Gentleman Jack's 'Fruity Past' Comes Back To Haunt Her In 'Two Jacks Don't Suit'

Can you imagine anything more romantic than a honeymoon in Paris? If the answer is no, then Anne Lister you are not. The brilliant force of nature she is, Anne (Suranne Jones) could win awards for her vacation planning, which involves bringing her beloved Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) to Paris and the Alps to celebrate their recent union. The newlyweds are seeing the sights together, making new memories, and ultimately becoming two of those unbearable college students who spend a few months abroad, then force everyone to endure the same goddamn stories over and over again ... But in their defense, these stories are actually interesting and they're adorable when they tell them.

I wish I could say the entirety of "Two Jacks Don't Suit" was comprised of tender moments and silly anecdotes but alas, the honeymoon phase can't last forever. Or for very long, to be quite honest, because the episode opens by introducing conflict. While sitting for a fancy french dinner, the newlyweds are unexpectedly joined by one of Anne's old flames, Isabella 'Tib' Norcliffe (Joanna Scanlan). Nothing derails a honeymoon quite like a visit from an ex, and making matters worst, poor Ann still doesn't know she has any exes to worry about. She believes herself to be Anne's first when in reality, Miss Lister has an exceptionally fruity past with more women than she cares to admit — a past she can only hide for so long.

SPOILERS for season 2 episode 2 of "Gentleman Jack" below.

Trouble in paradise

Tib's arrival raises some questions for Ann, who may not have all the context she needs, but certainly isn't blind. Or deaf. While she doesn't connect all the dots and never seems to catch on to the nature of Anne's, ahem, friendship with Isabella, an important question does worm its way into her brain: who is Mrs. Lawton? And while Ann seeks answers to that particular mystery, the world continues to be cruel to her. Never mind the fact that any sensible person would lay down their life for Miss. Walker, there are still some who believe she's not good enough for Miss Lister and have no problem saying it aloud. Particularly, Isabella. But apparently, plenty of Anne's friends agree.

Anne defends her, and while I am offended on Ann's behalf about the whole "she's so insipid" thing, it does lead to this funny exchange: "There's more to her than meets the eye." "...You mean in bed?" Isabella ends up getting the episode's titular line, "two Jacks don't suit," when she jokes about losing Anne to Mariana Lawton — it seems Tib and Anne were too alike to last. Our butch needed her femme, and now she's found her! Unbeknownst to her, Tib hits on something important — Miss Lister and Miss Walker are different people, and they complement each other very well. Anne helps to bring out her wife's strength, while Ann brings out Miss Lister's heart.

Elsewhere, there's a Walker senate meeting where they realize that with her wit and Miss Walker's money, Anne Lister will soon "rule the whole of Halifax." They also discuss their fear of sharing a couch with Anne, lest her lesbian germs begin to spread. You can almost forgive their ignorance because truth be told, we've seen what Anne can do in a room of women who once considered themselves straight — she's powerful like that. The Walker's best keep their distance. Unfortunately for them, Anne will later propose that she and Miss Walker go on a grand tour to see all of the family members. It's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner on steroids! On one hand, part of me aches to see Anne shatter Captain Sutherland's expectations and put him in his place. Also, it would be nice for her to meet Elizabeth — the other person in the world who loves Ann dearly — but is that worth all the awkwardness this tour would include?

Family feuds intensity

We get a sneak peek at just how much the Walkers suck through Marian (Gemma Whelan), who pays and receives some visits and kindly tries to chat about Ann and Anne's friendship. Aunt Ann Walker (Stephanie Cole) regards her coldly and the Priestleys are just plain rude, which leads Marian to have a bedside chat with her own Aunt Anne (Gemma Jones) who is disgusted: "Shame on them ... They can't put her into a neat little box and because that makes her seem different, they say hateful things to try to belittle her." Down with homophobia, says Aunt Anne, in a speech that brings Marian (and us) to tears.

The B-plot gives us an update on the Sowden pig farm. You'll remember Thomas Sowden (Tom Lewis) from great hits such as falling in love with Samuel Washington's (Joe Armstrong) daughter and marrying her in the season finale. Oh. And also that time he killed his father and fed him to hungry pigs. We all cheered when the abusive drunk was taken out of the picture but, uh, turns out Thomas isn't exactly a golden boy and that whole murder situation was a sign that he has a dangerous temper. Who would've thought? While his new wife still seems thrilled by him, she's having a miserable time with his uncivilized family (they aren't interested in her unsolicited reading lessons, oh dear). Not only is Samuel getting super close to the truth, but Thomas's uncle, Ben Sowden, has already cracked the case. While Thomas wants to kick him out for drinking, making lewd comments to Suzannah (Amy James-Kelly), and *checks notes* sleeping with his mother(!), it's hard to banish a man who knows you committed murder.

