Season Three, Episode Seven: A Long Expected Party

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It’s party season in Cornwall, as Dr. Dwight and Caroline finally tie the (official) knot and Aunt Agatha Poldark prepares for her 100th birthday. But George Warleggan isn’t such a fan of the aged auntie, which leads to the showdown of the century.



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Barrett Brountas We’re big fans of Aunt Agatha, she of the never-ending tarot card readings and gratuitous snipes at George.


George So your dire predictions were unfounded.

Agatha He was born under a black moon. He may avoid rickets but he cannot escape his parentage!

 Barrett And we were thrilled to hear her 100th Birthday was on the horizon this episode! But her years of snide bickering with George caught up with her — George figured out she’s not 100, after all.


George So you see, old crone, on Monday you will be but ninety-eight.

Agatha ‘Tis a lie. ‘Tis a scabby lie!

Barrett The shock of her actual age pushes Agatha to death, but not before she casts doubt on the parentage of baby Valentine, getting the final blow in her battle with George.


Agatha That was no eight-month baby, George!  Early babes be weak and wrinkled – no hair, no nails. But that babe was lusty and smooth and strong as a full-term child! So maybe ye didn’t wait for the wedding?  Or maybe somebody got there before ye!

Barrett I’m Barrett Brountas, and this is Mining Poldark, a podcast from MASTERPIECE.

I’m joined by my fellow Aunt Agatha fan, Robin Ellis, who played Ross Poldark in the 1970s adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels. Hi, Robin!

Robin Ellis: Hi Barrett!

Barrett Naturally, plenty of other things happened this episode, so let’s take a moment and do a full recap before we mourn the early passing of the late Aunt Agatha, shall we?

It’s the no puppet, no supper, no party episode of Poldark. When Dwight and Caroline make it public with a wedding the region’s most powerful players turn up to celebrate their union and celebrate the hero of Quimper himself Ross Poldark. Among Ross’s admirers is Armitage’s uncle the all-powerful Lord Falmouth. Denied his chance to impress Falmouth as the ideal candidate for Truro’s new MP, George writes him off as Team Ross and positions himself as just the man of purpose that Falmouth’s rival Bassett seeks

Robin Sir Piers has now joined the dead on Aunt Agatha’s hundredth birthday party guest list. Though few are left alive to enjoy the feast she plans or see her looking in her own words like a desiccated bat in Flemish lace. No matter it will be the pinnacle of her life and she can’t wait.  George has other ideas. His feud. But the feud between them reaches fever pitch when he tells her brutally she’ll be 98 not 100. And the party’s off.

Barrett The shock and disappointment are too great a blow. She dies but before she goes, she plants in George’s mind the suggestion that Valentine isn’t his child. A parting gift for viewers, a parting curse for George, and a parting nightmare for Elizabeth.  No supper, no party, and not even a funeral.

Robin Lovely, lovely Barrett.

Barrett Well I understand that your selected scene comes up first chronologically. Let’s lead off with your number one choice.

Robin Yes. Okay. Well this is a very short scene, but I chose it in order to bring a discussion about Ross’s behavior in this episode because I found it rather puzzling. He seemed to be sort of out of it and I couldn’t, I couldn’t really understand why until it occurred to me that maybe it’s a sort of psychological ennui you know a kind of after the escapade in Roscov and the rescue, that the intense excitement and adventure and success of that, he goes into a kind of low depression which is…Were you puzzled by his grumpiness in fact or is that something you think, he’s always grumpy?

Barrett I was just asking, before we came here, I was just asking: why is Ross sort of so grumpy this episode? I have some ideas myself. I like what you’re saying. It’s sort of that that like back to real life after the great adventure or… He bristles so much at the praise he’s getting for it. It’s really bothering him isn’t it.

