Every season, the Drama After Dark team gathers ‘round the (still virtual) conference room table to watch the latest and greatest in all things drama. This month, I'm delighted to finally get another season of one of my absolute favorite mysteries from MASTERPIECE: Unforgotten. Each season of this twisty, fraught show covers a complex cold case with incisive devestation, and I could not be more here for it. If you haven't seen previous seasons, catch up here, and I'll be recapping season 4 as it airs on Sunday nights.
Last week, Cassie was red-taped back into her job, the team found a headless, handless body in a freezer, and we met a bunch of people who may or may not have committed a murder right after qualifying as police officers, but who definitely were in a car where one of them got caught driving drunk. That dude (mercilessly given the recap moniker Dead Hoarder by yours truly) recently, well, died, leaving the aforementioned body in his freezer.
Anyway, Cassie and Sunny need more info, so they ask the arresting officer what he remembers about the other folks in the car.
Arresting Officer: Oh geez, why are you asking me this? What happened?
Cassie and Sunny:
Cassie: For real though, just tell us what you remember.
Arresting Officer: They seemed shocked. They might have been wondering if they’d get blamed?
Sunny: Did you write down any of their names?
Arresting Officer: If I did, it’d be in my notebook, which will be in storage. But I do remember getting into a fight with one of them — an Asian guy — he kept trying to get me to let it go, and I finally had to tell him to quit it or I’d arrest him too.
Sunny, asking the million-dollar question: Did you search the car?
Arresting Officer: Nope, had no reason to.
Sunny: So you brought Dead Hoarder back to the station, what happened to the car?
Arresting Officer: One of the girls drove it away. She said she hadn’t been drinking; offered to do a test but I believed her — she seemed like the sensible one.
Outside, Cassie and Sunny speculate about what they’d do in that situation. Obviously, most people WOULD be shocked if, after finally passing law enforcement qualifications, their pal got pulled over with a body in the trunk.
Sunny: Ok but to be fair: we’re not sure the body was in the trunk at that point.
Cassie: Don’t care: we need to find that file and figure out if any of those people are still cops. Because if they are... let’s just say it’ll be interesting.
The next day, Cassie gets the fun job of trying to lever her kid out of bed. Now look, no sensible person wants to wake up at 7am (yeah, morning people, I’m coming for you) but she makes some good points. Specifically, that he’s in his 20s, and they’re selling the house, so if he doesn’t get a job soon he’s not going to have anywhere to live. Can’t really argue with that, so he doesn’t try, mashing a pillow over his head as if that’s gonna solve anything. In the kitchen, Boyfriend hands her caffeine and a listening ear before heading out for his big interview.
Cassie: Hey, am I just an angry jerk all the time?
Boyfriend, delicately: Not always!
Cassie: I’m sorry.
Boyfriend: It’s ok! I love you!
Man, this guy is a keeper; well done Cassie! But also maybe work on those anger issues, huh? Elsewhere, Businessman and his wife are having a very tense breakfast conversation. Here’s the deal: the doctors want to do a blood test to decide if they need to get amniocentesis, a prenatal test that checks for serious complications. Businessman is of the opinion that they shouldn’t get either test, but his wife, who’s getting the recap name Downstairs because I just realized she played Jane in Downton Abbey, thinks it merits further discussion. Businessman, however, is running late, and decides to make this a problem for future him to sort out.
And speaking of parent stuff, across the country, Family Therapist is looking somewhat mournfully at the mother’s day display in her dining room. Fair enough, I guess: seems like the stuff is for her stepkids’ mother, and not for her, which has to be at least a little weird. She tells her partner that she’ll be back late so she can fit in a stress-relieving run after work. Will she actually go for a run, or is it a ruse? I guess we will find out, but my money is on ruse! For Businessman, the hits just keep on coming: on his way into work, he gets a call from his boss, who informs him that a temp at the office has said Businessman was acting inappropriate to her at a work event, and adds that Businessman is going to need to come directly to his office when he arrives.
At the station, Sunny gets his hands on the full casefile from the probable victim Matt’s disappearance. The casefile? It’s a hot mess.
