NOTE: From this point on I will assume all the actions of the participants are genuine and not a contrivance of the producers.
We ended part one with the departure of Mr. Robinson, leaving four men and five women in the house party and that could lead to problems, especially with the women chaffing under the restrictions of Regency life. For instance, Countess Griaznov is under the stricture of reporting to her chaperone Mrs. Rogers every morning. And during the day she’s under Mrs. Roger’s watchful eye, hearing admonitions such as “Legs crossed!” — meaning a lady does not sit with crossed legs.
And Miss Lisa Braund must put up with her chaperone, Mrs. Rosie Hammond, when her chaperone refuses to put on her corset one day, thus condemning her charge to remain with her in their shared room, for it would not be proper for the young lady to be seen unaccompanied. (I doubt how seriously some of these rules were observed in Regency.)
Fortunately for Miss Victoria Hopkins, her chaperone Elizabeth Lady Devonport is not so strict, but that may be attributed to Lady Devonport’s relationship with Mr. Mark Fox-Smith, a relationship that concerns Mrs. Rogers, the hired hostess of the party.
The other defining relationships of this episode are Mr. John Everett’s feelings for both Miss Hopkins (a very suitable match for in the fiction of the show they are both wealthy) and Miss Braund (not so wealthy). But don’t expect any cat fights between Miss Braund and Miss Hopkins. The nicest thing about this series is the mutual respect between the young men and women. Miss Hopkins, who does find Mr. Everett charming, even tries to make a match between Mr. Everett and Miss Hopkins, although she’s thwarted by Mr. Hopkins continued entreaties to both ladies, such as a bedside rose sent to Miss Hopkins and a daisy put on Miss Braund’s pillow. Miss Braund’s blush on receiving the daisy chain is most becoming, although the effect is ruined by there not being a note identifying the sender.
Unfortunately confusions such as this and Regency etiquette (the women must retire to their bedrooms at 11 p.m. while the men socialize — drink — below) contribute to the slow pace of courtship, so slow in fact that Mr. Chris Gorrell Barnes, the host of the party, takes the chaperones to task. To further the chances that a match might be made during the party, Mr. Gorrell Barnes invites present-day Gothic novelist Kim Newman to visit the party; and while awaiting his arrival the men and women peruse The Monk (the novel by Matthew Gregory Lewis whom Austen readers will recognize from Northanger Abbey). Mr. Gorrell Barnes also arranges a phantasmagoria magick lantern show, which the men and women attend in costume with appropriate Gothic makeup.
The magic lantern show, like the fireworks in the previous episode, allows the young men and women to socialize with some of the social rules relaxed in the darkened room. Other opportunties to socialize include a walk in the country. Narrator Richard E. Grant explains that if the walk is long and vigorous enough it can be done without chaperones.
Mrs. Hammond, the most enthusiast chaperone, proposes an even better opportunity for making matches — a Gothic play of their own invention and performance. She enlists Mr. Everett as the producer and has the party making sets and costumes. She also plans for Miss Braund, who she knows has a lovely voice, to sing during the performance.
Before the performance, however, we will see Lady Devonport attempt to end her relationship with Mr. Fox-smith. A whispered aside from a footman informs the viewers that the two were seen on the lawn at night in dishabille and a scandal has arisen. Both parties agree that it would be better for Mr. Fox-smith were he to pursue the younger ladies, even though the first half of this episode has emphasized Lord Byron’s affairs with older women. Don’t think for a moment this puts an end to their romance.
The performance is a success and adds to the charm of the series. One cannot help but think of the ill-fated performance in Mansfield Park. Unfortunately despite Miss Braund’s performance, Mr. Everett does not propose to her. The image fades to black and this is rather obviously the end of the third half-hour British episode.
NOTE: I see that this review has already consumed a large part of my day and so I will return to it next week and tell you of the summer ball.
Other highlights of this episode include a Sunday church service where the sermon praises the congregants for their decision to join the show (a nice touch by the producers), women’s archery (Emma anyone) and various manly pursuits such as spearing a ring while on horseback, lumber aerobics and drinking an emetic after exercise with appropriate sound effects.
My apologies for the delay in this for review for the second half of episode two. After the success of the Gothic play, the guests prepare for the summer ball where the men and women will actually be allowed to hold hands while dancing. Oh rapture! The men prepare by taking dancing lessons, with male servants standing in for the ladies, and with the aerobics and emetic mentioned previously. The women must content themselves with needlepoint, our narrator mentioning the belief that strenuous exercise might injure the womb, and ordering dresses for the ball. That is the wealthier women order new dresses while the poorer must content themselves with ribbons and other embellishments.
The major conflict of this second half of part two continues the bad feelings between Miss Brand and her chaperone Mrs. Hammond. Despite Miss Braund’s feelings for Mr. Everett, Mrs. Hammond has her sights set on marrying her charge to Mr. Gorrell Barnes, the host. Her unrelenting efforts toward that goal result in a late night shouting match that draws the attention of Mrs. Rogers, the hostess, who tries to intervene. Unfortunately Mrs. Rogers strikes Miss Braund and again Mr. Gorrell Barnes must act as mediator, a very unlikely position for Regency buck.
Concerned for her feelings, Captain Glover decides to avow his interest in Miss Braund by spelling a large letter B underlined with the word “HAPPY” on the lawn outside her window. So now the dynamics involve Mr. Everett, who has feelings for both Miss Braund and Miss Hopkins (although Miss Hopkins promotes Miss Braund as a better match for Mr. Everett), Miss Braund who has feelings for Mr. Everett and Captain Glover who has feelings for Miss Braund.
This episode also explores the Regency dandy Beau Brummell and the men are given fashion tips, including padded hose to emphasize their calves and other types of padding to emphasize other parts of the male anatomy.
And in preparation for the summer ball, Mr. Gorrell Barnes has invited Mr. James Carrington, a musician, to the party. Mr. Carrington’s good looks and fine voice — and better head for alcohol — pose a problem for Mr. Everett who after the ball attempts to serenade Miss Hopkins. Unfortunately his high spirits are no match for the spirits he has imbibed and Mr. Carrington serenades her instead, with much success.
The episode concludes with a party in a Hellfire Club, a Regency men’s drinking and whoring club, which some of the women crash while dressed in men’s clothing.