Espionage – Covenant with Death


Covenant with Death opens in 1942, with two young men – Magnus Anderssen (Bradford Dillman) and Ivar Kolstrom (Don Borisenko) – leading an elderly couple through the woods.  Joseph and Sarah Blumfield (Arnold Marle and Lily Freud-Marle) show signs of flagging and stop for a rest.  Magnus and Ivar then both pick up rocks and it’s clear that they intend to kill the Blumfields.

The action then moves to a courtroom shortly after the end of WW2.  Magnus and Ivar are in the dock, accused of the Blumfields’ murder.  But why would two war heroes (they had been members of the Norwegian resistance) kill a defenceless couple?  The prosecutor (Allan Cuthbertson) is convinced of their guilt, whilst their defense attorney (David Kossoff) struggles to find a way to prove their innocence.  As might be expected, there’s more to this story that meets the eye …..

After the opening credits, a caption helpfully tells us the exact setting and time – Tonstrand, Norway, October 9th 1947.  You might wonder why so many Norwegian nationals (like Cuthbertson) speak perfect English, but that’s par for the course with a series shot in the UK.  It may be a little incongruous but it’s preferable to everybody attempting dodgy Norwegian accents.  And as touched on previously, the fact this was an American co-production necessitated that the two Norwegians in the dock, Magnus and Ivar, were played by an American and a Canadian respectively.

Allan Cuthbertson is his usual immaculate self as the prosecutor.  He seems to have a very solid case – both Magnus and Ivar confessed their guilt to the police and when Ivar was arrested he had Joseph’s gold pocket watch in his possession (he also admitted to the police that he took the watch from Joseph’s dead body).

A recess provides an opportunity for Ivar and Magnus’ attorney to speak to them.  He urges them to change their plea to guilty, but Magnus refuses – they may have killed the couple, but he tells him it wasn’t murder.  This intriguing statement drives the rest of the narrative as slowly the events of five years earlier are uncovered.

Several lengthy flashbacks help to stop the story from being a static courtroom tale.  The first flashback also helps to bring the character of Joseph Blumfield into sharp focus – his Jewish heritage meant that he was under increasing pressure from the Nazis, one of the reasons why he and his wife decided to flee.

Kossoff, like Cutherbertson, impresses, as he slowly teases out the story from the defendants.  Ivar tells the court what happened immediately after the deaths of Joseph and Sarah.  “After we did it, it was suddenly very quiet. Like we’d killed everything in the forest except ourselves. The old man bled a lot, for some reason the woman didn’t seem to, but we knew they were both dead.”  Don Borisenko is perfect as the twitchy Ivar, a man who lacks the certainty of his friend Magnus that they did the right thing.

Although Joseph and Sarah have been presented as harmless and helpless victims, Peter Stone’s screenplay constantly teases us that there must be more to the story than a simple tale of opportunistic murder and robbery.   It’s strongly hinted on several occasions that during wartime people have to do things which would be unthinkable during a time of peace.  If Magnus and Ivar felt that the security of their organisation was threatened by the old couple it would explain why they had to die.

Apart from Cuthbertson and Kossoff, other familiar faces pop up, most notably Alfred Burke and Aubrey Morris.  In the present day, Burke (as Ivar’s brother, Gustave), sports a natty eye patch, which is absent when the action flashes back to 1942.   Burke’s contribution is small but he was such a good actor that he could make even a handful of lines come alive.  His jousting with Cuthbertson is a special treat – Gustave angrily wonders why the court is attempting to prosecute two war heroes, which incenses the prosecutor.  “Many of the men in this room, and the women too, risked their lives in the struggle against the Nazi occupation. Some of us suffered just as much as you. Torture, imprisonment under death sentence, but we didn’t sink so low as to murder those we had pledged to protect, to save our own skins.”  It’s an electrifying scene.

Covenant with Death shows how moral absolutes are a luxury often denied during a time of war.  The scene of Joseph and Sarah in the moments before their deaths is very powerful – both know they will shortly die, both are afraid, but they’re also reconciled that it’s the only way.  But was it?  It’s is a question that remains right until the end and no doubt each viewer will have their own opinion as to whether Magnus and Ivar were guilty or innocent.