And not in a fun way. There are a lot of potential witnesses who never got interviewed, and potential leads unexplored. Why? Matt had some convictions and a warrant out for his arrest, so maybe the cops just assumed he was hiding out. Either way, not a lot to work with, so Sunny heads off to records to try and find the DUI arrest file.
Remember how Cassie was worried that one of the folks in the car might still be a cop? We finally have our answer: Not Good Enough is, and she’s apparently up for a promotion (and the best candidate for the job, at least as far as Nice Fiancee is concerned). Back at the station, DS Grumpy arrives, only to get jumped on immediately by Cassie, who is eager to find Matt’s next of kin so they can be notified. His parents have since died, as has his girlfriend at the time, Karen. Not a happy or healthy family, unfortunately. Matt’s brother, Clive, may have seen something, but they have no clue where he is. On the plus side, Karen was pregnant when Matt disappeared, and DS Grumpy turned up a name for the baby — Jerome — and contact info. Cassie immediately takes the number and rings him up. The convo goes… about as well as can be expected? Jerome is at work, and doesn’t really want to talk about this shocking and upsetting news right now (or, probably, ever). He basically gives Cassie the brushoff and tells her to talk to him outside of business hours. Fair enough!
Cassie is, of course, feeling a lot of feelings about this. Whilst she emotes, Sunny heads into the basement of the records room, which is frankly just about as creepy as I feel like it ought to be. As he rifles through old boxes, a veritable army of officers sort through Dead Hoarder's possessions, and Charity Auction Guy dives right back into naughty business by setting up a burner phone and making a dodgy call. The purpose? To steal a car, it sounds like.
As he’s plotting, Not Good Enough, cycling to work, happens to see a motorcycle-jacking in progress. Given her job, it’s no surprise that she tries to stop it, but unfortunately for her, the thief has a mean elbow, and instead of apprehending him, her face apprehends a bloody nose (and some sidewalk). Obviously, she gets checked out by EMTs at the scene, who aren’t too thrilled when she rushes through her statement and their exam, but she doesn’t care: she’s got places to be!
Meanwhile, we finally get a sense of why Family Therapist might be so unhappy when she arrives at her destination: a graveyard. She brings flowers to her parents' gravestone, and we get another insight, because the inscription describes her father as “a Copper’s Copper.” He also died about a year after the whole DUI/Missing Matt situation, so if she became a cop and then quit the family business, as it were, he was there to see it go down.
In the basement, Sunny hits paydirt: a statement from the night of the DUI, which includes first names. And he’s not alone: DS Grumpy also had some success finding the car Dead Hoarder was driving the night of the arrest. The bad news: it was sold for scrap in the interim. DC Babyface hasn’t been so lucky: despite giving Dead Hoarder’s stuff the fine-tooth comb treatment, they haven’t found any stray body parts. Sure, he could have disposed of them already, but DC Babyface doesn’t think so: the head and hands are the most critical for identifying a victim, and thus probably the thing you’d be most eager to hold onto. He’s also got a good idea: keep an eye out for info on a rented storage unit or garage. DS Beanpole has been going through witness statements from when Matt disappeared, and while some have since died, she does have a few folks to follow up with, including one woman who never actually had a formal statement taken, for some reason. Cassie, always one to get excited about weird forensics, tells the squad that Matt’s clothes have gone to a forensic botanist, because Coroner thought there were some interesting plant remains to be found. As she wraps up the meeting, the whole team pulls a dead poets society “oh captain my captain,” except they’re British detectives, not American teenagers, so it’s considerably more staid. The impact, however, is the same, and she’s very touched.
Before Cassie can head out to talk to Jerome in person, Sunny calls with an update: he’s got a list of names, and knows their police status at the time, so it should only be a matter of time before they can track everyone down.
Also, guess what: we’re about to have our first recap name change, because despite the fancy suit he was wearing when we first met, Businessman is ALSO still on the force, and in fact holds the same rank as Cassie: DCI. When we next see him, DCI Suspect is sitting down with his boss, probably to talk about the harassment issue.
Boss: Here’s the deal: the temp made a sexual harassment complaint, and I’m not gonna lie, I did see you getting awfully close at that party.
