The Crimson Field Recap E5

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In the office’s tent, Ballard is grousing that he has not been spoken to yet, and tumbles the table over in his anger.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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When she does, he throws the instrument he was holding on the table, and turns to look in the direction she left.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Who can be a patriot with a jawline like that? As she cries, they embrace.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Crimson Field Recap E4

%$#@’s getting real, guys.

This episode opens with a funeral, and a chaplain asking us not to mourn the passing of eight men buried in a mass grave, but to “rejoice” in their great sacrifice. The language is flowery, and the sight itself is brutal. TCF is a show that has not shied away from the cost of war, but also from the things people do to cope in times of war. Like crack jokes, maybe.

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One such group is the men of The Lucky Thirteen, whose leader, a man they affectionately call “Dad” gently and honestly tells them that there is no joy to be found in the death of good men, and reminding them that they are in it together and by luck before he asks them to bow their heads.

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It’s Margaret’s birthday, and Grace is gently reminding Roland that he needs to make her feel appreciated, which he smartly calls out as her guilt at being chosen Matron, though she denies it. When she insists he show appreciation, he tells Joan he appreciates her because ROLAND IS A BOSS.

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In line for breakfast, Tom asks Kitty about her plans for the day and she answers coyly that she though about tidying the tent and darning socks.

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I am sure that is code for “making out.” He notices her uncharacteristic humor, and asks her quietly to meet him.

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At her whispered, furtive “yes”, he is so surprised he takes a moment to come up with a location: the woods, around two.

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These two dumplings are so adorable. I just want to gobble them up. I also want dumplings now.

Also at breakfast, one of the men of the Thirteen, Deeley, speaks to Dad about a secret they both share. Apparently Deeley is worried that Dad might get into problems if they listen to his chest, and it would kill the men to lose him.

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Dad calms him, assuring him it won’t happen because it’s luck keeping them together. Don’t say that, Dad. Now you know bad stuff will happen, DAMN IT.

Back in their tent, Tom is making Miles blissfully happy by giving up his day pass so that he can stay and meet Kitty-even though he tells Miles he’ll be doing some darning and cleaning the tent.

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Miles meets Roland on the way out, and he warns him to be back by seven. As he walks away, Matron hands Roland a note, and he comments that someone has “connections.” It turns out that the note is a summons for Kitty from Mr. Elliot Vincent, asking that she meet him in town that day. Matron gives Kitty the news and tells her to be at the entrance by two o’clock if she wants a ride into town.

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Whoever Vincent is, he is a master c-blocker. Poor Tom.

Another romance facing hard times is that of Flora with shy, awkward Charlie from The Lucky Thirteen. His fellow soldiers try to hook him up by asking Flora her name and setting him up for a compliment, but he fails spectacularly, snapping irritably at her instead.

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As they tease him, a Captain Oberston arrives to inspect and approve them for service, and Deeley tells Dad that his luck may be in, as the Captain is a bit deaf and obviously not all there. As Deeley watches him, he notices he is not listening to the men’s lungs, but his hopes are shot when Joan notices the exams are taking long, and offers to help him, picking up his unused stethoscope and hanging it about her neck.

As Kitty waits for her transport, she is surprised to note that it is Miles who will be driving her into town.

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Margaret notes that it’s only a matter of time before all the girls want unchaperoned trips and get knocked up, because Margaret is THE WORST. On their way there, Kitty asks him about the hotel, and he tells her about his plans. In the woods, Tom waits in his dress uniform, and my heart just breaks for him.

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Miles flirtatiously invites Kitty to a steak dinner and later a bath, and she becomes outraged and gets out of the car, saying she will walk there and back. Miles attempts to convince her to get back in the car, but finally tells her he’ll be outside the hotel at five to drive her back, and that he gives up on her.

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Back in the wards, Joan wants Dad to come through her line, even though he offers to wait for the doctor. He pushes his chair back nervously when she insists, and the sound sets a patient off. The sick man dives under his bed in a panic, and as they all rush to his aid, goes into convulsions. Roland is there and goes to examine him, when he notices it is Prentiss, the man he thought he had Margaret send home in defiance of orders.

