Saturday, November 14, 2015

Indian Summers – Episode 7 – Recap

The Indian children from the orphanage/school, out for an innocent swim, find the body of Adam’s mother, Jaya, floating in the lake. When Dougie is summoned to say a prayer over the corpse, he recognizes her. He tells the police he saw her talking to Ralph recently. However, when Ralph is asked to identify the body he tells the official he's not sure who she is; alone with the body he breaks down. Is it because he regrets the need to have killed her or did he really once care for her? Or perhaps both? Who really killed her? The coroner says there are two sets of wounds: stab wounds that caused her death and one from years before.

I thought Eugene had gone back to Chicago but he is acting with Cynthia in The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Ronnie Keane, who has the kind of civil service job where he can disappear to direct a play and no one notices. Of course, even the Viceroy in the cast but I think Ralph does all his work anyway. Alice, Madeleine, and Sarah also have parts because Sarah insisted. Madeleine asks Alice why she doesn’t say no to Sarah. I am surprised that Alice doesn’t confide in Madeleine about the blackmail.

When Ian hears about Jaya’s murder, he asks to meet with Superintendent Rowntree. Ralph and Aafrin overhear, and Aafrin asks who the victim was. “Nobody!” Ralph says decisively. When Ian reveals that Jaya stole Mr. Sood’s wedding dress, poor Mr. Sood becomes the prime suspect. He is beaten until he makes a false confession.

Ralph suggests that the play be postponed because of a nationalist Indian gathering scheduled for the same day out of respect, but Cynthia and the Viceroy refuse to listen. They say the play is a tradition and the Indian matter is nothing to do with them. Cynthia has persuaded Mr. Keane (serving as play director) to kick Eugene out of the play, although a replacement would have a lot of lines to learn quickly.

“The past always catches up to you,” Ralph says to Cynthia when he brings her the news of his former paramour’s death. He says he loved Jaya once, and Cynthia tells him he has to forget about her. She is delighted that Mr. Sood is now assumed to be the murderer. Cynthia suspects Ralph of the murder and he suspects her. I know she is very, very fond of Ralph but would she kill for him?

Dougie received a generous check for the Mission School from the Revenue department, prompted by Ralph. I think Dougie is finally connecting the dots – he says Ralph has taken a great interest in the school recently. Well, yes, his son is a student there . . .

Finally, the turbaned Indian sergeant confronts Aafrin with the stolen certificate that was found during the search. It is unclear what he wants other than threats of blackmail. Everyone’s a blackmailer in Simla!

Aafrin assumes that Alice betrayed him and confronts her; he tells her Sita wouldn’t have done that and goes on to say Sita is the woman he loves and plans to marry. Alice denies it and is very upset by his accusations. Aafrin does try to ask his sister what happened the night the police searched their home but Sooni is so angry with him for continuing to work for the English that she refuses to answer. Still, Aafrin should know if Alice had betrayed him he’d have lost his job and been imprisoned.

Cynthia summons Ian to quiz him about Mr. Sood’s involvement in the murder. She tells him that Mr. Sood confessed. They had quarreled about Ian’s decision to work for Mr. Sood (it is not considered appropriate for a Brit to work for an Indian, regardless of the fact that Ian is penniless now that his uncle is dead and the estate forfeit). Cynthia tries to charm him back to the Club, reminding him where his loyalties lie. She also recruits him to play Algernon instead of Eugene. By the way, Cynthia makes a great Lady Bracknell, autocratic and sneaky!

Ian tells Ralph – very foolishly – that he heard the murder when walking home the previous night and that Mr. Sood was back at the house. Ralph delicately asks if Ian was drunk at the time, implying his recollection is faulty. But when Ian chooses to visit Mr. Sood in prison (blowing off the play, which makes Cynthia very angry), Ian realizes Mr. Sood has been falsely accused (and beaten up) and that the English, who already resent him as a landowner, have seized upon him as a convenient scapegoat. Ian is determined to stick up for Mr. Sood when no one else will – he is emerging as the only character with any integrity.

Aafrin brings Sita as his date to the play and tries to kiss her while Alice is looking: what is this, junior high? Alice is absurdly hurt but she barely knows the guy and he’s kind of an idiot. It’s all for the best, really! He needs to support his family and she needs to figure out what to do about Charlie, her husband. If Ralph is disgraced and loses his job/or goes to jail, Alice could be forced to return to Charlie.

