Previously on The Crimson Field: Quayle and Grace had a falling out, as did Catherine and Rosalie. Joan’s German fiancé escaped from a POW transport so he could drop in and say hi, and Soper caught her helping the guy escape on her motorbike.
Tom bandages up Joan’s hand, which has apparently been injured at some point. She asks if her fiancé, Anton, has been caught and Tom says he hasn’t, but it’d be better for her if he had.
Flash back to two weeks before the war began. Anton and Joan cuddle in bed and he tries to reassure her that the war won’t happen. A little later, she clings to him as he gets ready to leave. He’s heading back to Germany to attend to his sick father. She admits she’s scared.
Back in the present, Soper directs his men in setting up a room for Joan’s interrogation. One of them sets out a chair for Joan, but Soper indicates that he’s to put it aside, and replaces it with a chalk X on the ground instead.
In the wards, Flora chatters away, wondering if they’ll get into trouble for…knowing Joan, I guess. Catherine tries to tune her out and Rosalie reminds Flora that they’re not supposed to talk about this. Flora pouts that she liked Joan and Catherine immediately rounds on her for the use of the past tense and accuses her of turning her back on Joan. Flora refuses to be cowed and reminds Catherine that she has brothers fighting in this war. That’s fair, Catherine. Catherine asks Rosalie if she’s going to turn against Joan as well. Rosalie repeats that they’re not supposed to talk about this, so she’s not going to talk about it. Catherine’s disgusted by her lack of interest in engaging in this debate. Actually, she’s just upset that everyone isn’t agreeing with her.
Grace tells Brett that Purbright has arrived to oversee Joan’s interrogation. Wow, he got there fast. Joan was just caught the night before, right? I’m guessing that’s the case, since she’s only just having that hand patched up. Grace thinks Brett should distance himself from this situation and let Grace take the rap, since Joan’s her nurse and her responsibility. He refuses, because ultimately the hospital buck stops with him. He guesses Joan must have been desperate.
Joan’s marched to the interrogation room and made to stand on the X. Purbright formally informs her that she’s accused of helping a German POW escape. She desperately tries to explain that this isn’t what it looks like. It isn’t? That’s exactly what happened, in a nutshell. Purbright ignores her and says she just needs to answer truthfully, so a full report can be made to the next higher-ups and the Army Medical Corps can whitewash the whole incident as effectively as possible. He reminds her that she’s subject to military law, which means that on conviction, she could face a firing squad. Joan starts to look truly terrified.
Catherine paces at the edge of the camp, and when Tom comes by she accosts him and asks how Joan is. He shortly replies that she’s as well as can be expected, but he doesn’t know why Catherine cares. Actually, I don’t either. Why’s Catherine so gung-ho Team Joan? I don’t recall the two of them being terribly close. Is it because Catherine’s refusing to pass judgment, considering her own situation? Then why is she being so hostile to everyone else? Oh, right, because that’s just how Catherine is, and to be fair to her, it’s easy to see why she’d be so prickly after having to deal with that douchebag of a husband, but still. It seems like she’s gone so far in the direction of not being judgmental against Joan that now she’s just being judgmental against everyone else, and I think the others have a right to be pretty pissed off at Joan right now. As far as they’re aware, she helped one more German return to his army to continue killing their friends and loved ones. I’d be mad at her too. To bring it into more recent history: imagine someone working with the British or American forces in Iraq helping an Al Qaeda prisoner escape.
Tom reminds her that they’re at war here and he’s on the front lines of seeing just what that war is doing to people. Catherine snaps that Joan wasn’t going to meet Anton, she thought she was just going to fetch a letter. Tom asks how she knows that and Catherine lies that she just guessed. Tom can’t believe she didn’t say anything, and now Brett could lose his job over it. He warns Catherine that she could be in serious trouble if anyone ever found out about this.
Soper’s giving evidence, explaining how he came to stumble across Joan (lying that he had business in the village, conveniently leaving out any information on his black marketing). He tells Purbright that he saw Joan give the German her coat and bike and he would have arrested them both, but he was alone and unarmed. Purbright asks how Joan’s hand was injured and Soper says that she tried to stop the guards removing the engagement ring she wore around her neck. He’s dismissed. Joan’s been left standing this whole time, and Brett asks if she can have a chair. She’s given one. Purbright now asks her point-blank if she came to France in order to communicate information to the enemy. She denies it, saying she came to France to nurse.
