The Crimson Field: Trouble and Strife

5691624-high_res-the-crimson-field.jpgPreviously on The Crimson Field: Three volunteers and one nurse arrived at a field hospital in 1915 France, ready to do some healing.

Catherine wakes with a cry from a nightmare, dresses, and goes out for a walk to the beach, where she sits and looks at a letter until the sun comes up.

A little later, we see her back at the camp, writing a letter of her own—a begging one, from what we can see of it. As she goes to post it, she runs into Grace, who opens the post box and removes the letter once Catherine’s gone. In her office, Grace opens the letter and reads it.

Catherine tends a man with some kind of head wound that’s made him catatonic.

Brett brings Grace some tea and tells her they have at least 200 wounded coming in that night. She stresses about the shortage of places to put them and he somewhat commiserates by telling her about some ridiculous bureaucratic red tape they now have to go through to get more supplies.

A patient with his arm in a sling sits by the bedside of Rupert Graves. Hey Rupert! I might have known you’d show up here, you show up everywhere! I love you in Sherlock and Garrow’s Law!

Catherine marches through the camp, blowing off Miles, and fetches Thomas, who’s in the operating theatre. He barks that she’s not allowed in there and kicks her out. She waits a few minutes outside for him to emerge and tells him that Rupert—Major Crecy—is waking up. He moves towards the ward, and she reminds him to take off his bloody scrubs.

Thomas asks Crecy how the pain is. Bad. He goes to get more morphine and Crecy asks the guy with the bum arm—Byeford—what happened to the rest of the men. Byeford deflects, so now we know they were probably wiped out. Tom also tells Crecy that his wife’s on the way and asks if he wants to be moved to an officers’ ward. Crecy tells him absolutely not and asks Byeford again about the others. It’s just the two of them left. Jesus.

Joan’s motorcycle has apparently been confiscated by Sgt Sope, who promises he’s taking very good care of it. She pleasantly asks when she might get it back and he says he’s doing all he can. But he’s not in that much of a hurry, seeing he’s standing there eating a jam sandwich.

In the wards, Flora asks Catherine if she’s disturbing Catherine’s sleep with her snoring. Catherine lies that she just likes to get an early start. The mail truck comes in and Flora gets excited by the idea of getting a letter from her brother. Catherine’s a bit more apprehensive.

Grace comes out of her office just as a fancy car pulls up and discharges a very expensively dressed woman who demands to see her husband, Maj Crecy. She’s played by Jodhi May, who also shows up just about everywhere. Grace quietly tells her that she’ll be taken to see him as soon as possible, but first Grace needs to break some bad news to other relatives. Mrs C does not seem terribly pleased.

Lists of the wounded and killed from the most recent battles have been posted. Flora checks them and looks relieved.

Quayle is tending the Catatonic Kid and scolding one of the nurses for allowing a volunteer to feed him. The nurse reminds Quayle that she has a lot of patients to see to, so it’s really more expedient to have a volunteer do the muck work. Quayle won’t hear it, insisting that the boy deserves only the best.

Joan and Rosalie are stocking supplies. Rosalie asks Joan if she always knew she wanted to be a nurse (yes—even as a child) and Joan asks after Rosalie’s aspirations. Rosalie admits she was never asked what she wanted, because her father thought it was vulgar for a woman to earn her own money. That’s all well and good if you have someone else to support you, but what was his plan for an unmarried daughter? Pass her off to relatives forever? Poor woman. Joan gives the pat ‘the world’s changing’ comment that no mediocre period piece can do without. Rosalie says she really thinks she was meant for this kind of work, even though her crappy family didn’t think she’d be able to stick it out. She wistfully says she wishes she’d been brave enough to take it up sooner, so she wouldn’t have wasted so much time sitting around at home and being depressed. Joan kindly says the important thing is what she’s doing now, and furthermore, she’ll teach Rosalie to ride the motorbike if she wants. In comes Quayle, who asks what they’re doing, just standing around. Joan says she was going to have Rosalie, who’s done with her assigned duties, help her out for a bit and get some hands-on experience, but Quayle has other ideas and tells Rosalie to inventory the linen cupboard. She obediently leaves and Joan asks for some time to put together a plan for how the volunteers will progress in their duties. Quayle completely ignores her, sweeping out like she didn’t say a word.

