Last Tango in Halifax S5:E01 Happy Birthday! Recap

Omigodomigodomigod it’s HERE!! Last Tango in Halifax season five is HERE!! I cannot wait, just even the theme music has me out of my skin, are you ready?? We’re so ready to find out where Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker, Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi will take us, aren’t we? Without any further fangirling, let’s roll right into LTiH S05:E01 after the break!

I have to take a short centering pause and align my spiritual chakras, I’m almost too excited to see everyone in Halifax again. Annnnd we’re off, watching the Previously On, wow, there was quite a lot, wasn’t there? We didn’t see Flora in there, wait, we didn’t see Kate either, I’m rolling it back. Hm, nope, just lots about the original premise, the reunited starcrossed lovers Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) and the strife between their daughters Caroline (the sublime Sarah Lancashire) and Gillian (the awesomesauce Nicola Walker). Hm. Shan’t worry yet. Loads of Caroline’s ex-husband John (Tony Gardner), the wanky bastage.

He left her for another woman and she decided she’d rather do the same.

We open over the beautiful garden and glassed in sitting area of the Buttershaws, watching Alan on his computer instead of setting the table for the supper Celia has brought in. He says he’s applying for the position of Chairman of the United Nations; Celia thinks that’s a good fit with all his “namby pamby left-wing claptrap.”

*Celia voted for Margaret Thatcher*

We don’t find out what he’s actually doing, because an email from his brother Ted pops up then, he’s coming for a visit! Saturday! That’s not a lot of notice, not with a spare room to be sorted yet.

On the way to Halifax to get curtains for the spare room, Alan explains that he was indeed applying for a job, but at the supermarket instead of the UN. He wants to stay busy, but Celia is aghast: at a SUPERMARKET?

You know, his daughter Gillian worked at a supermarket for years and years. That’s where she met young ShagsAbout, whatever his name was.

Celia tells Caroline, who picks up on the shortness of notice of Alan job-hunting as the most salient point.

*That dark green/navy combo is just gorgeous.

Hallo Flora!! I see you there! Flora (Issacah Hatzer) looks so grown up! Except for the butterfly wings, although if I had butterfly wings I’d wear them at any age, too. This looks like a new house, let’s have a look at your kitchen, then.

Celia is there to complain to her daughter about Alan doing something ridiculous like hunting for a job at his age, he’s not taking the Lexus, she’ll have him know! Alan’s much more concerned about money than she, perhaps that’s the impetus behind his late in life career resurgence.

Alan plans to take a bus to work, which seems even more ludicrous to Celia. Caroline defends Alan’s suggestion, loads of people like to take the bus! Flora is a fan, but when pressed, Caroline can’t exactly name when she herself has ever been on one. Oh wait, a holiday trip to Barcelona!

Celia’s uncomfortable because a job at a supermarket isn’t quite quite, is it? But Caroline remains calm, smiling gently at her mum who is suddenly suspicious.

*There’s a fan theory that I’ve wondered about myself, that Caroline might end up in a relationship with her stepsister Gillian and the fact that Caroline’s managed to mention G four times in less than five minutes has me looking over my glasses.

Oop, my bad, Caroline was visiting her mum at her house, this isn’t Caroline’s place so I can stop trying to see if she’s got an Aga stashed somewhere. Somehow, it seems less important if Celia does.

First mention of Kate! *I will not be obsessive, I just don’t want anything left behind*

Alan’s telling his side of the story to Gillian (who looks great!) while she does something medical to her sheep while Calamity (Tilly Kaye) listens. She’s so big!! Yes she is, yes she IS! Erm and she has quite a mouth on her.

I would like to thank whomever decided to block this next scene in Gillian’s kitchen with an Aga directly in shot the entire time. Thank you ever so.

Gillian’s has her own financial concerns, she’s got wormwood rot something upstairs all over, something about pillocks. Anyway, it’s expensive and she’s leading into a pitch for her dad to pay for it but Celia’s spending money like water. New kitchens don’t grow on trees! Alan will talk to Celia.