Outside, new wounded are coming in, and they include one cheeky young man with a burned leg and a man wearing spectacles who’s got a serious fever. Rosalie helps him to bed, hearing from Cheeky Chappie that the man’s a stretcher bearer. Once in bed, the man says he can hear the injured calling. Rosalie reassures him there’s no one calling. Flora swings by CC’s bed and notes that his name is James Foley. She asks him if he has a brother, but he says nothing.
Rosalie runs into Catherine at the laundry and Catherine asks if they can put aside their differences. Haven’t they already? It seemed like they were getting along ok last episode. Catherine says she has a nasty temper and she’s sorry she let it get the best of her. Rosalie snaps back that she knows all about Catherine and her sordid past and accuses her of trying to wipe the slate clean. She adds that Catherine’s a hypocrite, coming to France to escape, just as Rosalie did.
Anton’s still on the run through the woods.
Joan’s getting the full story on how Anton escaped. He stood out from the other prisoners by speaking great English, so he was invited by the officer in charge to join him for tea. And Anton cracked the guy across the jaw and escaped. Those were politer times. Purbright asks if she knows Anton and she answers that she does.
Flora finds Foley at the incinerator and comments that it’s awful what’s happening to Joan. He asks what she wants and she tells him about the recently arrived Foley, adding that he’s not badly hurt.
Foley finds Jimmy on the ward and wakes him, joking that he always was a lieabed. They embrace and Jimmy shows him the burn, telling him he spilled bacon fat over it.
Purbright goes back to Joan’s arrival, asking if she acquired the motorbike to use to help Anton. She says she didn’t. He asks about her acquaintance with the Belgian and his daughter and she says she just happened to be the nurse who treated her. When asked, she says she didn’t know the man before she came to France, that there was no conspiracy here and she didn’t plan any of this. Purbright is convinced she did.
Foley shows Jimmy, his brother, his tent and Jimmy poutily asks Foley why he left, adding that nobody talks about him back home. Foley gets super defensive and goes to send Jimmy back to the ward. Jimmy brings up the possibility of going home, due to the burned leg, and that sets off alarm bells for Foley, who demands to know if he burned himself to get sent back. Jimmy admits that he did, because life in the trenches is just that hellish. Disgusted, Foley tells Jimmy he’s ashamed of him.
Purbright asks Joan how he met Anton. They met in Liverpool in 1909, but she hid the relationship after the war started because of the stigma. Purbright hisses that she lied to gain people’s trust.
Grace finds Quayle waiting for her outside her office and asks what she’s doing back two days early. Quayle says that staying with her brother wasn’t much fun, so here she is. She’s been filled in on the Joan situation and sympathetically says it must have been sooo hard for Grace to deal with all this. Grace just asks if Quayle had a think while she was away. Quayle did, and she apologises for having been so mean and promises never to challenge Grace again. Before she goes, Grace tells her that all senior staff are going to be questioned over Brett’s leadership abilities, and this isn’t the time for anyone to let slip that he countermanded a senior officer’s order. She asks if Quayle still has the Blighty ticket and Quayle swears she destroyed it before suggesting the two of them go speak to Purbright together. She leaves, and someone comes in with a telegram for Brett. She dismissively tells him to leave it on Brett’s desk, but the man indicates it’s one of those telegrams.
Grace goes to the interrogation room and has a word in Purbright’s ear before leading Brett outside. She sadly hands him the telegram and he looks devastated but holds himself together. She tells him how sorry she is and leaves him alone. He goes back inside, still carrying the telegram. Purbright notices and looks briefly sad for him before going back to accusing Joan of being a spy. She insists she’s a nurse and nothing else. He asks again if she came to France to communicate with the enemy and she sobs that all she wanted was a letter to tell her if Anton was still alive. He again asks if she came to France to communicate with the enemy and she says yes, probably because she realizes they’re not going to let up until she does. Brett looks devastated.
Later, Joan lies on her bed, staring into the distance and remembering Anton giving her the ring along with the rather trite ‘don’t answer me now’ line. Who really says that?
Anton’s asleep in the woods and is awakened by the noise of some bird or animal. He starts moving again.
Foley comes across Brett, standing in the door of his office, looking sorrowful. Foley expresses condolences on the loss of Brett’s son and Brett bursts into tears, thanks Foley, retreats inside, and starts wailing. You know, I found this episode especially hard to watch because of this subplot. I kept glancing over at my baby, cooing and gurgling and grinning up at the light show on the canopy of his swing and thought with absolute horror of how devastating it would be if anything happened to him. So I really felt for Brett right there.
The next day, Flora comforts Jimmy, who’s childishly sobbing that he hates Foley. She relates, as one who has siblings too.
