Tenko: episode guide

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Shattered Dreams (1)

Episode 1.01
Written by Paul Wheeler
Singapore, 5 December 1941

Marion Jefferson wakes in bed, and begins her normal routine: a snack, meet her old friend Victoria Armstrong for shopping and breakfast at Raffles (one of the most posh hotels in Singapore) and more shopping, then home for a nap, and then get dressed for the dinner dance. Marion, feeling that she can't contribute anything to war effort where she is and missing her son, also plans to return to Britain. Her husband, Colonel Clifford Jefferson, continues his inspections of British defences in the area, and gives a bolluxing to a Major for being entirely too complacent that any Japanese attack will be by sea and will be repulsed, warning of the possibility of an overland attack and their overall weak defences.

Sister Ulrica arrives at the Singapore Archbishopric to ask why the monies for her mission haven't been sent on for several months. Christina Campbell shows several friends around the Indian section of Singapore, and is approached by Simon Treves, who finds her fascinating. Nurse Kate Norris arranges an afternoon off from her work at the hospital, so she can meet her boyfriend, Tom Redburn. Tom proposes to Kate. During the course of the day, it becomes apparent that most of the populace is blissfully unaware of any danger. Rose Millar and her boyfriend Bernard Webster (a radio journalist) go to Raffles for breakfast, and argue over whether and how the public should be informed about the possibility of a Japanese advance. Bernard goes on the air live to warn people, but his broadcast is cut off in the middle, and he is fired.

Two days later, Colonel Jefferson is notified that the Japanese have landed four hundred miles north of the city and are headed south. Moments later, Singapore is bombed. Sister Ulrica gathers a group of nuns and leads them over to the hospital, which is overwhelmed with casualties. Her help is gratefully accepted by Dr Beatrice Mason, who runs the casualty ward. Colonel Jefferson pleads with Marion to leave the city, but Marion feels that she can now help out, and refuses to leave.

Shattered Dreams (2)

Episode 1.02
Written by Paul Wheeler
Singapore, 10 December 1941

The hospital continues to try to cope with casualties. Kate is sent home, almost exhausted. Colonel Jefferson and his wife Marion go to the casualty wards, where Marion is horrified by the injuries and offers her help. Colonel Jefferson also offers whatever help the army can supply to Dr Mason. Dr Mason says that she thinks they'll manage, if that's the end of it. Colonel Jefferson informs her that it's just the start: the Japanese are advancing towards the city.

Colonel Jefferson and Jack Armstrong (also in the Army, but I missed his rank) talk between themselves about the Japanese advance south, and discuss evacuating the British civilians in the city. Bernard Webster confronts them over the Japanese attack, the lack of defences, and the Army's failure to warn the city. Beatrice asks Marion to organise relief centres for refugees, and Marion agrees. Marion opens her home and gets other women to open their homes to the refugees.

On New Year's Eve, there is a big party at Raffles, where many of the civilians remain wilfully ignorant of the Japanese advance. Colonel Jefferson urges Marion to leave the city: the Japanese are just a few days out. Marion reluctantly agrees. Christina Campbell, half-Scots and half-Chinese, attempts to join the evacuation, but is denied passage because she looks partially Chinese and the passage officer demands to see her father's birth certificate before he'll issue her a ticket. Simon Treves, who has been spending more and more time with Christina, 'reasons' with the officer, and Christina is given a ticket. Dr Mason dismisses the nurses and tells them to evacuate, but stays herself to tend the wounded.

The evacuation ship arrives and is loaded: Marion, Vicky, Christina, Kate, Nellie, Rose, Tom and Bernard board the ship for the several-day voyage to Australia. During the voyage, the ship is torpedoed. Marion loses Vicky in the confusion. The survivors (Marion, Christina, Kate, Nellie, Rose, Tom and Bernard) wash ashore on the island of Kampong Getah, and take shelter in an abandoned house, where they are discovered by a group of Japanese soldiers. Taken prisoner, the men and women are separated and marched into the forest.

