The Crimson Field: Grand Mal

The Crimson FieldPreviously on The Crimson Field: Catherine and Tom exchanged some significant looks and a shell-shocked soldier named Prentiss got sent back to the front, thanks to Quayle, who’s bitter as hell over having been passed over for a promotion.

Most of the name characters, along with a group of soldiers, march out of camp to bury some of the unlucky ones. After the service, one of the soldiers addresses the others, reminding them that they’re the Lucky 13, and they’ll stick together and stay alive. They all agree and bow their heads to pray for the departed. I feel like they missed a trick by not stunt casting the actor who played Titus Pullo on Rome just so he could yell ‘Thirteeeeeeeen!’ at some point this hour.

Back at camp, Quayle gets a birthday card and a present: a china figurine.

On their way back from the funeral, Grace tells Brett there’ll be a party for Quayle and urges him to say a few words and let her know how much she’s appreciated, because people like that. He grumbles about having to be pushed to say nice things, as if that weren’t really a fault of his, not hers, but he agrees. He then drops back a little to tell Joan she’s really appreciated (heh) and to chat with one of the Lucky 13, all of whom were in the hospital for some kind of fever but are better now and will soon be heading back out. We learn that these soldiers come from Joan’s old neighbourhood.

In line for breakfast, Tom approaches Catherine and asks if she has plans for her free time that afternoon. She playfully says she was considering doing some darning and he asks her to meet up with him. She agrees. Woah, I feel like I missed a bit here. Last episode they were practically hostile to each other, until the very last minute, but now they’re making afternoon assignations?

In the breakfast tent, the Lucky 13 sergeant talks to one of his men, Raymond, who’s worried about a new doctor coming to camp to give them all their last physicals before they ship back out. But he’s not worried for his own sake, but for Sarge’s. Sarge, however, is unconcerned. Raymond says it should be fine as long as the doctor doesn’t listen to Sarge’s chest. Sarge reminds him that they’re all charmed, so this shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Tom goes back to his and Miles’s tent and Miles thanks him for giving up his afternoon pass, which means Miles gets to go into town for some R&R. Before Miles can go, he swings by Brett’s office for his pass and Brett warns him to stay away from the absinthe this time. Miles promises and takes off, to be replaced by Grace. Brett shows her a telegram and tells her someone clearly has big connections.

In the laundry area, Flora primps in a mirror before heading into 13’s ward. Catherine teases her a little—apparently Flora has a crush on one of the guys, and Catherine reassures her that he likes Flora too. Grace comes along and gets rid of Flora, and then asks Catherine if she knows a Mr Elliott Vincent. Catherine blanches but says she does. Grace shows her the telegram and says he wants to meet Catherine in town that day. She asks if he’s a relative or someone who can help with this situation involving Catherine’s child. ‘Potentially,’ Catherine answers. Grace tells her she can find a ride at 2 p.m. She leaves and Catherine takes a little time to gather herself.

The 13 are relaxing and playing cards. In comes Flora with clean laundry and Raymond stops her and asks what her name is, telling her there’s no harm in telling them since it’s their last day in camp. With a little persuasion, Flora tells them. Ray’s acting a tiny bit flirty, but he’s really trying to flag her down for his buddy, Charlie, the guy Flora’s got the hots for. He apparently likes her too, but he’s so shy he can barely even look at her, and though Raymond’s given him a great chance here, he blows it. Flora goes to make the beds and the lads tease poor Charlie. Ray then teases Joan a little, and of course she gives back as good as she gets, and then the long-awaited doctor finally shows up to start the physicals. He’s an older guy, so Sarge and Raymond think it’ll be a breeze getting past him.

A new patient’s been brought in, name unknown, since he didn’t have a paybook on him and has been heavily sedated, according to Foley. Foley tells Joan the guy’s been there before, but he can’t recall his name. She says they’ll just have to wait until he wakes up, then. The camera pans down and we see that it’s Prentiss. Aww, man! Though I’m glad to see him back here and not dead, which is what I figured would happen.