Mrs C is waiting outside Grace’s office with Catatonic Kid’s father. I think (going by IMDB) that Catatonic Kid is George Shoemaker and his dad is Noah. Just in case it’s important, I’ll mention that the man—and Kid—are both black. Mrs C clearly seems uncomfortable and finally gets up and walks off, even though the guy calls after her that they’re supposed to wait.

The orderly, Corporal Foley, is giving Flora some instructions. She’s being sent to Sope to request something, and Foley insists she not leave until she gets it. She hurries off and asks Sope for a ‘long wait’. Sigh. Flora, you have at least one brother. Unless he was the nicest brother in the history of the world (which, considering we already know he used to tease her about her snoring, he clearly wasn’t), so you really should be more aware of this sort of thing. But it’s Flora, and she’s eager to please and clearly not thinking, so she insists Sope give her what she wants and settles in for, well, a wait. Though I will say, it’s kind of funny how both Miles and Sope play the whole thing, with Miles pretending to pull rank and Sope whining about how the waits are way in the back and he’ll have to get the stepladder out.

Byeford gives Crecy a shave, and Crecy asks if he looks less ‘trenchy’. Heh. I wonder if Byeford was Crecy’s batman. Meanwhile, Mrs C is wandering around, looking for her husband. Crecy wonders what he should say to her, and Byeford makes him laugh by suggesting he say ‘the good news is, my dancing days are over. Never again will I crush your toes.’ Mrs C comes in, and we—and she—now see that Crecy’s lost both his legs below the knee. See, this is why you were supposed to wait, Mrs C. So you could be properly prepared for this. She completely loses her shit and rushes out of the tent, taking out a trolley of instruments along the way, runs into Grace, and demands to know what’s happened to her husband.

Grace takes her to her office, where Mrs C reverts to her ice queen norm and gets pissy that the letter summoning her said her husband was close to death, but mentioned nothing about him having no legs. Tom, standing by, reassures her her husband should make a full recovery, barring any haemorrhage or infection. She snits that he’s been very thorough with his knife, like the guy really had a choice in this matter, lady. I mean, it’s not like he recreationally takes off limbs, you know? At least, I hope he doesn’t. He tries to tell her just that, but she moves on to ask why her husband is in the regular ward with all the riff raff. Grace tells her that Crecy insisted on staying with Byeford, but Mrs C insists it’s not good for the men to see an officer so ‘diminished’. She tells them they need to move him immediately. Catherine comes in and Grace asks her to show Mrs C to the visitors’ tent.

Noah sits at his son’s bedside, but George sees nothing. Major C, meanwhile, is moved out of the ward. And Catherine finds out she has no letter that day.

Catherine goes to Mrs C and urges her to let her husband stay with Byeford, with whom he clearly has a close bond, but Mrs C isn’t even listening. She starts talking about how her husband loved hunting, and would spend hours and hours outside, while she got the house to herself. Things will be very different now. Yes, Mrs C, you may actually have to start spending time with your husband. Though, I’m fairly certain that you two are of a class that has houses big enough that you could spend entire days indoors without your paths crossing. She adds that Byeford is not her husband’s future, Mrs C is. Catherine rolls her eyes and, when Mrs C asks who’ll be helping her with her hair and clothes, Catherine tells her she’ll just have to manage for herself. I’m with Kate on that one. You’re at a field hospital, lady! The nurses do not have time to be your ladies’ maid!

Flora’s still just sitting around—doesn’t she have duties? I’m amazed Quayle or someone hasn’t come along to yell at her. Foley comes in and she apologises for the whole thing taking so long. He asks if she asked for the right thing, and that’s when she realises she’s been had. She snits that Foley doesn’t take her seriously, but he’ll see that she’s got grit. And then she stomps out like a little girl.

Brett stops by the requisitions tent and pokes around, asking Sopes why he confiscated Joan’s motorcycle. Sopes spins some BS about petrol having to be accounted for, but Brett knows that Sopes is running quite a nice little side business, selling off things that he’s confiscated. He orders Sope to return the bike immediately and to stop selling things he doesn’t own.

