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 devastation, 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.
We’ve got a body. We’ve got a bunch of potential suspects all acting kinda fishy. We’ve got a witness who can confirm that our victim Matt was being chased the last time he was seen alive. Things are looking up for ol’ Cassie! Well… sort of. Whilst the detective side of things is humming along nicely, her attempt to use her son to spy on her dad isn’t going that well.
Son: Ma, you gotta let it go. Granddad’s girlfriend isn’t the puppet master you think she is, and he has a plan.
Cassie: Cool. Great. Just don’t complain to me when you have no inheritance in a decade.
Luckily for Sunny, he’s able to escape family drama, because even though he totally punked out on his move, Ladyfriend is completely understanding. People doing their best? You love to see it! And speaking of trying to do one’s best, Charity Auction Guy has a chat with his younger son, while his wife fusses over their oldest, who’s caught a cold. Young Charity Auction Son quietly lets his dad know that he won a debating competition while the rest of the family was off at the auction.
Young Charity Auction Son: Yeah it’s kind of a big deal? I did tell you about it but I know everyone was really busy preparing for the event.
Charity Auction Guy, inside: Oh god am I a terrible parent?
Charity Auction Guy, out loud, whilst hugging his kiddo: Oh wow, I am SO proud of you, you’re amazing. I’m so sorry we’re not always great at paying attention to you; your brother takes up a lot of our time, but we are so so proud of you.
Man, I really wish Charity Auction Guy wasn’t nailing it on the empathy front, because it really makes me think he’s the murderer. And speaking of which, our friend Coroner has finally gotten her hands on… Matt’s hands (and head!). Because they were held in a freezer that wasn’t plugged in, these remains are basically mummified.
Sunny: So, do we even know for sure this is the same body?
Coroner: Not for sure, but I’m sending off a sample to confirm. It is definitely a man, and the teeth tell us he’s the right age. I also may have cause of death: there’s a head injury but I need to do an x-ray and more exams to be sure. And did CSI: Plants call you yet?
Cassie: Uh, no.
Coroner: Well he will soon — sounds like he found some interesting stuff on the clothes.
DC Babyface, entering the chat: DS Grumpy looked through the phone records and it doesn’t seem like they’re talking to each other yet.
Cassie: Or at least not on their actual phones. Thanks Coroner, catch ya later!
While they look at body parts, DS Beanpole does some canvassing at what seems like a halfway house to see if they have any info on Clive, Matt’s brother. She’s not the only one doing some research: Sunny is also trying to find the trainer that worked with the suspect group. Cassie is particularly eager to undrestand them better, because she thinks it's weird that a group of brand new cops would commit a murder.
And speaking of the suspects talking to each other, at that very moment, a hoodie-clad Family Therapist lurks in a park waiting to speak with Not Good Enough, who arrives wearing an absolutely gigantic winter coat I wouldn’t be surprised if she stole from the queen’s own wardrobe, and immediately insists that she be allowed to search Family Therapist.
Family Therapist: Uh… what?
Not Good Enough: Dude, you could be wearing a wire. Let me do it or I’m leaving.
Family Therapist: Yikes. Ok?
Not Good Enough, patting her down: Now give me your phone so I can prove you’re not recording anything.
Family Therapist, creeped out: So, I’m assuming they talked to you too… what did you say?
Not Good Enough, with gravity: I told them the truth, like we agreed. What did you tell them?
Family Therapist: I said I was too drunk to remember anything.
Not Good Enough: Ok, that’ll work for now. And if they ask again, you can… slowly remember the truth. Do you remember?
Family Therapist, trying to remember their planned story: Uh. Dead Hoarder got pulled over. You drove the rest of us home, dropped his car back at his place, and then went home because you lived nearby.
Not Good Enough: And how did I get home?
Family Therapist: You walked?
Not Good Enough:
Family Therapist: What if they find out about the pub?
Not Good Enough: They won’t. There’s no connection.
Family Therapist, maybe DOES watch Unforgotten: But that’s what they do! They might find out about everything, including what you did for me!
