1.14 Departures by Graham Hartley
Summary: A drunk man wakes up angry and goes berserk in a bar. Jack and Tom are fetched to see to him. It appears the man has some kind of bi-annual drinking binges. His wife is fed up and wants to live him, and his station manager has stolen 15 unbranded calves from Baxter, and now Baxter wants them back. Meanwhile in Coopers Crossing, Sharon has been accepted to do a two-year training course in Sydney, which will allow her to become a social worker. While everyone's happy for her sake, Gibbo, Vic and Nance have difficulties trying to let her go. Gibbo because the two are such good friends, and the Buckleys have always treated her as their own daughter. Sharon argues with Gibbo about going, but they make up in the end. Sharon visits the mission to see her family and ask her grandmother's advice. The episode ends with Sharon and the fed up wife on the bus heading out of town.
Recurring characters: George, Sharon, Tom, Chris, Kate, Gibbo, Joe, Jack, Vic, Nancy, Emma, Ron.
The bi-annual drinking binge isn't all that interesting to discuss, and the least said about Baxter the better. Tom is apprehensive about acting mediator and counsellor for the problematic couple, but the roles of a flying doctor are many - sometimes they need to be a sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and not just doctors.
I love how Sharon was a part of the first fourteen episodes, because apart from one-offs, the only recurring black character in the remainder of the show's nine series is Dougie ... and he's not exactly a frequent character, if memory serves me right. Maybe it was the end of the road for Sharon as a character, but I think it's a shame she's the only black person in the regular cast, and she makes her exit in this episode. If the actress wanted to do something else, or if there were other reasons for the exit, I don't know.
Sharon wanting to leave does mean that colour gets to be discussed, with different levels of success. Vic says that she's never been a colour to him, she's always just been Sharon. Gibbo jokingly says that he can never get a tan to match hers. The visit to the mission is brief. Sharon's grandmother says that so many others have said they would return and then they don't, but Sharon promises to be back ... just not on screen.
While we can argue that the show has some great female characters, the setting they're in doesn't make it easy for them. Chris has to go through hell because as a doctor, she's a woman doing "a man's work", and the people in the Outback are not the most progressive, let's face it. In the previous episode, the fact that Chris prescribed the pill wasn't portrayed as a bad thing, but the backlash from the townspeople showed there is work to be done.
What I'm trying to say is that while the show's doing a not-too-shabby job (for its time) with how women are portrayed, and the likes, it still has a bit to go when it comes to other skin colours. Then again, I guess we should applaud them for having Sharon there in the first place and for not making a big deal out of a person's colour. Maybe you just can't have everything at once.