Robin It really is. He is greeted in the street in Truro. People want to come up and shake his hand and he’s just not that kind of public figure. He feels very awkward in that situation. It doesn’t come naturally to him. And that adds, you’re right, that adds to this feeling of a sort of inadequacy. You know he doesn’t merit it in some ways, which of course he does. But anyway I was going to go on to say that it’s an illustration that in in this episode he does you know he continues on his upward rise up the percentage ladder with his good works as it were because he gives some land to some out of work miners and then he even helps them dig it and then gives them a party. And here because poor Drake is so down and disappointed and depressed about the Morwenna situation, losing Morwenna as he feels and lack of purpose again after the huge, huge event of the prison break where he got injured. He surprises and delights Drake by and Demelza by buying this forge and giving Drake some hope in life as it were. So, he continues the good work in spite of this sort of underlying depression.


Ross The old smith died last month. It has a cottage, a stable, some land besides and you have some skill in smithying, you’re a quick learner.

Drake An’ not a farthin’ to my name!

Ross It’s yours. Already purchased.

Drake No, brother, ’tis too much.

Ross I like indebtedness no more than you. You saved my life in France. The obligation is now discharged.

Robin It puzzled me so that’s why I chose the scene to have a chat about it.

Barrett Yeah I think that I’m actually very glad you chose the scene. By the time I got to the end of the episode I’d forgotten about it because I don’t think Ross is on an upward tick still. I attribute his gift of land to last episode. And so he doesn’t get credit for it this week. And he is he’s so moody, So I am glad that you remind me of it because it’s a wonderful gesture. I think that Ross has endured heartbreak the way Drake did in a way and Ross is sort of the best gift that he could give to Drake is sort of what he himself did which is getting on with life. Like moving forward. And so he’s given Drake precisely what’s needed to move forward. It’s really lovely because it’s so Ross to do that. I’m glad you reminded me of that.

Robin Oh good. Okay.

Barrett Well my first choice will take us back into moving down on the scale. It was just a very little scene. They’ve gotten back from the wedding reception at Killewarren and Demelza is in bed and Ross is getting undressed to get into bed and Demelza leads off with a little observation.


Demelza Lieutenant Armitage was most attentive today.

Ross To whom?

Demelza Your wife? Perhaps overly attentive. Did you not notice?

Ross I confess I did not.

Demelza P’raps I imagined it.

Ross Quite possibly. Not every man in Cornwall is besotted with you!

Barrett I did not know where this was coming from. I guess he was just grumpy because he didn’t want to be at that party. H didn’t want to be the hero of Quimper and he didn’t want to be solicited by Bassett to become a leader. But even so you know she’s really beautiful. I think we can all agree that she’s really , eally beautiful. And that it shouldn’t surprise him.

Robin In fact it should make him proud of course.

Barrett But it should make him proud. That’s right.

Robin . Yes of course it should. I think she attempts humor here but doesn’t communicate with him. Well he’s not really in the mood for a bit of a repartee there is he? He takes it absolutely straight in the most sort of dour Ross manner and we know Ross can be very dour when he wants to be really, and he’s in the mood for dour after the party.

Barrett He’s in the mood to brood right?

Robin Yeah absolutely. It’s a brooding mood.

Barrett What do you have next Robin?

Robin Okay. So my next is this extraordinary scene in the middle of the Sir Francis Bassett dinner. It’s actually after dinner. It’s in, while playing skittles. Which I think is a great metaphor for what Francis wants to do with the political system.

Barrett Very nice.

Robin He approaches Demelza across the floor as it were in a quite open manner and then has this extraordinary exchange with her which is a really big come on. I mean it’s you know there’s no messing at all. He’s a navigator. He’s told her. And as a navigator, this is a broadside I tell you this is a complete broadside attack on Demelza. Do you remember it?


Demelza So navigation – I think you said – at sea?

Hugh At sea! Yes. Which is where I presently find myself. Wholly disorientated! Shipwrecked. Lost.

Demelza It must seem strange to return to the comfort an’ safety of home after the horrors of prison. I know Dwight also struggled.

Hugh My struggles are of a different kind.  So different that I dare not even name them. And you will not ask me to.