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At the hotel Rose Sur Mer, Kitty waits for Mr. Vincent, who unknown to her, is sitting behind her, observing her as she fidgets. Miles sees her in the dining room, but goes on to his room without saying anything.

Back at the hospital, Tom gives up his wait and leaves the woods.

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Flora is turning Joan’s motorcycle engine over to keep it running when Charlie comes up to her and shyly begins to chat with her.

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Flora’s natural honesty and friendliness cause her to talk about what a modern girl she is, and seemingly overwhelmed, he excuses himself to leave. Rosalie notices them talking, and warns her fellow VAD about giving the young man ideas, which makes Flora angry.

In the tent, Joan finally examines Dad and he confesses to pleurisy, a double pneumonia that “sounds much worse than it is.”

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He begs her to keep it between them, but she will not. Dad begs Captain Oberston not to make the findings official, saying he “holds his boys together.” Still, Oberston stamps him C-3 instead of A-1, and Dad asks Joan what he is supposed to do. “Go home and wait for the telegrams to start coming?” Joan tells him gravely that she had to do what was best for him. Dad goes out to the beach and sees him men playing soccer, and when he tells Deeley, the younger man shouts that they’re all dead now and tries to run.

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Dad warns him not to run lest he get shot, and that they won’t die because he won’t let them. The unit walks back as one in the dusk.

Roland confronts Margaret about lying to him, informing her that if she did as she said, it would be impossible for Prentiss to be there. “With me, Sister Quayle. Now,” he growls, and asks her to go to his office. There, together with Matron, he demands answers, and she tells him she was late, missed the convoy, and lied so he would think well of her.

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Roland says he would have thought better of her had she told the truth, and dismisses her. When she leaves, Matron remonstrates him for going against orders, but he tells her that he had a chance, and now he has grand mal seizures and almost no control of his limbs. He is still angry that Margaret lied, and obviously tortured by Prentiss’s fate.

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Matron notices a shadow in the doorway, and assumes Margaret was listening at the door, which she was. Margaret rushes to her room and finds the pass Roland gave her, hiding it in a porcelain figurine. Roland goes to Prentiss and tries to play the music that once soothed him, but it sends him into another seizure.

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Kitty is anxiously waiting when Mr. Vincent shows up and strokes her as he comes around the table. He admits to being busy, but says he had to see her, and hands her papers telling her he wants her full confession so that proceedings may take place and he can marry again. So this is her husband.

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She reads the confession he hands her and although she did not write it, she signs it when he tells her the fact is, she did have an affair. Elliot tells her to ask, as he knows she wants to. “How is she?” Kitty says, and he tells her she is getting taller, losing her baby teeth, and that she lives with his sister. “She’s happy,” he says, which causes Kitty to tear up and ask if she asks about her.

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His response is that she scared her, and that she shouldn’t have taken her away. Kitty wants to write to her, to tell her she isn’t forgotten, that she loves her more than her own life, and that she thinks about her “every minute of every day.” Elliot says she can tell her herself, and slides a key towards her. Kitty is overjoyed that her daughter is there, and rushes up to the room to see her, calling out for “Sylvie.” Outside the room, she takes a fork she had hidden in her sleeve and leaves it outside, letting herself in…

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…but the room is empty. It is a trap set by Elliot to get her alone. His calm demeanor is suddenly threatening, and Kitty begins to cry when she realizes Sylvie is not there and she will not see her again. She tries to get herself under control, telling him bravely that she is going to leave, as she is expected at the hospital and they will come looking, but as she tries to get out, he, slams the door on her, and grabs her by the hair and throws her into the hall.

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She grabs her fork and holds it out, backing her way down the hall as he advances, but thank the Lord, Miles appears, and warns him off. He takes one last chance to call Kitty a whore and malign Miles’s rank, but as he starts after him, he notices Kitty cowering in the corner and goes to her.