Although espionage doesn’t form any part of the story, this is a deeply thought-provoking tale that, even when the verdict is delivered, doesn’t seem to bring closure for the men in the dock.

The Glory Boys – Episode Three

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Helen reports back to Jones and is scathing about what she’s witnessed, describing it as a shambles.  As for Jimmy, she tells her boss that he’s “a knight in shining bloody armour ” setting off in hot pursuit.

Jimmy’s desire to finish the job is self evident.  Despite the fact he told Sokarev he’d be right beside him every step of the way, once he can scent blood in the air he’s off and running.  Although it’s probable there wasn’t a backup terrorist team in place – designed to take Sokarev out on his way back to the hotel maybe – Jimmy didn’t know this for sure.  But his dereliction of duty is never really remarked upon.

He tracks McCoy and Famy to a quiet cul-de-sac.  And when we see McCoy force his way into Norah’s house it becomes obvious that he wasn’t simply driving at random.  Before that, there’s a brief gun battle with Jimmy and the British agent hits him in the shoulder.  McCoy responds by lobbing a grenade under Jimmy’s car, which causes quite an explosion (although it’s odd that the neighbours are slow to investigate).

That we’re very much in the pre-mobile age is shown via a nice scene with Jimmy and an old man in one of the adjacent houses.  Jimmy’s desperate to use the phone but the man, no doubt spooked by the gunfire and explosion, tries to close the door on him, trapping Jimmy’s foot in the process!

The juxtaposition between a quiet suburban house and the onslaught of loud, ugly violence is striking.  McCoy, dripping with blood and brandishing a rifle, quickly rounds up Norah and her mother and father.  Famy darts out the back door, heading to Heathrow where he’ll have one more chance to complete his mission.  So for McCoy the position is clear – he has to stay holed up as long as possible.  The longer he can last out, the more time he buys Famy.

Because of his injury, he forces Norah to tie up her mother and father.  Although maybe this is also an exercise in control and fear – it’s certainly an effective moment as we see the girl attempting to bind her mother’s legs with a pair of tights.  As Norah is instructed to pull tighter, her mother reacts with distress.

When Jones arrives, Jimmy asks if he can go in with the assault team.  Jones, naturally enough, refuses.  Jimmy’s request reiterates his desire to be in at the kill – it isn’t enough to be close by, he wants to be right in the thick of the action.  He heads off to slump dejectedly in the back of a patrol car, another nicely played scene by Perkins.

Torture is seen several times in The Glory Boys.  The opening scene of episode one features Elkin and Mackiewicz brutally torturing a suspect whilst in this episode Jimmy indulges in a milder form of abuse following McCoy’s extraction from the house.  In some ways this makes Jimmy a proto Jack Bauer – a single-minded agent determined to do whatever it takes to complete his mission.  But Jimmy’s not acting without authority – Jones tacitly gives his approval (in front of McCoy) to do whatever he has to do.

So in the world of The Glory Boys, the ends justifies the means.  If the rights of prisoners are abused then so be it – provided it happens behind closed doors.  As is seen later, Jimmy’s downfall occurs after he decides to demonstrate his methods in public.

A little psychology and pain forces McCoy to admit that Famy’s going to make a last-ditch attempt to kill Sokarev immediately before he boards the plane.  But the security cordon is tight enough to nullify Famy’s attempt.

As Famy lies helpless – already downed by several shots from the ring of armed soldiers around the plane – Jimmy comes rushing over.  He couldn’t take part in the mission to extract McCoy and he wasn’t close enough to prevent Famy from launching his attack at the airport, but now he can finish the job.  As Famy struggles to get up, Jimmy aims his gun at his opponent’s head and pulls the trigger.  A quick cut to a roaring jet engine is a clever way of hiding the fact that we don’t see the fatal shot fired, but the power of the moment is still strong as we see Jimmy walk away, with a ring of onlookers behind him.