Foley himself is delivering some food to Joan, but before he leaves it, he adds a bit of spittle to it and calls her a traitor.
Purbright meets Grace and shortly tells her he’s going to have to speak with her staff again.
Joan’s marched in front of him so she can be told that Edith Cavell, a British nurse working in German-occupied Belgium, had been executed. She bursts into tears and asks why and is told Edith was aiding the escape of Allied prisoners from German territory. So, she’s going to be a saint and Joan’s situation is looking even more dire.
Grace breaks the news to the other nurses and volunteers.
Purbright tells Joan that military intelligence will arrive soon, which she realizes means she’s going to be court martialed for treason. Purbright, surprisingly gently, tells her to just wait and see. He and Brett both ask her where Anton is, telling her that things will go better for her if he’s found. She asks Purbright if he’s married, and with stereotypical British stiffness he starts to say he’s quite fond of his wife, which makes her laugh and tell him she feels sorry for him. She has nothing more to say, other than that she enjoyed working for Brett and she’s sorry for the trouble she’s caused.
Miles joins Catherine for a smoke and she tells him Joan’s not a spy, she just fell in love with the wrong guy. Miles says the powers that be don’t really care, they just want to draw clear lines: here be good guys, there be bad. He doesn’t think she’s a spy, but he knows examples need to be made. After a pause, she says she’s glad she got to know him better.
While Quayle picks up some supplies, Soper gets to work on her and we learn that he sent her a telegram summoning her back a little early. He goes on to say that Brett’s not fit to lead the hospital and Quayle really should be matron. I really wish we had more background on the relationship between these two. Why is he so against Brett and so pro-Quayle? I guess he’s bitter about Brett partially shutting down his side business, but what’s with the Quayle loyalty? Why’s he so firmly on her side and against Grace?
As usual, Quayle plays things close to the vest with him.
Grace goes to Brett and tells him that she and Quayle are going to go see Purbright, reassuring him that nobody doubts him. She gives his arm a comforting squeeze before leaving him.
Quayle prepares herself for her meeting, pinning on a medal she’s been awarded. She picks up her china figurine, smashes it, and retrieves the Blighty ticket she hid inside. By the time Grace comes to fetch her, Quayle’s already gone. Grace finds the shattered figurine and seems to put everything together.
She rushes to the meeting with Purbright, who’s already chatting with Quayle. He asks the ladies if they have any reason to doubt Brett’s judgment and ability to lead. Quayle tells him that Brett’s just great and she wouldn’t want to serve under anyone else.
The camp clergyman paces through the wards and reminds the men going home on leave to make men not in uniform feel horrible about themselves. That’s some fine Christian charity you’ve got there.
Jimmy’s having a bath and in comes Foley, who sits beside him and apologises for having been so mean. He tells Jimmy he’s actually proud of him, takes a look at the leg, and says it’s not enough to get him home. He retakes the role of big brother and tells Jimmy he’s going to look after him and get him home, but it’s really, really going to hurt. He directs him to get on the floor, on his side, and proceeds to snap his leg. Eeeeek! He then upends the tub and hustles out of there, passing Flora along the way. She hears Jimmy screaming in pain.
Spectacles, meanwhile, gets out of bed and wanders off, wearing nothing but a pair of pajama bottoms. Rosalie, taking a seat in the church tent, sees him and follows him to the woods, where he strips off the bottoms for no reason other than getting Rosalie over her innate priggishness. Seriously, it’s October, this guy must be freezing, plus he has a fever, which usually makes you feel chilly, so why’s he stripping down? Rosalie grabs a towel off a nearby washing line and follows him, catching his attention. He says he has to go fetch the wounded men he can hear. He asks what she’s doing in such a terrible place. She explains that she’s a nurse, drapes the towel around his shoulders, and gently takes him back to the camp. He tells her she’s really beautiful and she thanks him.
Catherine leaves the service and sees Tom speaking with some military security guys. They start moving in her direction and she silently freaks out, but they go right past her without a second look.
They’ve come for Joan, of course, and she seems like she’s actually fairly ready for them.
Flora goes to the church tent and tells Foley his brother’s had an accident. Rosalie rejoins everyone as well and tells Catherine she burned the newspaper and didn’t show it to anyone else. Catherine thanks her. Rosalie admits she did volunteer to escape, and Catherine says she did too. Friends again?
Joan is escorted past the congregation and Grace gets up to briefly give her a reassuring look. As she approaches the transport, though, Anton arrives and announces he’s not at large, so she hasn’t helped him escape. Joan freaks out as he’s restrained.