Mrs C visits her husband in the officers’ ward and apologises for her earlier freakout. He says it’s fine and that he wants to introduce her to Byeford. She quickly says there’s plenty of time for that, and then makes some small talk about how pleasant the place is. I find it a little cruel that there’s a print of a hunting scene right over this man’s bed. There’s an awkward pause, and then he tries out Byeford’s joke about his dancing days being over. She is not amused. Back to the awkwardness. She tries to look on the bright side, chattering about how he’ll be coming home and the kids’ll be so proud of him and their friends will be…terribly kind. Oooh, talk about awkward. Even she knows that was the wrong thing to say.

Catherine’s meeting with Grace, who tells her she’s receiving good reports, so her probation’s over. Catherine is pleased and thanks her. Grace moves on to tell her that she has to read all outgoing post, so she knows about Catherine’s letters, which apparently are to her mother regarding an affair Catherine had in the past. She guesses—correctly–there’s a child involved and sympathises that it must be difficult to be so forcibly separated. She adds that she won’t be sharing any of this with anyone else, but she mentions that Catherine begs for forgiveness in her letters. She asks what Catherine will do if forgiveness doesn’t come. Catherine gets upset, so Grace gently tells her to take some time to compose herself.

Outside the office, Catherine struggles to hold it together as she runs into Tom, who apologises for being short with her that morning. Desperate to get away, she says it doesn’t matter, but he won’t let her go, saying his patient died and he was upset. She repeats that it’s fine, and she’s sorry about the patient, but can she go, please? He utterly fails to read her mood and thinks she’s just being a bitch.

He goes back to the tent he shares with Miles, who points him to a letter Tom’s received and reads a bit about Mary Pickford’s bathtub from a magazine. Tom, who’s clearly having a bad day all around, opens the envelope and gets upset because some article he sent in to the publication inside hasn’t been printed. Miles reassures him the Royal College of Surgeons is probably still reading said article and will soon be toasting Tom’s brilliance. He starts to chat about Catherine, commenting that she’s a tough nut to crack, but Tom shrugs him off and says he’s never really talked to her.

Byeford, arm out of the sling, approaches Mrs C and asks how the major’s doing. She dismissively says he’s being attended to, and then seems to realise she’s being super rude to the man who saved her husband’s life and adds that she heard he was brave. He says it was nothing, fetching just one man. He really wishes he could have gotten them all. Well, one’s better than none, Byeford, especially under heavy fire. Mrs C, clearly utterly clueless as to how to deal with those lower on the social scale than she, reaches into her purse, pulls out a coin, and holds it out to him, saying it’s a token of appreciation. Wow, that’s offensive on any number of levels. First of all, a coin? Really? He’s not a porter at the railway who helped you with your bags, lady, he saved your husband’s life! And he’s clearly not looking for a handout. Byeford manages not to look too offended but says he’s not looking for money. She tells him he can’t come any further, because he’s intruding. He says he only wants to say goodbye, but she coldly says that’s not all he’s doing. What’s the deal here? Does she think Byeford and her husband have some sort of romantic relationship? Because if that’s what they’re going for, they missed the mark, because these two men don’t have that kind of chemistry at all. Catherine watches all this from a distance as Byeford turns and leaves.

Sope returns Joan’s motorbike, as Quayle watches. Sope complains to her about Brett bending the rules for Joan, clearly trying to feel Quayle out as an ally here. He goes on to say that Quayle really should have been made matron, suggesting that there was some favouritism at work. Quayle refuses to be drawn in.

Catherine lets Byeford into the officers’ ward so he can say goodbye to Crecy. Byeford’s being sent back to the Front. Mrs C comes in while they’re talking, but hangs back and they don’t notice her. She slips back out and Catherine asks her why she won’t let them just say goodbye to each other. Mrs C won’t say, but calls Catherine disrespectful. Good thing she’s off probation.

Back inside, Byeford tells Crecy he was a great officer, and all the men would have followed him anywhere. Aww. They shake hands as heroic music swells.