This most public of executions means that Jimmy is now highly toxic and the Minister (Ian Cuthbertson) tells Jones to fire him.  So Jimmy’s out of a job and Sokarev has safely left the country.  But there’s a final ironic twist, quite in keeping with the bleakness of the tale, which amuses a drunken Jimmy. We leave him as he slowly wends his way through the darkened London streets (with the haunting title music by Philip Japp and Julia Downes playing).

The Glory Boys has an excellent cast, although it’s pity that several familiar faces have very little to do.  The likes of Anthony Steel, Ian Cuthbertson, Alan MacNaughton and Robert Lang were all good enough actors to have taken major parts, but instead they only make the briefest of appearances.  Steiger and Perkins naturally dominate, although Alfred Burke has a quiet assurance as Jones.  Bur Joanna Lumley, despite being fourth billed, has little to do – Helen’s main usefulness seems to be that she can sense the real Jimmy behind the heroic façade.

YTV were no doubt hoping that this serial would repeat the success of their previous Gerald Seymour adaptation (Harry’s Game, 1982).  This didn’t really happen and the critical reaction was muted (with some newspaper reviews, latching onto the gunplay and violence, unimaginatively dubbing the series “The Gory Boys”).  The fact that it’s never been released on R2 DVD is another reason why it maintains a fairly low profile (although it’s available in R1).

As a time capsule of the mid eighties and also as a vehicle for both Rod Steiger and Anthony Perkins it’s well worth seeking out though.  It’s not perfect (and the 105 minute “movie” edit is tighter and more satisfying than the 3 x 50 minute serial) but the themes and characters continue to resonate down the decades.

The Glory Boys – Episode Two

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Famy’s inexperience is demonstrated at various points throughout the serial. McCoy is appalled to discover that he doesn’t have a plan to kill Sokarev – Famy has to weakly admit that the others (now dead) had the plan – and he further complicates matters by killing a woman who was rifling through his possessions at the flat where he and McCoy were holed up.

This means they’re on the run – which delights Jones, as he believes this leaves them in no shape to make the hit. Jimmy isn’t convinced and Jones quickly picks up on the vibe that Jimmy’s hoping that they’ll attack anyway. “You want to be in work, cheering them on. That makes me sick.” For Jimmy, the thrill of the chase (not to mention the kill) is all.

Although Rod Steiger’s performance can be florid at times, he still manages to throw in some subtle touches. One occurs as he prepares to say goodbye to his wife, prior to flying to London (she’s been forbidden from traveling with him). As they embrace, his eyes dart around in a worried fashion, but he manages to put on a brave face as they pull apart.

We see Norah’stifling home-life, complete with a father (played by Hubert Rees) who reacts to the news of Famy’s murder of the girl by muttering that the killer should be strung up. Of course, neither he or Norah’s mother realise that their daughter’s boyfriend is involved. But although Norah now knows what sort of man McCoy is, her love for him overrides every other consideration. But does he have any feelings for the girl, or is he simply using her?

The difference between Famy and McCoy – the one who’s prepared to give up his life for the struggle he believes in and the other who has no interest in a suicide mission – is restated. Famy tells him that “because my people have suffered, are suffering now, they trust me, for what I will do for them. In my country, the martyrs of our movement are honoured”. McCoy responds by telling him to shut up, proving that the ideological gulf between them is too wide to be breached. But while McCoy doesn’t share Famy’s hope for a glorious martyrdom, he does seem to have some sympathy for him.

Whilat a modern terrorist would probably plant a bomb, Famy’s eventual plan is much more old school – a rifle through the window and, hopefully, a clear shot at the podium where Sokarev is speaking. It’s possible to see the ease with which Famy and McCoy breach the elaborate security procedures set up to protect Sokarev as a weakness of the story or it could be deliberate.

Windows from the lecture room are accessible from the street outside, but although the street is cordoned off no thought seems to have been given to positioning substantial numbers of police or security officers outside these very vulnerable spots. Jones suggests it’s due to lack of resources, but that seems strange given the number of officers deployed elsewhere.

So the pair are able to run across the road and – as McCoy gives him a leg up – Famy breaks the glass in the window and takes aim at Sokarev. His lack of experience is highlighted again as he fires off multiple shots but isn’t able to hit the target. In desperation he throws a grenade in, which is leapt on by Mackiewicz.

