Saturday, October 6, 2012

Horatio Hornblower Appreciation Day: "The Even Chance" (and a few polishes)

I have yet to meet someone unrelated to me IRL who loves 1999's EMMY-WINNING "Horatio Hornblower" miniseries from A&E as ardently as elbee and I do. (My ex-roommate enjoyed the series, but did she have her own DVD box set? Noooooope. Am I being a douchebag? Maaaaybe.) We've been planning a Hornblower appreciation day for three months. Quick backstory: We wanted to post on HH's birthday, July 4, but we already had some pretty USA! USA!-type posts ready. October 6 became the new date, as it is the birthday of Ioan Gruffudd, the lovely Welsh actor who brought HH to life for us. --There's an old Gregory Peck movie, too, but ... no.

I mentioned the illustrious Hornblower in a post last year, but in case you are just joining me or you need a refresher ...

"... the primary reason behind my obsession with all things nautical (especially British Regency era naval history), the inspiration for Enterprise captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard ... and, since 2004, the ACTING COMMANDER OF MY HEART. <3"

I was so obsessed with this series, my best friend from high school said she would send me a male stripper dressed in such a u-nee-form for my 21st birthday. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I'm 26 now, Sara. So, you know. Anytime.

Also, I'm quite certain a magical hybrid clone of Horatio Hornblower and "Friday Night Lights" characters Eric Taylor and Landry Clarke would result in my ideal man. (So, pasty white? Just kidding. But not really.)

Anyway, all you probably care about is whether I'm going to do nail art. The answer is NEGATIVE, on account of me not being anywhere near elbee's league. (Seriously, go read her post.) What I CAN do, though, is introduce you to the first HH movie via screencaps made by myself with pictures of six semi-appropriate nail polishes.

Let's deploy some AWESOME up in here!

The first HH movie is called "The Duel" here in the U.S. I actually prefer the U.K. title, "The Even Chance," simply because it is open to different yet equally significant thematic interpretations; "The Duel" merely seems reductive in comparison. Is it because we're in Amurrica?

Anyway, some background on our time period:

Remember your first day of school or camp or ... hell, the first time you went somewhere COMPLETELY NEW FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME AND DIDN'T KNOW ANYBODY and you were excited, so excited but so ... scared? The movie opens on seventeen-year-old Horatio Hornblower's first day as a member of His Majesty's Royal Navy with the rank of midshipman. He must report to ship of the line Justinian, and join the rest of the crew, 800 assorted mariners (Brit slang for sailors, seamen, seafarers, etc.).

butter LONDON Mariner (3 coats)

Honestly, not the greatest weather to mark the day one embarks on a naval career, but one may as well get used to it.

Sinful Colors Rain Storm (3 coats)

The Justinian, our hero's new home.

Horatio comes aboard and is greeted by Midshipman Archie Kennedy. Yup ... this is Jamie Bamber, pre-infamous "Battlestar Galactica" towel. Basically, back when he was ~*~qt~*~ and not secksy. I mean, if you can be secksy in those awesome dorky hats, then good for you, right?

Archie: "Welcome to purgatory!"
Horatio: *Findahappyplacefindahappyplace*

Kennedy introduces Horatio to First Lieutenant Eccleston, who period drama newcomers know as Lady Edith Crawley's supa old gentleman friend on "Downton Abbey." (Boo, "Downton.")

Eccleston instructs Archie to take Horatio below deck to get situated and acquainted with the other officers. It is at this point that I need to tell you I use both "Archie" and "Kennedy" interchangeably, depending on Jamie Bamber's adorableness at any given moment. As you may have deduced, he's pretty adorable when he's showing Horatio around.

This is when Horatio gets his first glimpses of the Justinian's crew.

Left to right: Some hooker (not important), Styles (important), Oldroyd (LOLdroyd)

Left to right: Finch (important), Matthews (important), another hooker (hooray)

Oh, and if Matthews also looks familiar, it's because he too was on "Downton Abbey." (So yay for him being on another acclaimed costume drama, but boo because it's "Downton." #teamcranford)

China Glaze Below Deck (3 coats)

Archie takes Horatio down to the mess, where he meets other midshipmen ...