Demelza ‘Tis hardly my business.

Hugh I wish that were true. Blooms from the Garden of Eden! But where lurks Eve?

Demelza And where the snake?

Robin I mean talk about aristocratic cheek! She’s absolutely blatant. Isn’t that extraordinary?

Barrett It’s wonderful. It’s crazy. I mean it’s actually crazy. I, I’ve watched, I’ve watched a lot of period dramas and I don’t know that I’ve seen something of this order before. Yeah. I mean it’s so blatant and no one else really seems to notice except maybe Caroline and it seems to me that we’re not supposed to feel like he’s a cad. He’s not a cad. He’s a very earnest person. And yet this behavior should be labeled caddish shouldn’t it? This is not appropriate.

Robin I think it is completely caddish. Absolutely caddish. And he’s getting away with it with his sort of serious poet thing. Yeah. And she’s swallowing it. I mean…

Barrett He just gazes like that puppy, you know a puppy dog gazing out.

Robin Yes that puppy dog look he has it. That’s very effective.

Barrett So we’ll see how it works its magic on Demelza going forward. Now from one party to another or the cancellation of a party. Robin, you and I have chosen the same scene. And how could we not choose this?

Robin How could we not? Exactly what I said.

Barrett You know it’s one of the greatest moments of all of Poldark.

Robin It is. It’s astonishing

Barrett And it’s one of the moments with the greatest repercussions, right?

Robin Oh yes. This is the scene where George coming back from various attempts to become the MP for Truro, at least stand as the MP for Truro, and being frustrated and going off in several huffs, So he comes back having failed as he thinks with Sir Francis and proceeds – typical George fashion – to take it out on the, not I wouldn’t say the weakest, but anyway somebody who is looking forward very much to one of the great events of her life. And she is going on about the party….

Barrett She says, ‘Where’s my supper?’ But George comes in instead.


George There will be no supper, old woman. There will be no party. I’ll have letters sent to all your guests, informing them that you made a mistake, that you are ninety-seven, not ninety-nine, and that a new invitation will be issued in two years time. If you are still above ground then.

Agatha But – ’tis all prepared – food ordered – my old topaz ring altered to fit…

George A pity.

Agatha My birthday’s on Monday – ninety-eights a good age – I’ve been looking forward to this party for so long – no one need know I’m not a hundred. I’ll not live two year more. Ye know that. Who’d guess if ye said naught? I’ll not cross ye again, George. Let me have my party.

George There will be no party.

Agatha Wait! You do this to me, may ye rot in hell! You and your nasty uncle and your little twisted son! Born under a black moon, and warped already? Little Valentine… the so-called Warleggan heir.  Or is he? That was no eight-month baby, George!  Early babes be weak and wrinkled – no hair, no nails. But that babe was lusty and smooth and strong as a full-term child! So maybe ye didn’t wait for the wedding?  Or maybe somebody got there before ye!

Robin Suspicious confirmed in a sense and it’s a devastating moment for him and it continues for a couple of episodes really.

Barrett Yeah, for a little bit. And so before she dies, she’s in a sort of a fit of hallucinations and doesn’t, she’s not really present and she’s sort of uttering these worries


Agatha Tormented me, he did. Took my hope – took my home.

Elizabeth Do not exert yourself.

Agatha Yet I should not have said what I did – Elizabeth will never forgive me.

Elizabeth Forgive you?

Agatha I should not have told him.

Elizabeth Told him what? Aunt? Told him what? Aunt? Told him what?

Barrett So we’ll see where that all goes.

Robin And that’s the continuation of the scene the sort of the waves upon waves of the consequences of what what’s just happened is so satisfying for a viewer. You just you can’t you know this is having effect not just on George but my word on Elizabeth. The way, what Aunt Agatha has done is that the waves of disruption are now enveloping Elizabeth and then there’s this wonderful ending. I mean it’s a different room in the House but in a sense the atmosphere continues because ironically George gets a message that Sir Francis Bassett has called. And it sort of pulls him out of this extraordinary maelstrom that he’s just gone through. And what does Sir Francis say.