Byeford climbs onto the troop transport. Catherine wishes him good luck and waves him off. In his bed, Crecy looks terribly depressed.

Mrs C is sitting stiffly at a table in the mess tent across from Noah, who asks her if her husband can still talk. She dismissively says he can, of course, not realising that communication would be a godsend to Noah. He says his own son can’t speak and doesn’t even know his father’s there. She defrosts slightly and says he probably does. Noah, encouraged, continues that he’s not sure his boy’s going to make it. She finally turns to look at him and, with a little kindness, at last, says she’s sure George will be perfectly fine, and everything will be as it was before. I don’t think she’s talking about George anymore.

Joan joins Quayle and brings up the volunteers again, reminding her that they have 200 men coming in, so they really should start prepping the volunteers to do more than carry tea trays. Quayle says they’ll just have to cope. Joan mentions the volunteers they had at Liverpool Hospital and how helpful they were. Quayle sharply says that this hospital is different from Liverpool, because the patients here have come from hell and need to feel safe and well cared for. Yes, well, wouldn’t they feel that way if they were in the hands of competently trained volunteers? Instead, they’re getting overworked, thinly spread nurses who are probably going to burn out soon. Joan points out that more volunteers will be coming, and they’ll have to do something with them besides send them to the laundry. Quayle advises her to take it slowly and get a handle on how things are done there. Joan stiffly thanks her for her time, gets up, and leaves.

Miles practices his golf swing, waiting for the convoy to arrive. Meanwhile, the nurses are relaxing in their tent, also waiting. Rosalie opens a letter from a friend of hers who runs a home for ‘fallen girls’. Flora, of course, says she’d love to be a fallen girl, because wouldn’t that be fun, to be disgraced and kicked out by your family? Actually, she thinks it would be romantic to be swept away by love. Rosalie tells her it’s not romantic at all, and that it’s incumbent on women to control themselves, because men certainly can’t manage it. Catherine asks what happens to the girls and Rosalie says many are placed in service, but some simply can’t be helped.

Catherine goes outside to smoke and be bothered by Miles, who asks if she plays golf. No, she thinks it’s pointless. She goes to leave and he says they got off on the wrong foot. She asks what he wants from her and he says he wants a smile. He won’t give up until he gets one. She’s rescued from the conversation by the arrival of the convoy. Miles and the other surgeons gown up and double check the operating theatres while the nurses and volunteers take their positions in the wards and orderlies get ready to move people around.

The wounded arrive and things get bloody quickly. Joan, Grace, and the others fire off orders. Joan tells Rosalie and Flora to wash and change the men coming in. Flora’s excited to finally be doing something but Rosalie looks terrified. Nonetheless, she fetches a bowl of water and introduces herself to one soldier.

Mrs C sits by her husband’s bed as wounded officers are brought into the ward. Her hand starts to creep towards one of his stumps, but then she changes her mind and moves it toward his hand. He tells her about what machine gun fire will do and how bad things are in the trenches. He clearly needs to talk to someone, but she can’t bear to hear it. See, Mrs C, this is why he needed Byeford. She tells him he’s not a soldier anymore and he says that means he’s nothing. Also, she has no idea what he’s gone through and how he’s feeling. He tells her she shouldn’t have come.

She gets up and leaves the tent, walking through the camp, taking in the horrors around her.

Rosalie bathes the soldier’s face.

Crecy pushes himself into a sitting position, seeming to come to a decision.

Rosalie begins undressing the soldier.

Crecy punches one of his stumps repeatedly and violently, until it bleeds. He lies back, relieved.

Mrs C makes it back to her tent and begins to sob.

Foley passes by a curtained-off bed and hears Flora in there, patiently explaining to a soldier that he’s getting a sponge bath because he’s not strong enough to go to the bath tent, and she’s a trained professional, so chill out already. She turns and sees Foley and angrily draws a curtain between them. Attagirl.

Rosalie is still struggling to take care of that one soldier. She manages to get his shirt off and bathes his back, practically crying the whole time, but when she lays him down and has to start unbuttoning his trousers, she loses it completely and runs off. Maybe this isn’t really the job for you, Rosalie. That poor young man is probably terrified now.