Mackiewicz therefore protects both Sokarev and the others, but at the cost of his own life. It’s a chilling moment which brings home the point that often a bodyguard’s job is to take the bullet (or grenade) intended for the person they’ve been charged to protect.

With McCoy now injured from a brief gun battle with one of the security officers outside, he and Famy make their escape. Once more Famy’s inadequacies are displayed when he admits he can’t drive a car – forcing the badly injured McCoy to take the wheel as Jimmy follows close behind.

The Glory Boys – Episode One

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Palestinian terrorists hatch a plan to assassinate Professor David Sokarev (Rod Steiger), an Israeli nuclear scientist, during his forthcoming visit to Britain.  He has his own people protecting him – Maciewicz (Michael J. Jackson) and Elkin (Ron Berglas) – but the head of SIS, Mr Jones (Alfred Burke) plans to put his own man next to Sokarev every step of the way.

Jimmy (Antony Perkins) was the best, but in many people’s eyes he’s yesterday’s man.  His skill with a gun is still razor sharp, but he’s also inclined to be reckless and insubordinate.

Three terrorists attempted to reach Britain.  Two were killed in France, leaving one survivor – Famy (Gary Brown).  He makes contact with McCoy (Aaron Harris) a member of the Provisional IRA and together the mismatched pair begin to hatch a plan …..

The Glory Boys was a three-part serial, based on the novel by Gerald Seymour, made by Yorkshire television and broadcast over three consecutive evenings during October 1984.  That it was stripped across three nights indicates that it was seen as “event” television, and no doubt the two star names at the top of the credits helped to strengthen this feel.

Both Rod Steiger and Anthony Perkins were bona fide film stars, although it would be fair to say that their stock had fallen a little by the mid eighties, which probably explains how YTV were able to snag them.  But it was still a coup to see Steiger (On The Waterfront and In The Heat of the Night) and Perkins (Psycho) in a British television drama.

Steiger plays Sokarev in a very deliberate, ponderous way.  Sokarev is not a politician or a soldier, he’s a scientist and in his early scenes gives the impression that he’s somewhat unworldly.  He treats the news about the threat on his life with alarm and is keen to cancel his British trip.  But he’s told in no uncertain terms that this is impossible – it would send out a signal to the terrorists that they’ve won and Israel would then become a country under siege.  He eventually sees the logic in this.

Perkins’ British accent has met with mixed opinions down the years.  I think it’s pretty good and Perkins certainly impresses as the alcoholic, chain-smoking, cold-hearted killer.  If Steiger tends to be a bit wooden, then Perkins’ easy charm (although always with the sense that there’s something nasty lurking just below the surface) provides a nice counterpoint.

It’s no surprise, especially for this era of television, that the Palestinian terrorist Famy was played by a British born actor, Gary Brown.  It’s not a problem though as Brown is quickly able to sketch out Famy’s character quite effectively.  He was the youngest of the three terrorists and the most inexperienced.  But like them he has a fanatical desire to carry out his mission, even if it costs him his life.

This desire to die for a cause will be something that’s unfortunately all too familiar from modern acts of terrorism, but for British audiences watching thirty years ago it would have been more unusual.  The point is driven home by McCoy who tells Famy that he’s not prepared to throw his life away – McCoy might be IRA, but that doesn’t mean he has any desire to die.

Famy’s political ideology remains somewhat nebulous.  At one point he does attempt to explain his views to McCoy, but is cut off.  As for McCoy, in this first episode we learn that he has a British girlfriend, Norah (Sallyanne Law).  She seems an odd choice for an IRA terrorist, since she’s in her late teens and very innocent (with her love of cuddly toys she seems little more than a child at times).

The SIS we see is very much in the pre-computer age and for all intents and purposes it could just as easily been a snapshot of the 1950’s.  The offices are large, gloomy and old fashioned, complete with furniture that’s seen better days.  When Jones prepares to sleep in overnight, Helen (Joanna Lumley) makes up his camp-bed, complete with a hot water bottle.  To complete this very British picture, he spoons Ovaltine into a mug.

