Gentleman Jack S1:E04 Most Women Are Dull and Stupid Recap

Woooo it’s time for my favourite part of the week when I getta watch Gentleman Jack with Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle! Everything on this show is so well done; the love whose name we shall not spaketh (OH WE’RE GOING TO SPAKE IT), the exquisite (yet sometimes still somehow ugly) costuming, so many shiny bits to catch our attention. At its gooey center, however, it’s a tale of every era: of the extraordinary and the discomfort it that follows from being among the status quo. Onward to the continuing tale of the indomitable Anne Lister!

D’ya know that I completely forgot that Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis) murdered his dad Sam (Anthony Flanagan) at the end of last episode? Poof, right out of my head, but I could probably tell you how many petticoats Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) had to fight through to get to Miss Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle)(ten at my best guesstimate). Thanks, episode preview!

We open with a disillusioned Eliza Priestly (Amelia Bullmore from Scott and Bailey! And Happy Valley series 2, she’s awesome) complaining to her husband William (Peter Davison): she defended “that woman” Anne Lister! When people said terrible things about her not being trustworthy around women (I’m telling you, they could be in no better hands), she stood up for her!

She didn’t stand up and say that there’s nothing wrong with Anne and her love of women, of course. She thought this strong, intelligent woman was a great friend and person, right until she caught her at the very business she defended her against.

*I shall have to pace myself so I don’t get too shouty. There’s no SENSE in that. Either you’re fond of someone or you’re not and unless you want someone groping your undercarriage, why would you care whom else they fondled on a sitting room chaise?

She very clearly feels betrayed.

William is aghast, but there’s more than hurt feelings at stake here. Two men were recently hanged for “unnatural acts” and William is worried that they’ll be associated with Anne and his cousin’s “unnatural acts.” He tells Eliza to tell no one, but it’s too late: she has already gossiped to the Rawsons, of all people.

The Rawsons and Anne are very much at odds; they’re stealing her coal, mutilating her tenants (almost like serfs, yes?) and generally being obnoxious.

Eliza told everyone else in town too, so yeah.

Sexy credits!

Eliza and William head back to the den of iniquity to find Ann and Anne away; Ann’s chaperone (Stephanie Cole) explains that they’ve gone to York to see a doctor about Ann’s spine.

Ann is known to have all sorts of things wrong with her, although none seem apparent so I bet it was Anne’s idea to get a second opinion. The local doctor’s a creepy chatty cathy.

The chaperone is grossing me out by eating with gloves on, licking her fingers and talking all the while but she gets out a “the unspoken, William, is not always the unknown. She’ll have her in Paris before we know it!” so I forgive her.

Anne and Ann wake up in bed together, all lovely and post coital. Anne looks so much younger and more carefree with her hair down.

Dr. Belcombe (Michael Xavier – like, that’s the name on your birth certificate, Mr. Xavier?) diagnoses Ann’s back pain as “nervous hysteria” . Anne asks if that means it’s all in Ann’s head, Dr. Belcombe gives a great description of mental illness/depression and all the kudos to Anne for being a light in Ann’s life. She should take Ann abroad!

I hear Paris is great this time of the year!

Ooohhh Dr. Belcombe is a slightly closer friend than we knew, his sister is Anne’s booty call from the second episode. You remember Mrs. Marianna Lawton (Lydia Leonard) who stopped by for a visit in Anne’s bedchambers? Her husband makes me laugh for a full minute in his response to the news that Anne will be traveling soon with a Miss Walker.

In the first episode, there was a terrible carriage crash (you wouldn’t think that something so pretty would lead to so much tragedy) and a young boy lost his leg. Two carriages were traveling opposite each other when a third forced itself in between, causing one to eject its smallest charge off a wall/bridge. Anne’s been trying to find out who was driving that third cart; last she heard it was driven by none other than the town magistrate Christopher Rawson (Vincent Franklin). She asks Ann’s driver William (Wim Snape – a dead ringer for Richard Madden in IMDb) who does not want to get involved.

Ann walks up then, lookit the adorable little smiles!

Anne has tasked Samuel Washington (Joe Armstrong from Happy Valley series 1!) with minding her coal pits (and maybe expanding? Shortly?); he’s got loads of men pickaxing away and stops to chat with young Tom. How are things at home? Any sign of his dad Sam? Tom just wants to know if the tenancy agreement with Anne will hold with his dad gone (and eaten by pigs). He’s also got to convince his mum Mary (Lucy Black) that his dad has run away and not been murdered and eaten by pigs.