Catherine waits for her ride as two trucks full of casualties pull up. The men are unloaded as Catherine watches. Miles shows up and she gets an ‘oh, great’ look on her face, but she climbs into the car with him nonetheless. Quayle, looking on, disapproves of any girl going off without a chaperone, because she figures it’s a short hop from that to illegitimate babies all over the place.

On the road, Miles tries to get Catherine to talk, but all she wants to know is if the hotel is a decent place to take tea. He says it’s delightful.

Meanwhile, Tom waits in the forest for her. She didn’t have a minute to tell him she wouldn’t be able to make it to their rendezvous?

Miles is telling Catherine all about his plans for a bath, steak, and wine while in town, adding on an invitation for her to join him. He clarifies that he meant join him for the food, though if she’s interested in climbing into the bath… At that point, Catherine demands to be let out and won’t let him persuade her back in, telling him she’ll walk. While I support her indignation (that was a really presumptuous thing for him to say to a woman nowadays, let alone in 1915—and could you imagine him saying such a thing to Flora or Rosalie? I think not), he does apologise a lot for it, so it seems like it would have been more sensible for her to let it go. Then again, as we’ll see, she has good reason to put off the impending meeting with Elliott for as long as possible.

Miles tells her to meet him outside the hotel at five so they can get back in time, and he promises they’ll drive back in complete silence.

Ray passes inspection. Charlie’s waiting his turn, and Flora walks by him really slowly as she goes to collect some blankets. Sarge urges him to say something to her, but he blows it again. Ray comes out just in time to see this and sighs that not a day goes by that Charlie doesn’t mess this up. Charlie snaps at him to shut up before going in for his physical. Ray tells Sarge that the doctor’s not listening to their chests, so he should be golden.

The doctor’s looking tired, so Joan offers to take over for a little bit. He agrees, so she picks up her stethoscope and calls Sarge in. Sarge takes a look at the stethoscope and his face falls.

Catherine arrives at the very nice hotel in town and hesitates just a moment before going in.

Prentiss has awoken and now lies in bed, shaking, clenching his hands, and clearly on the edge of something bad.

Joan’s about to start Sarge’s physical, but a loud noise sends Prentiss into a panic and he swiftly retreats under his bed. She asks him what’s wrong, but then he starts seizing, so she gets Sarge to help her move the bed so she can get him in a better position. Brett comes in to investigate the disturbance and is horrified to see Prentiss there.

Catherine is shown into the restaurant, where the lace tablecloths and delicate china are a stark contrast to life at the hospital. As soon as she sits down, she takes a fork and hides it in the cuff of her blouse. Behind her, Miles gets his key, and behind him, a man lowers his newspaper and eyes Catherine. Hey, it’s the guy who plays Edwards in Mr Selfridge!

Tom, meanwhile, is still in the woods. He finally gives up and goes back to camp.

Charlie, having lunch, longingly watches Flora walk past.

The corporal marks a box on a truck with a chalk x before walking away, so I guess his side business is still going. Charlie passes him on his way to see Flora, who’s starting up the motor of Joan’s bike. He asks if she’s going for a ride and she says she’s just turning over the engine. She shows him the throttle and the way you turn it on and he observes awkwardly that she seems like quite the expert. She claims to be quite the modern girl, adding that, in the future, everyone will be modern. I don’t know why, but that line cracks me up. Maybe it’s the very brief and subtle, dear God, did I just say that? look she gets on her face immediately after she says it. Charlie excuses himself and moves off and Flora tries not to kick herself too hard. Rosalie rolls up and warns Flora against giving Charlie ideas, because he’s a different class from Flora. Wow, Rosalie, that was pretty awful of you. It’s not like it’s any of your business, and what does it matter? He’ll be gone from the camp in a day. What’s a little harmless flirtation? Flora lashes out at her, telling her she’s done a bang up job here: Rosalie’s not speaking to Joan or Catherine, and now Flora’s not talking to her. Rosalie’s not speaking to Catherine? Why? Is it still because of what Catherine said to her their first day? I agree that was totally out of line and incredibly shitty of her, but it’s been months now, and they have to live and work in close proximity, plus Catherine sincerely apologized for it, so maybe it’s time for Rosalie to let this go?

