Finally! Another series of Indian Summers has begun. There has been a three year time jump, and Simla is more heated and chaotic then ever. Unfortunately for the Viceroy Lord Willingdon, he is going to see just how chaotic things can get.
Mock Assassination Attempt
The Holi festival of colors is in full swing. As the Viceroy is traveling through the streets in his open top Rolls Royce Phantom a group of brightly powdered children are running loose. One of them has a hand grenade and pulls the pin, tossing it into the Viceroy’s car. The look on the Viceroy’s face, unsurprisingly, is one of pure terror.
While this is going on, Aafrin is shown typing a newsletter . He has joined a group of freedom fighters. Or are they terrorists just using him? Well, that clearly is something Aafrin, who doesn’t actually want to hurt anyone to achieve a free India, will struggle with this series, and you can be sure the sly Ralph Whelan won’t be making matters any easier for him.
Thankfully for Willingdon (and Patrick Malahide fans, we want to see a lot more of the Viceroy this series) the grenade was harmless. However, the fright wasn’t harmless. Lord Willingdon suffered a “small heart attack” as a result.
The next scene has Ralph discovering the Viceroy sleeping in bed. Willingdon doesn’t look very comfortable, though, and appears to be having just a little bit of difficulty breathing.
Cynthia Coffin’s Cunning Plan
Not everyone is all that concerned about poor Willingdon’s well-being, though. Cynthia Coffin lives up to her name by wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the Viceroy shuffled off into the next life. “I am rather fond of him,” frowns Ralph. Thank you for that Ralph! We’re fond of him too. And I think we could do with a little less of the “old Willingdon” stuff from Coffin. She’s no spring chicken herself, though she might keep a few in her hat.
Anyway, Cynthia thinks the time is ripe for Ralph to make a move and convince “old” Willingdon to resign his post so that Ralph can become Viceroy of India. Hmmmm. I’m not so sure that would even work, but Cynthia is totally convinced it will.
Meanwhile, Ralph is focused on finding out who is behind the newsletter. He enlists the aid of his newspaper friend (well not friend exactly….frenemy?) Naseem Ali Khan. Through their investigations, Ralph seems to figure out Aafrin was behind it, and he really is like a cat playing with a little mouse as he toys with Aafrin.
The Royal Simla Club is having a swank do with the opening of the Members’ Library. That was why Cynthia was wearing the wacky bird hat. Almost everyone is there, including a very nervous Aafrin who is convinced that Ralph knows. One person who isn’t there is the Viceroy.
Brava, Mrs. Cardue.
*Finally* they get back to the Viceroy, who is recuperating in a gorgeous dressing gown. Ralph is helping him out with his fan mail. 😉 “This one is from the widow of a Col. Cardue.” “Marriage proposal?” Uh-oh. The Viceroy sounds a little bit hopeful there. I think the Vicereine might want to start paying a little more attention to him. Luckily for her it isn’t. It is, however, a beautifully knitted pair of cabled socks. Perfect for those cold Simla nights, I’m sure. “Brava, Mrs. Cardue.”
The Viceroy starts to open up, unknowingly providing an opening for Ralph to advise early retirement as per Cynthia’s plans. “You know my boy, I feel at a loss. Sitting in that car, I wondered, is it time for me to go?”
It appears as though Ralph is going to go the Cynthia route by talking about the long hot summer of hard work they have ahead of them.
Ralph: “I believe it would be the right thing, the responsible thing, for you to…..” The Viceroy gives him a very questioning gaze. It is obvious he fears what Ralph may say. But, Ralph does good, “….to stay firm.”
Ahhh, but is he taking the Viceroy’s side, or merely following his wife’s Madeleine’s advice of keeping the Viceroy near so that Willingdon can take the blame if they fail, but Ralph take ample credit if they succeed? The Viceroy, however, seems absolutely delighted and relieved at what he sees as Ralph’s unwavering loyalty. The Viceroy’s gratitude is very touching. He lets Ralph know how much he appreciates him and compliments Ralph on his intelligence and compassion.
Ralph then gets another idea. He tells the Viceroy he is sounding fit. “Oh, I’m rather worn out.” Ralph ignores that and asks if the Viceroy can stand. “Why, are we off?” Willingdon sounds rather nervous there. It is really a cute and sweet moment. Mr. Malahide really nails the mixture of vulnerability and gratitude that the Vicroy is feeling.
And, yes, they are off. Ralph immediately begins getting the Viceroy up and ready for some action. Don’t kill him, Ralph!
Although he has a bit of a struggle with the stairs, the Viceroy, with Ralph’s help,
makes it to The Royal Simla Club to ruffle Cynthia Coffin’s feathers. Everyone is clapping at his arrival, but she looks decidedly sour. She greets him a false smile, “you’re well, I hope.” “Ready for battle, Mrs. Coffin,” he chuckles almost shyly. He does seem rather touched at how happy they are (well, most of them) to see him.
After posing for a photo for the inscrutable reporter Mr. Kahn, the Viceroy proposes a toast. “To the evolving story of our two great nations for many years to come.” For some reason, the sight of whiskey really gives Lord Willingdon a power boost. Maybe he should have been drinking it from the start. 😉
This was an excellent opener to the new series. Ralph is playing a very tricky game as he appears to juggle several interests at the same time. The Viceroy, however, continues to be a doggedly honest character who truly believes what he is doing is right for both Britain and India (though probably mostly for Britain).
His last two scenes with Ralph were very sweet and touching. He genuinely appeared anxious that Ralph was going to suggest he leave his post. The relief and gratitude on his face when Ralph instead tells him to stay firm was so charming and made me feel quite sorry for him. He has no idea about the conversations that Ralph has had about him…at least not yet. Patrick Malahide really captures the uncertainty and then relief and joy that the Viceroy must have been feeling.