“A little more light on the situation”: Thoughts on MFMM 1.8 Away with the Fairies
honest, after last episode’s kiss, we all tuned in wondering where the writers
would take us. I admit that I had no expectations of more lip locking but I was
concerned at how the writers would handle the aftermath. I prayed they wouldn’t
gloss over it as if it had never happened or even worse treat it glibly.
have worried. In one of the first significant signs that this relationship was
in good hands the kiss was addressed early and it was addressed in a perfect
Miss Fisher way.
breezes into the crime scene and very deliberately positions herself in a
Jack, after being confronted with her perfectly placed crotch,
regains control by ushering her out. Not to be outdone, Phryne returns and
shows him that whilst he may have the upper hand in the crime scene, she maintains
the upper hand in the relationship. She teases him with “Tell me Jack is that
latest furrow in your brow anything to do with kissing me the other night?” Now
that it’s out in the open Jack attempts to write it off as strictly business (hold
that thought, I’ll come back to this), but Phryne’s having none of that and continues
to poke the bear. “You kissed me. Let’s call a spade a spade.”. But the bear
bites back and any doubts we had about the worthiness of Jack as a suitor for
our beloved Phryne are completely abandoned when he goes toe to toe with her,
or in this case nose to nose and throws down the gauntlet: “You kissed me
and its delivery remain one of my favourites from all three series. A lesser
man may blush and bumble his way through but not Jack. Instead he shows his
worthiness by facing her defiantly and the resultant moment is delicious. Jack
has a backbone and he is not about to let Phryne walk all over him. To his
mind, she had an equal part to play and he calls her on it, But in true Phryne
fashion she is not about to apologise for it. Interestingly enough, after he
drops the pretense, neither does Jack, instead he challenges her as to why she
is there. Silly boy, you’d think he’d know better by now.
I want to
return to the idea of strictly business. It’s an underlying theme in this week’s
episode. In the scene in her bedroom with Lin, Phryne reassures him that her
relationship with Jack is “strictly business” but it is undermined by the way
her face lights up as she tells Lin, “Detective Robinson and I are working on a
In her final scene with Jack, Phryne greets him with a business like
handshake, yet the lighting of “just one” candle seems to indicate that whilst
on the surface Phryne may wish to maintain the façade of a ‘strictly business’
relationship, underneath there has been a subtle shift in the dynamics of their
Phryne’s relationship is most definitely not strictly business. It may have
started out as a mutually beneficial business relationship but by this point in
the series the line is becoming increasingly blurred as to just what their
relationship actually is.
has seen Jack as a diversionary target, but last week’s kiss has awakened a new
perception of Jack. He remains a physically attractive man but now he is
revealing himself as a more complete package: a morally upright man, a strong
man, a considerate and thoughtful man, a man she can trust with her life. The
list could go on but we are all converts of Jack here so I hardly need to. The
point is, there has been a shift in Phryne and importantly in her relationship
with Jack and methinks the lady doth protest too much for it to be business
But Phryne is not the only one who has undergone change. Phryne often
puts Jack on the backfoot but after he comes out swinging in regards to the
kiss, we start to see a more confident Jack emerge. His relaxed stance at the
balcony as he jokes about the way to a man’s heart, his willingness to turn the tables and “woo” her for information, even the way he greets her at
the magazine’s offices for the final denouement. This is a man that would have
had what it takes to be an inspector at his age in an era in Melbourne that
would have had its share of lawlessness. This is a man who oozes confidence
through every pore and Phryne is drawn to it. Heck, we all are. It’s
Oh my god. I don’t think my heart has stopped thundering since I first saw this episode 48 hours ago. Since then, I’ve watched it so many times I think I have it memorized.
I don’t think there has ever been an episode of MFMM in which the secondary arc so clearly informs the primary one. Besides the fact that Dot and Hugh’s interplay with each other is just fantastic throughout, Hugh’s conversion to Catholicism and the conversations that take place in the church resonate in the exact chord of the bow that is stroking Jack, Phryne and, the newly introduced Concetta. The fact that when the scenes change, it’s always back to Dot and Hugh in the church is no accident.
Father O'Leary’s words - the first spoken after the theme music tells us just what everyone is facing: There are new rules to abide by. New doctrines to accept. You must enter the conversion willing and able and freely consenting. These are striking words - solemn - as the Father says. Marinate in that for a while - we’ll come back to it.
By the way, THANK YOU for bringing back Father O'Leary. I love this guy so much that I’m completely willing to ignore the fact that no Roman Catholic would have set foot in an Irish Catholic church, LOL! Remember him from the Memses episode? He has already established himself as a man with a sense of humor and a high regard for Dorothy. These things will both feature prominently and we probably have him to thank for a happy ending for Dot and Hugh - well, mostly Dot - who we now see is absolutely every bit a modern, independent woman at this point. Miss Fisher didn’t merely rub off, she has shown Dot that she can have more for herself and use her powers to great effect.
On with the show! Nonna Luisa has been murdered in her own restaurant, discovered by her son-in-law, Guido and his daughter, Marianna. There is an ongoing feud between their restaurant and another - Stranos. The families hate each other, there is bad blood and each believes the other is responsible for a death. The Stranos are accused of setting fire to Carbones and killing Guido’s wife in the process and the Carbones are accused of killing a man named Fabrizi, the husband of Concetta and a foot soldier in the Camorra, an Italian gang that pre-dates the Mafia and has its own set of rules. (Just a little tidbit for those interested, the Mafia was more of a hierarchical organization where the families operated under a structure with clear lines drawn between territories. The Camorra was more like a catch as catch can, with each family doing its own thing - so there was a LOT more infighting and bloodshed between them.)
Dot and Hugh mirror the regular actions of the Inspector and Miss Fisher, bouncing theories off one another in a way we haven’t seen before and then they vie for who gets to telephone their respective boss first. I have no doubt Dot wins.