At the funeral, Leena, the beautiful teacher from the school, tells Alice the deceased woman was Adam’s mother. Alice is astonished by this news and further surprised to see Ralph lurking near the funeral. Leena has guessed that Ralph is Adam’s father and asks Dougie if he is trying to protect Ralph by failing to tell the police that Jaya was Adam’s mother.  It seems just a matter of time until all Ralph’s lies unravel and whatever perfidy in the past (and present) will be revealed.

Image copyright to PBS

Friday, November 6, 2015

Indian Summers - Episode 6 - recap

The episode begins with Adam’s crazy mother walking into Mr. Sood’s house while a servant snoozes, and stealing a wedding sari that belonged to his deceased wife. Later, Mr. Snood blames the poor woman Ian hired last week, going crazy on her and Ian. If your caste is that low, you apparently get blamed for every random theft.
Alice and Madeleine are out exploring some local temples with erotic sculptures with the generic Mr. Keane when they encounter a cobra. Everyone freezes with fear (including me) but a Captain Farquhar "just passing by" shoots it very impressively. He’s a sort of poor man’s Damian Lewis in terms of looks who is instantly smitten with Alice. Madeleine is unnerved by the dangerous encounter but rallies when the Captain gives her a drink from his flask.
Ralph is being stalked by Adam’s mother, who is still hanging around in the shrubbery by the lake. He goes to Cynthia for advice about whatever happened ten years ago (presumably the liaison that resulted in Adam, although it seems to me this behavior is SOP for British men in Indian – the only “crime” by their standards is not keeping it quiet). Ralph speaks moodily about the woman disappearing. “She’d only come back,” says Cynthia, who doesn’t realize Ralph wants the woman to disappear permanently.

Alice is trying to flirt with Aafrin but he refuses to have eye contact with her and tries to do his work. She hands him a note that says, “Look at me, and they stare at each other until Ralph appears for tea. Alice should know this isn’t going to end well.

Aafrin is finding he doesn’t fit in with his family very well any more. And when he gets home for dinner, he finds his parents have invited his girlfriend Sita over, a desperate move given their enormous disapproval of her – probably an attempt to reclaim him. There is some ardent political conversation: Aafrin’s sister Sunni has been bitter ever since she got released from prison and resents that Aafrin is working for the enemy. She makes fun of her father for supporting British rule. The father says to the mother later that all he wants is for Aafrin to live the life given to him. Mrs. Dalal doesn’t agree; she wants him to conform, as she is still extremely unhappy about Sita and wonders what her family and friends would say if they got married. She would be more worried if she knew Aafrin was yearning for Alice.

Ralph is trying to figure out what Dougie knows about Jaya, Adam’s scary mother. He thanks Dougie for taking in Adam at the orphanage (referring to him as the boy who appeared at the engagement party), and asks Dougie to let him know what is needed in the way of upkeep: he'll try to get the Board of Revenue to pay. Dougie is too clueless to be suspicious of this sudden generosity and promises to make a comprehensive list of every repair the orphanage needs. Doesn’t Ralph remember he is overextended financially? Wait until he finds out his fiancée is not rich, as he had thought.
No one wants an ex-girlfriend who looks like she's covered with eye of newt
Ralph goes looking for Jaya, and she confirms that Adam is Ralph’s child and also reveals that the assassin is her father, presumably seeking revenge for her lost honor (but why did it take him ten years?). Ralph holds her hands and speaks to her very kindly. He must be wondering what he ever saw in her. Believe me, we’ve all been there, Ralph, but not all of us act on these homicidal impulses. Jaya says Adam has the evil eye, which is not a nice thing to say about one’s child and is not likely to influence Ralph in his favor.  Jaya must have some education or else Ralph used to read her poetry as she quotes Ben Jonson, "Or leave a kiss but in the cup, And I'll not ask for wine."  Jaya tells Ralph that many men have been cruel to her, and also one Englishwoman.  Cynthia?

The very forward Captain Farquhar admires the picture Aafrin drew of Madeleine and asks Alice if he could commission one of her from the same artist to bring with him when he goes. Ralph, despite having just finished a quickie with Madeleine in a nearby room, takes an instant dislike to the stranger flirting so obviously with his sister and says, “Not a chance. She fidgets too much to pose.” Alice says yes, however, because she realizes it’s an excuse to see Aafrin. Joke on Alice – when he turns up with his art materials he brings his schoolgirl sister as a chaperone.

