When last seen, Mr. Pickwick (Nigel Stock) had just missed laying hands on the nefarious Alfred Jingle, now masquerading as military man “Charles Fitz-Marshall” at Mrs. Leo Hunter’s garden party, by that much and was determined to thwart him before he did anything further. But if Charles Fitz-Marshall’s next target of opportunity was, in fact, Mrs. Leo Hunter (and we have no reason to believe she wasn’t), it’s a safe bet to say that at least he seems to be trading up in the objects of his (negotiable?) affections.
Episode Five – Adventures at a Girls’ School
Pickwick and Sam Weller (Phil Daniels) track Jingle to the Angel Inn at Bury, where Sam receives information that not only does Jingle “appear to have come into some money lately”, he can afford to have a manservant now. Sam befriends Jingle’s servant, the incredibly grubby-looking (seriously, he looks like he’d leave a greasy film wherever he goes) yet surprisingly articulate Job Trotter (Pip Donaghy), and learns from the seemingly tearful, contrite man that his unprincipled master has intentions to elope with an “immense rich heiress” by stealing her straight out of a nearby boarding school. Job pleads helplessness in stopping his “artful” master and Sam takes him to Pickwick, who is easily persuaded to defeat Jingle by catching him in the act of absconding with the girl. At no point does Pickwick question if Jingle is actually capable of such a deed… well, truthfully, I have to admit I think he’s more than capable of it, too.
Pickwick sneaks onto the schoolgrounds but falls asleep while waiting to catch Jingle, and is forced to seek shelter in the school when it begins to rain. The school’s mistresses have never heard of Charles Fitz-Marshall or Alfred Jingle and disbelieving Pickwick’s intentions entirely, lock him in the closet for their safety (he’s obviously a masher!) until Sam and Mr. Wardle (Colin Douglas) arrive to vouch for him. Pickwick and Sam belatedly realize that they were both thoroughly duped, doubtless with a lot of sniggering as Jingle imagined Pickwick caught in a girls’ school. It’s beginning to develop into a Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner situation.
A Rivalry is Born
Pickwick avows “personal chastisement” for Jingle and Sam the same for Job Trotter, but they’re both side-tracked for a bit by an invitation to another shooting party with Mr. Wardle and the rest of the Pickwickians. Mr. Tupman (rather touchingly, really) asks after Miss Rachel, but it seems she’s gone away; however, even Mr. Wardle thinks he’s better off without her. Though I do have to agree that a shattered romance with Jingle would be enough to wreck anyone’s nerves. Speaking of shattered romances, Pickwick also discovers that he’s being sued for £1,500 for breach of promise – namely, a promise of marriage – by Mrs. Bardell upon his return to London. At least Jingle knows when he’s promising fraudulent matrimony; it seems Pickwick certainly doesn’t! He’s incensed and determined to fight the suit.
The hunting trip is a welcome distraction and Mr. Winkle (Jeremy Nicholas) even manages not to shoot anyone this time. However, Pickwick again ends up in a sticky situation when he’s left asleep and alone on a stranger’s land after too much cold punch, and is hauled away for some old-fashioned, vegetable-throwing type humiliation as punishment for trespassing. Luckily, he’s again rescued by Sam, Wardle, and the rest of the Pickwickians.
Episode Six – Dealings with Lawyers and Room Mix-ups
Upon his return to London, Pickwick visits Messrs. Dodson and Fogg to discuss the lawsuit, and is only narrowly prevented from it turning into fisticuffs by Sam’s intervention. He and Sam also meet up with Sam’s father, Tony Weller (Howard Lang), who tips them off that Job Trotter and his master – a “slim and tall” man with “a gift of the gab, very gallopin'” (a very accurate description), are now in Ipswich. Pickwick instantly decides they’ll go to Ipswich to catch Jingle and Mr. Weller, a sometime coachman, says he’ll take them.
