Where were we? Right—Previously on The Village: Caro’s family took her baby away, which upset her quite a bit, as did George’s determination to march off to war, so she begged him to stay. Eyre was less determined to go—so much less so, he had to be forced into it. He went, giving Bert his camera, accompanied by Joe, who came back for a brief leave a fairly haunted man.
Elderly Bert holds up one finger to show off his ‘war wound’, sustained in the annual Rondo—a wheelbarrow race around the cricket pitch. It was traditionally run by men, but since almost all the men were off to war, they opened it to boys the year Bert ran. He made a bet with himself that, if he won the race, Joe would be safe.
In the past, Bert gets a message from Joe in their secret code, which indicates he’s going over the top. Shit. He doesn’t tell his parents, because they’re concerned for little baby Mary, who’s sick with scarlet fever. Once the doctor makes his diagnosis, Grace tries to hold it together and asks if there’s anything they can do. Cold flannels and prayer are apparently their only options.
Martha delivers a huge meat pie and offers to pray for the baby. As he shows her out, John wonders if the baby’s illness is punishment for his past sins. I think you’ve been punished sufficiently, John. I think you all have, and really, it’s pretty selfish to think that this is only impacting you. Why would Grace and the baby be suffering punishment as well?
Inside, Grace asks Bert not to tell Joe about Mary, and then gently breaks the news that he’ll have to go stay with Margaret, the mother of Joe’s now-deceased friend, because scarlet fever’s contagious. She sees him off, and Bert loads up his wheelbarrow and goes.
At church, the rev calls for congregants to come forward and be saved. After some thought, John gets up and comes forward, as Martha smiles encouragingly. He kneels at the altar and begins to pray desperately.
Grace rocks the baby, crying and scared.
After the service, Martha catches George and asks how his sister is. She also asks after the cow, Martha, which I guess has been poorly lately. George says she’s doing great, because they gave her something called three-in-one, which farmers all swear by as a miracle cure, with some even giving it to their children. Ding! Ding! Ding! This moment has been brought to you by Awkward Expository Dialogue, hamfistedly imparting information to audiences for more than 50 years! John listens in, off to the side. George and Martha wander a little further away from the crowd and he says he’s sure everyone’s wondering why he isn’t off at the Front like everyone else. Oh, sweetie, they’re not wondering. They know. Bairstow, whose job in this village is still a complete mystery, stops John and confirms that, in order to be square with God, you have to confess all your sins. John suggests he give it a try.
Bairstow swings by the Allinghams’ and has a chat with Edmund, who smokes and tells Bairstow he needs him to be his eyes and ears in the village. Jesus, did they actually wait this long to give this guy an actual job to do? Bairstow’s fine with that, as long as the price is right.
Inside, Caro’s frantically doing laundry. Clem comes in and tries to stop her, but she keeps wringing things out crazily, even when George tries to get her to stop.
Martha walks John home, and he pauses to very earnestly thank her for bringing him back to the path of righteousness and tells her that, if there’s anything at all he can do, she need only ask. ‘The reformed soul makes the ideal missionary,’ she immediately replies. Martha, are you freaking kidding me? For one thing, there’s a massive war on, which makes travel difficult to say the least. And even setting that aside, this man has a wife and two small children relying on him, and the family’s barely hanging on as it is. You know this. What are you thinking suggesting he pack it up and travel to the ends of the earth to preach the good word? Why don’t you go be a missionary?
As soon as she sees him approaching, Grace comes running out of the house and calls him in. Looks like Mary’s still in a bad way. John looks on helplessly as she whimpers and Grace tries to soothe her. He finally gets up, heads out, and breaks into the Allinghams’ cow shed, where he helps himself to a bottle of the three-in-one, cutting his hand on the door in the process. As he’s heading home, the Good Neighbour sees him go by.
Back at the house, John waits for Grace to fall asleep, and then feeds some of the medicine to the baby, who takes it pretty readily, for a toddler being given something that probably tastes like ass.
The next morning, Grace wakes to find Mary sitting up in bed, fever gone, breathing much better. It’s a miracle! John actually says that.
Meanwhile, at the Allinghams’, George lets himself into the cowshed, only to find poor Martha lying on her side, slashed up and bleeding heavily. He has no choice but to grab a shotgun and tearfully put her out of her misery.
Martha (the human) of course shows up at Grace and John’s to thank the Lord for saving Mary. It’s like this woman has some sort of religious radar or something. John prays like his life depends on it.
