Gentleman Jack Recap: Season 1, Episode 3 ("Oh Is That What You Call It?")

This post continues my recapping of the TV show Gentleman Jack. For those not familiar:
Gentleman Jack is an eight-episode drama series from BAFTA-winning writer Sally Wainwright (To Walk Invisible, Happy Valley).

Set in 1832 West Yorkshire, England, Gentleman Jack is inspired by the true-story and coded journals of Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones), and follows her attempt to revitalize her inherited home, Shibden Hall. Most notably for the time period, a part of Lister's plan is to help the fate of her own family by taking a wife.
The series is on HBO and runs Monday nights at 10 PM. (Note: Recaps will include spoilers for that episode.)

We have to talk about the enchanted make-out cottage.

In-between last episode and this one, Anne and Ann have apparently been spending a lot of time together. First, we learn that Anne popped in on Ann's vacation (surprise!). While that strikes me as "moving a bit fast, even for a lesbian," Ann herself seemed pleased by it. They've also been doing fancy ladylike things such as having intimate conversations in Ann's sitting parlour while wearing intricate dresses and hairstyles, and hanging out in this adorable little cottage:

We get literally no backstory about this cottage, but it's still somehow perfect. Or, maybe the unknown is partly why it's perfect.

The details don't matter much. For, it's as if it's been plucked from Middle-earth and dropped instead into a world in which women exist and get to discreetly kiss each other safe from the prying eyes of meddlesome townsfolk. The stage seems set, in fact, for a character played by Cate Blanchett to pop in for a cameo, wondering who's been sleeping in her bed, but I digress. (Spoiler alert: We have a few digressions in this recap today.)

The truly important thing to note about this cottage is that Anne and Ann kiss for the first time in it! And, both parties seem to enjoy it. A lot. We know this because Ann invites Anne to dinner "tomorrow night," including a proposal to... dun-dun-dun "stay all night." Ope! How forward of Ann! The heart wants what it wants, and Anne seems flustered for once, but in a good way.

When Anne eventually gets back to Shibden, Marian is in a tizzy because Aunt Anne (yes, the aunt's name is Anne, too, lolol) isn't feeling well. Anne checks in on her aunt and then reveals that she's been thinking that she wants Ann Walker to be her "companion for life." Whew! Was there an 1800s version of the U-haul joke for queer women? Never change, lesbians.

Aunt Anne's reaction is simply that it sounds like the perfect plan... "if [Anne] were a man." Anne replies, "Nature played a challenging trick on me, didn't she?" But, she's also undeterred. Here we see, again, Anne's belief that she was born the way she was. And, because she was a woman of means, she didn't have to marry a man for economic survival and so she simply refused to do so.

That brings us to Eugenie, the pregnant woman who arrived at Shibden with Anne. John, one of the servants at Shibden, proposes to marry Eugenie. Despite the language barrier (he only speaks English; she only speaks French), she agrees. We don't hear why she agrees, but we do learn that John will pretend to be the father of her child, sparing her from being an unwed single mother.

Here we see an interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand, unlike two people of the same sex, John and Eugenie can marry each other simply because one is a man and the other a woman, even though they know almost nothing about each other. Yet, while it is a legal privilege not available to all, Eugenie has few other options available to her as a poor, single, pregnant immigrant (refugee? we don't even know yet). She quickly accepts John's proposal, but it's hard not to see the situation as coercive and desperate, even if John were a decent guy (which we don't know yet). This plot point is what I've been thinking of as the Colin-Firth-in-Love-Actually storyline. Are the men who propose to poor women they barely know, and can barely communicate with, looking for partners or for live-in servants? Time will tell. (And sorry, Love Actually gets worse and worse with every viewing).

Meanwhile, back at the lesbian kissing cottage, Anne and Ann are canoodling again. I'm not clear on some of the timing aspects of this episode, to be honest. Is it a new day? Did Anne leave for a bit to run errands and then return for another make-out sesh? Whatever. During this round, Ann shares with Anne that she received an anonymous letter that reads:

"Miss Walker — You should know that Miss Lister cannot be trusted in the company of other women."

It's signed by "a well-wisher." And, ooh-hoo-hoo! This might sound weird, but it's somehow one of the politest insults I've ever heard, which I say only from today's warped perspective of spending too much time on the hellsite that is Twitter.

Anyway, Anne sort of shrugs it off in the moment. Yet, when she gets back home to Shibden, she seems shaken up by it and burns the letter. (I do the same thing, symbolically, for every piece of Internet hate I get).

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing on the farm. "What farm," you may ask. And to that, I say, "Exactly." Some people who are (a) Shibden's servants or (b) Anne's tenants, beat up and restrain an abusive homophobic man who may be (a) their father or (b) some rando guy from town. (Aren't you so thankful for my detailed notes? Sorry, I'm just here for the lesbian kissing hut).  ANYway, they set him up in front of the pigs, and at this point I feel certain he's going to get Fried Green Tomatoed. (Is that a verb? Welp, it is now).

If you don't get the reference, you should immediately go watch Fried Green Tomatoes. There's a food fight in it between the two characters portrayed by Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker that, in 1991, queer women were supposed to be happy with as a teeny-tiny scrap of subtextual same-sex romance. And, don't get me wrong, I was happy with it. Oh, but also, a bad man gets murdered in it and that's sort of satisfying too, but in a different way.

Later on, Anne visits Ann once again and suggests that, after their upcoming vacay to Europe, "they might live together. Set up home together. As companions." LOL! They've known each other for somewhere between three days and a month (again, the timing isn't clear), and a marriage is being proposed.

Ann suggests that they wait six months and then revisit the proposal, which seems reasonable, and Anne agrees.

So, things are going swimmingly, which is always the point in queer women's TV/film that bad shit bound to come a-stirring. That bad shit, in this case, is one nosy Mrs. Priestly creeps around Ann's house when Anne and Ann are in the midst of making out (or, possibly more? I don't know. 1800's clothes have a lot of layers and bloomers, so it's hard to tell what's going on exactly). Honestly, though, Mrs. Priestly is just such an asshole. She arrives at the door to Ann's room and tells the servant, "Don't knock," because she just knows what the Anns are doing behind closed doors and she wants to catch them, which she does.

I'm tempted to say that the Anns should've never left their little cottage, but fuck that. Creeper Mrs. Priestly should mind her own business and go back to being one of the Capitol people from The Hunger Games.

Yet, for now at least, the Anns are undeterred. After Mrs. Priestly leaves, the Anns run upstairs to Ann's bedroom and Anne "stays all night." (Oh is that what you it?) No, that's a euphemism. They fuck.

Bits and Pieces:

Speaking of which, LOL at this actual headline.

Is the Venn diagram for the people surprised that a "lesbian romp scene" would be in a show about lesbians and the people who whine about there not being a straight pride parade just one little, sad circle?

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