The next to the last episode of this complex drama, and things only get better.
We begin with a flashback to Joan’s conversation with Jaco, when he promises to send her letter to Germany and asks where he should leave any reply. She is currently out at night looking for just such a reply, buried in a can by the barb-wire fence. It says simply, “Meet me. Tomorrow at midnight.”
She obviously intends to, but her plan is foiled when Matron asks her to take the night shift at the hospital that same night. Brett mentions her fiance, telling her that he will allow her some leave when he has his, and later, Miles jokes about doing something outrageous and knocking her “off her pedestal.” She snaps at being the subject of gossip and when Kitty asks what is wrong, she complains that everyone has such “boring, little lives” that all they can discuss is her, finishing by stating that she just wants everyone to leave her alone.
Among a new batch of wounded is Major J. Ballard of the 5th Punjabi Rifles, a cranky bastage who does not want to be there and isn’t shy about asserting it.
Grace tells him calmly that she will inform Col. Brett that he wishes to speak to him and asks for his weapon. When he will not give it up, he snaps at her that he doesn’t like taking orders from a woman and to go get her CO. He ends this with an exclamation in Punjabi, and is surprised when Grace replies to him in the same language, enough to hand over the bullets, if not his gun. Grace sees Roland on the way in, and tells him to speak to Ballard ASAP. He notices her color and asks if she has been running with SUCH A LOOK on his face that I instantly ship it.
Grace, flustered, replies that she never runs.
In the meantime, Peter is taking care of a sniper by the name of Gorman that says he has business with Ballard, and asks Peter to pass on a message from him that he says hello. When Peter tells Ballard, however, he denies knowing him. Gorman tells Peter that Ballard is a famous marksman, and so is he, and no matter his denial, he knows him.
Later on when Ballard steps out for a smoke he speaks to Gorman, who reminds him of a contest he lost to him some six months back, and asks for a rematch. Ballard tells him he is due to go back to the front and that he’ll “just have to stay beaten,” but Gorman says very friendly that he can wait forever, once he has a man in his sights, and he’ll see him there at his convenience.
Flora wants to mark the three-month anniversary of their arrival at the hospital by a “do,” just games and maybe songs and asks Kitty, Reggie and Rosalie for their participation.
She sweetly asks Roland for permission, and when she tells him it will be fun, give a boost and bring them together, he tells her to carry on. Kitty asks Miles for his participation and he good-naturedly throws out options, but when Tom happens upon them and gives her a monosyllabic “no,” it is clear he is still hurt.
In the office’s tent, Ballard is grousing that he has not been spoken to yet, and tumbles the table over in his anger.
Roland finally stops by, none too happy at being summoned this way, and Ballard tells him he has to be released, since the man he left in charge speaks fluent Greek, but no Punjabi and cannot communicate with his troops.
Brett tells him he isn’t going anywhere as he has an open wound. Ballard then says that it is confidential, but there is a push that cannot be executed if the soldiers can’t understand their command. Brett agrees to let him go the next morning if he will let himself be treated, and be quiet. Ballard says he will allow Matron to treat her, and she agrees, despite Roland’s assertion that she is not there to “dance attendance” on him.
Later when she is curing him, Grace mentions that she should expect his sort of behavior from a man who belongs to a regiment called “The Fire Eaters.” He notices dryly that he thought her interest was in himself (ME TOO), but now thinks it is in his regiment. He asks her if there is someone she would like to ask about, and at her denial, he tells her she is lying. She asks if he has a lot of experience with women, and he qualifies that with “real women, yes,” but not with the “unbreached, untouched, unloved” “professional cold fish” army virgins.
She tells him he is trying to provoke her but does not rise to the bait. He confesses to being intrigued by what would make a woman like her take up the life of a nun, what does she get? “I help people,” Grace answers. He tells her he doesn’t need her help, but is only submitting to get out of there. She tells him to be good, and then he will get what he wants.
As Rosalie and Flora get ready to rehearse for the show, they wonder where Kitty is. The answer is that she is dropping off some supplies in the pre-op tent, and trying to have a quiet chat with Tom, who is laying out instruments.