Crecy’s carted off to surgery, passing Catherine along the way and bleeding all over the place.

Grace goes to Mrs C’s tent and tells her that her husband’s in a bad way.

The next morning, things have calmed down somewhat, and Joan emerges from one of the ward tents, looking exhausted. She goes into another one, finds Flora, and asks where Rosalie is. Foley says she ran off, but Flora’s done a fair job. Joan congratulates her on a job well done and Flora turns to Foley and gloats that she’s got grit after all.

Joan finds Rosalie and asks her what happened and how she managed to avoid giving blanket baths during her training. Rosalie, sounding ashamed of herself, says she always went and tidied the linen cupboard. Seriously? What idiot trained her and let he get away with that? Joan asks her why she said she’d done it before, then, and Rosalie says she didn’t want to disappoint Joan. Joan kindly says they’ll get this sorted out.

Crecy’s still alive, which he’s not exactly pleased about. Off to the side of the tent, Grace quietly tells Tom that you can’t make them all want to live. He asks where Mrs C is and she just shakes her head.

Catherine finally gets a letter, but it’s not the good news she was hoping for. It seems like quite the scolding missive, actually. The last words are ‘you are dead to me.’ Catherine goes into the woods for some solitude, but finds Mrs C already there. She asks after Major Crecy and Mrs C hollowly says he hurt himself deliberately. She sobs over the wreck her husband’s become, because nothing can prepare you for the level of damage a man who’s been through battle now lives with. Catherine says that Mrs C should be with him, not out in the woods. Mrs C just can’t handle this, so Catherine shows her the letter, which is from her mother, telling Catherine she’ll never see her daughter again. She goes on to say that Mrs C has way more than most people have, since she has a home and children. While it’s true that she’s gotten off better than many, I do think she has the right to grieve over the life she once had and be pretty freaked out over the difficult future that lies ahead. This is a lot to take in all at once, and she did have quite a shock when she first saw her husband.

Abashed, Mrs C returns to camp and sits at her husband’s side, holding his hand. He’s staring at the ceiling. She tells him he’s not nothing, he’s her husband and their children’s father. He tells her he can’t remember their faces. She firmly says that he will, and he needs to promise not to hurt himself again, because he needs to come home and be everything to his family. She cradles his face in her hands and gently kisses him.

Noah tells George he has to leave and urges him to be a good boy, which is pretty heartbreaking. George remains staring blankly ahead, as always. Man, that’s sad. Noah slowly gets up and leaves the tent.

Joan takes Rosalie to a tent where they’re stashing dead bodies. She uncovers one and Rosalie, again, completely freaks out at the sight of a man’s penis, covering her face and turning around and sounding a bit like she’s going to be sick. Man, is she repressed or what? Did she really go her whole life without seeing male bits? Has she never seen a classical statue or a painting with a nude in it? I get that that’s somewhat different, but still. Joan tells Rosalie that this is a man, and she needs to look at him. She urges Rosalie to be brave and tries to gently turn her around, but Rosalie throws off her hands, calls Joan completely depraved, and runs away.

She runs past Quayle, sobbing, and Quayle asks her what’s wrong. She takes her into her tent and pours her a drink, cooing over her and saying she’s had a terrible shock. I’m sure she’s just delighted to have positive proof that the volunteers are no real good in the wards. Rosalie refuses the drink and Quayle tells her she’ll always be a shoulder for Rosalie to cry on.

Mrs C meets up with Noah, who holds up a tiny envelope with a lock of his son’s hair, to remember the boy by. Ooof. She sincerely tells him how sorry she is.

Grace runs into Catherine and asks her if she got the news she was waiting for. Far from it, Catherine tells her. Grace urges her to throw herself into her work, then. Catherine meets Mrs C’s eye as Mrs C prepares to climb into her car and leave. There’s a pause, and off Mrs C goes.

Catherine goes to the beach again, tears up the letter, and tosses the pieces into the air. Later, Tom comes to the beach and finds her uniform on the sand and Catherine out in the water, squealing and whooping as she jumps in the waves. She comes out of the water in her underwear, holds out her hand for her uniform, which he hands over, and walks calmly away.



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