DCI Suspect: Yeah, ok. If anything, she flirted with me.
Me: Yikes man, not a great response.
DCI Suspect: So let’s cut to the chase, what’s she gonna do?
Boss: She’s still deciding. She might make a complaint, and I haven’t gone to professional standards yet.
DCI Suspect: Cool. Look, I think we both know what this is about.
Boss: Come again?
DCI Suspect: It’s a race thing, dude. She hit on a South Asian guy, and I turned her down, and she’s embarrassed. So talk with her, or you can expect me and the advocacy group to go just absolutely buckwild on you both.
And with that, he heads out of the office, leaving me, frankly, pretty conflicted: workplace harassment and English racism, particularly towards South Asian people, are both very well documented issues. Meanwhile, we get some relief from moral grey areas in the form of MahlerFan, who is about to get a bouquet of flowers delivered by her carer, Eugenia.
Eugenia: Where do you want me to display these?
MahlerFan: The trash, obviously: they’re late, and cheap, and I don’t want them. And don’t give me that look: you might think Not Good Enough is hot stuff, but I could tell you some things about her that would really change that perception.
Horrifying pronouncement delivered, MahlerFan smiles like the scary cold blooded shark she is. Now look, she might have a point, but poor Eugenia is definitely not getting paid enough for creepy interactions like this! Speaking of Not Good Enough, she arrives at her interview, a little worse for wear but ready to dive right in. She pretty quickly charms the panel, explaining that her parents were not best pleased when she pivoted from her classics degree into law enforcement. She speaks from the heart about public perceptions of the police, and how she thinks they could be changed, and her interviewers eat it up.
Meanwhile, DCI Suspect keeps digging deeper into the unlikeable character hole, doing some light internet stalking of the temp who brought a complaint against him. While he does that, Cassie tracks down Jerome, who declines a handshake (fair enough, he’s a plumber and has been working on toilets all day) but does invite her in to talk. Jerome explains that he never really knew his grandparents or either of his parents, and because they were all addicts, he would rather not have his family know about them. He’s willing to give DNA to help identify the body, but doesn’t really care beyond that. Cassie, obviously, happily takes him up on the DNA offer, but can’t help asking a question: they think that Matt’s brother Clive was the last person to see him alive. Does Jerome have any information at all about his uncle? Paydirt: Clive used to send cards sometimes, and Jerome might still have the address.
Later, DCI Suspect meets up with his brother, who obviously wants to know what the heck the plan is here.
DCI Suspect: I’m just going to wait and see what the woman does. If she makes it formal I’m going to take her down.
Brother: And you haven’t considered maybe talking to her? Apologizing?
DCI Suspect: For what, not being white?
Brother: You sure it’s a race thing? And not two drunk people having a weird night?
DCI Suspect: Absolutely not. And look, when you’ve had 30 years of bullsh*t like this, you know what it’s about.
Brother: I just think it’s impressive that you’ve managed to stay so pissed off for so long.
DCI Suspect: It’s pretty easy, actually. I don’t want to just let this crap slide like you and dad do. Can’t get anywhere without fighting, and if I make people mad in the process, so be it.
It’s apparently the night for serious family convos, because across town, Cassie sits down with her dad to talk about his will.
Dad: I’m going to change it.
Cassie: Ok, that’s fine. How?
Dad: I want my half of the house to go to my girlfriend.
Cassie: Uh. Ok. But you always have said you wanted that to go to the boys?
Dad: Don’t talk down to me, I’m perfectly lucid. You’ve said they’re spoiled, and they need to earn their own money. Giving them a bunch of cash isn’t going to help with either of those things.
Cassie: But dad, it wasn't going to work like that — the will said that if you died, your equity stayed in the house until I sold it, and then it would go into a trust for them until they’re 35, exactly because neither of us wanted them to get a bunch of money when they’re too young. We talked all of this through when you got the diagnosis. It’s your choice, of course, but I just don’t know what made you change your mind.
Obviously, Cassie has some idea: she clearly thinks Dad’s Girlfriend put him up to this, and questions her about it later. Dad’s Girlfriend, however, won’t budge.
