Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode four of The Trial Of Christine Keeler. Read on at your own peril…
If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the first few episodes of The Trial of Christine Keeler, it’s that loyalty means everything, whether that’s the loyalty between friends like Christine (Sophie Cookson) and Stephen Ward (James Norton), or between husband and wife, like John Profumo (Ben Miles) and Valerie Profumo (Emilia Fox).
But loyalties are being tested in episode four of the show, as Profumo’s lies about having an affair with Christine begin to not only affect him, but also Christine, her best friend Mandy Rice-Davies (Ellie Bamber) and Stephen.
At the end of episode three, Profumo had told the House of Commons he’d never had an inappropriate relationship with Christine. Meanwhile, the latter had returned from a brief escape to Spain to discover that the press had made her the centre of attention.
But the bliss for both characters seems to have evaporated fast, if this week’s episode is anything to go by.
Here, Stylist contributor Sarah Shaffi unravels what happened in episode four of The Trial Of Christine Keeler…
Has Christine sold her story to the newspapers?
Following Profumo’s statement to the House of Commons, and his threat to newspapers who might want to print anything about him and Christine, Christine hasn’t spoken to the British papers about her affair with him.
But she has been speaking to, and being photographed by, foreign publications, which can still be accessed by British readers, including Profumo’s wife Valerie, who is obviously unhappy at how the story is affecting her family.
Why do the police start investigating Stephen?
Stephen has been backing up Profumo’s claim that he didn’t have an inappropriate relationship with Christine, including on TV, but when Profumo spots him talking to Labour MP George Wigg, he decides Stephen is a threat.
Profumo enlists the help of MP Martin Redmayne (Tim McInnerny), who was the chief whip at the time. Redmayne calls in the director-general of MI5, who tells him there’s nothing he can do about Stephen, and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who says the key to bringing down Stephen is to investigate his relationship with the various women in his life.
Although Redmayne makes a show of not ordering the police to do anything, it’s clear that he’s subtly commanding the commissioner to begin an investigation.
How does the police investigation affect Stephen?
Stephen’s life is, to put it mildly, falling apart. The police have posted officers outside his place of work, and are questioning all his clients. Given that many of them are wealthy and titled, they soon become tired of this, and start distancing themselves from Stephen. Among them is Lord Astor, who gives Stephen money and then tells him he’d like the keys to the summer cottage Stephen rents from him back.
Christine briefly visits Stephen to tell him he should be worried about the police, but refuses to stay and catch up with him, and a call to an old MI5 acquaintance, a Mr Woods, is only answered by someone telling him Mr Woods doesn’t exist.
Feeling isolated, Stephen goes to see Redmayne for help, telling him that it would be bad if the truth about Profumo got out. Unbeknownst to Stephen, Redmayne has recorded their conversation, and plays it for MI5 in the hopes that they will find something to investigate Stephen for.
Seeing no other option, Stephen writes to his acquaintances, including Wigg and the Prime Minister, saying he knows the truth about Profumo and Christine and is no longer willing to keep it secret.
What is happening with Profumo and Valerie?
Besieged by the press, Profumo takes Valerie to Venice for a break. While there, he receives a call from Redmayne telling him he needs to come back, presumably because of the letters Stephen has written.
A frustrated Valerie is no longer willing to entertain Profumo’s lies, telling him that “it’s time to face the music”. As she helps him get ready, she says: “I hope she was worth it.”
Profumo and Valerie return home, where Profumo tenders his resignation in a letter to the prime minister, in which he tells him that he lied to the House of Commons about his relationship with Christine.
But, despite the fact that Stephen and Christine are suffering, Profumo seems to have got off lightly; he’s lost his job but Valerie is standing by him.
How do the police start building a case against Stephen?
The police want to prove that Stephen was a pimp, and bring Christine in to ask her if Stephen ever took money from her after she slept with men he introduced her to. She refuses to say anything, as does Mandy. Both women say that Stephen was a friend and they and he never did anything illegal.
But, determined to find something even if there’s nothing there, the police start using more underhanded methods. They jail Mandy for driving without a licence, and when she’s released from Holloway after a week bring her in again, this time threatening to jail her for not keeping up with payments on a TV her late boyfriend bought for her. It’s clear that they’ll ignore small crimes if only Mandy agrees to speak against Stephen.
How is Christine persuaded to turn on Stephen?
Christine and Mandy maintain for much of the episode that there was nothing illegal about their relationships with Stephen, and from flashbacks we see a true friendship developing between Stephen and Christine.
But a series of unfortunate events, and a few lies, leave Christine in a position where she feels forced to do what the police want.
It all begins at a party at Christine and Mandy’s house, when Christine discovers her friend Paula’s brother stealing letters from her. During an altercation, he punches her in the face.
Later that same day, Lucky approaches Christine outside her house, and when she refuses to speak to him, attacks her, punching her in the stomach. Christine calls the police to report the assault, but lies and says only she and Paula were present and that Lucky punched her in the face, even though there were also two men there. Those men have run off, at Christine’s command, because one of them is wanted by the police.
Lucky tells the police that he didn’t hit Christine in the face, and that there are witnesses who can back him up. Sensing an opportunity, the police keep hinting to Christine that they might let Lucky go, but that they’re willing to help her if she helps them.
After Lucky is found guilty of assault and jailed for three years, the police bring Christine in and tell her she now owes them, and she agrees to tell them that she paid Stephen after she slept with men he introduced her to.
What effect is the press circus and the police investigation having on Christine?
Prior to the police investigation, Christine was already frustrated with her predicament, and had taken to going out clubbing and smoking cannabis again.
But it’s turning on her friend that really affects her. When her manager Paul, who is recording her story for a book, asks her whether she’s a femme fatale, Christine gets angry.
“Are you saying I’m dangerous because I’m sexy, like they’re the same thing?” she asks him, clearly sick of being pigeonholed simply because she’s an attractive woman who likes men. Lashing out, she tells him he’s sacked and that she no longer wants to do “this”.
But regardless of what she wants to do, it’s too late. At the beginning of the episode, we hear Christine’s voiceover say: “Stephen Ward made Christine Keeler. That’s what he likes to tell everyone. Someone should’ve warned him: Dr Frankenstein created a monster and look what happened to him.”
By the end of episode four, it’s clear that Christine Keeler, the image not the person, has turned into something with the power to destroy…
Images: BBC/Ecosse Films