives, and amongst them is a major wearing an eyepatch who’s making a nuisance of himself by dismissing Foley as just an orderly and insisting on speaking to the commanding officer. Grace intervenes and gets his name—Ballard. Apparently he’s in charge of a Punjabi regiment. He insists he’s not supposed to be there, despite the arm he has in a sling. He wants to get back to the front immediately. Grace promises to tell Brett he wants to speak with him, but in the meantime, he has to go to the ward. He also has to hand over his revolver. He’s offended by being told what to do by a woman and snaps at her, throwing in a little Punjabi, which she responds to in kind. Well, well. He’s as surprised as we are. And so, it seems, is she—apparently that was a knee-jerk reaction on her part. She holds out her hand for the revolver. He only agrees to hand over the ammunition, and he’s kind of a dick even about that.

Foley helps a man off one of the transport trucks. The wounded soldier recognizes Ballard and says that the two of them have business to attend to.

Grace tells Brett that Ballard wants to see him, telling him the guy’s kind of a pain in the ass, so if he could go see him soon, that’d be great. He notes that she seems the teensiest bit rattled.

Ballard puts his revolver and some spare ammo in the drawer of his bedside table in the officers’ rather cushy ward.

In the morning, the wounded soldier asks Foley to pass a message to Ballard telling him that Gorman is there.

Flora notes to Rosalie that the girls are coming up on their three month anniversary and they really should do something to celebrate, like have a ‘do’. Oh, so she and Rosalie are speaking again? Catherine joins them and hears about this plan, as she lights a cigarette for herself and Foley. The three women seem so at ease with each other I’m confused. As of last episode, Rosalie wasn’t speaking to Catherine and Flora was all pissed off at Rosalie, so when did everyone patch things up? No more than two weeks could have passed since then, as Quayle’s still away on her leave, so what happened in the intervening days?

Flora promises to organize this thing, excitedly suggesting that people perform their party tricks or sing. The other girls flat-out refuse to do any singing but Flora’ll do it, of course.

She floats the idea to Brett, and now it seems like this thing has turned into an actual concert. Brett doubtfully asks if she’s ever organized something like this before. She claims she has, adding that she once played a pirate in the Pirates of Penzance, so he gives her the go-ahead.

Joan tells Ballard he has to have his dressing changed but he refuses to allow her to do so. Man, just let her change the stupid bandage! Making yourself more and more difficult is not actually the ticket out of here! He once again demands to see Brett, and then throws a total wobbler and upends the table, which is a serious dick move because two other guys were enjoying their breakfast there and had their plates smashed. What an asshole.

It’s effective, though. Brett comes in, followed by Grace, and tells Ballard he doesn’t appreciate being summoned by the sound of smashing plates. Ballard cares not, he just orders Brett to send him back to the Front, because his men, who only speak Punjabi, are all currently under the command of some kid who can’t speak the language, and there’s going to be a push soon, so he needs to be there to lead. Brett tells him he won’t be going anywhere without Brett’s say so, and that he needs treatment first. Ballard insists that Grace be the one to treat him and she agrees, just to shut him up, really.

Outside the ward, Brett expresses surprise at the news that Grace grew up in India. He thinks that sounds super exciting, but she calmly says she had a totally normal childhood. They’re joined by Joan and Brett offers her time off to spend time with her fiancé whenever he gets leave. She tries not to look too uncomfortable. Grace adds that she wants Joan to cover the night shift that night. Of course.

Miles asks Catherine what sort of ‘do’ this thing is going to be, joking about it being all depravity while Catherine wryly informs him that it’ll more likely be tea and polite party tricks. Tom comes in, ignores Catherine, and tells Miles they’re needed in surgery. After he leaves, Miles tells her not to mind him, then goes back to the subject of this concert, suggesting, as Joan comes in, that they do some romantic duet, which will immediately lead to a quick engagement that’ll make them the talk of the camp, instead of Joan. Joan flies off the handle, snapping at them for being so lame they can only talk about her, and Miles takes that as a cue to leave. Catherine asks Joan what’s bothering her but Joan says she just wants everyone to leave her alone. They’re interrupted by the sound of hammering outside. It’s Flora, nailing a poster for their concert up to the door. She explains that the whole thing’s spiraled into something much more extravagant, so she needs the girls to help her hang these posters all over. Where and when did she get those done? Is there a Le Kinkos in town or something? Flora tells Catherine and a passing Rosalie that they should all sing something together. Never mind that these two explicitly refused to sing earlier. They reiterate that and head off.