The shot of the two cars coming up and parking grill to grill sets the stage for the state of flux we find the Inspector and Miss Fisher in. There is still a good amount of friction between them. She taunts him about his timing, falsely giving credit when actually she is bragging about how fast she got there. We can see that there is a distinct lack of partnership between the two, mirroring Dot and Hugh’s fight for the phone. Jack’s in a new silk tie, by the way, a dark teal. Love it. Jack interrupts Phryne’s line of questioning and addresses the man, Guido, by his first name - telling him that he will “take care of it.” It’s very clear that he has an established relationship with these people and it leaves Phryne feeling left out. She questions him and Jack tells her he wants to keep her away from this investigation because he is concerned for her safety. As the scenes roll on, you have to wonder if he might want to keep her at arm’s length for reasons beyond the ruthlessness of the Camorra. The jury’s still out on that one. I tend to think it played in the back of his mind but, as he is completely at ease with Concetta’s attentions in front of Phryne, I’m not convinced that he was trying to keep his acquaintance with her a secret. Jack takes off to “take care” of things and Phryne and Dot remain behind, chumming it up with the family and gathering as much information as they can… until Guido storms off with a gun in his hand to put an end to things. Naturally, Phryne gives chase.
Here, we get our first idea of a timeframe for this episode. Granted, there are about a hundred Festa della Madonnas - take your pick - which Madonna are we talking about here? There’s one every other week! LOL! But, there is one that occurs around the second week of July. And, as we can see (very briefly) later, Nonna Luisa’s last bank book entry was dated July. Good grief! Death on the Vine took place in May and Unnatural Habits in June! And, three episodes later it’s only freaking JULY!
**UPDATED TIMEFRAME: So now I don’t know what freaking Festa they’re talking about. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary isn’t until August 15th and this episode clearly takes place before then. Upon a closer and clearer inspection of Nonna Luisa’s bank ledger (when Phryne shows the book to Jack while they’re on her chaise), I noticed that while there are several entries in a row that are dated in late July, the last one is actually dated August 1st. And, according to Phryne, that was the day before Nonna Luisa died. Considering this episode takes place over 3-4 days according to costume changes, Jack and Phryne are on the case during the first week of August.**
(Murder and the Maiden also took place in July. When Dot & Hugh make up in the kitchen, the calendar clearly shows it.) If you put any stock into timelines (which depending on the day, I do or don’t), this is an incredibly interesting fact and it explains why so much tension remains between our dynamic duo.
“Now,” to use Roberto Salvatore’s words, “Things are getting interesting.” Jack makes his way to the rival restaurant where he is greeted very warmly by the Maitre’D, who shakes his hand and calls him Jack (everyone else does). The man then calls for someone to come down and a very lovely Italian woman rushes down the stairs, fondling her hair nervously and calling out, “Gianni! Ciao!” OK, well, apparently NOT everyone else calls him Jack.
Holy Italian Familiarity, Batman! Of course, Jack short for John and John is Gianni in Italian. It’s not at all odd for a primarily Italian-speaking person to convert the name of someone like that - and is a mark of just how well she knows him that she does this. It’s an endearment. AND, you can tell that he likes it. And because my jaw hadn’t quite reached the floor, Jack calls her by her first name, Concetta, and answers her back in Italian, telling her he is well - as she kisses his cheeks in that old world Italian style that is all warmth and passion - with a smile that could light up the entire restaurant!
Their few minutes of conversation reveal that his is an established regular at this place and it’s not only for the food. “So early tonight,” she exclaims but points out that his table is always waiting for him. She’s not just talking about the table, folks. She takes his coat and he sheds it willingly. Willingly - Father O'Leary’s words. Remember how in Murder and the Maiden he shucked off his coat as he was chasing down the gunman? Well, this is an entirely different shedding of layers. To prove the point, we are visually arrested by red lining - entirely exposed as Jack spreads his arms to allow Concetta to remove it from him. I’m dying, here people.
I’m going to take it a step further and make the claim that the color red was used very intentionally throughout this episode from this moment forward. Most of the costuming choices for this show are more or less a showcase and must comply with what is needed for the scene itself. And, we’ve seen plenty of instances where Jack and Phryne’s clothing calls out to each other in color or pattern. But, in this case, the color red signifies the theme of the episode: Love. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.
Now, I’m not saying Jack is in love with Concetta just because we see the inside of his coat. But, the flash of the red lining is meant to send a message. There is love there and he accepts her warmth and her affection because it is offered willingly and probably because - at this stage - he’s blind to the fact that she is, by all accounts, completely in love with him. She flirts lightly with him as she pours his wine and he asks, “How have you been, Concetta?” This leads me to believe that it’s been a while since he has set foot in Stranos Ristorante. To someone you saw last week, you ask, how are you, to someone you haven’t seen in some time you ask, how have you been. She tells him it gets easier every day and we can deduce that she has experienced some kind of loss. But when it’s clear that he’s there in the line of duty, Concetta gets put out. “Is this why you come here tonight? Not to see me but to ask questions?” For me, this underscores the idea that Jack hasn’t been paying her attention lately and she’s feeling a bit thwarted. (Though, I have to wonder if he hadn’t been called to the Cavalcade murder if he would have consoled himself over Phryne’s unwanted houseguest by eating at his favorite Italian restaurant.)
“How long you been coming here, Jack?” she asks. Two things about this: 1) he’s been going there a freaking long time and 2) she’s pissed and calls him Jack rather than the familiar, Gianni. Fuck me, universe! Now I’ll be watching every old episode thinking, did Jack to to Stranos that night? ARGH!!
Turns out the Maitre’D is Concetta’s brother, Vincenzo who establishes that Concetta was indeed widowed and that Jack, who was assigned the case, never caught the killer. How often does that happen? That Jack doesn’t get his man (or woman)? Well, we find out later that this WAS before he was regularly enlisting Miss Fisher’s help. Meanwhile, Guido storms in with his gun raised, making threats and Phryne is close behind, shouting a warning to Jack who has come between the two men. “I told you I’d take care of this!” Jack shouts. Then Guido accuses him of taking sides and his words catch Phryne’s attention, “I can see how you take care! Eat with them! Drink with them!” Well, if there’s one thing Jack Robinson will not stand for, it’s being accused of being a dirty cop. No doubt, Guido thinks that the Stranos are paying him off to keep from filing any charges. Jack is furious! Both men are going to the station and, Concetta is fulfilling her duty by getting Gianni’s things. ;) She puts him into his coat and he lets her - as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Note that we never see Concetta without her long strand of red beads. She is a woman in love.
