Oh lord. Things have shifted profoundly once again.My viewing has slowed down. In large part because some recent episodes have felt largely like an endurance test, with huge chunks devoted to characters and situations I’m not connecting with.
#382 is so heart-poundingly good I'm in love with the series all over again. It's Sons And Daughters gold.
At its heart is everything that makes this series fly. Conflict; misdirection; continuity; and Patricia scheming for all she's worth.
The episode begins with a recap of the previous episode's final scene in which we see Pat at her most arch. Coming on to Terry and then - when Jill appears as she's arranged - pushing him away and hysterically crying attempted rape.
Immediately, all the pieces are back where they're meant to be. Patricia is no longer sidelined, or being manipulated by Robin into uncertainty about her relationship with Margaret. Instead, she's more surefooted than we've seen her in what feels like some time.
The stakes are high. Not just for Terry, but for all the characters who are forced to take sides based on who they believe. Jill - who is convinced she has witnessed her rapist striking again - or Fiona who knows in her soul that it's a Patricia scheme.
Had Fiona simply believed Patricia, it would have been a great moment for Terry, who would have been royally screwed over by everyone. But Fiona siding with Terry makes things so much more juicy and complex. Any relationship that either Fiona or Terry have is to be tested. Relationships that have already been to hell and back previously (think Terry and Jill; Jill and Fiona; Fiona and Gordon...).
Patricia evoking the ghost of evils past is forcing everyone to take a step back and acknowledge the elephant in the room. The things they haven't fully addressed. Fiona in particular is given some fantastic diatribes. There are rants about Patricia, of course, as in her words to Stephen:
If Terry had attacked Patricia she would prosecute him through every court in the land until she got a conviction. Just to get her revenge… Because that’s just what this whole stupid farce is about.
…Don’t you see? Patricia made it all up. Just for her own selfish reasons. She gets back at me, and she forces you to give up your job and go back to Sydney.
...I own Woombai. And I’ll decide who goes and who doesn’t. And Terry stays!
But crucially, the recently cosy relationship between Fiona and Terry is put under the microscope in dialogue that will satisfy anyone who has been struggling to get their head round Terry's "rapist to hero" status. Fiona to Terry:
D’you remember the first day I found out what had happened to Jill? I came to see you at the garage. I don’t think about that very often but sometimes I can’t help it. And you said if I pushed you into admitting anything about Jill you’d say that five of your mates had already… Anyway, you blackmailed me into silence. It’s something that you’re going to have to come to terms with. But you can’t hide your true feelings. And that day at the garage I saw fear and panic in your eyes. And it’s the same now. Only now, what I see is honesty. I believe you’re telling the truth.
Maybe one day you’ll get punished for what you did to Jill - I don’t know. But one thing is for sure. Patricia Morrell is not going to play God with your life.
In a touch that calls back to those early episodes, Fiona and Patricia are kept apart for the entire episode, even as their enmity becomes the driving force. Patricia lies in bed looking fabulous and pretending to be shaken and angry. Fiona seethes with anger that nobody can see through Patricia's scheme. We know a confrontation of epic proportions must await, and with each interaction each of the women has with others, the stakes get higher and higher.
The final scenes are tense - almost Christie-esque - as all concerned with Woombai (minus Patricia) gather there to judge how they view things based on two very different stories (Jill and Patricia's version versus Terry and Fiona's). Gordon; Margaret; Stephen; Jill; Terry and Fiona all face off. Each with their own agenda and beliefs. The visuals are compellingly uncomfortable. Most of all, there's Jill - heavily pregnant with her rapist's child - standing across the room from him, spewing angry accusations. But on someone else's behalf.
By episode's end, when Fiona feels she's been betrayed by the people she loved and trusted, there's a feeling that anything could happen next. And it probably will.