Episode 3's A Love Triangle for 'Tom Jones'

Picture shows: Both masked, Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) and Tom Jones (Solly McLeod) meet in a dark pleasure garden.

(Hannah Waddingham) and Tom Jones (Solly McLeod).

Courtesy of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE

As we begin the back half of Tom Jones both Sophia and Tom encounter high society in the fleshpots of the wicked big city. Sophia is threatened with physical danger from two unscrupulous suitors, while Tom has his morals tested by Lady Bellaston's desires. Bellaston coos with approval as her mentee, Sophia, is transformed from country girl to lady of fashion, complete with face paint and tight lacing. Tom and Partridge are in the less glamorous atmosphere of a shabby boarding house run by Mrs. Miller (Frances Grey), where Partridge happily teaches Latin to her youngest daughter and Tom befriends another lodger, Nightingale (Will Fletcher).

Happy endings? Only in fairy tales. And what difference does it make anyway, to the sum of human happiness? If I marry or not, if I am contented or miserable? Why did I ever think I was special? Why did I ever think you were?

When Tom receives a mask and domino (a dark concealing cloak) and an invitation to a masquerade at Ranelagh Gardens he is thrilled. It must be from Sophia! The pleasure gardens provide night-time entertainment with music, dance, and drink in an erotically charged atmosphere where everyone is masked. Tom, convinced that Sophia is there, approaches every dark-skinned woman with no luck. (Sophie is safely tucked up in bed at Lady Bellaston’s.) But the leader of the festivities, the self-styled Queen of the Fairies (Lady Bellaston), warns him that if he flirts with any more trollopes she’ll tell Miss Western.

Captivated by the mysterious stranger, and also by the possibility that she’ll take him to Sophia, Tom drinks and flirts with her, and then gets stuck with the bill. Tom follows the masked woman out of the Gardens where she is taken by sedan chair to Aunt Harriet’s house. As she enters the house, she drops a glove, a clear invitation to Tom, who follows her inside. It’s only then he realizes she’s Lady Bellaston. After telling Tom that Sophia is no longer interested in him, she proposes a toast to love and life, and seduces him. Outside, the two sedan chairmen hoot with laughter at the ecstatic cries that result.

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Tom Jones

Two lovers follow their hearts in a new adaptation of Henry Fielding's novel.
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Lady Bellaston is thrilled with Tom's {ahem} enthusiasm and gives him £50 (a huge sum) for new clothes. He insists it’s a loan. As he leaves the house the next morning, he passes the sleeping sedan chairmen. Meanwhile, Aunt Harriet, ashamed that she rents space in her house to Lady Bellaston for her sexual escapades and concerned about Sophia, gloomily watches the chandelier swing as her sister and Tom entertain themselves upstairs and writes to Squire Western telling him that Sophia is –– sort of ––  safe in London. Naturally, she then writes to Lady Bellaston apologizing.

Aunt Harriet advises Sophia to go home, but Sophia, knowing marriage to Blifil will automatically follow, does not take her advice. Meanwhile, wealthy foppish Lord Fellamar (Tom Durant-Pritchard) is fascinated by Sophia, and Lady Bellaston encourages him to woo her. After Tom's second visit, the sedan chairmen jeer at him as he leaves, “Get yourself a proper job, sonny.” Funnily enough, Lady Bellaston, in her Queen of the Fairies disguise, made a similar suggestion. It would certainly solve a lot of problems. 

Possibly Partridge is too naive to realize Tom has a new career as a boy toy, but he accepts payment for Tom’s debt to him and gives the balance to Mrs. Miller. However, when Tom receives a parcel of new clothes and an invitation from Lady Bellaston to meet at her house, Nightingale is contemptuous, realizing the true relationship between Tom and Lady Bellaston. It’s just another facet of London, the world’s greatest trading city, where the old and rich prey on the young, poor, and pretty.

Picture shows: Seated at a gaming table, Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) encourages Lord Fellamar (Tom Durant-Pritchard) to pursue Sophia.

 Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) and Lord Fellamar (Tom Durant-Pritchard).

Courtesy of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE

Fellamar, who offers to escort Sophia home from the theater, seems to have fallen for her, as Lady Bellaston intended. But she’s surprised to find Tom inside Lady Bellaston’s house, there to return her pocketbook and money. She’s angry that he’s found her, and when Lady Bellaston arrives, she introduces him as Mr. Smith. Honour knows that Lady Bellaston isn’t to be trusted, and neither is Fellamar. She and Sophia hatch a plan, and a genuine friendship emerges as Tom heads home to his lodgings to find Lady Bellaston in his room.

