-Tuesday July 11th-
Where to start?
You know you’re in for a strange one when the ITV announcer warns you beforehand that the upcoming episode contains ‘violence and threatening scenes as an attack on Aaron has shocking consequences which some viewers may find distressing.’ That’s the sort of disclaimer you get before late night screenings of Scorsese movies, not 7pm broadcasts of pastoral soap operas. So many questions raced through my mind. The main one, though, was who the fuck was Aaron? Tonight’s episode was an hour long, allowing me plenty of time to find out (especially as the attack, I suspected, wasn’t going to kick off until about 7.55pm).
I was more excited than I ought to have been as the orchestra came to life and the Range Rover cruised into view through the muddy woodlands. I sat patiently rocking as the scantily clad girl scarpered up the manor house stairs, as the shaggy dog leapt up to see who was at the door and as the woman played footsie under the gastro-pub table. Then, sweet release as across the screen was stamped that immortal word: EMMERDALE.
Aaron, I soon discovered, was the bricklaying brother of self-made, good-at-computers rich kid Jake Humphrey. They’d started the episode bickering about money. Humphrey had made £500,000 from some deal or other (possibly with BT Sport) and wanted to gift half of it to Aaron. As a professional looker into gift horses’ mouths, Aaron refused the offer and stormed off to his portacabin where he tamely kicked the door to show just how livid he was. Humphrey dusted his lapels and caught up with him, slamming a briefcase containing £100,000 cash onto the cabin table (a cabin which, despite all efforts to look macho – dart board, car calendar, unwashed cups – had an impressive selection of neatly aligned coloured pens). Humphrey was first to speak:
‘It’s yours. Take a selfie with it. Hashtag – this is what real money looks like.’
I imagine the real Jake Humphrey actually says things like that.
Far from impressed with the £100,000, Aaron finally revealed what had been bugging him. He said that all Jake Humphrey ever cared about was money (and attaining the broadcasting rights to 42 Premier League fixtures as well as all Champions and Europa League fixtures through til 2021). He said that if Humphrey really cared about things such as emotions and what-have-you, he’d throw the briefcase into a fire. Humphrey went outside and did exactly that, hoisting the money into a conveniently placed fire drum.
Hashtag – cares about emotions and what-have-you.
As soon as the briefcase caught alight, Aaron displayed the true depth of his morals by sprinting for the nearest fire extinguisher. Emotions are nice, and all that, but money is money. With the briefcase salvaged, the two then started messing around with the extinguisher, squirting it at each other and laughing. They were besties again. They drove back to the village and picked up a girl by the roadside (in a non-Peter Sutcliffe way). Her car had broken down. She was outrageously posh. The sort of girl you see with hold-alls on a train, coming back from the Edinburgh Festival. She was on her way to having a scan at the hospital – with, lo and behold, Humphrey’s baby! Wheels within wheels. Humphrey agreed to drive her to the hospital. Aaron stormed off in a huff. He suggested that if Humphrey really cared about emotions and what-have-you, he would throw her on the fire, too. (He didn’t say that.) As Aaron thundered down the lane, I wondered whether this would be where he met his violent and threatening fate with shocking consequences. After picking a fight with an oak tree or something. I’d find out soon enough.
Elsewhere in the village, Lady Vicar and the grumpy Stubble-Sporter met at The Woolpack for a quiet lunchtime date. Everyone was pointing and muttering at the unlikely couple, as though witnessing Lady Diana flirting with Pol Pot. Stubble-Sporter got particularly irate when Chod Dingle (Splat’s brother) made a joke about having a little bit of ‘How’s yer father… who art in heaven!’
‘How long is it,’ Stubble-Sporter snapped back, ‘since somebody bit your eyeballs out?’
Vicious stuff. Meanwhile, over on the BBC, The One Show were doing a feature on daffodils.
Honestly, though, what did Lady Vicar and Stubble expect? If you want to avoid being subjects of gossip, why would you go to the local pub? Think about it. Imagine (and please try very hard here) if you started going out with your vicar. Would you suggest meeting at the nearest possible pub or the furthest? (Maybe they stayed local so they could absolutely smash the pints in without having to worry about driving, because that’s certainly what they ended up doing. Emmerdale, it appears, isn’t short of pissheads. The Woolpack is on a continual lock-in.)
The true highlight of any scene in The Woolpack, though, is never the show’s stars, but the tragically lonely extras. There’s something about the Emmerdale extras that sets them apart. They’re seldom in groups, often totally alone, pretending to read the paper or kidding themselves that life is worth living if they could just get through today. Emotionally numb, they don’t react to anything. They lift their forks to their mouths, glumly, then put the fork back down before the food’s gone in. Then they take a teeny sip of their pint and stare into the void. It’s fantastic.