And Phryne is just goggling at them. Concetta is brushing off his coat, making sure he’s presentable and, in an alternative universe, you can almost see this happening every morning and her taking the coat every evening… the next Mrs. Robinson, ladies and gentlemen. Even more startling is the fact that they were holding hands, their arms stretching out and she is loathe to let him go. All of this playing out right under Phryne’s nose and Jack is makes no move to disguise it - so used to Concetta’s attentions has he become that he doesn’t think twice. Also, i don’t think I’ll ever be able to get the way she says, “Gianni,” out of my head. So incredibly lovely. They could not have cast this role any better.
During Vincenzo’s interrogation, we find out that Fabrizi (Concetta’s husband) was gunned down last year. So, last July August. I hate to break it to you folks but, last July was pretty much when Phryne showed up in Melbourne. The check that Eunice Henderson made out to Phryne in “Ballarat Train” was dated August 2, 1928. So, we’re putting the pieces together just as Phryne is. Later, the dock worker confirms it “a year ago.“
So, I guess now’s as good a time as any to fabricate the history between these two. Back in July August 1928, when Inspector Jack Robinson had never heard the name only just become acquainted with Phryne Fisher, he was still married (albeit abandoned) and was investigating Fabrizi’s death. He meets the beautiful, sorrowful widow and Jack does Jack. He is an empathetic and caring man. Let’s not forget how he tried to console the same Eunice Henderson when her mother had died. And you can see how it played out. No doubt, Mrs. Fabrizi (or whatever - we never learn her married name) insisted on being called "Concetta” after regular meetings with the Inspector and having been on the receiving end of such kindness. She was probably bowled off her feet by the fact that this handsome police man was speaking to her like an adult, including her in the conversation. As she told Phryne “wives are not for talking to.” Very true in that traditional, conservative, patriarchal culture. I’m also willing to bet that she had no idea Jack was even married at that time - otherwise she would have never allowed herself to fall for him. Because even though Concetta is a bit modern in her forthrightness for Jack’s attention, she is still traditional at heart - a good Catholic girl with her garnet encrusted cross, valuing the fact that she was a good wife and pledging herself completely to a man. It happened slowly, the investigation went on for weeks to no avail. But by then, they had formed a kind of friendship and her family - no doubt - saw the value of keeping an officer of the law close and on their side. Papa Antonio took Jack in, fed him, allowed his daughter to bond with him in case he ever needed Jack’s “help.” As if. The bond grew and Jack eventually divorced but, Concetta’s ideas were thwarted by the fact that he began to fall for Miss Fisher - not that she would have known about that. I doubt Jack told a soul about his feelings. But, Concetta could plainly see that his attentions were wavering.
**UPDATED: I now think it’s even more interesting that these two women came into Jack’s life at nearly the exact same time - or at least within a few weeks of each other. They are diametrically opposed in their approach to life and love and he has had to navigate his shifting feelings. I’m just going to say that if had not been for Phryne, I don’t think that Jack would have even been able to encourage Concetta’s attention to the point where she could fall in love with him. Because even though Jack is a caring person, his heart was very much closed off until Miss Fisher snuck in with her lockpick and pried it open.**
The two detectives share a glass of whiskey over Jack’s desk and Phryne begins her own interrogation. It’s business at first, Fabrizi and his link to the Camorra - which Jack emphatically believes is true. But, then it turns it into a “personal matter,” to use her phrase from Murder and the Maiden. I do love nothing more than a jealous Phryne. It’s about time. Really… the women of Melbourne aren’t blind. There can’t be that many handsome, employed, liberal-minded (but not THAT liberal minded) men in the city can there? Jack’s on the market now, honey. So you best watch your step! LOL! “And this Fabrizi, he was the husband of the woman at the restaurant, the one who was, um, brushing down your jacket?” Nice try, Phryne. Nonchalance FAIL. “Concetta,” he answers, keeping his cards close to the vest. Note, it’s not Ms. Stranos or Mrs. Fabrizi-fuckatelli-whatever. He never refers to this woman by anything but her first name in this episode - not even when he’s making introductions. It’s always CONCETTA. Familiar. And diametrically opposed to how he addresses Phryne. “She seemed to know you quite well.” Nice call back to Jack’s words with Warrick Hamilton, you’ve obviously come to know him quite well. And Jack’s reaction is Everything. Playing it off, tilting his head and casting that downturned expression, giving her a dose of her own medicine. And his choice of words tell you that he is still smarting over the Compton incident. “She’s an old friend. I believe that’s the term I’ve heard used.” Old friend. Phryne’s code word for “lover.” Of course, I don’t believe for a second that Jack and Concetta were ever lovers to this point but, she is most definitely a love interest. One Jack hasn’t aggressively pursued up to this point but Phryne doesn’t need to know that. She can see that Concetta was clearly pursuing HIM. She is gobsmacked by his remark. On numerous levels! The fact that he has been able to hide this from her must bother her to no end! Some detective! Not to mention the sharpness in his voice that belies the hurt over her last dalliance. Who is this woman to him? She must know the answer.
What was sure to be an enlightening and extremely awkward conversation is interrupted by the two men fighting in the station. Phryne translates from Italian because of course she does. I was really hoping that Jack would be able to speak it better - possibly from war time - but no. It’s Phryne who knows 150 languages and discerns that the start of all this killing was an incident at the docks. Jack threatens both men with charges and calls a truce for now. Phryne seems - not sure if impressed is the right word - but definitely intrigued by how far Jack is willing to insert himself into this feud. He doesn’t usually get this emotionally attached in his cases. This only serves to fuel her desire to learn just where Jack’s allegiances lie.
Back to Dot and Hugh who are at the church going over a pamphlet that emphasizes the role of the woman in the Catholic home. You’ve got to laugh at Hugh as he thinks he’s finally won one round over Dottie. I just love how she grabs the brochure and stares at it - unbelieving. This is NOT who she wants to be anymore. She does not wish to “obey her husband in all things.” She is NOT going willingly into this conversion.