Luckily, the girl asks if she can try the piano, which gives Alice and Aafrin time to talk. For the first time Alice tells someone about her husband, but the story is not what I expected. Alice simply says she realized she didn’t love him and left him. “I tried being unhappy and it didn’t work.” I guess I was wrong in assuming the husband had an affair. It seems as if Aafrin didn’t know she was married. Aafrin says bitterly that he has heard of Englishmen having Indian mistresses but never the other way around. And he reminds Alice that his father is ill and Aafrin is responsible for supporting his family. Her face falls but she recovers and asks if Aafrin would like to meet her son, who is just waking up. He says yes but when she runs upstairs to get Percy, Aafrin and sister leave quickly. That is not very nice and he didn’t finish the portrait!

At the Club, it turns out that Captain Farquhar is a friend of Alice’s husband and was sent with a message – that taking Percy was kidnapping because a child is the property of the father. “What do you want?” Alice asks, wondering why she is surrounded by blackmailers on all sides. The slimy captain wants Alice, clearly. Even without knowing about the blackmail, Ralph is so offended by what he sees that he lures Captain Farquhar away and knocks him down a flight of stairs. Captain Farquhar is taken away to a hospital. Imagine what Ralph will do to Charlie when he appears?

In fact, Captain Farquhar redeems himself slightly when he leaves. Alice asks him to write to Charlie to say she is not ready to return yet. And Captain Farquhar gives her a sketch that Aafrin did of her. Alice knows this means he drew it from memory which makes her happy.

Adams’ crazy mother, Jaya, attacks the nice orphanage teacher, Leena, and says she is taking Adam to meet his father, but Adam stays with Leena to protect her from his mother. Then we see Jaya wearing the stolen red sari and waiting by the lake for Ralph to come say goodbye to her, just as Ian McLeod walks drunkenly home after some a few drinks with Mr. Sood. Suddenly, Ian hears a scream and splashing. I suppose she could have fallen in but it seems likely that Ralph drowned his former paramour, rather than risk exposure. He certainly has a motive but it is not clear if anyone knows about Adam other than Cynthia and the dead assassin.  Maybe it was Cynthia - she did say she'd consult the useful Keyser.   Ralph needs a lawyer so he can keep track of all the intrigue surrounding him.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Great Christmas Knit-Off (Book Review)

Title: The Great Christmas Knit-Off
Author: Alexandra Brown

Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, October 2015
Genre: Chick Lit
Plot: Stood up at the altar by her fiancee and in disgrace at work, Sybil and her dog impulsively jump on a train to visit her best friend Cher, now running a pub in the picturesque village of Tindledale, somewhere in England. Expecting a quick weekend visit, Sybs woefully underpacks and winds up staggering miserably through the snow without boots.  Luckily, despite her misery, she is warmhearted and makes friends easily with the quirky inhabitants who feed her, clothe her, and – in the case of the local doctor, whose name is [clue] Darcy - romance her. However, the fun part of the story is when Sybs, an obsessive knitter, helps the twittery owner of a yarn shop revitalize her store and pay off all her bills by enlisting all the villagers in a massive knit-off making hideous holiday sweaters in large numbers.    

Audience: Fans of light English romantic fiction; authors such as Katie Fforde, Sophie Kinsella, Carole Matthews.

Tag Line:  When life unravels, it's time to knit . . .
What I liked: I enjoy a novel with a Christmas setting (although it was chiefly the snow and ice that gave this book its December atmosphere), and this is definitely a feel good story with an appealing heroine and village setting, lots of engaging characters, enough gossipy back-story to help the reader keep everyone straight, and the obligatory happy ending.  Although not much of a knitter myself, it was fun to read the descriptions of Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, and I will look forward to another trip to Tindledale (at first I misread as Tinderdale which would likely have been a very different type of book).

Points for the charming map of the village, and I hope the grumpy bookstore owner gets his own story as the series continues!

What I disliked: I am still perplexed about the message Sybs found in her newspaper: “Give me a try.  X.”  It was later explained as a shopping recommendation which does not make much sense.
Source: I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in return for an honest review. This review is the last stop on the tour but you can read other reviews of the book by clicking here. Recommended for those who enjoy a chick lit version of Cranford!

KnittingIf you want to see some pretty knitting, visit my friend Leah's blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Indian Summers – Episode 5 – Recap

The Viceroy is hosting a very elegant party at his residence to celebrate Ralph’s and Madeleine’s engagement – Alice says everyone has been invited, and this includes both blackmailing Sarah and the beautiful Indian teacher, Leena. “Prepare to eat cake!” is the theme of the party.

