'Poldark' has had its share of bawdy surprises over the last two series - lusty Ross taking his ungainly maid Demelza, first as a lover, then as his wife, his cousin Francis abandoning beautiful ice-queen Elizabeth to enjoy his share of extra-marital pleasures, even the good Doctor Ennys succumbing to the charms of a married patient, that one with tragic results.
However, last night's episode - by which I clearly mean, THAT bedroom scene between Ross and Elizabeth - stretched the imagination and sympathy of even the most devoted viewer, and has left fans... at worst vowing to boycott the show, at best, more than a little non-plussed.
I'll leave the problems of the actual scene to its critics - of which there have already been many - but for me, what was so strange was how little sense it made, and how inconsistent it was with all of our hero's previous actions. We've seen him dashing around the village, helping his men, all the while building an unconventional but ever more robust relationship with his wife. Through all his travails, Demelza has waited at home, dusting and sweeping with worry, until Ross has returned, apologised for making her fret so - as recently as last night, he promised her after his latest encounter with a local magistrate, "I'll never be so reckless again."
And that has been the drive of this series, the secret of its appeal to thousands of fans across the world - all drawn to a contemporary hero in his lovely hat. Ross Poldark has thrilled us with his dastardly deeds, losing money, making it back, losing it again, but we've always believed there to be an over-riding good intention at the heart of his endeavours. Until last night.
Over the last two series, ever since he found her fighting in the street, fans have been deeply invested in the blossoming relationship between Ross Poldark and his strong-willed wife Demelza.
When it was first reported that Ross - a gentleman, despite his unconventional ways and happiness with a tankard - had bedded the maid he'd first spotted brawling over a dog, the pair were the talk of the shire, with many complaining he was exploiting the poor wench. However, he quickly remedied this perception, by making Demelza his wife, the mistress of his house, the mother of his children. And she has blossomed in return, to the point where she has become a sage counsel for every neighbour, whatever his class, and an object of quaint desire for the neighbouring regiment.
Meanwhile, Ross has continued on his singular ways, but always with a backbone of honour. When he was involved in a smuggling plot on the beach, viewers saw him stop to check the welfare of his enemy's cousin, a man he was later accused of murdering. Even when he appeared to be facing the noose, Ross confounded his enemy Warleggan's expectations by refusing to take his offer of bribery. No wonder George was upset. Even with death hanging over him, Ross proved to be the better man.
That's why it made so little sense what happened in last night's episode, when he prowled around the house of his former love, Elizabeth, until accosting her in her bedroom, taking part in a pantomime of I-hate-you-more foreplay before throwing her on the bed.
Yes, we've seen those lingering looks between him and Elizabeth at the dinner table, but he always returned to Demelza - stockings, baths and all.
Don't tell me the BBC wanted to stay true to the books with this love triangle - they'd already adapted the scene from the rape of the books to the 'consensual' one we saw. They could easily have omitted it altogether and approached it in an entirely different way.
Instead, the lead character of one of the BBC's most popular shows has travelled down a moral cul-de-sac, taking the sympathy of many a fan with him. We've forgiven Ross Poldark a lot in this series. He'll have to work a lot harder now.
Mind you, there was one fine moment in all of this. The whole unsettling episode was almost worth it for the belter of a blow Demelza meted out on his return to his home, with his pathetic excuse for his actions - "You must see I had no choice."
Whatever we think of her husband, Demelza has emerged a woman for our times.
— Dave Shuttleworth (@ShuttleworthDS) October 23, 2016