Barrett He wants him to stand for MP. So from George becoming the candidate for MP to my last scene of the episode which is Ross and Demelza arguing down on the beach about Ross’s refusal to take up Bassett on his offer. I chose this scene because Ross has been a grumpy refusenik Ross the whole time. And like stealing Bartleby Scribner’s catchphrase, I would prefer not to. And now Demelza takes him to task. She has just when, they got news of Aunt Agatha’s death, there was more in the letter.


Demelza “I hope you and Demelza will rejoice in the news that I have been selected by Sir Francis Basset to be the candidate to oppose Lord Falmouth’s in the Truro by-election”.

Ross Well, there it is.

Demelza Yes! An’ you could’ve prevented it!

Ross No I couldn’t.

Demelza Will ‘ee never learn? How long do ‘ee think ‘ee can do as ‘ee please – plough yer own furrow – regardless of anyone else? Of I?

Ross Demelza…

Demelza Not once have ‘ee asked my advice or harkened t’ my opinion! Not once!

Ross What do you want, Demelza? A man who’ll lie down, roll over, sit up and beg for you? Well if so you’ve married the wrong man!

Demelza ‘Twould appear so!

Ross Perhaps you should look elsewhere for a pet!

Demelza P’r’aps I should!  An’ p’r’aps I won’t have t’ look too far!

Barrett And this is not a good moment for the two of them and I think it’s going to have some consequences. What did you think of this scene?

Robin Well I didn’t enjoy it in the sense of it’s not an enjoyable scene in a sense to see two people at each other. It was an extraordinary time for Demelza to say that really. A very insensitive time point.

Barrett Yeah. Good point

Robin You know he’s just gone through this. I mean she is the last Poldark in a sense.

Barrett You know I think this was poorly timed and but in a relationship, you can’t just bring your complaints to someone whenever you want. You have to be respectful. But you know George has already just last episode was abusing his power by pretty much hanging her brother. So it is important to all of them.

Robin Yeah of course that’s also the back of her mind. Yeah. Yes it’s true you’re absolutely right.

Barrett He’s just learned of his Aunt’s death and he loved her and there’s also some guilt involved there with him that he wishes that he’d been able to spend more time with her and he couldn’t because of the circumstances with George. So it is a big deal for him and very sad. So I guess you’ve tempered my anger at him somewhat. I do still think he was a complete jerk here but yes she was pretty insensitive as well. It wasn’t a great moment for both of them right.

Robin No it wasn’t exactly, because normally on the beach there are pretty good moments on the beach for the two of them but this certainly wasn’t for the two of them. This certainly wasn’t one of them. I’m really very much looking forward to hearing what the percentage points are going to be for Ross effect.

Barrett I think that he’s slid back toward neutral Ross but he’s, I’m giving him just a six. I’m not loving his heroics this episode. It was great that he gave the forge to Drake but I think he’s really, he is being selfish and a little self-righteous in resisting this opportunity. What do you think?

Robin Well I’m completely under your thrall. I should just bring him down to 7 in that case. No you’re right. He’s absolutely too grumpy for words.

Barrett Well thank you so much. Robin it’s been a delight as always and I appreciate that you’ve brought me around on some points once again.

Robin No no you’ve brought me round too. I mean it’s a mutual discussion and I enjoy it very much. Especially today. I really enjoyed today. It’s been fun. Bye for now.

Barrett  Thank you. Bye-bye.

Barrett Caroline Blakiston is perhaps best known for her role as Mon Mothma in the original Star Wars films, but for Poldark fans, she’ll be best known as the devilishly sly Aunt Agatha.  She spoke with my MASTERPIECE colleague, Jace Lacob, on our companion podcast, MASTERPIECE Studio.

Jace: The scenes between Agatha and George drip with barely concealed venom. How did you and Jack Farthing get amped up to do those rather tense scenes together?