Prentiss is back in bed and unconscious, so I guess he’s been redrugged. Brett compliments Joan and Sarge on their quick work and asks to be kept informed. He leaves, so Joan can go ahead with the exam. Sarge tries to put her off, and she asks him why he doesn’t want her to listen to his chest. He explains that a bout with pleurisy some years ago left his lungs a bit wonky. She listens, as he claims it sounds worse than it is. Apparently it’s really bad and, astonished, she asks how he ever got through his medical. He bribed the doctor, apparently. He desperately tells her it doesn’t matter, it’s just a little rattle, but she says it totally does.

Brett seeks out Quayle at the dispensary and tells her that Prentiss is back, which should be impossible, because the man was supposed to be sent home on a pass that Quayle swore she delivered. Quayle’s face is equal parts ‘oh shit’ and ‘busted’ as Brett angrily tells her to join him in his office, but as she leaves the dispensary she looks like she’s ready to do serious battle. By the time she reaches the office, however, she’s all wide-eyed and nearly weepy, claiming the convoy left before she could find Prentiss, and she was afraid Brett would think poorly of her, so she lied about giving him the pass. Grace has been summoned as well, and she defends Quayle. He sends Quayle back to her work. Once they’re alone, Grace reminds him that a senior officer rescinded that pass and Brett’s seriously playing with fire issuing another one. He tells her that Prentiss really needed to go home so he could have a chance to heal, but now the poor guy’s ruined. He’s having grand mal seizures and needs to be constantly doped up. He can’t get over the fact that Quayle lied and now this poor man’s in terrible shape.

Quayle returns to her tent and finds the pass she never delivered. Why did she hang onto that? She looks around for a new hiding place and stashes it in a hollowed out part of her china figurine.

Prentiss, now somewhat awake, shakes and tells Joan he can’t stand being like this. Brett shows up with his gramophone and offers to sit with him. He starts to crank up the music, remembering that it helped before, but as soon as it starts up, poor Prentiss begins having a seizure. Brett and Foley hold him down. So much for the music cure. This poor man really is screwed.

In town, Miles is relaxing in a bath with some red wine and a copy of Tarzan of the Apes. This man knows how to do his R&R right.

Catherine’s still waiting in the restaurant, and she’s finally joined by Elliott, who trails his fingers over her shoulder, observes that she looks well, and hands over a confession of adultery for her to sign, so he can get a divorce and remarry. Ahh, now we get the full picture. Catherine is reluctant to sign, because she didn’t write said confession, but everything in it—the fact that she cheated on Elliott—is true, so she finally goes ahead and does it. She asks after her daughter and Elliott says she’s with his sister and her cousins, which is best for her. Trying not to cry, Catherine asks if the child ever asks for her mother. Elliott says Catherine frightened the child, taking her away (briefly, I’m guessing). Catherine asks to be allowed to write to her, but Elliott hands her a key and says she can say whatever she likes in person. Hardly believing she’ll actually get to see her little girl again, Catherine grabs the key and rushes upstairs, while Elliott, who really is a pretty creepy cold fish, takes a sip of tea that he manages to make seem menacing.

Catherine finds the right room and searches around for the daughter who, of course, isn’t there. But by the time she realizes it, Elliott’s come upstairs and locked the door to the room. It was at this point I started scrambling for the remote, thinking for sure I was about to see a rape scene, and frankly I’ve had enough of those over the past few months. Catherine bursts into tears and tells Elliott that she’s expected back at the hospital and if she doesn’t turn up, they’ll come looking for her, so he’s going to let her leave immediately. He steps away from the door and she moves towards it, but then he takes a step towards her and she panics. He smiles very creepily, clearly enjoying her terror. Wow. I have a whole new appreciation for this actor. He’s fine as Edwards in Selfridge, but he’s really spectacular as this menacing bad guy terrorizing Catherine. And it’s nice to see her actually take on a different dimension too. This explains a lot about her and why she’s so brittle and closed off.

