This has all blown up over a tooth, and the gap can be plugged. – Roger
After last week’s revelation that Roger has a 31 year old son by the woman who cleaned his room at college, you might expect the atmosphere at chez Stevenson to be thick enough to cut with a butter knife. And so it is. Val (Dawn French) gets in, talking on a mobile to her friend, Sue, about a meal at Romano’s the following night. She and her feared rival, Pam Bagnall, are through to the next round for the job of deputy head, but there’s a presentation the following morning and dinner with the Head and her husband, Pam Bagnall & partner, and chairman of the school governors.
Roger (Alfred Molina) comes in, doesn’t greet Val, so you know there’s definitely a rift within the lute. Things get a bit better when Val tells him she’s through to the second round, but his smile shows a missing front tooth that you really couldn’t miss. This tooth, or ghost of a tooth is the bone of contention that becomes a flaming row. The issue is whether Roger should accompany her to the restaurant, because Val is worried about having to explain away the missing front tooth. She wants a “dignified answer” to the inevitable questions and they can’t come up with one, while Roger feels hurt that she wants to exclude him just because of that.
Why has he lost his upper front tooth? He visited Jean Duggan and Liam, his son. But Liam’s older brother, Gary, punched him in the mouth. So, as Val says, “You’ve got no tooth for tomorrow night!”
But of course there’s more to it than that. When Roger asks, “What is it exactly?”, Val gives him both barrels. “It’s that you lied to me…in league with the mother of your child that I didn’t know you had!” It doesn’t help that he spent the afternoon at Asda when Val thought he was at the dentist. With Jean. And he’s given her £50 not to sell the story to Take a Break magazine. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Roger spoke to the Head at lunchtime to ask how the interview went.
Val is so exasperated and furious that she decides to pull out of the deputy headship. Roger is distraught and tries to stop her. His attempts to prevent her sending the email include pulling out the plug and then cutting off the plug with pruning shears. It all goes ballistic, with Val accusing Roger of being right wing and threatening divorce, and Roger gazing in despair at the picture of him and Val with their son.
In the calm after the storm, Val starts to cook a soft pasta meal. If the catalyst for the argument was Roger’s tooth, it’s Val’s brilliant idea for a garlic clove replacement painted with balsamic vinegar that brings them back together. They end up planning how to arrange things to make the dinner at Romano’s work, as loving and supportive of each as before.
Fine, nuanced, funny, emotionally serious writing, with solid, believable characters. Presumably next week’s episode will be a postmortem on what happened at Romano’s and (I hope) more reverberations from the Duggans.