It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of historical foodstuffs must be in want of someone willing to eat wine-soaked rarebit at 10pm. That means another Supersizers, because nothing looks as good for sore eyes as two Brits trussed up in chokingly-hot layers and poking at various potted meats, am I right?
This week, the Regency! The producers make Giles and Sue siblings, which means they act like marrieds anyway. Featuring the loss of their fortunes, repeatedly!
You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you. (Sue. Giles happens to be present.)
Chef Grade: Rosemary Shrager, A cheffing, even in the midst of defeat by aspic.
Best Guest: Either Village Lady, or everyone at the Vicarious Embarrassment Holiday Party and Ball.
Best Food Moment: Parmesan ice cream!
Worst Food Moment: Cheese with live maggots in it, judging by the way Giles flaps his arms.
Equality Now!: Sue can’t hold property! She’d better get her ass married.
Worst Thing Giles Says: Somehow, in an episode that includes him reading from a literal prostitute guidebook, the thing he can’t let go of is the size of George IV.
Best Sue Thing: Sue’s marriage mission to the pub, armed with her looks and the language of the fan.
Moment Giles is Most in Love with Sue: Driving a sports car with her. He’s easy to please.
Most Random Moment: Sue goes through a Regency beauty ritual that leaves her in tears.
Quote of the Week: “Jane Austen probably licked those eyes.”
And we’re off! This week’s house is a landmark Georgian mansion they had lots of fancy shots of, but if we went through all that we’d never be done; just trust that there are lots of lovely shots. The important thing is Sue’s bonnet and her “Not This Week, Thanks” wigless head, and also their food I guess. Though I’ll be honest, when it came to Sue’s face v. food, Sue’s face won every time.
The week’s spread doesn’t look half-bad; no one’s forbidden water this week, which has to help, and Sue’s excited for the range of sweets. The historical crew was clearly excited to research Tory recipes (no French support from Sir Giles!), and Giles is most excited by the array of nuts, because he gets to show off his party trick and crack them: “That’s what first attracted Lizzie Bennet to Mr. Darcy, was the fact that he could break walnuts in his bare hands.”
Sue, who is on top of every Austen reference in the world this week, offers a grit-teeth, “Why, Mr. Wentworth,” and then proceeds to smash walnuts together the way you just know Anne secretly wanted to.
Don’t fuck with Anne Elliot.
And immediately after admiring their bounty, it’s time for breakfast!
BREAKFAST: Toasted bread, turtulong, seed cake, marmalade, jam, hot chocolate, tea. (Yes, please.)
Sue makes tea. “Would you like it strong?” she asks, and Giles, falling back on his period improv training from The Seventies, says, “I don’t know, I’ve never had it before.” (Not sure that’s entirely accurate for someone of his social grade, given the rate of import by the turn of the 19th century, but we’ll go with it. Good character, Giles!)
The tea is apparently not a fantastic brew (which sounds like Sue’s doing, if you ask me), but there’s still plenty of hot chocolate to go around, and they eat a pile of bread with great relish. Sue puts an enormous bun on her head. It’s an auspicious beginning.
Then it’s time for a political interlude, as Giles wanders through his enclosure looking for poaching renters and discussing the economic and legal ramifications of enclosing common land to benefit the rich, complete with satirical poetry! These glimpses into social history are sporadic, and I can never tell why they’re included where they are, but if you wanted to watch Giles post with a gun for a bit, here’s your chance.
Bonus: Carson gets to read the poem. He’s very excited about it; you just can’t tell.
Back in the kitchen, Rosemary bemoans the double murder of the dinner beef, but it’s time to serve, and you use what you have when you used all your budget on that sports-car rental and you like winding Giles up with bad food anyway!
DINNER: Mackerel with herbs, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, spinach, wow-wow sauce, port, sherry; jugged hare, potted venison, asparagus, beetroot pancakes, trifle, German wines, port.
From top left: Giles compares the beef to a log from the fireplace (it’s a tie); the potted rabbit tastes so strange Sue’s face stops working for a second; Sue makes an actual rabbit face after nearly cracking a tooth on the Yorkshire pud, just before saying, “I’ve just remembered, this is just the first course,” and laughing like Snake Plissken; Giles asparaguses as Sue accuses him of dandyism and skimping on tasting the meats; the meats; Sue skittering around the table with the trifle in her arms.