She moves again, and he moves, so she breaks into a run and rushes the door, shakily managing to unlock it, but he slams it shut with one hand, trapping her against it and seeming really turned on by all this (I can’t imagine why she cheated!). Catherine finally fights back with the only weapon she has: her teeth, which she sinks into his arm. He shouts in pain and lets go of the door, but then grabs her hair and violently throws her out into the hallway. She snatches up the fork, which she left outside the room, and holds it pathetically in his direction as she flees down the hall, only to find that he’s closed and locked the door at the end of it that leads to the stairs, so she’s still trapped. He slowly advances on her and she helplessly holds the fork out at arm’s length, the only pathetic weapon she has. It’s really awful.

But hey! Remember how Miles had gotten a room to chill out in? Thankfully, that room’s on this floor, and he comes sauntering out and calmly tells Elliott to back right off and behave himself around a serving nurse. Elliott calls Catherine a whore, which Miles takes offense to, and then turns to go back to his room. Miles tells him not to turn his back on a man holding the king’s commission, but Elliott’s clearly a powerful man himself and isn’t cowed at all. He leaves, having successfully reduced Catherine to a quivering mess still holding that damn fork. If she was so (rightfully) worried about her safety around this guy, why didn’t she grab a scalpel or a dinner knife or something from the camp before she left? It’s not like she didn’t have time to prepare to leave—she had time to change, after all—and I doubt anyone’s going to notice a dinner knife’s gone missing over the few hours she’s gone.

Catherine eases herself away from the door she’d plastered herself to, feeling her way along the wall, like she needs its support, which she clearly does. Miles, sensibly, gives her her space and she tearfully says it’s probably time for them to be getting back.

Joan has brought Sarge to see the doctor, who agrees that the man’s lungs are a mess and he’s going home. Sarge begs to stay, claiming that breaking up the 13 will make them unlucky. Apparently all the other soldiers around them were cut down but somehow the 13 always manage to come through engagements with nothing more than cuts and bruises. I don’t think it’s collective luck that’s doing it though, Sarge. I mean, I don’t think that if just one of the men leaves, everyone else is doomed. Pretty sure that’s not how it works. The doctor says he’ll be screwed come winter, though apparently he’s already made it through one, and marks him C3 before handing the paperwork off to Joan. She tells him she’s really sorry and he asks what he’s supposed to do now, just sit around waiting for news of all his friends’ deaths? She only says she has to do her job, but she looks really upset about it.

Sarge goes down to the beach, where the boys are enjoying a game of football, and tells Ray what happened. Ray totally freaks out, screaming that they’re all dead, as he takes off running. The others tackle him and Sarge reminds him that, if he runs, he’ll be shot. Ray thinks he’s dead anyway, but Sarge talks him down and the 13 head back to camp.

Quayle looks down at Prentiss and tells Joan she’s really sorry to see him back. Joan promises to do her best for the man. Quayle watches her go with a murderous look, and I wouldn’t put it past her to just smother Prentiss.

Charlie looks at his fellow 13ers and seems to come to a decision.

Grace, meanwhile, apologises to Quayle on behalf of Brett, explaining that he’s angry at the situation, not her. No, I’m pretty sure he’s mad at her, and rightly so. She asks Quayle if she destroyed the undelivered ticket and Quayle claims she did.

The 13 are all gathered together, ready to leave when someone notices Charlie’s gone. At the same time, Catherine and Miles return and Miles promises quietly not to tell anyone what happened in town. She thanks him.

Charlie seeks out Joan and tells her he used to work on a restaurant back home, and he waited on her and her German fiancé. He remembers them well. He doesn’t want to have to use this information against her, but he totally will if that’s what he needs to do to keep himself and his friends together. Damn, Charlie. You’ve got some balls after all. Joan, trapped, issues an A1 certificate for Sarge, looking sick. Before he goes, Charlie says he takes no pleasure in doing this, but it had to be done. He adds that she and her man seemed really great together. Ouch. She cries.

