Sophia is under siege as Tom Jones' second episode begins, under pressure to marry the unpleasant Blifil. (Aunt Western: “I want you to be rich and safe!”) The older generation are incredulous Tom –– of dubious birth, penniless –– is someone a woman of Sophia’s class and wealth might love. (What’s love got to do with it, anyway?) The big gun himself, Blifil, is sent in to woo her under romance-proof conditions, and the stilted conversation that follows is embarrassing.
London, where a woman can lose her freedom, and a man his soul.
While the central story of Tom Jones is Tom’s rise to maturity and the discovery of his true self, Sophia takes the greater risk in finding her own path. Not only does Sophia defy her grandfather in choosing who she loves, but the series is as much her story as Tom’s. As she narrates this episode, we see her question her choices and even her love for Tom. She recognizes that for all his likable qualities and charm, he’s trouble.
Tom pleads his case to Allworthy, who feels for his adopted son, unaware of Tom and Blifil’s lifelong rivalry. (For goodness sake, Tom, stop pining for Sophia and then messing around with unsuitable women!) Allworthy, having achieved contentment in his life, is reluctant to address uncomfortable truths. His advice is to think of Sophia as a sister.
Meanwhile, Western approaches Sophia with inappropriate details of his own marriage as encouragement. He expects Tom’s only role will be to persuade Sophia of her duty. (Think again, Squire Western!) Tom steals a moment alone with Sophia, and Western, Aunt Western, and Blifil storm in as they kiss. Western locks Sophia into her room and pursues Tom on horseback, striking him with his whip.
As Tom examines the damage in a mirror, his Aunt Bridget points out that he’s always been his own worst enemy. The men (minus Tom) hold a summit, with Western bellowing that Tom should be hanged, but Allworthy isn’t entirely convinced Blifil asked for her hand, let alone wants to marry her, given her inappropriate behavior with Tom. Blifil tells them she accepted his proposal “by little sighs and maidenly tokens” (whatever that means).
Since Sophia is teetering on the edge of being spoiled goods, he clarifies: “I will take pity on a misguided soul and guide my wife to a full understanding of her sins.” (Doesn’t that sound like fun!) Western insists the wedding should be held the next day, although Allworthy suggests the day after, and all three men shake hands. It’s a done deal, and Allworthy, his confidence shaken, admits to Blifil Tom is unworthy.
Aunt Bridget begs for Tom to get another chance, but Allworthy is adamant Tom must go, giving him money, as all three are in tears. Tom stops to snack and writes a letter to Sophia, interrupted by Black George Seagrim. Black George agrees to watch out for Sophia, although Tom doesn’t intend his letter to be delivered. It wouldn’t be right as she’s about to get married. As Tom stands, the roll of banknotes falls from his coat, and Black George pockets it.
With the marriage scheduled for the next day, Sophia orders Honour to run away with her to London, where she'll beg for help from her aunts. Meanwhile, Tom visits an inn where drunken, slovenly Sgt. Patrick Fizpatrick (Julian Rhind-Tutt) buys him ale and a sausage, and the two carouse together, much to the annoyance of another man seated at the bar.
When Tom proposes a toast to Sophia, Fitzpatrick riles him up by telling him he knows of a famously promiscuous Sophia in Bristol, and Tom takes offense. They fight, and Fitzpatrick, wig on back to front, leaves Tom unconscious. Tom wakes up to find the stranger bandaging his head. His name is Benjamin Partridge (Daniel Rigby), the man purportedly responsible for Jenny Jones’s pregnancy. Tom is thrilled, but Partridge tells him kindly he isn't Tom's father. Finding his money gone, Tom is tossed outside. He wakes up in a barn with a hangover.
Sophie and Honour meet Partridge outside the inn as he’s looking for Tom. Honour is outraged to hear Sophia’s name was bandied about, confirming her suspicion Tom is unworthy. Sophia defends him but with less conviction than before. They head to Upton, where they are greeted with curious stares. They take shelter in the Bird in Hand Inn, and Honour clarifies that Sophia is a grand lady who expects only the best of Mrs. Flowers (Kirsty Bushell).
Continuing his journey, Tom comes across Fitzpatrick again, this time tearing at a woman’s clothes, and Tom gallantly leaps to her defense. She claims Fitzpatrick is a stranger and then that she knows him, and after her ordeal, she’s remarkably cheerful and friendly. When Tom gallantly offers his coat to cover her up, she still flashes a lot of skin. Her name is Mrs. Waters (Susannah Fielding).
Tom and Mrs. Waters arrive at the inn, and Mrs. Flowers, seeing her half-unclothed state, protests it’s a good house. Tom, bless him, responds that Mrs. Waters is a respectable lady. Mrs. Waters, on the way to her room, and Sophia pass each other upstairs. Inevitably, Mrs. Water invites Tom to dine in her room, and after some sliding clothing and knife-licking, we get a flashback to The Graduate (1967): “Mrs. Waters, are you trying to seduce me?”
She is, he’s very willing, and poor Sophia and Honour in the next room suffer the sound effects for hours. But Tom and Mrs. Waters actually talk (a little), and she tells him she’s been Fitzpatrick’s mistress for seven years, and he attacked her to take her money. She could do better, Tom says, as she advises him to forget about Sophia.
Sophia and Honour are rudely woken by Fitzpatrick coming into their room looking for Mrs. Waters. He leaves them alone after admiring their prettiness but finds Mrs. Waters in the next room, where Tom jumps out of bed and hides. Fitzpatrick throws himself onto the bed, crying and apologizing. Mrs. Flowers tries to throw him out, but Mrs. Waters claims he’s a military hero, and he’s allowed to stay.
Fitzpatrick climbs into bed with Mrs. Waters, and Tom escapes. Sophia and Honour bang on the wall as the reconciliation between Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Walters builds to a crescendo. The next morning, Sophia learns that Tom spent the night with Mrs. Waters. That’s it for Sophie. Her efforts will now be only to get to London, not to find Tom. But in her distress, she leaves her pocketbook at the inn, which contains her money and a piece of paper with her Aunt Harriet’s address.
Tom is thrilled to find it. Sophia hasn’t married Blifil; Tom can win her back. He and Partridge head to London, as Sophia and Honour find themselves someplace dodgy –– filth, squalor, corpse in a wheelbarrow. Sophia sends Honour to ask for directions at an inn where customers and staff are Black, polite, and kind. “You look lost, sister,” says the handsome bartender. Turns out they are in wicked Marylebone Place instead of respectable Marylebone Lane.
Aunt Harriet (Tamzin Merchant) is very nervous about Sophia’s arrival. Her husband is expected back at any moment, so she sends Sophia on to her Aunt Bellaston’s house. She warns Sophia: “Don’t be like me, don’t think love is enough.” Her husband arrives, shouting and drunk, none other than Fitzpatrick, who grabs Harriet and recognizes Sophia. The next morning, Sophia is whisked off to Aunt Bellaston’s fancy house to be introduced to a classier sort of society.
After leaving daily messages at Aunt Harriet’s house, Tom is invited in to be told Sophia is at another aunt’s, but of course, she can’t give him the address. She doesn’t need to, because just at that moment, another visitor arrives. It’s Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) herself, who eyes up Tom as though he’s a steak dinner, and now things are going to get rather complicated.