Grace goes to tend Ballard’s wounds, calling him out on wanting to be the centre of attention, which is pretty much what she’d expect from someone who belongs in a regiment called the Fireaters. He immediately picks up on that nickname, which hasn’t been used for 20 years. She refuses to tell him how she knows it. He asks if there’s something she wants to ask him, but she says there isn’t, so he begins baiting her, calling her a type—a professional cold-fish virgin who’s gone her whole life unloved and untouched. But he knows there’s something going on underneath her brittle exterior and wonders what makes someone like her put on a uniform and behave like a nun. She claims she just likes to help people, but he doesn’t buy it.

Later, he sits down to dinner, but hesitates to dig in, something Grace notices. Foley comes in and tells Ballard about Gorman wanting to see him, but Ballard says he doesn’t know the man.

Foley reports back to Gorman, who’s pissed off about being dismissed. Apparently, both he and Ballard are marksmen, so this is basically a dick-measuring contest. He insists Ballard knows him.

Rosalie and Catherine collect some props for the concert from Soper, along with a package for Rosalie. As they take the stuff away, Catherine notices that Rosalie’s package indicates she’s a Right Honourable, which means she’s the daughter of a lord or a baronet, at least. She teases Rosalie a little about being a real lady and Rosalie snaps about Catherine making a judgment about that. Catherine snips that Rosalie always thinks she’s insulting her. To be fair, Catherine, that is essentially the foot you two started off on.

In their tent, Rosalie opens her package and finds a box filled with bulbs, as well as a newspaper.

Grace observes Ballard as she goes about her work. He goes to the door and fumbles with the knob for a moment before going outside, where Gorman approaches him and reminds him that they had a contest some months ago to see who was the better shot. Ballard won, but Gorman wants a rematch. Ballard turns him down, claiming he’s going back to the Front soon. Gorman offers to wait.

Apparently, Flora managed to get the posters so quickly by hand-painting them herself. Does she seriously have nothing else to do? Seriously? This isn’t that big a camp; they could spread the word personally. And they just got a bunch of new wounded in the night before. She bitches at Rosalie and Catherine for refusing to perform with her, pointing out that Rosalie at least can play the piano. Rosalie says she doesn’t really like being looked at. Flora pleads with them, as it would be so lovely to do something together, and they give in.

That night, Joan asks Foley about Gorman, who’s pacing back and forth (despite having an injured foot and being on crutches), and Foley says the man has a score to settle.

Inside the tent used for church services (and soon for the concert), the performers get ready to rehearse. Flora refuses to rehearse in front of an audience, despite Rosalie kind of laughing at her for it and accusing her of being a diva.

Catherine delivers some supplies to the surgical tent, where Tom’s puttering around. Again, he ignores her. Really? Come on. What’s this man’s problem? He’s all pissed off at her for, what, not sleeping with him? She had a totally valid reason—she has a lot more to lose if they get caught than he does. And his response to this is to give her the silent treatment? Is he five years old? That’s how children respond to not getting what they want. I don’t think I’ve used the silent treatment on someone since I was in grade school. That’s just stupid and incredibly immature.

All Tom will say is that she’s in his way. She steps aside and asks if they can at least be civil. He pissily asks if she wants him to come running whenever she snaps her fingers. Uh, no, Tom, she doesn’t. She just wants you to act like a goddamn professional. He accuses her of collecting men for her amusement, which is also a stupid accusation that he knows is completely untrue. He really is a child. Catherine slaps him, and he grabs her, so apparently he likes it rough. But then he lets her go and goes back to reorganizing his surgical instruments or whatever it is he’s doing.