Ralph is negotiating with Dr. Kamble, an Untouchable (at the bottom of the caste system), to prevent the Untouchables from making a deal with the Indian Congress, which would go against British interests. Dr. Kamble is not impressed by his arguments and asks when Ralph’s family first came to India. Ralph is proud his family has been in the Indian Civil Service since 1824 but Dr. Kamble opines that his family had a hundred years to help his people, had they so chosen.

Weird little boy Adam and his equally strange mother have reunited. She tells him to wait for her and they’ll find his father (could it be Ralph?). Adam is scared of his mother but does not fit into the orphanage. The rest of the orphans are enjoying the story of Cinderella and want Leena to go to the ball, but she says she only has a hand me down dress. The orphans make her an outfit that looks beautiful but Leena wears the hand me down silver dress instead, which does nothing for her. Not that it matters; the missionary is still in love with her and with a wife like Sarah, who can blame him?

Alice tells Aafrin that she knows he stole the evidence linking the assassin to the Indian nationalists and accuses him of asking her to betray her own brother. Aafrin asks worriedly if she will tell but she’s not sure. This prevarication usually winds up with someone getting murdered but I think Alice is safe because she is the only character I like. Or does that mean she is more likely to be eliminated?

Sarah made one of her first blackmail demands of Alice – she wants to sit near the Viceroy at the engagement party dinner. However, the man in charge of protocol is immune to Alice’s coaxing and says as the wife of a missionary Sarah is stuck next to a man who works in sewage (at least, in an office job; not cleaning or shoveling it – that would indeed be insulting).

Ralph is regretting his engagement and asks Alice what she really thinks of Madeleine, complaining that Alice avoids her. Alice says Madeleine has been very kind to her and tries to explain she is just giving the couple privacy. “Oh, you’re jealous!” Ralph exclaims, because he finds that easier to understand, and from the way he is fawning over Alice we know he’d be very jealous of her spouse. Lucky spouse is far away, we think, albeit not dead.

“I don’t know if I’m in love or following orders!” Ralph complains. This could refer either to his engagement or the absurd costume he is wearing. I think the engagement is doomed. I hope for her sake Madeleine isn’t pregnant!

There is a first mention that Ralph may be spending more than he can afford although I guess it was implied when Alice commented on the gorgeous house in Episode 1. It would be nice if Madeleine really is an heiress but I suspect she and her brother are frauds.

When Sarah finds her name tag down at the uncool end of the dinner table she is furious and tells Alice it would be a pity if people found out her husband was alive (Alice was an idiot to say she was a widow). As a result, Alice switches their name tags, which doesn’t go over well with Protocol Guy, although Alice is perfectly happy sitting next to the Sarah’s morose husband, Dougie. When Alice notices that the servants are deliberately ignoring Dr. Kamble, she makes them serve him but the poor man is given something offensive – which must have been pig. Sarah does get to dance with the Viceroy which is more than she deserves. I doubt she will be grateful.
Madeleine and Ralph are dressed as Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI (hence the cake theme – bizarrely appropriate for the last days of the Raj although surely that wasn’t Madeleine’s intention) which is strange because it’s not a costume party and no one else is dressed up; plus it makes Ralph look extremely sinister, kind of like John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons. Cynthia is watching them dance and taking pleasure in the engagement because she helped engineer it until Eugene reveals there is no fortune! Cynthia is stunned by this news and can’t decide what to do. And if Eugene thinks Ralph is too much the gentleman to break the engagement, he is quite wrong.

However, Ralph doesn’t know the bad news yet and is in good spirits because the Maharajah at the party was gracious to Dr. Kamble, which Ralph and the Viceroy had not anticipated. It turns out that the Maharajah outlawed Untouchables in his admittedly small region. Aafrin has been put in charge of Dr. Kamble and tells him that Ralph is trustworthy (which is clearly not true) smoothing the way for Ralph to make another attempt to win Dr. Kamble over for his political purpose. Don’t Ralph and his cronies know the British will have to leave India? Are they just trying to feather their nests before they leave?

