Doc Martin

Recap for 'Doc Martin,' Episode Three: 'Sh*t Happens'

Previously on 'Doc Martin'...

In the last episode, Martin helped an especially cantankerous patient, Roger Fenn (Jeff Rawle), come to terms with the fact that he had cancer and begin treatment. Martin also fired Elaine (Lucy Punch) for gross incompetence, only to earn the scorn of all of Portwenn. Ultimately, he hired her back.

This Week's Episode: "Sh*t Happens"

Written by Dominic Minghella
Directed by Ben Bolt

Yes, that's the title. No, that asterisk doesn't do much to mask the real word, but then again Dr. Martin Ellingham makes only the slightest effort to dance around sensitive issues. So see? It's appropriate.

Martin is being interviewed by Caroline Bosman (Felicty Montagu), the Portwenn radio host introduced in the first episode.

Could you guess that Martin isn't a natural for live interviews? He's only giving one-word answers, and Caroline is clearly growing peeved. She asks Martin why he moved to Portwenn. "I wanted to move." What were his first impressions of the town? "Windy." And the people? "What of them?"

Meanwhile, comely schoolteacher Louisa (Caroline Catz) bumps into the cancer-stricken Roger in the marketplace. Martin's interview is audible, and he's resisting Caroline's attempts to inquire about his love life. Louisa and Roger talk about what a bore Martin is, and Louisa asks how Roger will be making a living now that's he's unemployed and ill. Roger -- who, don't forget, was Louisa's predecessor at the local school -- doesn't know.

In the studio, the interview gets so awkward that Martin takes a break to use the bathroom, forcing Caroline to play a record on what's supposed to be a talk show. In the facilities, however, he runs into the Larges -- Bert (Ian McNeice) and his son Al (Joe Absalom), the two-man plumbing team that failed to solve Martin's plumbing troubles in episode one.

They're fighting too, actually. It seems young Al longs for a life that doesn't involve sticking his hands in other people's toilets.

At long last, however, the interview ends and Martin gets to return to his office, where he consults a patient suffering from chronic diarrhea. Martin prescribes the lad some medication but tells him to fully recover before he turns to work... at the public pool.
Next in to see Martin is Roger, who's disappointed the chemo hasn't made his hair fall out, since he was looking forward to saving money on haircuts. Money apparently really is a concern, because he asks Martin for a backdated report on his cancer so that he can prove he became sick back when he still worked at the school and therefore have the school pay up. Martin declines to forge the dates. Roger seems to understand.

Third in line to see Martin is Louisa. She and Roger make awkward, tentative plans for drinks at the pub.

And fourth is Bert Large, whom Martin finds sitting on a bench in town. Bert is fuming about the fight he had with his son, who's apparently already moved out of the house. Martin admits that when he told his father he wouldn't follow him into the navy, they didn't speak for months. The Elder Large suggests that now, as an adult, Martin can see his father's perspective. Martin admits that he and his father actually still don't speak. Elder large then assumes Martin is taking his son's side and stomps off.

Back at the office, Martin walks in on Elaine giving advice to a patient calling with a stomachache. He pulls her aside and chides her for giving medical advice to sick people. She insists that they don't need a doctor's advice -- just common sense. A quote: "If it weren't for me, you would have had a dozen diarrheas since yesterday." Martin's angry, appalled response: "How many?"

Martin heads over to the pharmacist, Mrs. Tishell (Selina Cadell), who's apparently been eagerly awaiting Martin's visit ever since he arrived in Portwenn. She has, by the way, noticed the recent spate of people seeking diarrhea remedies. "In fact you could say there's been a run of them," she says. (Snicker.) But she's clearly more interested in making small talk with Martin and affirming some sort of small town doctor-small town chemist bond that she seems to think should exist. Martin stops her with the best line of the episode: "Mrs. Tishell, please stop talking and write me a list of all the people in this village with diarrhea."

At the pool, the leisure center manager insists that he keeps the water in the cleanest of states, but Martin argues back that the virus he suspects of causing the illnesses wouldn't be deterred by chlorine. Martin then commands the attention of the young swimmers, explaining that they should all exit the pool immediately. The kids, of course, refuse. It's playtime, after all. Martin continues that the kids should listen to him because "there's something dangerous in the pool." The children, after a few beats of suspicious silence, fly in a panic and exit the pool screaming. Well done, Martin.

But then - the catch. Martin receives a patient who has the illness but who hasn't been anywhere near the pool. Of course, this means there's a different culprit that's given the town the squirts.

Martin then rushes back to Caroline's radio show with the news that there's a stomach bug going around. Caroline, ever eager for ratings, tries to spin it: "So there's a mystery." Martin, thick as a brick, dismisses any notion of mystery illnesses, explaining that it's almost certainly the water supply that's making people sick and that people should boil all their water. Caroline cuts to commercial, explaining that a water quality scare three years ago nearly shut down the entire village. Outside, everyone in town is furious with Martin for "pissing in the water."