Anne and Ann have returned, watching a glowing Ann ask for permission to travel is adorable and just a tiny bit sad. Her chaperone reminds her that provincial hack Dr. Kenny (Daniel Weyman) said the exact same thing, but pish tosh, he was creepy and overstepping!

Anne and Ann smile impishly at each other and politely argue over who’s under whose spell; the chaperone’s had all she can take of that. Some awful news has come; Miss Walker’s friend Mrs. Ainsworth has died. Ann about faints.

Back at Shibden Hall, the rest of the Listers take Anne spending the night with Ann with equanimity. Anne’s sister Marian (the excellent Gemma Whelan) is back from her manhunt, and about that…Aunt Anne Lister (Gemma Jones!) was sworn to secrecy as to Marian’s suitor John Abbott, but it might have slipped out…


Anne’s uncle Jeremy (Timothy West) pffts: let Anne say what she likes about John Abbott being trade because he’s in wool; their family was too! Anne forgets that. They are all from trade!

*I flinch every time they say John is trade, I usually hear it in a completely different context

Ah no, Anne’s ladysmaid Eugenie (Albane Courtois) has been bleeding heavily. She’s pregnant by a dead fella and engaged to another one she’s never actually spoken to, ahh she’s devastated by the loss. Cordingley (Rosie Cavaliero) tries to calm her down by relating her life story in broken French until Eugenie’s fiancĂ© John Booth (Thomas Howes) runs in. Wedding’s off!

Ann can not be consoled, she’s devastated by her friend’s death. Anne is solicitous; Ann must have been close to Mrs. Ainsworth be so upset. Ann takes that as a suggestion that she and the late Mrs. Ainsworth were knocking boots, Anne is taken aback. Ann cannot handle death, it terrifies her.

*I can’t be the only one thinking of how mismatched they are; Anne is all take charge and action, a giant curious brain on legs. Ann’s wildly changing temperament is much more rooted in the ephemeral. Not that opposites can’t attract, they usually do! But for forever? I completely understand though, it’s not as though there are thousands of beautiful lesbians openly roaming the streets in the 1800s, I just wonder.

The next morning Ann is edgy but Anne has a plan already; she wants to go see the Priestlys. If they brazen it out, they might come out okay. If they avoid them, it will give everyone the impression that they’ve done something wrong. Also: I don’t think Anne can take a lot more of this nursemaid stuff, to action!

*Not that she isn’t kind and caring

It’s an awkward visit at the Priestlys, Ann withdrawn and pale (in a glorious robin’s egg blue monstrosity; same colour as William’s waistcoat in the beginning!) but Anne still working to sell her overall improvement.

Anne’s off, she has things to do and people to see!

She stops by Shibden Hall to chat with her sister and entertain Jeremiah Rawson (Shaun Dooley) yet again. There was an issue with the agreement they drew up over her coal beds (that they’ve been robbing blind); she has an even larger number to float at him. He thought her previous number was for BOTH beds.

I LOVE how she just said No, then paused. Hahaha

The worst part about that is where he seemed genuinely concerned for her safety. Anne is not given to emotional reactions, she tends to find everything interesting.

Anne and Marian head into Halifax; Marian and she make up. It’s quite lovely, Marian even essentially gives her blessing for Ann to live with them at Shibden Hall as Anne’s companion. And then John Abbott (trade!) is brought up and Anne’s not as friendly. How can Marian entertain a fella who makes rugs?

*You know, I could use a BUNCH of rugs.

Wooo hai George Costigan, how lovely to see you back! Even if IMDb has no record of you, I see you there in your muttonchops waxing poetic on how small children have to be to work in the mines. I think Anne called him Mr. Holt so I will too. Anne heads down into the pit with the wee lad, I understand the fascination with new things but I used to live in Sparwood, BC so mining makes me itch.

It looks like a fcking NIGHTMARE, dirty children everywhere and grown people crawling around on their knees with baskets tied to their waists.

I’m not sure we trust Mr. Holt yet, he’s clearly knowledgeable but tells Anne her pit will cost 2000 pounds to sink because of how different it is.

She visits her solicitor after, Mr. Parker would like to know her strategy. She wants the Rawsons to know she knows they stole her coal, even if she can’t do anything about it or accuse them openly. She’d like them to pay for it, thanks and for them to know she will not be bullied.