Then Ralph takes Madeleine for a turn in the garden just as Adam and his mother appear. They seem bent on accosting Ralph, so I guess he really is Adam’s father (we can tell from the mixed race children at the orphanage that half-Indian, half-English children are not unusual but they are kept out of sight so I suppose this might destroy Ralph’s career). Ralph seems to recognize Adam’s mother and tells one of the servants to get rid of her. Alice and Aafrin are watching, out of sight, and Alice impulsively kisses Aafrin passionately. He responds (I could tell he was getting tired of girlfriend Sita when she kept chattering to him earlier but maybe it was also because she never delivered the warning note. Although Aafrin doesn’t know it yet, the police found the forged document in his family’s home) but although this embrace was predictable, it is not very convincing. Aafrin is not a very appealing character (although intended to be) and was very petulant throughout this episode. Combined with the fact that he asked Alice to betray her brother by concealing his theft of the evidence relating to the assassin, she should steer clear of him. Does Alice not realize that if Ralph turns her out, she will have no choice but to go back to England to the dreadful husband?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Indian Summers – Episode 4 – Recap

The Viceroy of all India has arrived in Simla to enjoy the cool breezes after a business trip to London, and everyone bows very low indeed as he passes by. When he reaches the office, he naturally asks for his private secretary. One of Ralph’s servants runs to the house to alert him and, catching sight of Madeleine in his bed, averts his eyes (I am sure all the servants have been speculating like mad on her exact status). When Ralph comes downstairs looking very debonair, Eugene (furious that his host and sister keep retiring to the bedroom) announces that he and Madeleine are returning to Chicago that very afternoon unless Ralph plans to propose. Ralph is very taken aback but does not plan to be pushed into marriage by an upstart American. Eugene complains about the carrying on he has been forced to observe and asks what Ralph’s intentions are. Ralph hesitates but then Madeleine comes downstairs, all smiles, and is mortified when she realizes what is going on. Eugene insists they are leaving at 4:00 unless Ralph has something to say to Madeleine.
“I wish you a safe passage,” says Ralph, the coldest fish in the sea, because he has to rush off to see his boss. Although not sure I like Madeleine, I felt bad when her face fell and she realized how indifferent Ralph really is to her.

The Viceroy is very pleasant and says he’s heard about Ralph’s young lady and wants to meet her. He implies it is time for Ralph to get married. All of this surprises Ralph but makes him a bit more positive about poor Madeleine.

Ralph is given the coroner’s report on the assassin’s attack which basically says, “Lone gunman, possibly insane.” Heard that one before? He and Superintendent Rowntree commiserate about the guy’s false identity papers being missing (although I assumed these were falsified, but if so, why not falsify more?) which prevents them from publicizing the case as a Nationalist plot. The document is missing because Aafrin took it, remembering his sister had told him the assassin wasn’t really a Nationalist (in fact, we think there is something in Ralph's administrative past that inspired the attack). Ralph suspects the document was stolen, not misplaced, and when he invites Aafrin over for some golf I wonder if he suspects Aafrin. Aafrin is wearing the wrong clothes (not for the last time, poor fellow) and is no good at golf. The Viceroy stops by and acknowledges Aafrin’s brave act in saving Ralph’s life.

Sarah has finally received a gossipy letter from England about Alice - the mail is faster then than now - so immediately decides to ask her to tea – what’s on the menu? Alice!

The uncle who collapsed at the fair has not died from his heart attack, and Cynthia arranges for him to be taken to England for proper nursing. The nephew (about 20?), Ian McLeod is left in charge of his uncle’s failing fortunes.

Madeleine is reluctant to leave India although she knows her brother is right about Ralph’s having sampled all the wares he wants. However, because the Viceroy inquired about Ralph’s young lady, Ralph asks her to stay and play hostess for a little impromptu soiree. “You told him about me?” asks Madeleine hopefully. “Shouldn’t I have?” asks Ralph disingenuously. I am sure he knows how Madeleine is hoping for clues he really does care for her.  Perhaps this is more of an audition of her suitability as a hostess - it’s not as if he needs a hostess with his sister in residence!

Over tea, Sarah tells Alice that her son Matthew horrified her that day by asking to attend his father’s school for the natives. Alice is not very shocked and reveals that going “home” to England at 8 was very lonely. Alice suggests they ask Matthew what he’d like to do, and Sarah mutters something about Alice not having consulted her child when she left England. Suspicious, Alice gets up to leave but Sarah insists on accompanying her and reveals that she knows the truth – Alice’s husband is not dead, as she told Sarah, but alive, and that Alice took her son and left him without explanation (I am sure she had her reasons). Sarah says this if this sort of behavior got out it could hurt Ralph’s career. “What do you want?” Alice demands, and her blackmailer/Sarah says she just wants them to be friends. (As a missionary’s wife, Sarah is low on the social totem pole, which she hates – Alice could improve Sarah’s quality of life, if she wanted to.)