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She gamely picks herself up and casually says they must get back, but when he tries to hold her upright, she flinches and sobs in fear, pulling away. Poor Kitty. How limited her options were as a battered wife, and how badly her brave attempt to leave it all behind turned out.

That night, Matron tries to tell Margaret that Roland is mad at the situation, and not really at her. She asks if she destroyed the pass, and Margaret of course lies and says that she did, and never wanted to have it in the first place.

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Matron stares after her when she walks away, and it is obvious she does not believe her.

The men of The Lucky Thirteen are being dismissed back to the front lines, and as Dad says goodbye to each individually with words of encouragement, he notices Charlie is missing. He has gone to see Joan, who he earlier recognized. He tells her that he was a waiter at a restaurant she used to frequent with her German fiancé.

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Joan asks if he is blackmailing her, and he says that for two weeks he said nothing, but now he has to use what he has to keep his mates together. He tells Joan to work out what means more to her, giving Dad the green light or having her situation come to light, and Joan stamps an A-1 on a new report, handing it over in tears.

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Before he goes, Charlie tells her again that he takes no pleasure in what he has done, and almost apologetically tells her that she and her man “look good together. Right.” War is hell, guys. Charlie runs back out to the line and tells Dad to line up and not ask questions, and he gets through.

Miles and Kitty arrive back, and Miles tells her he will not gossip. When she thanks him, he says there is nothing to be thankful for.

That night, at her birthday celebration, Margaret brings up publicly that Joan is engaged and asks to know about her fiance. As Joan demurs, Rosalie realizes she may have spoken out of turn.

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At Margaret’s insistence, Joan shows them the ring from around her neck. Margaret continues to ask his name and rank (Charlie, Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers, she lies), and Joan, upset, starts to cry and leaves. Later that night in bed, she reads of the German casualties, and throws the papers away, frustrated.

Matron observes this unkindness and also leaves, but she goes into Margaret’s tent to look for the pass. Margaret finds her there and accuses her of turning against her, her oldest friend, in favor of her new master. Matron tells her that it is because she has known her for so long that she knows she did not throw away the pass because she knows she can use it against Roland, and all because she still resents not becoming Matron.

“You should have turned it down!” Margaret shouts in perhaps her first honest utterance of the series. “But I didn’t!” shouts Matron, and keeps looking as Margaret complains about the humiliation of everyone expecting her to get the position, and the shame of being passed over for her protege instead. Margaret reminds her that she saved her, and expected her loyalty. “Perhaps I’d have been happier if you hadn’t,” Matron says, and Margaret sneers that instead she would have been “ruined, a laughingstock, a pariah,” and certainly not Matron.

She tells Grace that there is a rumor she and Roland are “especially close,” but she could dispel that, as she knows her tastes are much more exotic. Matron is shaking with anger, but her voice is calm when she says that Margaret is obviously exhausted, and that she is sending her home on two weeks’ leave, and that while she is on leave, she should think about whether or not she can continue to work there, under her. If she cannot, she will arrange for a transfer “as far away as possible.”

Margaret is shocked into silence, and Matron leaves with her head held high, but once outside appears shaken.

At dinner, Kitty finally sees Tom, and walks outside where he follows so they can talk by the supply crates. She tells him she could neither get him a message or turn down the pass. He says with a chagrined smile that “no one turns down a pass.” He mentions she probably made Miles’s day, to which she says she only saw him in the car, and he was very polite.

They both smile, and Kitty, weighed down by the events of the day, drops her bomb. “Maybe it was for the best…not meeting.” When Tom asks why, she clarifies, ”I’d be the one sent home. Not you. I don’t want to be sent home.” They hear the click of a lighter, and Tom pulls her down into a crouch. It’s Sgt. Soper, stealing some whiskey from a crate, but as they stay quiet so as to not be noticed, Tom and Kitty stare into each other’s faces, and the attraction is practically a third presence.