Afterwards, Grace heads to the church for a little heart-to-heart with Reverend Lane during which we learn that he’s taken over teaching the village kids following the departure of both the teachers. I’ll bet that dried up Bert’s revenue stream from the protection racket. After some hemming and hawing, she admits to Lane that she’s jealous of God for basically being the centre of her husband’s world these days. Lane understands that she’s frustrated, because she was the one who held the family together until John turned around, and now God’s getting all the credit. This guy’s got way more of a clue than his daughter, that’s for sure. He kindly takes her hand and says he understands.
Bairstow’s on the Cow Case, and his first stop is at Lane’s, because he wants the Rev to help control the locals’ reaction. He mentions that a bottle of three-in-one was taken, presumably by the same person who mutilated Martha. Grace had mentioned John getting his hands on the medicine, so as soon as Bairstow brings it up, Lane gets an ‘awww, crap,’ look on his face.
John returns home after spreading the word all afternoon and finds Grace cuddling the baby. He asks if supper’s ready, and she says no, clearly afraid he’s going to react violently, even though it’s pretty clear he’s been a changed man for some time now. Odd. Instead, he offers to help her find God. She shortly says she doesn’t want God, she wants her husband. Fair enough. God sure doesn’t keep you warm at night.
Lane has mentioned John’s probable theft of the medicine to Martha, who can’t believe he’d do that, or attack the cow. Lane tells her the evidence is a bit damning, and that having faith doesn’t make someone infallible. Martha starts to cry and begs him to keep this secret, because if this ever got out, he’d be condemned without question because of his past misdeeds.
The Allinghams have brought in a doctor for Caro. He tells her, again and again, to lie down, and after some protest, she does. He goes on to say that she’ll lie in her bed without doing anything until he gives her leave to move. She’ll be fed seven times a day and will not speak unless spoken to. So, basically, he wants to turn her into a breathing doll. He’s about the creepiest person I’ve seen on TV in a long time. He even bitches at her for tearing up without permission.
Downstairs, he tells Clem and the boys that Caro is attention-seeking and self-pitying and they’re feeding that. He tells them they have to place all their trust in him. Greeeeeat.
Bairstow discusses the Cow Case with the local constable, and then they go and chat with the Good Neighbour, who tells them he saw John coming home late the night before.
Off to John’s they go, to ask him where he was the night before. He claims he was home. Bairstow and the constable agree that he was probably lying, but Bairstow isn’t sure that means he’s guilty. He suggests setting a watch on the cowshed that night, to see who turns up, figuring the really guilty party wouldn’t show his face.
John, of course, shows up to return the medicine, and Bairstow sees him and confronts him over it the following day. John defends himself, saying it wasn’t stealing, because it was just a tiny bit of medicine for the baby, and he returned it! Bairstow tells the constable that the person who attacked the cow would have blood all over them, so they start to search his wardrobe for something bloodstained.
Outside, Bert and one of his friends play at war, with Bert wearing one of his father’s shirts. As Bairstow and the constable leave, they see the boys, and note that the shirt Bert’s wearing has bloodstains on it.
John’s marched off to jail, and Grace tells Bert he’ll have to go back to Margaret’s, because she has to work. Bert hates going there, because Margaret’s so terribly sad all the time. I don’t understand why Bert, who’s surely old enough to be able to be left on his own for a bit during the day, has to go stay with a grieving woman, but Mary can stay home with Grace. Surely Bert, who’s supposed to be about 14 at this point, could watch Mary while his mother’s at work? Or shouldn’t she be with Margaret too? I’m confused by this.
Martha’s newest demand of her employer is that he show the ladies how much he appreciates them. Oh, come on, Martha. What do you want, a pat on the head? A gold star? Do you need validation this badly? I’m not saying workers shouldn’t be appreciated, but pouting to your boss that he doesn’t love you enough is not a good way to help women gain inroads into the workplace. I find it really hard to believe any of the men who used to work there went whining to Hankin, telling him he needed to show his appreciation. Hankin’s probably counting the days until the war ends and he can fire these demanding women and hire back the men.
Martha decides the best way Hankin can show his appreciation is by allowing Grace to bring her baby into a factory for the day. I can’t count how many ways this is a terrible, stupid idea. Hankin is not on board with this, but Martha insists Grace doesn’t have a choice. Yes she does! Margaret! Who’s going to look after this baby all day while Grace works, and make sure she doesn’t lose a finger in the machinery or something? This isn’t a crèche, it’s a goddamn factory! With sharp, dangerous, moving machinery! God, I can’t stand Martha.
