Gentleman Jack Recap, Part 5


Gentleman Jack (2019) is set in 1832 Halifax, West Yorkshire, and based on the diaries of Anne Lister (1791-1840), a landowner and industrialist who wrote extensively of her daily life and her same-sex love affairs. It’s airing on HBO in the U.S. and the BBC in the U.K. Check out our interview with the series costume designer Tom Pye. Read all our series recaps here.

Omg, the episodes are getting more intense as the story continues! Just expect me to swear incessantly in every recap from now on (I mean, that’s pretty much Frock Flicks…). Also, a reminder that I’m mostly screencapping for costumes due to limited time.


Picking up the next morning, Lister is comforting Walker, who has pains in her side again. You could say her illness is psychosomatic because she tends to feel worse when she’s under stress, but also, as someone who’s dealt with chronic migraines, stress is a HUGE trigger for pain. It’s can be a chicken-and-the-egg situation.

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The best medicine tho’.

Walker is worried about Lister confronting Mr. Ainsworth, and Lister is having NONE of it. She’s gonna defend her honey, a-fucking-men! Then Lister slyly asks to borrow money to sink her coal pit. Walker is all NBD.


Mr. Ainsworth is visiting the Priestlys, full of crocodile tears over his dead wife. FUCK THIS GUY.  Mrs. Priestly tells him that Miss Walker was upset by his wife’s death, and she’s clearly pushing a meeting.

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There’s an exchange of notes back and forth between Miss Walker and Mr. Ainsworth. As an aside, I love how that was totally a thing in the 19th century, especially in England — notes and letters went around town, and even the country, multiple times with one day! It’s mentioned in so many novels and biographies of the period. Sure, this was slower than texting today, so maybe compare with email, because it was definitely faster than the 21st-century postal service.

Anyway, Ainsworth writes asking to visit, but Walker nopes right out of that. Back at the Priestlys, he feigns being sooo upset. FUCK THIS GUY.

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He even has the NERVE to trot out the “joke” that Mrs. Ainsworth suggested Miss Walker should take care of him when his wife was dead. FUCK THIS GUY.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

I’m over her too, fucking busybody.

Ainsworth asks if there’s ‘someone else’ in Walker’s romantic life, and Mrs. Priestly is super fast to say ‘noooooo!’

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Lister is charming Walker’s friend, Harriet Parkhill with talk about art because, like all proper ladies of the time, Miss Parkhill does a bit of drawing.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Just chillaxing, playing backgammon, doing art ‘n stuff.

While the three ladies are amusing themselves, Mr. Ainsworth just up and tries to visit, even though he knows he’s unwanted. FUCK THAT GUY. Miss Walker tells her footman to tell Ainsworth to GTFO. YAAASS GIRL!!! But he drops off a scrapbook and fucking ‘biographical account’ of himself. FUCK THAT GUY.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Parkhill doesn’t realize Ainsworth is a grade-A asshole. She’s just excited that her head ruffles (a subcategory of head necklaces?) match her belt.

Upstairs, Lister is rubbing a soothing balm (TM) on Walker’s back. Walker gets down on herself again, and Lister bucks her up. Waker asks Lister to dispose of some things Ainsworth gave to her — a ring and a Bible inscribed with gross BS.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Anne’s got a pretty yellow corset. Doesn’t appear to have a full busk in the center-front (unlike Lister’s, seen in the credits), but a flat boned front is also period.

Later, in bed, Lister talks about a ‘more formal tie’ between them — taking the sacrament together and exchanging rings (which is something that they really did). Walker says, ‘like a wedding?’ It would be private, but yes, that’s the idea. They agree to it.

At breakfast with the Priestlys, Ainsworth receives his shit back ‘unopened.’ HAH. With a note to sent all future correspondence via Shibden Hall. HAH. But Mrs. Priestly says she should go chat with Walker.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Why won’t you shaddup, lady?