The first time Jones mentions Jimmy he looks at a picture on his wall, showing a wartime scene.  It’s a cliché moment for sure, and later the story is spelled out.  Jones and Jimmy served in Malaya back in the 1950’s and Jimmy saved Jones’ life.  So Jones feels he owes Jimmy a debt ever since, even up to and including today.  Did Jones chose Jimmy for this job because he’s still haunted by the events of Malaya or did he really think Jimmy was the best man to carry it out?

Alfred Burke, even with a fairly small part, catches the eye – as does Joanna Lumley.  Helen works for Jones and is Jimmy’s girlfriend, so her loyalties are somewhat divided.  Lumley has even less to do than Burke, but like him she’s a notable presence.

Minder – Come in T-64, Your Time is Ticking Away


Candy Cabs, a minicab firm that Arthur has a share in, has suffered a series of attacks over the last few weeks – drivers have been beaten up and cars torched.  Arthur enlists Terry’s help by giving him the most clapped-out car imaginable and adding him to the drivers roster.  It soon becomes clear that these aren’t random acts of violence though, there’s a definite reason behind them.

The first of twenty Minder scripts written by Tony Hoare (his last, The Long Good Thursday, aired in 1994 and was the final episode of the original run).  He would end up writing more episodes than series creator Leon Griffiths, and whilst Griffiths’ contribution was absolutely key, in many ways Hoare would be as important as Griffiths in shaping the direction of the series.

Come in T-64 has its comic moments, but it’s also very much a product of Minder‘s earlier, more gritty, period.  It captures the late seventies run-down nature of London perfectly – Candy Cabs is located in a dilapidated part of town and whilst Arthur dreams of taking the business more upmarket and appealing to a more refined clientele, it’s clear that this will remain just a dream.

Early on, one of the drivers is attacked by two young tearaways.  Terry drives him home and before he drops him off he wonders why he’s spending his time mini-cabbing.  Terry’s told that he doesn’t have a choice – he married young, at nineteen, and has a wife and two children to support.  They live in three crummy rooms and in order to try and get on the property ladder he works nights in a bakery and spends the afternoons and evenings driving a cab.  It sounds like quite a bleak existence.

There are a few lighter moments though.  Terry agrees to spar with the local boxing champ as his regular partner hasn’t turned up.  Whilst he’s in the ring, Arthur turns up and gives Terry plenty of, no doubt well-intentioned, support even though it’s clear that Terry’s coming off second best.  When he’s knocked down again, Arthur’s incensed – he tells the barely conscious Terry that this is very damaging to his (Arthur’s) reputation!

One of Terry’s customers is Debbie (Diana Malin) who works as a stripper (the first of five appearances she’d make in the series).  Terry’s instantly attracted and it doesn’t take too long before they get together.  The next morning, Arthur calls to see him and is shocked by her nakedness (“oh my good gawd”).  This is the more familiar, prurient, Arthur that we’d grow used to seeing – always disapproving of Terry’s numerous liaisons – and is far removed from the lecherous Arthur of the earliest episodes.

By far the best comic moment comes when Kevin walks out, leaving Arthur in charge of the office.  His increasingly frantic efforts to keep track of the calls and direct the cabs makes him more and more stressed!  It’s a lovely comic sequence from George Cole.

Come in T-64 also highlights Arthur’s ruthless nature.  Although he’s invested £5,000 into the business, Kevin bitterly complains that he leaves him to do all the work.  Kevin’s keen to buy Arthur’s share, that way he claims he’d be able to make a decent living, but Arthur’s not interested – unless Kevin can come up with £8,000, some three thousand more than Kevin was expecting.

As might be expected, Alfred Burke is excellent as Kevin.  Best known for Public Eye, Burke brings a similar level of laconic weariness to this character.  There’s a few other familiar faces that pop up, such as Oscar James who’d later be a series regular in the early years of Eastenders.

