What better way to pass a rainy day than to chat about murderers? Marian, Laura, Sir Percival, and both Count and Countess Fosco have sheltered in a decrepit boathouse on Sir Percival’s property after being caught in a downpour, and the conversation turns to that most amiable of topics, homicide. Count Fosco condescends to the women, dismissing their opinions as childish, while Countess Fosco is blankly deferential to the men. And then the Count notices blood on the ground.
Marian quickly explains that it is from a dog shot by Sir Percival’s groundskeeper, not a human. She reluctantly tells how she found the dog, and that it was Mrs. Catherick’s. Sir Percival is furious that Catherick was on his estate and that no one told him. The Count calms him down.
When the rain abates, Sir Percival is called to meet with his lawyer. Sir Percival then tries to get Laura to sign a document. She refuses unless he reveals what she is signing; he invokes her marital vows and begins to berate Marian, Laura’s witness, for defending her. The Count again calms him, and the document goes unsigned. From a flash-forward, we know that it was to sign Laura’s estate over to Sir Percival; he’s deeply in debt.
Laura believes the Count has some sort of control over her husband – witness his ability to rein in Sir Percival’s anger – and warns Marian against the Count’s blatant flirting. Marian shrugs it off, but she is concerned about Sir Percival’s document, and writes to Laura’s family lawyer, Mr. Gilmore, for advice.
As soon as Marian puts her letter in the estate’s outgoing mail, she is pulled away by Countess Fosco for a chat. The Countess tells her that if Sir Percival is ever “insolent” again, as he was at the boathouse, she will protest by leaving his estate. She also criticizes her brother, Laura’s father, for forcing a marriage to Sir Percival. He meddled in her marriage, too: he didn’t approve of the Count, and so cut off her inheritance. Kind sentiments, one would think – except that we learn from another flash-forward that the Countess didn’t entirely lose her inheritance; it was just delayed until after the death of Laura.
After disclosing all of this, the Countess suddenly leaves Marian. Marian checks her letter, and discovers the seal has been broken.
Count Fosco has read it, and he warns Sir Percival that Marian has reached out to Gilmore. He pries into Sir Percival’s mysterious relationship with Mrs. Catherick, but instead of answering, Sir Percival has a question of his own for Fosco: why was the Count banished from Italy? Neither shares their secrets; instead they agree that Marian’s presence makes Laura too stubborn. “Then I’ll separate them,” Sir Percival vows.
Fosco continues to surveil Marian, watching from behind a tree as she goes to meet the mail carriage. Quickly reading through a letter from Gilmore, she dictates a message to the mail carrier: Laura won’t sign anything until Gilmore can look it over.
Perhaps inspired by all of these secretive letters, Marian finally tells Laura that the letter warning of Sir Percival’s character before their marriage came from Anne Catherick. Laura is angry that Marian hid such knowledge from her. She has endured so much in this terrible marriage: Sir Percival is an abusive rapist.
Anne Catherick can attest to Sir Percival’s cruelty. While Laura is walking the grounds in search of a lost brooch, she spots Anne, who beckons her to the boathouse. Anne hands Laura the brooch, then says that Sir Percival has hurt her but can’t do anything more to her now, because she’s dying. She is about to reveal a secret about Sir Percival that she says her mother also knows – it’s the reason Sir Percival locked Anne up in an asylum – when a sound startles her and she runs off, asking Laura to return the next day.
The Countess again enables her husband’s surveillance by forcing Marian to have tea with her while Laura is meeting with Anne. Marian suddenly feels lightheaded and passes out, though not before seeing the Count running towards the boathouse.
When Marian wakes, Laura and the Count have both returned, and the Count happily shares that he has convinced Sir Percival to drop the matter of the signature, for now. This apparent kindness under his belt, he ups the flirtation with Marian, almost kissing her after requesting a dance and then creepily following her on a walk through the forest. He forces a few kisses before she pulls away and runs back to the house.
Laura goes to meet Anne again but finds only a note under a rock. Before she can read it, Sir Percival, presumably notified by the Count, strides up and grabs it, scans it, and rips it up. He then proceeds to attack Laura, slapping and strangling her.
When Marian, unaware of this incident, tries to see Laura, she finds her sister locked in her room, guarded by a servant, her previous maidservant dismissed. Marian goes to confront Sir Percival for keeping Laura locked up, and Countess Fosco makes good on her threat to leave Blackwater in protest of Sir Percival’s abhorrent behavior. He backs down.
Marian, finally able to see Laura, discovers bruises from Sir Percival and says she must leave him. But how? Where would Laura go? Marian devises a plan to write to the dismissed maidservant for help.
We again flash-forward and learn that the housekeeper of Blackwater left employment there because of Sir Percival’s “atrocious falsehoods,” which may have led to Laura’s death. But she insists that Count Fosco should not be blamed; he did his best to protect Marian and Laura.
Sure he did. The Count manages to learn where the dismissed maidservant has gone by telling the housekeeper he wants to send her some provisions. He instead sends his wife, who slips something into the maidservant’s tea. Once the maid has passed out, the Countess takes Marian’s letter.
Laura has taken to locking her door to protect herself from Sir Percival, who demands to know where Anne Catherick is. Flash-forward to an interview with the woman who raised Anne, and we learn some loaded news. Anne’s mother disappeared while Anne was young, probably because she was more fond of fine things than of her daughter. And her father? He left because he caught her mother in bed with someone else.