He flees to Aunt Joan (Stephanie Cole), who explains the severity of the situation: The scare three years ago drove away tourists, forcing one family to sell their house and one Portwennian man to hang himself. Martin insists that had he not warned about the water, the villagers would be angry with him for that. But he also admits that he hasn't actually gotten the results back yet. Aunt Joan disapproves.

Back at home, Martin gets a knock on the door from Bert, who's actually happy that Doc Martin pissed in the local water. For one, his years working on pipes has taught him corrosive Portwenn water is to pipes. For another, he happens to be the owner of Chateau St. Marie, a line of mineral water bottled from "ancient spring beneath the green hills of France." And since the doc's announcement, sales have gone through the roof.
At his office, Martin receives a reporter from the town paper. Martin publicly declares that the town's water is potable, and to demonstrate this claim he gulps down a glass. Unfortunately for his retraction, Martin can't keep it down and goes running to the bathroom within seconds. We hear a revulsed noise come from behind a closed bathroom door. The reporter: "Can I quote you on that?"

Then the results come in: no fecal coliform. It's back to square one. For at least for
several moments.

Martin, now wearing a bathrobe and clearly unwell, is about to drink up a glass full of Chateau St. Marie when he spies Bert selling boxes of the mineral water to villagers. Martin has a realization and follows Burt back to his house, where he finds Mr. Large filling the bottles with hose water. Martin: "So this is Chateau St. Marie, is it?"

Burt defends the practice, claiming that he's truly been selling spring water, even if the spring is in his field and not in France. "Do you keep sheep?" Martin asks. Burt says yes. "Are they lambing?" Yes again. Sheep that have given birth, Martin explains, are a common source of cryptosporidium. Burt realizes the error of his ways, and says that the whole bottled water business was a means to provide for his son should he ever verge off and start his own career separate from pluming.

They head to Al's "place." (He clearly didn't move very far.)

Martin has to apologize on Burt's behalf, but it all comes out: it's fine if Al wants to go to college and study computers.

Martin goes back on Caroline's show, and she really puts it to him. Martin, it turns out, never admits that it was the Larges' water that made people sick. Thus, he only admits that his previous radio statement about water quality was hasty. He swallows his pride essentially says he was wrong. "I think we can all come to our own conclusions about how properly this was handled," says Caroline in an offensively smug way.

At Martin's office, Al repairs Martin's computer system, even setting it up so Elaine can get free music on it. In fact, Martin has done the Larges a second favor by hiring Al to stop by on a monthly basis to make sure that the computer system is up to speed.

We also get a little insight into Roger's activities. He's back at the school, teaching a part-time after-school music class. Which raises a significant question: Does this mean that Martin refused the papers like he claimed he would? Or did his uncharacteristic good will toward the Larges imply that he also forged the date on Roger's paperwork? Notably, we're not told.

And, finally, Martin and Louisa finally get their date, though moments after they arrive at the pub, Martin's free time gets hijacked by PC Mark Mylow (Stewart Wright), the clinically depressed cop we met in the pilot.

He wants to talk about his troubles with women, and Louisa slinks politely into the bathroom as Mylow spills his guts. Martin would clearly rather spend his evening with Louisa, but he realizes he has a job to do.

Speaking Portwennese

At two points in this episode, Americans may well pick up a specific difference between the way we talk and the way the people of Portwenn do. First, Louisa pronounces the brand name "Prada" in a way that an American might spell "Pradder." And then Elaine pronounces the word "diarrhear." So what's with that "R" at the end of these words?

Well, British English is largely non-rhotic, meaning that the "R" sound usually isn't pronounced -- hence Brits saying "hahd" when most Americans would say "hard." That said, the "R" does get pronounced in certain instances. (Wikipedia points out that a British person would pronounce "tuner" like "tuna," but if the following syllable begins with a vowel sound -- as in "tuner amp" -- the "R" gets pronounced.) However, many speakers don't stop there with those phantom "R" sounds, and as a result they creep into other syllables than end in a vowel, regardless of what comes next. Hencer "Pradder" and "diarrhear" in this episode.

But what gives? Why do the Portwennians speak this way and not Americans? Are we wrong?

Well, not exactly. Back at the time North America was being colonized, English on either side of the Atlantic was rhotic -- that is, it pronounced the "R" sound the way most Americans do today. It's only since 1776 that speakers of British English began to drop their "R" sounds in great numbers, to the point that it's now considered standard and even prestigious for British English not to use them.

Unless you're talking about Prada and diarrhea, of course.

And what of our fellow Americans in Boston, who "pahk the cahr in Hahvahd yahd"? Some East Coast cities adopted the increasingly "R"-less British accent as a result of being closer to England, either politically or geographically speaking.

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About the Author

Drew Mackie, associate producer of new media, liked shows about old British people before it became fashionable. He also says silly things on Twitter.
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