She’s returned to her room to wait it out, and at last he’s brought in to see her, along with a few extra guards. He informs her that an arrangement has been reached. She’ll be sent home and monitored and he’s going to spy for the British. Joan refuses to agree to that, even though it’ll mean hard labour for her for the duration of the war. She doesn’t care about that, because she knows he’ll make a crap spy, which means he’ll definitely be shot. Now that’s decided, he just wants to know if she’ll agree to marry him. She laughs and says of course she will.
Purbright bitches about the whole affair to Brett, who clearly can’t care about this just now. Purbright accuses him of being soft and acting like everyone’s father, which makes Brett flinch. To his credit, Purbright seems to realize what a dick thing that was to say and he eases up and gets personal with Brett, asking about his now late son. He comments that it wasn’t a wasted death at least, it was one that meant something. Was it, though? Most of these battles had huge casualties and only gained a few hundred yards, if even that. Brett brings up Cavell and asks if there were any diplomatic routes explored. Purbright says the Americans tried a little, but apparently the British didn’t because they didn’t want to make it any worse for her. ‘She was going to be shot, how could it get any worse for her?’ Brett shouts. Seriously. He realizes that, essentially, the British let her get executed so they could have a martyr to rally everyone behind, which was quite true, really. Purbright chooses to ignore this accusation.
Grace arrives in her office to find Quayle waiting for her. Quayle gives her the incriminating Blighty ticket to teach Grace a lesson in the true value and meaning of loyalty. She tells Grace that Brett’s lucky to have her, and Grace is lucky to have Quayle. Ok.
Outside, she runs across Soper, wheeling Joan’s bike towards storage. She tells him she wants her share, when he sells it. What makes her entitled to a share, exactly?
Grace burns the ticket.
Tom runs into Catherine in the supplies hut and asks if she though the intelligence officers were coming for her. She did. He can’t believe she’d think he would deliver her up like that, asking why she’d think that. Well, given her experience with men, it seems reasonable. She admits that she came to France because she seriously messed things up in England and now isn’t allowed to see her own daughter. He asks what her daughter’s like and she paints a picture of a pretty charming sounding six-year-old. The kid wants a dragon for Christmas, how cool is that? That’s definitely the one thing better than a pony. He softens completely and she asks him to meet her out in the woods, as they meant to before. Wow, ask about her kid and she sure comes around fast, doesn’t she?
Jimmy’s had his leg set, and off to the side Foley tells Flora that the kid was born with the cord around his neck and has needed looking after ever since. Foley thinks he should never have left him. She asks if he left because people found out about Foley’s sexual preferences. He won’t say, so she entrusts him with a secret of her own: she’s only 18, instead of the 23 she’s supposed to be. Now he knows her secret, he knows she’ll keep his. She does warn him once more to be careful. ‘Where’s the fun in that?’ he responds.
Anton and Joan hold hands once more as they wait to board their transports. With one lunge, they manage to embrace one last time before they’re separated and loaded into their trucks.
Rosalie mends Spec’s glasses for him. He wakes, his fever apparently broken, and asks if they’ve met before. She tells him they haven’t, though he’s certain he knows her. She says they’re only just meeting, so he holds out a hand and introduces himself. She does the same. Aww.
Miles comes out of his tent and sees Catherine stealing away into the woods. He follows her and sees her meet up and start making out with Tom. Miles looks disappointed. Figures. Girls always go for the slightly unpleasant guy who’s treated them crappily since day one, instead of the fairly fun, flirtatious one. It’s the Scottish accent, really. Irresistible.
Grace stops by Brett’s office and glances through the window. He’s hard at work. She leaves him to it.
And that was The Crimson Field. I know I gave it a pretty hard time at the beginning, but this actually turned out to be quite good. The writers made a real effort to make these characters somewhat rounded people, which is more than can be said for a lot of TV shows nowadays, and the various plotlines provided some good, simmering tension throughout. I could quibble about how the relationship between Tom and Catherine was a little too cliched and expected (dear writers: women generally aren’t attracted to men who treat them like shit. Why do you keep going back to that well?) and complain about the overuse of the upper-class twit in charge, but overall these weaknesses took a backseat to the strengths of the programme. It was well acted, had some genuinely creepy villains, and it showed an aspect of World War I that we don’t often get to see—what was happening outside the trenches. The way things were left tonight this is clearly being set up for a second series (not yet confirmed by the BBC) and I hope it does come back for a second round. I’ll watch.