Ooh! We gained something rather exciting from this episode: ‘toffee’ or ‘cea’. It’s a new hot drink that’s half coffee, half tea, designed by Smithy’s pal and colleague Deano. Played to subtle brilliance by Mathew Baynton, hapless ingénu Deano has definitely been an underused character in the previous two series, so it was a joy to see him taking prime position in this episode. He’s a valuable character overall in that he injects a bit of eccentricity into the Essex side of the gang, who often seem like the more ‘real’ set of characters in contrast with the somewhat cartoonish figures of Bryn, Gwen, Nessa and Dave over on Barry Island.
So Deano, joining the Essex lads for a night out in Barry, has learnt Welsh specially so that he can talk to Gav’s in-laws – who actually don’t know Welsh; who does? – and chat up Welsh girls in the clubs. Poor old Deano. his intentions are honourable but he’s thoroughly ensconced in his own world – one in which ‘toffee’ is a reasonable order to make in Starbucks – and needs Smithy The Wise to steer him through life.
He’s been helping Smithy in the build of the Shipmans’ new conservatory, but is so away with the fairies that Smithy constantly has to reassure his clients that he would never leave Deano unsupervised. With Gavin now living away in Barry, it’s nice that Smithy has a new sidekick.
In Barry, Bryn’s been given a chance to let out his deeply repressed inner geezer, and transformed his house into a ‘bachelor paradise’ for Fingers, Dirtbox, Chinese Alan and the lot of them. Replete with mini burgers, videogames and page 3 girls on the wall, Bryn’s house was the perfect environment for the lads, who had a thoroughly good time, particularly once they’d convinced Bryn to go along with them, even if that did lead to him puking and feeling ‘a bit weepy’ outside the club.
Unfortunately, our key players were definitely not enjoying themselves here, for separate reasons. Gavin and Stacey’s efforts to conceive have not succeeded, and Stacey confessed to Gavin, in, actually, a very moving moment, that she’s not been on the pill for a year and is terrified that she can’t have children. At the other end of the scale there’s baby Neil at the centre of a tense situation between Nessa and Smithy, who can’t manage to get any sensible dialogue going since they slept together at the curry night – or maybe didn’t, as Smithy said, “I know we opened the oven door but I don’t know if we actually baked the potatoes,” – beyond a pivotal text from Nessa reading simply “hope you’re OK”.
I usually find some natural affection for Nessa, as Ruth Jones plays such a subtle blend of defensiveness and vulnerability, but in this episode I felt a line had been crossed, rendering the character extremely unlikeable. There just seemed to be something really rather spiteful in all of her behaviour here, and it wasn’t a particularly explicable nastiness. It just felt as though the writing had forgotten to balance her out.
Why did she so rudely dump Neil the baby on Gwen just because she wanted a night out? Why did she tell all the girls at the club that Stacey might be pregnant and then offer such a bitchy apology? I don’t mind saying that she was downright horrible in this episode. There wasn’t enough of the usual vulnerability to help me remember why I care about her, and more importantly (for the plot), why Smithy does.
Ugh, it’s all a bit stressful, isn’t it, this third series malarkey? With each episode I feel I’m relieved that’s it still good, rather than just enjoying it. I find myself thinking “Phew, they haven’t screwed it up” while also definitely seeing where it’s got a bit stale or even lazy.
The freshness that Deano brought with him in this episode helped to distract me from this issue, but I can’t help worrying about what they can do with the remaining episodes to ensure that we don’t feel it’s outstayed its welcome ever so slightly.
Read our review of episode 2 here.