Dad’s Girlfriend: I don’t know what his plans are, and we haven’t discussed the will at all.
Cassie, sassy: That’s kind of weird, he’s dying.
Dad’s Girlfriend: Yeah, and I knew what you’d assume if we did. Look, I have no agenda: I didn’t want to fall in love with someone who’s dying, I just did.
Meanwhile, at the home of Charity Auction Guy, he and his wife have some wine and talk about how the preparations for the aforementioned charity auction are going. Quite well, as it turns out! Good news imparted, Charity Auction Guy ever so casually mentions that he’ll be going on a surprise trip to France tomorrow to meet with a potential new client. Flush with the success of the auction, his wife barely even hears what he’s saying.
At Cassie’s house, she tries to employ her investigative skills on her family, suggesting that her son take Dad out for a beer and subtly find out if Dad’s Girlfriend is manipulating him into leaving her his money.
Boyfriend: Uh, that seems like a bad plan though?
Cassie: Why? How else will we find out?
Boyfriend: Maybe we should just let it play out? It feels like manipulation.
Cassie, out loud: Fine. Just take him out for a beer then – he’d like that.
Cassie, implied: Snoop, son. Snoop.
Boyfriend, perhaps sensing the implied part of that suggestion, clears the dinner dishes a little louder than is, perhaps, strictly necessary, and everyone just bathes in the awkward tension, unsure how to stop themselves. Also dealing with awkward tension is DCI Suspect, who instead of going home to have an important conversation with Downstairs, is having a drink at a bar. As he calls to the bartender to order another, he ignores a call from her, the most recent of six, which makes even more sense when we see the time on his watch: nearly 11pm.
Not Good Enough is also up late, but at least she’s at home with Nice Fiancée. As she clears the dinner table before bed, she gets a call from an unknown number, and, like the Gen Xer she is, answers it.
Not Good Enough: Hello?
MahlerFan: How was it? And yeah, I blocked my number because I knew you’d ignore me if I didn’t.
Not Good Enough: Ok, well, that’s weird. And how did what go?
MahlerFan: Don’t be silly: the job interview. If you don’t want me to know about stuff like that, don’t talk about it when you’re at my house; I can hear you.
Not Good Enough, perturbed: It went fine.
MahlerFan: Great. Pretty brave of you to try out for the top job given the circumstances. You really do have a pair on ya. Anyway, sweet dreams!
Ominous! And rude! The next morning, Cassie runs back into the house to grab her forgotten cellphone, and directly into Boyfriend. He’s got some great news: he got the job! She’s genuinely happy for him, but it does have implications for their planning — they’ll need to move if he takes it. Cassie, slightly overwhelmed, stalls slightly and asks to discuss it that night, before quickly running back out the door.
Across town, Downstairs arrives in the neighborhood where we first saw DCI Suspect, finding him crashing in the basement of the family’s store, on a couch that’s really too small to be a bed, and clearly hungover.
Downstairs: Look, I’m going to get a blood test now. Clearly you don’t care, but I figured I would tell you.
DCI Suspect: Of course I do. Do you want to talk now? We could get a coffee?
Downstairs: I’ve been trying to talk to you for the last DAY.
DCI Suspect: I’m really sorry, something bad happened at work.
Downstairs: Don’t care! This is more important! We can’t talk now because I’m not missing the test. We can discuss it tonight.
Over at the cleaners’ warehouse, one of the uniformed officers brings DC Babyface something interesting: a keyring with a bunch of smudged labels. He packs it off for the lab, where hopefully they’ll be able to figure out what the keys go to — hopefully, a second location where they'll find the head!
In France, Charity Auction Guy is definitely up to something dodgy. He leans on the back of a van, fishing the key out from under the license plate. Climbing into the driver’s seat, he double checks the cargo in the back (a LOT of boxes of computer parts), and the massive envelope of money tucked into the sun visor. Satisfied with both, he starts the engine, and drives off, eventually crossing the border with no issues in a much simpler heist than I, a die-hard fan of The Fast and the Furious franchise, expected.