Miss Lister arrives! OH YEAH. Ostensibly, she’s here for some business about getting the Hardcastle boy into Mrs. Priestly’s day school.  Plus she hints broadly that Mr. Rawson was the cause of the accident that injured the Hardcastle boy. That’s all. La la la…

Mr. Ainsworth runs after Lister and bumbles about being ‘over familiar’ with Miss Walker. Lister is not having it. His excuse is being under the influence of opium due to a toothache. FUCK THAT GUY. Lister says right out, he’ll be exposed as an adulterer and fornicator who inflicted himself on a young girl repeatedly. YES! He tries to say she wanted it, and it takes all of Lister’s restraint not to tear him to shreds. YES YES YES!!!

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Some coal talk. Whew. I need a cool down after the intensity of that last scene. Then we’re back at Shibden, where Marian tells Ann that Mr. John Abbot is coming to tea tomorrow and asks, hopefully, if Ann will be there. Answer is no, sad trombone. Lister has business to attend to — she writes to a jeweler, and then goes to the bank to make a withdrawal. Dawwwww.

Over at your favorite pig farm (not mine), eeewwwwww, Mom Snowden finds crazydad’s belt buckle in the pig stye.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Here’s a mud & pigs screencap for you all. Happy now?

Misses Parkhill and Walker are doing standard-issue girl-talk, and Parkhill thinks marrying Mr. Ainsworth is a good idea. Walker says, well, maybe she’s in love with someone else…

Gentleman Jack (2019)

I’m sure it’s not coincidental that Miss Parkhill’s outfits coordinate so well with Miss Walker’s drawing room. She’s a creature of this world, simple & conventional, light, pretty, & fashionable. Walker is too, but she’s conflicted.

And, as if on cue, Mrs. Priestly sneaks in. Ugh, what part of “no visitors” do you people not understand?!? That sends Walker off for a lie down, so Miss Parkhill is left alone to get a vicious download about Miss Lister and the evils of homosexuality circa 1832 from that fucking busybody.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

When you’re all shade, no tea, why not accessorize with a kicky floral kerchief?

Snowden farm: Mom confronts Thomas about WTF happened to crazydad. Apparently the buckle was a family heirloom. They’re interrupted by the Hardcastle guy, and I hope this is the end of the storyline.

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Sure, fine, for a moderately poor family, this brass buckle would be passed from father to son. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Mr. Ainsworth got Lister’s message alright. He tells the Priestlys he’s backing down from both hooking up with Miss Walker and a church position in town. Buh-bye and good riddance.

However, Miss Parkhill is now freaked out by what Mrs. Priestly told her, so she squeals at Walker:  “I think you’re in the worst kind of danger in this world and the next.” Fuuuuuuuck.

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She acts like she’s going to shit herself now that she knows there are gays in the world. *eyeroll*

Lister gets a note from Walker. She can’t accept a ring right now, she can’t travel right now, she doesn’t say why. Lister writes back and calls first thing in the morning. Parkhill is stuck in a homophobic freak out and leaves the breakfast table.

Gentleman Jack (2019)

This purple smocked-front dress is similar in style to one of Walker’s.

Walker thinks she should marry Mr. Ainsworth. People are making assumptions about her and Lister, and oh yeah, she heard that two men were recently hanged for homosexuality. Lister explains it’s only illegal for men, not women. But she also says: “If it were a criminal offense, then I would have to put my neck in the noose because I only love the fairer sex, and these feelings haven’t deviated since childhood.”

Gentleman Jack (2019)

Pensive closeup shows the teeny tiny smocking at the shoulders of this gown.

Walker suggests marrying a man for appearances sake, but that’s exactly what’s happened to Lister before and she is LIVID. That would make her a liar and a cheat. She passionately tells Walker how much she wants her as her own wife, in a way that’s so tender & beautiful, I want to marry her (& I’m pretty damn burnt on the idea of marriage right now). Walker seems to accept Lister’s second proposal.

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<3 <3 <3

Feeling on top of the world again, Lister buys a Book of Common Prayer, after a bit of flirting with some ladies, as you do.

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These ladies are already in the bookstore, & they start checking Lister out when she enters.

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Helloooo, laydeez!

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They’re happy for the book recommendation from Lister, who wouldn’t be?

