Indonesian Mini Film Festival (March 25-27)

Introduction

About 400 films are made in the U.S. each year.  Even more (600) are made in India.  But, did you know that about 100 films are made in Indonesia each year?  The Indonesian ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Dino Patti Jalaland his wife were joined by the Singaporean ambassador’s wife, actor Nicholas Saputra (star of Joni’s Promise), and members of his staff during the first film showing.  Recently, Dr. Jalal met with Hollywood director Michael Mann, who will be shooting his film, The Philosopher, in Jakarta.  The film’s lead actor will be Aussie actor, Chris Hemsworth.

Lovely Man (2011)

Screeshot from the Indonesian drama, Lovely Man
A daughter gets to know her absentee father for one night

This is a 75 minute film, but it packs some big punches.  (It won many awards in Asia.)  It focuses on the relationship between a transvestite streetwalker in Jakarta and a small-town/devout Muslim teen, who just happen to be father and daughter. Without telling her mother, Cahaya (Raihaanun), travels by train to see the father who left home many years back.  Cahaya is dressed conservatively and wears a white hijab (headscarf).  When she gets off the train, she stops at a mosque to wash and pray.  She’s amazed by the sights and sounds of the big city, as she goes in search of her father’s address.  (This film uses shadow and lights very well.)  At the side of a bridge, she talks to some women (who are obviously streetwalkers).  She meets Ipuy (Donny Damara)- dressed in long wig, sparkly red dress, and high heels (reminiscent of some of the characters in the films of Pedro Almodovar).  Needless to say, they are both shocked.

Actor Donny Damara accepting an award
Actor Donny Damara accepting an award

Ipuy wants nothing to do with Cahaya- his life is tough enough as it is.  Most people look at him with disgust and treat him unfairly.  What would a hijabi like her know about someone like him?  (Eventually, Cahaya takes off her hijab, to make her father more comfortable.)  She’s carrying a secret, which is giving her much worry.  Cahaya exclaims that she needs a father to talk to about important matters.  What she doesn’t know is that some gangsters are after Ipuy for stealing a lot of cash.

Joni’s Promise (2005)

Joni goes through a LOT in one day
Joni goes through a LOT in one day

This funny, light-hearted film is considered to be “one of the first comedies made in Indonesia.”  (It reminded me of a French comedy.)  A 22 year-old man, Joni (Nicholas Saputra) delivers film reels- a job he likes and considers to be quite important.  One afternoon, she sees a very pretty girl standing in line at the theater, but he’s too nervous to talk to her.  We learn that she’s with her boyfriend (an entitled rich kid).  She gets fed up with her guy, so she goes out.  She notices Joni’s good nature and they have a chat.  She doesn’t get her name or get give his out.  The girl says that they can talk more of he gets done with his deliveries on time.  Joni is happy with that- he’s never had a girlfriend yet.  Joni’s motorbike gets stolen, he witnesses childbirth, gets a walk-on role in a film, plays the drums, and meets a mysterious artist.  Can he make it back to the theater to have his first date?     

IMDB photo of actor Nicholas Saputra
IMDB photo of actor Nicholas Saputra

The Dancer (2011)

Srintil and Rasus share some fruit
Srintil and Rasus share some fruit

This is a full-length historical drama based on a trilogy of novels.  The story focuses on the love between two young people in the village of Dukuh Paruk in Java.  As a small child, the parents of Srintil are killed by some fellow villagers, who believed that they were poisoning food.  The ronngeng (village dancer) also died- she ate the food.

The teenaged Srintil (Prisia Nasution) and Rasus (Oka Antara) love each other deeply, though they are poor, illiterate, and don’t have many prospects.  Rasus works in the rice paddy fields, like the other young men.  However, Srintil thinks that she may have the spirit and the talent to become ronggeng.  Her grandfather champions her cause, even though they are first met with doubt and derision.  The local dance master won’t come to see Srintil perform.

Srintil goes through various rituals to become ronggeng
Srintil goes through various rituals to become ronggeng

Rasus has a little dagger-like object which belonged to the former ronggeng.  After he presents it to Srintil, everyone proclaims her to be the next ronngeng.  She will not only dance , but belong to the village.  Her virginity will be sold to the highest bidder- a fact that greatly upsets Rasus.  (The elderly blind drummer is the only older person who senses what is going on with the couple.)  Rasus runs away to the nearest town, then meets with a military commander (who thinks he could one day become a “loyal” soldier).