May I introduce… The Honorable Phryne Fisher, ladies and gentlemen. Dressed to kill and possibly with an agenda to match. She’s in a glittering frock with her fur and black satin gloves - in complete opposition to her challenger. Concetta is gorgeous of course - but with far less artifice required. She wears very little make up and though she is dressed well to receive customers, her appearance and jewelry are understated. She is tall and dark as opposed to Phryne’s petite and fair. Later, Papa Antonio emphasizes the physical differences even more, telling Phryne that “she’s all skin and bones,” as opposed to Concetta who (I guess) is supposed to be perceived as curvier. They couldn’t be more different. Yet they share one very particular thing in common. Note that Phryne introduces herself as “Miss Fisher,” and does NOT offer her first name. Concetta, meanwhile, offers no name at all (which I thought was odd). Though she does offer a seat and an invitation to eat. Phryne conducts her interrogation in the same was as she did Jack’s - business first. The Camorra. Concetta claims to know nothing about her deceased husband’s business, telling Phryne that her marriage was arranged but emphasizing that she was a “good wife” all the same. And now, it’s Concetta who asks the questions. “You are a friend of Gianni’s?” she asks but then adds, “Jack,” Correcting herself, possibly because perhaps Miss Fisher won’t know to whom she’s referring, perhaps because the endearment slipped out when it should not have. Phryne’s answer could cut glass, “A friend, yes…. And you?” Let’s not beat around the bush, Phryne, LOL! You were wanting something and this was it. “Si,” she admits and blushes. “He tried very hard to find who killed my husband.” Well, of course he did, he’s Jack Robinson FFS. But, you can see the admiration in her eyes. “Since then,” she brags/explains in a way that sounds nice but feels very territorial in the way only a woman could evoke, “he has dinner here many, many nights.” “He must like the food,” Phryne concludes and everyone knows that’s not all she means. Jack’s not going to turn down a good meal. Hell! Phryne learned that straight away and has used it to her advantage since. Apparently, she’s not the only one. Her smile was absolutely painful in that moment. And it reminded me exactly of Rosie at that footy match. The same forced expression, the bared teeth, the feeling that someone else was taking what you had (wrongly or rightly) thought was yours and yours alone to have. “He must,” Concetta agrees - knowing full well the meaning behind the woman’s words. Papa Antonio joins them and I have to tell you that I love this guy. Perfect characterization, perfect accent, just perfect. He tells Phryne that Nonna Luisa stole his family’s recipe book.
Of course when one’s nerves are as frazzled as Phryne’s are, instead of a tonic or powder, one does a little breaking and entering to take the edge off. As we all do. No? Oh crap, a near death experience. And who is there to hold the dalliance bag this time but Guido. Oh Phryne. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, she did say she was remarkably versatile. Look, the casting could have been a smidgen better for a hot Italian widower but, they had just escaped with their lives and he was feeling rather sorrowful about his wife (not so sorrowful that it kept him from licking Phryne’s arm). And he did offer to cook for her. And Phryne loves to play the knight in shining armour almost as much as Jack does. And I’m not going to deny that those old Italian guys can be mighty charming when they want to be - I just wish the come-on had been less contrived. I just found myself going “Ewww!” - not at him but at the corny pick up lines. Dessert on her neck? Puh-leez! But to each her own. Phryne gets some cannelloni and life goes on!
I will say that whether intentional or not, we haven’t seen Phryne actually kiss a man on screen for a while. You know she’s doing it but the fact that they are not showing it leads me to believe that we are supposed to perceive that these dalliances are not intimate. They’re just for fun. There is no love there - only Phryne enjoying the sensual pleasures of life. At this point in time, she is merely pursuing her own whims - she does not see her actions as intentionally hurting Jack, though she does enjoy being the bad girl - evidenced by her claim that she might not be given the choice to go to heaven. In any case, Jack won’t condemn her for it and neither will I - even though we both wish it could be different.
The second day of the investigation dawns and finds Jack waiting outside Stranos, sipping a cup of espresso. Such a short moment but it was wonderful! Yet another thing Phryne couldn’t have predicted about him. Playing up the interrogation angle (and also the religious undertones of the episode), Jacks asks, “Would you like me to make a full confession?” Ironic that she came to this place the night before to extract just that. “No thank you. I prefer a never-ending source of mystery.” True that, Phryne. Jack is full of surprises. But, you always seem to forget that. Jack means to introduce the women and Concetta reveals that they talked last night. “Did you now?” he accuses Phryne - but you can’t help notice that he’s pleased by that little outcome. Satisfied that neither of the Strano men attacked Phryne and broke into Carbones the night before, they leave and have another glorious moment.
Once back out in the open, Jack confronts her about coming back to the restaurant. “Did you get the answers you were looking for?” he asks.
“Too early to say,” she admits. At this stage, Phryne has only her observation and intuition to wave red rags at her as if she were a bull. “When you say ‘old friend’ do you mean ‘old friend’ like Doctor Mac or 'old friend’ like Captain Compton?” YES!!!! How much did I love this??!? This show has a terrible short-term memory sometimes. I mean, we’ve forgotton about Arthur and Jane because it’s convenient and we’ve already forgotten about Phryne’s father… what the hell happened to him? I mean did Phryne ship his ass back to London on a steamer? She and Nonna Luisa could have gotten a 2-for-1 fare! But they DID NOT forget about Compton. Because Jack hasn’t forgotten. And apparently, Phryne is now recognizing that little fact.
He doesn’t take the bait, playing coy as she usually does and ducks the answer telling her that Concetta Strano never saved his life from a burning plane in Madagascar, “If that’s what you mean.” LOL! Jack! Totally not what she meant and you know it. Remember that “old friend” is the code word for “lover” and if Phryne believing that’s true is making her squirm a bit, all the better. He changes the subject abruptly, offering transportation, and she refuses claiming business at the docks.
As they are walking to the cars, I was struck by just how similarly they are dressed. This isn’t an accident, folks. Watch that scene again. They are both cutting identical figures with their hats and trousers and ties (Phryne’s in the form of the pinned scarf), both wearing long coats that flare as they walk showing off the bright red silk. Red again, signifying love. I hate to say it but Nathan’s movements are just the tiniest bit intentional here. But then, perhaps I spend far too much time watching his hands. You can see that he’s pulling open the side of his overcoat as he walks. It’s one thing for Phryne to sway her hips as she walks to reveal it but it might look a little strange on Jack - not that I would complain!
Amidst all the jealous bantering, Jack discovers that Phryne is digging into the secrets of the Camorra, he becomes concerned. “You’ll be the first to know,” she promises him - if she finds anything. But he tells her that’s not what he cares about. “No! I’ll be the last. I’m more concerned about you getting in too deep.” Keeping her safe (as much as he can or as much as she lets him) - that’s the only way he’s been able to show her how much he cares for her. She tries to brush it off and Jack emphasized that it could be deadly. Here it comes… I never expected it.
