I had almost forgotten about this, as it’s been quite a while since I last watched any of it. And with five episodes still to watch, I discovered five minutes before I sat down to episode nine that series 3 has arrived on iPlayer today.
Episode nine – the sneezing trick
This episode doesn’t really resemble anything from the Second Form book. Firstly we have the sneezing trick – as played by Alicia and Darrell in the Third Form.
The notion that the school might be closing is not really considered by the girls, this isn’t a trick played to keep the spirits up or anything like that, it’s just because Alicia has been sent it and can’t resist.
And so they do play it – despite Sally’s protests (much like in the book). They play it on Mam’zelle Rougier (Mr Parker being inexplicably absent this episode and there being no Mam’zelle Dupont at all) who, of course sneezes madly, causing all the girls to laugh from the moment it starts. In the books they always try desperately not to laugh as to not give the game away but on-screen they don’t seem to be able to do that – except Sally, of course.
Mam’zelle Rougier leaves class because of the sneezing, giving Sally another chance to remonstrate with the girls. Later, when Mam’zelle Rougier returns to her desk with Matron, and they both start sneezing they realise that it was a trick. This is funny, but not as funny as the sequence of Mam’zell Dupont, Miss Potts and Matron all getting the sneezes.
While both book Mam’zelles had a temper, Mam’zelle Rougier’s was colder and sharper, while Mam’zelle Dupont could rage but generally saw the funny side of things later. TV Mam’zelle takes a different direction here and gets upset – questioning why the girls play tricks on her (as if she has been singled out somehow) and why they do not like her.
Mam’zelle had already asked Sally if a trick had been played and she had – shock horror – outright lied about it. No ‘good’ Blyton character ever lies outright. They may hedge a little with statements like I don’t know who put the sneezing pellet there as they didn’t actually see which of the two girls it was, but they would never say It wasn’t a trick when they knew fine well it was.
She gets an unfortunately comeuppance, of course, as they identify the sneezing powder. Sally won’t snitch on Darrell and Alicia, though, and is punished by not being allowed to go away on the half-term trip.
Darrell is horrified that Sally is being punished over her trick and urges Alicia to come with her to take the blame. Alicia refuses as she sees that Sally is being punished for lying and her admitting to playing the trick won’t change that – she also points out that she took the blame for the caricatures so she’s not doing it again. It turns into a huge fight – a physical one – between the two girls with Darrell declaring she will never be Alicia’s friend ever again.
This is quite dramatic of them as they still have at least one more series to go, so either Alicia is going to have to do something heroic or generous to get back into Darrell’s good books or they may have to avoid each other for the rest of their school years. (In the book Alicia does come clean and every girl except Sally – the only one to oppose the trick – is punished with missing a half-term holiday.)
They get caught fighting and Darrell admits her part in the trick, earning her the punishment of missing the trip too.
Interestingly there’s no outward suggestion that Miss Grayling and Matron connect the dots between Sally’s lie, the fight and Darrell’s admittance of guilt. I think it should be fairly obvious to them that Alicia was involved in the trick but doesn’t want to own up. Still, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they do have an idea but also have a reason for not saying anything. I also noticed Gwen being her usual cruel self – having witnessed Darrell and Alicia rolling around on the floor she declares to Matron that Darrell started it, though she had no way of knowing that.
Talking of Gwen, the very minor secondary plot in this episode is the continuation of her being a thief. We’d already seen her taking Georgina’s compact, a shilling and her mother’s brooch, but now Irene’s hair-pin is missing…
Gwen then takes the brooch to Ron, telling him it’s an unwanted gift and asking him to take it to the village to sell it to the antique store. I have been baffled by her motivations for stealing, so this almost makes sense. She isn’t getting her allowance, so stealing things to sell for money has some logic at least.
Episode ten – The school trip
In addition to the items listed above, Alicia’s pen has gone missing and Mary-Lou’s lucky coin. This is the point where the girls come to the conclusion that this is not a coincidence and there is a thief about.
Gwen seems particularly anxious about her stash and keeps getting it out to examine it and then hide it in a new place. She’s also planning to buy the ice on the school trip – I’m not exactly sure why, it doesn’t seem like a very Gwen thing to do but I may have missed some earlier detail that would explain it.
Gwen – duplicitous to the end – spends time helping Mary-Lou look for her lucky coin and then they both miss the trip as they are late to the drive and the bus goes off without them. I suspect that it was deliberate on Gwen’s part, avoiding the trip to avoid buying the ices (the money for the brooch not having reached her yet.)
While searching for Mary-Lou’s coin again, Gwen locks her in the classroom cupboard, giving her time to go and hide her stolen stash again.
She spends a ridiculous amount of time taking it out her trunk to look at it, considering she shares a dorm with several other girls, girls who are the rightful owners of some of it! I literally kept shouting at the screen telling her to put the stuff away before she got caught. When she locks Mary-Lou in the cupboard it has been left under a hanky in the middle of her bed.
She is further delayed by Darrell throwing her the key and it going down a grate, but this serves a dual-purpose. First it gives her time to listen to Mary-Lou’s story of why the coin is special to her (purely sentimental) and Darrell and Sally find a ring in the grate which buys them some more conversation time with Miss Grayling.
The ring is unfortunately not part of the treasure as according to Lady Jane’s diary it was given to a housemaid (it doesn’t say why, though) some time before the rest was hidden. Miss Grayling impresses on them how one ring can’t
rule them all save the school, but finding all the treasure could. Darrell and Sally then have a look at the diary and spot a possible clue about the treasure, leading them to a spot on the cliffs where they have unfortunately already collapsed. (My prediction is that when Mary-Lou falls off the cliff and Gwen – as she’s the thief – rescues her they see something sticking out the fallen cliff.)
Before this Darrell had already managed to warn her about Mr Thomas and the mines, a fact Miss Grayling took more seriously than Mam’zelle did, thankfully. Then she and Sally are caught sliding around in the mop bucket, causing Miss Grayling to laugh about how she and her siblings used to do the same.
They then draw her attention to some markings on a stone arch in the hallway – height marks of Miss Grayling and her siblings as they grew up in Malory Towers. Either I’ve missed something previously or this is a newly revealed secret designed to give Miss Grayling further impetus to save the school. It’s a nice little backstory, a little spoiled unfortunately by a) the girls never noticing the marks before and b) Miss Grayling having ‘forgotten’ all about them despite them being standing out clearly against the stone and being located in a well-used corridor right outside her office. Miss Grayling even says how she often thinks of Min, her six-year-old sister who died of measles. (I haven’t had a chance yet but I’d like to go back and try to see if the marks are even there in earlier episodes, particularly series one, as you can see below they’re pretty visible even on a screen shot!)
Back to Gwen, and in an attack of conscience she returns the coin to Mary-Lou and appears to want to return Irene’s hair pin too. The fact that Mary-Lou’s coin is sentimental (and badly damaged) makes it an interesting choice to steal. It would be recognised if she pulled it out her purse as it stands out, so she’s unlikely to spend it, so why take it?
It looks like things may be unravelling for her anyway, as the girls report seeing Mrs Lacey’s brooch in shop window. As it was Ron who sold it, however, I can see him getting the blame for at least a while.