Srintil realizes that Rasus has joined the military
Srintil realizes that Rasus has joined the military

Srintil has to go through various rituals, aided by the dance master’s wife.  Men bring goats, cows, and money to present to her grandfather and teacher.  Before the “deflowering” ceremony, Rasus returns and they sneak off together.  Later that night, Srintil pushes him away, explaining that she can’t run away with him forever.  (We know that she has status and money in her community now.)

Srintil shines as a dancer (but not in her personal life)
Srintil shines as a dancer (but not in her personal life)

While Srintil adapts to the lifestyle of a dancer, Rasus adapts to that of a soldier.  His superiors look on him well and he finally learns to read.  He crosses paths with Srintil on very few occasions.  They only spend one more night together, but their lives must always be separate.  When Srintil urges him to come back to the village and offers money to start his own business, Rasus refuses (too proud).

A (Communist) man from the city comes to talk to the villagers, but they only want more food, and don’t grasp what allegiance to his ideas truly mean.  (In fact, 1965-1966 was a very bloody year was Indonesia’s history.  Many people, who were thought to be Communist or sympathizers, were killed by the military.)  This man also wants Srintil and village musicians to perform at his rallies.

Rasus and Srintil meet after the1965 war
Rasus and Srintil meet after the 1965 war

This film is very powerful!  It won the 2011 Best Picture award in Indonesia and was submitted for a Foreign Film Academy Award.  It just draws you in with it’s setting, characters, and values (which are quite different from those of urbanized, modern Indonesia).  The love story starts out very gently and innocently, then we see the darker aspects (depression, frustration, etc.)- this pair must stay apart because of Srintil’s chosen path.  Being a village dancer was being above others- connected to the gods (ancestors.)

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Silver Linings Playbook / Kai po che!

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Dance brings two troubled people together in this (unlikely) hit film

The silver lining is actually the fact that there is an audience for sensitive/grown-up films like this one!  Bradley Cooper (never overacting) and Jennifer Lawrence (a naturally gifted actress) fall in love, despite their respective issues (hey, we all got’em).  This is shot like a ’60s film, an avid moviegoer in my office said, with long takes.  It’s a treat to see DeNiro, who looks to be in fine form (and great shape, too).  Chris Tucker gets a few funny moments, but doesn’t overdo it.   Who says the psychological issues can’t be dealt with using humor!?  (The only odd note was the racial incident involving the therapist, his fellow Indian football fans, and some angry white guys.)  Also, there is a great interview w/ director David O. Russell on Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross (NPR) that I recommend you listen to. 

Kai po che!  (2013)

Indians going crazy for cricket (as usual)

This is a film for folks who avoid (or even abhor) typical Bollywood fare.  Why?  It’s well-acted (no joke), well-written, and just keeps your attention (watchable).  There is a bit of romance and great music, too.  It’s about three idealistic friends (more like brothers) who open a sports store in the city of Ahmedabad.  One has the business savvy, the other a passion for cricket, and the third procures a loan.  They also discover a pre-teen cricket prodigy (Muslim) who they nurture. Then, a series of (true) events occur which affect all their lives deeply.  Check this film out! 

FanstRAvaganza 4: Re-watching North & South (Episode 4)

Opener
Nicholas can’t get work anywhere, though he’s a good worker.  He’s known as a union leader by all the masters.  Margaret tells her father that things could work out if Nicholas and Thorton could talk “man to man.”

Mrs. Thornton has a talk with Margaret

Two strong ladies go at it!  Mrs. Thornton comes to warn Margaret about her behavior, saying that “many a young lady has lost her character” by being out late at night with a man.  Margaret cuts her off, saying that she’s not going to just sit there and take such insults.

Thornton talks with Mr. Lattimer, the banker

I don’t think anyone ever accused me of being careless!

Here we see our man very worried and on edge- he snaps at Mr. Lattimer for no good reason, then asks forgiveness.  When Lattimer mentions “speculation,” Thornton gets very stiff and serious.  (Remember that his father killed himself after he “speculated wildly.”)