“I’ll be careful,” she tells him. But the look on his face is incredulous. She’s never careful. And so she steps closer, talks lower, meets his gaze. “I’ll be careful,” she vows. And this time, he knows she means it. My god, when did we ever think we would hear her say this - and to all people but Jack, whose accusations of recklessness have plagued and infuriated her in the past. And then, she touches his chest - not to brush down his jacket, but to feel him, to make that connection - and it’s electric. “Promise me you’ll be careful too,” she demands. He looks at her almost unbelievingly. But, a wordless nod says it all. In that moment he remembers why he keeps putting himself in this position - locking horns with her - because Phryne really does care for him and because ultimately, it’s Phryne’s attention he craves.
Let’s look at the reactions here. Concetta - who has her hands all over him, greeting him, sweeping his coat has him basking in the glow of her attention vs. Phryne - whose slightest placement of a gloved hand has him momentarily paralyzed. There is the enjoyment of being the center of someone’s attention and then there is the lightning bolt.
OK, onto the plot. Plot? What plot? The dock worker gets 10 pounds and several ounces of lead richer for telling Phryne about the imported tomato racket and Phryne has a run in with a deadly member of the Camorra whom Jack later identifies as Roberto Salvatore, the man who he believes ordered Concetta’s husband to burn down Carbone’s restaurant. They bring in Guido to ask if he was the one who dumped the shipment into the bay - causing the Camorra to retaliate with the fire. Judging by the tone, Jack suspects another liberal-minded man has found his way into Phryne’s arms and his expression exactly what I was thinking during that dessert scene. Nathan Page, you are freaking brilliant with that face. Seriously. But Guido admits that it wasn’t him at all - it was Nonna Luisa.
Still hating the morgue, for the record. And, are we resigned to only see Mac in that damned white apron from now on? Seriously? This bitch makes MAD sartorial choices that we are being denied! But I suppose a cut in the ABC wardrobe budget will do that. Sorry, Mac! Phryne needs a new hat for this scene. Can’t get you that new jacket. Just throw the apron on again! BTW, I’m now totally wondering if Jack’s intense dislike for cravats extends to Mac. I hope not - well not unless Jack finds out that 'old friend’ like Doctor Mac and 'old friend’ like Captain Compton really mean the same thing, LOL! So, Mac points out that is wasn’t the altercation that killed the old woman, but poisonous mushrooms. And Phryne runs off to question Marianna some more about who does the mushroom gathering and shoot holes in her alibi.
Marianna defends her lies and the theme of LOVE is underlined in almost every interaction from here on out. She says their families would kill them if they knew that she and Vincenzo are in love. “Please,” she begs. “You don’t know what it’s like to love someone and know that you can never have them.” Doesn’t she? I think Phryne knows that very well, actually. The fact that it’s her own willingness standing in her way is beside the point. And now, she has to consider that even if she is willing, it might be too late. She might have lost the man to another. It’s not insignificant to say that this comes right on the heels of her thinking she had lost Jack to Rosie at the end of Season 2. Perhaps Phryne needs to consider New rules to live by; New doctrines to accept if she doesn’t want to continue feeling this way. But, she has a case to solve so she gathers the Inspector and they question Vincenzo some more and Papa Antonio makes a veiled threat to Jack. Note that the two Strano men were wearing bright red ties in that scene, Vincenzo as he admits his love for Marianna. Concetta tries to defend her father but, she ends up implicating him even more, admitting he is a member of the Camorra. And, she implicates herself. She was not so blind to her husband’s business as she told Phryne - or even as she herself would have liked to believe. Calls him “a pig.” She knew men in the village feared Papa Antonio and that he makes threats often. Fortunately, she redeems herself by telling the two detectives that Marianna could be in trouble. The whole father/grandfather Papa/Nonno thing really bothered me by the way. Which was it? I’m going with father. Not worth the debate.
Cut to Dot who has clearly been considering the importance of her independence versus which church she pledges allegiance to. In no uncertain terms, she informs Father O'Leary that she will have to carefully consider her decision. This is not the first time Dorothy has threatened to leave the church. In Murder at Montparnasse, Mr. Butler convinced her to use her sway to call Father Grogan’s bluff about not allowing her to date Hugh. But she needs no prompting this time. And I have every belief that she would have converted to another faith than subject herself to a rule and doctrine that she no longer accepted. Brava, Dot!
Nothing like an Italian funeral to bring all the families out of hiding! LOL! Dot doesn’t understand it but then, I grew up in mob country. My dad was a cop and dreaded being assigned to cover the funerals because absolutely everyone would come out of the woodwork to pay their “respects.” I think this is the 3rd day of the investigation because everyone has changed for the funeral. Jack’s in his “wave/fan” tie and Phryne is wearing all black with a punch of startling red embroidery on her duster. Loved Phryne and Jack sitting in the police motor car observing the whole scene and Jack calls it in a shot. Papa Antonio is the head of the family - in more ways than one. The Godfather.
They enter the church and it’s lit beautifully, the overhead shot of them walking along a large expanse of red carpet. Red again - until they have to part. Jack moves away first and doesn’t take a place next to his Constable but rather, to stand next to Concetta. Phryne is a bit jarred by his choice and makes her own move to join Guido - though she keeps a much greater distance than Jack does. She watches him regard the other woman for a moment before looking down the line of suspects. I must say, as an ex-Catholic, that I laughed my ass off at Phryne’s little contrived expression when she made the sign of the cross. You know she loathes being there, LOL! But her sacrifice proved worthwhile. She watches as Papa A. slips something into the casket, a locket. But, she and Dot are distracted by a spat that Marianna and Vincenzo are having.
Getting nowhere with Marianna - apart from eliciting hilariousness from Dot, who admits wanting to slap Hugh, “And we’re not even Italian!” - she turns to Guido who confirms Phryne’s suspicions that it’s Nonna Luisa’s and Papa Antonio’s pictures in the locket. She wonders if they were once in love and Guido offers her a picture of the future, “The woman I know, no have no love… She was a bitter, twisted old woman. If she have love, she put here, in the food.” So whose future are we looking at? Hers or Jack’s? Really, it could be either. Sadly, it’s already been Jack’s past. It’s not a thought Phryne wants to cling to and so she makes a hasty exit. Guido wants her to stay. I’ve no idea what he says - unlike the actor playing Vincenzo, this guy’s clearly a native speaker - he says it too fast. But the gist is unmistakable and probably pretty typical to Phryne’s ears. “Perhaps. But I’m sure it will wear off.” Proving that she’s only in for the experience when it suits her - and it no longer does. Then, he tells her something that cuts her to the core, “Whoever he is, he’s a lucky man.” She laughs harshly in denial. But, what’s left to deny? That’s two for two, Compton and now Guido who can see right through her. Hell, three if we go back to Sanderson stating that he can see Jack had some “sway with her.” But, she will have to accept this of her own free will and still she does not.