(Wow-wow sauce is a pickle-and-onion concoction created by Dr. William Kitchener, who Giles calls “the inventor of telescopes,” which I’ll be sure to tell Galileo.)
Dinner continues to descend into a teen-siblings level of goading (“You’re one clubfoot away from the full Byron, you really are”), until finally she just accuses him of having incestuous feelings and purposely scuttling her marriage chances. “I’ll put you in a home,” he manages finally, which is a weirdly anemic comeback, but it’s not like he can say much in his defense at this point, since we know she has a bunch of stuff on camera.
Taking a break from the Greek subtext, Sue gets handed a bit of her own by the producers, and goes to deliver some food to the neighborhood poor, including Village Lady, who I’m sure was briefed on most of this but still gives the most deadpan go-along ever recorded:
“Are you poor?”
“My brother may have shot your husband.”
And feeding the poor with your leftovers is probably hungry work. Don’t want to go hungry!
SUPPER: Cold roast beef, sweetbreads, apple pie, English rarebit (break soaked with red wine and toasted with cheese), stewed celery, port, sherry.
English rarebit was Jane Austen’s favorite, Sue says: “She had no life at all, so she liked the psychotropic nightmares she got off it.” Mansfield Park: explained.
The morning of Day 2, Giles eats a pigeon pie breakfast in bed, and sniffs at something everyone pretends is laudanum while rattling off a criticism of royal excess seen entirely through the lens of his size, so we’ll skip all that!
I do like the curlers, though. (So does the cameraperson; they get a loving closeup.)
To shut him up, they move everybody to Bath for the day!
They stop to take the waters, where Giles notes the fountain’s calcification and accidentally picks off a sculpture-fish eye, because Giles. “Jane Austen probably licked those eyes,” Sue guilts him. Then she makes him feel better by going for Parmesan ice cream.
And then it’s home again (they make good time!), where Sue shows off her piano skills and Giles gets to pretend he’s put out by it but really he has Supportive Friend Hand just ready to go.
(Speculation interlude: nearly four years after this episode first aired, Sue would volunteer for a series called First Love, which pairs people up with the instruments they set aside in their youth; she would revisit the piano and end up performing at the Cheltenham Music Festival. She’s said that prior to that experience, the idea of playing piano filled her with nerves and loathing. If that really is Supportive Friend Hand because of this, this might be one of my favorite Giles moments ever.)
In the morning, they try to chase boredom with shuttlecocks, where Sue kicks Giles’s ass and he does not take it very well:
But come on, shuttlecocks is boring, and after a taste of Bath, town’s sounding pretty great. It’s time to head for London. Knowing better than to put Giles in charge of an actual phaeton, they give him a sports car. He is into it. Sue is also into it; she gives him a look I can only describe as “Opening Sequence of a Regency Spy Show.”
Their nemeses will apparently deploy sheep to slow them down..
Or, you know, just divert them to roadside inns where the cheese has maggots in it.
MAGGOTS in the FOOD, they eat some maggots that are crawling on their FOOD and we are done with this segment before we can even get to the mites because I am not about to watch the maggot parts again, I’m sorry, I have a line and maggots are on the other side of it. SOMEBODY GET THEM TO TOWN AND AWAY FROM THE MAGGOTS.
The fantastically over-the-top chorale heralding their arrival in London makes me smile every time.
Giles leaves Sue at home and goes to awkwardly eat lunch with a group of grown men who wear bright blue coats to their secret meetings and sing songs about British beef in at least sixty-percent seriousness. Pity screencap included, mostly so we can enjoy Giles and his uncomfortable body language.
Fancy dinner party this time around includes Giles getting Beau Brummeled straight through to the starched cravat, and a bicycle “sedan chair” ride that has Sue complimenting his Bluetooth, and Giles delightedly coming up with a breathless offering of, “I think he’s a savage!”, because Giles just please shut up sometimes.
They circle the city (at Nelson’s Column, Sue marvels, “That’s gone up quick, hasn’t it – it’s only five years ago he won!”), and finally alight at a fancy mausoleum for the dinner party.
DINNER PARTY (by Michael Weiss again!): Potage de Bisque a la Regence, pain de volaille, champagne, sherry; Rure de Sanglier en Galantine, Ratelets a la Royale, Saumon a la Rothschild, Chartreuse, Champagne; Piece montee, strawberry souffle, meringues,marzipan fruit, vol-au-vents a la Nesle; and Carson, getting editorial: “And why not? A splash more champagne.”