And then she starts breaking down, which makes me think that this might not just be a casual little “killing a random guy” thing, it might be a “killing a guy to get revenge for our pal” scenario. Not Good Enough, shockingly, offers Family Therapist some comfort, and then tells her she thinks the best thing she can do is stay unemotional about the whole thing. With that unhelpful Spock-adjacent advice granted, in addition to a burner email address, Not Good Enough leaves, but not without a parting comment that REALLY bums me out.
Not Good Enough, kissing Family Therapist on the cheek: You’re still beautiful you know. I hope you’ve had a good life.
While Cassie and Sunny head into a pool hall for an interview, they get a call from DS Grumpy, and guess what: he might know about the pub (so there, Not Good Enough). See, shortly before he died, Matt got into a fight at a pub. The very same pub where our squad still goes to drink away their cop-related sorrows, because it is, and always has been, a cop bar. DS Grumpy is therefore of the opinion that the fight might just have been with one of our former trainees, and Cassie agrees. Lead detected, the pair track down the person they came to see: the guy who trained Dead Hoarder and the rest of our suspects.
Cassie: So, give us the info. And let’s start with DCI Suspect.
Trainer: Ugh, he’s kind of an ass, and always has been. He always assumes that anything bad that happens to him is due to racism.
Sunny: Ok, look, you know I HAVE to push back on that… systemic racism definitely is a problem here.
Trainer: It’s no different than how we treat folks from Scotland or Wales!
Cassie: That’s categorically untrue, but we can deal with how you’re part of the problem later. Other than being an ass, was he a good person? Good cop?
Trainer: Here’s the deal: I always figured he’d end up running the force or in jail. He’s a smart guy; ambitious, charismatic, likeable… but also angry. Chip on his shoulder, loves power and can’t help taking risks? That’s a dangerous combo. He thinks he’s untouchable, and so far he’s been right. I’m pretty sure if he was white he’d be in prison.
Sunny/Me/Cassie on the inside: *enormous and justified eye roll*
Cassie: So you think he’d break the law?
Sunny: Did you see anything specific that made you think that?
Sunny: Oh, ok, so you’re just racist.
Trainer, unrepentant: Look, you asked for my opinion!
Cassie: Ugh, ok, next on the list: Charity Auction Guy?
Trainer: Well he’s the opposite: great instincts, super smart, great teamplayer
Me, remembering how Charity Auction Guy described himself to Cassie last week:
Cassie: What the recapper said!
Trainer: Well, on the job he worked really well with everyone, but I guess socially he was a total loner. Still a trustworthy guy though.
Cassie: Ok, so let’s talk about Not Good Enough:
Trainer: A total natural; great leader, good under pressure, calm and collected. Great at motivating people.
Cassie: Was she out at the time? Do you remember any relationships?
Trainer: Nah, it was different then. I don’t know if they were dating, but she was SUPER close with Family Therapist. Who was the WORST by the way. Just like super super boring? Capable, but I have no idea why she was there because she obviously loathed the job.
Cassie: Ok, lastly: Dead Hoarder?
Trainer: Yeah, I liked him. Nice guy, felt bad when he got fired. But I wasn’t super surprised; he wasn’t all that bright.
Cassie: He was kind of a big guy, did he get into any fights?
Trainer: Nah, he was a real gentle giant.
Cassie: Anything else you can think of about any of them?
Trainer: Yeah, well they were a weird little clique… couldn’t have been much more different but they had a connection I couldn't figure out. On graduation I cracked it: none of them had any guests. You guys know this: everyone has family or something at those things, and these five were totally alone.
Well well well. The plot thickens! While we all digest that info (and hopefully Cassie has an off screen conversation with Trainer about racism and unconscious bias) our pals Charity Auction Guy and DCI Suspect meet up in the woods.
Charity Auction Guy: So uh. Think you’ll be able to keep an eye on stuff?
DCI Suspect: Yes, but if they start looking at us closely my access is gonna get shut out. Stick to the “truth,” we’ll be fine.
Charity Auction Guy: Yeah, I sure hope so.
DCI Suspect: Well, I gotta get to stepping. Did everything go ok the other day?