We don't do much checking in with Anne's business endeavors this episode, but Ann finally writes to her sister about splitting the estate. Elizabeth (Katherine Kelly) is pleased to hear from her, but her ever-awful husband Sutherland (Derek Riddell) is suspicious and tells her not to respond. That'll go well, I bet. I too like to tuck my problems away and pretend they don't exist but Anne Lister certainly won't let him get in the way of her agenda.

The truth, the partial truth, and nothing but LIES

The real event of the hour comes in the form of some firelight pillow talk. Sexy time, right? Wrong! While the newlyweds lie in bed, Ann finally asks the question that's been weighing on her: who the hell is Mrs. Lawton? It's almost a relief to see this addressed so quickly, but Anne manages to squash that by only telling a partial truth. She finally reveals that she's had relationships before Ann but she's very vague about it. She makes it sound as though Marianna Lawton was her one and only, then along came Ann Walker. She doesn't tell her about Isabella or the countless others, which is terrible because Ann is so receptive in this moment. She just wants the truth and when she inevitably learns that Anne lied to her again, she probably won't take it very well. Goddammit, Anne.

Other than all the lies, it's a tender moment between the pair. Anne pleads with her not to be jealous and says "I'm so much happier now, happier than I've ever been." Suranne Jones is a marvel and her delivery is enough to melt our hearts, but I can't help but wonder — Anne's been having doubts about her feelings for Miss Walker for a while now. She wonders if it's as strong a relationship as she had with Marianna and it probably doesn't help that all her friends think Ann isn't good enough. But then she has moments like this, or last week's stunning painting date where she speaks with such clarity about her feelings. So when she says she's happier than she's ever been, does she believe what she's saying?

Speaking of heartbreak, Miss Lister will later whip out a letter from Mariana, read it aloud, and ask Ann if maybe, just maybe, they could all be friends? Miss Walker, an absolute gem, says yes, but you can see how anxious this prospect makes her. Why wouldn't it? She's been hearing whispers about how she doesn't measure up to Anne's ex who she only recently learned existed and now Anne says she wants to maintain the friendship and even schedule a hangout sesh. Someone send her help. Unbeknownst to Miss Walker, said friendship plans may not come to fruition. Marianna writes to Anne, ready to cut ties. She assumes they will never meet again and bids a vulnerable farewell that leaves Anne distraught. The past isn't done with her quite yet.

Stray thoughts

  • By The Way, the Washingtons have moved into the servant's quarters at Crow's Nest and when Miss Walker brings Anne to look around, the children are hiding out in a corner. They end up seeing the two share a very intimate moment, which either serves as their gay awakening or the beginnings of a future disaster. 

  • Pull It Together, Anne! "Hey babe, do you mind if I read you an intimate letter from my ex-girlfriend? Also, would you mind if the three of us became really good friends?"

  • Nightmare fuel. Picture this: lying in bed with your beloved after a chaotic but wondrous journey up a snowy mountain. Just as the night is about to turn tender, she says "hey, tell me about your ex." Props to Anne for not rolling right off the bed and out the door.

  • Keep This In Mind. The Walkers are scheming to get Ann a husband, and you know this man they've come up with is important because they say his name loudly and repeatedly. Keep an ear out for Mr. James Ingham, of Blake Hall, in Muirfield. Y'know, the Ingham's! Of Blake Hall! In Muirfield!

  • And They Were Roommates. Just two gal pals, strolling around a manor, making out on the couch, itemizing furniture for their upcoming move-in. Nothing to see harem children.

  • Best Dressed. Some great colors are on display at the Walker get-together but they all suck, so they're ineligible for this award. Instead, it goes to Ann Walker and her ivy green 'I've Returned From Study Abroad' dress. Beautiful belt, great hat, perfect hair. 5 stars.

  • Do Ladies Do That? In Anne's case, the answer to this question is usually a resounding no, and you can tell because she's referred to as "a man" twice in this episode — most notably by Matthew who timidly (and hilariously) asks, "Is she ... a ... man?"

  • Of Wit And Wisdom. Aunt Anne Lister, the original ally: "Most people are mundane and narrow."

  • The Marian Lister Award For Fantastic Facial Expressions. This one was a group effort: when Anne divulges how she pinned handkerchiefs to her underwear to smuggle them over the border, Marian, Aunt Anne, and poor Matthew look over in such shock that you'd think she just revealed her side gig as a drug mule. (An honorable mention goes to — believe it or not — Marian Lister! Sitting beside her father in that carriage, she's giving us a whole comedy routine through expressions.)

  • Words From The Heart. "You have taken control of your own destiny." When they clasp hands, you can see Anne giving her strength.

  • Questions For Next Time: When will Marian Lister get a companion deserving of her greatness? Can someone nice come by for tea, please? Also, uh, are we still rooting for Thomas Sowden? I feel I've been hoodwinked. He seemed all sweet and well-meaning (minus the murder) and now he apparently has a violent streak? That's no good. Any chance Ann will have a reasonable, measured response to Mariana cutting ties? Any chance she'll be honest with Ann about her feelings? Oh, who am I kidding — bring on the chaos.