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'World on Fire' Recap: Season 2 Episode 4

Daniel Hautzinger
Rajib in the desert
Rajib struggles with fighting for Britain on behalf of India and being treated unequally. Credit: Steffan Hill for Mammoth Screen

World on Fire airs Sundays at 8:00 pm on WTTW and is available to stream via the PBS app and at Recap the previous and following episodes.
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Led by Erwin Rommel, the Germans are advancing east across North Africa in an attempt to take Cairo and the Suez Canal, thus cutting off the Allies in Europe from the East. Rommel’s weakness is his long supply line across the desert, but if he can take the port of Tobruk in Libya, he’ll have a speedy route across the Mediterranean.

So Harry’s British troops are trying to hold a line against the Germans in the desert, with the help of a foolhardy Australian unit and Rajib’s Indian sappers. Rajib thinks the mines he is ordered to lay in defense will be ineffectual, but the English commanding officer ignores him – and refuses to return his salute, to the anger of Rajib’s men. But Rajib says he must pick his battles.

Henriette can’t choose her battles; she helps whoever shows up near the small French town where she now resides, after fleeing Paris. She hides British pilots shot down over France and then helps them escape through the woods to safety.

David ends up in her care after being found in bad shape by a boy. David wakes up in Henriette’s cottage, where she sets a dislocated arm and treats an infected wound – all without morphine or any screams from David, given the constant German patrols. David hides in the closet until nighttime, when Henriette lets him out and feeds him.

Kasia also finds herself leading a secretive life after being assigned her first assignment by MI5. She is to follow a Polish woman who works at a factory that manufactures bombers and watch for anything suspicious. MI5 gives her a dog so she can walk it at the same time as the woman walks hers. Sir James has warned her not to reveal anything to Robina.

So Kasia tells Robina the dog is a stray that she brought home for Jan, who’s excited – so excited that he insists on walking the dog with Kasia. He proceeds to unleash the dog, which befriends the dog of Kasia’s target. Soon, Jan and Kasia are talking to the woman, Irena, and being invited to her home for a Polish meal.

Kasia goes to Irena the next day to dispel any suspicions, claiming that Jan is sick. She finds Irena to be kind and comforting; they hug after talking about the invasion of Warsaw and the killing of Kasia’s mother.

Kasia reports to her handler that Irena can’t be a spy. He tells her she needs to learn not to trust people.

Marga is learning that what she thought was an idyll might be more like a prison. Pregnant, she has collapsed several times. The doctor confirms that there are no “genetic defects” in her family and prescribes her bed rest until she gives birth, for the good of the baby. She is forced to lie in bed all day while the other girls enjoy the outdoors and engage in calisthenics.

Robina is having her own trouble with a baby: her granddaughter Vera is constantly crying, and Kasia and her maid Joyce both tend to leave Vera to Robina. Joyce worries that she hasn’t had a letter from “her Terry,” who’s serving in the military, in weeks.

Robina thinks Kasia got the dog as an excuse to avoid taking care of Vera. Kasia tells her that Vera isn’t really hers to take care of; Harry is Robina’s son, and so this is all her mess.

Sir James sweeps in and pays Joyce to babysit Vera for an afternoon while he treats Robina to a picnic. Robina at first protests, then acquiesces.

Kasia continues to monitor Irena and notices her pause near some bushes in the park. Kasia searches the area and finds a canister buried with a map of the bomber factory inside. She’s crushed by the betrayal, as she tells Sir James. She also says she owes Robina an apology, especially after all she has done for Jan. Robina sees Kasia and James in this intimate conversation from the window.

To apologize, Kasia bakes a cake and sets the table for tea for Jan and Robina. Robina dismisses Jan and tells Kasia she saw her with James. She won’t tolerate adultery, especially since Kasia is married to her son. Kasia denies it but can’t explain why. Robina isn’t surprised James chose the younger woman.

Kasia goes off to comfort a crying Vera. Jan appears and asks Robina if she loves James.

It’s certainly not love, but a German officer has taken an interest in Henriette. He enters her house while David is hidden in the closet and tells her she shouldn’t live alone. He can protect and provide for her, if she should so choose.

When he finally leaves, a terrified Henriette tells David they must leave tonight. A local woman has already confronted her, saying that if the rumors about people helping British soldiers in the forest are true, the Germans will kill everyone in the village.

Henriette refuses to leave David even though he’s injured and will slow her down. They escape hidden in a truck loaded with produce, making it past a checkpoint of German soldiers who take some of the goods for themselves.

The Germans in North Africa are hitting their enemies hard. Their tanks don’t fall for the trap of mines laid by Rajib’s unit, so coordinates of the tanks have to be called into artillery instead. But the Australian outpost with the phone is hit, so Harry rushes across open space to reach it and phone in the coordinates. He then helps the injured Aussie leader back to safety. Stan chastises him: you have a kid who needs a father, not a hero who gets himself killed.

That night, Rajib’s soldiers complain about the unequal treatment of them as compared to white units. They think Rajib is taking the side of the English over them.

Rajib feels their frustration: he is loyal to India, which is controlled by the British, so must fight for Britain. He doesn’t want Britain to lose to Germany and hand over India. He’s increasingly fed up with the British reading letters from his wife before they get to him lest they contain secrets, and with the lower quality provisions they give his unit.

So when his commander tells him to re-lay the mines in the pattern Rajib initially suggested and then again fails to salute Rajib, Rajib’s men start to surround the officer. Rajib demands a salute, and gets it. He then heads off to do the mines on his own, and his soldiers join of their own accord. He throws them a pack of better-quality cigarettes, like those given to the Aussies.

Later that day, Harry is walking in the open when a German plane flies over, strafing him. He barely makes it to safety, and finds a bullet hole right next to his head.