An extremely pregnant Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) walks out of work to get picked up by Raff (Josh Bolt) who looks as though he’s grown right the H up in the last few years. Ellie looks exactly the same, just more…round.


Raff is teaching now? How lovely! That’s a great job. He even taught at Caroline’s school! He liked that better than where he is now, the other teachers aren’t very supportive, unlike at Caroline’s where they were more help.

Alan’s off! So the rest of his family can gossip about his unlikely job prospects and say mean things about Celia. Gillian’s always thought Celia was an expensive influence on her dad, but she also sort of expected him to pay for stuff for her, too. I hope I’m able to do that for my kiddos when they grow up.

Hallo John, Caroline’s ex-husband! He’s come ’round for supper, surprised to see she has a dog. He doesn’t like dogs?

Who doesn’t like dogs??? This is Ruth! Because that’s a name you would give a dog if you allowed your five year old to name it after a series of books written by her step-grandad’s new partner.

*I’m a weird hybrid of cat and dog person, basically if it’s furry, I’m petting it and making embarrassing noises at it.

Caroline is looking fabulous, honestly, thank you again, Production, for this glorious scene with Caroline gorgeously backlit in the sun and the royal blue Aga behind.

She’s happier than she’s ever been and this is West Yorkshire and she’s still at the difficult school she was worried about teaching at last time. John asks if she’s seeing anyone, but she’d rather talk about their son Lawrence (Louis Greatorex), fanks.

John looks like an unmade bed that smells faintly of urine, he’s still with Judith (Ronnie Ancona) but he doesn’t seem to want to talk about her rich bum enabling him and Lawrence to sit around all day, either. Divorce. It sucks.

So why is he here? Because Judith is coming to her school next week! She’s one of her Inspirational Women, along with Michelle Obama and Baroness Jac-somethingwhatzit.

Caroline isn’t completely dismissive, she thinks Judith’s books are extraordinary. She raves about how kids connect with them while John stares at Ruth staring at him and tries to relax.

*Quick reminder that John is a much less successful writer who used to be quite condescending about Judith’s work.

Ah but John’s there for a reason, Judith is a recovering alcoholic but has fallen off the wagon recently and has had to miss events. Judith now has an assistant, but Caroline should arrange for a backup plan.

It’s so cute, John asks after Celia and Caroline says almost exactly the same thing Gillian and her family did: that Celia runs rings around Alan and she’s wondering if Alan might not…rue the day he met Celia. Hahaha sorry, that was funny. If he doesn’t, he will.

*You know, I think I have that same Le Creuset pot that’s on Caroline’s Aga!

Caroline asks after John’s book he’s been working on since Christ was a cowboy, the one about the “sinewy 40-something” woman, but it seems the muse has left since. John has lost his mojo.

He heads home to his fancy, FANCY house to see a grownup Lawrence and a very flashy looking Judith in high boots. I thought England was civilized like Canada and removed footwear when inside?

Judith is openly disdainful and disrespectful of John, who just wants Lawrence to get a job already! John slinks off to get wine, to have the life scared out of him by assistant Laura (Anna Leong Brophy) who is terrifyingly efficient.

Awww, Gillian gets a card from her former love Robbie (Dean Andrews), he’s in Canada! Pop ’round, love, I’ll throw on the kettle.

*I kind of dig that Gillian read the note right in front of the garage that she used to keep locked up because she’d murdered Robbie’s brother in there when they were married. She confessed to Robbie, they broke up and he hit the road, but it seems the demons of Eddie’s death have been exorcised.

I always liked Gillian and Robbie together but they were doomed from the start.

Celia watches, frowning, while Alan dresses in his best suit for his job interview, then answers a call from the kitchen renovators instead of wishing him luck as he leaves. Celia thinks it’s silly that he’s doing this, it’s not like they need the money!