There was a sense of conclusion to the Zumba Mum and Emma (last name, Dale) story-line. I understood none of it, alas. Zumba Mum had done some probing early in the episode and attained more knowledge about Emma’s suspicious activities regarding the broken camera and the secretive meeting with Ashley on the bridge. Zumba Mum played it cool, being all friendly to Emma before accosting her in the churchyard (which is always the best place to accost somebody). Emma revealed all, the whole juicy scandal. It was supposed to be a big moment, but it went over my head. All I heard was this:
‘Blah blah blah Ashley – blah blah blah bridge – blah blah blah video – blah blah blah took it to Leeds…’
And so on. Emma confessed to dropping the camera in the water. It wasn’t, she admitted, little Arthur’s fault. ‘I wiped out your memories of your husband,’ Emma said, tearfully. I still don’t know why she did it. Surprisingly, Zumba Mum appeared to forgive her. But this is the new Emmerdale, however, and the week is young. There’s time yet for more violent and threatening scenes. I expect Zumba Mum to have gone at her with a spanner by Friday.
With fifteen minutes to go, and Aaron yet to be attacked in a manner which some viewers may find distressing, focus switched to more serious matters. Aaron, it transpired, had a drug problem. He’d even been in prison for it. Despite having sorted his life out, he still had a hankering for that unforgettable taste of heroin. So he made a few calls and invited a baddie round to his house: a thin, weasely, drug-scally, wearing the ITV costume department’s thin, weasely, drug-scally tracksuit. He and Aaron talked drugs, Emmerdale style. Deals were going down and drugs were being done, hard. During the conversation, it transpired that Aaron and Jake Humphrey weren’t brothers. They were lovers. Married. Husband and husband. Man and man. Suddenly it all made sense. The clues had been there from the beginning: the storming off in a huff; the gentle kicking of the portacabin door; the perfectly arranged felt tips; the playful fire extinguisher squirting. It was classic prime-time-television gay behaviour.
Aaron’s narcotic-themed conversation with the Scally was interrupted by a bearded baldy barging his way into the house, looking decidedly less menacing than the casting director had hoped (the poor fool resembled a cue ball with a tuft of Amber Leaf sellotaped to the bottom). He threatened Aaron about something or other to do with drugs. Things got heated. Violent and threatening scenes were on the cards.
‘Dance fer yer drogs,’ demanded the bald dealer in his best generic Northern. ‘Yura tragic little junkay.’
Not one to accept a dance invitation unless the mood is just-so, Aaron rejected Baldy’s offer and punched him in the face instead. Well, not quite the face. More the air near his face. Either way, the effects were devastating. Baldy was down.
But not for long.
He rose up, like a titan, and swung his drama school fist at Aaron’s face. He, too, missed by quite some margin, but, as before, the throbbing airwaves from the punch’s sheer force were enough to hurt Aaron’s face as if he had actually been hit. Then Baldy got a knife out. A druggy knife dripping with inner city drugs. Probably from Leeds: home of drugs and people who can’t fix wet cameras. (The knife was actually very small. The sort of thing a Knight of the Realm might use to open an envelope. Still, pretty exciting.) A fracas ensued. Aaron was knocked to the floor. Compromised. The door opened.
In strode Stubble-Sporter! Three-quarters-pissed from his lunchtime session with the vicar, he wielded what looked like an antique fire poker. Things were hotting up (except down at The Woolpack where the fire was dying out due to the poker having gone missing).
This was the real deal. An arms war: envelope-opening knife vs rustic hearth decoration.
‘Mine’s sharper,’ bragged Baldy, like a six-year-old with a good pencil.
‘It’s not this y’ need t’ worry about,’ said Stubbly, rubbing the poker’s tip. ‘It’s warral do to yer after I’ve knocked y’ out wiyit.’
Despite looking like something of an EDL supporter, Baldy cowered at the thought of dying the same death as King Edward II; he didn’t want that hot poker going anywhere near his anus. He made for the exit. Before leaving, he threw a small bag of drugs onto Aaron’s prostrate body:
‘Yer can pay for this next time I see yer,’ he said, before giving everyone his best hard-man eyes and exiting stage right.
The Stubble-Sporter (Aaron’s father, no less) picked his son up and gave him a lecture on drugs. It was approximately fifteen years too late; I’m no expert, but, ideally, you want to try and squeeze the drug lecture in before your offspring go to prison for dealing. Largely uninspired by his father’s rhetoric, Aaron went to the kitchen and in scenes that were genuinely distressing, and slightly Shakespearean, picked a bread knife out of the cutlery drawer and took it to his own guts. The orchestra stirred. The end credits rolled. And McCain reminded us once more of their exciting new line in microwavable jacket potatoes.
All in all, it was a British soap opera classic. It had all the ingredients: drug use, despondent extras, a punch up, a graveside accosting, a randy vicar, hospital scans, Bible puns, something about a wet camera, and a self-harm finale. Textbook.