'Flesh & Blood' Episode 3 Recap

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Flesh and Blood on MASTERPIECE Sundays, October 4-25, 2020 on PBS Episode Three Sunday, October 18, 2020; 9-10pm ET As Vivien and Mark prepare for a trip to India, Jake gets a hot tip. Helen and Natalie reach crisis points with their partners.. Shown from left to right: Francesca Annis as Vivien and Imelda Staunton as Mary For editorial use only. Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

In the penultimate installment of Flesh & Blood, the series begins stripping away the stuff that doesn't matter and gives viewers the first glimpse of the night in question.

As I noted last week, this is a matter of figuring out which of the storylines are red herrings and which are not. And though fans have come up with some great ideas for how this involves the kids (and a commenter last week pointed out we don't even know if there's only one victim), it seems as we reach the end that this will be about Mark, Vivian, and Mary. Meanwhile, in D.I. Doug Lineham's questioning room, it's Jake's turn.

Mary: And don't worry about me, because I can always get in 'round the front.

Before we get to Jake, let's get both Helen and Natalie out of the way. This week was great for both of them because each woke up to the lie they've been living. Well, at least, Natalie woke up to hers. She's been with Tony for five years. She's gone off the deep end; she's stalking the family on their outings. Tony's been playing her, and she's consented, allowing herself to put her life on hold for someone who only has his own interests at heart. But this week, it sort of all clicked for her when one of the lies she's been telling herself became too big to ignore: She's not pregnant. 

I genuinely like how the show handled this. In most stories, the "crazy other women" who "lies about pregnancy" is such an evil trope, and here, it's just sad and pathetic.

She wasn't lying, not exactly. She was just hoping it was true so much she made herself late and then jumped the gun instead of being sure. That we don't vilify her for this, and instead, it becomes the wake-up call that she desperately needed is one way this story zags instead of zigs, and I highly approve. I also hope she sticks to having walked away from Tony. I also hope that Helen keeps taking her admission she had a crush on George in stride, recognizing it as a crush on an idea rather than a person.

Credit: Courtesy of Masterpiece

As for Helen, I was quite surprised by how the Meera thing petered out. I assumed a massive blow up, a police car coming, a scandal, a job loss, something. Nope, none of that. Helen just suddenly puts together the truth and assumes that her marital problems are solved...until they aren't. She goes to confront Meera, but there's no screaming match, no fight. Instead, she has to face the reality of how she's ruined this woman's life. In the end, there's little drama, just a bunch of tragedies and no real solutions.

And even though Helen recognizes that she's made the polar opposite mistake that Natalie did, not appreciating what she had while her sister wanted what she didn't, it doesn't change much. She's still a terrible wife and mother. Helen tries to make Lily feel sympathy for her "my job's so hard" instead of centering her kid. She still couldn't care less that George is spilling his guts in therapy. She doesn't even register that it happened and goes home complaining he never opens up. Sad all around.

But what we need to talk about is Jake. Helen and Natalie may be lying to themselves and beginning to realize they live lives based on those lies. But Jake is a monster. From lying to everyone (including his mother) and saying Stella is his "therapist" to claiming he's stopped drinking, every last thing that comes out of his mouth is a falsehood. Worse, he has no recognition that he's sort of happy with Stella since he's so focused on possessing his wife again, instead of recognizing his marriage failed and moving on. Even when she starts showing signs of disengaging with her boy toy, he feels surprisingly sad. He's so emotionally stupid; he can't recognize anything that's in front of him.

Speaking of Stella, I hope everyone else screamed when Mark and Vivian went to the state lawyers to deal with their property now they've gotten married, and the door opened, and there was Stella. I will admit, considering that she's already cooling on this dumb himbo, I was shocked she phoned Jake to tell him. I was also stunned she broke confidence and told Jake Mark's first wife died of an overdose, which he then discovers at the inquest, one of her friends insisted was murder.

Credit: Courtesy of Masterpiece

But I suppose with only one episode to go, there had to be a catalyst, and this was it. In a more extended series, perhaps one that ran six or eight episodes, there might have been more time for the seeds Jake planted about if Sophie was real or not would have born fruit in Vivian's mind. (Mark's answer that he magically does not have any pictures of his daughter did hit home for her.) But there's no time for that now. India awaits, and the birthday celebration for Vivian's 70th birthday, in which everyone will come 'round for drinks, even Mary since she's "family."

It always comes back to Mary. If Helen and Natalie recognize anything about themselves, it's in hopes that they don't grow up to be this person. Mary is the saddest creep. She's saved all the kids' drawings in a box, which she produces on command. She takes Vivian's old things, promising to run them to the charity shop, and then plays with them instead, dreaming of a life that was never hers. And her hatred of Mark is only matched by his hatred of her. Never has fixing a fence held so much emotional baggage.

But the real danger perhaps is that Vivian is starting to doubt. Six weeks in India might be too long, and maybe selling the house isn't what she wants. As much as she rejected Mary, she's now telling her how much she's meant to the family. Perhaps Mark is taking it all in stride. But it's hard not to notice the vials around the house as he mixes her a drink and suggests a lie-down.

Now the only question is, who throws that punch? Helen and Jake have already been drinking before the three kids leave for the most uncomfortable birthday drinks in the family... But perhaps we'll know for sure when we see who the final family member is Lineham speaks to next week.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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