Rosalie picks out a tune on the piano while Flora listens. Catherine joins them and notes that Flora’s a bit down. Flora says that everyone seems really good. Now that everyone’s gone, the girls suggest they rehearse, but Flora’s kind of freaked out because it turns out she gets terrible stage fright. She tells the other two girls to go ahead without her, now she’s told everyone some of the VADs will be singing. Rosalie and Catherine are far from overjoyed.

Late at night, Joan tries to sneak out of the ward, only to run right into Grace. She asks to take a moment and steps outside. Grace goes to Ballard and asks if he needs anything. He irritably sends her away, so she goes to the door and pretends to step outside, but then approaches his bed again. He doesn’t even seem to notice her standing right in front of him.

Joan runs back into the woods and meets Jaco the Belgian, who tells her that there’s been no letter from her fiancé, and that he and Mathilde are leaving, because they’re not safe there anymore. She thanks him for trying for her and wishes them well. He apologises for not being able to help and she sadly says she’s pretty sure her fiancé’s dead.

The next day, Flora collects greenery to decorate the concert hall while Rosalie starts planting her bulbs. Joan sees what she’s doing and Rosalie explains  that she plans to plant them all over the camp and in the spring it’ll be lovely. She adds that she feels terrible about letting it slip about Joan’s engagement and Joan forgives her readily, adding that the flowers are lovely, but none of them might be there to see it. Oh, if only they knew. They’ve got another three years of this hell to go.

Jaco and Mathilde get ready to head out, but a group of local men—all wearing black armbands, so they’ve all lost someone recently—cut them off. Jaco tells Mathilde to go to the hospital, and as soon as she’s gone the guys start pushing him around and find the Goethe book. He kept that? What an idiot. A beatdown predictably ensues and ends only when one of the men punches Jaco and sends him off the edge of what appears to be an unfinished bridge over a dry riverbed.

Ballard’s ready to go, walking around the camp, watched by Brett and Grace. Brett says he sees what Grace means, and then goes to administer an eye test to Ballard. The test indicates the man can see peripherally, but not straight ahead. He’s losing his vision and probably has been for a while. Ballard immediately guesses Grace was behind this impromptu test. Brett doesn’t give her up, but he does tell Ballard he’ll have to go home. Ballard, a career soldier, dreads the thought of having the only life he’s ever known taken away and spending the rest of his days in increasing darkness, useless.

Mathilde makes it to the camp and is found by Foley first, then Catherine, who asks her, in French, where her father is. Mathilde takes her hand and leads her away, with Foley following behind.

Ballard goes to see Grace in her office and accuses her of playing a low trick. He goes on to say that the two of them are the same, both army all the way, but she’s just an empty husk. She angrily tells him he knows nothing about her and he sneers that she’s finally showing a bit of passion, too late. She calms down and says he needs help. He paints a pitiful picture of his future and says that, when he’s miserable, he’ll think of her and her remorseless help.

Back outside, he runs into Gorman, who asks him again for a rematch. Ballard agrees, offering to take him out to the woods right that moment.

Mathilde takes Catherine and Foley back to where she and her dad were staying. Catherine finds Jaco, bloodied, and tends to him while Foley goes for help. Jaco comes to and mistakes Catherine for Joan, telling her to go to the house, because there’s something for her.

Gorman and Ballard are heading into the woods, Gorman going on and on about how he’s going to beat Ballard, who’s barely listening. They start by shooting at bottles, and even though he’s practically blind, Ballard hits all his targets straight on. But so does Gorman.

Jaco is brought back to the camp and Joan sees him. Brett explains what happened and asks her for a moment so he can ask her a few questions. They go into his office, where he shows her the Goethe book and asks if she knows where Jaco was going. She says he told her they were going to London. She asks if Brett thinks Jaco is a spy. He doesn’t, but he thinks the man’s an idiot who’s lucky he didn’t end up dead. Seriously. When you have responsibility for a child, you can’t be reckless. And you especially can’t be reckless about stupid things, like holding onto a book of poetry that can get you beaten to death or hanged.