Nicholas meets with Thornton 

I’m a steady man.  I work hard.

With his cap in hand, Nicholas comes to ask for work at Marlboro Mills.  Thornton turns him away.  Nicholas says he was sent “by a woman who thought” Thornton “had a kindness” about him.  This piques Thornton’s curiosity.

The Thorntons at home

Fanny is riding high now that she’s engaged to Watson, another of the Milton mill owners.  She cut down Margaret again, calling her “so severe.”  When she mentions speculation, John tells her angrily that “there is nothing certain about speculation!”  (The emotion in Armitage’s voice is so strong and powerful!)  The little joke (about Fanny’s spending) and smile at the end of the scene is just wonderful, too.

Thornton comes to the Higgins home

Thornton sees the little children (of Boucher) playing and reading.  Thornton admits that he could not have taken on “a man such as Boucher’s children.”  He asks Higgins’ forgiveness, offers him work, and they shake on it.

Thornton, Tommy, and Higgins in the mill yard

Tommy is learning how to read when Thornton comes over (helps with pronouncing “animal”).  Both men have been working late.  Thornton and Higgins discuss the importance on having a good meal for both working and studying (thinking of Tommy).  Higgins has an idea that might work.  The two men have a grudging respect for each other. 

Higgins and Thornton
Higgins and Thornton

Aftermath of Mr. Hale’s death

Look back.  Look back at me. 

Mr. Hale dies (peacefully) while on a reunion trip to Oxford.  Aunt Shaw comes to take Margaret home (her house in London).  Margaret apologizes to Mrs. Thornton for her previous behavior.  She gives her father’s copy to Plato to Mr. Thornton and politely wishes him well.  Her eyes are sad, as are his.  Then we have the great “look back” moment as Thornton watches the coach drive away in the snow.  He feels a great loss, knowing that she will never come back to Milton.

Visit to Helstone

After three months in London, Margaret is still wearing black (color of mournng), which worries cousin Edith.  Mr. Bell takes her for a visit to Helstone, but things are different from when she was a girl.  Margaret thinks back to her time in Milton, and tells Mr. Bell about the drama at the train station and its aftermath.  She feels bad because Mr. Thornton knows she lied.  Is that all?  Her godfather wonders.

Mr. Bell settles his affairs

Mr. Bell signs off most of his fortune to Margaret before sailing for South America to live out the last of his days (he’s ill).  Margaret is “landlord in name only” of Marlboro Mills.  When he tries to explain more to Thornton, the younger man cuts him off.  Thornton is too busy with his financial problems to deal with anything else.  We see him even sleeping in his office.

The Ending

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Mr. Thornton’s mill stands empty

We learn that Marlboro Mills has gone under.  Thornton feels the loss keenly, of course.  His mind goes back to Margaret- they met in the mill.  Higgins “got up a petition” of men that would be willing to work again for Thornton.  Then we have the big reveal about Margaret’s brother- finally!  See the relief and happiness on Thornton’s face?

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Margaret sees Thornton at the train station

This mini-series has one of the best pay-offs, in my opinion.  Margaret and John finally connect and share one of the best (effective) onscreen kisses you’ll ever see!  (Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of TV shows and movies.)  These characters have grown and changed over the course of the four episodes (about 2 years).  Each episode reveals more about their personalities, feelings, values.  Margaret gets on the train with Thornton to return to Milton, which will truly be her home.

Hats off to Richard Armitage for bringing Mr. Thornton to life!  It’s a great and nuanced performance (for all you newbie fans).  It’s not just about being brooding, smoldering, or whatnot- it’s about the subtlety of his acting.  Even in today’s (modern/liberal-minded) world, it’s rare to see a leading man who can also be vulnerable (another fine example: Mad Men star Jon Hamm).  Thanks for reading! 

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FanstRAvaganza 4: Re-watching North & South (Episode 3)

Today is the final day of Richard Armitage week on the web.  Let’s go over key scenes in Episode 3 of North & South again. 

Opener

Mr. Thornton walks out of the Hale’s house and stops at the the end of the street, like he’s unsure of where to go next.  (Awww!)  He passes Mr. Bell, but is distracted by his strong emotions, and doesn’t return his greeting.

