In a flashback to happier times, Ross and Demelza walk on the beach. It's a hot sunny day and Ross is wearing a heavy frock coat. If ever there was a time for getting your kit off, you'd think this would be it.
But no. Ross' naked torso stays firmly under wraps. The first rule of drama is to put your hero in peril and so back to the present, where the odds are stacked heavily against Ross. There's a long list of those testifying against him for his involvement in the plundering of the Queen Charlotte shipwreck.
Most have been bribed by snake-in-the-grass George Warleggan's lawyer, Tankard. Nomen est omen? Like a Toby jug you'd imagine a tankard to be jolly and portly, but not this one. We know he's not a good 'un, we only have to look at him: skinny, weasely, greasy-haired and clad in black, Tankard has a name that also sounds a bit like the rhyming slang for banker.
"If I were the judge I'd sentence [Ross] to be returned to his wife without delay," says Caroline to Demelza. It's hard to tell if this is sincerely meant as Caroline has a dry sense of humour and, like Tankard, her character too is signified by the colour of her clothes. A scarlet woman, she could be trouble.
Nevertheless, she is a welcome splash of colour in a sea of dreariness. Despite her betrothal to would-be MP Unwin Trevaunance (with a name like 'Unwin' he's bound not to be elected, I'd have thought), she flirts with dishy doctor Dwight Enys. Interestingly, neither of them mentions her little Horace this time. Where is he? Last episode Caroline and her little dog were inseparable, before Enys prescribed him opium. Oh dear. I fear the worst for poor little Horace.
Meanwhile, at Trenwith, Elizabeth is pacing up and down, exasperated with Aunt Agatha's tarot card shuffling: "For pity's sake, must we always have these dire predictions? Not once have you forecast an outcome that has been remotely cheering."
Francis' death? I'd almost forgotten about him. His corpse, freshly slaughtered, blocks the door to his hotel room and dishy Doctor Enys can't get in. Enys thinks he may have to break the door down. Oh wait, no: the door's merely locked. Who should open it, but Francis?
He didn't manage to kill himself after all. He pulled the trigger and, although there was a definite gunshot sound at the end of the last episode - "The flint went down," Francis explains - "the powder did not ignite." Those pesky pistols, you just can't rely on them.
Except for plot twists. So not only has Francis survived near-drowning, a shot in the neck and the putrid throat, but he's also evaded suicide. As he continues to list his woes - being owned by George and the possibility of Elizabeth still being in love with Ross - surely he should be congratulating himself for being invincible?
"Anyway, the thing's not done," Francis says to Enys, fondling his pistol as if he doesn't know whether to fire it or caress it. "So for the moment you have a talkative companion instead of a silent one." You have to feel for Doctor E.
After being turned away last week Demelza manages to smuggle herself under cover of darkness into the hotel where John Nettles is staying. In desperation she asks him to influence Justice Lister, the judge who will hear Ross' case. Somewhat appalled, John Nettles warns that would have the opposite effect. "It would prejudice your husband's case, not help it."
They then play Spot the Judge. "Is he a kindly man?" "Small and stout?" "Does he like his port?" Clever Demelza identifies her target and contrives an audience with Lister, in order to see if she can subtly influence him herself. Just as she is about to tell him the identity of the "body" who "knowed some other body who paid money so that other bodies might speak lies," snake-in-the-grass George Warleggan slithers into view, giving her game away and thwarting it. Demelza's attempts to help Ross are sabotaged at every turn.
Over in court, the witnesses take the stand and the tension is cranked up as George and Tankard throw everything they can at the trial, including a testimony from Captain Bray, who describes the scene on the beach the night of the shipwreck as, "like Dante's Inferno... As close to hell as I ever hope to come."
Ross' doom is prophesied by everyone, despite Jud Paynter's unexpected testimony in support of him, and Enys' compassionately reminding everyone that Ross had had "no sleep for almost a week. His only child had died and was buried but a few days before the wreck. On the day itself I formed the opinion that he had suffered a mental breakdown."
As the prosecution lawyer condemns Ross as "a revolutionary... an obvious admirer of bloodshed and tyranny in France," it's anyone's guess which way the jury will vote.
Miraculously, Ross is found innocent and truth prevails. In the midst of the celebrations, Verity seeks reconciliation with Francis, who, disliking the cut of his jib, still cannot give her marriage to Captain Blamey his blessing. As her brother he's obviously immune to the delights of Verity's posset. Neither will he ever understand the appeal of Blamey's mast.
Having been defeated in his efforts to remove Ross, George, fuming, is left vulnerable and exposed. As he, like Francis before, fondles his pistol before bed, he should know that a gun isn't always the answer.
However, with a beach party back at Nampara, Jud and Prudie back in Ross's good books, and Demelza pregnant again (at least Ross' shots didn't misfire), this time we end on a happy, if somewhat contrived 'have your cake and eat it' note.
I prefer pies, personally.
First posted at Lusciouswound.blogspot.co.uk
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