*I’m with Gillian; their kitchen looks completely new already, do they really need a new one?

Alan drives his Lexus to the supermarket and makes a point of greeting everyone he sees, look, he’s a natural! A young boy runs out of the shop with security in hot pursuit, to be caught right by Alan with pockets stuffed full of groceries.

*Here’s where my compulsive need to feed everyone colours my judgement, I’m worried his family doesn’t have enough to eat. No kid steals BREAD for kicks.

Alan waits outside the office with the wee thief Harrison (Liam McCheyne) who ends up in his job interview. Store manager Mohamed Awad (Noorul Choudhury) is well aware of Harrison and his altercations/tussles/shenanigans.

Alan meets up with his pal Harry (Paul Copley) to tell us the rest of that story. He drove Harrison home, he was as shocked as I was by what the kiddos stole. He’s entirely too enamoured by this child, maybe he’s one of those people that needs to have someone to tend to. He wanted to have a word with Harrison’s parents.

I doubt very much that Harrison has parents around and that seemed to be the case. Harrison reminds Alan of a young boy he and Harry knew when they were children. He was always dirty, like Harrison, and he scorned him one time, it haunts him. What if he was an abused kiddo?

*I have the same thing with a girl I knew in junior high. She used to hang out in the library with us cool kids that were a year older, and she made social overtures once that we rebuffed bemusedly. We were kneedeep in the wrong sort of boy (and maybe just that they were boys) at that time and I still look for her on Facebook every once in a while. It haunts me.

Caroline and friend (?) / fellow teacher (?) Ruth (Lu Corfield) walk through school talking about Judith and a backup plan, but I wasn’t really listening. I was watching the dynamic between these two, whereas we used to watch Caroline gracefully and confidently stride across every inch of her school as headmistress, here she is slightly behind the tall and dapper Ruth. In fact, Caroline seems fussy almost. That’s new.

Anyway, there isn’t a plan b, but Caroline suggests maybe Ruth does the Q&A so she can be standing by to give Judith the hook as needed. Plus there’s that whole ex-wife/new-wife dynamic. Ruth is ecstatic at the chance to interview Judith.


Okay, here we are back again, Caroline’s movement much more as I remembered with perhaps more arms.

Ruth heaps praise on Caroline for the changes at the school, who invites her ’round for supper to prepare for the session.


Caroline asks after Ruth’s significant other, he’s still sleeping in the spare room.


You know, I once attempted to date a woman who was only interested in women who were also divorced / divorcing from men late in life. I may have just seen the same lightbulb there…Also, when we met Caroline, she was in Ruth’s position, interesting.

Caroline talks about her joint birthday party then their lovely conversation is cut short by an obnoxious call from Celia. At least there’s the walk-away?

Alan comes home then, still all smart in his interview suit and hauling Harry with him. Celia’s heard news from New Zealand and Nadine, Ted’s daughter and Alan’s niece. Something’s happened with money, perhaps because Ted is showing signs of dementia. Aw yikes.

Alan’s fixated on the fact that his brother sold his house for 1.5 million dollars, that’s a fortune! Nadine’s worried because her dad has a two day stopover in Hong Kong, whyever would you book a flight like that? Ted’s cleaning lady helped him book his flight and pack and everything, now he’s in the wind!

It’s Gillian and Caroline’s birthdays, happy birthday ladies! The family is agog with the news of Uncle Ted’s windfall, that’s worth about half in English currency. Gillian always has to get a shot in on Celia about money, I’ve only just realised now how exhausting that would be for Celia. To be surrounded by people who mock her behind her back and even to her face, carefully.

She suggests that children shouldn’t expect any money from their parents.

Maybe that’s part of it? Hard to say, families are impossible. Everyone’s going to go pick up Uncle Ted!


That’s for you, KK!

Ellie spills about the woodworm upstairs after the cheers, Celia notices Gillian and Alan making the ixnay faces immediately.