Another mother-son talk

Thornton is consoled by his mother.
Thornton is consoled by his mother.

No one loves me or cares for me except you, Mother.

John has a drink before he enters the parlor, then he says to his mother that she was right re: Miss Hale’s lack of feelings for him.  But he thinks he loves her more than ever.  (Wow, another great moment where we glimpse Thornton’s vulnerability!)  Mrs. Thornton shoots back that she hates Margaret (for how she rejected her son).  They decided to never talk of her again.   

Higgins vs. Boucher

They have a bad argument.  We see that Boucher is more desperate than ever, though he’s the one who started the violence (by throwing the rock that hit Margaret).  Nicholas hasn’t returned to work, unlike most of the other millworkers, staying true to his committee. 

Mr. Bell’s observations

Hah, at least one guy senses that something may be going on between Margaret and Thornton!  When he meets them on the street, he jokes around with them, though they are clearly uncomfortable.  Thornton and Margaret don’t even look at each other.  Thornton looks mad, but he keeps his gentlemanly demeanor (also in front of the Lattimers). 

A father-daughter talk

Margaret and Mr. Hale discuss Frederick and his (precarious) situation should he visit home.  However, Margaret has sent a letter (few days back) and it can’t be taken back.  The navy “spares no expense” in bringing mutineers to justice, Mr. Hale says.  His voice is full of sadness and concern.  

Bessie’s death

Mary is in tears when Margaret comes to talk with Bessie, but she is already dead.  Nicholas finally breaks down upon seeing his daughter’s dead body.  Later on, Margret brings her father to try to console Nicholas.  He rails against God and the way of the world- some are born to be masters and others “live a half-life in the shadows” (a very powerful bit of acting from Brendan Coyle).  Mr. Hale wonders if Thornton and Higgins could discuss how to improve things (foreshadowing).

The Great Exhibition

He’s very interested in the world.  Really, I know him to be.

Margaret joins Aunt Shaw, Edith, Captain and Henry Lennox at the Great Exhibition in London.  She sees Thornton giving a speech to a group of gentlemen re: machinery, workers, and strikes.  They have a little argument, pointing out that they still don’t get each other, then the others catch up to them.  (Make sure to pay attention to the wary manner in which Henry and Thornton look at each other.  Thornton’s anger is barely concealed, simmering below the surface. Henry comes off as arrogant.)   

A mother-mother talk

Mrs. Hale lies in bed and talks (very seriously) with Mrs. Thornton.  She asks Mrs. Thornton to “be kind” to Margaret and give her guidance (if needed) once she is gone.  Mrs. Thornton admits that it is difficult for her to show affection. 

More misunderstandings

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Margaret turns away Mr. Thornton

I’m sorry, I thought I’d still be welcome here… despite what has passed between us.

Mr. Thornton comes to return a book of Mr. Hale’s and give Mrs. Hale a basket of fruit.  Margaret stalls for time, as can’t let him in, because Frederick is inside.  He sees a man’s bag in the doorway and hears an unfamiliar laugh upstairs.  (Thornton thinks that Margaret has a suitor.)  Mary goes inside with some stuff, since she’s helping the family out.  Before Margaret can give an explanation, Thornton quickly strides away. 

At the train station

At night, in the train station, Thornton sees Margaret embracing a man.  (Of course, he doesn’t know it’s her older brother, or that she even has a brother.)  He is shocked- the scowl is pretty major (as Fred says).  A drunk Leonards confronts Fred and they have a brief fight. 

At Mrs. Hale’s funeral

Look how Thornton’s face transforms when Mr. Bell talks of Henry and his close connection to the Hales.  (Maybe he’s wondering if Henry was the man at the station?)  Then, a young police inspector comes over to talk to Thornton (who is also a majistrate) about an important matter.  We see Leornard’s dead body.    

Aftermath of Boucher’s death

Nicholas is in tears, feeling guilty.  Mr. Hale is very pale with shock.  So, Margaret goes to tell Mrs. Boucher that her husband is dead (killed himself).  We learn that Mrs. Boucher died a few days later, leaving behind their kids.

Aftermath of Leonards’ death

To protect Fred, Margaret keeps her cool, and lies to Inspector Mason when he comes (respectfully) to question her at the house.  “I was not there,” she calmly repeats.  However, Mason has a witness who identified her by name.  There could be an official inquest, he informs her.

