November 12, 2023
World on Fire airs Sundays at 8:00 pm on WTTW and is available to stream via the PBS app and at wttw.com. Recap the previous and following episode.
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The water distillery for Harry’s besieged unit has been hit, so they have to subsist on half rations of water in the desert. Elsewhere in Northern Africa, Lois and her ambulance corps have to work double shifts – so when a local woman collapses and dies, leaving her baby, Lois’ colleague Pearl says they can’t drive the long trip to Cairo to drop the baby at an orphanage. They’ll have to deposit him with people in the nearby village. But Lois insists on Cairo – the poor people in the village can barely feed themselves, all for a war that doesn’t involve them.
Harry begins to go mad with sunstroke and dehydration. Rajib tries to rein him in, but Harry convinces his men to go search for a well while they wait for the distillery to be fixed. They find one in the night, and it’s only guarded by two Italian soldiers. They easily take it, but it needs to be purified before they can drink from it.
Then Germans attack the well. The Italian prisoners escape; Stan is shot and killed. Rajib takes the German who killed Stan prisoner.
The Polish woman Irena is a prisoner of sorts. She denies passing information about the Manchester bomber factory where she works to the Germans, even when Kasia enters the room where she is being interrogated and tells her she found the plans Irena left for a contact. Sir James wants Kasia, as a fellow Pole, to get Irena to work for British intelligence by sending the Germans false plans.
Kasia’s handler makes her speak to Irena in English as she tries to convince her, but Kasia eventually sends the handler to fetch Irena water and switches to Polish. Irena says the Nazis have taken her son prisoner and torture him every day. If she doesn’t send them plans, they will kill him. She asks Kasia to help her.
Kasia tells her handler that Irena still denies everything, and convinces him to allow her to go home with Irena, where she might feel more comfortable and safe. Irena wants to flee England and asks for help, but Kasia – having already trusted her and been disappointed – doesn’t even believe that her son is real. She won’t leave Irena alone, but at least lets her sleep.
David is also being watched closely, by Henriette, as he and she hide from German patrols in a barn in the French countryside. He is beginning to recover from his wounds, under the care of Henriette, although he still has nightmares.
Henriette is worried about her Jewish, Communist brother Luc. She knows he escaped a prison camp, but has no idea what has happened to him after that. The constant risks of German-occupied France have made David realize that he was just play-acting as a soldier; he now better understands the real horror of the war on the continent and its effects on everyone’s lives.
And yet there can still be some joy, as when the wife of the farmer sheltering Henriette and David brings them stew and brandy and gets drunk with them until the farmer chastises her for being too loud and sends her to bed. Henriette and David end up kissing and lying in each other’s arms.
David asks Henriette if the French resistance could use him, asking her to teach him French. He wants to stay with her. But she tells him he would be killed in a week. As they hide in a smaller, rat-infested space when German patrols again enter the area, he asks her how to say “I love you” in French – he just wants to hear her say it. But she won’t; she is going back to Paris to work at a different hospital, and he must escape France and return to his squadron.
While Harry’s unit rides in somber silence with Stan’s body back to camp, their German prisoner taunts Rajib and the soldiers. Harry orders Rajib to continue on with the unit while he has the German soldier dig Stan’s grave.
As the German digs, he continues to taunt Harry and declare undying allegiance to Hitler. He defiantly enrages Harry to the point that Harry shoots and kills him, to his own horror. He covers up the murder by saying the German escaped into the desert.
Rajib seems to see through Harry’s lie. After saying a prayer at Stan’s grave, Rajib joins Harry, who has bought a bottle of beer off another soldier – he needs booze. Rajib says Harry is being a coward when in fact his men need him more now that Stan has died. Drinking alone is the beginning of the end, he tells Harry, who hands him the bottle of beer to share.
While Kasia is with Irena, Robina and Sir James discuss Kasia. Robina thinks Sir James is having an affair with the younger woman, but he insists he is only interested in her character. Robina goes off to bed upset.
Kasia wakes up in Irena’s house to horror: Irena has killed herself with arsenic. She is clutching a note to her son that says she had no other choice.
Sir James says that Irena’s death makes things simpler, as MI5 can now plant false plans on its own, then apologizes to Kasia for being so crass.
That evening, he and Robina’s household sit down to a feast acquired by him. Robina says it feels indecent to eat so luxuriously, but Jan is excited, so Sir James begins to carve the bird. Kasia lays into him in Polish: how can he enjoy such a meal when a woman just killed herself because of him?
Robina insists that they speak English and sends Jan away. Kasia explains everything, lamenting that you are not allowed to have a heart in military intelligence. Sir James responds that Irena made her own choice. He and other men of his generation who fought in World War I have seen so much death up close and had to simply accept it. Kasia needs to develop that type of courage to survive.
He later apologizes to Robina, who asks him to keep Kasia out of the war – women must sacrifice and maintain the bedrock of the home. Sir James says that would be a waste of talent for Kasia – and indeed is for Robina. He has to go to London for a time, and doesn’t want to part on an unfriendly note, but Robina simply asks him to send in Kasia.
Kasia also apologizes to Robina, but Robina demands an assurance from her that she won’t partake in the war in any way, or else Robina will kick both her and Jan out. Kasia agrees, for her brother’s sake. In this house, Jan and Vera will have peace, Robina says. She has finally begun to feel love for her granddaughter.
Lois is worried about the baby she found, especially after she has to drop the infant at the nearby village after all because all hands are called to work. But when she has a nightmare that a baby died, it is Vera, not the one she found. She decides to go home to her daughter.