Lorna: Look at those stars.
Jack: Lovely isn’t it. And to think how few of us ever really see them.
In times of war, of catastrophic news reports, constant fear for loved ones, the presence of death, it’s difficult to stop for a moment, step out of daily routines, and consider the stars. In October 1942, a German submarine sunk a passenger ferry off the coast in Newfoundland, killing hundreds of people, children among them. The news brings the war closer than ever before and with it the uncertainty about its outcome, if the Germans are capable of hitting so close to home. And yet, life goes on. Lorna, less alone in her house now that Reggie has moved in, is swept away by milk man by day, dance instructor by night Jack Henderson, who reminds her of the days before Bob’s injury, and takes her out to the Jewel Box to dance.
Lorna: You have a touch of the dreamer. I wish I had your passion. I mean your dancing, you do it so well.
Jack: You must have something that makes you forget your troubles?
Lorna: No, when I’m cooking. I can take a bunch of hodgepodge things and make them into something beautiful.
Jack: Sounds like a passion to me.
Lorna: Jack, everybody cooks.
Jack: Not true.
Lorna doesn’t see Bob as a dreamer. He is a realist, someone who calls it as he sees it. This also seems to be the first time ever that Lorna considers what the daily chore of cooking really means to her – it’s something the show has portrayed before, Lorna preparing food, feeding friends and family, trying to provide the girls at the factory with the skills to make a meal, teaching Gladys – but she’s never expressed that it’s a passion, to make “something beautiful” out of the ingredients. It takes someone she barely knows to point out to here that it’s a passion as valuable as dancing is. He shared his with her, now Lorna decides to cook for him – and it’s a tightrope walk all of a sudden, considering the possibilities of this relationship while Bob is gone.
“No sense letting all that good music go to waste.”
She puts on her best dress, sends Reggie away, puts cloth and candles on the table – it’s a romantic dinner, but there’s also a postcard on the counter from Bob, and she can’t get the writing out of her head. Bob, far away, looking at the Northern Lights, remembered the very same shared story of a trip they made together that she thought of when looking at the stars – “the night skies with lights that rippled like curtains” – and Lorna realizes that Bob is changing himself, that he does notice the stars and finds poetic words that he shares with her. And, clinging to the postcard, she hides from Jack when he comes around for dinner, because as difficult as her marriage has been in the past, they are both growing now, and figuring out how to make it work.
Jack: Mr Corbett returned?
Lorna: No. But I’d like to make sure he comes back to the same house he left.
Jack: I’m afraid we’re short on cream these days.
Lorna: That’s fine, I’ve got plenty.
Sharing a past and memories, being able to tell the same stories, is what gives their relationship meaning, and it’s a reason to fight for it, even when it is tempting to just go with someone who makes her forget her worries.
The terrible fate of the passengers on the SS Caribou sets other things in motion as well. Clifford Perry uses it as an argument when Gladys starts to have doubts in her mission – a mission that pits her against her friends, that calls her loyalties into question. He has decided that Marco is a potential security risk at the factory, since Frankie, the friend that he’s been hanging out with a lot lately, has ties to the black market and known fascist groups. Gladys is convinced that he is wrong at first – she argues that Marco loves this country, that his is a patriot – but their fates are strangely tied together in the episode, and her certainty is shaken. First, Marco’s mother is thrown out of a Witham’s store, which in addition to the increasing numbers of security checks Marco has to go through adds to his frustration. He feels disrespected, but seeing his mother suffer under the conditions really pushes him towards Frankie. They are both being manipulated to an extent – Gladys by Clifford, who realizes that he has to use her loyalty as a friend to get intelligence on Marco, to give her the idea that she is actually helping him by following him, finding out whether he has already become part of a fascist group Clifford has his eyes on – and Marco by Frankie, who uses Marco’s growing frustration to slowly coax him into the very groups that are being observed. He gives him a chance to retaliate against Witham’s food by raiding one of their warehouses and beating up a worker in the process, shouting all the ways he’s been disrespected in the past at him when Marco hesitates to hit the guy. It’s the bruised knuckles that make Gladys suspicious of him, that make her realize that he might have been involved after hearing the story at the breakfast table back home. Frankie gives him a pamphlet, “Creed of a Fascist Revolutionary”, that contains something that his father always told him – Italy tried to avoid going to war – which is enough for Marco not to entirely dismiss it. Gladys finds the pamphlet at his house when she apologizes to his mother, and gives it to Clifford, still believing that her mission is to save Marco from making the wrong decision.