Bert’s in school, now happily writing with his left hand, because Lane doesn’t care. He asks the class where the Vikings came from, and this turns into a debate with one of the kids over whether or not Germans are evil.
Margaret receives her son’s uniform and personal effects and unpacks them lovingly.
Agnes, dead Paul’s fiancée, is getting screwed by Bairstow, seemingly without either one of them taking any pieces of clothing off. That’s impressive, and also kinda depressing. He notes she has a nasty cough and, for some reason, asks what Martha has to say about it. Presumably because Martha has something to say about everything. He goes on to call Martha a fine woman, which is kind of a shitty thing to say when you have your dick in someone else, right? Agnes asks if he likes Martha more than her, and all he says is that he can’t find a weakness in Martha, but maybe it takes another woman to find a woman’s weakness. Agnes knows that Martha does, in fact, have a weakness, and then begs him to tell her he loves her. He gets violent for a moment, acting like he’s about to throttle her, but then stops himself and obliges her.
Bairstow reports back to Edmund that Martha’s whipping up all the women in the factory and could cause some serious trouble. Edmund sniffs that George is in love with her, and Bairstow tells him knowingly that Martha’s not in love with George.
Caro gets a visit from George, who asks what they feed her. Milk, apparently. Yum.
Creepy Doc is complaining to Edmund that he doesn’t have sufficient control to cure Caro. Clem comes in and hands it over to him. He also gets a name—Dr Wylie.
Grace stops by the jail to tell John that everyone’s ok and to ask how he is. The Lord is with him. So, good, I guess?
Margaret, wearing her son’s medal pinned to her jacket, gets a pint at the Lamb and is joined by Bairstow, who needlessly stirs the pot by commenting that not having a body to bury makes it easier for them to lie to you about how the soldier died. What an asshole this man is. Who says something like that to a grieving mother? He guesses that Joe knows how Paul really died, and he probably told someone while he was home. For some reason, she thanks him for that. I’m not a parent, but I think I would actually prefer to think that my kid died a quick, fairly painless death than to go sniffing around to find out what kind of agony he really died in. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, you know? But like I said, I’m not a parent.
Lane, walking down the street, hears John loudly praying inside the jail. The constable tells him he can go in and give the man a word of comfort, but Lane says no. The constable tells him that they’ll be coming for John on Monday.
Margaret has parked herself in the bathhouse and is asking every woman who comes in if Joe told them that Paul’s death was quick. Yikes, lady! The new Mrs Hankin comes in, all dressed up and sporting a hell of an attitude. She shortly tells Margaret that she needs to speak to her, pulls her aside, and coldly tells her that Paul died some time ago and that her failure to come to terms with it is not ok. She goes on to say that Margaret’s bitterness is selfish and the whole village may be forced to turn away from her because of it. Woah, there, Mrs H. It’s clear that someone’s taking her new social position in the village a little too seriously, but even so, what kind of a cold-hearted person says this to a grieving mother? Her son died under terrible and tragic circumstances, and it happened, what, a few months ago? That’s no time at all, when you’ve lost a child. I agree that parking yourself in the bathhouse to quiz everyone who walks in is a poor idea and may be taking things a tad too far, but showing zero compassion, ordering her to get over it, and calling her selfish for not getting over her child’s death fast enough for you is beyond outrageous. Margaret, awesomely, asks Mrs H who the hell she thinks she is. ‘I’m the appointed spokesman of the church craft league,’ is the answer, which I, for some reason, find hilarious. Is the craft league now dictating grief intervals? Margaret informs Mrs H that she has no idea how her son died, and that his best friend was sent home to lie to her, so yeah, she’s kinda bitter.
Back home, Margaret shows Lane that there’s no blood or hole over the heart on her son’s uniform, so she’s thinking gas got him. Lane has no way to respond to this and suggests she talk to Martha. He stumbles out of the house and immediately meets up with Mrs H, who snips that Margaret’s clearly poisonous. Screw you, you odious harpy.
Later, Martha finds her father sitting in the church. He tells her he needs her to take over teaching at the school. She insists the women at the factory need her, but he says he needs her, and that he’s her father. Everyone’s trying to get everyone else in line this episode.
George pays Caro another visit and lies down in bed next to her. He whispers that he won’t let them do this to her, except he already has, so that’s a rather empty promise.
