There’s trouble brewing in Hong Kong for Phileas Fogg in the next episode of Around The World In 80 Days – but his travelling companions prove that they’ll go to any lengths for their unlikely friendship.
If you’ve been keeping up with the BBC’s globe-trotting period drama Around The World In 80 Days, then you’ll know that the journey has hardly been plain sailing for Phileas Fogg and his companions, Passepartout and Abigail ‘Fix’ Fortescue. Not only have the trio escaped the French authorities and survived a perilous journey over a broken railway bridge, but they’ve outsmarted Arabian thieves, fought through a desert sandstorm and prevailed in spite of the conniving efforts of Nyle Bellamy and his associate Thomas Kneedling to sabotage their journey. In the last episode, not even drugged coffee could stop Fogg from helping a disgraced soldier reunite with his sweetheart.
And so to Hong Kong, where we find our intrepid trio on the next leg of their journey. Fogg is attempting to withdraw some money at the bank so they can continue the voyage, only there’s a problem – his finances have mysteriously been blocked. We soon find out why, when a flashback reveals the dastardly Kneedling arriving before Fogg and masquerading as a police inspector. After presenting a forged letter to the bank manager, Kneedling explains to him that Fogg is a “career criminal” and instructs him not to give him any money when the party arrive in Hong Kong. His plot works: Fogg is turned away, leaving him without “two pennies to rub together”.
Nevertheless, Fogg is optimistic that they’ll find lodgings for the night. Outside the bank, help already seems to be at hand when they’re accosted by Lady Clemency Rowbotham, the wife of the governor of Hong Kong who claims to be Fogg’s “biggest admirer”. It’s immediately obvious that she’s attracted to Fogg, who, for his part, is blissfully unaware. But she introduces them to her irritable husband, Henry, and invites the trio to their upcoming garden party, claiming Fogg will be guest of honour as “England’s latest hero”.
They’ve still got to solve the question of lodgings, though. Luckily, the ever-resourceful Passepartout has contacts, and leads them through a bustling market to a modest place called Tai Ping Shan where, it turns out, they’re obliged to share a room. Fogg is shocked by the prospect and announces that he’s going back to the bank to harass them about his money again. Passepartout then announces that he’s off to meet an old friend; but Fix, determined not to be left out of the action again, pursues him through the market. She spots a copy of The Daily Telegraph and is delighted to see that her article about Fogg’s tragic romance has made it into print; but Passepartout suggests that Fogg might be offended when he finds out that his personal life has been laid out for the public to read.
Passepartout allows Fix to accompany him to his destination on one condition: that she won’t write about it in the newspaper. He leaves Fix alone to dine in a restaurant while he meets with an old acquaintance, Jiang Lei, who he asks for funds to secure their passage to Yokohama. Lei seems open to lending Passepartout the money, but there’s a catch: he wants Passepartout to steal a priceless jewel called the White Dragon that the British originally stole from his family. The jewel, he tells Passepartout, is in the possession of the governor’s wife; and as he is attending the garden party, he will have the perfect opportunity to reclaim the artefact. Passepartout refuses, declaring that his thieving days are well behind him.
Later on, Fogg and co arrive at the governor’s garden party where they’re given a grand welcome. Fogg and Passepartout attempt to secure a loan from the governor, but are thwarted by the governor’s besotted wife, who asks Fogg to accompany her on a walk. During their conversation, Lady Clemency shows off the White Dragon necklace, which is tied around her neck.
Meanwhile, Fix is terrified that Fogg will find out about her latest piece in the newspaper. Her fears are realised when the governor’s wife gushes to a perplexed Fogg about how much the account of lost love moved her, just at the same time as the governor hears word of Fogg’s romantic woes. Furious and humiliated, Fogg storms out of the party without the loan, where’s he’s pursued by Fix, who desperately tries to apologise and explain her actions.
That evening, Passepartout resolves to do as Li requested and steal the White Dragon. After hiding under the bed in the governor’s house, he skilfully steals it from around Lady Clemency’s neck while she’s sleeping, and swiftly escapes out the window. He immediately delivers it to Li, who hands over the funds and instructs Passepartout to leave Hong Kong immediately. Elsewhere, the governor receives a visit from the bank manager who informs him that Fogg is a criminal. At that moment, Lady Clemency rushes out and shouts that the White Dragon has been stolen.
With the lies now spreading about Fogg’s reputation, the police storm Fogg’s quarters and arrest him for stealing the necklace. Fogg desperately protests his innocence but it’s no use – he’s taken to prison and told that unless he confesses, he’ll be flogged in public. In a last-ditch attempt to save Fogg’s life, Passepartout and Fix visit the governor and plead Fogg’s case. Fix delivers a moving speech, declaring that Fogg is not a thief but a hero, and does not deserve to be beaten for something he didn’t do. She also calls upon the story of Fogg’s heartbreak, explaining that while Fogg once followed duty and expectation instead of love, he had the courage to realise the folly of his mistake and undertake an extraordinary journey, proving that dreams sometimes can defeat expectations.
With time ticking, Fogg is taken from his prison cell to the flogging post. As the clock strikes midday, Fogg is brutally lashed just as Passepartout and Fix arrive at the prison gates with the warrant for his release. Before he is flogged a second time, the governor halts the punishment and instructs Fogg to be released.
After the trauma of the events in Hong Kong, Fogg tells Passepartout and Fix that he wants to be alone in his cabin when they board the boat. However, Kneedling appears and tells Fogg that if you need a job done right, then you should do it yourself. Brandishing a pistol, he tells Fogg that they’re going to go for a walk, leaving Fogg’s life once again hanging in the balance.
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.