She asks him baldly if they are going to continue to ignore each other, and he answers her not with her christian name, but by her surname, saying he would prefer it. He is trying to avoid even looking at her, but Kitty does not move from in front of him until he gruffly points out that she is in his way.
She takes a step back and asks if they can’t at least “be civil.” Tom answers reasonably that he avoids her for a reason which should be clear to her, but is unsure of what she wants from him. “Come running when you click your fingers? I’m sorry to ruin your fun.”
His perception of her angers Kitty, who asks if he thinks she is having fun, to which he responds that he does not know. “Maybe it’s entertaining for you. Maybe you collect men and tie us up in knots for your amusement. Well, find someone else to dance to your tune because it’s not going to be me.”
It is obvious he is hurt by her rejection and jealous of seeing her with Miles, and has assigned it the only explanation he knows. What he does not know is that this is a woman who has had her integrity called into question one too many times, and is done with being judged by righteous men. Kitty finally reaches her breaking point, and slaps him.
He gasps, pauses and then hauls her up with both hands on her hips. It is HOT. I wonder who is panting, and realize it is me.
They both pause, staring alternately at each other’s eyes and mouths and I am rolling on my carpet in a squee so deep I am hoping to travel through time and smoosh their faces together.
But alas, it is not to be. Though it is obvious Kitty is ready for a kiss, Tom sighs again, dropping his gaze, and pushes her away, turning silently back towards his tools and silently ignoring her until she stalks out, only a flexing jaw betraying his emotion.
When she does, he throws the instrument he was holding on the table, and turns to look in the direction she left.
OMG YOU TWO GET IT TOGETHER. At this rate they’ll never make babies by the end of next episode!
At a quarter to midnight, Joan sneaks out to meet Jaco at midnight, only to learn that he and his daughter are leaving. The situation has become too dangerous for them, and he regrets not having a response to her letter. Joan tells him that she feels in her heart her fiance is dead, and thanks him for trying.The next morning, she comes into camp as Rosalie is planting some bulbs she got in a package from home outside her tent.
The young VAD tells her she wanted to make up for letting the news slip about her engagement, and Joan thanks her, but mentions she may not be there next year. “Oh yes, the war might be over. Anything’s possible,” an optimistic Joan says, mistaking her meaning. That same morning as Jaco tries to leave, he is intercepted by a group of men from town, and he sends his daughter off running to find Joan before they find his German book of poetry, and punch him off a bridge.
Matron checks on Ballard, and notices that he cannot see her waiting by his bed. The next morning when Ballard is getting ready to leave, she has Roland examine him to prove her suspicions. Ballard is annoyed, dismissive, and then defeated when Roland notices he is losing his sight. He is left with only his peripheral sight, and losing that quickly.
Roland tells him he cannot stay in France, but must go back to England that night. Ballard finds Matron and complains bitterly that she would have tricked him, calling her an “empty husk, all rules and duty.” She tells him that he needs help, and he cuts her down in a cruel, beautifully written little sentence:
Well, when I am in England, a country where I’ve never lived, when I am having my food cut up for me and being poked and prodded by pitying hands, when I am just a diagnosis on a scrap of paper, I shall think of you standing here and your remorseless help.
Walking outside after his disappointment, Ballard finds Gorman waiting for him, and agrees to revisit their wager at that moment. Later, when Matron goes to give him his pass to return to England, she finds him gone and hears a shot. The contest has started, and Gorman good-naturedly shoots a shot glass off Ballards’s head. Ballard announces it is now his turn, and waits for them to exchange places, but he never gets to take the shot. Grace finds them and whispers at him to stop.
Ballard doesn’t put down the gun, however, and it is not until Gorman overhears Grace ask if he can even see him that she forces Ballard to give up on proving himself. Gorman hobbles over and looks at Ballard, calling him a “poor bastard” and lamenting that he cannot even claim victory. It is a bitter pill for such a proud man. He laments Grace’s competence, and she in turn shares some of her background with him. She tells him her father was an unhappy man with many guns, and she spent her childhood hiding the bullets.