Downstairs, Clem fixes her hair before she meets with Wylie and tells him there’s something he needs to know. He gets up really close to her, and for some reason she seems enthralled by him, but then she collects herself and just says that she’s so glad he’s there.
On his way out, Wylie tells George he doesn’t want him talking to Caro. George says Wylie’s trying to break her spirit. ‘Of course,’ says Wylie matter-of-factly. ‘She must be taught to make the will of the man her own. How else do you think she can be cured?’ Dear God, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. George doesn’t think the man wants to cure her at all, he’s just on a power trip. Wylie smirks that this is just displaced anger, because George is frustrated that Caro kept him from going to France. Oh, he’s one of those psychiatrists. No emotion is ever justified for its own sake, it’s always just misplaced from somewhere else.
George takes his anger outside, where he paces up and down, reciting poetry.
Caro has decided to try and assert herself by refusing to eat. So, Wylie and the nurse force-feed her. And it’s awful. Let’s move on, shall we?
Later, George comes in to find Caro lying in bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling, as Wylie stands by and mocks George’s poetry. George tells Caro he’s sorry, as she turns away from him.
Downstairs, Wylie tells Edmund and Clem that it would be best for George to leave. Not just leave, go to war. Jesus, Wylie. That’s pretty messed up.
Having done that, he goes upstairs, sends the nurse away, and tells her to lock the door. Once she’s gone, he removes his jacket and we hear him unzip his fly. And now I’m actually vomiting.
Caro’s finally allowed to leave her bed and eat lunch with the rest of the family, Wylie sitting beside her. Clem smiles, pleased by her daughter’s progress, but then she notices Wylie holding Caro’s hand and looks fairly alarmed. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK!
Martha quits her work at the factory, but before she can leave, Grace tells her that she’ll step up to carry on the fight. Yeah, because it’s not like Grace really needs the job in order to survive, unlike Martha.
Bert stops outside the jail and stares at it, while inside, John practices boxing to pass the time.
On the cricket pitch, Bert practices for the race.
Bathhouse. Grace and Margaret talk about their lives. Margaret admits that she misses her son very, very much and Grace says this is the only place she feels safe. That’s pretty sad. They share a laugh, and Grace observes that it’s good they’re talking. This is easily one of the best scenes this episode, two old friends, sad for different reasons, reaching out and finally managing to grab hold of each other. Not much is actually said, but it’s pretty beautiful. I think the actress who plays Grace is my favourite—she’s delicate, and manages to exhibit a great deal of depth with few words.
At home, Grace pours some tea for herself and Bert and tells him his father did the Rondo the first year they were married and came in second. She laughs at the memory and recalls how happy they were. Bert asks her if she’ll come and watch the race.
At the Allinghams’, Clem’s husband arms himself with a shotgun, walks into the cowshed, and systematically shoots all the animals dead before turning the gun on himself. Jesus. Is anyone in this family sane? WTH?
The rest of the family’s with the villagers at the race, and Edmond gets to announce the person who has the honour of starting it. Mrs H starts preening immediately, but the honour goes to Margaret. HA! Take that, you hateful cow! The race begins, and everyone cheers the kids on as Old Bert smiles gleefully at the memory. Grace weeps, sad, nostalgic, and proud. Bert wins. He plunks down on the grass afterwards, and the Good Neighbour’s asshole son deliberately runs over his finger. His ‘war wound’.
Later, the most recent casualty lists arrive at Hankin’s shop, and it looks like bad news for the village. Even Mrs H blanches when she sees it. Hope you don’t spend too long grieving over anyone on that, Mrs H. The women flock to see it, and a few turn away, weeping. Grace fights to the front, but it doesn’t look like Joe’s name is on there.
Instead of lying dead on a battlefield, Joe is once again tramping home, mud-stained, and exhausted. Or maybe that was just a fantasy sequence. With that, the credits roll in absolute silence.
Ooof. If I wasn’t tired before, I sure as hell am now. This was a rough one, all about control and submission, and it was depressing to see so many people forced to submit to people who didn’t deserve to be listened to. And can the whole situation with Caro get any more depressing at this point? How long will it be before she just decides to end it all? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it went that way. Clearly there’s mental instability in that family. And on that note—what the hell was up with Lord Allingham killing the cows and (presumably) maiming Martha? What a completely bizarre thing to do. Hope we get a few answers on that, although, since he’s dead, I wouldn’t count on it. Very, very odd.
Well, I’m back to unpacking. Have a good one!