Tom notices as well, and leans in to kiss her, when Kitty blurts out that she came to work, “not to get entangled.” It’s about all the rejection poor, proud Tom can take for one day, and he removes himself from her person, standing and quietly voicing his acceptance. “Understood.”

Kitty shuts her eyes in frustration as he walks away because COME ON. She could have locked lips with that and it’s gotta sting.

Outside the camp, the men of The Lucky Thirteen are marching to the front and as promised, Flora is there to wave them off. “Goodbye! Good luck!” she calls out sweetly, and when he hears her, Charlie finally decides to go for it. He breaks ranks and runs to her, even as Dad has to reassure his Sergeant he is not making a run for it. He stands in front of Flora and takes her face in his hands, and kisses her as his mates coo at them.

He tells her that he “reckons she’s the prettiest girl ever” and at her delighted, “Ooh, Charlie Dawlish!”, kisses her again and runs back into line with a smile on his face, where Deeley gives him a hug, and the men of The Lucky Thirteen march off as Flora waves. I can’t hate, kid. Carpe diem.

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The Crimson Field Recap, E2

One of the joys of this show is what you can infer from each character in the silence between dialogues. Sarah Phelps has a way of layering motivation as well in pauses as she does in words, like a delicious quiet tiramisu. When she does deliver blows verbally, however, they are as direct and unadorned as bullets. This episode features several such of my favorite moments, and remains an example to me of the perfect integration of main and subplots.

Kitty isn’t sleeping all that well, maybe because she keeps getting up to write heartfelt pleas for help to her mother and mailing them in the wee hours of the morning. Matron catches her during one such occasion, and after ordering her to work, uses her key to open the mailbox and read her outgoing letter.

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Back in the wards, two patients await visits from their families. The first, a Private George Shoemaker, is catatonic and needs to be spoon fed by Kitty, his expression one of unchanging surprise. It is during this that she is told that the second, Major Edward Crecy, is awake. She goes into the surgery tent to tell Thomas, who snaps at her to leave.

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She seems unruffled by his bad mood, calmly stopping him as he leaves to tell him to take off his apron before he enters the ward.

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Major Crecy is being looked after by Private Byeford, the man who saved him by bringing him to the hospital. Thomas informs Crecy that his wife is on the way, and asks if he would rather be moved to an officer’s ward, but he would rather stay with Byeford, the only other survivor from his unit.

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On the nurse’s side, Joan presses for additional training and responsibility for the VADs, which Margaret disagrees with because Margaret is some sort of nurse purist. This character is a bit of a conundrum. She does seem dedicated to the care of her patients, sweetly cleaning Pte. Shoemaker’s wounds and demanding his nurse feed him, but also seems to get a perverse pleasure from gainsaying Joan’s orders, even though they benefit the hospital.

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Unknown to her cranky colleague, Joan goes ahead with her plan to give Rosalie and Flora additional responsibility after the former confesses that she felt useless before the war, and thinks that Joan is brave.

In a smaller side plot, Lt. Col Brett rescues Joan’s motorcycle from being confiscated by Reggie, who claims that he needs to track the petrol it uses. Col. Brett is not fooled, and warns Reggie that he knows the latter makes some things “disappear” in the bureaucracy in order to line his own pockets, ordering him to release the motorcycle back to Joan.

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Outside, a recently arrived Mrs. Crecy can no longer wait as asked, and leaves to find her husband. Maj. Crecy is nervous to tell his wife that he is a double amputee, so Pte. Byeford makes him laugh, suggesting funny things he can say to his wife when she arrives. Even Kitty is amused, but the lighthearted moment is broken by Mrs. Crecy’s intrusion into the tent, and her sudden, panicked flight out as she realizes her husband has lost both legs.

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It would be easy to discount Adelinde Crecy as an annoyance, but the truth is that the women we see at the hospital are prepared for and somewhat inured to, the horrors of war. Here is a housewife, a woman of means, facing what her life will mean with a husband who no longer embodies what she feels a husband should, and the process by which this is shown is finely drawn and as painful to watch as it must be for her to process. First she complains bitterly to Capt. Gillan, his surgeon, about the amputations, and when he assures her that they were necessary, changes tack and focuses instead on reinstating what status she can by asking that he be moved to the officers’ ward.