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Thornton is amazed by Mason’s revelation

When Mason recounts this to Thornton, he is (once again) shocked.  He thinks about the matter- conflicting emotions flow across Armitage’s face.  Later that same day, Mason goes to tell Margaret that there will be no inquest.  (Thornton handled the matter.)

End of Episode 3

I hope you realize that any foolish passion for you on my part is entirely over.  I’m looking to the future.

Margaret tries to thank Thornton when he comes to read with her father, but he cuts her off.  His words are angry, but from his eyes, you can see that he desperately wants to know what happened.  Alas, Margret can’t reveal another person’s secret. 

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FanstRAvaganza 4: Re-watching North & South (Episode 2)

Opening

Richard Armitage week continues!  Episode 2 starts with a very cute little boy and girl who are picking up extra cotton from the floor.  They have to move fast, or the mechanized looms that the weavers are using will run over them!  Mrs. Thornton, a woman with a “stern brow” (like her son), is walking through the mill, scrutinizing the workers.  The workers refer to her as “the dragon.”   

Margaret & Thornton in the mill courtyard

Mr. Thornton & Margaret talk at the mill
Mr. Thornton & Margaret talk at the mill

Maragret gets the name of a good doctor (Donaldson) from Mrs. Thornton, who is concerned about a possible strike.  We can see that Margaret has a concern for the workers at the mill.  She asks the (teen) girls if they like working and they give their opinions freely, until they spy their boss approaching.  

Here in the North, we value our independence.

When Margaret explains she came to his house, Thornton wonders if she’s ill (note the seriousness/concern on his face).  Then they have a discussion about the  “duty” of being a master.  Here Richard Armitage reveals more of Thornton’s ethical values, as well as his attraction toward Margaret.  She is a bit surprised that he openly tells her about the workers’ conditions.  Note his eyes as he speaks- he is clearly enjoying their little talk.    

Margaret has a chat with Bessie

They joke a bit about the Thorntons.  We learn the seriousness of Bessie’s condition (cotton “fluff” in her lungs from when she was little).  Then, Margaret reveals the truth of her older brother, Frederick (Rupert Evans), who was unfairly branded with being a traitor after a mutiny.  He lives in Cadiz, Spain, after a time in South America.  The Hales miss him deeply and wonder if they’ll ever see him again.  This grows upon one of the big themes in North & South– fairness.     

The Thorntons at home

Mr. Thornton talks with his mother
Mr. Thornton talks with his mother

I wish you would try to like Miss Hale, mother.

With the strike potentially looming, Mrs. Thornton is a bit apprehensive about having her dinner party.  She and Fanny reveal their dislike for Margaret, which bothers John.  They think she “gives herself airs” (acts superior), though her family is “not rich” and “she cannot play” (piano).  Mrs. Thornton reveals that “she’ll never have you.”  You can see the disappointment flicker across John’s face, then a little smile, and acceptance.  (He thinks he’s not good enough for Margaret at this time.)  John tries to play it cool, saying that they should try to like her because she’s the daughter of his friend. 

Planning the strike  

No, no violence.  Masters expect us to be violent.  We will show them we are thinking men.

Workers from several mills are getting ready for the strike, urged on by Nicholas (who works at Hamper’s), who is repected by most of the men.  He says that they must all stick together, not like five years ago, when half of them succumbed.  The men chant and cheer, thinking that they will get a wage increase this time.  Boucher (who works at Marlborough Mills) has very strong doubts still.

Meeting Mr. Bell

Mr. Hale’s closest Oxford friend, Mr. Bell (Brian Protheroe), comes for a visit and compliments Margaret (calling her a “goddess”).  At first, she is embarassed, as she doesn’t see herself in that way.  Mr. Bell is in town to see his banker, as he’s heard about the possible strike.

Higgins vs. Boucher

Boucher, who has grown very desperate, can’t stand to see his family go hungry and says that the union has no pity.  Nicholas (angrily) gives him some money from the union’s strike fund, but it’s not enough.  Later, we see Margaret leave some food outside the Boucher home, as his wife won’t directly take charity.