Grace finds Ballard missing from the ward and hears the gunshots in the woods.

Ballard gets bored of shooting bottles and cans and offers to up the stakes but putting a shot glass on his head and offering to let Gorman shoot it off. Gives a whole new meaning to the word shot glass, right? Gorman nails it, and now it’s Ballard’s turn. Grace, meanwhile, is closing in. Gorman puts the glass on his head and Ballard lines up his shot, but Grace arrives and whispers for them both to stop. Ballard tells her to back off, but instead she approaches and asks if he can even see his shot, reminding him that he could very well end up killing this man. She urges him to lower the pistol and he does, handing it over. She quickly removes the ammo. Gorman comes over, realizes Ballard’s going blind, and calls him a poor bastard before heading back into camp.

It’s almost concert time, and Flora’s kind of freaking out. Rosalie tells her to chill, as she scoops her bulbs back into the box and spots an article in the newspaper about Catherine’s divorce. Cat’s out of the bag now, right?

Jaco’s looking a bit better and tells Joan to go to the house, because there’s something waiting for her. Catherine watches from a distance.

Ballard and Grace have a chat out in the woods and she explains that her father was a very difficult, unhappy man. She spent her childhood unloading his many guns and hiding the bullets, but one day she didn’t quite get there in time, and she spent years blaming herself for his death. He guesses that that’s why she dedicated her life to saving everyone else, before asking if her father was in the regiment. He wasn’t. she offers him her arm and escorts him back to camp. There, he asks again if she has a question for her. She drums up her courage and asks if he knows of a certain major. He does, and apparently the guy’s no longer with us, or something of that nature (sorry, I couldn’t catch what he said, but Grace looks really upset). He surmises that the man was a very special friend and she acknowledges it, trying not to cry. Ballard looks a little awkward, like he wants to say more, but what more can you say? He leaves.

Concert time. Flora’s so nervous she can’t even announce the start of the concert and makes Rosalie do it. Rosalie, clearly terrified herself, manages and they kick things off with three nurses singing Three Little Maids from The Mikado.

Joan arrives back in her tent to find Catherine waiting for her. Catherine asks her what the heck is going on. Joan tries to lie her way out, but Catherine guesses that this is about the fiancé, whom she realizes is German. Joan says nothing, but that silence speaks volumes. Catherine warns her that she could get in a massive amount of trouble, but Joan says it’s just a letter waiting for her, and she has to get it so she knows if the man is alive or dead. Catherine steps out of her way and Joan goes.

Soper warns his men that they’re not to tell any off-colour jokes at the concert, or he’ll kick some ass, before sending them off. Once they’re gone, he loads up a sack with boxes of something.

Rosalie and Flora take the stage and Rosalie starts to play, but Flora’s frozen and misses her cue to begin. She only manages on the second try, and Rosalie quickly joins in (Rosalie has a lovely voice, by the way). Catherine comes running in a bit late and joins right in. Aww. While she sings, Catherine stares right at Tom, who finally starts to seem like he feels like a bit of an ass.

Alone in her office, Grace takes a large box out and removes some letters and a photograph of the man she asked Ballard about—an Indian officer, so that’s what Quayle meant when she mentioned Grace’s ‘exotic tastes’.

Joan, on her motorbike, passes Soper on the road but doesn’t seem to notice him. She arrives at the cottage and rifles around but finds no letter. She hears someone coming and hides, but then the man calls out and she emerges, weeping. It’s her fiancé, who apparently thought that coming in person to hostile territory would be better than sending a letter. Wow, talk about going above and beyond. She bursts out sobbing and he runs to her, telling her he got her letter (clearly).

Soper meets with a local and hands over his contraband.

At the cottage, Fiancé explains that he was taken prisoner and jumped off the train. She warns him that it’s not safe and he has to leave immediately. Outside, she warns him to keep an eye on the road. She tells him she loves him and they kiss before he gets on her bike and takes off. From the shadows, Soper sees all, and once the fiance’s gone Joan notices he’s standing there. Soper smiles creepily and asks her what she’s been up to.



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