The woman standing before Jack now is the very antithesis of Phryne. Concetta admits to asking him to the restaurant at that moment so they could be alone. She is wearing a black lace dress with a vibrant red slip and has changed her smaller necklace from the garnet cross to a bright red diamond-shaped stone. More unspoken declarations of love. “And Roberto Salvatore?” he asks, because she had taken her place next to the man at the funeral. It’s nice to see that Jack’s jealous streak is not limited to Phryne, LOL! Though I do think this is also driven by a concern for Concetta’s safety. After all, Jack believes the man to be a killer. Alas, Concetta tells him that she isn’t interested in Roberto - that once again, she is a bargaining chip for her family to use as they see fit to advance their position in the Camorra. But she wants no more of it and blasphemes her father - prompting Jack to caution her for her own safety. But she won’t hear of it - she doesn’t care. "Can’t you see?“ she asks, grasping for his hand, "It is only you that I care about.” NO SWEETIE. He can’t see! He’s Jack Robinson and is unused to women throwing themselves at his feet. When the hell was the last time a woman - his wife (ex-wife! ex-wife!), Phryne - has ever cared for him above all else? “You are everything I could ever want in a man.” Join the club, honey. But, are you watching Jack’s face as she is saying this? He cannot believe it. Where the hell did this come from? All this time, she has felt this way? She continues, makes her feelings extraordinarily clear. He doesn’t have to interrogate her. She opens herself up to him willingly, saying, “And I would give myself completely to you, Gianni. All you have to do is ask.”
Just for fun, let’s take a few minutes in silence and compare that to, “I am who I am, Jack. I can’t give that up.” You don’t want to think about it anymore, do you? Yeah, neither do I.
And so what is Jack’s response to this declaration? He is sort of at a loss knowing this is everything he could want except perhaps it’s nothing that he wants anymore. “But your family has so many secrets. I’d be duty-bound to…” Duty. Of course. Right there, folks, you have Jack’s gut response. This woman is literally giving herself to him if he would only propose to her and his immediate reaction is not one of love or passion. But, duty. To anyone who thinks Jack was in love with this woman, I’m telling you now that I respectfully disagree based on this precise moment. Concetta reacts immediately with disdain for her family and the Camorra and what they’ve put her through, “Ma famiglia!” she hisses. “I would leave them in a breath. For you, Gianni.” He searches her face and sees nothing but truth. “I would,” she promises. “Si?” he asks, still unbelieving, almost in a daze. “Si.” she confirms and smiles so broadly and earnestly that you wish you could just hold her to yourself and tell her how badly this is going to turn out. Jack for his part, gives only a shy smile and stands chastely across from her, a vast distance between them. he doesn’t move to touch her outside of continuing to hold her hand - which she took first - as she vows to him, cupping his face, “With all my heart.” The next shot is an overhead and we can see that outside of their hands, there is no contact. I’ll also point out that there is absolutely no red to be found in that shot.
But there is in the very next one. Jack is stirring a very red drink (Campari?) and is sitting shoulder to shoulder with Phryne on her chaise. He looks tired. How long has he been thinking of Concetta’s offer? Has he slept at all? My guess is NO. So is Miss Fisher’s - though she couldn’t begin to imagine what might have contributed to his insomnia. She shows him the locket and explains her theory, which Jack agrees to readily. “Makes perfect sense. What greater force is there than thwarted love?” My stomach began to coil at this moment - because Jack is known for doing the honorable thing - and you can see that he’s getting tired of Miss Fisher’s games. He holds her gaze doggedly as he sips the red concoction and you can see that he’s wearing “Phryne’s tie.” The art deco number from the season opener - I was begging the screen at that moment to “please let that mean what I think it means!!”
But Phryne doesn’t take the bait and they continue to do their little dance. “Burning the midnight oil, Jack? Grappa will do that to you.” She’s making a dig about his hanging out at the restaurant and drinking because he clearly has a headache. Perhaps Jack was stirring a powder into the Mr. B’s perfectly executed negroni. But, his throbbing skull isn’t from any alcohol. It’s from having to make a decision - one you can see he is still grappling with. Jack digs back, “I’m sure I was up no later than you.” “Oh, I was tucked up in bed at a very sensible hour.” It would come as a great shock to Jack that she most likely was. And, alone at that - while he was basically being proposed to at Stranos. “If you’re waiting for me to ask who with…” Oh! I wish that line of conversation could have continued. But Phryne interrupts as a details niggles in her brain about Nonna Luisa’s accounting. Of course she is NOT waiting for you to ask who with, Jack! She doesn’t give her dalliances that much meaning - it’s only YOU who does that. Not that I’m blaming him for feeling that way. It just illustrates once again how out of sync they are on this point. And how much it’s coming between them. Jack apparently wished the conversation to continue in that vein also and brings it back around, “So what did you say you were up to last night?” he asks. “I didn’t.” “Then, why are you asking me?” He is so clearly trying to get her to say anything to him that would tilt the scales in her favor - show some interest in what (or who) he’s been up to. But she is as tight-lipped as ever. And Jack is as frustrated as ever, clearing his throat the way he does when he is profoundly uncomfortable and knocking back the remainder of his hair of the dog with a resigned sigh.
Yes, Papa A. was in love with Nonna Luisa. Thwarted love, indeed. And his words resonate - and not in a good way. “But there is more to life than love.” Well, you can believe that all you want Papa A. but, that love that you sacrificed for other things is still killing you, - as evidenced later on. But meanwhile, he’s intent on destroying more lives by marrying Concetta to Roberto. Phryne’s eye’s pass between Jack and Concetta and she can see the pain there - it wouldn’t take a genius to figure it out. Back at the station, they’ve got Vincenzo in custody again. Good grief - what is that 3 times? There’s a question about the timing of the movie tickets and they know that he was the one who attacked Nonna Luisa. Unfortunately, they also know he’s not the one who killed her. Jack admits he can’t charge him with more the assault and Phryne, reading Mac’s report, confirms his way of thinking.