Charity Auction Guy: Yup. Thanks for helping out on short notice.
DCI Suspect: Sure, happy to. But this is the last time, ok? I’ve moved on.
Charity Auction Guy: Oh yeah, samesies. Take care pal.
Incredibly tense coded conversation complete, they stalk off in opposite directions, trying to pretend nothing happened. Meanwhile, in the car, Cassie talks to CSI: Plants on the phone.
CSI: Plants: Here’s the deal — your body has some weird plant matter on him. It doesn’t grow native down here, so look for locations near where he was last seen that are either gardens, or, more likely, an allotment.
While Cassie gets that update, Sunny is on the phone with DS Beanpole, who lets him know that she’s found Clive and he’s, shockingly, willing to come into the station for a chat! Even more interesting: Clive was there the night Matt was killed, and saw everything due to a well-timed call of nature. Good job, DS Beanpole, you get the detective of the week star on the sticker sheet (so far). DS Grumpy isn’t about to let her win so easily — he follows up on Matt’s pub fight with a colleague who remembers the incident well. The fight involved a female trainee and (you guessed it) DCI Suspect.
DS Grumpy: So in the report it says Matt made a pass on the female trainee, she shut him down, and he got handsy, and that’s what started the fight?
Colleague with a Long Memory: You’re missing a detail: Matt also made a bunch of super racist comments.
DS Grumpy: Am I right to assume it wasn’t that serious of a fight? No one got charged.
Colleague with a Long Memory: No, DCI Suspect got his ass kicked. Matt got away with it because the top brass didn’t want it to make the news; there would have been a court case, DCI Suspect would have gotten in trouble, and that wouldn’t have looked good for us given that we’d only just started recruiting minorities.
DS Grumpy: So this report is basically useless on purpose?
Colleague with a Long Memory: I didn’t even write it, my boss did. And he’s dead, but I’m guessing he was protecting the trainees. Especially DCI Suspect.
Back at the station, Sunny and Cassie sit down to chat with Clive.
Clive: Well, we were walking across the park and I decided to take a whiz in a bush. Just after I did I heard someone start shouting at Matt. There was a guy jumping out of the passenger side of a car, and he just started running at Matt. Well, Matt ran off, and I didn’t really want to get in a fight so I hid. Then the driver got out — he was super tall — followed a bit later by a third guy. There were still two other people in the back seat, and they eventually followed — two women this time. And that was it: I never saw any of them again.
Cassie: Why didn’t you say anything at the time?
Clive: I had a job in Cyprus, and I left the next day to start work. It was before cell phones, so I didn’t even know he was missing for weeks. Once I got back, everyone figured he was just hiding out, and that he’d show up one day. But I knew deep down that wasn’t true, I think. You want to know why I never said anything? I didn’t want anyone to know I was such a coward that I hid in the bushes the night my brother was killed.
Can’t say I blame him for that! But even all these years later, Clive has redeemed himself a bit, because now we know that all of our suspects got out of the car AND chased down our victim. Not bad for a day’s work! But the squad isn’t done yet. In the bullpen, DC Babyface returns to their big map and starts charting a possible route that Matt might have taken that would lead him into an allotment, per the suggestion of CSI: Plants. If they can track down the spot where this plant was growing, they might even be able to narrow down the location where Matt was killed. DC I Didn’t Remember Her But Apparently She Was Also in Season One has had some luck as well, finding a dangerous driving conviction for Family Therapist. The rest don’t have any official criminal records, but notably, Charity Auction Guy is missing some important paperwork… like a birth certificate. In fact, there’s no record of him before 1991.
Between all this, and the info DS Grumpy turned up earlier, they’re starting to put together a pretty good motive, even though everyone is slightly puzzled about how a tussle in a bar turned so deadly. With this new information, Cassie’s ready to bring in DCI Suspect for questioning, which I’m sure will be extremely cordial and yield easy answers. Briefing completed, Sunny follows Cassie into her office with a grim expression on his face.
Sunny: So you don’t want to wait a little longer to see if we can conclusively ID any of these people?
Cassie: Well the only person who could do that would be a million year old landlady, so… no. Bring him in.