...  and proceeds to be nerdy and violently seasick. A midshipman named Clayton (the one whose back you see in the above screencap) is very nice to Horatio and tucks him into his hammock. I like to think he also would have done a bedtime story or lullaby if Horatio hadn't been all "swing low, sweet chariot" à la Gomez Addams.

Clayton: *is nice*


The next morning-ish. Horatio is the last man on deck, where everyone is at attention for the captain's arrival on board. Yep, he's now THAT guy.

"Oh, like YOUR first day was perfect."

Captain Keene comes aboard and sends for Horatio to meet him in his quarters. This is where learn (A) a little more about Horatio's background and his connection to the fleet, and (B) that the good captain is in ailing health.

Later, Horatio and the other midshipmen take a meal in the mess. It's all good, until ...

... the return of "Lucky" Jack Simpson.
He's extra pissy and we learn he was just denied a promotion. I'd be pissy, too, but I wouldn't yell at whoever was in "my" seat or help myself to the new guy's noms:

 Horatio: "What do you mean by helping yourself to my vittles, sir?"

We learn that Simpson helps himself to whatever he damn well pleases -- he's pretty much the asshole from school who beat you up and took your lunch money. This may or may not have something to do with why his presence and the mere mention of his name agitate Archie to the point of having panic attacks/seizures. :(

 Poor darling.

Simpson goes on to further humiliate Horatio by way of a command dance performance, accompanied by Mr. Clayton on the fiddle and tells Archie to wake Horatio every hour on the motherfucking hour just 'cause. (WHAT. AN. ASS.) Archie has a "fit" in the night. After Clayton and Horatio tend to Archie, Clayton is then assigned the duty of waking Horatio at each bell.

Later (that day? the next?), Styles tells Horatio that Mr. Eccleston would like to see him in the fighting top. Translation: Horatio has to climb the rigging, which makes him gulp a little because he's got a little fear of heights. It's like training to become a vet but having a strange phobia of fur. I don't know. But it sucks.

"Fuck. My. Life."
Horatio: "OMG HALP"
Simpson: "LOL no."

Later still, the midshipmen sit down for their navigation computation lessons, led by Mr. Bowles. Their, uh, shall we say "word problem" is to compute the source of the Nile River. Captain Keene inspects each man's slate and finds their work wanting.

 "Nope ... nope ... no ... HELLS NO"

*Horatio's slate of mathematic brilliance*

Normally being singled out for praise by the captain would be a good thing ...

... but in this case, not so much.

Barielle Slate of Affairs (3 coats)

Down in the midshipmen's berth, Simpson decides to hold an "inquiry" to find out exactly what Horatio's deal is. HE'S JUST A NICE BOY, LEAVE HIM ALONE.

He insults Horatio's mother, and the two begin to fight. Simpson all but knocks Horatio out, only stopping when this happens:


Clayton does not shoot Simpson, who sneers and says Clayton does not have the guts to do it. Horatio is taken to the ship's physician. The next morning, Lieutenant Eccleston inquires as to what happened to Horatio's (precious) face.

 Horatio: "I lost my footing in the dark"
Eccleston: "BULLSHIT. Who did this to you? Are you sure?"


Horatio's refusal to narc earns him some good old-fashioned discipline in the rigging, in the cold wind and rain. :(

Cult Nails Tied Up (3 coats)

Tormented and miserable, Horatio later confesses to Clayton that he would rather end his own life than desert. He tells Clayton someone needs to stand up to Simpson.

Clayton: "You don't know what he's capable of."
Horatio: "WUT"

 Then Lt. Eccleston interrupts them and says that Horatio will accompany Simpson ashore to round up some of the press gangs from the East India convoy, because really, what's better than being assigned to spend time with someone you really, really can't stand?

Simpson and Horatio make contact with the other officers, and Simpson is even more of a dick. He introduces Horatio as "the midshipman who was seasick in Spithead," then when put it charge of dividing up watch duties, stays in the warm inn and sends Horatio outside. Horatio eventually makes his way indoors, and the other officers begin a game of cards.

