Softly Softly: Task Force – A Policeman’s Lot. Story Two – You Pays Your Money

S03E22 (1st March 1972). Written by Alan Plater, directed by Peter Cregeen

John Watt decides that Jarman (James Grout) should be targeted. He doesn’t have any specific evidence of wrongdoing, just a sense that Jarman is a bad ‘un (as Watt admits, he dislikes anyone who owns a bigger house than he does but isn’t as clever).

Jarman, despite being absent from the previous episode, still managed to cast quite a shadow. And before he finally appears in this one, Watt pops round to his palatial house (decked out in the latest early seventies fashions) to have a friendly chat with his wife (played by Patricia Heneghan).

Heneghan gives Mrs Jarman a brittle and slightly distracted air that’s very effective. She might be surrounded by all the trappings of success (a silver ball that opens out into a cigarette holder, plush furnishings, etc) but there’s plainly something awry.

When Jarman eventually returns and invites Watt over for a drink, the fault lines in the relationship between Mr and Mrs Jarman (not to mention Jarman’s own increasing levels of tension) are laid bare. The sparring between Windsor and Grout is the clear highlight of the episode – Watt’s affable and polite, but nevertheless he manages in getting Jarman riled to the point of fury. The pair exchange punches, but John Watt’s (of course) is the harder one.

Like most dramas of this period, SS:TF wasn’t afraid of lengthy scenes. In this episode though, I had a feeling that there was a little too much cutting away from the Watt/Jarman confrontation (a pity it wasn’t allowed to play out from beginning to end).

Most of the regulars (apart from Barlow and Snow) are present today. Alan Plater gives them all something to do – for example, Cullen is allowed to be his usual sardonic self and Green gets the chance to speak to Mrs Granger, established in the previous episode as the owner of the mucky bookshop. Heather Stoney (as WDS Green) deadpans nicely when the affronted Mrs Granger complains that Jarman attempted to sell her hard-core pornography (far removed from the stuff she peddles).

And given what happens in the final episode of series three, the conversations between Evans and Drake about police corruption are interesting (especially the way that Drake’s eyes nervously flit about when Evans brings the subject up).

As with The Row on the Stairs, the plot is a little opaque. Jarman might be running a protection racket or he could be importing pornography into the country. But it’s never made clear exactly what he’s been up to and his off-screen death (suicide?) at the end of the episode seems to have closed the case. But the fact there’s a next episode caption tells us that isn’t so ….

You Pays Your Money is another typically strong Alan Plater script. As you’d expect, the dialogue is strong throughout (there’s some nice Drake/Green/Evans banter at the start) and the story has good momentum (the interrogation of Nicholson does feel like padding, but that apart the other scenes serve the story well).

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