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When Kitty comes to tell her that she thinks it a bad idea to split the two men up, she tells Kitty that she is grateful for the private’s actions, but discourages further contact between him and her husband.

Later that morning, Matron calls Kitty into her office and informs her that she has read her outgoing mail, as is her custom. Kitty does not wish to discuss the contents of the letter, but Matron insists, confirming that Kitty has a child from which she is forcibly being separated. She tells Kitty that “no woman is a blank slate,” and she is not about to claw apart through her history. Aside from reading her correspondence, I suppose she meant.

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Kitty, a mother herself, is convinced her mother will forgive her, but Matron asks her to consider what may happen if forgiveness does not come. When Kitty rushes outside, overwhelmed and in tears, she  is intercepted by Thomas, who is attempting to explain why he was rude to her earlier that day.

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She waves it aside, tells him she is sorry about his patient and starts to walk away and Thomas, annoyed, tells her that most people “have the decency to accept an apology” when it is owed them. Kitty, desperate to get away, points out that not only does he not owe her anything, he also hasn’t actually apologized.

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When he returns to his tent, he finds that an article he wrote on femoral trauma wasn’t published. To top it off, Miles asks him if Kitty has ever smiled at him, and he denies ever having spoken to her. Better luck next time, Tom.

That night at dinner, Mr. Shoemaker speaks frankly to Adelinde Crecy about his son. George cannot speak after sustaining a wound in the head. He tells her he suspects the boy neither sees him nor knows he is there. He says he doesn’t think he will make it. All this is too much for Adelinde, who reassures him with vague platitudes. “It will all be as it was before. I am certain of it.” When she leaves, looking alarmed, he stares after her with pity.

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The next morning as he says goodbye to his son, he speaks to him as you would a child, asking him to “be a good boy” for his dad, and pausing at the entrance to the tent for one final, pained look before departing.

The Crecys dance nervously around each other, unsure of how to deal with their new dynamic. Both their attempts (his with humor and hers with flattery) fall terribly flat. Late that night, Maj. Crecy attempts honesty, and unburdens himself by sharing some of the horrors of war with his wife.

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Adelinde, unable to deal, tells him he must forget it, because she “does not want that, all that filth and ugliness.” To her assertion that he is no longer a soldier, Crecy tells his wife that then he is nothing, and bitterly asserts she should not have come. Adelinde walks out in tears, and Crecy hits his legs repeatedly until he causes wets his bandages with a hemorrhage.

As the staff waits for a convoy of wounded to come, tiny but significant character moments. Miles plays golf in the dark, and assures Kitty of his continued dedication to winning her over.

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Once the convoy arrives, Flora is energized to prove herself upon Joan’s request (and does so admirably), and Rosalie, asked to help a soldier wash, is put off by the realities of a male human body and leaves him, unable to finish her task.

The next morning, Joan finds Rosalie in the linen cupboard and kindly offers to teach her about the male body by using corpses as examples, but she only manages to outrage her even more, so that Rosalie confesses Joan’s methods to a self-satisfied Sister Margaret.

Kitty finally receives the letter she was waiting for, and the news isn’t good. She wanders into the woods in a stupor to cry, but comes upon Mrs. Crecy, who was informed of her husband’s suicide attempt.

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She heroically sets aside her own grief to ask after the Major and listen to Adelinde mourn the “giant of a man” she sent away, and the “ghost with a head full of horrors” she got back, a man who would rather be dead with his soldiers than home with her. Kitty points out she should be back with him, and Adelinde falls apart, crying that she is not prepared to do what she must. “Everything is over,” she cries, and Kitty walks over, handing her the letter her mother wrote, where she tells her she is “dead to her” and will never see her daughter again. In a speech that has me in tears every time I hear it, she reminds Mrs. Crecy not of what she has lost, but of what she still has.