Freedom's End (1)

Episode 1.03
Written by Jill Hyem
Kampong Getah, February 1942

The women (Marion, Christina, Kate, Nellie, Rose) have left a transit camp where they were joined by Dr Bea Mason, Dorothy and her baby Violet, Sylvia Ashburton (a spirited older woman), Sally Markham, Judith Bowen and her daughter Debbie, and Blanche Simmons, a cheerful Cockney. The women are marched to a abandoned plantation where the coolie quarters are being fenced in for a prison camp. Dorothy, having lost her husband, is listless and uninterested in life, even not caring for her baby. Captain Yamauchi greets them, and lays down the ground rules of the camp. Blanche, desperate to go to the bathroom, discovers that the facilities are extremely worse than they could have imagined.

The group settles into two of the three huts, the third being set aside by the Japanese for a future contingent of internees. Bea takes charge of the hut she's in, gathering all the group's medicines into one place and starting to treat their injuries. In the other hut, Sylvia Ashburton displays her prejudices and refuses to sleep next to Christina, whereupon Rose makes Sylvia switch places with her. Bea, expecting Marion to be a sort of leader in the other hut, tells Marion to make sure that the women don't drink until the water has been boiled and to gather the medicines together. Marion tells Bea that she has a crystal set that she was bringing back to her son, but she hasn't had time since the shipwreck to see if it still works. In the washhouse, the women are very proper and modest about cleaning themselves until Blanche walks in and strips off, declaring that they're all girls together. The others follow her example. Returning to their huts, the women settle in for their first night in the camp. Marion decides to keep a diary of life in camp.

In the morning, the women are wakened for their first Tenko (Japanese for roll call). They are taught how to stand and how to bow. Sylvia refuses to bow, but eventually does so when the others are threatened with punishment. Sally Markham discovers that she's pregnant, and worries about her missing husband and the unborn baby. Sylvia ransacks Marion's pack for the crystal set. Caught by the Japanese, she is put in the punishment hut.

The women decide that they need an 'official' spokesperson to talk with the Japanese. Bea turns down the job and nominates Marion, who is elected. The women scrub down the huts and clean out the latrines. The third hut is filled with a group of Dutch women, including Sister Ulrica and Dominica Van Meyer, a rather unpleasant rich woman. The Dutch women, having been brought in from their homes, have brought a number of possessions with them, which makes several of the British prisoners jealous. The Dutch bring word of the fall of Singapore.

Freedom's End (2)

Episode 1.04
Written by Anne Valery

Sylvia is used as an example to teach the Dutch women how to bow. Sister Ulrica, in the absence of any one else, becomes the leader of the Dutch prisoners. Captain Yamauchi announces that a trader will be coming to the camp, and speculation and hopes run high over the anticipated goods. Dorothy, taking more interest in life, obsesses about her Violet's health. Most of the younger women are removed from the camp, and the older women worry about them until their return, when Blanche explains that they've been out cutting down trees. Bea asks Marion to enforce discipline in Marion's hut, but Marion is reluctant.

The trader arrives; the trader's wife offers to smuggle milk to Dorothy, but Dorothy has no money to pay for it. Van Meyer resents being forced by the Japanese to work, so Dorothy offers to do her work if she'll pay for it, so that Dorothy can supply Violet with milk. Sneaking out of camp to get the milk, Dorothy is deeply scratched by barbed wire; Violet develops diarrhoea. When Dorothy's untreated wound becomes infected and then discovered, Dorothy's smuggling becomes known to the other internees. Sister Ulrica wants to tell the commandant so that Dorothy's trespass won't cause punishment for all the prisoners.

The smuggling is discovered by the Japanese. All traders are forbidden to come to the camp anymore, night roll calls are started, and meals are available only twice a day. This causes a schism between the British and Dutch internees, but Marion and Ulrica manage to bring the groups together. In the blistering heat, the trader's wife is tied to a pole in the compound for punishment; Dorothy smuggles water to her at night, but the trader's wife dies.