It poisons both of their relationships. Gladys tries to be genuinely concerned, a friend, but in a way, she is playing more than one role now, and she is never quite sure if she is approaching people as a friend, or as the spy with the ulterior motive. When Marco’s mother is warm and welcoming, Gladys feels sympathetic towards her, but not enough not to enquire about Marco’s whereabouts and friends, not enough not to take the damning pamphlet with her. When Vera comes to her for advice on Marco’s erratic, secretive behaviour, she can’t step out of the role that Clifford assigned her, she can’t be genuine, and instead gathers more intelligence on him.
“I’m not the crying type.”
Vera is affected in the most heart-breaking way. She obviously has feelings for Marco, but he seems to be drifting away into his own world and away from her as he gets more and more involved in Frankie’s schemes. Frankie is giving Marco’s anger a direction – which is precisely why fascism itself is so potent – and it requires secrets, phone calls that Marco has to lie about, bailing on dates with Vera to be with his new friends. She feels betrayed by Gladys as well, and misinterprets her new interest in Marco, thinking it’s romantic, and Gladys attempts to explain herself are too vague for Vera to understand (“Boy. You are no good at this.”)
She slowly starts to realize what Marco is involved with, but at the same time, her feelings for him are becoming more complicated. This is one of my favourite scenes in the episode. Marco comes stumbling in, drunk, into her room at the boarding house, and she doesn’t kick him out.
Marco: I know who my friends are; sometimes you just need someone to hold onto.
Vera: Is that all I am to you?
Marco: Hey. Vera. Hey. Vera. Being with you is incredible.
He touches her scar.
Marco: Does it hurt?
Marco: Hey. I wanna know. Nobody talks about what happened to you.
Vera: I don’t feel anything.
Marco. What about here?
Vera: Don’t. You’re only gonna run off with some beautiful woman.
Marco: I already have.
Vera comes across as so strong, someone who has overcome an incredible tragedy and is now a rock to all of her friends, but nobody ever does talk about what happened to her, even though her scar is a constant reminder. She barely ever shows it, but the insecurity is still right there – she sleeps with soldiers and they leave, but she never considers a real relationship a possibility, because she might get hurt.
It doesn’t even occur to her that she might be that beautiful woman that someone runs off with. She is in her nightgown in the scene, without make-up, and seems more vulnerable than ever before, but for a moment, Marco, in his drunken state, expresses his feelings, and he realizes that the thing she is struggling with isn’t the scar itself, but the damage it has left on her confidence, and her ability to think of herself as beautiful.
She doesn’t articulate her feelings for Marco in the episode, but it’s pretty clear how strong they are – if only he didn’t keep secrets, if only the way he reacts to her inquiring about the phone call didn’t make her so suspicious. It takes so little to poison a relationship. Vera tells Gladys about the phone call, the arranged meeting, because Vera doesn’t know that Gladys isn’t just interested in this piece of information as a friend, that she will take it to Clifford.
Gladys: Having me give you that pamphlet… you used me. You tricked me into betraying a friend. And what would you know, I doubt you have a friend.
Clifford: Not one I would put before the security of my country. Now tell me, what time is Moretti’s meeting? You want to help, this is what it looks like.
In the end, it’s not clear what Gladys does. Did she give Clifford a wrong date for the meeting, but he suspected and just waited a bit longer, to take the photos of Marco meeting with the fascist leader? Did she give him the correct time, still believing that she could set him on the right path if Clifford intervened in time? She seems to realize that her dependency on others is part of the problem, and, after taking control of her fortune, decides to move back into the hotel – because that was one of the arguments her mother made against her, that she isn’t running her own household. Gladys liberates herself by leaving her parents’ house, even though it worries her mother (to see her only remaining child leave, but Rollie seems proud, and Gladys tells her that she is only a phone call away). She tells Vera that her secret is safe, “we’re friends”, so maybe she did give Clifford the wrong time after all. But Marco doesn’t manage to break away from the path that Frankie has put him on. He ends up in a car, meeting a suspicious man in a suit who doesn’t have an Italian name, and tells him that his value lies in working at VicMu. “What kind of device are you looking for?”
