An American arrives in town and makes his way to the Halcyon Hotel. It's raining hard, and he's distracted by a line of smart black cars that snake their way around the back of the hotel. Meanwhile, the manager, Richard Garland and concierge Dennis Feldman group outside the hotel to greet Lord Hamilton, the owner. Garland registers with some surprise the addition of Charity Lambert, a young, glamorous blonde. But ever diplomatic, he masks the initial shock, and welcomes them in – they're followed by several other mystery men, all upper class and white haired.
The handsome American, Joe O'Hara checks in, immediately asking questions about the "serious cars" coming in earlier. Receptionist Emma Garland only just manages to field them: it's clear he smells a rat. And he's right to: as Lord Hamilton kicks off a closed meeting, it soon becomes clear why sneaking in the back of the hotel has been necessary: Lords, MPs and influencers are plotting how to instate Halifax as PM…but it's clear that the room contains more than its fair share of appeasers and Nazi sympathisers.
A surprise guest arrives, in the form of Lady Hamilton. Panic stations: she's a day early, and presumably unaware that her husband lies in wait upstairs…with Charity Lambert on top of him. Staff frantically collude to keep her out of the Royal Suite, but she's fast approaching. As her key fits into the lock, Garland manages to cut her off at the last – but only just. She departs, but an unspoken humiliation has occurred and she won't easily forget it.
Informed of the earlier drama with his wife, Lord Hamilton commiserates in the bar. Joe O'Hara introduces himself and they're making chit-chat when Freddie and Toby arrive, Lord Hamilton's twin sons. Lord Hamilton clearly favours his eldest, Freddie. He leaves them to it to find a room to stay for the night, rightly suspecting he won't be welcome in the Royal Suite where Lady Hamilton has finally taken up residence.
Freddie's just got his wings: he and Emma go down to their childhood haunt in the basement: Emma senses a moment between them, but brushes it off and hurries away. She confides in Betsey who tells her to put it out of her head: he's an aristocrat, and she's just the manager's daughter. They may be old friends, but there surely won't be any romantic spark.
The next day at breakfast, the Hamiltons are dining in the restaurant when Charity Lambert arrives, despite Emma's best efforts to fend her off. Lady Hamilton is appalled: her husband's indiscretions under cover of darkness is one thing, but this is affirmably public humiliation. Freddie ushers her out, and Toby snaps at his father, who responds by giving him a disproportionate, angered dressing down. All witnessed by Mr O'Hara who finds Toby smoking outside and strikes up conversation: Toby is naively indiscreet about his father's business interests, and Charity Lambert's connections to the Fuhrer. Upset and embarrassed, he doesn't seem to notice O'Hara's unnatural interest.
Garland has a hostile visitor: Lady Hamilton, attempting to get the names of every mistress that Lord Hamilton has ever brought to the hotel. Garland declines, which she takes as a direct slight against her. He tries to protest that he is loyal to the hotel rather than her husband, but it's clear he's made a powerful enemy.
Freddie's party begins: Emma's perceptions about their romantic tensions are confirmed as they almost share a kiss on the way down in the lift. And Freddie chastises his father for his behavior: he can't continue to humiliate his mother like this. To his astonishment, his father agrees: his reaction is melancholy, a man facing a series of bad decisions he has made throughout his life. We leave the Halcyon with both families wondering – what does the future hold, for Emma and Freddie's burgeoning romance, and Garland and Lady Hamilton's declared rivalry?
Written by TonyMayhew on Jan 6, 2017