War in the Desert, Peace for Harry & Lois in 'World on Fire'

Lois (Julia Brown) in her ATS uniform, chats with Harry (Jonah Hauer-King) in hospital where he's recovering from a wound.

Lois (Julia Brown) visits Harry (Jonah Hauer-King) in hospital.

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

We return to World on Fire as the war in North Africa rages. A wounded Harry is sent to the hospital in Cairo while Stan joins Rajib and his men in retreat. It’s an awkward situation, as the British army practices an “equal but different” policy, leaving Stan uncomfortable as the only white man answering to a dark-skinned officer. Still, he’s more concerned they’re going the wrong way. Rajib's orders sent them into an ambush. As they shelter from fierce desert winds and gunfire, separated from the other men, Stan suggests surrender. Rahib refuses. No water, food, or ammunition? No problem! Let’s steal a truck.

Robina: “Let’s not create the Jarrow March over a simple request to change a nappy.”

As they drive away, they meet a German motorcyclist who runs him off the road to stop him from giving away their position. (They don’t know where they are, but neither will anyone else dammit.) But the motorcyclist has water, so they can’t kill him or leave him. Rajib orders him to strip or be stripped so he can’t escape and get in the truck. Despite all this, Stan and Rahib are getting on remarkably well, other than the very present danger of dying of thirst, until they realize that at some point, their naked prisoner has disappeared, and they’re running low on gas. Rahib insists they go back for him; it’s the humane thing to do.

Stan is furious. He’s the enemy! They shouldn’t have taken him with them in the first place! Rahib insists that if they abandon him, it makes nonsense of any claim to moral superiority; his life is as essential as theirs. He’s also seething Stan’s racism made him hesitant to ride in the truck with the sappers, which Stan denies. But they turn around, pick up the thirsty German, and run out of gas. When they finally reach the British outpost, the guards offer water to Stan and the German – the white dudes – letting Rahib collapse, leaving Stan furiously shouting at them that he’s the British officer and they should help him.

 Rajib (Ahad Raza Mir)

Rajib (Ahad Raza Mir).

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

Another officer, on the other side of the world, dashing pilot David, the most unpopular member of the RAF, is also in trouble. He’s now flying from Kent over to France, where he targets missile placements. On one foray, he unexpectedly meets German fire and is shot down over a forest. He regains consciousness to hear German being spoken as soldiers search for him and hides in the undergrowth. He’s not the only one who has accidentally found himself entrapped inside Germany’s borders, though at least his wasn’t voluntary. Marga’s Lebensborn duties have begun, and she’s joined a group of young women at a picturesque castle with a pretty garden where everyone is happy and blonde.

The formidable Astrid Mutti (Inga Dietrich) tells participants they will be addressed as ‘Mutti’; they will no longer need names. Marga is examined and determined to be ovulating. She signs away her right to keep her baby; her childish signature includes a flower. A high-ranking young officer, Greiser (Thomas Kitsche), looks her up and down, nodding in approval. She returns to the medical wing to ask for advice. “All you need to do is lie there,” a nurse tells her. That evening, Greiser approaches her and tells her she will be his partner. Unlike the other young women, who chat, laugh, and flirt, Marga is shy, and sex with Greiser leaves her crying. Worse, his high rank isolates her from the other women.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Luc tells Albert that all Black people have disappeared, making escape almost an impossibility. But Henriette has been busy. She brought two vials of a strong emetic hidden in food parcels, and the subsequent vomiting got them sent to the infirmary. Waiting at the window for her signal, Luc and Albert talk about Paris. Albert misses his flat, the club, and the sense of living in a dream where all the outsiders find themselves. He is romantic, not stupid; he understands everything from his former life has gone, including his lover. Meanwhile, Henriette is being harassed by SS troops at the hospital. She decides to leave Paris for the countryside with Luc and Albert.

Picture shows: Marga (Miriam Schiweck)

Marga (Miriam Schiweck).

Credit: BBC/Mammoth Screen

In Manchester, Robina criticizes Kasia for encouraging bloodthirsty talk with Jan and refusing to help look after Vera. Even Joyce, Robina’s servant, thinks Kasia should help. Once again, it’s Sir James to the rescue who generates a charm offensive (praise and cash – ostensibly for flowers for Joyce’s mother – and peace is restored. But he also notes that Kasia searched his room, a latch is left open on his suitcase, and meets her in the garden, where they discuss the Warsaw Ghetto before she pulls his gun and demands to know who he’s working for. He admits he works for military intelligence, but he can’t send her back to Poland while acknowledging her need to do something.

Finding Robina again unable to cope with a teething Vera, Sir James smears sherry on her gums, which is 1940s-era magic. (Parents: Don’t try this at home). He then works his magic on Robina, talking about relationships. He’s never married; she admits that she felt obliged, nothing to do with choice or love. She wouldn’t marry again, though she becomes quite giggly when he insists she should. But love is too chaotic for her. He asks if Kasia is bonding with Vera, but Robina says no, Kasia doesn’t want to be in England. Sir James takes that as a sign he can move forward with his idea and offers Kasia to use skills here, entrapping foreign spies in England. She is thrilled to accept. Go Kasia!

As the episode ends, we discover Lois is with the ATS Desert Hospital in Cairo, busy and happy, looking in on Harry while he’s asleep. When he wakes, he’s amazed to see her. (We’re not.) She tells him about her suicidal episode and how she’s using the ATS to fight back her demons with Kasia’s help. But while Harry is fighting for Vera, Kasia, and Lois, she has no one waiting for her at home. 

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World On Fire

Emotionally gripping World War II drama World on Fire premieres on Sunday, April 5, 2020.
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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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