Horatio wins the round, thanks to his abilities of mathematical probability and deduction. He is lauded by the other officers, but Simpson gets pushy about it.

 Horatio: "It's science!" 

Simpson: "YOU CHEATED"

Horatio does not take that insult well, and asks for an apology that Simpson refuses to give. In Horatio's mind, there's only one way for REAL MEN to settle this shit now ...

 Archie & Clayton: "A DUEL?!?!?!"

Clayton takes a swig of liquid courage, having agreed to stand as Horatio's second because
TOTAL SURPRISE, Horatio has never fought a duel before. In Horatio's defense, we all did dumb things when we were 17. (If you did not, I admire your fortitude.)

Simpson, his second, the ship's doctor, and Simpson's shit-eating grin all row toward shore to prepare for the duel.

Clayton goes back down below to summon Horatio.

Brooding Horatio: "MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA"

Essie Armed & Ready (3 coats)

And that's just the first 20-ish minutes of the movie. If you want to see how it ends, I highly suggest you rent the "The Duel."

Other fun Horatio Hornblower tidbits and why the series is awesome:
  • Remember that episode of "Angel" with the children's show puppets? One was named "Ratio Hornblower." MY HEART WAS SO HAPPY.
  • As I mentioned, HH was Gene Roddenberry's inspiration for iconic "Star Trek" captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard. I got crazy "Star Trek" vibes when watching "The Duel." Did/does anyone else? Anyone? Bueller?
  • We are treated to a shot of Horatio's bare bum later in the series. Hip hip, hooray!
  • You will think pirates are super lame after watching the whole series. 
  • You also might hate Hollywood for giving us nice things and taking them away. I'm forever pressed about the series' cancellation -- though expensive, it was of outstanding quality, and HH is in every way a classic heroic figure. Listen, I enjoy a good antihero just as much as the next girl, but I feel like Hollywood is running that trope into the ground these days. Sometimes you just need a good man, you know?
  • I discovered the series after watching Peter Weir's 2003 film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," which was based on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. Supposedly, O'Brian found much inspiration through the Hornblower books and stories penned by C.S. Forester. 
  • Watching this with your family will bring you together. No lie. --I was brought up with a lot of Masterpiece-type period drama and British TV via PBS and my library's VHS tapes. Loving Hornblower may not do you any social favors, but I'd rather find SOMETHING my parents, sister and I all can agree on!

Thank you for reading! I am sorry for the sparse amount of nail polish in this post. I am not sorry for lavishing praise on one of the greatest literary characters of all time, and I hope you will understand why elbee and I love him so much.


  1. ERMAGERD WE R TWINSIES. Now I want every polish you showed cause it's POIFECT.

    Also, if you watch the Richard E. Grant adaptation of The Scarlet Pimpernel, you can see Jamie Bamber's behind in that, too! Maybe I am a butt person. I dunno.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR IOAN! Also ilu we are awesome!

    1. ILU BB. I'm so glad our paths crossed because of this!

      Oooooh. Started to watch that adaptation but I couldn't make it after ten minutes. May have to try again and soldier on for some Bamber butt.


  2. I love the thematic polishes! And srsly, just 20 minutes in?! Now I totes want to watch this, but I have a feeling it'll be missing something without your narration. Actually am wondering now how I've manged to drag my butt around this planet for so long without seeing these.

    1. 20 minutes in!!! It's such a great series ... like I said, it'll just make you mad at Hollywood for giving us nice things and then taking them away only to give us not-so-nice things as a replacement. LOL, I'm not bitter at alllllllllll. Based on what I know from our interaction online, I think you'd absolutely enjoy HH!

  3. Admittedly, I know nothing about Horatio Hornblower aside from what you've written here, but I do love all the colors that went with it. :D Murky, greyish colors are some of my all-time favorites, and I'm jealous of how great Armed and Ready looks on you!

    1. Thank you, Naz! It was a little trying picking the polishes I wanted to use (and seeing if I had them at home), but luckily everything worked out fine. :) I'll have to wear Armed and Ready as a full mani soon!

