'Beecham House': Episode 5 Recap

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

MASTERPIECE “Beecham House" Sunday, March 1 on PBS Passport Episode Five John is shocked to discover that Margaret has left Delhi but before he can react there is worse news at home. The truth behind his brother Daniel’s relationship with the beautiful servant Chanchal is exposed with the revelation that she is pregnant. The brothers come to blows but before it can escalate further Castillon bursts into the house to arrest John for stealing a precious diamond owned by the Emperor. Who has betrayed John and who can save him? Shown from left to right: Grégory Fitoussi as General Castillion and Tom Bateman and John Beecham For editorial use only. Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

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In the penultimate episode of Beecham House, it’s more obvious than ever that someone somewhere expected this series to get another season. Because with just one more episode to go after this one, the show is busily expanding stories rather than wrapping them up, and it feels all the more frustrating because it’s so clear we’ll never see them all concluded satisfactorily.

On top of that, this hour is a fairly ridiculous mess, as John is arrested for the theft of the rare royal diamond the prince told him to sell last week. Despite the fact that Daniel and Chanchal slept together roughly 26 hours ago, her surprise pregnancy has already leveled up into violent morning sickness and vomiting into a series of random household receptacles. Hot Soldier Played by Gregory Fitoussi is secretly sleeping with the Empress. And poor Margaret Osborne remains the only character on this show with any sense, responding to John’s wild tale of murder and maharajahs by immediately leaving town.

Zero people are probably surprised that Chanchal is pregnant because every decision this series has made so far has been the most predictable one possible, but the idea that the entire household has already figured it out and is busily fighting over it is mildly ridiculous.

And I mean literally fighting. John and Daniel come to blows in the courtyard once the elder Beecham discovers the news from his servant, and the rest of the household – including Chanchal herself – watches from various balconies and doorways. John, ever trying to be the Ross Poldark of eighteenth-century India, insists that Daniel can’t return to his military career now that he has “responsibilities” in Delhi. Daniel callously suggests abortion and makes fun of his brother’s messy life.  

A platoon of soldiers arrives to arrest John before the Beecham brothers beat each other to death. Hilariously, Hot Soldier Played by Gregory Fitoussi kicks the crap out of John’s shady friend Samuel Parker in order to “sell” the lie that they don’t know each other and pretend as though Samuel definitely didn’t get his friend arrested on purpose. Their performance is roughly on the level of a grade school drama class, but since everyone on this show is an idiot, no one notices.

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)
(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

Daniel plots to help his brother escape – he doesn’t trust Samuel because game recognizes game, and sends loyal servant Ram Lal to track down Margaret so she can speak to her friend the Empress and plead for John's freedom. He also – again, unintentionally hilariously – dresses up like a French soldier so he can both spy on Samuel and sneak in to see his brother in prison. No one notices that this random Englishman is suddenly wandering around wearing a French soldier because, again, idiots.

Except for Margaret, who deserves better than all of them. She manages to learn from Violet that Samuel’s been talking about returning to England and a large sum of money and wants to take her with him, and confronts Hot Soldier Played By Gregory Fitoussi about whether Samuel is his accomplice. Honestly, this show should be about her. At least John sends her a sweet love letter via his brother, talking about how she’s reanimated the dead corpse of his life with hope or something. Yay?

Honestly, I think this show might have turned out better had it focused on John’s business and not required us to suspend our disbelief at no one noticing Samuel’s obvious perfidy and scheming for weeks on end. Perhaps then it would have managed to tell that story in a way that made sense – I still can’t entirely sort why Samuel is so full of hatred toward John, what happened to their friendship or why we should care about how either of them connect to the East India Trading Company, beyond the fact that the show keeps telling us how terrible they are.

Instead, we’re forced to sit through multiple scenes of John suffering in jail in silence, refusing to rat on the prince who asked him to sell the jewel in the first place. (And again, despite the fact that he’s been in jail two days max, the lighting and costume choices – his dirty and torn shirt, gracious – is extremely Les Miserables. How does time work here?)

(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)
(Photo: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE)

By the end of the hour, Daniel is on his way to redeeming himself, working with Margaret to investigate John, standing up to Chandrika – another smart woman who gets herself well out of this awful house – when she tries to take August back to her father’s, and worrying over Chanchal’s pregnancy problems, as though he weren’t advocating giving her mercury to cause an abortion like a day ago. Beecham House is not interested in things like character interiority or development, because I have no idea how or why Daniel’s feelings changed on any of these issues.

And then there’s Chanchal. Despite being initially presented as a worldly, smart woman with agency and strength, she spends most of this episode – and really, the back half of this season – at the mercy of various men. Seduced and knocked up by a man who was never planning to stay with her, she’s not treated much better by Baadal, the servant who’s been pining over her all season.

When she starts having pregnancy pain and bleeding, he packs her off to his parents’ home so his mother can help her, and then refuses to tell anyone where he’s taken her. Baadal’s mother works wonders and Chanchal is back to normal, like, a day later. (And still pregnant, so at least the show didn’t pull the “convenient miscarriage” card.) But Baadal is super overbearing and weird, burning through the ton of goodwill he’d built up so far this season. Is his plan just…keep this poor girl at his mom’s house until she realizes he’s a better romantic choice than Daniel? Whew.

There’s just one episode of Beecham House to go at this point, so who knows what might even happen next week. Will John get out of jail? Is anyone going to go rescue Chanchal? Will Henrietta show any ill effects at all from quitting a decades-long opium addiction cold turkey? Who can say?

Thoughts on this penultimate installment? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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