She dramatically declares she will not share him, but there’s a knock on the door, Partridge with Honour, who has brought a letter from Sophia. Lady Bellaston hides behind a curtain, and Tom admits Honour but leaves Partridge outside. “We’re among thieves!” Honour announces dramatically and goes on to tell him Lady Bellaston doesn’t have Sophia’s well-being in mind. Honour discovers Lady Bellaston and runs out. Lady Bellaston, realizing that Tom could tell the world about their affair, tries to seduce him, but Tom tells her he wants to be true to Sophia. Maybe this time, he means it.

Lady Bellaston presents herself as a victim fairly convincingly, claiming she’ll take second place to Sophia, and, knowing how to push Tom’s buttons, mentions that a true gentleman would not turn her away. But he gives her a comforting hug, and she looks horrified. After entertaining two women in his room in one night, Tom and Partridge are thrown out of their lodgings by a very upset Mrs. Allen. Partridge is angry, Tom despondent.

Picture shows: In Tom's humble room, Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) ponders what to do after Tom (Solly McLeod) announces their affair is over. He sits behind her on a chair, reading an unsent letter to Sophie. Lady Bellaston wears a lavish gown and a huge headdress of ostrich feathers.

Lady Bellaston (Hannah Waddingham) and Tom Jones (Solly McLeod). 

Courtesy of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE

Lady Bellaston encourages Fellamar by mentioning Sophia is an heiress, and since she's unresponsive to him, suggests he "force" the issue. To his credit, Fellamar does attempt a conventional proposal, which Sophia rejects. Her grandfather, she tells him, wouldn’t allow it. Fellamar, already on his knees, shuffles around and launches himself at her just as Squire Western, drunk and very annoyed, bursts in to rescue her. He is unimpressed when he learns of Fellamar’s pedigree: “I hate all lords, now bugger off.” He drags Sophia to his carriage, where Blifil is waiting, and fires Honour. Western advises Blifil to woo Sophia, exasperated by his cluelessness.

Tom attempts to reason with Lady Bellaston, who naturally tries to seduce him. Her comment on his lack of gentlemanly behavior has troubled him, and he claims that he knows himself to be a gentleman, "at least by kindness and conduct.” But the honest approach doesn’t work when Tom tells Lady Bellaston he can’t love her or pretend to. She threatens to tell Sophia about their affair. Tom tells her she will break Sophia’s heart, and Lady Bellaston shouts that no, he will. Has Lady Bellaston developed feelings for Tom, or does she just hate losing? This time, she is particularly horrified and disgusted when he wants to just talk to her.

Sophia, imprisoned in her bedroom, is brought breakfast by Black George, who tells her that Tom would do anything for her, and he’d do anything for Tom. Sophia remembers that she has Tom’s London address in her pocketbook and sends Black George off with a letter to him.

Picture shows: An excited Aunt Harriet (Tamzin Merchant) reports to her sister Lady Bellaston the latest developments of Sophia's refusal to marry Blifil.

Aunt Harriet (Tamzin Merchant).

Courtesy of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE

Aunt Harriet, meanwhile, with great excitement, reports to her sister that Sophia is imprisoned in an upstairs room like a fairytale princess in a tower and that Blifil is quite handsome, and she just happens to have brought him with her. Lady Bellaston perks up and asks Blifil what sort of husband he intends to be to Sophia. Blifil replies: “I will narrow her horizons, discipline her ambition with the confines of the nursery, the kitchen, and her needlework.” Lady Bellaston heartily approves of his ambitions to make her into a Stepford wife.

Sophia is subjected again to male violence when Blifil bursts into her bedroom. His clumsy declarations of love turn into a self-pitying whine about how even his own mother preferred Tom to him and why doesn't anyone like him. Sophie fends him off with a chair, hits him, and pushes him out.

Tom and Partridge are living in a stone hovel by the river. In a sudden moral U-turn, Partridge encourages Tom to ask Lady Bellaston for money, but he refuses. Their options are very limited. Should they try their luck in America? But Tom finds the letter from Sophia in the bag of meager belongings that Partridge picked up from their former lodgings. He doesn’t open it. There's no point.  Partridge suggests they go home, but Tom has no home. It all seems hopeless for Tom and Sophia, with only one episode to go to sort everything out.

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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