It’s morning, and Ann has a dreamy smile as the sunlight makes the red bed curtains glow. At breakfast, the Lister family is in cracking form. They’re discussing that newfangled fad, the railway. Marion is convinced the railway is unhealthy, causing headaches and biliousness with its outrageous speed of 15 miles per hour, and she adds that a cow exploded. Their father, Jeremy, wants details. A cow alone? Or the member of a herd, and if so, why that cow? “That must have made a mess,” Aunt Anne Lister comments, and after Lister condemns the story as tripe, he adds, “Tripe all over the place, presumably.”
It’s becoming clear to everyone that the railway will revolutionize the country and impact the future of England’s canal system, the primary system for the distribution of goods and raw materials. Not only that, but it looks like a general election is coming up. But today is when Lister and Ann visit all of the Walker family. They are both beautifully dressed for the occasion. Ann’s outfit, with a stupendous bonnet, is particularly delicious (and blue, the traditional color for brides of the period). Throughout this episode, Lister sports several gorgeous waistcoats and cravats. Similarly, the interior settings are carefully chosen, from the light, bright drawing rooms of the Halifax nouveau riche to the opulent luxury of Mariana’s home.
The two women regale the family with tales of foreign travel, particularly how Lister outwitted the French. She comments that if England’s radicals could see the misery and problems caused by the 1831 revolution in France, they might think twice. The pair visit another elderly, outspoken aunt, Mrs. Rawson (Sylvia Sims). Both women assure Mrs. Rawson that rumors about them have been greatly exaggerated. Lister is cheerful and charming and ignores her rudeness, inviting Shibden. But she is distracted as the visits wear on and consults her watch as they board their carriage. She is beginning to think very seriously about the railway.
When they return home, they find they missed Mr. Ingham of Blake Hall (the bachelor slated by Team Walker to court and tame Lister), but there's good news from Ann’s sister, who has safely given birth to a boy. Lister orders champagne to celebrate. But Ann isn’t pleased the letter didn’t mention the division of property, feeling she isn’t being taken seriously. She also thinks Lister's ignoring her. Lister apologizes but then offends Ann by affectionately recommending that she goes easy on the champagne. Also, Lister has a letter from Mariana, who can’t let go, even though Lister’s last letter to her was intended to make a clean break. She’s unhappy, languishing in her luxurious surroundings, and developing alarming physical symptoms.
Sam Washington is having trouble with his daughters. Eliza (Emma Wrightson), the child exploring upstairs at Crow’s Nest with her young friend Henry Hardcastle (Dexter Hughes), is upset, acting out, and being mean to her younger siblings. The Hardcastles don’t want Eliza to spend time with Henry. It’s a difficult situation for the family; the children shouldn’t have been upstairs, and Lister is paying for Henry’s education after a carriage accident in which he lost his leg. They can’t afford to fall out with her, but they’re shocked by what their son told them he’d seen.
Sam’s other daughter, Suzannah, has asked her mother if she can come back home. Sam and his wife agree she shouldn’t do this, but she’s told her mother that Ben Sowter, the blackmailing uncle, has turned his attention to her, touching her and making suggestive comments. So Sam visits the Sowter family in yet another episode of the Pigs Eat Anything subplot, and, by an extraordinary coincidence, Ben has left for good. Nobody knows where he is. Suzannah’s husband, Tom, looks like he’s been in a fight recently. Are the pigs looking particularly well fed today?
Meanwhile, Lister visits Halifax, borrowing her father’s dashing new gig, and meets John Waterhouse Jr. (Tom Ashley), at the library. He’s the son of the chair of the Navigation Subcommittee, which manages the canal, currently the primary form of transportation of goods; Lister takes advantage of the situation to meet with John Waterhouse Sr. (Nicholas Farrell), who gamely attempts to answer all the questions she fires at him. Financially, the company can’t afford to pay its shareholders their 5%. The SubCommittee meets that afternoon to discuss options, such as deepening the canals to accommodate larger barges. Lister requests a note with the results of the afternoon meetings and a copy of the most recent Navigation Act.
However, back home at Shibden, the note is inconclusive, so she asks Waterhouse to keep her informed about future decisions. How can preeminent shareholders like the Lister family vote on proposals if they’re not given information? Aunt Lister immediately grasps the seriousness of the situation and asks if they should sell their shares. Lister meets with her Coal Manager, James Holt, who reports the drift he’d neglected earlier is now going well and also that her rivals, the Rawson brothers, aren’t doing so well, having run out of land to lease. Interestingly, the railway is offering its investors a 10% return, in addition to needing a lot of coal.
On a miserable rainy day, Lister and Ann take their first train ride, returning from a trip to Liverpool to buy timber to replace the upstairs floor at Shibden. The outside passengers cluster in an open carriage, but the two women are in a cozy compartment with entrepreneur Edward Vickers (Tom Lorcan), who works in steel and foresees a bright future for his industry. A vast net of railway routes is planned, crisscrossing the country, with speeds expected to increase to forty or fifty miles per hour. The possibilities are exciting. Ann confesses to Lister she asked Sam Washington to write to her sister about the property division. He refused because it was a family matter, but she thinks it’s because he’s taking her brother-in-law’s side.
Lister revisits the Navigation Subcommittee and finds nothing has been settled, just proposals to increase traffic, deepening the waterways, and provide double locks. Quite honestly, it doesn’t look good. Decisions will probably be made along political lines, and they may not get the votes to save the canals because the old political orders are changing too. As she’s leaving, one of the subcommittee members addresses her as “Captain Lister.” She looks thoughtful.
Meanwhile, Lister has been worried about Mariana and has accepted her invitation to visit for a few days, but she’s worried about how Ann will react. Ann very sweetly agrees she should go. Lister talks to her aunt about her decision. Although Aunt Lister is taking laudanum and alcohol and seems very pink-faced and cheerful, she’s still astute enough to see the possible damage Lister may cause. Lister and Ann’s farewell is emotional, and there’s a lovely shot of Ann looking out of the bedroom window as the departing carriage is reflected in the glass.
When Lister arrives, Mariana does not rush to greet her but emerges from the shadows, dressed in her favorite blood-red velvet and ready to pick a fight. Lister asks her, in her usual forthright manner, how she is, and Mariana lets rip: "I’m wretched ... You’ve got no idea what you’ve done to me, have you? Between you and your Miss Walker, you’ve destroyed me... You were everything I’d ever pinned any happiness or hope on, all because of some insipid little heiress you’re not in love with. The way you write about it in your letters, I know when you’re in love, and this isn’t it… you’ve destroyed me, and you’re not even in love. You’re ridiculous."
Did she call Gentleman Jack ridiculous? How will Lister react, particularly after that unfortunate "Captain Lister" crack? Lister and Ann are still feeling their way into their relationship. Is she beginning to think that Ann complains and whines a little too much for all her sweetness and growing assertiveness? Let's find out next week!