Episode 5 Recap

Get a recap World on Fire‘s most gripping episode yet, from the heroics on the beaches of Dunkirk to the resistance in back alleys of Warsaw, and much more!

World on Fire Episode 5 Map of Europe 1940


Blake Harrison as Stan Reddings in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Heading to the coast, Harry and his unit are part of a long line of refugees on the move. When they encounter a truckload of shell-shocked, severely traumatized men, Harry wants to bring them to safety, but Stan is against it—he’s convinced that their leader, Geoff, is an undercover German; he has little sympathy for the men; and he doesn’t consider Demba and Ibrahim, the French Senegalese soldiers who’d been caring for the shell-shocked men, to be like them. But Harry insists on getting them to the next field hospital.

Webster, in command at the field hospital, can’t take the shell-shocked men, but Harry insists that the reluctant Stan be treated for a wound that he’d been trying to hide. German Luftwaffe drop pamphlets over Harry and his men saying that they’re surrounded and should surrender. Harry is determined to keep ahead of the coming panzers to reach to their evacuation point.

Arthur Darvill as Vernon Hunter in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

As Lois and Connie get ready for their performance at a Manchester airbase, Connie confesses her worries about Eddie and asks Lois if she’s planning to keep her baby, but Lois doesn’t want to talk about it. Lois swiftly rebuffs a Canadian RAF, Randy, who tries unsuccessfully to join their conversation. Yet when she meets Vernon Hunter, a slightly melancholy RAF pilot, he’s a complete gentleman who doesn’t prickle in the least at Lois’ acerbic humor.

Zofia Wichlacz as Kasia Tomaszeski in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Kasia and Tomasz continue their assassinations. In one case, Tomasz’s gun jams and Kasia scrambles to shoot the German who is about to kill Tomasz. When he defensively says, “You just feel bad that you had to pull the trigger,” she responds, “It didn’t feel bad. It didn’t feel like anything.”

Johannes Zeiler as Uwe Rossler in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Mr. Rossler treads carefully when he asks proud Nazi Frau Pessler to take down the swastika flags she’s hung around the laundry. But when he receives a letter stating that Hilda must report to a clinic, his fear turns to rage and he tears down the swastika flags. Frau Pessler soon confronts Mr. Rossler about Hilda, who she knows is hiding in their lake house. In terror, he takes an iron and slams it into her head, killing her.

Distraught, he goes to Nancy for help, and she is calm, collected, and willing, telling him, “You don’t need to describe it—she’s a dead Nazi, that’s good enough for me.” They dispose of the body in a Berlin lake. Later, she broadcasts her report about the fall of France: “The French are making one last appeal to President Roosevelt to get America to help.” As she urges for help, Schmidt cuts off her broadcast.

Julia Brown as Lois Bennett in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Vernon tells Lois, as they share tea, that he knows real strength when he sees it…and she has it in abundance. She is grateful. At a later performance, after she sings a haunting “Bye Bye Blackbird,” he asks if he can write to her and she’s skeptical. But when he follows up by asking for her address, she gives him the envelope from one of Harry’s old letters.

Sean Bean in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Douglas visits Robina to share a paper whose troubling headline, “BEF FORSAKEN WITHOUT WARNING,” has him worried about Tom and Harry. Later, with news about the Dunkirk evacuation and convinced that Tom is dead, Douglas returns to Robina’s. Though she scolds him and sends him away, she, too, is afraid.

Glued to the radio and desperate for news, Douglas has a panic attack.  As Lois tries to calm him, he claims guilt that he made Tom go back to war.

Jonah Hauer-King and Buom Tihngang in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Harry and his crew arrive at Dunkirk village and Tom lands on Dunkirk’s beach in the HMS Keith’s lifeboat. Among the hundreds upon hundreds of desperate men lined up in hopes of getting safely off the beach is Grzegorz. Stumbling, he pushes to the head of the line to climb into Tom’s evacuating lifeboat. Tom tells him to get off, then pulls a gun when Grzegorz won’t move. Undaunted, the broken Grzegorz half begs, half dares, “Shoot me!” A soldier throws him down into the water.

Realizing he can’t take the shell-shocked men through the bombing to the beach, Harry sends his unit ahead to evacuate, planning to follow with the others when he can. Stan, reluctantly, tells the men to leave without him—he’s staying with Harry. But Harry soon orders Stan to evacuate. Leaving, Stan stops and turns to salute Harry, saying, “A pleasure and an honor, Sir.” Harry hunkers down with the shell-shocked men and Demba and Ibrahim when all hell breaks loose as the Luftwaffe launch a brutal attack from above. They end up sheltering in the truck.

On the beach, the attack is even worse. Hundreds of panicked men try to dodge bullets and bombs as they scatter in different directions. But there’s no place to shelter other than behind vehicles, crates, machinery, tents, and debris. Grzegorz runs through the explosions and hurls himself behind a crate for shelter. Tom sprints up the shoreline but is hit and lands face down on a tarp on the sand, lying motionless.

Jonah Hauer-King in World on Fire on MASTERPIECE PBS

Stunned and utterly exhausted, Grzegorz, Stan, Eddie all evacuate Dunkirk in boats, while Tom’s fate remains unknown.

Harry leads the men, all tied together with rope in a line, through the forest to the hellscape of the beach. A hostile soldier confronts Harry about Demba and Ibrahim not deserving evacuation with the British, and when he won’t back down, Harry pulls his gun and fires it in the air, yelling, “I am the officer in charge, and they are coming with me!”

Even as Harry and his rescued men evacuate Dunkirk in a rowboat, German bombers fly overhead. Harry and Demba agree: they are both a long way from home.


Discover more about World on Fire:

Learn about the evacuation at Dunkirk and more real history from Episode 5.

Watch Brian J. Smith, World on Fire‘s dreamy doctor Webster O’Connor, answer fan questions when he took over MASTERPIECE’s Instagram

Hear an interview with Julia Brown, the actress behind World on Fire‘s feisty Lois Bennett, on the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast.

Hear Cole Porter, Billie Holiday and iconic artists sing the songs of World on Fire in MASTERPIECE’s playlist.

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