Peril and adventure abound as we enter week three of Around the World in 80 Days! Last time, we witnessed a heart-stopping rescue in the Italian countryside. Phileas Fogg and company gathered all their courage and skill to guide a steam train over a ravine to save a young boy's life. If you need a refresher, the details are right here.
Now we join Fogg, Passepartout and Miss Fix on Day 16 of their journey. This means the trek from Brindisi to the Suez Canal took almost two weeks, but apparently wasn’t very eventful. The companions are in high spirits and Phileas optimistically asserts nothing can stop them now. That can only mean one thing…
Our intrepid travelers are forced to disembark their vessel at Al Hudayah in Yemen. Pirates have reportedly been kidnapping rich passengers and relieving them of their fingers to obtain ransom money. They must wait for a British ship to escort them to Aden. This delay will cause a domino effect of missed connections and threatens the timely completion of their journey. Alternative arrangements must be made.
The trio sits down in an outdoor café to regroup. Abigail tracks down a copy of the Telegraph and is elated to find she’s been credited for the article she wrote about their adventure in France. Phileas is particularly flattered by the suggestion he might be the next great British explorer. Alas, his declaration that they must get to Aden -- along with his fancy pocket watch -- attracts attention.
Meanwhile, Abigail spots Jane Digby (Lindsay Duncan) across the crowded market. An English noblewoman infamous for her multiple affairs and marriages, Abigail labels her the most immoral woman in the world. Idle gossip is one thing, but it gets a bit awkward when Jane confronts the group (with her “camel driver” husband) by tossing the paper on their table and sarcastically wishing them good luck.
In the evening, a stranger basically barges into Fogg’s hotel room and offers, for the minuscule fee of ten British pounds, to guide them across the desert to Aden. He claims it will take two days to cross the Empty Quarter (so named because everyone who goes there dies).
Passepartout immediately recognizes this as a dangerous con. Phileas, however, is intent on getting back on schedule and accepts the man’s offer. The valet reminds Fogg of his promise to Fortescue to protect Abigail. Phileas agrees that the desert is no place for a woman and decides to leave her behind. Passepartout protests on her behalf, but Fogg (a man who can’t seem to undress himself) refuses to be moved.
Shortly afterward. Miss Fix feels the need to explain to a shirtless Passepartout the reason why chronicling this trip around the world is so important to her. When she was a child, Abigail and her father bonded over a giant map and stories of his travels. She wants to repay him by telling this story. Passepartout walks over to give her la bises (a kiss on each cheek) to say goodnight.
An hour before dawn, Passepartout and Fogg set off with the sketchy stranger while an oblivious Abigail sleeps. Upon awaking, she finds a ticket for passage back to London has been slipped under her door. Discovering her companions have indeed left her behind, Abigail goes into the street, entreating strangers with her coin bag to help her get to Aden. The immoral Jane Digby and her husband come to her aid and decide, against their better judgment, to help Miss Fix track down the men.
In the meantime, Phileas and Passepartout have dismounted their camels for a potty break. Fogg notices petroleum seeping up in the sand. By the time the pair have relieved themselves, their guide has scarpered with most of their valuables, including the watch Fogg’s father gave him. Fortunately, Phileas had his money on him, but right now pounds are of little use.
Not far behind, Miss Fix enters the formidable desert with her escorts. Jane’s husband finds tracks in the sand but says only one camel is carrying a man - definitely not a good sign.
It’s Day 18 and the gentleman and the valet (who admits he really isn’t one) set out to find the oasis. Soon Phileas is overwhelmed by the heat. Passepartout encourages him to carry on by giving his boss a pep talk. They are euphoric when they think they spy a man in the distance, but Passepartout soon realizes it’s something life-threatening.
A sandstorm is bearing down and they quickly brace themselves for the impact. The men try to hold on to each other but are separated by the winds. Fogg’s postcard with “coward” on the back is blown out of his knapsack, but he crawls after it, securing the reminder in his shirt. (Who sent him that card?!)
When the storm passes, we see Fogg slung over a horse. As he comes to, he is overjoyed to see Passepartout, alive and well - though he cannot bring himself to hug his employee. Fogg then spots his rescuer and practically fawns over him. Of course, “he” is Jane Digby and she sternly sets the record straight. He is an imbecile and Abigail is the one who saved his life.
Once hydrated, the traveling companions squabble about the future of their journey and who should continue with the expedition. Digby informs them that going forward is foolish because a ruthless tribe inhabits the desert leading to Aden. Abigail tries to tempt them to continue the trip with her father’s fortune.
When Jane learns who Abigail’s father is, she has some harsh facts to share about Bernard Fortescue. When he lived in Damascus, he was a fraud as a war journalist, embellishing the reporting of others. Worse yet, he ruined Jane’s reputation just because she wouldn’t run away with him. And by the way, Jane’s husband isn’t a camel driver. He’s a sheik and he’s entirely loyal to her.
With her father’s unsavory deeds exposed and bloodthirsty marauders blocking their path, it seems Fogg’s wager is at an end. While they wait to head back to Al Hudayah, Abigail and Phileas have a nice chat about forgiveness and underestimating people. No one seems to care what Passepartout thinks or wants.
Perhaps because she sees something of herself in Miss Fix, Jane has a change of heart and gives Abigail the option to continue her journey or go back to London. The group assembles and Sheik Medjuel (Faical Elkihel) instructs them to stay close and quiet if they want to survive.
Darkness has fallen and an attack by the tribe is imminent. Several men on horseback circle around the group trying to draw fire. Suddenly Abigail is scooped up by a horseman. Passepartout shoots and kills the would-be abductor and Abigail scurries back to them.
Almost simultaneously Fogg, who again noticed a patch of oil in the sand, lights a match and throws it into the puddle. A huge flame blazes upwards revealing the attackers and making them easier to pick off. The tribesmen retreat to get reinforcements, so our little entourage departs immediately.
Once they reach Aden, plans for passage to India are a go. Fogg is chattering on about baths and petroleum, but Passepartout is still struggling with killing a human being in aid of another man’s wager. Fogg appreciates his remorse but encourages Passepartout to put it out of his mind and look to the future.
Before departing, Abigail apologizes to Jane on behalf of her father, but the only thing she asks of her in return is to talk to her children for her. Abigail sends a telegram to the office of The Daily Telegraph confirming their safe arrival. She declares Jane a marvel and her father a liar much to Mr. Fortescue’s shame.
As our trio prepare to board the ship for India, Abigail teases about allowing Fogg to continue to travel around the world with her. But Passepartout is not in the mood for lighthearted banter. We know he has been approached by Bellamy’s lackey who has offered him a payoff. All Passepartout has to do is make sure Fogg misses his connection to Hong Kong.
At first, Passepartout refuses to betray his friends, but Thomas plays the class card, suggesting they’re more akin to a master and mistress. Still unable to get the man he killed out of his mind, the valet asks Thomas what he needs to do. We understand Passepartout, you’ve been devalued and, at times, ignored. But don’t let yourself be manipulated by this lowlife!
With razor-thin margins of error and known dissension in the ranks, what will happen on the next leg of the voyage? I'm particularly taken with the development of imperfect but relateable characters. Let's discuss your opinions on the series thus far.