I walked into the sitting room on Sunday night and said to my husband, ‘Gentleman Jack or Handmaid’s Tale?’ And he said either one, but pointed out that only one of those was uplifting. Gentleman Jack it was, then, because I had no idea of the whammy that was coming at the end. So much for uplifting.
Things start off all cheery. Anne and Ann W are off to York, ostensibly to take Ann to a doctor for her nerves, but really so the pair can have a dirty weekend away from prying eyes. They don’t know that back home, Eliza’s been telling everyone who’ll listen what she saw in the drawing room. Not that it’s likely to come as a huge surprise to most people, who already seem to be wise to Anne’s sexual preferences and don’t really seem to care all that much.
There is a little concern, because two men in a nearby town were hanged for having an “inappropriate” relationship, but honestly, under the laws of the time, these two women didn’t really have much to fear. Sodomy was definitely against the law and therefore legally punishable. But the men in charge of lawmaking couldn’t conceive of a way in which two women would manage to have sex (which gives you a lovely glimpse into what their marriages must have been like), so lesbian relationships were actually not against the law at all. Plenty of women lived together as “companions”, as Anne is proposing, but most of their families and friends knew what was really going on. So, while they might encounter some censure from the locals, I doubt a mob’s going to gather and string the pair of them up anytime soon. They both seem too well liked and respected for that, if we’re honest.
The doctor gives Ann a clean bill of health and the two Ann/es head home, only to be met with the news that a dear friend of Ann W’s has died in a horrible accident. Thrown from a carriage, apparently. (So. Many. Carriage. Accidents!)
Anne applies herself to comforting her lover. But because she’s also a very practical person, so also sets about doing some damage control, paying a visit to Eliza and her husband with Ann so it seems like everything is totally normal and they have absolutely nothing to hide. Nothing at all!
She also takes care of business, visiting a mine and learning about child labour, making peace with Marian, who apologises for their fight, and jerking the Rawsons around.
Oh, the Rawsons. It seems like it might have actually been Christopher driving the gig? Whatever, it was one of the Rawson brothers, and now Anne has managed to winnow a fair bit of information about that gig out of Jeremiah. He’s come to complain about their deal not including both the coal beds, and she practically laughs in his face before offering the second bed at a slightly cut rate that is still obviously more than he’s willing to pay. Not that he has much of a choice if he wants to prevent her from discovering and proving the coal theft. She has him and his brother over a barrel, and their Aunt Agatha-esque mother is kind of gleeful about that.
Anne also offers Thomas Sowden the tenancy on his family’s farm, provided his MIA drunken asshole dad doesn’t suddenly show up. Thomas knows he won’t, but with so many mentions of people going to visit the pigs, how long is it going to be before he’s found out?
Though, even if he is, maybe Anne’ll go easy on him and look the other way. She doesn’t dismiss Eugenie, even after finding out about her pregnancy, though in that case it probably helped that Eugenie ultimately miscarries, so there’s not really much to dismiss her for.
The miscarriage, of course, means Eugenie’s engagement to John is off, which makes him a bit sad. But it does result in some really sweet scenes between Eugenie and the housekeeper and John and Anne, and it’s possible there’s hope yet, so we’ll see.
In the midst of all the business dealing, Ann W summons Anne, who of course rushes to her grieving girlfriend’s side. But she’s in for a nasty surprise: Ann has received a letter from her late friend’s fresh widower, Rev Ainesworth, in which, according to Ann, he makes it clear he intends to marry her. Anne starts processing quite a lot all at once, including jealousy, anger, and disgust that this guy would be descending on a second wife within hours of his first one being buried. What a winner he seems to be. Anne asks to see the letter but Ann refuses to hand it over, saying it’s private.
Although Anne gets a bit shouty, she ends up spending the night. But the next morning she tells Ann she can have the weekend to figure out whether she wants to accept this proposal or not. Poor Ann gets really upset and stressed out, as is her wont, but Anne just grabs her stuff and goes home.
There, she takes to her diary and tries to convince herself that Ann means nothing to her and a breakup would be fine. JUST FINE! But then she starts throwing up and bellows to the heavens not to do this to her again, so we know she’s just covering.
Anne goes back to Ann W’s house to get her answer, and boy does she get more than she bargained for. You know Ann’s frailty, her much-talked-about nervous condition? Yeah, it’s freaking PTSD because it turns out that while she was staying with her friend one time Reverend Ainsworth raped her. And he’s now using his sexual assault to basically blackmail Ann into marriage.
Jesus. I was NOT expecting that at all. I mean, I wasn’t expecting last week’s murder, either, so maybe I just need to drop any and all expectations here.
So, yeah, Ainsworth is THE WORST. He can now join Whitworth on my new list of Terrible Clergymen from TV Dramas who Deserve Fates Worse Than Death. And this really puts a lot of Ann’s behaviour in a whole new light, doesn’t it? Remember how she completely lost it and thought Anne would never come back after she put the brakes on their makeout session a little while back? Man, I feel terrible for thinking she was just a fragile little hysteric.
Because girls were taught certain things in those days, poor Ann now thinks this guy has a genuine claim to her. That he has, in effect, marked his territory and now she has no choice but to agree to marry him, however awful that seems to her.
Anne, of course, is completely horrified and immediately slips into a fascinating combination of concerned/loving/enraged/protective/murderous. She embraces Ann tightly, reassures her that she owes this man NOTHING, and she’ll take care of it.
‘What are you going to do?’ Ann asks.
‘I don’t know,’ Anne replies. But we know it’s gonna be something. And it’s gonna be goooooood.