Taboo - Episode 4

  • James:
    reads books about chemistry, cannot dance, doesn't like social gatherings
  • Zilpha:
    likes to dance, her husband does business with the Musgroves

Overview: James hires the chemist and entertainer Cholmondeley to secretly produce gunpowder for him because the production of gunpowder is controlled by the crown and James will not be granted to purchase a license. After a brutal attack which he barely survives by pretending to be dead James realises that the Americans intend to kill him, too, to gain the right on Nootka Sound. At a ball James gets invited to matters turn even worse.

First Scene:
Night. James can't sleep. He sits in his room in front of the fireplace and practices a ritual.
Zilpha is in her bedroom lying in the bed. Slowly she awakens and starts getting excited.
James covers his face with white ash.
Zilpha sighs and bucks her hips.
James eats and grunts.
Zilpha moans.
James spits the chewed mass into the fire.
Zilpha turns around and faces the mattress bucking her hips. An unknown face in the right corner above her is visible.
James drinks blood or whine. A vision of the jungle pops up.
Zilpha lies on the ground taken by a man in a mask. Zilpha in her bed starts praying: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.
Vision: James walks the jungle looking confused.
Zilpha keeps praying while she is getting herself off. Thy will be done...
James starts talking in African.
Zilpha keeps praying. Deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
James keeps talking in African.
When Zilpha finishes Thorne enters the room. He is furious. "John, Company and the King are back at war. The resolution again recedes. Fuck him!"
Zilpha lies still under the covers with her eyes open. She looks at him. "You woke me."
He comes closer sitting down on the edge of the bed.
She sits up. "Please don't. You coat's all wet."
He puts a hand on her leg. "And you're wet, too."
Zilpha fights his grip.
Thorne seizes her chin and forces her to look at him. "Who's in there? Who's in there? Huh?"
Zilpha remains silent.
"Where he leads, I will follow," Thorne says and pushes her back onto the bed. He throws his coat off and opens his pants. Then he gets onto her.

Second Scene:
The ball. Zilpha dances. James and Lorna enter. Zilpha sees James. James sees Zilpha. She stops dancing, looking shocked. James stares at her. Zilpha excuses herself to her dance partner. Staring at James she rushes out of the room. Flashback: Zilpha in her bed, moaning.
"And who the hell was that?" Lorna says.
Without a reply James turns and follows Zilpha fighting off the intrusive crowd flooding into the room.