Celia stares hard at Gillian who maybe or maybe didn’t flip her the bird during (I can’t sort it! Looks possible?) as Alan explains that he’ll be lending his daughter $5700 for the woodworm, so the kitchen remodel is on hold. Celia is very unhappy and not a little mad.

Good lord, I am completely an Alan in thought but a Gillian in act.

We find out what Caroline and John’s son Lawrence has been up to, he’s coming out to shoot “documentaries” for YouTube. Erm. Those aren’t documentaries. That’s “content.” They do reviews of things on YouTube and is that like recaps, do you think? Well, I’ve never recapped a dead fly, so perhaps not. Their channel is called “LADS: Lawrence and Angus Do Stuff”

Celia is lost in thought as everyone jokes, she’s the one person with a different perspective within this large blended family. She doesn’t hold her tongue long, she comes out with it in a lull in the conversation. She’s tired of bailing Gillian out, who doesn’t plan or think ahead. She saved all her life so she could relax now. She doesn’t think they should give any money to her any more.

Alan braces her on it, it would be HIS money going to Gillian, but the remodel of the kitchen would still be delayed so Celia’s not having it. You know, she’s not wrong, it’s her money and she can spend it remodeling a perfectly good kitchen as she sees fit. But it Alan is feeling less secure financially, he has the obligation to speak up too, not just swallow his tongue as she buys expensive lamps and the like.

Perhaps they shouldn’t have gotten into it quite so firmly in front of the entire family either.

Alan’s brother Ted calls then from Hong Kong, Alan insists on having a very loud conversation in front of everyone wherein Celia is called “a handful” and no, Ted doesn’t want to speak to her. Gillian’s smug face at that.

Now we getta see that the LADS have been up to, hai Angus! (Felix Johnson). It’s been quite a while! Is that…beard…new? Oh sorry, we’re meant to focus on his black eye, which Lawrence assaults with various substances in this order:

  • pineapple and its juice
  • toothpaste TOOTHPASTE
  • vaporub with salt mixed in

Angus is not a fan of any.

Downstairs, a sulky Judith stomps down for supper, bored out of her tree at sobriety. We’re out as she asks our hapless John “Do you want to marry me?”

Whoops, I’ve been calling her the new wife and assorted other variations this whole time, I thought they were already hitched!

This was a fine mix of catching us up and moving us on to our new storylines with a good bunch of reminding of whence we came, it was perfect! I love seeing them work on the Celia/Alan angle, they really are so mismatched that it was bound to spring up at some point.

When does it stop being fun and a little exciting to be married to your exact opposite? When does it move from complementary to fractious? 7 years seems about right, gets itchy then, doesn’t it?

While I’m not seeing Gillian having any particular change in her life, it’s lovely to see Caroline doing so well after last season. Season four ended on a solid note for her, but it was also a period of reflection and self-doubt for her, so I’m glad she’s aligned her chakras, as it were. Ruth’s adorable, full steam ahead!

This was also an interesting episode because I looked at Celia in a completely different light. Perhaps it’s the current preoccupation with “both sides” being examined, but I found some sympathy for her, somehow. Yes, she’s obnoxious and rude but she’s not always wrong, just usually alone in expressing a discordant opinion. She is forever the bad guy.

BUT! I’ve had time to think about it now, remembering all the horrid things Celia has done and said over the years. Even just minutes ago:

Which is not-very-thinly-veiled homophobia. So, I’m back to remembering that there’s a REASON Celia is usually on the outs with everyone; she’s purposely disagreeable.

I didn’t really get the Lawrence storyline, I know I’m probably just an Old, but I cannot get used to everyone swearing aside from our main cast. It’s jarring!

Cheers everyone, thanks much for reading and please, check out this awesome Facebook page for Sarah Lancashire if you’re oot and aboot! I’m going to see if I can link to some Nicola Walker and Last Tango pages too!