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And they keep checking her out as Lister goes about her own business. Sure, Lister has long been an object of curiosity in town because she’s a nonconformist. But that doesn’t mean that everyone hates her. Remember, even Mrs. Priestly loved Lister’s ‘uniqueness’ until she actually saw Lister & Walker kissing. Plus, these are young women, not as stodgy & fussy as the Mrs. Priestlys of the world.

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Lister’s final glance at the ladies & our last glimpse at their dresses — fashionable in style but in simpler cotton with less trim than what’s worn by Walker, her friends, & the Rawson ladies.

A little catching up with the Rawson brothers, and the dog. They talk about stealing Lister’s coal and repeat their mom’s dirty joke about Lister’s hands in Miss Walker’s purse as she gets money for her coal pit.

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Lookin’ fancy, actin’ shitty.

In Walker’s bedroom, Lister gives the Anne the book, but Walker randomly mentions the crap Mr. Ainsworth gave her. I have a bad feeling about this…

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Walker’s corset laced up. Really looks like there isn’t a wooden busk in the front here.

Over at Shibden Hall, Mr. Abbot has come for tea. And he’s talking of knocking down Shibden ‘for the land.’

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Nice pop of color with the green cravat. But you’re still a dweeb. Ann Lister was right about you, without even having to meet you.

Then he calls Aunt Lister elderly and ill. Way to make an impression, huh?

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Aunty put on her nice silk damask pelisse & lace cap, just to be insulted in her own home. Fuck that noise.

Dad asks him about New Zealand and Australia because Abbot has property there, but he’s never been and hates travel. Then he says he’s heard stories about Ann Lister. Gawd, Marian sure can pick a loser.

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Not Marian’s best moment or best look. She put on some fancier jewelry — matching pearl necklace & earrings — but the muddy color & fussy neckline of the dress is not as striking as, say, the very first plaid gown we see her in. But it does emphasize this as her failure.

The trio of Walker, Parkhill, and Lister has turned sour, but Lister is trying to make the best of things. Every activity she suggests is shot down, until Miss Parkhill comes right out and says ‘you don’t have to be here.’ Lister was warned, but nevertheless, she persists. “Let’s have another look at your past perfect,” she says of Parkhill’s art, thus saying the name of this episode. But it doesn’t go anywhere well.

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Walker is wilting, thinking she should have kept everything secret. She returns to the idea of marring Mr. Ainsworth because it’d be easier. ‘But I’ll still lend you the money,’ which is utterly insulting to Lister.

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She stalks out, trying to resolve to be done with this woman.

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Lister is talking to herself in a diary-esque monologue … & is caught unawares …

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Wow. I feel put through the wringer again. Episode 6 airs next Monday!


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

49 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    I wanted to really let Arya take care of Mr Bastard Ainsworth. But I’d let the Bishop know that one of his clergy is a rapist, adulterer and fornicator first.

    And Anne’s attacker I give to Ser Brienne then Queen Sansa (oops-maybe a spoiler).

  2. Roxana

    I was waiting for Lister to tear Ainsworth a new one.
    Parkhill’s Gay Panic is unfortunately very believable. She’s been taught all her life that sex is iffy and sex with your own gender is a horrible sin. She’s genuinely terrified for her friend’s immortal soul. Good Intentions = Road to Hell.
    Poor Ann Walker is a mess. Coming out of the Closet is a Big Deal. Bigger than Lister who has been Out all her life seems to realize. Lister’s courage to be herself and take the consequences is rare in any age.
    I’m sure those two women in the library were admiring Lister’s wonderful suit.

    • Roxana

      Seriously a woman walks in looking so trim and tailored and elegant would make me rethink my puffy sleeves and muslin fichus, not to mention the bonnets.

      • Roxana

        Have you noticed Lister dresses better than most of the men too?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Yeah, Parkhill is believable, if pathetic. Much as Walker’s indecision. Which makes Lister’s strength & self-knowledge all the more impressive (& it’s not just modern writing, it’s all from her diaries).

  3. Heidilea

    I seriously thought the episode was entitled ‘FUCK THIS GUY.’ Seriously, they can all go die in a pigpen. And Happy World Goth Day!