The Viceroy is updating Ralph on his recent visit with the Prime Minister. He tells Ralph the English need a man to represent their interests, and tells Ralph it could be him (given the Nationalist fever and Gandhi, I am not sure this is really an ideal job for anyone but it’s certainly meant as a compliment).

Ralph questions Cynthia about how the Viceroy knew about Madeleine, and it is clear Cythia spread the word, hoping to boost Ralph’s career hopes. I guess becaue Cynthia runs the British Club she hears every word of gossip.

Ralph hosts a little soiree, and Aafrin is the only Indian in attendance (a rude English guest makes fun of his suit). Poor Aafrin, and he was so pleased to be invited. The Viceroy asks impertinent questions about Madeleine and Eugene’s wealth as he tries to figure out if it’s a good match for his protégé.

At the party, Ralph’s colleague (Superintendent Rowntree?) tells Aafrin that they’ve made a list of everyone who visited the coroner’s office the day the evidence disappeared and are going to raid all their homes to search for it. Aafrin panics because he gave it to his sister. He leaves the table (the guy has no subtlety at all – I would like him better if he weren’t so clueless) and writes a note to his sister telling her to destroy it. Alice comes to see if he is ill and he begs her to bring the note to Sita. Alice runs in the dark to a church where Sita is waiting for a rendezvous with Aafrin, I suppose, and although Sita points out that Aafrin’s family hates her, she goes to their home anyway.

Quaint parlor games are going on at the party which Madeleine enjoys because she is the quasi-hostess and thinks that if Ralph’s friends admire her that is half the job done, so Alice is able to sneak back inside without anyone noticing her absence.

Ian tells Cynthia that Ramu Sood, the Indian who was feuding with his uncle, has asked him to manage the estate (which now belongs to Sood). Ian seems excited but Cynthia says that is completely unacceptable AND she reveals that his uncle died on the train so Sood is a murderer. Now Ian really can’t work for him but he does not appear to have any source of income. This is usually considered a problem.

The party is a success because everyone is drunk at the end, especially the Viceroy who gets a bit maudlin and accidentally calls Ralph “Gerard,” the name of his son who died in the war.

Superintent Rowntree (I think) tells Ralph they didn’t find the document anywhere, so we viewers know Sita got to the Dalals’ home in time.

Ralph says he has a question for Aafrin, and Aafrin is terrified it is going to be about the missing document. Instead, it is about Madeleine: Ralph says Aafrin’s artist eye was perceptive about him, so what did he see when he drew Madeleine? He goes on to ask Aafrin if he should propose or send her away. Aafrin is astounded and doesn’t know how to answer. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was some kind of double bluff (i.e., how dare you comment on your betters) But in the next scene, Ralph appears about to propose. I hope Madeleine really is an heiress and not just an adventuress – surely, if Sarah can get the gossip from England, Ralph could have done some due diligence about the extent of the Mathers’ fortunes?

The episode ends as it began, with child Adam dreaming about his mother but suddenly she appears and they are reunited. Or so it seems!

Image copyright to PBS

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Indian Summers – Episode 3 – Recap

Aafrin is back at work after being shot, despite appearing to be at death’s door at the hospital in last week’s episode. Ralph’s previous condescending attitude has changed now that Aafrin saved his life, and he asks if Aafrin is interested in a high level position in the Indian Civil Service (ICS), perhaps one day as magistrate. The ICS, which ran India, was called the 'heaven born service' during the Raj days.   Although by the late 19th century a few Indians were admitted, it was expensive to travel to London to study for and take the necessary exams, which kept the numbers low.
Sarah scolds her husband's girlfriend
Aafrin says the ICS is exactly what he wanted but he couldn’t take the exams due to financial constraints.  “It’s all a matter of timing,” smiles Ralph, his new best friend, and offers him a position as Head Clerk which pays enough to subsidize his studies (amusingly, the people in my office who are clerks do not take it as a compliment but Aafrin is delighted).  Aafrin should be suspicious of this dramatic change in his fortune.  “I’ll be joining the ranks of the heaven-born!” he says to his delighted parents, while his sister is participating in nationalist rallies. Aafrin’s girlfriend is very happy too

Ian McLeod, the somewhat uncouth nephew of the drunken landowner, is discovering that his uncle is in debt to an Indian neighbor, Mr. Sood.  Not wanting to be caught in the middle, he suggests the man go discuss the matter with his uncle at the club, not realizing the Indian is banned from the club.  Mr. Sood comes to a fair organized by Cynthia to talk to the uncle, but when their argument becomes physical the uncle has a stroke or heart attack.  He is totally incapacitated.