Sunny, not thrilled: Ok. Fine.
Before we have a chance to unpack that, Sunny leaves, and Cassie gets a text from Boyfriend that sends her off to a cafe.
Cassie: Hey, it’s great to see you! You in town for long?
Boyfriend: No, but figured it was worth seeing if you had a half hour.
Cassie: Oh, honey: I absolutely do not. I can stay for like 5 minutes. I don’t usually take a lunch break; you gotta set up a meeting in advance.
Boyfriend: Wow, that makes me feel super wanted! Look, here’s the deal — I went and found a real estate agent near my new job, and had them pull anything in our price range. Take a look and we can talk later.
Cassie: This is so great — thank you so much for doing this!
Boyfriend: Happy to. Have you talked to your dad?
Cassie: No, but I talked to a lawyer!
Cassie: Just someone from work! I just… I need to check in on this and I can’t stop being furious at Dad’s Girlfriend.
Boyfriend: Look, I get it. But don’t tell either of them about the lawyer thing, it’ll only exacerbate things.
Cassie: You’re not wrong! Anyway, gotta run, I’ll look at these houses later, I promise. And this is really very nice: next week I’ll actually be free, can we do a proper lunch then?
Boyfriend: Yeah, I'll set up a meeting.
Cassie: Haha screw you!
Again, pretty adorable. Less adorable is the situation at Charity Auction Guy’s house. His wife is annoyed because their oldest is getting worse, and she hasn’t been able to get ahold of her husband. Thankfully she believes him when he says he was in a meeting, though I guess most people wouldn’t assume their partners were having shady meetups in the woods during the workday so I can’t blame her.
Charity Auction Guy: Yikes, do you think he’s got another infection? I’ll go look in on him.
Wife: Yeah, I’ll call the doctor. Oh, and btw: you never told me the police interviewed you.
Charity Auction Guy:
Wife: Your receptionist told me, dummy. What was it about?
Charity Auction Guy: I didn’t want to worry you. It wasn’t about that. Nothing can connect us to that now, I promise. It was about a weird historical case; they thought I might have known one of the suspects.
Wife: Well. Did you?
Charity Auction Guy: No! It was super quick, it’s fine.
Well I guess she might be more aware of Charity Auction Guy’s unsavory business dealings than we’d previously assumed! Back at the station, Cassie and Sunny sit down with DCI Suspect for what is immediately a very tense interview. He elects to only answer their questions with the shortest possible sentences. Graduation? Lovely. He was proud. Bummed that his family didn’t show, but not surprised given their expectations for his career.
Sunny: You went to a party that night, right? Do you remember who you went with? When you left, and who with?
DCI Suspect: I don’t remember much; it was 30 years ago. But I left with the other suspects.
Sunny: Weird that you remember that. Why?
DCI Suspect: Well, Dead Hoarder was our DD, and we didn’t realize he’d been drinking. He got pulled over, breathalyzed and arrested. Ruined his career.
Sunny: How did you guys get home after that?
DCI Suspect, doing a bang up job of playing confused: Uh, I think Not Good Enough dropped all of us off and then took the car home.
Sunny: You still see her?
DCI Suspect: I mean, sometimes at work stuff, but not other than that, no. We haven’t been in contact to talk about this either.
Sunny: It’s just interesting because your statements are pretty much identical.
DCI Suspect: Well, yeah, it’s what happened.
Sunny: And you don’t remember who else was in the car? When the car was stopped, was that the first time that night the car stopped?
DCI Suspect: Yup.
Cassie, switching it up: Here’s a picture of our victim. Does he look familiar to you?
DCI Suspect, lying: Nope.
Cassie: Interesting. See we have a witness who saw a group kind of like your little squad of classmates pull up next to him and chase him off not too far from the traffic stop.
DCI Suspect: Well… was your witness white? Not to be funny but they think we all look the same.
For that, he gets a knowing head tilt out of Sunny, who appears to be amused despite himself. Cassie keeps pushing, but to no avail. DCI Suspect isn’t feeling it; he doesn’t think they have any evidence, and TBH, he’s right. There’s nothing concrete, just like Sunny said. Cassie, to her credit, knows she jumped the gun, but she’s also at the end of her rope. She wants this case wrapped up so she can retire already!