  4. Peacoclaur

    As an aside; if Mr Abbott does own property in New Zealand in this time period than he’s almost certainly involved with the New Zealand Company and the Wakefields. He’s going to loose a lot of his money as most of the land the company claimed to own was gained through dubious means and did not turn the profit they hoped for. In the end the British Government had to bail out the company and take over their colonisation schemes, and annex New Zealand in 1840 to clean up the mess.

    My, my, Marian really can pick’em, and totally deserves her derpy bonnet of shame.

  5. Sisi

    Parkhill may be losing it over the idea of gay people but the fabric of that first striped dress she wears is to die for.

    • Roxana

      The fact that she ,Parkhill, liked Lister must be especially frightening. Does she have unnatural feelings too? Maybe but it’s probably the suits. Not to mention the intelligence and originality. Who wouldn’t like Lister?

  6. Cheryl from Maryland

    This was an amazing episode — I was particularly moved by Anne Walker, who, unlike Ann Lister, doesn’t yet know who she is or wants to be. And here she has to deal with two issues — her rape by Mr. Ainsworth (this is in the dairies although described as defiled and taken advantage of) and her homosexuality — both at the same time. In the 19th C, there were customs and laws (there still are in many countries including some parts of the US cf. Missouri and Florida) where women were encouraged to marry their rapists due to shame, pregnancy, social convention, keeping the man out of prison, etc. There was also the idea that a first love stopped a woman from loving again (hate this in The Small House at Allington by Trollope as well as the pop Song “The First Cut”). So FUCK THIS GUY’s obvious feelings of ownership of Miss Walker as well as her repeated statements that it might be best if she marries him were perfectly period and not just about homosexuality. No wonder she was stressed out, ill, probably with PTSD and unmarried at 29, torn between her feelings for Ann and social convention. I love the energy of Ann Lister, but here Miss Walker takes center stage, with her issues having an echo in Marian and Mr. Abbott, who is exerting his own feelings of ownership over Marian and Aunt Anne and his real love, the property.

    • Roxana

      Yes, it’s a very period dilemma. Ainsworth is obviously a fortune Hunter of the worst description.

    • Susan Pola Staples

      Ann Walker Ann is without the E but Anne Lister has the E just to be pedantic.

      But Rev. Ainsworth want her $$$,££££ and to control her.

      Hopefully, we will get a season 2. Ms Lister dies in 1840. And it’s 1834?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      And yes, all the men with their feelings of ownership, so accurate to the era, & well, accurate to the patriarchy of every era, unfortunately :(

      • Susan Pola Staples

        This series is so well done. Hopefully it will lead to more LGTB frock shows for all of us. I loved both Oscar Wilde movies, and The Girl King. Maybe, we will see one about women ambulance drivers in WWI. Kerry Greenwood mentions one in her Phryne series and I cannot think of name besides Toupie.

        • Trystan L. Bass

          JUST announced today that there will be a 2nd season of Gentleman Jack! So yes, more LGBTQ frock flicks, at least this one :D

          • Roxana

            I can’t get enough of those gorgeous suits! I really love the tailed lines, the rich colors and elegant little details. Like I said Lister is better dressed than the male characters as well as the female ones.

  7. Kathryn MacLennan

    I thought I would get used to the puffy sleeves, but every episode I think “Oh God! They’re so puffy!”

      • Roxana

        Worst Costume Era Ever. Okay, early 17th c. is pretty bad too. Hate drum farthingales.

        • Trystan L. Bass

          LOL – I purposefully made a wheel farthingale costume for a masquerade ball event this weekend! I love wacky historical silhouettes. wouldn’t want to wear them every day, but the exaggeration is entertaining.

      • Kathryn MacLennan

        So, wacky! I’ve seen lots of fashion plates and illustrations of the era, but nothing prepared me for the reality.

  8. Susan Pola Staples

    Thanks Trystan for the season 2 announcement. You just made my day.

    Anne Lister is a wonderfully complex person. Modern with regard to how she wants to live – free of patriarchy control, better dressed than most men of her era, open or mostly open regarding her sexuality. Strong and determined.

