It’s a busy time in Hartley. A group of international counterfeiters have moved into the area, a vicious murderer is on the run and Jean’s interest is piqued by a smooth con-man who targets rich widows ….
The One Who Got Away is content to slowly introduce and manoeuvre its guest characters, meaning that it takes a while before we understand exactly who they are and what their function in the story will be. A couple, who we later discover are Detective Inspector Harry Connor (Walter McMonagle) and Detective Sergeant Annie Aspen (Stephanie Fayeman), are shown selecting an isolated cottage (which looks perfect for a stake out) whilst a confident middle aged man, Commander Scott (Geoffrey Hutchings), checks into the Highwayman hotel.
The episode will spend a fair amount of time in the lounge of the Highwayman (which is a nicely realised studio set). For Hartley it’s clearly an upmarket sort of place – albeit with fake rustic overtones – which looks to be positioned slightly out of town. The cheesy muzak which constantly plays in the background is a nice touch, setting up the atmosphere perfectly.
Everything about Scott screams con-man, which is reinforced when his dinner guest – Colette Newby (Shirley Stelfox) – arrives. Scott spins a yarn that he served with Colette’s late husband on the Ark Royal and although there’s no obvious flaws in his story, something seems slightly off-key about him.
At this point, it might be expected that Harry and Annie have arrived in Hartley on Scott’s trail, but that’s not the case. Although when Harry later sees him (coincidentally he’s entertaining Jean at the Highwayman) he does comment that he seems familiar.
If The One Who Got Away has a theme, then it’s about subverting our expectations. Not only is Scott not Harry’s target, but Scott proves to be less in control of the situation than he thinks. Colette might be an imposing and respectable figure – chairman of the Townswomen’s Guild – but she came up the hard way and is more than capable of spotting a confidence trickster when she sees one. Bedecked in a wonderful fur coat, Shirley Stelfox is good value for money.
So although the viewer might have expected Colette to be the victim, she instead turns out to be, if not the hunter, then not exactly a passive character either. Colette (real name Mavis) offers Scott (real name Trunky Porter) a job. As a smooth salesman at her second-hand car lot, he seems set to make a go of things. It may not quite be that she’s going to make an honest man of him, more a case of thieves together ….
The way that Scott/Porter drops his cultured air when later confronted by Jean is nicely done, as is his reaction after he learns that his prey’s real name is Mavis! A con-man conned back.
The return of Superintendent Lake (John Ringham) has primed the audience to expect that the arrival of Harry and Annie from the Crime Squad is big news. Their action against the counterfeiters seems set to be the major theme of the story and yet – in another example of subverted expectations – it turns out to be almost totally a MacGuffin. We do briefly see the counterfeiters, but their presence has no impact on the plot.
Instead, the latter part of the episode focuses on Annie (maintaining the stake-out, all by herself) encountering the runaway murderer (played by Andrew De La Tour). It’s already been established that the house has no phone (which Harry seemed unconcerned about) so when the wild-eyed fugitive breaks in it appears that Annie’s going to have to face him on her own. It’s a slight shame that Annie is transformed into a victim during these scenes (she manages to beat him off before Roland arrived in the nick of time).
Odd that Annie would be left by herself with no means of communication. Whilst Harry is depicted as a secretive type – only Lake and Jean know why the Crime Squad are in the area – this is stretching credibility a little too far. Andrew De La Tour casts an imposing shadow though – and he’s all the more effective since his character never utters a single word.
The meeting between Jean and Harry is one of the most interesting parts of the episode. It’s plain that they have a history, with the clear inference being that they were lovers at one point (Harry waxes lyrical about the time they were snowed in at Merthyr Tydfil during an operation). In his presence Jean is almost girlish whilst the later arrival of Annie casts a slight chill over proceedings. When Harry wanders off, Jean and Annie start a faltering conversation which seems to have a clear subtext (both, in own their way, are keen to prove that they know Harry best). Despite vanishing for a section of the story, Walter McMonagle is another strong addition to the guest cast.
Mixing several different storylines, The One Who Got Away, thanks to its wrong-footing ways, is a very decent story.