“Phryne?” he asks. HOLD IT. Did Jack just use her first name? But Jack, there’s no a gunman in sight! But Jack, she’s not in a state of distress! The only possible explanation is that he has been thinking of her - intimately. No - not in that way! Get your minds out of the gutter. Well, of course he thinks of her intimately in that way too - but that’s NOT what he’s been doing overnight. He’s been playing out the scenarios… a future with Concetta or a future with Phryne. And, so it slips out. And at first, I was disappointed she didn’t react. But, she plants her own seed of intimacy as they theorize how they could make Vincenzo tell them who the murderer was. Jack doubts even torture would get it out of the young man. “But love might.” Yes, love again. And she looks at Jack squarely in the face, willing him to remember his own unspoken declaration and the many months since he told her that believing her to be dead was unbearable. “It can bring even the toughest men completely undone.” She wants him to know she hasn’t forgotten. And possibly, by acknowledging the big, red gorilla in the room, it means she’s just a little less frightened of it.
The next scene is almost a throwaway except for the fact that it is so incredibly significant: “Are you sure this will work Miss Fisher?” Jack asks. No doubt he expects a cocky reply. But, that’s not what she gives him. And she isn’t only talking about their trap for Vincenzo and Marianna when she says, “Of course I’m not sure.” Phryne has no idea how any of this will turn out. We’ll get back to that later.
During the altercation, we find that love can indeed bring men like Jack and Vincenzo and even Papa Antonio to their knees. “She is gonna break your heart, Vincenzo! Like mine was broke!” But Marianne’s words are loud and clear: “ I don’t care what happened last year or last month. All that matters is what happens now.”
Confession time! Which means that someone’s going to prison. I’m holding out hope that Jack can finagle a reduced sentence for Marianna on account of her help identifying and convicting Roberto Salvatore. And, she was clearly under duress - despite the fact that it was premeditated. It turns out that Nonna Luisa paid Roberto to kill Concetta’s husband. (Six pounds every week for the better part of a year? That’s no chump change!) Jack heads to Stranos for the confrontation. It struck me that he asks Concetta to “leave us.” Papa A. reinforces the idea that she is not equal to the task by telling her to “Go! The men wanna talk.” Of course, Jack was concerned more for her safety than the privacy of men’s conversation but it’s clear when Phryne arrives on the scene who is level on the playing field. She is his friend of course, but also his protector. Roberto threatens Jack sending him into a rage when he tells him he will hurt “the people you hold most dear,” and Phryne trains the gun on him - making no bones about the fact that she will kill them on the spot if they make a move toward Jack. But the threats aren’t taken lightly and Jack knows it. Even from prison, Roberto could act on his revenge. So, he enlists Papa Antonio and tells him that Roberto has been playing both sides and is responsible for killing Concetta’s husband. Honestly, I doubt Roberto will be alive in prison long enough to wear the noose. Papa A. will see to that and ensure Jack’s (and his loved one’s) safety in the process. But, Phryne has the last words. And she echoes Marianna’s sentiments. “Today, all past scores are settled.” Yes, they will be, Phryne. The past no longer matters. It is only what happens now that matters. The final shot is one of Jack standing between the two women - a decision must be made.
Back to the church, to a scene that makes me laugh every single time I watch it. Dot has managed to get her way once again and Hugh simply cannot believe that she has the power to sway the Catholic Church, LOL! Father O'Leary says they must change with the times and that “it goes without saying that none of this is written in stone,” I was living for Dot’s expression, a combination of guilt, feigned innocence and complete pride in herself! And Hugh! OMG, Hugo, you’ve done it again! Someone needs to make me a gif of his little smirk when he says “Except the Commandments… Weren’t they?” Perfection people. That’s what it looks like. And so, Hugh has to accept the rules and doctrines not only of Catholicism but of Dorothy Williams. As it was, so shall it ever be. Go Dottie.
Oh God, back to Stranos, where Jack must confront his own doctrines and decide to enter the conversion willingly. This is a heartbreakingly gorgeous scene. I think it’s right up there with Blood at the Wheel, honestly. There is so much going on that isn’t said and we all know by now that Nathan Page is the master of saying things without uttering a word. Jack and Concetta are alone once again, sitting this time, their fingers dancing together on the table. But for a man who is about to propose, Jack looks awfully solemn. Concetta can’t NOT notice. She has witnessed Phryne in action, been on the receiving end of her interrogation, seen the pair working side by side, witnessed the unerring loyalty when Phryne stepped up to Jack’s side, gold gun blazing. “Have you thought about it, Gianni? What I’m offering to you?” “I’ve thought of nothing else,” comes Jack’s honest reply. And she looks pensive. You can see the doubt playing on her face. (Her earrings are gorgeous by the way, aren’t they?) She is unsure of herself. She looks away and smiles nervously. “First, there is something I need to make sure of. For myself.” Jack nods to her, accepting her condition no matter what it is. Because that’s the man he is. I didn’t know what to expect - her being such a traditional woman. I mean, the most we’ve seen them do is hold hands. And I don’t think Jack saw it coming either. But to his credit, he doesn’t pull away. He attempts to kiss her back. But you can see that his heart isn’t in it.
I’ve read some posts on how folks can’t stand to watch this part because Phryne and Jack are the one true pairing. Well, I’m here to say that the whole reason this moment between Jack and Concetta is so freaking gorgeous is exactly because of that. We watch the kiss and, just as before, her hands wrap around him, cradle his face. She is clearly passionately in love with him. But, he keeps his hands to himself.
Remember how I asked you to take a moment of silence earlier and compare Concetta’s declaration to Phryne’s? Well, take another moment and compare Jack’s reaction to this kiss to the kiss in Murder at Montparnasse. Feeling better? Yes, me too.
She knows. And he tries to hide his sheepishness with that tiny little cough but he can’t even look at her. Remember what he said to Phyrne? That he wasn’t as liberal-minded that even he would like himself to be - for her? Well, Jack couldn’t deny who he is then and the same holds true now.