    Very Georgian regarding class and society, and vaguely modern RE religion.

  9. Grace

    I’m finally caught up, and I LOVE everything this show does on both a costume and a story level. Anne’s suits are fabulously tailored and detailed, and differentiate her so well from the people around her. Most of the other women look completely absurd, as upper-class people in the 1830s should, but not so much that it feels like parody. I like the balance they strike with Anne Walker — she still gets the massive sleeve action and wild 1830s hair, but the delicate colors and softer shapes make her look pretty and almost doll-like instead of ridiculous. The level of detail and commitment to historical silhouettes is really impressive to me, and I’m glad they put that attention into this lesbian period drama that I would have watched even without fabulous costumes.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      ‘Most of the other women look completely absurd, as upper-class people in the 1830s should, but not so much that it feels like parody’

      –Tom Pye said something like that in our interview, so good to hear he hit the mark!

  10. Mary Anne

    I enjoy your recaps of Gentleman Jack as much as the show itself! You are brilliant and hilarious!

  11. M.

    In real life Anne Lister was a fortune hunter who wanted to use Anne Walker’s money to subsidize her lifestyle and once they got together, she did and Anne Walker was hysterical about about the way Anne Lister was using up her money. They didn’t really have a happy marriage. Furthermore Anne Lister women of more socially marginalized race and class statuses for her own sexual gratification and then discarded them. In real life she was really no better then this guy. This is why I’m having mixed feelings about this sanitized depiction of her. It wasn’t only the men who were sexually exploitative, fortune hunting, and oppressive – those attributes could be used to describe Anne Lister’s behavior around women she was attracted to and other people around her in general as as well. She forced her lower class male tenants to vote the way she wanted them to, basically appropriating their right to vote. I’m starting to wish they had just made up a completely fictional character INSPIRED by Anne Lister instead of needing to obviously sanitize Anne Lister’s real life behaviors in order to make her more sympathetic and relatable for this tv show.

    • karenbs333

      Basically, she acted much as an upper class man of that era would in terms of privilege and behavior. Or at least what the worst of them would expect to get away with. I’m sure there were lots of decent men then, even in the upper classes. But this behavior and attitude was not unusual. Anne strongly identified with and adopted the behavior of upper-class males so this should not be unexpected. I for one am very glad they did not sanitize or fictionalized her story.

    • Roxana

      It’s not unusual for a couple to argue about money. And unlike more conventionally married women Ann Walker could take her goodies and go whenever she liked. Anne Lister had no legal claims on her. Emotional and moral are a different matter.

    • A.W.

      What a very miserable state of affairs to pick on two long dead lesbians. In real life, this party is repeating a biased account from the late 1990s that suppressed a huge portion of research. I choose to believe Ann Walker’s words when she was asked if she would be better off at her own place or if she had regretted being with Anne, “Hell no.”

  12. M.

    I liked the episode. Is it wrong that I’d like to see more love scenes and romance in this show (and more of what’s going on in the lives of the servants and the tenants) then these coal wars? I wonder if next season they can show more of Anne’s romantic adventures on the continent. And I’d love if they show how she ended smoking and playing cards with soldiers in the middle of the night.

    Anne Lister was very gallant & chivalrous in this episode, I loved how she scared that guy sh!tless with threats and her cane alone, lol. And Anne Walker was whimpering, weak, & annoying…as usual. I’m not shocked by Harriet Parkhill’s behavior b/c people act like that now. Sexual behavior and the societal rules surrounding sexual behavior will always be tricky terrain. I loved Harriet’s hairstyle and the appliqués Harriet’s hair. Funnily enough watching all three of them interact, I wished the actress playing Harriet was the one playing Anne Walker. She seemed to have really great chemistry with Suranne Jones, is she is just less irritating to me then Sophie Rundle’s insecure, whimpering, fainting, and crying all over the place depiction of Anne Walker. The way she plays this character reminds me of that sniveling, fainting, crying version of Cosette in the latest incarnation of Les Miserables. It’s just…no. These women are not endearing, just annoying. All in all, I would love to see more of romance & love scenes, less coal wars – particularly Anne’s romances with ladies on the continent.