In the end, both Arthur and Terry do quite well.  Arthur ends up buying Kevin’s share of the business (for a mere two thousand) and it’s plain that he’ll make a great deal more money once the site forms part of a new redevelopment.  It was Kevin, of course, who was behind the attacks – attempting to panic Arthur into selling his stake cheaply, so that he could benefit.  And even Terry, who spends most the episode being conned by Arthur, manages to make some money (a rare victory for Terry at this early point in the series).

Public Eye – A Fixed Address

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The first noticeable thing about A Fixed Address is that it’s in colour.  The original broadcast, back in 1969, was in black and white, but the programme was recorded in colour as a test for the forthcoming switchover.  It takes a little getting used to, as after six episodes of moody, black and white stories it’s something of a jolt.

The story opens with Frank and Mrs Mortimer working together on the dishes.  It’s another example of how comfortable he’s become with her – he’s now essentially one of the family.  The only guests staying are a young couple – Peter (Barrie Rutter) and Rosemary (Deborah Grant).  Peter is rather oafish and irritating whilst Rosemary is quiet and polite.  They don’t seem to be enjoying themselves especially and Frank wonders why.  This allows Mrs Mortimer to demonstrate her detective skills for once.  She tells Frank that they’re not married (she knew this when Peter didn’t know whether Rosemary liked kippers!) and this explains why they don’t quite seem at ease with each other.  She tells Frank that apart from enjoying love-making “they’ve nothing else in common.  They’re going to make themselves very miserable.”

It’s a nice moment that forges the bond between Mrs Mortimer and Frank a little tighter, although we’ll see upcoming events threaten this.  Frank’s looking to start up on his own again, as an enquiry agent, and he’s searching for offices.  When his probation officer, Jim Hull, calls round, she lets slip this information – which comes as a surprise to him.  He then offers Mrs Mortimer a word of advice (“Marker’s a very lonely man, I mean he’s a lone wolf.  Don’t make too many plans involving him.”)  Needless to say, this doesn’t go down well.

Events then take an unexpected turn when Mrs Mortimer’s estranged husband, Denis (Philip Brack) appears on the doorstep.  This provides the meat of the episode as he enjoys several spiky encounters with Frank as well as some memorable sparring matches with his wife.  He’s a charmer – but he walked out of his marriage seven years ago and it’s clear that his presence isn’t welcomed by her.  But why has he come back?

Eventually it becomes clear.  He offers her the chance to travel to Malaya with him.  It’s a three year trip and there’s plenty of benefits.  “House servants, change of air three times time a year.  Free travel, Siam, Penang, Hong Kong.”  It sounds tempting, but it’s obvious that the offer wasn’t made out of love or affection – as Denis’ company favours married employees, rather than single ones.  Mrs Mortimer has great pleasure in telling him no and her refusal means he doesn’t waste time hanging around.

Rosemary and Peter’s relationship also founders, so this isn’t the best episode for relationships.  Unless we count Frank and Mrs Mortimer?  Series four of Public Eye was essentially the story of Frank Marker’s journey back into society. At the start, he’d just come out of prison and was something of a drifter, with no home or friends.  By A Fixed Address, he has a friend (and she clearly wants to take things further) and a home, plus the chance to start his business again in Brighton.

But series five would see all of this jettisoned in favour of a move to Windsor.  This may have been down to a change in the production team.  Series four was entirely written by Roger Marshall, but he didn’t contribute a single script to the next series.  Presumably the new producer (Michael Chapman) decided that the Brighton location had run its course and decided to move Frank on again.  This is something a of shame, since there was still areas that could have been developed (for example, Mrs Mortimer’s guest house would have been a rich source of potential clients and problems for Frank).

But notwithstanding this, series four of Public Eye saw the series hit a consistently high standard – thanks to the scripting of Roger Marshall and the fine casts, headed by the incomparable Alfred Burke.