Third Scene:
The garden. Under an archway between lighted fires James joins Zilpha.
"Why are you here?" Zilpha says.
"Because I was invited. You?"
"Because my husband was invited. He has business of theirs in Berlin."
They look at each other.
"Ah, but it is a bit unexpected, isn't it?" James says. "It's unusual."
"I knew that when you saw me, you would come to me and I realise that is how it always is." She moves from her spot avoiding his look. "You always drive me..."
"It is a bit unexpected that we were both invited, is it not?" he interrupts her, turning around. "That we were invited, both together. And if they invited us both, then they probably know."
She looks at him, startled. "Who knows?" She moves closer to him. "Who knows?"
"Our American friends."
She turns and tries to leave. James grasps her arm and holds her back, pulling her close. "Ah! You feel me, don't you, when I break in?"
Zilpha shakes her head. "No."
"Yes, you do."
Zilpha keeps shaking her head. "No."
"You do. You feel me."
Flashback: Zilpha in her bed, treating herself. The face in the right corner is visible, too.
"And I could come more often, but I spare you."
Flashback: Zilpha in bed, bucking wildly.
They are very close now - right into their personal space.
"Then spare me," Zilpha pleads, looking into his eyes.
"I went to a doctor, he took me to a priest who had been to a mission in Africa."
"Yes, what did he say?"
"He said that you visit as animals."
Flashback: James with a red stained mouth, blood or wine. He looks at Zilpha's lips.
"He couldn't even look at me after I'd told him," she murmurs huskily.
"When I left England, I thought I was mad, but they taught me how to use it. Now it's a gift." He looks at her intently.
Flashback: Zilpha in bed, bucking her hips.
"It's the devil," she replies. They are only a kiss away now.
"Now, amongst other things, I am also a doctor," a voice interrupts their intimacy.
Zilpha quickly turns her face away from James. He reacts a bit slower.
Dumbarton steps out of the shadows. "And I'd say the lady is in danger of catching more than just a chill out here."
Zilpha looks shocked, James rather indifferent.
"Your half-sister. Am I right?" Dumbarton says.
Zilpha stares briefly at him and then flees the scene not looking back.
Dumbarton whistles.
James watches her flight and now he looks slightly concerned as well as disappointed about the interruption.
"You're quite a prize, Mr. Delaney, quite a prize," Dumbarton continues. He chuckles. "I was told what you did to our first resort. Flashback: The bloody face of the man James recently killed. "Opened him up like a bull," Dumbarton says.
James stares at him. Flashback: The man James had killed with his intestines hanging out.
"Nice work," Dumbarton says. "Now, I make no moral judgements. And besides, Carlsbad said to say that you can have her. You can have her as part of the deal. Part of our second offering. So why don't you just take her? Just take her with you. No more hiding. We can guarantee you safe passage, anonymity, new worlds. But look, if you don't want to deal with the obstacle, we can certainly take care of that for you. Say her husband gets drunk. No surprise. Falls from a bridge or something. Let me just make the point... from an American point of view. Love is now part of the deal that we are offering over and above that which is an offer from your countrymen. Hm?" He pats James' shoulder. "I'll leave that with you."
During the whole speech James says not word or shows a reaction.
Dumbarton walks away but turns around once more. "And don't worry how we know so much. Hm? We just know so much." He walks away.
James stays behind looking shell-shocked by the new development. Then he looks at his watch. The glass has a crack. It's almost midnight.

Fourth Scene:
The ball goes on. Thorne drinks a lot. Zilpha looks concerned. James comes back inside.

Fifth Scene:
Countess Musgrove laughs. Lorna dances. Thorne puts an arm around Zilpha. She looks unwell. Cholmondeley moves around.

Sixth Scene:
Thorne keeps drinking. Zilpha watches him concerned. Dumbarton watches them both. Countess Musgrove dances. James watches Zilpha and the people surrounding her from a distance. Zilpha notices him. Cholmondeley makes a pass at Lorna. James walks into the room. Cholmondeley keeps playing his game. James joins Lorna's side and stares at him. Cholmondeley leaves. James looks at his watch.
Lorna appears amused as well as curious. "That stranger that you've never met, is he part of your League of the Damned?"
James doesn't answer.
"Well, we could at least try?" Lorna says, irritated.
James who is still watching Zilpha and Thorne realises she said something. "Sorry."
"Would you like to dance?"
"No," he shoots her down.
She rolls her eyes and gives up.

Seventh Scene:
Lorna enters the Lady's room. Zilpha is already there, fixing her make up.
"You know James Delaney?" Lorna says.
Zilpha briefly stops powdering her cheeks. "No." She shows a polite smile.
Lorna checks her lipstick. "What? You mean in the way that no-one really knows James Delaney?"
Zilpha stops powdering. "Yes."
"I've only not known James a little while. But I have the feeling you've not known him a little longer."
Zilpha is ready to put her brush in her handbag. "We were children..." She drops the brush.
"Oh!" Lorna bends down and picks it up.
Zilpha looks flustered and angry at herself.
Lorna hands the brush over to Zilpha.
Zilpha looks at her. "Thank you."
Lorna smiles.
Zilpha walks to the door.
"If I were to have intentions..." Lorna continues testing her.
Zilpha stops.
"...regarding James, would I need to be wary of you?"
Zilpha turns around and stares at her. "No civilised woman would have intentions regarding him. And you would not need to be wary of me. We have the same father." Zilpha leaves the room.
Lorna looks rather intrigued than shocked.