Alice and Percy are playing with some other mothers and babies when Cynthia pops over to tell her there is going to be an inquest into the shooting and she will need to testify.  Alice doesn’t see why this is a problem and Cynthia tells her pointedly that she can’t possibly remember anything that happened.  Alice resents her interference and it is likely that Cynthia’s attempt to protect Ralph is likely to make Alice even more curious about what inspired the assassination attempt.

Dougie Raworth, the Old Testament-looking missionary and Leena his beautiful helper are in the middle of a passionate embrace when Alice stops by to volunteer at the orphanage.  Alice remembers Leena from the train (she was able to pronounce Persephone when Sarah could not) and is much friendlier than other English ladies would have been.  Leena is wary but eventually responds to Alice’s sincere desire to help.

In the meantime, Aafrin’s sister was arrested at the Nationalist protest.  Aafrin has been invited to the Whelans’ for drinks and, reluctantly, asks for Ralph’s help getting Sooni out of prison.  Ralph promises to do what he can.

It’s clear that Ralph wants to be sure Alice’s and Aafrin’s descriptions of the assassination attempt are the same as his.  “All I recall is his shouting, ‘You British devil!’” Ralph says pleasantly.   Aafrin says he remembers very little.  But when Ralph brings Aafrin to sketch Madeleine (who reveals her American background by shaking hands with him; I suspect an Englishwoman would not do so until he has risen much higher in the social strata), Alice leaves the room.   She confronts Ralph, and tells him she will not perjure herself.

I thought Dougie was going to tell Sarah he was in love with Leena, but Sarah, guessing what is wrong, starts sobbing, and Dougie merely says he will behave more like a Christian in the future.  I guess that included giving his son Matthew’s shoes to Adam, the boy who was hit by the train!  When Ralph sees Adam at the fair, he recognizes something about him, and the mysterious music that starts playing shows that Adam is linked to Ralph’s secret past.  Sarah takes the opportunity to tell Leena that her claim on Dougie is over and to stay away.

Madeleine’s brother is angry that Ralph is sleeping with Madeleine but has not proposed.  He suggests she play a little harder to get (I expected him to trot out that old adage about Ralph not buying the cow if he can get the milk for free).

When Alice and Aafrin are deposed, separately, they are asked if the assassin said anything.  Both hesitate, then respond as Ralph suggested, “You British devil.”  This way it will seem that the attack was part of the Nationalist movement, not anything personal towards Ralph, which might uncover whatever is in his past.  However, the Englishmen conducting the deposition leave for some fresh air and Aafrin takes a look at the assassin’s file.  As his sister had warned him, the English falsified identity papers to show the assassin was a political protestor.  When Aafrin sees this proof, he realizes he is being used.  Sooni is equally upset when she is released from prison due to Ralph’s influence.  Her prison-mate advises her to fight from the outside.

A somewhat disappointing episode!  I hope the plot begins to pick up.

Image copyright to PBS

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Indian Summers - Episode 2 - Recap

If Alice was expecting a relaxing summer visiting her highly-placed-in-the-British-hierarchy brother, she had a rude awakening within hours of arriving in Simla.   First, a scheming brother and sister seem to have moved into her brother Ralph’s house, and then there is an attempted assassination on Ralph while she is inches away. Not much happens to advance the plot in Episode 2. Although Ralph had seemed very hot and heavy with his American guest, Madeleine’s brother Eugene tells Cynthia (aka Mrs. Weasley) that Ralph is losing interest. Madeleine is very pretty and allegedly rich: why did she have to come to India to look for a husband? What is her secret? Does she really like Ralph?
Aafrin, pre-assassination attempt
Ralph, who is private secretary to the Viceroy, and the other British civil servants don’t seem to do much at work except talk about discouraging Gandhi and other attempts at nationalism. Back at the house, ladies of leisure Alice and Madeleine are thinking about going to a gymkhana (which makes me think of the Pullein-Thompson sisters) when Suspicious (and doubtless friendless) Sarah drops by, hoping to ingratiate herself with her betters. She continues to ask nosy questions about Alice’s husband – Alice mendaciously told her the man is dead but we know he is alive back in England. Whatever he did (is it worse than just cheating on her?) was sufficiently painful that whenever he is mentioned, Alice has to rush outside for fresh air.

