'Tom Jones' Recap: Episode 3
May 14, 2023
Tom Jones airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream; WTTW Passport members can stream the whole series. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Lady Bellaston, Sophia’s wealthy London aunt, has plans for both Sophia and Tom. Sophia will become a “lady of fashion,” and Tom will become…Bellaston’s toy.
Tom and his new companion Benjamin Partridge have taken rooms at a Mrs. Miller’s, where Partridge teaches one daughter Latin and their fellow lodger Nightingale flirts with an older daughter, Nancy. Tom receives a mask and invitation to a masque signed “SW”—Sophia Western? Nightingale decides to attend with him, and Nancy sneaks in as well.
Tom searches for Sophia at the masque but instead is addressed by Bellaston, whom he doesn’t recognize beneath her mask. She hints at information about Sophia, and Tom gets drunk while trying to get her to reveal it. She pays his bill and leaves, telling him not to follow.
Of course he does. He’s surprised to see her palanquin stop at the home of Sophia’s Aunt Harriet. Bellaston lets her wrap fall as she goes inside; Tom picks it up and follows, asking if Sophia is there. Bellaston removes her mask and tells Tom that Sophia said she could never forgive Tom. Tom recognizes her as Sophia’s aunt. She gives him more wine, kisses him, and they end up in bed together.
After, she gives him money, suggesting he can pay her back in non-financial ways. He gets back in bed for another round.
The next morning, Harriet looks concerned as she watches Tom leave. That poor girl loves him, she tells Bellaston, who responds that she’s paying Harriet enough rent for the room to keep her scruples to herself.
Tom gives Partridge his windfall to pay him back for all the money he’s spent on Tom and to pay Miller for their rooms. Tom keeps returning to Bellaston at Harriet’s home, and Bellaston tells him they’re alike: they’re both hedonists in search of a pleasurable life.
Harriet has qualms, however; under the noise of Tom and Bellaston in the bedroom, she writes a letter to the Westerns, appealing to them to save Sophia from iniquity in London. To Sophia herself she advises a return home, but Sophia refuses: marriage to Blifil awaits there.
Whereas Tom has taken to Bellaston’s desires happily, Sophia pushes against them: she won’t wear the whitening face paint of a lady and dismisses the attentions of Bellaston’s preferred match for her, Lord Fellamar.
She doesn’t ever want to marry—not even Tom, or so she says. He and she have a chance meeting when Bellaston sends Tom fancy new clothes to wear to her home, having sent Sophia to the theater—but it was too crowded, so Sophia returned home and found Tom waiting. He returns the pocketbook she left at the inn and professes adoration, but she tells him that she left her life for him and he disappointed her. I long to be worthy of your sacrifice, he responds.
Then she asks why he’s there—and Bellaston appears. Bellaston and Tom pretend not to know each other, and Sophia introduces Tom as Mr. Smith. Tom quickly departs.
Tom had already been wanting to end things with Bellaston, but, as he told Nightingale, he doesn’t know how to do so without hurting her.
Bellaston reminds Sophia not to forget her duty to her family: to marry someone of status. Nevertheless, Sophia tries to write a letter to Tom but can’t find the words. She asks Honour not to abandon her, and her maid agrees to carry a note to Tom.
When she arrives at Mrs. Miller’s home, however, Tom already has a guest in his room: Bellaston. Tom hides the widow behind some hanging sheets when Partridge knocks to introduce Honour. The maid reads Sophia’s letter to Tom: don’t visit Sophia at Bellaston’s house; all the servants know that Bellaston is not honorable and is mucking about with a man at another home. And then Honour sees the feathers in Bellaston’s hair above the sheets, and pulls them aside in shock. She flees.
Bellaston demands Sophia’s letter from Tom, in order to protect her reputation, but he refuses, and tells her that they can no longer continue their “arrangement.” Bellaston is distraught and tries to coax Tom into bed, but he simply hugs her.
Miller kicks Tom and Partridge out, because Tom had a lady visitor in his room for hours, even if he insists that she just cried to him. Tom apologizes to Partridge, and the loyal barber remains with him as they find a place to sleep in a slum.
Honour doesn’t tell Sophia about Tom and Bellaston, but she does advise her to move on from Tom. Sophia is about to be met by a caller, anyways: Lord Fellamar. Bellaston has convinced him to rape Sophia so that she has to marry him, having been “ruined” by him, thus removing Sophia from Tom’s attention. Fellamar objects, but not so strongly that he doesn’t accede to the plan.
Fortunately, Squire Western, having received the letter from Harriet, barges into the room as Fellamar forces himself onto Sophia. Bellaston appears and asks Western for approval of the match between Fellamar and Sophia, and Sophia realizes that Bellaston is behind Fellamar’s assault. Western refuses, ushering Sophia to his preferred match: Blifil, who is waiting in a carriage. Western dismisses Honour from Sophia’s service.
Western wants Sophia and Blifil married before they leave London to return home. He once again locks Sophia in a room, and advises the less than charming Blifil to “woo” Sophia. But when Blifil forces his way into Sophia’s room, even though she isn’t fully dressed, she tries to fend him off and he becomes desperate and aggressive, demanding to know why everyone prefers Tom to him. She kicks him and throws him out of the room.
Tom has appealed to Bellaston to save Sophia, but she simply tries to again seduce him. He refuses her advance and blurts out that he can’t love her; he can’t pretend. Stung, she tells him that she will tell Sophia about her and Tom’s relationship if he ever goes near her. She also applauds Blifil’s plans to impose discipline and narrow Sophia’s horizons, when Harriet brings Blifil to her as another possible boy toy. Harriet is troubled by Blifil’s intentions for Sophia.
Sophia does have one friend in her imprisoning house: Black George, who brings her breakfast and tells her he would do anything for Tom—including bringing him a note from Sophia. Tom left the address of his rooms at Miller’s home in Sophia’s pocketbook, so she sends Black George there with a letter.
Partridge finds it when he returns to Miller’s for some of Tom’s possessions. But Tom says it is too late for him and Sophia, thanks to Bellaston’s threat.