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Adelinde walks back with Kitty to her husband’s room, and sits with him, holding his hand. He admits that he cannot remember their children’s faces, to which she responds with a calm, “You will.” Her speech to him is no less touching, and I am electrified anew at the way we as women have such a power within us to feed others with our strength, and to heal.

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She kisses him sweetly, and leaves him with a “See you in England, darling.” I have such hope for these two crazy kids.

Much as Kitty did for Mrs. Crecy, Matron provides Kitty with the motivation she needs to go on. When Kitty tells her the contents of her letter fell way below her expectations, Matron kindly but firmly advises her to do her job. “The work saves us, Trevelyan. It saves us.”

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I have to wonder at what caused Matron Carter to commit to a life of nursing.

At the beach, Kitty sighs deeply, tearing her mother’s letter into tiny pieces and taking her uniform off on the shore, running into the water in her shift in a sort of baptismal renewal.

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She is surprised there by Cap. Gillan, who seems as entranced as the first time he saw her.

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As Kitty walks out in her wet shift, Tom politely looks down, but she seems not at all embarrassed. She forthrightly sticks out her arm, asking without words for the uniform he absentmindedly picked up upon discovering her, and as he gapes after her, she turns once, and SMIZES at him.

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Poor bastard.

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The Crimson Field Recap, E1

Many of you might ask why I am recapping a show that the BBC axed after only one season. Others might wonder where I am at and if maybe I’m going to get back to work on other recaps soon. My answers would be because when my head talks I type, and yes, I promise. I really meant to take June off, but then PBS decided to air what I lovingly refer to as my “British Firefly,” so here I am with a short one. Just because it called to me.

If you aren’t watching TCF, please do. It is poignant, intimate, and lovely. The story feels less like you are observing it on a flat screen and more like an oral history. I love a good epic, but I also love the quiet series, the ones that tug at your heart in the gentlest, most indelible way. TCF is that for me. Let me hit you up with an analogy.

Downton Abbey : Call The Midwife :: Poldark : The Crimson Field.

Maybe you just scrolled past that. Who knows.

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In any case, roll with us for six eps and then we can all cry and drink together.

TCF deals with a hospital encampment near the French border during WW1. Our main POV character, Katherine (Kitty) Trevelyan is on a boat with fellow VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) uptight Rosalie and bubbly Flora, neither of which observe her gazing mournfully into the water and chucking a wedding band into it.

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That kind of sagacity really makes you cross your fingers for those wounded soldiers. Still, you get a good sense from the scene that Kitty has something to hide, and that she may not have volunteered solely from a sense of duty.

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Back at Hospital 25A, the wounded are being tended to by Matron Grace Carter, who seems a calm, capable sort. She asks the chaplain to comfort one she thinks won’t outlive the day, a Private Malloy. She also asks another nurse, Sister Margaret, to look after him, but Margaret objects to the reasons Malloy joined, and is reluctant to assign anyone, pleading shorthandedness. When Matron points out there is help coming, she then objects to the help because Sister Margaret is just a pain who is obviously going to be a problem.

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It turns out Matron Carter is new in her position, and Margaret thought she would get the job instead of her younger protege. When Matron brings it up, however, she claims to be fine with it, an obvious lie.

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We also meet Lt. Col. Roland Brett, the gentle-yet-firm head of the hospital. Matron brings a soldier named Prentiss to his office where Brett plays him classical music, and the man cries cathartically, obviously racked by what is now knows as PTSD. Brett tells the Matron that he will put him on “the list”, which is to say send him home from active duty.

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In the meantime, the VADs have arrived, and with them, one of my favorite meet-cutes in all of film. SO much is said here, and at the same time, nothing at all. The VADs arrive at the hospital and are met by Captain Thomas Gillan, who is eager to see if his typewriter is on the same transport. When he sees the volunteers, he offers up his hand to help each woman off in turn… until Kitty. Welcome to the glowing blue coal that is Kitmas (When you name your own ship, no one ships harder. Captain, indeed.)