Eight Scene:
A servant approaches James. "James Delaney? The Countess Musgrove."
"I don't dance," James says.
The Countess joins them. "A gentlemen called Colonnade told me that you do."
James goes with her through the ballroom.
"As hostess, I thought I would dance the outrageous dance with an outrageous guest."
"Yet, I do not dance, madam."
"Well, then we shall disappear. Come on." She takes his hand and leads him into the next room.
"The Countess Musgrove!" The Magician calls out. The crowd cheers and applauses.
"Just do as I do and all will be well," the Countess whispers.
She and James passes Zilpha. James front grazes her back. Zilpha looks excited.
James and the Countess stop. The Magician starts the show. "As a rule, I do this trick with a beautiful woman..."
"Ooh!" The crowd cheers.
"...and a chimpanzee," he continues.
"In the absence of a chimpanzee, a gorilla will have to do." The Magician points at James.
Jeering and laughter. Zilpha stands in the background, watching.
"Please, madam, please, sir, take a deep breath..." the Magician goes on, and opens the double doors of a man-sized box. "...and step into the beyond."
"Ooh!" the crowd goes. Dumbarton and Lorna watch the spectacle as well.
The Countess and James step into the box.
The Magician closes the doors. "One wonders if they will ever be seen again!"
Inside the box the mechanical device starts working and James and the Countess are turned around being at the back of the box. James starts talking. "I did my research on you. Genevieve Decoux. From New Orleans."
"Please, Mr. Delaney, we do not have much time."
"Mmh. You sent the giant to kill me."
"The outcome persuaded us you should be courted instead."
Outside the box the Magician rambles on. "What will the gorilla do with the lady, one wonders. Eat her, perhaps!"
Laughter! Only Zilpha looks not amused.
The Magician turns around and opens the doors. Neither James nor the Countess are inside. "Oh, where did they go?" He closes the doors again.
Inside the box. "Countess, I know this is business. And I think I know who you are. But know this. I control the timing of this."
"At all times your life is in our hands."
"As is your name in mine. Carlsbad."
She doesn't reply. The mechanical device starts working and she is turned to the front. The Magician opens the doors. The Countess appears alone. No James. Zilpha looks concerned.
"Oh, it seems we have one...but not the other," the Magician says.
James waits inside the box.
"Where is my gorilla?" the Countess says.
"Get back in there, Lady Musgrove..." the Magician says. "...and find that humping gorilla of yours."
The Countess gets back into the box. The device works and she faces James again. "I was told you wanted tea."
"A monopoly."
"Fanciful, of course."
"Hm. I want to meet with the Embassy in Paris."
"Oh, no. You assign to the United States, where someone will kill you. This time, we will be more artful."
"Hm. You will need to be."
The Magician opens the doors. James and the Countess are both seen. The crowd cheers. The Countess smiles. James looks unhappy about the outcome. Zilpha looks strained as she claps her hands.
"Your own sister," the Countess whispers to James. "Oh, goodness!"
James startles. The Countess leaves. James looks at Zilpha. His sister turns abruptly and leaves, too. James looks like he is in shock, and then he leaves the box following Zilpha.

Ninth Scene:
Zilpha goes back into the next room. All the guests are behaving out of control. Thorne drinks and screams madly. Zilpha looks distressed. She turns around and sees the reason for Thorne's outrage. James.
"Is he here? This gas..." Thorne says.
Zilpha leans into him and tries to calm him.
"Is this real? Why's he here? Is it him? Do I see right?" He kisses Zilpha. "Why is he here?" He shoves Zilpha to the side. The crowd continues laughing and drinking. Thorne stares at James who is moving closer. Thorne touches James, first at the collar, then at his face. Lorna comes in and watches them both.
Thorne looks out of his mind. "You fu... you fucked her!" he finally says to James.
Dumbarton watches them, too.
Thorne turns to the crowd and repeats: "He fucked her. He fucked her!" He screams now to drown out the noise of the crowd. "He fu..."
James hits Thorne, then grabs him and drags him across the patio outside to the garden. Lorna and Dumbarton keep watching them, and then they follow the two men.
James throws Thorne to the ground.
Zilpha, followed by the whole crowd, walks out, and stops on the patio.
Thorne struggles and coughs. James circles him. He looks at Zilpha then. She is well aware that everyone else is watching closely.
James approaches Thorne. "You need some air," he says. He grabs Thorne's hand and helps him to stand up.
"James. Please, don't!" Zilpha calls out. She silences, realising her mistake.
Thorne tears his hand from James' grip and pushes himself away from James. He looks at Zilpha who appears frozen with fear. Dumbarton watches them. The Countess who stands behind Zilpha leaves in a rush.
"James?" Thorne spits out. "James?"
Zilpha looks at the ground. Lorna watches with concern.
"You call this thing James?" Thorne shouts, pointing at James.
James looks at Zilpha. She looks back. She is close to tears.
"You don't call him anything but nigger!" Thorne rages. He turns back to James.
James turns his attention back to Thorne.
"You fucked her!" Thorne incriminates the siblings. "And you lay your hands on me in MY society! I know I will have my satisfaction. I declare it! I challenge James Delaney to a duel. At the death."
"No," Zilpha whispers.
"To the death. Do you accept? Do you accept?!" Thorne screams.
James doesn't reply but looks once again at Zilpha who fights not to cry in front of all these people. She trembles. James keeps looking at her, resembling a trapped animal without a chance for an escape.

