Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode two of The Trial Of Christine Keeler. Read on at your own peril…
“I never longed for the spotlight but somehow the spotlight found me.”
That line, by Christine Keeler (Sophie Cookson), was heard in the opening of the first episode of the BBC’s The Trial of Christine Keeler, and episode two promised to continue the story of Christine’s unwanted rise to fame.
Through Ward they’d both met men they’d had relationships with. While Mandy was seeing a slum landlord who died in the first episode, it was Christine’s past affair with secretary of state for war, John Profumo, that had the potential to cause big ructions.
The premiere of The Trial of Christine Keeler ended with the net closing on all parties: a reporter had stumbled across Christine after hearing she might have had an affair with Profumo, MI5 were closely watching Stephen, and Christine’s boyfriend Johnny had been arrested.
And episode two proved as dramatic. Here, Stylist contributor Sarah Shaffi tracks what happened…
What do we know about Christine’s past?
Early in episode two, Christine and Stephen go back to visit her mother, who Christine doesn’t get on with but who she still sends keeps financially afloat.
We see evidence of Christine’s mum’s racism; she hates that her daughter has dated and continues to date black men. This goes back to Christine’s first sexual partner, a boy from Ghana.
In flashbacks, we see Christine at her mother’s home as teenager. She’s distressed, in pain and her hand is covered in blood; as she moves we see that she’s pregnant and bleeding. Christine’s mum enters the house and sees her daughter, but instead of rushing to her aid slaps her round the face and asks her: “What have you done?”
Later, we learn that Christine was just 16 when she got pregnant by a local boy. She tells The Daily Mirror that she tried multiple things to try and induce an abortion. In the end, she did give birth, but her baby Peter lived just a few days.
It’s clear that Christine’s upbringing was tense, and it’s possible that the lack of love she received from her parents is the reason why she now seeks out older men, like Profumo, to have relationships with.
How did Christine and Profumo’s relationship progress?
We see and hear about Profumo and Christine conducting much of their relationship at Stephen’s flat, since they can’t be seen out and about. Their relationship is largely sexual; in a voiceover we hear Christine say: “We both gave in to the most natural instinct there is, the love of a powerful middle-aged man for a penniless teenage girl.”
However, we see Profumo take Christine to his office with him, where the pair sleep together. We also see Profumo and Christine at his home, when his wife and children are away “in the country”. During that encounter, Profumo takes a phone call from the prime minister within Christine’s hearing, talking to him about confidential government business.
The potential security breaches by Profumo continue to pile up…
What is happening in government?
At the beginning of the second episode we see Profumo being questioned in the House of Commons over promises he’s made about the army. In response, he says: “No one takes the security of this country more seriously than I do.”
Those words will come back to haunt him…
News of Profumo’s affair begins to spread among his fellow party MPs, who become increasingly concerned at the implications it could have. The attorney general John Hobson (William Gaminara) visits Profumo at home and asks him about the affair, which Profumo flat out denies. Hobson tells Profumo: “The government won’t survive another scandal.”
Profumo isn’t only denying the affair to his colleagues; when his wife Valerie (Emilia Fox) tells him that she meant it when she said “the last time was the last time for me”, he denies that there is anything stressing him out apart from work.
How does Christine prove she had an affair with Profumo?
The Daily Mirror persuades Christine to tell the story of her affair with Profumo, but warn her that it’s “his word against yours”, and that Profumo will sue unless Christine can prove she’s telling the truth.
In response, Christine hands over a letter Profumo wrote to her, which is enough to persuade The Daily Mirror to continue listening to her; they keep the letter while she visits the paper a number of times to tell the full story of her affair with Profumo.
Why do Mandy and Christine fight?
Mandy and Christine are best friends, but when Christine discovers that Mandy has also been speaking to the newspapers, the pair have an argument.
Stephen walks in on them, and becomes angry when he finds out the pair are selling their story. Christine, adamant that she can live her own life, runs off and goes to stay with a friend.
Mandy and Christine later make up, but Christine is still annoyed at Stephen for trying to dissuade her from talking to The Daily Mirror. Afraid that the paper will print stories about her that will hurt her mum, Christine takes Mandy’s advice to give the papers “what they want”.
Why does Christine’s relationship with Captain Ivanov matter?
Christine tells The Daily Mirror about Profumo and Captain Ivanov (Visar Vishka), called Eugene by his friends, meeting each other at Cliveden, and then getting a lift home from Eugene. She says that the pair got drunk, and implies that she slept with Eugene.
Ivanov is extremely worried about being mentioned in the newspapers in relation to Christine or Profumo, and Stephen is also panicked about the revelations that Profumo and Eugene crossed paths multiple times.
At the time the Cold War was ongoing, and Germany had not long been divided into two by the Berlin Wall. Christine tells The Daily Mirror that Eugene “jokingly” requested she ask Profumo about when the British would put warheads in Berlin.
We later see Eugene at the airport, presumably flying back to Russia.
Has Christine and Stephen’s relationship reached breaking point?
Worried by how interested The Daily Mirror seemed in Eugene, Christine goes to see Stephen and asks if Eugene is a spy, before asking Stephen if he is a spy as well. “Whose side are you on, Stephen?” she asks him.
He tries to comfort her, telling her to tell the paper she has exaggerated everything, and gives her a piece of advice: “You can have a lovely life… as long as you stick to the big rule: don’t tell.” But it’s too late, Christine has told her story and the newspaper has her note from Profumo.
A worried Stephen calls the police and tells them Christine has a drug problem, perhaps hoping to sow seeds that Christine is unreliable.
Later, Christine speaks to the same police officer about her ex-boyfriend Lucky (Anthony Welsh) harassing her, and when she finds out what Stephen has said, she and Mandy tell the police Stephen is responsible for introducing them to men including Profumo. They also tell the police officer they were underage when Stephen first met them.
The episode ends with Stephen returning home to find his flat has been broken into, and papers and photographs are missing.
What happens next?
It looks like Christine’s story will be published in The Daily Mirror imminently, so things aren’t looking good for her, Stephen or Profumo. We’ll be tuning in to the next episode to see the fallout.
Images: BBC/Ecosse Films