Once in Ipswich, hijinks ensue (of course), with Pickwick meeting a fop named Peter Magnus (George Little) along the way and mistakenly ending up in the bedroom of Mr. Magnus’ fiancée (if it’s not girls’ schools, it’s ladies’ bedrooms), Miss Witherfield (Shirley Cain), while staying at an inn. Meanwhile, Sam spots Job Trotter in town, despite a futile attempt by Job to disguise his looks by gurning. Job unconvincingly pleads complete innocence about the whole girls’ school thing and says he’s only hanging around a particular house with green gates because the cook has some money and he’s hoping to persuade her into marriage (marriage again!) so they can set up a shop in the chandlery way.
Meanwhile, Pickwick’s refusal to explain his prior acquaintance with Miss Witherfield leads to a quarrel between Magnus and Pickwick and a possible duel, as well as the breaking of Miss Witherfield’s engagement – but at least Pickwick can’t blame this one on Jingle! Well, he sort of can, since Jingle’s the reason he’s in Ipswich.
Okay, got all of that? It all really does tie together, I promise.
Episode Seven – Dealings with Magistrates and Exposure, At Last!
The disagreement between Pickwick and Magnus leads Miss Witherfield to conclude that Pickwick, with Tupman as his second, is planning a duel (even though Magnus has already left town), so she immediately reports them to the local magistrate, Mr. George Nupkins (James Cossins), who is none other than the owner of the green-gated house that Sam saw Job Trotter leaving. Nupkins orders their arrest and all of the Pickwickians plus Sam are hauled up on the carpet.
Jingle’s Newest Dupes
After Nupkins finally – and reluctantly – admits that Pickwick and Tupman are being charged with duelling (Dickens’ dislike for lawyers showing itself again) and that they need to arrange £50 bail apiece, Pickwick pulls his trump card (thanks to Sam) and asks to talk to Nupkins in private. He tells Nupkins that if a certain “Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall” is a frequent visitor to his home, then he knows him to be “an unprincipled adventurer, a dishonourable character, a man who preys upon society and who makes easily deceived people his dupes” (way harsh! but still, mostly accurate). A shocked Nupkins asks, “But surely you cannot mean… Captain Fitz-Marshall?” (it seems Jingle has given himself a bit of a promotion), whereupon Sam pulls the trigger: “He’s no more a captain than he is Fitz-Marshall. He’s a strolling actor, he is, and his name’s Jingle.” Nupkins is devastated; not only has he fallen for all of Jingle’s stories, but both Mrs. Nupkins and Miss Nupkins are “enchanted” with the rogue (and who wouldn’t be? 😉 ). Pickwick offers to confront “Fitz-Marshall” when he visits later and Nupkins agrees, summarily dismissing the duelling charges against Pickwick and Tupman, much to his bailiff’s chagrin.
Later that afternoon, Mrs. Nupkins (Margaret Ward) and Miss Henrietta Nupkins (Madeline Smith) are busily (and cattily) engaged in re-writing history, with Mrs. Nupkins declaring she always wanted Mr. Nupkins to check up on Fitz-Marshall’s family connections, while Mr. Nupkins protests that she was too busy introducing Fitz-Marshall to all her friends for him to do so. And going by Miss Nupkins’ appearance and apparent status, Jingle is indeed trading up as he goes, aiming for younger, prettier, and richer women each time, though it’s not entirely clear what scheme he’s intent on. Actual marriage seems at least a vague possibility since he’s gone to some lengths to set up and maintain an alias, but one wonders how long he’d be able to keep up the pretenses. At any rate, Pickwick and Sam arrive first; Sam ensconces himself in the kitchen to await Job while Pickwick waits in the parlour for Charles Fitz-Marshall.
The Guest of Honour Arrives
The guest of honour arrives at last (one does wonder why he didn’t pick a different alias; he’s certainly clever enough to have thought of it), breezing in as if nothing’s wrong and – it must be said – looking absolutely splendid in his uniform. He enthusiastically greets the ladies with a big smile until a previously unnoticed Pickwick speaks up and addresses him as “Mr. Jingle,” but even then he seems discomfited only for the merest split second before replying, “Good gracious. Old Pickwick. Unexpected reunion, very,” with a confident smirk in return. Maybe that’s why Jingle’s such a good actor – very little seems to throw him!