Sticking Together (1)

Episode 1.05
Written by Jill Hyem

Some time has passed since the smuggling incident, and social structure in the camp is breaking down. Violet has died and is being buried, and the Japanese inform the internees of the invasion of Burma. Bea is worried about the increasing number of sick in the camp, and is rationing medicines to make them last longer. Blanche, a sore on her leg from the first woodcutting having become infected, becomes convinced that Bea is withholding iodine from her deliberately. Some of the women without children in the camp are annoyed at the noise they create. When Marion tries to organise relief for the mothers, by education and group games, several of the non-mothers turn her down. Ulrica is upset that the British aren't attending her religious services. Rose refuses to turn in the mosquito netting around her bed for the sick. Blanche, proud of her hair, refuses to get it cut despite lice problems. Sally worries about giving birth in a few month. Sylvia is reluctant to treat Christina, who has fallen ill.

Blanche, Marion, and Sylvia all make various attempts to raise morale, but have minimal effect. Bea warns Judith to keep Debbie away from Blanche because Blanche is common, and Judith agrees; however, Debbie is determined to be friends with Blanche because Blanche is fun. Judith comes down with malaria, and Marion's request to Captain Yamauchi for quinine is denied. She asks for permission to set up a sick hut, but there is no free hut inside the wire and the Japanese won't let them outside the wire. Captain Yamauchi suggests re- organising the prisoners among the existing huts, which is done, but upsets the prisoners.

Marion hears Kate and Nellie discussing her leadership abilities, and wants to resign. Marion calls a meeting of the British internees. She proposes some changes—creating education and entertainment committees, and rebuilding a burnt-out hut for a sickbay—and asks for a vote of confidence. She is re-elected leader of the British.

Rebuilding the burnt-out hut into a sickbay increases camp morale. Blanche eventually decides to get her hair cut. And two Japanese secret policemen arrive at the camp.

Sticking Together (2)

Episode 1.06
Written by Anne Valery

The secret police interrogate Marion about British organisation in Singapore prior to the fall. During interrogation, the Japanese tell her that the British have withdrawn to India.

The other prisoners notice Blanche is smoking a lot of cigarettes; she also supplies a round of tea to the prisoners in her hut. The internees speculate that she may have become too friendly with the guards. Work on the new sickbay continues. Ulrica is now among the malaria patients; during her illness, she and Bea find they have much in common.

Blanche fills in as Debbie's mother while Judith remains sick. When one of the malaria patients die, Bea asks Blanche if there is any possibility of getting quinine, but Blanche has already tried and can't. Blanche sees Dorothy going off with a guard, and asks Dorothy if there's any chance of quinine from the quarter, but Dorothy refuses to ask.

The sick hut is completed, and the internees hold a party to celebrate; the British dress up in their best clothes. One of the guards tells Blanche that Red Cross parcels have arrived. Still in their party clothes, Blanche, Rose and Dorothy slip over to the supply hut to count them. The trio is caught by three guards, who take them into the hut to 'view the parcels'. Blanche and Dorothy and willing to trade themselves for quinine, but Rose balks and all six are caught by Lieutenant Sato. Blanche palms some quinine during the ensuing confusion.

Captain Yamauchi strongly wants the rape story to be a lie, saying that the women tried to seduce the men. Dorothy agrees; Rose and Blanche deny the story, and are tied to the punishment poles in the compound. Sylvia overhears Dorothy with one of the guards, and Marion reports her to Yamauchi, who warns her to keep the women away from the guards. Rose and Blanche are released from the poles and Dorothy is assigned to extra work details. Blanche is determined to be revenged on Dorothy, but Yamauchi forbids reprisals.

The quinine having worked on the remaining quinine patients, Judith thanks Blanche.

Victims Of Circumstance (1)

Episode 1.07

The internees start to notice the de-feminizing aspects of their imprisonment: almost no one is having periods anymore, skin is becoming rougher, and some don't feel they look like women anymore. Yamauchi and Marion stroll around the camp, discussing conditions, morale, army discipline, Sally's pregnancy, and the future of the camp internees.

Sally insists on playing part of a game of rounders, and her friendship with Nellie becomes closer as her pregnancy continues. The rounders game increases Sylvia's respect for Christina, and the two work together to make dinner. Sally gives birth to a stillborn baby; she and Nellie become closer as Nellie tries to console her for the loss. Dorothy, who is still visiting soldiers, starts rumours about Nellie and Sally, and the prisoners' opinion run high over whether the friendship is 'unnatural'. After discovering the rumours, Sally and Nellie distance their relationship.