There is a power in shared history and experiences, a force that binds people together, but for Betty and Kate, sharing one particular story also has a dangerous and ambiguous side to it. Vera finds a cartoon of Ivan and Kate’s engagement in the VicMu newspaper, which inspires Gladys to propose a more official newspaper announcement – and Betty immediately realizes the potential danger of it, the fact that Kate’s face in a widely read newspaper could draw attention to the fact that Kate Andrews is an assumed identity, that Vernon Rowley died under suspicious circumstances. Ivan does want the whole world to know, of course, and Kate only realizes how dangerous this might be when Betty reminds her that “the whole country” would know. They haven’t been talking to each other, but in that first scene between them, at the factory just before their shift starts, they communicate with their eyes, and it’s pretty clear that things are getting out of hand for Kate.
At the same time, Betty is having the worst day, because Teresa is suddenly shipping out – another effect the SS Caribou has, as we’ll later find out – and it happens so quickly that they don’t even have the time for a proper goodbye. The simultaneity of these two things – Ivan composing an official announcement of his and Kate’s engagement that could potentially ruin everything, and Teresa leaving – results in Betty getting increasingly more erratic as the episode progresses, while trying to stay professional at the factory, assuming the newly assigned responsibility, proving that she can be counted on.
Kate: Your friend Teresa, she ship out?
Kate knows. This is the most definite confirmation that Kate knows about Teresa and Betty’s relationship, and she tries to be supportive and compassionate about Betty’s visible sadness, but Ivan and his obsession with composing the announcement cut her attempts to console Betty short. Instead, Kate makes up a story about her life, about her father who was a veterinarian and lived in Huntsville – “It’s the start of a beautiful story”, says Ivan, and Betty tries to remind Kate that all these facts are dangerous, because they are non-verifiable (“That’s news to me. I think that’ll be news to a lot of folks.”).
Kate: God, what’s with you?
Betty: A veterinarian, Kate? How long before you tell him the truth?
Kate: Well, you got your secrets, same as I do.
Betty: I’m not the one telling bold-faced lies to someone who loves me. He doesn’t even know your real name.
Kate: You told me if I stayed here life would be normal, that’s all I want.
Betty: And build a normal life on lies?
Kate: What do you want me to tell him? That my father was a crazy street preacher who died in an alley?
Betty: Well at least that would be the truth, Kate.
Kate: I’m trying to tell a new story here. Starting now. And nobody’s going to stop me.
It’s not their first fight – that one was about Kate performing on stage – but it’s a more desperate one. Betty seems more worried about Kate lying to Ivan than about what the announcement in the papers may reveal about her. She’s just learned how it feels to be in a relationship with someone without having to lie about her identity and her desires, someone with whom it felt right for the first time, and she doesn’t understand how Kate can be with someone, or imagine a future with someone, if she can’t be honest. I think for Betty it’s less about the lies, Kate’s false identity, the stories she tells, but the fact that she is considering a life with someone that she can’t be honest with. Kate, at the same time, doesn’t even consider telling Ivan the truth, because it doesn’t matter – she doesn’t love him, it’s not important for him to truly know her, and she does share all her secrets with another person – Betty knows them. This is also the most direct acknowledgement of the fact that Kate is very conscious of what she is doing, that she is telling her own story, that she insists on having the right to write her own narrative, and as dangerous as that might be, it still shows incredible strength and agency. She went through hell as Marion Rowley, and now that Vernon is dead, she insists that she gets to tell her own story and live a “normal” life.
The problem is the price that Kate has to pay for all of this. It’s one thing to want a normal life, the promise of safety, but Ivan reminds her that the engagement ring and the official announcement in the papers means that they are “as good as married”, and the implications visibly terrify Kate.
Kate: It’s right in the paper, Kate Andrews, that’s me.