Later, at MahlerFan’s house, the long awaited conversation between Eugenia and Not Good Enough finally happens.
Eugenia: Look, I’m sorry to have to do this, but I heard the conversation with the cop. I’m not greedy, but I need to feed my kid and keep the lights on. I feel dumb blackmailing you for £9 an hour, but I have no other choice. Do the right thing, or I’ll go tell the cops what your mom told me.
Not Good Enough: Ok, well, game recognize game. You can have it.
That seems to finally get through to Not Good Enough, so obviously MahlerFan knows SOMETHING juicy. Also, can we take a second to be furious about how underpaid Eugenia is? What the hell, Not Good Enough? Apparently she’s not the only one who will face the music today: Family Therapist returns home to find out that her disgusting Brother In Law told her partner everything. Well, probably not everything; I’m sure he left out the part where he (I'm assuming) sexually assaulted her.
Partner: You couldn’t tell me what was happening?
Family Therapist, blowing my f*cking mind: 27 years ago, I killed a kid.
Here’s the deal: that dangerous driving conviction is obviously more intense than we thought. Family Therapist was speeding, and she hit another car, which happened to have a baby in a faulty car seat in the back. Her partner is horrified: why didn’t she tell him? Was it her fault?
Family Therapist: I don’t think so, but I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
Partner: I just don’t get it — how could you keep something like that from me for so long?
Me: Wow buddy if you think that’s bad, just you wait.
Partner: Is there anything else you have to tell me?
Family Therapist, lying through her teeth: Nope. That’s it.
Fun. Meanwhile, DCI Suspect has a heart to heart with his brother about the nature of his profession. Like everyone else in this episode, he’s clearly hurting. Similarly, Charity Auction Guy comes downstairs to find his wife crying on the couch. She’s blaming herself for getting angry at their son sometimes for his disability; specifically, for the way his disability has impacted their lives. This confession has a reason: she wants Charity Auction Guy to know that she’s not as perfect as he thinks she is, so that hopefully he’ll open up more about the bad stuff in his background. It’s an impassioned plea, and it makes sense to want him to stop lying about stuff, but it doesn’t work. He puts it all down to her being tired, tells her they’ll talk eventually, and leaves.
While everyone grapples with the weight of their secrets, the squad reconvenes in the office, where Cassie and Sunny find out about Family Therapist’s driving record. But DC I Didn’t Remember Her But Apparently She Was Also in Season One knows something we don’t: Family Therapist might have been drunk that day, but her blood test mysteriously disappeared from the station after she was arrested. And guess who was working at that station at the time: Not Good Enough! Even more damning, the two women had at one time shared an address, so their whole “we don’t know each other” thing is obviously crap. Cassie lays out the three possibilities:
1. Total coincidence (lol, obviously not)
2. They were a couple, and Not Good Enough lost the blood sample on purpose.
3. They weren’t a couple, but Family Therapist blackmailed Not Good Enough to help her.
Before they can dig deeper into their theories, Coroner calls to ask them to come down for a chat. While they travel, DCI Suspect and Downstairs talk about the news THEY just got: confirmation that their baby has Down Syndrome. Surprisingly, DCI Suspect has had a change of heart, which is obviously upsetting for Downstairs, who’s spent the last week trying to get on the same page as her husband.
DCI Suspect, inadvertently explaining a lot: What if something happened to me? What if you had to do it all alone? I just started thinking about how hard that would be for you. I’m not saying we should definitely terminate, but let’s just… think about it.
At the morgue, the x-rays are telling: there’s a huge honking spike in Matt’s head. Until Coroner does her exam, we won’t know if it’s pre or post mortem, or what the spike is, but based on the position, she’s got two theories: either he tripped and fell onto the spike and it killed him, or he might have fallen, passed out, and then been stabbed horribly. So this could be a tragic accident or an extremely violent murder. Obviously the outcome is the same for Matt, but we’ll just have to wait and see what this says about our group of suspects. See you all back next week for episode five!