When “the inevitable happened,” she blamed herself. Ballard realizes that this is at the center of her need to help save people now. When they are ready to leave and he is unsure of which direction he is facing, she tenderly takes his arm. Later, as they wait for his transport, he reminds her that if she does, as he suspects, have a question for him, she should ask it now. She finally gives in, and asks if he knows of a Subedar Major Amar Singh. His initial assertion that he does know him makes such a girlish, hopeful expression appear on her face it is hard not to tighten with gleeful anticipation…
But it is not to be. Ballard clumsily admits that Singh has fallen. Grace struggles to hold back tears, and calls him “a passing acquaintance of many years ago,” but Ballard guesses correctly that he was more. She admits it, and her grief is compounded by the belief that she always harbored that she would know if he fell, and when the time came, did not. Ballard cannot respond, and leaves her.
In the woods, Kitty and Reggie find Jaco with Matilda’s help. When Reggie leaves him alone with Kitty for a moment, he mistakes her for Joan and tells her to “Go to the house…waiting…” Later, Roland tells Joan that Jaco is suspected of being a spy. Joan says that he and his daughter were hoping to go to London, and seems surprised when Roland tells her to pack up their things so she can help. Joan asks if he doesn’t think Jaco is a spy, and he says instead he was “incredibly naive and stupid.” Roland mourns a world where one is beaten for a book, but tells Joan Jaco is lucky he did not hang.
As they discuss their performance that night, Rosalie is putting away her bulbs, and happens upon an article in one of the newspapers where they speak of Kitty’s husband petitioning for divorce with her signed confession, portions of which are transcribed and admit that she was “guilty of taking up residence with Mr. Fraser Morley during their marriage…”
Joan sneaks in to speak to Jaco, and he manages to relay the message he previously told Kitty. As the concert begins, Kitty is waiting in Joan’s tent to confront her about going back to Jaco’s house. As she dresses to go, Joan says it is to get a book of Mathilde’s, but Kitty doesn’t believe her. Little by little as she says things out loud, Kitty begins to put together that the fiance Joan has tried to keep secret is not British.
Joan doesn’t admit anything, but can’t hold her gaze. Kitty is horrified, and tells her “They’ll crucify you, Joan,” but Joan pleads with her, saying it is only a letter, and the means by which she will find out if he is dead or alive.
“I have to know. It’s just a letter. Please. Please,” she whispers, tears in her eyes, and Kitty steps aside to let her pass.
At the performance, Kitty has not shown up and Rosalie begins to play while a terrified Flora misses her first cue. She tries again, launching into a shaky rendition of There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding, and Rosalie joins her with a soprano in the second line. Miles and Brett smile from the audience as Kitty runs with her alto and joins her onstage. While the girls sing, we cut away to scenes both inside and outside the tent.
Inside, Thomas comes in and Kitty makes eye contact, seeming to sing directly to him with a sweet expression. He fights a smile, perturbed, and leaves.
In her office, Grace opens a box and takes out a picture of young, mustached man with a turban to stare at it: Amar Singh.
Reggie sneaks out with his contraband, and poor, lovelorn Joan goes one last time to Jaco’s now empty house to look for her letter. As she searches vainly in the dark, a man’s voice whispers “Liebchen?” She peeks over and walks forward like a woman entranced. There, alive, is her fiance, Anton. He got her letter, and escaped to come to her after being taken prisoner.
Who can be a patriot with a jawline like that? As she cries, they embrace.
Joan is worried for him and tries to convince him to go to a crossroads where she can bring him clothes and food and he can move on. He says he is not leaving her there, but she rightly points out that she is the one with the British uniform, and not the one they will hang or shoot if caught. “You are. So you are leaving now,” she says lovingly, his face in her hands.
She walks him out and gives him her motorcycle and coat. As in any good story, I can’t help but put myself in her shoes, and to marvel at the way simple, declarative sentences can so vividly paint the portrait of this couple. Joan and Anton are more than in love, they are soulmates. What a thing to allow a war to corrupt. I can’t say I blame them.
As they exchange I love you’s and kiss, their reunion is being observed by Reggie, who reveals himself to Joan after Anton leaves with an ominous, “Good evening, sister. What have you been up to?”
NOBODY LIKE YOU, REGGIE.