  4. I enjoyed your blogg a lot. Very funny indeed.
    And I just loked (mixture of liked and loved) the pictures very much.
    Wouldn't mind to read more of your Hornblower-stuff.
    Thanks for posting!


    Lady Barbara

    1. THE Lady Barbara? First of all, LOVE LOVE LOVE your handle. ;) And thanks for leaving the comment! That was so nice for me to come back to. If time and interest allows, I would like to cap more HH movies.

      Many thanks and smooth sailing to you!

    2. Thank you very much for responding, Rach!
      THE Lady Barbara? Yes, of course! Like Highlander "there only can be one,.." ;-)
      I really liked this character when reading the books (to be honest she is one of my very favourite characters ever in literature).
      Guess she is one of the reasons why I started googling if there are any movies about the Hornblower stuff - that's why I discovered the series and Ioan.
      I used her name from the very beginning when I posted on Hornblower- or Ioan related sites (IMDb, Horatians, Ioangruffuddfan,...)

      He, I really like the comparisons between your nail polishes and the Hornblower episodes. They just rock!
      If a Regency Girl like me would be able to I would beam you to me and ask you to polish my nails.
      Sadly boring me just uses shades like Chanel's "Ballerina" or Isadora's "Pink Pastell".
      Fits me, but I also adore (for example) your Essie Armed & Ready.
      Great Shade!

      Best regards, smooth sailing to you too

      Lady Barbara

    3. Not at all!

      I would totally love to come over and do nails with you. Bring me beer and some HH on DVD and it's a done deal! Armed & Ready is a wonderful polish, easy to find and not too expensive.

      Thanks again for your kind words, and keep in touch!

    4. HH is no problem at all:I have all the DVDs (a must for a Lady Barbara).
      And we Austrians (this particular Lady B. is not a Brit,..) have great beers. So are our wines,..

      Okay, I bring my HH-DVDs and a collection of our best beers and we change my "boring" nails into trendy ones. ;-)

      Take care and yes - let's keep in touch!


  5. it kills me how funny you are-I laughed so hard at this post! I remember the promos way back when but didn't watch it. I love how you want a stripper to come dressed up like this-Hilarious!!!

    1. It's funnier because it's true.

  6. I just found your blog when I was googling, looking for fan art from HH I think.

    You also might hate Hollywood for giving us nice things and taking them away. I'm forever pressed about the series' cancellation -- though expensive, it was of outstanding quality, and HH is in every way a classic heroic figure. Listen, I enjoy a good antihero just as much as the next girl, but I feel like Hollywood is running that trope into the ground these days. Sometimes you just need a good man, you know?

    This. Just this. I couldn't agree more. I think the cancellation is a serious Missed Crowning Moment of Awesome. Ioan Gruffudd was intensely invested in the character and wanted to continue with the series, and he even tried to bring it to silver screen. I love him for it. We would have the whole Hornblower's career portrayed by one actor. Who can act. (I've read some complaints about his acting, but he was amazing as H'ratio.) And who is immensely hot.

    Also I am very bitter about the executive meddling regarding Archie's character. My man Archie was the best sidekick and the best foil for a hero that there ever was, and he's among my most loved fictional characters ever. A seriously great example of a breakthrough character.

    Anyway, great twenty-minute-ish recap and great picture spam. Please do more! I love this to bits. And your nails look gorgeous! Wow.

    1. Jana, thank you so much for taking the time out to comment! I appreciate it, all the more so because finding other HH fans is teh awesome.

      I wonder if the series will get another reboot in our lifetime. (I mean, we'll probably get another HARRY POTTER because Hollywood is hilarious.) If we DO get another HH, there will be a LOT to top. This series was excellent.

      I'm probably having a dumb, but are you talking about Archie's presence in the books vs. the TV series? Either way -- he was sweet. I loved him and Bush equally because they brought out different sides of Horatio's character.

      Thanks again! I'd love to do another one if I can. I hope you looked at elbee's "Frogs & Lobsters" nail art!

    2. You are super sweet. :-) A long ramble about Archie follows, and there are spoilers for those who are yet to become fans of this awesome show.

