We open this episode with the girls playing lacrosse but Sally develops a stomach ache. Having read the books I immediately thought – “Aha! Her appendix!” She goes to the san with it and has a fever and feels sick too.
Darrell suggests they call Sally’s parents and her response is No keep your nose out of my business Darrell Rivers! I think Darrell is pretty confused by Sally’s switches in temperament, while I’m confused why they’ve made the girls such good friends so early in the series.
There’s a nice light-hearted interlude then where the girls practice the ‘California shuffle’, as taught to Irene by her cousins, in their common room.
Back to the tension – with Sally out of action it is Darrell as the first reserve player to take her place. This is great news for her, until she realises that the school they were supposed to play has had to pull out and instead they will be playing Darrel’s old school.
From this point on the episode diverges about as far from the book as possible as we deal with the mystery of how Darrell came to be expelled from her last school.
If you haven’t seen the episode I recommend you don’t read any further right now!
Darrell pretends to feel ill (or at least badly exaggerates) to get out of playing in the match, so she isn’t with the other girls when the St Hilda’s lot arrive.
I was actually really invested in this storyline so when watching I was excited to see the school bus from St Hilda’s pull up on the Malory Towers drive. Miss Gale, the teacher with them seemed very pleasant (at first) saying it’s always fun to see where a St Hilda’s girl ends up, and genuinely seems disappointed that Darrell won’t be playing – That’s a shame… we’d have loved to catch up. Actually, watching it back for the quotes I can see she’s faking, but on first watching I took it at face value.
Miss Grayling also seems to see through Miss Gale’s act and has the strained smile of someone faking politeness.
She also sees through Darrell’s illness and has a serious conversation with her about facing her fears.
Sometimes we make ourselves feel sick with worry, but Darrell, sometimes we have to face our fears. That’s how we find the courage to overcome them.
– Miss Grayling to Darrell
During the match Miss Potts and Miss Gale are the referees. I’d never really thought about referees before but it seems fair to have one from each school to help eliminate biases. Though I’d expect the Malory Towers referee to be the games mistress or captain not the first form teacher.
Anyway, it doesn’t help much here as Miss Gale reveals a clear bias against Darrell by making several unfair decisions against her. She also makes comments like same old Darrell, never admits to being in the wrong. At first Miss Potts doesn’t see the purported offense(s) and can’t really argue but later she stands up for Darrell even when Miss Gale is backed up by her team captain, Penelope.
The Malory Towers girls still manage to win at least, after adjusting their strategy.
Gwen, of course, has been scheming in the background and corners her cousin after the match. Her cousin is a girl called Joan who says she hasn’t (and won’t) tell Gwen what she wants to know because she’s mean. I like her cousin already!
Joan then says that Darrell is at Malory Towers because she needed a fresh start just like Gwen. I thought that perhaps Gwen had something dark in her background but Joan just explains it as Gwen needing to mix with other girls and have [her] corners knocked off, and some sense knocked in.
And then everything kicks off. The last decision Miss Gale made on the pitch wasn’t backed up by Penelope and the teacher absolutely turns on her after. She makes her do press ups as a punishment.
Stupid girl! You lost us this match… What was wrong with you today? Couldn’t see the ball? Hair in your eyes, was that it? I think I need to get the scissors out again.
It’s quite a nasty scene and it only gets nastier when Darrell turns up and has a serious go at Miss Gale. I totally get why she’s so mad and she’s absolutely right but my god she’s so mouthy and honestly I’d not be surprised if she’d been expelled purely for her mouth and temper.
Miss Gale reaches for Darrell who smacks her hand away and Gwen seeing this shouts for everyone to look as Darrell is attacking a teacher. And then – the big reveal! It turns out that Darrell pushed Miss Gale down the stairs. This is shouted loudly enough by Miss Gale for the whole lacrosse team to hear so the cat is well and truly out of the bag.
Anyway, Darrell shouts back and reveals that Miss Gale uses cutting girls’ hair off as a punishment. This is cleverly foreshadowed earlier in the episode when Penelope meets Darrell and Darrell comments (not unkindly) on her haircut which the other girls have been sniggering at. Penelope says she had it cut – you started a craze. Of course Darrell has shorter hair than most of the other girls but I never thought anything of it. Now I see it was Penelope’s way of saying ‘Miss Gale punished me too’ without anyone else understanding.
It looks like Darrell is in massive amounts of trouble but Miss Grayling firmly sends Miss Gale off with her girls, much to Miss Gale’s disgust. She says that she’s proud of Darrell for her outburst and that this is exactly what she mean when she told Darrell she needed to learn to use her temper for good.
I found that quite surprising as Darrell really let rip and, to many, would have shown Malory Towers in a bad light.
Later Miss Grayling says that she’s had Miss Gale fired after speaking to the head of St Hilda’s, and that she knows she is a bully. Seeing as she hovered protectively by Darrell and even put an arm around her when Miss Gale first comes face to face with her, I wonder if she knows Darrell’s whole side of the story? Yet when she asked Darrell why she didn’t tell her parents that Miss Gale was a bully it was in a way that sounds like she didn’t know.
I do wonder if that’s going to be the end of Miss Gale, though. She seems the vindictive type.
Darrell gets a minor punishment for not telling her team about her problems with miss Gale, but all the girls band together to clean the lacrosse boots before she gets to them which is a lovely moment.
This is a mixed bag of an episode with lots going on and I was quite baffled by the end of it on first viewing.
Firstly we have Gwen trying to get out of doing the exam by suggesting it will look bad upon Miss Potts as the teacher should she, Gwen, fail it. Obviously Miss Potts sees right through that idea.