Charlie rejoins the others and hands Sarge his certificate.

Quayle’s handing out pieces of birthday cake at her party. She hands one to Joan and loudly asks about Joan’s secret engagement. Joan tries to claim she isn’t engaged, but Quayle tells her that Rosalie’s seen the ring. Rosalie looks alarmed. Acting all girlish, Quayle asks to see the ring and spill all the secrets of the romance, as other nosy nurses start gathering in and Rosalie looks really guilty. Some of these ladies need to start learning how to lie. If she’d been a bit quicker on her feet, Joan could have just said the ring was a family heirloom with some emotional significance, which is why she wore it, not because it’s an actual engagement ring. But she doesn’t, she obligingly pulls the ring out and spins a story about the man being a British soldier, which is undoubtedly going to bite her in the ass at some point. She starts to cry and Quayle acts all concerned before going back to slicing up cake. Grace looks at her mentor with new eyes as Joan rushes outside to quietly freak out amongst the laundry.

Later, Quayle returns to her tent with a HUGE piece of cake to find Grace ransacking the place, looking for Prentiss’s pass. Knowing that Quayle tends to lash out when upset, she figures the woman held onto it in the hope of eventually getting to use it against Brett (as it would be proof of him having acted against a superior officer’s orders) to punish him for having passed her over for the matron job. Quayle, busted, tells Grace she should have turned down the matron job out of loyalty to Quayle and everything Quayle has done for her. Quayle reminds Grace that she saved her from ruination and disgrace after Quayle discovered that Grace had certain ‘exotic’ sexual tastes. So, is she saying that Grace is a lesbian or that she has a thing for non-white men or what? It’s not clear yet. Grace gathers herself and coldly tells Quayle that she’s been working too hard, so Grace is sending her home for two weeks. While she’s there, she’s to consider very carefully whether or not she can continue to work under Grace, because if not, she’ll be sent to another post.

Joan reads nothing but bad news for the Germans in the paper and tearfully throws it aside.

Tom spots Catherine in the mess tent and she gets up and heads to a quieter area where they can talk. They meet up by the supplies building and she explains that she had to go into town and she couldn’t get a message to him. He understands. Wow, well done not using this for manufactured drama, show. So many other programmes would have had her never explain, or he’d refuse to listen, or whatever. Tiresome. She goes on to say, however, that this may have been for the best, because if caught, she’d have been sent home. They hear someone coming and duck down. It’s the corporal. He pries open the crate he marked earlier, retrieves a bottle (presumably alcoholic) from it, and leaves. Tom tries to use the opportunity to kiss Catherine, but she tells him she came here to work, not get entangled. He gets up and says he understands. Except he doesn’t, really. But we do.

The 13 march out of camp, and Flora comes running out to wave them off. Charlie, having fully found his cojones, breaks out of formation, runs back to her, kisses her, and tells her she’s the prettiest girl he’s ever seen. He kisses her again, to her delight, and rejoins his mates who all affectionately tease him. Off they go.

Good episode. No, really. I know I was hard on this show in the beginning (and I think my criticisms were fair), but it’s going much better now. They’re actually introducing some pretty good tension and ongoing plotlines, not to mention some seriously messed up characters. Elliott and Quayle are both super creepy (do we think we’ve seen the last of Elliott? Hard to say). It’d be nice if they could give Rosalie something to do now—most of the focus has been on Catherine and Joan so far—but if they don’t, I won’t exactly be heartbroken because I think there are enough potentially juicy plotlines floating around to make up for it. I hope they don’t blow this in the coming weeks, but I have faith.

2 thoughts on “The Crimson Field: Grand Mal

  1. Episodes 1 – 6 have just finished airing here @ Public broadcasting @ the East Coast (USA). Am soooo disappointed that BBC decided not to give this program a second series; what with “Poldark” at 9PM and “Crimson Field” at 10PM…my Sunday nights were most enjoyable. When I think of all the garbage on TV, and CF was not renewed…grrr.

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