Written by Alan Janes. Tx 23rd February 1979
Although the boys make it back safely, there’s no sign of the girls – so a full-scale search is initiated. Justin wants to tell Mr Mitchell that they saw Penny and Susi in the forest, but the others aren’t keen as they know how angry he’ll be. So for the moment they all keep quiet.
Apart from the natural dangers of the forest, an extra level of jeopardy is introduced when it’s revealed that a puma has escaped from a local wildlife park and is roaming around. Since we never see it (we’re told later that it’s been caught) it turns out to be something of a red herring, especially when there are other dangers – such as marshlands – which could be equally as dangerous.
Eventually Justin decides to speak up – despite Doyle’s threats and this marks something of a turning point in Justin’s character. He’s always been portrayed as rather weedy (in the previous episode the coach had to stop as he was feeling sick, for example) but he stands up to Doyle here and threatens to smash his face in if he doesn’t stop complaining.
Dramatically there’s not a great deal of tension during the search, since we can confidently assume that Penny and Susi are going to be found safe and well (a similar problem occurred in a later episode when Mr Baxter and Roland were lost on an outward bound course). But the hunt for the girls is quite effectively staged – especially when it gets darker. The only problem is that they presumably couldn’t afford to shoot at night, so instead a dark filter is placed over the camera to simulate the night-time ambiance. The dead giveaway is the fact that the blue sky can still be seen (an unavoidable side effect of day for night filming).
Mr Mitchell is all for punishing the boys when they get back to school but Miss Clarke (Jill Dixon) is much more forgiving, considering that if the trip was partly to teach the kids about the countryside, then they’ve certainly learnt how dangerous it can be. Her counsel wins the day and the pupils return to London a little wiser.