Playing a Little Dirty
Meanwhile, Job is unpleasantly surprised to find Sam awaiting him below stairs. But before Sam can get his licks in, Job’s roughed up by the vengeful cook before he’s dragged upstairs by Sam to join his seemingly unruffled master. For his part, Jingle listens to Pickwick’s enumeration of his various sins (“He resigned her [Miss Wardle] for a pecuniary consideration!”) without even the slightest hint of embarrassment or shame, only betraying his emotions with an eyeroll (at the mention of how bad he is) and very tiny amused smirk when Pickwick describes being trapped in a ladies’ boarding school overnight. Nupkins asks what’s to prevent him from detaining them as “rogues and imposters”, and Jingle points out the obvious: “”Pride, old fellow, pride. Wouldn’t do. Caught a captain, eh? Ooh, very good husband for daughter. Biter bit. Make it public. Look stupid, very.” Perhaps Jingle’s been in this situation before, because he’s certainly willing to play dirty to save his own (and presumably, Job’s) skin!
The Course of True Love…
Miss Nupkins decides to exact some personal revenge, declaring (quite untruthfully, we’re sure), “I have always hated him,” whereupon Jingle replies bluntly and with a complete lack of chivalry, “‘Oh, of course, tall young man. Old lover. Sidney Porkenham? Rich, fine fellow. Not so rich as Captain though, eh? Turn him away. Off with him! Anything for Captain. Nothing like Captain anywhere. All the girls raving mad, eh, Job?'” No doubt Miss Nupkins internally curses Jingle’s accurate memory for details here! He takes a certain (hilarious) delight in rubbing her nose in the fact she had major hots for him once, even though (as he thinks) her interests were merely as venal as his were – though with a Dickensian name like “Porkenham”, one has to suspect Jingle probably had certain other advantages over her ex-beau as well.
Making a Grand Exit (Sort of)
Picwick gives Sam permission to see the Dirty Duo (well, Job’s filthy, anyway) off of the premises if he doesn’t lay a finger on them. Nupkins commands them to leave his house and Jingle is just doing so with an unabashed swagger in his step, when Pickwick decides to get in his own parting shot, describing Jingle as “a rascal and a ruffian, and worse than any man [he] ever saw or heard of”, whose perfidies he’s happy to expose, though he was lenient this time. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t faze Jingle either: “Good fellow, Pickwick. Fine heart. Stout old boy. But must not be passionate. Bad thing, very. Well, bye bye. See you again someday. Keep up your spirits!” Ooo, foreshadowing! But really, a very effective (if just a bit trollish) exit line.
They collect their hats, pause on the doorstep for a moment, then Jingle says, “Well, Job… trot,” whereupon they’re promptly tripped up on the stairs by a hidden Sam Weller with a broomstick, who’s technically kept his promise to Pickwick not to lay a finger on them. They land in an undignified and ignominious heap while Sam sneaks off laughing. Miss Nupkins’ virtue (and trust fund) is saved! Pickwick swears to Nupkins that he’ll keep the whole nasty business to himself while Sam returns below stairs to collect his hat and exchange a few kisses with Mary the housemaid (Tamsin Heatley), whom he’s taken a fancy to.
Meanwhile, Back in London…
Back in London, Pickwick sends Sam to terminate his tenancy with Mrs. Bardell (Jo Kendall) and find out what he can about the lawsuit. Sam discovers that Dodson and Fogg have taken Mrs. Bardell’s case “on spec” – that is, they’ll be paid out of the large settlement they wring out of the defendant. With the case not set to move forward until February or March, the Pickwickians and Sam adjourn to the Wardles’ at Dingley Dell for Christmas.
What happens next?? Will Pickwick be sued? Is this the last we’ve seen of that cunning and “unprincipled adventurer” (who nonetheless looks great in a uniform) Jingle?? What happens next in the master/manservant rivalries? Stay tuned for the next episode! 😉