Ivan: It’s official.
Kate: A new life.
Ivan: Go on, I’ll pick us up tonight.
I think that part of Betty’s anxiety is that Teresa distracted her from her feelings for Kate, in addition to making her feel like she wasn’t entirely alone with her emotions, and now that Teresa is gone, everything that is happening with Kate and Ivan is that much more painful and immediate. Betty treats the other workers on the line aggressively and lashes out at Reggie for not being quick enough, and Lorna tells her to take a break. Betty storms off – and Kate goes after her, because she knows why Betty is upset, all this time, in addition to worrying about the engagement and the announcement in the papers, Kate has been watching Betty. Betty smashes the door of a locker, and says the tiniest “go away” to Kate (she doesn’t even have to look up to know that it’s Kate).
Kate: I'm sorry Teresa left.
Betty: Yeah, me too. She really knew me. I gotta wonder how often that’s gonna happen.
Kate: I know you too.
Betty: Except you don’t, Kate.
Kate: I can’t pretend that I understand but… I don’t believe god put us here… any of us, to go through life alone.
It always takes Betty a moment to compose herself before she can even look at Kate, and Kate puts all her emotions into the way she looks at Betty. Kate’s “I know you too” implies something else as well – that Betty knows her, that Betty is the only one who shares her stories and knows her truth – but Betty has always been terrible at reading the subtleties, the way that Kate is conveying meaning (and in part she’s terrible at it because she doesn’t allow herself to hope).
Once again, Kate is reclaiming religion from her father’s interpretation, offering it up to console and help rather than to condemn. Kate takes Betty’s hand, to prove that neither of them has to go through life alone.
Later, Betty is sewing and listening to a radio play about a soldier leaving a loved one behind (like Reggie’s Wuthering Heights, stories help us to find meaning, to deal with the burdens of life), and she finally does get a chance to say goodbye to Teresa, who tells her that she’s been assigned to Newfoundland, as a radio operator after the tragedy with the passenger ferry.
Betty: Sounds exciting.
Teresa: It’s everything I’ve trained for.
Betty: I know.
Teresa: Honey. Life has so much in store for you. It’s just starting. You’ll see.
They almost kiss but then someone else comes in, and all they can do is step apart and smooth down their skirts. They both know exactly what kind of intimacy society allows them to show – Betty fixes Teresa’s uniform, and they embrace, nothing more.
Betty cries, but gathers her courage to go over to Lorna’s house and apologize for her behaviour. Lorna tells her that she is strong and capable – and to “be yourself, that’s what a good leader does” – but Lorna has watched Betty, and drawn her own conclusions, and ask her if there is something else troubling her. She isn’t judging, but I think she knows. And Betty can’t tell her, but she can come in and share her beautiful meal (the one she cooked for Jack, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding), and find comfort in her companionship.
The next day, Betty compliments Kate on her new life – it’s official, it’s in the papers – “I hope you know what you’re doing”. And the camera stays long enough on Kate’s face to capture how it crumples, for a fleeting moment, because she’s not sure that she does.
Gosh the light in this episode. That morning scene between Marco and Lorna was something else.
I’m so in love with the Lorna-Reggie roommates scenes: “God forbid the neighbours think these drawers belong to me”, when Lorna hangs up Reggie’s underwear in the backyard, the subtle hint for Reggie to make herself “scarce” for Lorna’s date with Jack…
Vera: You’re scared of your mother?
There’s a parallel to Lorna’s story last week, her struggle to be respected by the male workers – it drove her to ask for a raise, but Marco, an outsider for different reasons, is driven to more drastic and catastrophic measures.
The first scene with Teresa is heart-breaking, because it takes Betty so long to realize what is happening – and then Teresa addresses Lorna (who Betty didn’t even realize was there), not her, and it all happens in this official tone that doesn’t leave any space for emotions. I also think that this is the first time that Lorna is starting to figure out things, and as she watches Betty fall apart more and more, she’s putting the pieces together (I’m fairly certain she knows about Betty/Teresa, but she observes Betty/Kate as well).
So I’m guessing that newspaper with Kate’s picture is read widely, and also by a certain detective who knows her as Marion Rowley