Sunday, January 08, 2017

Foyle's War 5.2 - Broken Souls

Plot: Just to be safe, trigger warning for suicide.

Where to start? Fred Dawson returns home after 5 years as a P.O.W. His wife and son are still there, though his father has passed away. There's also Johann, a German P.O.W. on a work program of sorts, helping keep the farm going. Fred is having some difficulties adjusting: to the improved food, his frostbitten feet, the fact his son doesn't know him, the fact his son seems very comfortable around Johann.

There's also a teenage boy, Tommy Crooks, who has run away from his father in London and returned to the countryside where he stayed as an evacuee. He's seeking a Sir John and Lady Muriel, but their estate has been turned into a psychiatric hospital. Still, one of the doctors, a Josef Novak, is able to direct him to their cottage. Novak has his own concerns. One of his patients, a Peter Phelps, is struggling with the results of his work as a bombardier. The fate of Novak's wife and daughter is also weighing on his mind, as he confides to one of his chess pupils, Foyle. Novak was in Paris for a conference when Hitler invaded Poland. The last he heard, they were transferred from a ghetto to a place called Majdanek.

Also at the hospital is a Dr. Worth, but he won't be there long, as he's received an appointment at Cambridge, though no one seems happy for him, or sorry to see him go, least of all the head of the hospital, Dr. Campbell. Or maybe Novak least of all, because while playing chess with Foyle, he reads something in an article Worth published that causes him to leap from his chair snarling, 'I'll kill him!' And then Dr. Worth is found stabbed in his office the next morning.

Foyle begins trying to pull things together, including why Novak suddenly decided Peter should be transferred to an asylum, but then Novak, in the span of ten minutes or so, goes from mildly distracted, to cutting his wrists in the tub. All he can tell Foyle before being rushed to a hospital is that it was what Worth said.

Tommy's father has reached town, but attempts to speak with his son are deflected by Sir John and his shotgun. Fred is growing increasingly angry at Johann's presence, even accusing Rose of infidelity. Johann's attempts to play peacemaker only make things worse, leading Rose to decide they can't have Johann working there any longer. But coming upon the sad farewell only makes Fred angrier, and he tries to attack Johann. When that fails, he almost attacks Rose, but opts to drink heavily instead. Novak has since been released from the hospital, beds being scarce, and returned to work. He's able to help Tommy understand the incident that caused him to run, and even tries to get Foyle to join him for a Bing Crosby picture, but Foyle declines.

In the night, Johann escapes the P.O.W. camp, and is found dead in the river the next morning. And Foyle hadn't even solved Dr. Worth's murder yet, and here's another, seemingly unrelated one. Fortunately there's a witness to this murder, but Tommy Crooks has gone missing again.

Quote of the Episode: Novak - 'No, the point is someone did imagine it and then made it a reality for my family and countless others.'

Does Foyle go fishing? No, it appears he was spending part of his retirement learning chess, though.

Things Sam can do: Track down a boy that doesn't want to be found. No good at picking soccer teams.

Other: Sam and Brooke both like Bing Crosby. Foyle and Milner do not. I'm with Foyle and Milner, myself.

At one point, describing what happened when Tommy ran off, his father says of Tommy, 'He started creating,' and then his dad walloped him one. I have no idea what "creating" means there. He had already mentioned he started a row, then Tommy does whatever that is, and then physical violence. I don't know, shouting, throwing stuff?

There's this whole subplot about picking winners for the World Cup, and some team from Port Vale manages a stunning victory, or something. I dunno, none of it meant a thing to me, but it keeps popping up throughout, and it seems vaguely relevant since Sergeant Brooke compared his and Foyle's methods of choosing as science versus chance, respectively. And that idea comes up more than once.

As it turns out, Sam and Rose are friends, and after Rose's falling out with Fred, she spends the night at Sam's. Then Johann turns up dead. Sam wisely mentions this to Foyle before he questions Rose and Fred, but then Rose tries to lie about the reason why she spent the night at Sam's, which, seemed unwise. Foyle let it pass, but still. I guess it's smarter than Novak saying, "I'll kill him!" right in front of a cop. On the plus side, at least Sam didn't lose another friend like she did Gwen in "War of Nerves".

The difference in how Foyle handles questioning Novak when he's a suspect, versus Fred, was pretty noticeable. Especially since at one point Novak even suggests Foyle is allowing their friendship to interfere in carrying out his duties, and Foyle dismisses the possibility. But he's much more gentle with Novak, who granted had been through a lot. But so had Fred. It's October of 1944 at this stage, and Fred was captured at Dunkirk. That's no picnic, and Foyle's blunt treatment was disappointing.

None of which excuses Fred's behavior towards Rose. No call for nearly hitting her, and though things seem to be better by the end of the episode, I have to wonder about it. Him accusing her of cheating on him, more than once, combined with almost hitting her, would be kind of an ugly phantom in their marriage. I mean, even at the end, when he's acknowledging that the loss of Johann was hard for her, he still asks if anything happened. I understand his anger that while he was a prisoner at the tender mercies of the Nazis, Johann's in England, working on Fred's family farm, playing with Fred's son, getting homecooked food from Rose. That's not a happy realization.

Foyle never seems worried that Novak killed Dr. Worth, and I'm not sure Milner entirely agrees. Which is rare, but you can tell Milner's choosing his words carefully when he talks about Novak around Foyle. The fact the doctor tried to take his own life is suggestion of something to Milner. As it turns out, Majdanek was a concentration camp, and the Worth Novak referred to was an Alexander Worth, a BBC correspondent traveling with the Soviet Army when they liberated Majdanek, and found the horrors that were typical of the Nazis. And then the newsreel that ran with the movie showed footage from Majdanek, which sent Novak into the night, where he encountered Johann, who brusquely knocked him down and shouted at him in German. And, as Brooke puts it to Sam at one point, Robert's your father's brother.

Science versus chance. Brooke mentions it, and so does Novak in reference to his life. He argues that he believes in free will, and yet the most influential moments in his life have been by chance. Chance that he was separated from his family when Hitler invaded Poland. Chance that he met his wife at all. Chance that he liked Bing Crosby and Foyle doesn't, because if Foyle had been there, Novak wouldn't have run out into the countryside alone and wouldn't have encountered Johann. But it's still free will, isn't it? Foyle made a choice that he doesn't like Bing Crosby. Novak made a choice to attend that conference. Johann made a choice to try and get back and either see Rose, or find some way to fix things between her and Fred. Hitler made a choice to do the horrendous things he did. It's not that free will doesn't come into play, it's that you can't know what choices other people are making simultaneously with their free will, and how those are going to interact with your choices.

Maybe that's what's frustrating Novak. He's trying to help Peter Phelps come to grips with both his past trauma, and the results of his actions as a bombardier, but he can't tell how choices others make are going to factor in, and he fears that renders all his and Peter's efforts useless. Even people trying to do good can be left doing horrible things to try and stop worse things.

2 comments:

Kelvin Green said...

A row is an argument between people. "Creating" is making a fuss or showing anger; we'd say "kicking off" in modern British English.

CalvinPitt said...

Kelvin: That makes sense. I knew the meaning of "row" in that context, but the other had stumped. Thanks.