Vanity Fair Episode 5 Recap: Battles Won and Lost

Last week, we headed for Belgium to party with our… well, not heroes. Our characters, I suppose. War is fun! Until it becomes an actual war! And that’s where we pick up this week: the battles are beginning, and while the soldiers are all keeping as stoic as possible, most of the civilians left behind in the city are basically crapping themselves. Seems most of the horses have been requisitioned by the army, which I guess didn’t actually bring enough to fully cover their needs, leaving expensive carriages just languishing in the hotel courtyard. One of those carriages contains Lord and Lady Bareacres, and her ladyship is none too pleased with this situation. She tells her husband to get out there and find them some horses.

Guess who has horses? Becky, of course. Why her two weren’t taken is anyone’s guess–maybe because of Rawdon’s position they got preferential treatment. Being Becky, she’s seeing this as an excellent opportunity to make a small fortune.

Amelia, meanwhile, is languishing in bed while Mrs O’Dowd tends to her. Jesus, Amelia, self-indulgent much? This woman’s got a husband marching off to battle too! Maybe we’re supposed to put this down to early morning sickness or something. Let’s be generous and do that.

Becky just relaxes nonchalantly in the restaurant like the French army isn’t bearing down on them all. And why should she worry, really? Rawdon, being a member of the general’s staff, gets to watch the battles from a very safe distance instead of marching right into the thick of it like George and Dobbin. The two of them acquit themselves well, although Dobbin does a stupidly noble thing and actually forces his troops to hold up their defence while he runs out to the field and retrieves a wounded man, just as the French army is charging. It’s great he saved that one guy and all, but he seriously endangered his own men and is lucky he wasn’t court-martialed.

Lady Bareacres hears that Becky has horses and sends first her maid, and then her husband to bargain with her. Becky sends them both away, so her ladyship herself descends and offers Becky whatever the hell she wants. Becky turns her down flat. Quite rudely, really. In the book, it’s because Lady B was quite rude and dismissive to Becky during their time in Belgium, but I don’t think we saw any of that here, so this particular move seems bizarre and petty. Not that it isn’t petty and quite stupid in the book, mind. Really, Becky, you’re trying to establish yourself in high society and you go and make an enemy of one of its most prominent members? You may be a schemer, but you’re a really poor planner.

Lady B goes away empty-handed, and Becky ends up selling her horses to Jos Sedley, for a whole lotta money. He tries to get Amelia to leave with him, but she refuses to go without her husband, so he and his valet take off without her.

And it’s all for nought, her staying, because George is shot and killed in battle.

Amelia is left a pregnant widow, to Dobbin’s distress. He tries appealing to Mr Osbourne on her behalf, but Osbourne refuses to have anything to do with her, because his son had the gall to go and die without making amends with his father. This guy is a class-A narcissist. No wonder George was such a piece of work.

Amelia returns to her family, gives birth to a son with whom she’s absolutely crazy besotted, and 100% friendzones Dobbin. He accepts it, stopping by her house with gifts for her son, until he’s sent with the rest of the regiment to India. While there, he takes one last crack at getting the Osbournes to come around, this time by appealing to George’s sister. She goes to spy on Amelia and her son in the park (the kid looks to be about 5 or so at this point) and then reports to her father that little George is so like his father that it kind of broke her heart. Osbourne then goes to see the boy himself and offers Amelia an allowance if she’ll let him basically take the kid and raise him. Don’t do it, Amelia!

I’d like to point out that Amelia’s family is still living pretty poor, so Jos still hasn’t done anything to help them, despite obviously having been back in Europe recently. What’s going on there?

Becky and Rawdon apparently hang around in Europe for at least another nine months or so, because when they return they’re toting an infant. Rawdon loves the kid (also named Rawdon); Becky… not so much. Like we ever thought she’d be the maternal type?

She steers Rawdon and the tot right to Miss Crawley’s house, arriving just in time to be there when the old lady dies. Any hopes of a nice settlement are shortly dashed–Rawdon is left almost nothing, with the bulk of the estate going to his brother, Bute.

Rawdon’s not happy about this, of course; especially since he and Becky have recently rented a house in Mayfair from… Miss Crawley’s grocer? Ok, I have questions. Yes, the man mentioned a couple of episodes back that he was buying a property to let, but how the hell did he manage to afford a place in Mayfair? A very nicely furnished place too! He’s a grocer, and he’s making his own deliveries, which suggests he has few or no employees which means he does not have that much money! Yeah, ok, he might be saving money by doing the deliveries himself instead of hiring someone, but still. Mayfair?

Becky’s new plan to keep herself and Rawdon out of the red is to turn one of the rooms in the house into a small gambling den. Strictly between friends, you know. They’ll have people over, she’ll play piano, Rawdon will fleece away. Rawdon declares this a very clever plan, but isn’t this basically what they’ve been doing all along?

So, the years roll along. Becky charms and sings French songs while her husband gambles and her son sneaks a peek at the door. Rawdon bundles the kid back off to bed just as a new guest arrives: Lord Steyne, who makes it clear he holds Rawdon in some contempt (he calls him ‘Mrs Crawley’s husband). But then, Steyne seems like the type to hold just about everyone in contempt. Becky may well be in over her head with this one.

3 thoughts on “Vanity Fair Episode 5 Recap: Battles Won and Lost

  1. In the book, it’s because Lady B was quite rude and dismissive to Becky during their time in Belgium, but I don’t think we saw any of that here, so this particular move seems bizarre and petty.

    I recall Lady Bareacres being rather snobby towards Becky in the previous episode.

    I have to say that this episode featured the best depiction of the Battle of Waterloo I have ever seen in any adaptation of “Vanity Fair”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.