      I was talking about Archie of the series. I haven't read the books yet, even though it has been on my list of ''books to read'' forever. If I understand the situation correctly, Archie was not in the books to this extent. He's more of a composite character: there was a midshipman named Kennedy with no first name given, then there was a midshipman tormented by Simpson and there was a seaman who was having a fit during a covert night raid, and that's about it. Originally, Archie was supposed to appear only in "The Even Chance", but the cast and crew liked Jamie Bamber's portrayal of him and the dynamic between Archie and Horatio so much that they decided to write him in. And boy, was it awesome! :-)

      The rumour has it that the Forester estate was a very strong force in the production and that they wanted Archie to be written out as it was changing Horatio's character way too much from the source. It's probably accurate because he's supposed to be introverted and Mr Bush is supposed to be his only friend, and not a very close one. (I hope I am not making this up as I haven't read the novels myself but I have seen this way too many times on line that I don't doubt it.) It works in the books, but for an adaptation it's better to have a close pal that to tire viewers with inner dialogues, right? Enter Archie Kennedy. However, the Forester estate wanted him either sent away or rather dead so that he couldn't come back. Archie's fate was then doomed, but the writers took an opportunity to make him commit a heroic sacrifice and immortalize him in fans' eyes forever. Exit Archie Kennedy. Cue fans' sobs and tears. The end of "Retribution" is at the top of my ''biggest tear-jerking moments'' list, and even though I am very emotional with fiction, this is a category of its own.

      I like Mr Bush a lot, too. I loved them especially as a trio. When they work so awesomely together in "Retribution", during the fort attack and similar stuff, finally trusting each other, I just keep squeeing and grinning sillily. Having them together would be a dream come true. *swooning dreamily* I still like and re-watch both "Loyalty" and "Duty", but something feels missing, and I think it's not only Archie. However, they both interest and amuse me more that most current TV shows or films.

      The idea of a reboot is an interesting idea. I would definitely watch it, but I would probably be very critical and complain a lot, because in my mind, Horatio Hornblower equals being played by Ioan Gruffudd and Captain Pellew equals being played by Robert Lindsay. And would they even write a character as compelling as Archie again?

      Anyway, thank you for your very nice answer. I never even expected it as it's been quite a while since you posted your hilarious article/picture spam/recap, but it rang so true with me that I literally had to write a reaction. BTW, I forgot to compliment this sentence: You will think pirates are super lame after watching the whole series. :-D I might quote you some time. It is very true!

      Finally, let me tell you that I love, love, love your blog, and I will be peeking in. My enthusiasm for nail art and polishes appears in cycles, and a new one has just began. ;-) I'll be sure to check out elbee's "Frogs & Lobsters" nail art - the name sounds promising, and I'll probably post a comment. :-)

    3. Ahhhhhhhhh. I didn't know all that about the Forester estate, but that's a rumor for a reason, I suppose.

      I loved Archie, but when I'm in a foul mood, certain scenes in "Retribution" are way too melodramatic for me. Jamie Bamber was wonderful, though. (I think I'm more of an Edrington fangirl ... wtfffff.)

      Thanks for your very educational comment! Feel free to e-mail me anytime if you want to talk Hornblower. I may not reply right away, but trust me, I'll read it. :)

  7. This was a great blog! Loved your HH recap, and the nail polish is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    I've been an HH fan since the series first aired in 1999, and a seriously jonesing Archie girl since the first time I clapped eyes on those baby blues.

    Can I throw in a plug here? For anyone interested in reading some first-rate HH fanfic, may I recommend It's all gen fic, and there is a LOT of fantastic fic on there! :-) Enjoy!

    I'd love to read your caps on 'Duchess and the Devil'

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I appreciate it! If you liked this post, I really hope you check out my friend elbee's "Frogs & Lobsters" nail art post (there's a link in the post). She did an amazing job.

      Ahhh, I think I am more of an Edrington lady, but Archie was SUCH a cutie. :)

      Also, THANK YOU for the fic site. I know what I'll be reading the next time I can't sleep at 2 a.m.!

      I don't know if I'm going to do more of these, but I'll certainly consider it!


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