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This is also coincidentally when I fall in love with Kitty, because I LOVE a good hater. It’s not only that Kitty doesn’t like Thomas-she doesn’t like anything. Unlike Flora and Rosalie, she is neither gratuitously solicitous, particularly patriotic, or eager for friendship. She stands up to the tyranny of the Rules of Conduct and Deportment, and slices an uppity Rosalie with the rapier of pop psychology. She is the Heather to my Heather, you guys. Kitty FTW.

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My single bone of contention with my VAD soul sister is that she seems to be put off by soulful blue eyes. I’m sure that there’s a reason, and I am also sure that I don’t care what it is. I SHIP IT.

In the meantime, things clip along. Flora gets sent to contract a bloodborne disease boil and roll bandages and finds dismembered toes, Kitty helps a man smoke instead of making beds, Sister Margaret uncovers that it was Brett who made the call to hold her back in her current position and Brett himself gets a visit from his superior, Col. Purbright, who is there to make sure anyone who can stand upright and shoot goes back out to the front lines.

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I immediately wish for he and Sister Margaret to fall violently in love and run away together. And then fall in a swamp.

Back to Tom, who has nothing but a typewriter to give him warmth and comfort and that’s not why we’re fighting this war, dammit. With me on this is Tom’s friend and fellow surgeon Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne, the B.J. to his Hawkeye. Miles wants to know if any of the new VADs are cute, but Tom says he didn’t notice.

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Both men, as well as Col. Brett and Matron are called in to a meeting with Purbright, who complains about the various ways soldiers are mimicking injury to avoid the front lines. Purbright makes the call to have Prentiss rejoin his regiment, despite claims that the soldier is not fit for duty. Brett later gives Sister Margaret another pass for the man in defiance of orders, and tells her to find Prentiss and put him on the convoy for home.

Back in her office and no doubt flush with the frustration of dealing with Purbright, Matron calls Kitty in to reprimand her, and dismisses her from her post when the VAD questions her methods. Kitty marches away with her head held high, but later seems to regret her decision. Kitty tries to find Rosalie,  but instead stumbles upon a hiding, delirious Private Malloy, who has stolen a pair of what look like scissors. When he threatens to kill her saying he has “nothing left to lose,” Kitty tells him to go ahead.

Malloy seems confused that she won’t beg, but then starts to cry after admitting that he is dying. Kitty tells him that she will stay with him. She is found by Matron, and they both stay at Malloy’s bedside as he pours his heart out and passes away. Matron tells Kitty that she must write his mother and say he “died peacefully and without pain,” which is what they always say, even if the death is not. A humbled Kitty answers with a quiet “Yes, Matron.” The women reach an understanding. Kitty stays under probation, and later apologizes to Rosalie for being cruel.

Kitty writes her letter in what looks like the cafeteria tent, and is approached by a flirtatious Miles and an apologetic Tom. Miles could not have chosen a worse time to trot out what are very obviously well-used come-ons, and Kitty shoots him down before walking off with the calm disinterest of a woman who is all out of f*cks. It surprises a laugh out of serious Tom, but Miles isn’t discouraged at all, giving himself a week before she is eating out of his hand.

Later that evening, the last of the new arrivals appears on a motorcycle, Sister Joan Livesey. Matron is thrilled with the addition of another actual nurse, and Margaret is not thrilled with how thrilled she is, which no doubt informs her decision later that night.

The VADs stand outside as the soldiers head back out to the front, and as the camera pans over the troops, we see Prentiss is among them. A resentful Sister Margaret never gave him the pass entrusted to her by Col. Brett, so back to the front he goes. As Flora wishes the men a fervent “Good luck, boys!” we get one last glimpse of Sister Joan, inside the tent she shares with them, absently fingering an engagement ring on a chain around her neck. She raises it to her lips and whispers “Stay alive for me. Stay alive. Stay alive.”

She has her prayer, I have mine.

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