The third episode of Taboo kicks off the morning following the Malay’s attack on James Delaney (Hardy). The assassin is found on the shores by some children and Winter (Martinwood), but the wounds on his carcass are far more extensive than a blade; the Malay is missing his heart. Winter has the man’s silver tooth scavenged.
James awakes to the dubious care of Dumbarton (Kelly), who reveals he had a man watching as James dispatched his would-be assassin… and then cannibalized him. The bonesetter has had a change of heart after following up on Delaney’s credentials, confirming his story. Dumbarton offers to pass a message along to Carlsbad, but won’t introduce Delaney to her (not him). Delaney offers Nootka Sound to whichever sovereignty will give him a monopoly over the import of Chinese tea, a powerful trade deal.
At the palace, Coop (Watkins) reports to the Prince-Regent (Gatiss) about the importance of Nootka Sound and Delaney’s possession of it. (Though unspoken, this information came from a spy, probably within the East India Company or among the American networks.) Realizing the impact of the island’s border against the Americans as well as its economic value, the Regent instructs Coop to do business with Mr. Delaney. Coop does not seem thrilled with this.
James stumbles home to Brace (Hayman). Wisely suspecting another attempt on his life soon, our protagonist orders a carpenter to board up the home.
Later Atticus (Graham) arrives on the docks by boat to greet James, who rebuffs Atticus as a partner— just wanting the services of his men for water transport. After arming him, Atticus reveals that he knows of James’ midnight snack. While Brace is sent to deliver a note to the palace, James and crew visit Thoyt (Woodeson) at Lincoln’s Inn to make a will.
"…and when peace comes, and this border is drawn, it will not be by soldiers but by more fucking lawyers…” –Sir Stuart Strange
Pettifer (Dixon) and Wilton (Bill) deliver news of the death of their assassin to Sir Strange (Pryce). He already knows, and even shows them a copy of the Delaney’s will, which would leave Nootka Sound to the Americans. Now only must the company not kill James, they ironically must protect him. Strange orders Pettifer to fetch Coop to meet the next day.
As the boards go up over Delaney’s residence, Brace berates the place’s security. James explains that neither the East India Company nor the crown threaten him anymore, only the Americans. In the waterlogged basement, James checks for the deer skin and finds a shroud worn by the woman of his visions. Winter visits him and offers the silver tooth. Winter wants to learn all she can from James, and even knows the bird tattoo on his back, calling it a “Sankofa.” James sends her home to Helga.
James continues his search in his mother’s room where he plays with some of her paints. His visions of the woman, likely his mother, lead him to tear down the panels over the fireplace. Against the firebrick he discovers a carving of the Sankofa. Brace enters and James inquires about when his mother was last in her chambers. The servant looks remorseful when asked about the carving, and even tries to cover it up.
Our protagonist reveals he knows how his mother was hidden away and went mad, and asks why he bears the same mark on his back. Brace claims not to know, but James doesn’t believe him. The scene forwards to James as he visits the grave of his mother, who died in 1795.
Strange and Coop meet, revealing a bad rift between company and crown due to the status of India. Both men are also adept spymasters, as Coop knows of Delaney’s will already. Coop also reveals that James will accept British dominion in exchange for a monopoly over sea otter pelts. But… Coop also notes the lack of mention of “tea” in James’ letter.
Strange concludes that Delaney wants revenge. Coop asks why, but Strange deflects to point out the Americans could also gain the island. Coop’s spies told him of the widow Lorna Bow (Buckley), whom he delivers a letter to at the theater.
The counter the triple networks of spies, James visits a whorehouse for men and of men. There, Strange’s assistant Godfrey (Hogg), is discovered to be moonlighting as a lady of the night. Once they’re alone, James blackmails Godfrey: silence and coin for company secrets, particularly about the split between the crown and company. But it runs deeper as the two were once military comrades, and Godfrey had feelings for James.
Some time passes through a series of dictated messages between James and Zilpha (Chaplin). James reveals his preparations to venture to America, and wishes to take her along despite the watchful eyes of her husband. Zilpha communicates her Christianity and her lack of desire for her half-brother. She dissuades further communication. By the end of this exchange, James appears mostly healed.
Returning home one day, James discovers Lorna has forced her way into his home. She has hired a lawyer to claim her half of the house, despite James’ warnings of assassins. Lorna knows of James’ will, Nootka Sound and his negotiations with the Americans, secrets vested in her by the crown’s agents. Curious still, she also offers James a trunk of letters between his mother and father. James has a powerful vision and changes his mind, giving Lorna his mother’s room for now, for safety.
Thorne Geary (Hall) visits James at his office, under the pretext of business. Thomas examines James’ handwriting as he offers insurance for his ship. James reveals knowledge of what Thorne is truly there for, and in turn he uses Zilpha to mock Delaney.
Zilpha summons James to a chapel. The scene is strange and brief, as she hitches her skirt and sits in his lap to kiss him. The camera shifts and she rises and straightens her skirt— it is not exactly clear if they had sex or not. Zilpha departs, claiming she never wishes to see him again. James does not believe this.
At his home, James advises Lorna not to attend her performance that night. She, believing she isn’t being used by anyone, disobeys. James decides to follow her.
Meanwhile, Thorne berates Zilpha for her difficulties in getting pregnant. The full extent of this abuse leaves Zilpha in tears and their servant fearful.
Lorna’s rough night at the theater ends when an aroused crowd chants for Madame Vestris. James, in attendance, spots a woman leaving as Lorna does. On the streets, a carriage pulls up to Lorna and this very woman, “an admirer,” pulls her in. Their conversation rapidly proves uncomfortable, suggesting Lorna was bought for her and the Duke of Richmond. On arrival, Lorna injures said Duke in her rebuffing. James fires into the air to save her.
As the Duke swears legal vengeance, James pulls Lorna aside in a dark corner. Offering her one of his diamonds, he urges her to flee the country. But she silently rejects the offer and storms home, and he follows. As Lorna goes to bed, James asks Brace who else knows of her presence: Atticus and the carriage driver. James suspects it was a setup, though by whom is unsaid.