Judith Bowen has another attack of malaria, making Blanche wonder about all of their eventual fates.

Victims Of Circumstance (2)

Episode 1.08

One of the boys turns 13 and is sent to the men's camp. The mother breaks down at the gate, and the guard's unsympathetic treatment almost brings rebellion from the prisoners before Marion calms things down. In the aftermath, Yamauchi gives permission for everyone to send one postcard home—25 words, and one compulsory sentence from a selection. Nellie and Sally try to cope with the distance between them; the friendship between Sylvia and Christina starts to gel. Kate, Christina, and Dorothy think they should start a newsletter, The Tenko Times.

Bea is forced to ask Blanche to try for morphia for one of the Dutch patients, but Blanche refuses. Blanche, Rose, and Kate propose the formation of an escape committee, but the idea is rejected: the jungle isn't safe enough to live in, and the island and the surrounding area is all Japanese-help. Everyone agrees except for Blanche, who tells Rose she is determined to escape. Rose considers joining her, but decides to remain in camp in case Bernard is still alive.

Just before Judith Bowen dies, Marion promises Judith that she'll take care of Debbie. Debbie's friendship with Blanche increases, and she tells Blanche that her family name is actually Cohen, and they're Jewish. Blanche advises her to keep it secret. Van Meyer accuses the British children of theft, but Debbie discovers that it's actually Blanche preparing for escape and tries to blackmail her into allowing Debbie to join in. Blanche refuses, but Debbie gatecrashes the night of the escape. Dorothy finds them making preparations, but promises not to turn them in. When Rose finds out from Dorothy that Blanche is taking Debbie, she tells Marion, who tells Yamauchi in hopes that he will be lenient with Debbie. Blanche and Debbie are re-captured.

Last Days (1)

Episode 1.09
Written by Anne Valery
Drought season

Yamauchi imposes punishment details on the camp: the sick must parade with the others, Blanche and Debbie are tied to the punishment poles, personal possessions are burnt, including the postcards home. The prisoners are angry that Marion and Rose turned Blanche and Debbie in, and their life is miserable enough from their own guilt. The Dutch, angry that they are again being punished for British misbehaviour, insist that both groups should now be treated separately.

Yamauchi learns of Christina's gift for languages and makes her his secretary. Nellie wonders about the men's camp.

Marian pleads with Yamauchi for mercy for Debbie, and he agrees. When she asks for mercy for Blanche as well, he agrees—if the internees will make 500 work hats in the next seven days, and the punishment details will not be lifted. Marion agrees, and the British prisoners organise themselves. The British, stung by the Dutch separation, decide not to ask the Dutch for help. When individual craftsmanship proves too slow, the British switch to assembly-line production, but they are still making hats too slow.

Ulrica visits Yamauchi to complain about the guards making fun of Sunday services, and learns of the agreement. She brings the Dutch, and hat production increases. Tied daily to the pole, the prisoners can only offer Blanche verbal encouragement without offering any details. The day before the deadline, Christina and Yamauchi discover that the deadline was misunderstood, and that there is no possibility of enough hats being completed in time. Yamauchi orders the punishment details cancelled for the final day, and supplies spring water to the internees. The women barely manage to make enough hats, and Blanche is released from 10 days in the sun.

Last Days (2)

Episode 1.10
Written by Anne Valery

Bea is worried about the diet of the sick, and announces an outbreak of beri-beri. Yamauchi gives them ten bean plants to grow, which may help the outbreak—once the plants grow. Ulrica trades the end pages from her bible (suitable for rolling cigarettes) to the guards for yeast tablets.

Christmas is approaching, and Ulrica and Rose argue over who should run the Christmas concert and carols. When Yamauchi announces that the internees will be transferred to another camp, the concert is moved up. The work party reports seeing a group of men working in the distance. Yamauchi gives the internees the day before the move off from work details and agrees to try to get work of relatives in the men's camp. When it arrives, there is both joy and disappointment among the internees.

Christina has been stealing paper from Yamauchi's office for The Tenko Times and Marion's diary. As she leaves his office on the last day, he reveals his knowledge of her subterfuge by reminding her to take some paper with her. The women leave the camp, uncertain of their future.