That’s Christopher Rawson’s stock in trade, however, expect some dirty play.

*Anne taps glass when she’s thinking; it’s her tell.

She receives a note from Ann Walker while in the bath; it hurries her right up and shows us armpit hair wooo!

*I did a whole thing in a Girls recap about this, but did you know how much better it is to have armpit hair? I had some lumps so had to leave one side alone for ages, that was the side that was 1000 times better at cooling itself off! Seriously, I’d walk around completely lopsided after a run. There’s hair there for a reason and it works like a charm.

She’s off to Crowsnest to see Ann posthaste; Ann’s had a letter from Mr. Ainsworth who is about to bury his wife on Monday but in between would like to marry Ann.

Anne tries to process; can she see the letter? No. Ann will not let her see the letter. Really? Just show her the letter! She showed you your brain, surely you can share your marriage proposal with her?

Ahh it’s painful to watch Anne try to calm herself and treat this proposal seriously. She gets in a dig about Ann fulfilling her destiny as a woman, but it sounds to me as though her vitriol is directed at society, not Ann specifically. Ann cannot take the woman she loves being angry and in pain, she falls to her knees to beg Anne to understand that she’s always loved her, ever since she first knew her. She cries and speaks of a repugnance to any connection with a man; it brings our ears up.

So she’s not just in love with Anne, she’s full on. Cheers!

They talk later in bed; there’s something with this damn letter and Anne does not understand why she won’t share it.

Ann awakes to find Anne sitting on a chair and not in bed with her; she needs Ann to make up her mind which horse she’s riding into the sunset. She has the weekend to think it over, no longer until her birthday on April 3.

They talk about this pending proposal from Mr. Ainsworth; my sympathy is all the way with Anne, who is forced to give counsel to the woman she loves about whether or not she should marry some asshole who hasn’t even buried his first wife yet. Because he’s a man and his (obscenely quick) proposal is considered more respectable than her own offer of lifelong companionship.

I mean, really.

Ann asks tentatively if they could still be friends if she married Mr. Ainsworth? “NO” shouts Anne, then tries to temper her anger but the choice hangs heavy in the air. Ann will be Anne’s companion at Shibden Hall or married to Mr. Ainsworth and never the twain shall meet.

Anne goes home to furiously journal the events, she’d really like it if she wasn’t so emotionally invested in Ann’s choice, if it were just a game or scene or interlude perhaps. But she’s all in; the wait is excruciating for her.

It’s just that: Anne has been left for men for at least 16 years. As unfortunate as my love life has occasionally been, I’ve never had to contend with that much loss.

The Rawson residence is abuzz with talk of Anne as well, Mme. Stansfield Rawson (Lucy Briers) is over making fun of her sons Christopher and Jeremiah and their inability to deal with Anne. She likes Anne, so interesting to talk to and so well traveled.

“Most women are dull and stupid. But not her.”

I agree that most of the women we’ve met have been very conventional, but not Mme. Rawson, who is a troll in wine-coloured satin. Interesting that her sons are hiding from her that they’ve been stealing coal and unlike Eliza Priestly, Mme. Rawson’s admiration for Anne is not dimmed by the knowledge of her sexual practices. She even jokes about it while everyone clutches their pearls and tries to pretend they can’t hear her.

I too wondered if Anne was going to finance sinking her pits by borrowing from Miss Walker!

Anne’s distracting herself with hard physical labour; her groomsmen John Booth (Thomas Howes from Downton Abbey!) suggests maybe a break? Anne’s got a woman on her mind and a decision pending, no rest for her. She’ll have a swig of beer, though!

Anne gives her decision about Eugenie and he getting married, but no nevermind, it’s all off. Anne didn’t know Eugenie was pregnant, but she figures it out almost immediately. Anne is not happy to hear that everyone knew before she did, but soon we’re into the morass of understanding who is the lovee and who is the loved in their relationship. John is quite smitten with Eugenie, baby or no, Anne tells him she wasn’t good enough for him. But how do you know when you’re in love with someone? Anne is clearly working through her own feelings as John looks on.

Washington approaches, time to deal with Sowden and his tenancy. A letter is couriered via two girls, one the fetching Eliza, which Tom notices more than once. Woot, Tom gets to keep the farm if his dad doesn’t come back after two months! (He is not coming back, he’s now fertilizer)

Anne watches the clock through an interminable night, waking to a disgustingly beautiful day. She discusses her coal plans with her uncle Jeremy, who wishes she wouldn’t get involved in this nasty business.