Would Jack have proposed to her? MAYBE. He had to be asking himself all night long if there would ever be a woman as devoted to him as Concetta. But then, that was before Phryne pulled a gun on two thugs that were threatening him. Even still, he might have gone along with it out of a sense of duty to her or perhaps because he thinks he could grow to love her - but it could never be as much as she loves him. It would have led to another one-way marriage - though I don’t think he’s thinking that in the moment.
I believe that there is a part of Jack that would like to want nothing more than to settle down with Concetta and be greeted by her warm arms taking his coat every night, sit down to a delicious meal and have her be his completely. A part that wishes Concetta might be the one to help him excise his longing for Phryne - that she could cut it away like a cancer with a scalpel. But, it’s not to be - no matter how much he would like it to be. Concetta is not who he wants and he cannot hide that.
“You don’t need to say it,” she tells him. She doesn’t want to hear the words - or worse, force him to verbalize the rejection that already came through his lips loud and clear. Her love is not reciprocated. My kingdom for a translation of what she says next! “(In Italian) “It’s plain that someone has taken your heart.” She translates it to simpler terms for Jack’s (and our) benefit, “Your heart is… is taken.”
He shakes his head, like he wants to deny it. And, of course he does. He’s got to be so conflicted about casting this woman aside for another who continually brings him to his knees. He wishes in that moment more than anything else that he didn’t love Phryne as much as he does. “I care for you,” he tells her. And it’s just brilliant how they used the same words Phryne used to end it with Lin Chung. Even their intonation is similar. But, Jack’s words are also borne out of a guilt that he has unknowingly toyed with this woman’s affection for so long. But I’ve no doubt he means them. He is an honorable man, after all.
His next words are offered as a penance, “You deserve to be happy.” You’ve got to love the man for that. I can’t help but consider the possibility that, if she pressed him, he would allow it. Done the noble thing. Sacrificed his passion for her happiness. But she silences him. She doesn’t want to be settled for - even if he were to make her an offer now, she couldn’t accept. She tells him not to worry in Italian. “I will be fine,” she assures him, even though her heart is breaking. And I can accept her in a way that I could never accept Rosie - because we see how much she cares for him. That she can move on - that the next time she marries “it will be for love.” Though, she can’t help reminding him once again that she thought that love was him - but he is taken.
Did it really take Concetta to drive this point home? The short answer is: Yes. We’ve seen Jack struggle with his emotions, with his feelings for Phryne and her flirtations - not to mention her indiscretions. He was bound to have thought it could have been easier, that he could live without her. But, Concetta was a foil for both him and Phryne. She made him face the reality: he is taken. He knows now that his love for Phryne is not something he is going get past. He is going to have to face it head on - and not half-heartedly either. No more dancing around. No more denial. All past scores are settled today: Rosie, Compton, Concetta, Warrick. There is no future in the past. What matters is what happens now. Jack knows that his greatest passion is very close at hand. It is time to pursue it.
Meanwhile, another detective is having a moment of contemplation. Phryne is in her parlour, alone - not even enjoying the company of a whiskey. Listening to La Donne e Mobile on the phonograph. Because of course she is. Really, there was no other choice. How many times Phryne? “The woman is flighty (fickle), like a feather in the wind. She changes in voice and in thought. Always a lovely, pretty face, in tears or in laughter. It’s untrue. Always miserable is he who trusts her, he who confides in her his unwary heart. Yet one never feels fully happy. Who from that bosom does not drink love.” She knows the words by heart. Sees herself in them. Sees Jack. Knows something must give. Can she accept, as she once advised Dot, that just because it’s the way things have been, doesn’t mean that’s the way things have to stay. Can she settle her past scores? Rene? Janey? Her father? Accept the new rules and go willingly into this conversion? It remains to be seen. But I’ve never thought Phryne would be one to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of a outdated doctrine. Back to Phryne’s remark in the car when Jack asks her if she’s sure it will work, “Of course I’m not sure!” Was there any reason to include that remark other than to underscore the point that they have no idea how things will turn out - but that it’s worth the risk to try all the same?
Hark! A knock the door! Phryne is so absorbed with her thoughts that she doesn’t even seem to hear. Oh Mr. Butler! How much do I love that man?! I can’t imagine what he’s been thinking - listening to that song blast over and over from behind closed doors, his mistress locked up in there like it’s a fortress, all alone. But the look on his face, as he leaves the Inspector with her, gave me life!!
Jack, it seems, has settled the scores. Called a truce. He waltzes in holding a bottle of wine from Stranos like the cat who ate the canary and we are reminded that Phryne isn’t the sole charmer of the pair.
Her entire posture changes as he approaches - opening up. But, she’s got her game face on now. “Not eating Italian tonight, Jack?” (I’m relieved to know I wan’t the only one who caught the double entendre there. But, after the cottage pie incident, where else could my mind go?!) “Stranos is closed,” he smirks back. And I don’t think Jack ever has any intention of telling her what he gave up to be standing in her parlour at that moment. Not even after they’ve been together twenty years. “Looks like you’ll have to make do with me,” Phryne says airily but Phryne knows by the looks that passed between them at the mention of Concetta’s marriage to Roberto that it was far more serious than she originally imagined - for at least one of them. With Roberto headed for jail, it meant Concetta was free. “Looks like we’ll have to make do with each other.”
Drop the mic! Holy good lord! How does he do that? Barely moving a muscle, he conveys that he is IN. That he knows full well in that moment that they are both in. They are both taken. They have no choice. They’ll willingly have to make do with each other. And all in that breathy, marble-mouthed mumble that makes me swoon!
After all those saccharine declarations of love and sacrifice that have woven throughout this episode, they manage to skirt the bright red gorilla in the room and declare themselves with absolute perfection. And Jack is still wearing Phryne’s tie!
Kind people have sent me various images of Nathan’s article in Gardening Australia (magazine is on its way!!) I thought those who don’t have access would like to read it so I have put them together and transcribed it.
I have hidden it under the read below for those who have ordered a mag. but here are a couple of photos from the article - Courtesy of Nathan Page.
And so we come to my number one favourite PHRACK scene.
S1 Ep 13 King Memses’ Curse
such a fleeting moment and Jack isn’t even in the shot. But at her lowest point, who is it that Phryne reaches for? Jack. And he is there, by her side,
conveying his strength and support through a simple clasp of her arm. Perfect.
But wait, what about the dance, or the singing or the ‘ask
me to beg’ moment? Aaargh there are just so many. Maybe I’ll have to do a
revised version, or a season 1, 2 and 3 version or …