Then it’s Alicia’s birthday and she gets a huge hamper sent to her which is quickly confiscated by Matron. In order to steal it back before the contents are eaten, Jean pretends to get her finger stuck in the bed spring. While Matron is rescuing her (she has in fact actually got her finger stuck she was trying so hard to pretend…) Darrell and Alicia sneak down to Matron’s room and leave Irene on lookout.
They don’t hunt very hard as they’re too busy talking clearly for the camera but we get a little insight into Alicia’s background as she says that she only sees her parents once a year as she’s “full board”. That’s entirely new as the Alicia of the books saw her brothers and cousin June regularly in the school holidays and presumably her parents too. There’s no mention of any girls doing “full board” at Malory Towers in fact. Which holiday does she get to go home for, then, I wonder?
Thinking about Harry Potter, Harry has stayed for a lot of holidays (his choice) but always had to go home for summer. A young Tom Riddle once asked to stay all-year round but was told he had to at least go home for the summer, which is obviously the longest holiday.
Either way it’s a long, long time to spend at school and I wonder if they are leading to anything with that admission.
Anyway, they find the hamper eventually and rather than take the basket grab as much as they can carry (surely Matron will notice the lack of contents though!) and nearly get caught as Irene finally displays a bit of her book-personality and has started singing a tune in the hall and is so distracted she doesn’t see Matron until it’s almost too late.
They plan a midnight feast even though it’s the night before the exam – surely they would have been much better doing it the night after! Initially Darrell refuses to go because she knows she will be too tired to do well at the exam otherwise but gives into peer pressure in the end.
In the books we see Betty now and again, she is Alicia’s friend from another tower. We don’t see her here but she is in the san overnight, faking illness to prevent matron from sleeping in Alicia’s dorm room again. Very selfless of Betty, I might say!
Irene, being the clumsy girl of the story makes a bit of a racket and they end up hiding in Miss Grayling’s study as strangely it has been left unlocked.
I thought we might get a farce ala Mam’zelle from St Clare’s but no, she just locks them in the study as she checks for the source of the noise.
They naturally look for a spare key and Darrell finds the exam in the desk drawer. She stares at it for a while, obviously considering looking, and when Gwen sees it she demands to look. Everyone says they can’t as cheating is vile, but before they can say much more they hear someone shouting OWWWW in the hall outside.
It’s Emily, who either wasn’t invited to the feast or didn’t want to come, that was never explained. Her excuse is that she was coming to warn them about Matron (far too late) and then saw a hooded figure and fell. Something about the way she said all that made me doubt her honesty. Something funny is going on there!
Meanwhile Gwen has slid back into the study (three guesses why!).
The girls make it to bed about 3am (I felt exhausted just thinking about that…) and yet are up for their exam the next day. Miss Grayling discovers her desk is all untidy and the exam is still sitting out. How foolish of them, and particularly Gwen, to have left it like that. (The half eaten sweet in particular…)
It’s so obvious that someone has been looking at the exam so Miss Potts delays it by a few hours. I expected that there would be a different set of questions, and I was right. She also speaks very sternly to the girls. Cheating will not be tolerated at Malory Towers.
Darrell goes to Miss Potts and admits she was in the study but didn’t look at the exam. Perhaps she doesn’t know that Gwen has looked at it. She blatantly lies, however, and says that nobody else was in the study with her. Not very Blyton like!
The other girls are eavesdropping at the door and literally fall into the room where they tell the truth about having been there too (albeit reluctantly on Gwen’s part). None of the girls seem to have put two and to together – Gwen wanted to cheat, Gwen was the last one back to the dorm by a significant time, Gwen was suddenly confident she was going to ace the exam… though Miss Potts gives Gwen a hard look.
Some random thoughts
Despite that being over 2,000 words I have a few more!
At times it isn’t Matron working in the San, it’s Margaret. I’m not entirely sure who Margaret is. In the books there is a Matron for each house who looks after the girls and their laundry etc and a different Matron who manages the San.
The Sally situation had me confused for a while. I thought it was leading to the appendix drama but then it seemed not as she recovered. I have now seen the advert for a later episode called The Push where Sally is taken ill so I assume that she will become more ill again. As a side note Matron would never have let Sally watch the lacrosse match in case she was contagious, and she galivants around the school in her dressing-gown a lot for a sick girl.
The war is hinted at a couple of times. Mary-Lou remarks that a chocolate bar would be worth two week’s ration coupons implying that rationing is still on-going, and they are in awe at seeing bananas in Miss Grayling’s study. If this is set in 1946 the year the book was published then it’s just a year after the war ended, and rationing would still be in place (sugar was one of the last to stop). The girls would have been around 4 when the war started and so would probably remember having had bananas before. I’m not sure how quickly everything went back to normal post-war, but the coastline looks remarkably clear. The school would probably have been commandeered by the military or at the very least closed for the duration given its coastal location and closeness to France. I think that’s why Blyton simply ignored the war when she wrote the book!
What did I think?
These episodes definitely depart from the book. For the most part, though, it is done well. The situation with Miss Gale is all done very cleverly with lots of foreshadowing and it’s only watching it for the second time that I was able to take it all in. Similarly the midnight feast/cheating/exam fiasco was clearer the second time around.
I still have some questions about who know what and so on but I hope more of that will become clear in future episodes.
It was good to see more of Irene though she is not quite the girl I love from the books. We are at least getting a hint of her musical inclinations and she says that she’s never allowed to join in the sneaking around type activities because of what she’s like, by which I assume she meant clumsy and forgetful which is totally Irene.
Despite the storylines not always matching up it does stay pretty true to the feel of the books and I’m looking forward to seeing more.