(That pig head fat-wrapped meatloaf business is surreal; the scales on the fish are truffles.)
Sue doesn’t seem Victorian dinner-party drunk (she’s saving that for later), but by the time dessert comes, both she and Giles are tired of the parade of fancy dishes and sticking macarons on their faces and want to get to the marriage already. Will guest actor whose name I can never catch, who has been sharing some testicle pie with Sue (not a euphemism), marry her?
Of course he will, look at that face.
But when he offers to take her without a dowry, Giles leaps at the insult. “Are you saying she’s worth nothing?” he cries. Oh, it’s duel time.
“Every time we have people round you swap testicles with them, and then I have to stab the poor blighter at dawn!”
Duel time! It’s en garde interruptus, though, because Sue has a bone to pick with Giles, and also he’s terrible at duels, since when she demands he put his sword down he immediately does. Her pursuit of her suitor is dead in the water.
(Giles can’t do anything during that entire last bit but laugh and do what she says. Did the producers tip him off that she was coming, or was it a surprise for him and he just blanked? I’ll never know.)
While Giles retreats to the red light district to peruse a gentlemen’s book that was basically the Goodreads of prostitution, Sue hits the pub armed with a fan to flirt her way into a proposal, in one of the funniest physical bits in all of Supersizers.
Shockingly, those dudebros don’t realize what they’re missing, and no luck. Maybe they can get rich some other way involving luck, like a little gambling!
After some confessionals (including Sue making a trans* joke that nobody needed, Sue, come on), it’s off to debtor’s prison with Giles. Sue has to pave the road with pennies just to bring him something to drink and a pie. Eventually, reluctantly, she bails his ass out.
A pastry coffin stuffed with meat is going to be Giles’s family crest at this rate.
Speaking of family crests, it’s time to literally go for broke, raise the rents on the tenants, and throw a ball, so we can get every guy in town into one room and marry Sue the hell off already! (Not sure why, since all she’s done so far is bail Giles out of prison and hang out in the house while he does as he pleases, but I guess those fans don’t buy themselves.)
Determined to be lovely, Sue undergoes egg-white hairwashing, and a brandy-milk-lemon juice facial.
“Harriet Smith often wore it further down like this, and Mr. Elton, in Emma, actually comments, ‘Why you have the look of a unicorn, young lady!'”
She washes her hair out with rum. Then the tears start.
REGENCY BALL, EVERYONE.
These people are having a blast. Someone smuggled in a camera, judging by the residual flash we catch in this scene, but who can blame them. Also this show has paused the Sue and Giles Run Around and Do Things Hour, and belatedly remembered to include some food.
BALL FARE: White soup (including beans, beef, and macaroni), hare cake in jelly, chicken with hog’s tongues, petite veal pasties, collared beef, sandwiches, asparagus, artichoke bottoms, sweetmeats, trifles, champagne, hock, port, sherry, ice cream that they don’t mention but definitely shows up later, and some crayfish aspic disasters.
Above, a glimpse of tragedy, then a glimpse of bounty, along with a glimpse of these two discussing artichokes for no reason.
But the producers won’t stand for that very long – Sue needs to get back on the prowl, especially with a pair of young military gents who I do not think were entirely briefed on exactly what they were in for when they agreed to this gig, based on their facial expressions:
Forcing her to double down with some champagne-assisted hog’s tongue:
Giles, meanwhile, gets some flirting training from Penny Townsend of the Jane Austen Centre, who gets one of the rare screen intros, and who is apparently very very good at flirting advice, since when Giles takes her advice and moves in close to chat her up; she laughs and flushes and looks charmed despite herself. (Now we know how he ever got dates, I guess.)
To the dance floor!
(What I would give for rehearsal footage of these two, in this dance.)
And lo and behold, after a few offscreen Jenny’s Markets, Sue wrenches a proposal from one of the gents in uniform, and our final Regency achievement for the week is unlocked.
Giles and Sue, interestingly, both wrap up the week with more marked enthusiasm for the Regency than we’ve seen in many other wrap-ups (like the time they fled from the Restoration as fast as their legs could carry them). One might chalk it up to being able to drink water, I suppose, but apparently the Regency was cool, seen by citing the fine clothes (Giles) and the sense of outdoorsy promenading that comes with enclosing the common land, SUE. But more than anything, she says, she hopes Jane Austen would be proud of her:
“I behaved like a lady.”