Aha, so she did hope to borrow the money for the pits from Ann, there’s quite a lot hanging on Ann’s decision.

A fruit basket of doom has been delivered from Ann’s house Crowsnest.

*I tend to be a pessimist. I’m often happily surprised!

Anne tears the letter open, Ann has sent more than apples and oranges to Shibden Hall, she’s sent her answer in a game of chance. Ann was unable to come to a decision, so she put slips of paper with Yes and No in a purse, whatever Anne draws out will be her answer.

Anne pulls out the “No.”

Will she tell her the truth? Will she excoriate Ann for being the sort of person who treats a companion proposal like a raffle of the cheapest sort?

Off she races to Crowsnest to yell at Ann about how ridiculous this whole charade is until Ann collapses in tears and finally explains. She doesn’t want to marry Mr. Ainsworth, but she feels it’s her duty.


“If I tell you the truth, you won’t want anything to do with me.”

What did she DO?? SHOW US THE LETTER

Oh. Ann has been “indiscreet” with Mr. Ainsworth before his wife’s untimely death. Anne and I draw back in confusion and a sense of betrayal.

She didn’t know how to refuse him, that’s why she was so upset when she saw that Mrs. Ainsworth had died. She knew he would come calling almost immediately and indeed: it was pre-funeral. She struggles out “he’s had intimate knowledge of me.”

Anne moves close again; intimate how? I didn’t understand it all, but there was definitely kissing and touching. Ahhh now I understand, Ann feels obligated because she let him do such things in the past. By “let” I mean she was coerced. Anne is animated now, Ann was there under Mr. Ainswiorth’s roof and protection and he took advantage of her. She is not under obligation: he was married!

THAT’s why Ann couldn’t answer Anne, she thought it was this horrible secret that she must take to her marital bed with Mr. Handsy. Aw Jaysus, he had her convinced it was just as much her fault as his; it couldn’t sound more like grooming if you tried. What a horrible person.

Anne is handed the letter.

She asks one time directly: is everything Ann has said true? When assured, she comforts the calming Ann, who had worked her way into hysteria, what is Anne going to do to Mr. Ainsworth?

OOO and we’re out. Well. That took a turn, didn’t it? I felt as though I were on that same rollercoaster as Anne! A couple of things: I love that Anne’s family is so supportive of her, to a one they all wished her well in her plan of lifelong companionship with Ann Walker, even if it they were focused on the “settled” Anne part of it. On the not so positive side is the reported coercion by the curate in a dog collar, that’s not changed much since, has it? It reminds me of a recording made of Harvey Weinstein reportedly groping a reporter; I don’t think I fully understood what triggering was until I listened to that unawares.

*DISCLAIMER* I am not an expert in sexual assault or the psychology behind it, only someone who’s experienced the pointy end, which is what I talk about.

Although Miss Walker’s sexual contact took place in the 1800s, her recounting sounded so familiar that it has to be considered as almost universal. Coercive sexual predation is the difference between what Anne Lister does and what Thomas Ainsworth is said to have done. Anne was all sexy eyes and close contact and measured words, but drew back to offer the space for self-reflection, understanding and consent. She certainly didn’t imply that her friendship required sexual favours, but yet that’s how Ann interpreted it. And why is that?

Who among us hasn’t been in an uncomfortable spot with someone intent on inspecting our wobblies from up close? Someone we thought was a friend, perhaps the husband of a friend, like Thomas Ainsworth, a person disinclined to notice all of our body language cues and press their case and advantage as far as they can. To those who ask why Ann just didn’t say “bugger off, arsehole!” I suggest that it’s quite difficult for those lacking in confidence to A) engage directly when in a supposedly social situation, B) more difficult still when they’re accused of reciprocity (“ah but you were looking at me/smiled at me/were okay with me boring your ears off the last hour while desperately trying to spy an escape”) and C) to be impolite. I can’t tell you how many time a “friend” I know has been backed into unintentional corners because of fear of incivility. It’s not just us that hate to be impolite; society literally reinforces daily that civility must be women’s default mode.

So now it makes sense why Ann was hysterical at the thought of losing Anne’s friendship if she rejected her romantically. Thankfully, unlike others in Ann’s past, Anne is not a coercive sexual predator and quite capable of rowing her own boat solo, as it were. And now I shall go before I beat this dead horse any longer.Until next time, everyone, cheers!