Mrs. Thornton’s dinner

Mrs. Thornton's dinner party
Mrs. Thornton’s dinner party

Oooh, this is the point where we see Thornton all dressed up!  There is also the hottest handshake in history- he doesn’t want to release Margaret’s hand.  The camera lingers on their hands.  They are clearly attracted to each other on some level.  John looks at her like she’s the only one in the room for a time.  I love the little sigh (barely perceptible) he gives before he has to leave Margaret!

When they sit down to dinner, it’s a different story.  The guests are surprised to learn that Margaret is friends with the likes of Higgins.  Thornton thinks that giving Boucher a basket is just prolonging the strike.  Margaret shoots back: “But surely, to give  dying baby food!”   

Margaret learns about her mother’s health

Dixon has been hiding the fact that Mrs. Hale’s condition is getting worse.  Dr. Donaldson has been visiting relgulary, Dixon admits.  Margaret and her mother have a emotional talk; her mother breaks down in tears.  They decide to keep the truth from her father (he’ll worry too much).  Margaret explains to Dixon that she “can bear it better” than Mr. Hale.

The strikers strike back

Thornton has brought in the Irish workers via an agent under cover of night.  The next morning, Margaret comes to the Thornton home to see about the “water mattress” which Fanny said she could borrow.  Fanny is very scared of the strikers who are at the gates.  Eventually, the strikers push open the main gate and rush the courtyard.

Margaret tells Thornton to go down and “face them like a man.”  Note the surprise on Thornton’s face.  A few moments later, she follows him out, realizing that he’s in danger.  When he refuses to send the Irish back, the crowd gets even angrier.  Margaret puts her arms around Thornton’s neck, insisting that “they will not hurt a woman.”  But it’s too late, Boucher hurls a rock which hits her on the left side of her head.  She falls to the floor, unconscious and  wounded, much to the shock of Thornton.  The soldiers arrive on horseback and beat some of the strikers down.  The others run off as fast as they can.

Consequences of the strike

Mr. Thornton thinks about Margaret being hurt
Mr. Thornton thinks about Margaret being hurt

While Thornton is off talking with the other masters, all he can think about is Margaret lying bloodied.  (Some viewers commented that there is more blood on her face, in his mind, than in actuality.  Hmmm… that could be the case!)  Margaret has decided to go home, after Dr. Donaldson checks her out.  Mrs. Thornton and Fanny are amazed to hear such a thing.  However, her mother is unwell and knowing of such an event would be too much for her.

She’s such a reckless young woman!

When Thornton returns home, he’s amazed that Miss Hale has gone.  His mother insists that “everything was done properly.”  He says he’s going to check on her, but she asks him not to go.  Then there is a dialogue-free sequence where we see that he has goes for a walk instead.  Meanwhile, Margaret tends to Bessie, who’s gotten worse.

The mother-son talk

This is one of the best scenes in the mini-series!  John comes back from a long walk and starts to tell his mother what he’ll “have to say” to Miss Hale.  (We assume that he wants to thank her.)  However, Mrs. Thornton point s out that “she made her feelings plain for all to see” by rushing out to save him.  The servants all saw and the whole town will be gossiping about it.  As a man of honor, her son should propose to Margaret.  John is very surprised to hear this interpretation, because he didn’t even dare to think that Margaret could love him.  He doubts that she cares for him.  Notice how his face softens as he reveals his true feelings to his mother (as she is the only person he can be vulnerable around).  Armitage and Sinead Cusack not only look like they could be related, they have terrific chemistry together! 

The proposal (end of Episode 2)

Margaret reacts to Mr. Thornton's unexpected proposal
Margaret reacts to Mr. Thornton’s unexpected proposal

I understand you completely.

As regular readers know, I wrote about the proposal scene before.  (I prefer the extended scene which is under the special features.)  John and Margaret really push each other’s buttons in this scene!  They are both very proud, spirited individuals with strong value systems.  They start off talking about the strike, then he switches the subject to feelings.  Now, Margaret is not thinking in that vein, so she stops him fast with some cutting remarks (recall her word choice).  This wounds his pride- he shoots back, claiming that he loves her (not doing this to protect her reputation).  They don’t yet understand each other.  Wow, just a perfect ending to the episode!

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