Aafrin is still in the hospital, and his female relatives are concerned that his recovery is slow. Ralph is more concerned about negative publicity when an Indian newspaper reporter from the Delhi Herald comes asking questions. He doesn’t even want to pay Aafrin’s hospital bill! The assumption is that the attempted assassination was politically motivated but the would-be assassin won’t speak. “But he’s wearing a Gandhi hat!” says one of the Brits triumphantly, i.e., it must be political. Mr. Khan, the polite Indian reporter, points out it is merely a hat everyone wears to keep off the sun! However, the Indian servant listening to this conversation finds an identity card hidden in the lining of the hat that I think shows the man is a nationalist.

Ralph visits the assassin and says they’re in a bit of a hole. Well, it was pretty obvious they had some relationship! Startlingly, the man first strokes Ralph’s face (this surprised me because I couldn’t believe they were secret lovers) and then begins beating him viciously. The man does some damage before someone pulls him off; then Ralph visits Cynthia to be cleaned up and cuddled, in a semi-motherly way. This seems odd although we know both Alice and Ralph lost their mother early, and he has known Cynthia for years. Ralph seems to cherish sentimental memories of his childhood that aren’t identical to Alice’s recollections; for example, he bought Alice a piano because he remembers her accompanying her singing as a child but Alice says she doesn’t play. Ralph also seems to cherish a drawing (done by him?) of Alice as a child. If he is so obsessed with her, why didn’t he ever go back to England to visit her? He doesn’t seem to be hurting for money but perhaps was too busy pursuing a career. Alice says she didn’t come to India just to practice the piano but she doesn’t explain why she did come. I think it is obvious that she was escaping from the husband and visiting Ralph was expedient. No sign of the baby in this episode but that’s why you have an ayah.

Mr. Khan says if there wasn’t a political motive for what everyone politely calls “the incident,” there must be another reason. He does some digging and finds out that Ralph was an Assistant Magistrate at some point in the past; he wonders if there is a connection. When Khan goes to visit the man in prison; he is too late, the man has killed himself. Mr. Khan won’t stop pursuing the matter, so Ralph distracts him by bringing him to visit Aafrin. Ralph tells the reporter that Aafrin saved the life of this “very grateful Englishman.” Ralph even charmingly poses for a picture with Aafrin, more proof he is hiding something, as he does not like Aafrin and does not seem grateful.

Last week I ignored a character named Ian, a young man who was on the train with Alice and Sarah, coming to live in India with his uncle. He is beginning to find out that the uncle is in debt and very disreputable, but he continues to be forgettable (except that I think he had a flingt with Sarah on the way home from the Club in Episode 1).

Alice covers her bright hair to venture discreetly to visit Aafrin’s family to inquire about his recovery. It turns out his family kept the news of his injury from the father who has a weak heart (and did he say they are living in a cow byre or did I misunderstand?), so everyone is annoyed with Alice for coming, plus they hate that she saw their humble home.  Aafrin’s elder sister Sooni meets up with his Hindu girlfriend, who tries to give her a letter for Aafrin. Sooni opens and reads the letter and seems unlikely to pass it on.

Adam, the child who nearly was killed on the train tracks, runs away from the orphanage, and lovely Leena, the assistant teacher, wanders around until she finds him. She sent for Dougie, the missionary/orphanage director, to help her search, but jealously Sarah insisted he stay with her.

Ralph and some other guy competed at the gymkhana, which looks quite jolly, especially when everyone heads off for drinks, but then they leave Sarah behind, and you know what a woman scorned is likely to do…

Madeleine accosts Ralph while he is taking a bath (American hussy). She wants to talk about their relationship. As my Latin teacher used to say, “Nihil novi sub sole – there is nothing new under the sun.” Like all men, he has no interest in the Serious Talk but it’s boring taking a bath by oneself, so he beckons her to join him in the bathtub and she does not realize she should play hard to get.

Sarah, still smarting about being ignored at the gymkhana, writes to a friend in England to do some sleuthing about what Alice is hiding. Wouldn’t you think the mail back and forth to India would be unreliable? Yet I am sure Sarah’s correspondent will write back by return of post with all the dirt about Alice’s husband, which we are eager to hear!