Best Quote:
James: "I don't keep anybody around me that doesn't deserve what they get."

Best Dialog:
James: "Ah! You feel me, don't you, when I break in?"
Zilpha: "No."
James: "Yes, you do."
Zilpha: "No."
James: "You do. You feel me. And I could come more often, but I spare you."
Zilpha: "Then spare me."

Zilpha thinks of James and gives herself a good time. Thorne is jealous and rapes her. Zilpha endures her life with Thornes because she thinks she deserves to be punished, but the return of James is about to change that. She wants more. She wants to feel love and lust. She wants to break free.

"When was the last time you set foot inside a church, sir?" Brace asks James coming home. What is that supposed to mean? Does Brace know about the meeting of James and Zilpha inside the church? Brace just read the newspaper. Had something being written in there or is he just testing James?
James doesn't reply but looks away and sits down to read his letters. He confronts Brace with the accusation that he knows he opens and reseals his letters.
So, is that the reason Brace knows about the meeting in the church; because he read Zilpha's letters to James? Does he know about the siblings' revived relationship but would never talk about it?

It's unclear who of the siblings is memorizing Zilpha moaning? James or Zilpha? Does he really know what she was doing and did he make her do it or does only she know what happened and the shame about her feelings is hers alone? Either James can do magic or Zilpha's guilt makes her think he can.

James doesn't like social gatherings, mostly people touching him. He is very uncomfortable at the ball.

During Dumbarton's speech James acts the same way he acted towards Thorne giving his insulting speech about Zilpha. He just says nothing concerning his sister. Either this is his way to protect her or he knows if he starts talking he would freak out and kill all those who dare to even look at Zilpha funny.
Well, Thorne is very drunk the same evening and challenges James to a duell to the death. This could be Dumbarton's and Musgrove's plan right from the start to get either rid of Thorne or James. The Countess literally says so to James in the box.

So, Lorna didn't know Zilpha is James' sister, but she looks rather taken by the news than appalled anyway. Why is that, huh?
Zilpha on the other hand is definitely jealous after Lorna talks about having intentions regarding James, but she would never act out on those feelings. She didn't say "James is my brother" or "I am his sister" or "We are siblings", no, she stresses out: "We have the same father." That choice of words seems very significant to Zilpha.
The question is if Lorna is just teasing Zilpha with the intentions regarding James or if she is serious about it. Anyway, she approaches James shortly after teasing him: "You are in every way an unopened box. Just when I think it's empty, I hear a tiger roaring inside it."
"I want you to bring the trunk with my father's belongings tomorrow," is James' reply. A clear rebuff to her flirting. That's what I need from you and that's why I keep you around, he implies.
Lorna doesn't lose heart, though. "I thought you might have gone. Oh, you mean you waited? For me?"
"No...I wanted to finish my pipe," James shoots her down again. "I want you to bring my father's possessions tomorrow or our association is finished."
Now, it's possible James is so harsh because he does develop feelings for Lorna, but he can't deal with it, or he just don't have feelings for her, or he doesn't have any feelings at all, because he is dead, like he said right from the start.