At DCI Suspect’s office, things aren't looking good. Boss walks in and says that while he did everything he could, the temp is still planning to make a formal complaint. His hands are tied. Family Therapist is also in a bind, as she and her husband sign the real estate contract they talked about last week with his brother. And back at the station, Sunny gets a call from the lab: the DNA swab confirms that Matt is their victim.
Sunny: The press office wants to put out a statement for the news. Should we clear it higher up?
Cassie: No. I want this to be EVERYWHERE.
The implication here is that Cassie’s worried that someone they work with might cover the story up. I can’t say I blame her for that, but I just hope our little squad stays out of the crossfire: she may have nothing to lose, but the others still, presumably, want to keep their jobs. DCI Suspect also clearly wants to keep his job, but has apparently decided to go about it in the worst way possible: by looking for dirt on his accuser in the criminal database.
Charity Auction Guy? He’s had a long day, and he’s not in a good mood. He parks the van full of dodgy cargo where requested, and then calls Felix up, leaving a message that a) he’s done what Felix asked and b) Felix better never call him again, or Charity Auction Guy will make Felix regret it. Threat delivered, he smashes his burner phone and throws it into the ocean. It goes .considerably better than this:
Back at the station, an officer on duty helps Cassie and Sunny whittle down their list of potential suspects based on the notes from Dead Hoarder’s DUI arrest. Having learned that the length of the probationary period in 1990 was just about six months, she’s worked backwards to look for new recruits starting half a year before the arrest. In that group, she found a training class that had Dead Hoarder, and from there, she’s been able to find DCI Suspect (he was the only Asian trainee in that class) who as we know is still a police officer, Charity Auction Guy and Family Therapist, who both dropped out pretty soon after training (highly unusual), and Not Good Enough, whose name Cassie immediately recognizes — maybe in part because it seems like she’s about to get that promotion after all... but I don’t think that’s the only reason.
On the car ride back, Cassie tells Sunny that these people were just half a year ahead of her in training, and that she doesn’t know any of them. Again, I’m not so sure about that (she was awfully careful to ask if Not Good Enough was the only possible suspect with her actual non-recap name), but Sunny takes her at her word.
Cassie: Look, we’re going to do this by the book. No matter what any of these people are up to now.
Sunny: Uh, yeah dude, I don’t like corruption either. Just as long as this isn’t about revenge?
Cassie: You think this is because of the pension nonsense?
Sunny: No, but we haven’t got a good case for murder on anyone yet — it’s very circumstantial!
Cassie: It won’t be. Trust me.
Cassie: Look, ok, yes: I do kind of want to punish someone. But if you see that getting in the way of me doing my job, you better call me out on it.
Sunny: So what’s the story?
Cassie: I don’t know, I just think sometimes you need a trick to move past something? And if we can do this right, and ignore that some of these people are our coworkers, maybe I can get past all the horrible stuff we’ve dealt with over the last three seasons?
Sunny: Kind of a lot of pressure to put on one case.
He’s not wrong, but before we can get deeper into Cassie’s psyche, we’re interrupted by a call from DS Beanpole. She’s talked to a witness about Matt’s disappearance, and there might be a connection between him and one of the passengers in the car.
DS Beanpole: The witness was coming home from a night out when she saw someone in running clothes out for a jog.
Cassie: Like what the victim was wearing?
DS Beanpole: Yup. Anyway, she sees him run across the grass, and then sees another guy running after him.
Cassie: Chasing him?
DS Beanpole: She didn’t say that for sure, but it was the implication. Anyway, she said the guy in pursuit was Asian.
Now look. That’s not definitive, and given the racism against South Asian folks in the UK, we have to take this with a grain of salt. But it’s still a lead! And now that our detectives have a sense of their suspect list, we get to see how said suspects react to the news reports of the discovery of Matt’s body. As you might expect, not well! They all seem upset (Not Good Enough even drops two full mugs of tea) but as any fan of crime dramas can tell you, shock is not proof of guilt. What will we learn about the suspects next week? Does Cassie know Not Good Enough better than she’s letting on? And will DCI Suspect and Charity Auction Guy have to deal with the consequences for their more recent shady behavior? Hopefully we’ll learn more in episode three!