Caroline: Well the thing is you see the actor in the makeup caravan before you start. So you’ve met him in the day earlier and you might even have had a rehearsal of the lines to find out, because in filming unlike in the theatre you didn’t get time to practice much and as you get older, one of the dread things about the job is having to learn the lines. It’s a most cruel thing. You can do it but it takes twice as long and you can learn them and know them today and by tomorrow it’s gone. So it’s one of the brutal things about getting older is not being able to remember it. And Jack and I would sometimes practice the words but sometimes it’s quite good just to see each other. He used to come into my room without knocking of course and be there and he has these sort of cold fish look in his eye and you know that things aren’t good he never fired out like at me. He was always cool and cold and there’s something really deadly about that it makes your hands sweat with cold sweat. So we would just wait and see what happened. I think by the end after three series and having had quite a lot of scenes together we got used to each other as performers and we knew that whatever the other person would do would be like getting a present. You give a present back of what you can do to make it hard for them.

Jace: Why do you think it is that Agatha can get under George’s skin in a way that no one else on the show can?

Caroline: Because she despises him because he’s an upstart.

Jace: I love it when you slip into the Cornish accent.

Caroline: I’m just seeing if I could still do it — he is not a proper Poldark. You see he’s not a Poldark and he’s been, he got into the family and he’s been beastly to Geoffrey Charles, that little boy who’s so wonderful and takes messages and we had a bit with a letter that he had to take and he went running off across the garden. And I think that Jack knew that I, I could read him. I think he knew I despised him for over-dressing and for being a social climber trying to be grander than he was. Get into silks and satins and I despised that. You will notice that I only had one dress for six years or something which is the only one I had to wear. But I was very happy, I liked it. A costume can become a friend.

Jace: I love that line. A costume can become a friend.

Caroline Well they can. And sometimes if you have a horrible wig that can’t fit or it hurts or they stick a pin in your head when they’re pinning it onto your head, then a wig can become an enemy.

Jace Agatha is so angry at George about him cancelling her birthday party that she spills the truth about the parentage of Valentine, saying that was no eight-month baby.

Caroline: No eight-month baby that was no eight month baby George, they have nails nails and stuff. This baby. Anyway. Yes. Well she wasn’t there. For goodness sake. She wasn’t there, but she was in the house. And she will have heard him come into the house and we had a scene which I think was cut, where I was lying in bed and it was me hearing Ross coming up the stairs and knocking on her door to go in. So I think I had probably intuitions —I think she knew and he looked guilty and she looked guilty.

Jace: And what is she what is she hoping to accomplish by saying this now to George? Is it just sort of the stabbing of the knife in his stomach. Or is it more?

Caroline: What can be more than that?

Barrett That was Poldark star Caroline Blakiston, in a MASTERPIECE Studio interview with my colleague, Jace Lacob. You can listen to the rest of their conversation, and many more with the rest of the main Poldark cast, via our MASTERPIECE Studio podcast at pbs dot org slash MASTERPIECE Studio, or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

Coming up next, Ross meets Elizabeth, again.


Ross Can you imagine how I felt when I learned he was to have you?

Elizabeth You left me in no doubt that night!

Ross Forgive me.

Elizabeth And thereafter? Leaving me with no word, making no attempt to see me.

Ross  How could I? To break up your life afresh? My life? Our families?

Barrett We’ll scold our hero, next time on Mining Poldark.

You can join us in our rewatching adventure here on Mining Poldark by watching the entire series on PBS Passport — a new member benefit from your local PBS station. You can watch select MASTERPIECE titles like Poldark, Downton Abbey or Victoria as a part of the Passport experience. To learn more, visit

You can also follow along with us on the PBS MASTERPIECE Amazon Channel, available as a part of your Amazon Prime membership.

MINING POLDARK is hosted by me, Barrett Brountas, and Robin Ellis. We’re produced by Nick Andersen, with help from Robyn Bissette. Meredith Wheeler is our field producer. Tina Tobey-Mack and Elisheba Ittoop are our sound designers. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.



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