The meeting of James and the Countess Musgrove is watched by Lorna, Dumbarton and Zilpha. The box trick is also watched by a man in a mask. It's the same mask we see in James' and Zilpha's visions in the jungle.

James looks truly shocked by the insinuation that the Americans know about his relationship to his sister. Obviously he was convinced nobody but he and Zilpha knew the truth and the revelation unsettles him considerably. It is uncertain if it is shame or fear or a very different beast. Or does James even feel betrayed by Zilpha spilling their deepest secret after asking him not to do the very same?
Well, but maybe the Countess' remark: "Your own sister. Oh, goodness!" means something different anyway and James just assumes she talks about the incest.

In the dispute with Thorne James looks at Zilpha like: How could this happen? What have we done to deserve this? Weren't we here once before?

James decides that he doesn't want Zilpha to become involved in the group of the damned. He wants to protect her even if that means he can't have her for himself. Sadly his unselfishness drives Zilpha to the murder of her husband eventually.

The Crew of the Damned:
Atticus. Leads a robbery on behalf of James to get some refined saltpetre to speed up the production of the gunpowder.

Godfrey. Tells James he is on a blacklist and will never get the permission to make gunpowder. James lies on the bed and looks comfortable but in the end he insults Godfrey saying he is only half a man.

Lorna. Is brought to the Tower and pressured to make a deal against James. She resists and on James' behalf she is saved from being raped and tortured in the last second. James agrees to incorporate Lorna into the organisation if she wants to stay. He then asks her to bring him the trunk with his father's belongings. Later James asks her to accompany him to a ball the Americans invited him to.

Bill. Takes part in the robbery Atticus leads.

Pearl. Pisses in a pot. Receives a pistol from James. Takes part in the robbery Atticus leads. Sucks a watchman off to distract him.

Cholmondeley. A chemist. A doctor. An entertainer. Also a womanizer. Is employed by James to make gunpowder for him. Says what he thinks. Is a guest at the ball and witnesses James' dispute with Thorne.

Robert. Witnesses how James kills a man and disembowels him.

Questions & Thoughts:
Lorna calls James the river. Well, one woman will walk through a river and one will jump into one, drowning herself. Or won't she?

Who is that figure James sees through the window at the beach by night? Horace? Or someone else?

Can James really do magic and haunt his sister or is the connection just the usual emotional bond some couples feel?

There is a face in the right corner above Zilpha visible while she is getting herself off. Who is it? A ghost? A demon? What does it mean?

The visions: James is walking through a forest. Zilpha is being taken by a man in an African mask. Is this a real place from their past or is it just an imagined refuge for their minds?

Why does Brace never talk about Zilpha? He must have known her being a long-life servant of the Delaney family. So, does he not talk about Zilpha because he knew of the relationship or because he dislikes her in general or because he doesn't want to afflict James with the painful matter?

Does Lorna just assume who Countess Musgrove is or has she met her before or does she know more than she admits?

How does Carlsbad know about James and Zilpha if Dumbarton just found out about the siblings romantic attachment himself? What do the Americans know, how and why? Seriously? How does Dumbarton know so much? Did Zilpha tell him? Or Thorne? Or Horace while he was losing his mind?

That the Countess Musgrove is supposed to be CARLSBAD doesn't ring true to me. I think she is just a decoy leading James on. The real Carlsbad is someone else. "I was told you wanted tea," she says to James. She never replies to his statement that she is Carlsbad. She never confirms nor denies it.

Who is the person in the African mask attending the ball? Is he real or just an imagination of James or Zilpha? If he is real what does that mean?

Did Zilpha met Dumbarton before? Is he the doctor who took her to a priest? Did she spill the secret of the incest because she thought James was dead or did Horace tell in his last weeks? Zilpha said Horace disgraced her in the end.

Why did James change so much in his youth? What happened to him and Zilpha in the forest/jungle? Why did he leave for Africa? What had he done to be forced to leave his home and his love?

Taboo Episode Guide