Yet again the previous episode ended with a cliff-hanger, or perhaps I should say tower-hanger, as Jack was hanging from the ivy on the castle’s tower while the eagle swooped down at him.
And we find out that Jack fell in the last episode because of the castle casting its evil spell. Well, according to the narrator anyway.
DOES JACK SURVIVE? WELL OF COURSE HE DOES…
Kiki scares off the eagle with a bit of eagle-screaming and Jack keeps climbing… then he half-falls and dangles a bit for extra drama. Previous angles had made him look high up but he’s low enough for Philip to grab his foot and help him out.
At this point I was saying Give up for goodness sake! to Jack, as it was clear the eagle could come back at any moment or the ivy could give way again.
But he ignored me and kept on going, finally got up safely and finds an eagle chick in the nest. Philip joins him (without any drama), and while they’re looking at the chick and taking photo the eagle’s stealing from their picnic.
THE TRUTH ABOUT SAM
Every episode reveals a little bit more about this strange new character. This time it’s that Sam buys his eggs from a chap in a butcher’s apron. Who sits by the side of the road waiting for him (which is weird), but they’re clearly not as country-fresh as Sam implies. He then arranges them in his hat with straw to make them look more ‘authentic’. Clearly he can’t be turning a profit on this, so his motives lie elsewhere.
Trading standards would have something to say about all that I bet.
Allie thinks his motives are all about food – you’re too late for breakfast, too late for lunch and too early for dinner, but that’s a red herring really. She at least seems a tad suspicious when he interrogates her about the children and Tassie and isn’t willing to say too much.
He also builds on the sinister side he shows to Tassie’s mother, with more threatening behaviour about where Tassie has been and who she’s hanging out with. She had hidden the fresh clothes from Allie in a bag in the woods, to stop her mother or Sam, or both, knowing about them, but Sam finds them and is not happy (even though he knew about them already as he mentions them to Allie).
And then he cements his character as truly evil in my opinion. Not only does he shop in a supermarket and pass the goods off as fresh country produce – but he also doesn’t return his trolley!!
Instead he gives it a shove and hits a traffic warden with it. She looks like she’s going to write him a ticket (for an out of control trolley?). He charms her with a story of orphans and how he’s using the few bob he made selling their junk to buy food for them. Except she spots he’s bought wine and issues a ticket which she tucks into the horse’s saddle. All without saying a word.
Edited to add: skimming through to get screen caps I now understand better. A previous ‘scene’ shows some sort of meter ticking over to an excess charge. It’s very quick though and it’s not at all clear that it’s a parking meter. So the traffic warden has clearly been stood waiting for him to return so she can issue a ticket. Now if only they’d afforded her a speaking part it might have made sense initially…
THE CASTLE IS ONLY SOMEWHAT ADVENTUROUS SO FAR
The castle is a bit dull apart from the eagles. We the viewer see one or two henchmen in the vicinity but the kids are oblivious.
They do find a leaky water pump with a clean handle (just like in the book, but not in a daring middle-of-the-night trip for Jack) and there’s a loudly banging door which gives them a fright for a minute.
I think if you tried to align the book with the TV series you’d find Jack was already camping in the castle by now, and having his scary night-time experience. I suppose they’re waiting to get rid of Allie (who gets a pointless phone call to say her mother’s test results are clear today, but more are expected tomorrow) before Jack would dare to stay in the castle.
In fact Spring Cottage is more adventurous at one point, when Philip has snuck his hedgehog into Dinah’s bed, causing a fight.
LUCY-ANN IS VERY ANNOYING
Lucy-Ann continues to be the stupid one of the group. She asks of the castle inhabitants wouldn’t they have had gas? And then doesn’t know what a hide is – when she grew up with an ornithologist for a brother.
She also just blurts out everything. Tassie was with us! Jack wants to photograph the eagles at night! and not in an almost forgivable way like Anne Kirrin did in the first Famous Five book. The actress is not very good either, unfortunately. I really struggle to understand why they picked someone so much younger than the other three.
STRANGE MEN ABOUND
So Bill finally turns up again – driving past Allie in the village. Either he doesn’t see her though, or he deliberately blanks her. She then doesn’t believe it really was him.
The kids don’t seem to know who Bill is – or at least the Trents have never met him. Allie explains that Bill does the same as Philip and Dinah’s dad did, working for the government. That would sort of explain how she knows him at least. It doesn’t seem like the events of Island of Adventure exist in this universe, so it will be interesting to see how the children get to know Bill.
Then there’s also the suspicious chap from an earlier episode – who met Allie at the MOD event – and he asks her out for tea.
The episode ends with someone sneaking around Spring Cottage in the night. It could be Bill. It could be Sam. It could be MOD man. We’ll have to find out next time…
So that was another OK episode. Still feel like it’s being padded out far too much though. Nothing really happens apart from the kids discovering someone else has been inside the castle, and a fleeting glimpse of Bill.