The mother-who-turns-up is a common plot device, and it’s a long way from being my favourite one. Fair’s fair, though: The Heart Guy, in producing Harriet’s mother Dinah, at least gives it a bit of a twist. Obviously she’s a pest, although there’s a game-recognise-game moment when it looks as if she and Meryl might bond. Only a moment, though: Meryl will in due course try to chase her away.
Although Dinah is, ostensibly, in town to see her granddaughter – I suspect an international child abduction is coming in an episode or two, but who can say? – it also means that she’s there for the local election, in which Meryl is trying to win a council seat in order that she can push through her plans to assist the cemetery. It being Meryl, she’s hardly going to be content with a modest, understated, may-the-best-person win sort of campaign. Her main opponent is the widower of the previous incumbent, and in order to split the anti-Meryl vote she prevails on Ajax to run as well, while Hayley remains her campaign head. But when Ajax overhears Meryl referring to him as a “dummy candidate” he realises that he’s being treated as a means to an end, and suddenly turns into a plain-speaking populist running against the elites. “Make Whyhope great again!” he bellows at a hustings. The Tim Tam Trump, if you will. Betty, still smarting from the way in which Meryl removed Darren from her life, allies herself with Ajax. (Belinda Bromilow is, incidentally, really good in these episodes: quite often she’s required to play slightly broad, so her performance – almost catatonic with grief to start with, shifting to quietly vengeful – is quite something.)
Inevitably, by the end of episode 4 Meryl will have triumphed, although you do wonder whether something has been awakened in farmboy Ajax. But there’s a lot of emotional business to be transacted before that. Matt sacks the young chef that Charlie slept with, meaning that the two of them need to work together to cater to the hustings. Then Charlie insists that she has writers’ block, and can only write at the desk in the house she used to share with Matt, where of course April now resides. Of course she has, and of course she must. This means that Charlie has to wait until April has left for the day, then sneak in. It obviously won’t end well, and doesn’t. Thing is, Charlie’s still very visibly in love with Matt, and April – although undoubtedly cute – is… kinda annoying? So, Matt, what gives? “You broke my heart”, he regretfully explains to Charlie; which, in my book, is good enough.
But what of the ship we’re all here for? Well, Hugh is doing a reasonably good job of feigning indifference to the ongoing Penny/Jarrod liaison. In fact, he even provides medical services to Jarrod twice in one episode: first when Jarrod requests a fertility test to ensure that his boys can still do the necessary; then, still in the same department, when Jarrod sustains a trauma to Beavis and Butthead. But none of this shifts the needle; he even sleeps with Tara after she has a panic attack during a complicated childbirth.
Then, though, Penny and Jarrod agree to speed up their wedding. And suddenly Ken and Betty – both also shipping Henny, as far as I can see – put Hugh on the spot. What, Hugh, are you going to do? Well, first of all he kisses Penny. WHO TOTALLY KISSES HIM BACK. Then he decides that he needs to make a declaration, so he rushes round to Penny’s house to tell her not to marry Jarrod. But… it’s too late! Penny and Jarrod got married in secret. Oh dear. The upshot of all of this, of course, is that only Jarrod and April are satisfied, more or less, with the current state of play: Hugh, Matt, Penny, and Charlie all, one way or another, have some thinking to do. I still want that to involve a Hugh/Charlie hookup, incidentally, and I don’t know that I’ll be truly happy until that eventuates. That apart, though, two entirely satisfactory episodes.