The Home Fires Burning Question S1E1: Can Frances Turn the Women’s Institute Around?



Home Fires Burning Question S1E1

Welcome to this week’s “Home Fires” Burning Question! Before reading and participating in the poll, do note that there are many spoilers ahead. This episode of Home Fires is available to watch through Thursday, March 3, 2016.

In Great Paxford, the looming presence of WWII is taking its toll on the local Women’s Institute (W.I.), as many rely on the organization and its get-togethers for a sense of community and companionship. That, however, doesn’t seem to be of interest to W.I. President Joyce (Francesca Annis) – a controlling, if not snobbish alpha female – as she looks to close down the W.I. until the impending war concludes.

As members of the W.I. gear up for a vote on the immediate future of the organization’s existence, much politicking is being done. Joyce, in no uncertain terms, puts pressure on her housemaid Claire (Daisy Badger) to vote in her direction, thus quickly showing the depths she’s willing to go to have her motion passed. Meanwhile, popular W.I. member, Frances (Samantha Bond), is looking to secure enough votes to thwart Joyce’s plans. The tension felt in the room as the vote comes to a head is palpable.

“Ladies, none of us should be under any illusion about the prospect of imminent war with Germany,” says Joyce as she addresses W.I. members. “If and when hostilities break out, there will be much to be done to ensure our homes and our families are protected from the trials and tribulations the war will inevitably bring. And it is for this reason your committee proposes the Institute closes its doors until we can raise our flag again in a time of peace.”

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Following Joyce’s speech, Frances thoroughly objects to her point of view and doesn’t want a vote to be held, as she assumes the President’s grip on the majority of voters is tight. Despite the protest, ballots are soon cast.

To everyone’s surprise, the vote results in a tie, thus motivating Joyce to use her Presidential position to break the tie and vote in favour of shutting down the W.I. indefinitely. However, there’s one small problem – Joyce’s employee Claire – and a potential tie-breaking vote – arrives late, just after the results are tallied.

As Joyce tries to intimidate Claire out of issuing an opinion (that wouldn’t be of benefit to her cause), Frances and others encourage the young woman to speak her mind. She emphasizes the importance of the Institute and recommends that its doors stay open. But, this perspective doesn’t matter to the President as she resists Claire’s late contribution to the proceedings.

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It is at this point where Frances loudly states that a non-confidence vote should be held against Joyce due to her inflexible ways. While flabbergasted and insulted, Joyce puts up a mild fight before turning the tables and resigning from her post. When leaving the W.I., Joyce takes large chunk of the membership with her. This leaves the W.I.’s future in doubt. Thus, Joyce has seemingly gotten what she wanted anyways – all it took was a different avenue to get there.

In the days ahead, Frances and her supporters look to keep the W.I. alive, but first they need to bring in more members. After a jam-making initiative designed to build up local food supplies and promote the Institute succeeds, Frances’ attempt at building a fresh collective for the W.I. seems to have worked. But, Joyce, reappearing as a fly on the wall, has her doubts and questions the new group’s ability to survive and thrive under anyone else’s guidance.

Even though the newly led W.I. is barely off the ground, do you think Frances has what it takes to rally the reorganized group and make it an important place for her Great Paxford sisterhood?

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Do some of the cast members of “Home Fires” look familiar to you? If so, please do have a look at our Where You’ve Seen them Before feature.

Home Fires” airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET/6pm PT from February 3 through March 9, followed at 10pm ET/7pm PT by encore episodes of Downton Abbey’s fourth season.

-Adam Grant

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