Public Eye – The Comedian’s Graveyard

comedian's graveyard

The Comedian’s Graveyard boasts a wonderful performance from Joe Melia as Billy Raybold.  Raybold is an end-of-the-pier entertainer, who is seen at the start of the story holding auditions for his latest show.  When Judy Blackburn (Tessa Wyatt) turns up, his attention is immediately drawn to her, since she’s young, nervous and very attractive.  He does his best to calm her nerves by telling her that they’re not here to eat her (“I wouldn’t mind” mutters his sidekick Arthur Mack, played by Leslie Dwyer).  So the scene seems to be set for Raybold to take advantage of the naive girl, but it doesn’t quite work out like that.

Raybold is always performing, even when off-stage, cracking corny jokes – but there’s plenty of opportunity to view the real man behind the greasepaint (and he’s someone who’s well aware of his mediocrity).  This is clearest at the end, when he tells Judy that “I could stand being a has-been, but a never-was, that takes some swallowing.”

Frank’s still working for Joe Ryland’s detective agency (although not for long – by the end of the story he’s resigned, finally worn down by the endless form-filling and his personal dislike of Ryland) and has been given the case of locating Judy.  There’s a clear difference of opinion between Frank and Ryland – Ryland is happy to take the client’s money, but Frank feels they’d be better off going to the police.  “I’m one man.  With one pair of eyes and one pair of feet.  The population of Brighton and Hove is something like 240,000, not counting the tourists.  I”d have to get very, very, lucky.”

Eventually he agrees with Judy’s aunt, Mrs Reid (Mona Bruce) that he’ll spend a few days looking for her.  And since this is television, he does manage to find her fairly easily.  Frank spies her on the pier, handing out leaflets for Raybold’s show.  This brings Frank into conflict with Raybold, since he showed him Judy’s picture earlier in the day and he claimed not to have seen her.  Frank’s suspicious of Raybold’s motives, but the comedian tells him that “I don’t want any trouble, I’ve done nothing wrong.  All I want is some decent trade, bit of fishing, little money to show for it at the end.”

Earlier, Raybold confessed to Mack that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Judy, and he’d decided not to.  His reputation as a womanizer in the past was well known, but he now admits he’s “too old for the chase, the lies, promises, chat.”

As I’ve said, Melia’s riveting as a third-rate comedian, hiding the pain of his mundane existence behind the false bonhomie of the professional comic.  It’s a familiar character (think of Archie Rice in The Entertainer) but it works just as well here.  Tessa Wyatt is appealing as the seventeen year-old Judy, who dreams of stardom but finds that the reality is somewhat different.  Leslie Dwyer (later to be a regular in the early series of Hi-De-Hi!) offers solid support as Arthur Mack, who seems keen to move in on Judy, since Raybold isn’t interested.

Another thread developed in the story is the continuing relationship between Frank and Mrs Mortimer.  Together they take Mrs Reid to see Judy perform in the show.  Although it’s essentially a professional trip (after Judy’s performance, Mrs Reid confronts her and pleads with the girl to come home) it could also said to be virtually a date for Frank and Mrs Mortimer.  Certainly as they reach home, they’re both still in high spirits – and even though Raybold has never topped the bill at the London Palladium, he’s still able to put on a good show which they both seemed to enjoy.

Over a nightcap, the conversation turns to Frank’s long-term plans.  He confesses that he doesn’t see himself staying with Rylands much longer.  Mrs Mortimer tells him he should set up on his own again, but Frank knows that’s easier said than done.  “There’s a little item buzzing around Parliament called the private investigators bill.  The bit that caught my eye said ‘agents would have to satisfy a judge of their competence and honesty.’  And here am I, still on parole.  You’d also have to deposit a one thousand pound bond before you could set up shop.”

Mrs Mortmer offers without hesitation to provide the bond.  Frank refuses (“finance and friendship, like oil and water”) and the fact he mentioned friendship is picked up by Mrs Mortimer (“coming out of your shell, aren’t you?”)  It’s a far cry from the start of the series, where Frank was an isolated character with no friends at all.

The end of the scene does imply that Mrs Mortimer would like to be more than friends though.  But since series five would see Frank relocate again (this time to Windsor) their relationship is already on borrowed time.  Had Frank stayed in Brighton, it’s intriguing to wonder exactly what would have happened to the pair of them.  But maybe it was the fear that he was getting too domesticated that caused the programme-makers to move him on again.