Both the wives officially look dead inside, folks. Not that I blame them. And Marian started looking that way too, about halfway in. Maybe it was a side effect of whatever Countess Fosco slipped into her tea?
Yes, you read that right. The Creepy Countess seems to have a thing for slipping tea mickeys. First, she gives Marian something that knocks her out, though why she does that I’m not quite sure. Is she jealous of all the flirting going on between Marian and the Count? (And, honestly, Marian, how can you be so thoroughly buying what that icky man is selling? I thought better of you, girl!) The second victim is Fanny, Laura’s maid, who is unceremoniously dismissed by Sir Percival in an attempt to further isolate his wife from anyone who might help or be sympathetic to her. Clearly, Marian is next.
To the surprise of no-one who’s been watching, Laura’s marriage is pure hell. She confesses to Marian that the abuse (both physical and sexual, it would seem) started on the honeymoon, and now he’s on his home turf, Percival’s dialing it right on up. First he throws a massive fit when he hears that Anne’s mother, Mrs Catherick, came by the house and nobody bothered to tell him. Then, he tries to force Laura to sign a document that is clearly going to hand the debt-ridden baronet a sizeable chunk of her fortune.
Laura refuses to sign unless he tells her what the document’s all about, and naturally, Marian backs her, which only sets Percival off once more. He’s talked down by Fosco, who seems to be a Percy whisperer of some kind. Fosco plays the part of being on the ladies’ side, but he’s the one who suggests Percival find a way to separate Laura and Marian. He also reads a letter Marian writes to the Fairley family solicitor, begging for help, and reports back to Sir Percival.
The solicitor, of course, tells Marian to warn Laura not to sign anything until he’s had a chance to look at it. Good luck getting that document away from Sir Percival, ladies. You can be sure he’s keeping that under lock and key. But it seems to be (temporarily, at least) a moot point, because Fosco tells Marian he’s persuaded Percival to let the matter go, for now. She’s so grateful they have a makeout session in the woods, before she pulls herself together and flees.
Laura, meanwhile, goes for a walk and meets up with Anne, who tells her Sir Percival is bad news (as if Laura didn’t already know). Laura asks Anne why Sir Percival put her in the asylum, but Anne hears something, panics, and flees after arranging to meet Laura in the same spot the next day. When Laura returns, she finds a note from Anne, but before she can read it, Percival comes upon her (he almost certainly followed her out there), takes the note, destroys it, and yells at her for speaking to Anne. Then, he locks Laura in her room, fires the maid, and stands a surly maidservant at the door so Marian can’t get in.
But if he thinks Laura’s going to break easily, he’s wrong. She’s standing strong, for now.
The Foscos are still playing everyone, it seems. Eleanor the Creepy Countess tells Marian that her brother disapproved of her marriage so much he cut her off from her inheritance. She also seems to disapprove of his insistence that Laura marry Sir Percival, angrily commenting that men run everything in women’s lives, even from beyond the grave. She’s speaking Marian’s language! And, when Percival goes off on one of his wobblers, she defends Laura, telling him she will not remain in a house where a lady is treated thus.
But then, you know, she poisons people at her husband’s behest. Oh, and that inheritance? Well, it turns out she’ll get it if Laura dies before she does. So now SHE has a vested interest in Laura’s demise as well.
And Fosco himself, well, he’s laying it on thick with Marian, charming the household staff, playing the friend to Laura, but also reporting back to Percival. Also, there’s something sinister going on with him: for some reason that is not yet explained, he can’t go back to his home in Sicily. And Percival knows why.
So, yes, this is all getting quite knotty indeed. Time for Marian to call in some reinforcements!