This may surprise you, but things are still pretty bad in France. Dr. Enys is looking increasingly depressed. Meanwhile, Pug Lady is helping set up a Royalist fleet to free all the prisoners, which seems … excessive? Ross is hugely skeptical of the plan’s success, and for once I must agree with him. War isn’t something you can dabble in, Pug Lady!
To remind us that we are in the past, where things are bad, young Valentine has been diagnosed with rickets, which George naturally does NOT accept. Elizabeth is pretty chill about it, probably due to the laudanum, though it seems George is getting frustrated with Elizabeth’s new “what, me worry?” sensibility. He doesn’t understand why Morwenna isn’t bored out of her tree at Trenwith and begging to come back and hurl herself into the arms of that horrible Mr. Whitworth.
We naturally cut to a happily gamboling Morwenna and Drake. Aunt Agatha, leaning into her vaguely mystical Cornish thing, is staring balefully at them while turning up what seems to be a rather ominous tarot card. I can’t imagine HOW this can go wrong! Agatha begins putting the fear of God into Morwenna. This is a mild surprise to me, because Agatha is such a shit-disturber (as Canadians say), but as she explains, George has very little power over her because she is an old woman. Morwenna has a long life ahead of her, and George is a cruel man. Not to mention that it won’t be Morwenna who truly suffers if they try to marry, since she is Elizabeth’s cousin. No, the full force of George’s wrath will fall squarely on Drake. Agatha begs her to give him up.
The news from France has become increasingly dire, and you can see Ross pondering the wisdom of waiting out Pug Lady’s plan. Sport executions, horrible conditions, the word hellhole is actually used. As you can imagine, Demelza is NOT thrilled at the idea of Ross sneaking back into France by way of Falmouth with the Royalists to personally boost Dr. Enys out of prison, but that’s never stopped him from doing precisely what he wants at every turn. She reluctantly bids him farewell, having decided not to tell Pug Lady of this new strategy in case it fails. That’s just as well, as Ross promptly ditches the squabbling Royalists to go it alone.
Meanwhile, a bashful and tense Morwenna has the Talk with her young man, and takes the tack of “I don’t really love you, so we must stop this.” Not being a TOTAL dummy, he of course can tell that her heart was not in this denial, but still must wander the Cornish cliffs looking glum and contemplating suicide. He confides in Demelza, who is, happily, a really good listener. That doesn’t keep him from blowing town and leaving behind a sad note for her. Where is the lad? STOWING AWAY ON ROSS’S SHIP. They can’t exactly return to drop him off, so they’re stuck with him.
Back in London, Mr. Whitworth has hooked George up with the invitation he’s been angling for, but with the understanding that Morwenna WILL have to seal the deal shortly. He promises him that Morwenna will accept the proposal within the month, which is optimistic to say the least. George demands that Elizabeth recall the girl at once, but Elizabeth has her own plan. The two of them depart for Trenwith.
(Also: George, having heard of Ross’s plan, is absolutely delighted at the prospect of seeing his rival fail AND having his chances of being elected to Parliament fail.)
Pug Lady, seeking distraction, asks Demelza to accompany her to a fancy society thing. (It’s the same event that George has shaken down an invite to attend, of course!) I LOVE when Demelza puts on the fancy, so this is great news. The party is the same as all parties in all period shows: people dance really slowly and elaborately and everyone wants introductions to everyone who might help them climb. George gives Demelza some excellent stink-eye. He also begins spilling Ross’s dirt to anyone who will listen. Lord Falmouth is less impressed by his weaseling than he had hoped, which confuses him.
In France, Ross and his very doughty associates begin their attempt to somehow enter a heavily guarded French prison, which they do by having Tholly present a bound Ross as an English prisoner. Once inside, fisticuffs immediately ensue and the rest of them storm the joint. I thought they would be sneakier than this! They do only want to spring Enys, so after they disarm and/or kill the first few guards, they go back to stealthing their way through.
When they find Enys, it’s not the welcome they had hoped for. He has no intention of abandoning his men to sneak off like a thief in the night, despite the unbelievable risks that Ross and his associates have taken on his behalf. One of the prisoners takes this opportunity to alert the guards to their presence, which is a REAL dick move. There’s a tremendous firefight, during which one of our lads is promptly shot to death. Drake is also wounded and it doesn’t look great. (I’m sure he’ll live, because plot, but it really ups the tension.)
Back at the party, a.k.a. the only place worse than a French prison, Whitworth is sliming all over Morwenna. George takes this opportunity to talk shit to Demelza, who is NOT having it. He basically looks like a prat in front of a lot of very important people, which is SO satisfying. The reason for his spectacular failure to bash Ross’s plot becomes apparent: Lord Falmouth has a son in a French prison.
Ross & Co. collect about a dozen strays fleeing the prison, and even Enys appears to accept they need to get the hell out of France, honor be damned. They are now attempting to row back to their ship in BROAD daylight, which is … extremely dangerous! Ross has begun to have really rockin’ stress hallucinations, blessedly halted by the sight of their ship. It’s a grim lot who return to Cornwall — their stated mission has been accomplished, but at great personal cost.
We close on the marvelous news that Hugh Armitage, one of the prisoners sprung by Ross, is the aforementioned nephew of Lord Falmouth. The look of misery on George’s face is even sweeter to me than the joy on Pug Lady’s when she sees her husband safely returned.