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.
Last week, we finally found out what did Matt the Victim in: a very huge spike in the head. But are we looking at murder, or an accident? Only one way to know for sure, and that’s to get more info. Luckily, we have Cassie and Sunny (and the rest of the squad) on the case.
Remember how last week Cassie was all “hey, we gotta interview DCI Suspect right now because the only reliable witness who might be able to ID him is going to be super hard to find and/or dead at this point”? DS Grumpy is about to earn the secondary detective character gold star of the week, because the sonofabitch actually tracked down that million-year-old landlady, and he’s going to bring her in tomorrow morning.
Sunny: So that’s good, right? Anyway, you look exhausted, get out of here!
Cassie: First of all, rude, and second of all, I’m trying!
But she’s not getting out of here yet, because DC I Didn’t Remember Her But Apparently She Was Also in Season One (hereafter DC Apparently Also in Season 1 because that’s a LOT to type out and I don’t wish to strain my delicate writerly fingers) found something of note.
DC Apparently Also in Season 1: Hey, remember how we found some weird discrepancies in Charity Auction Guy’s paperwork? He changed his last name before he applied to middle school. I’m doing more research to see if I can figure out why.
Cassie, really wants to be anywhere but there: Cool, great, well done, BYE.
Hey, have you also been low key wondering which of our suspects will be the first one to do the honorable thing and tell their significant other what the hell is going on? Because I sure have, and the prize for the least crappy partner goes to DCI Suspect, who’s at least told his wife Downstairs that he was questioned by the cops.
Downstairs: Oh my god, so that’s why you changed your mind about the kid? Because you think you’re going to jail for MURDER?
DCI Suspect: Ok well first of all, I didn’t do anything, so.
Downstairs: Good gravy, if that’s true, why do you look so freaked out?
DCI Suspect: Because I’m getting investigated for murder, duh!
Downstairs: Just tell me what they think happened.
DCI Suspect: This was 30 years ago, and they have NO evidence. Also I seriously didn’t do anything. The victim was a small-time drug dealer; they found the body a week ago. Anyway… there’s this weird connection between the victim and this car I was in.
Downstairs: Uh, WHAT?
DCI Suspect: … well. They think his body was in the trunk? But seriously if it was, I had no idea, I promise. I had nothing to do with any murder. And yeah, I’m scared: they don’t like me, and this might finally be the excuse the force uses to get rid of me.
Downstairs: I’m just saying your timing sucks: I didn’t need another thing to worry about at literally the hardest time in my life so far, ya know?
Ok, I’m just gonna say it: “I had nothing to do with any murder” COULD be a fun lil’ linguistic loophole to get to “I did have something to do with an accidental death.” But we’ll have to wait to find out! In the meantime, DC Apparently Also in Season 1 hits paydirt: she found Charity Auction Guy’s dad’s records, and let's just say the guy would have a whole filing cabinet drawer if we weren’t living in the internet age.
Cassie: So why didn’t the school figure this out when Charity Auction Guy applied?
DC Apparently Also in Season 1: Well it looks like he mailed the application from a different address in addition to the name change — clearly he was trying to keep his identity on the DL. Also it’s not just his dad that’s up to shady stuff, his brothers are on the criminal side of things too.
Cassie: Ok, great work. Now go home, it’s late!
But Cassie isn’t taking her own advice; instead, she’s outside her Dad’s house, and is, annoyingly, being sent away by Dad’s Girlfriend.
Dad’s Girlfriend: I’m not going to let you come in and talk to him in this mood!
Dad’s Girlfriend: You’re angry!
Cassie: Seriously? If that’s the case it’s only because you, a person I barely know, are stopping me from seeing my own dad! WTF?
Dad, appearing at the door: Go home! She’s just trying to protect me, because you’re bumming everyone out. You’re acting weird.
Dad: Uh, yeah dude. Ask Boyfriend! Or your kids, or Sunny. I think you’re being a jerk and so do they!
And with that, he slams the door. Cassie, maybe surprisingly, seems to actually take him up on that advice, and calls up Boyfriend. As always, he’s got a pretty good read on the situation: Cassie isn’t so much mad at Dad or Dad’s Girlfriend; she’s mad that Dad is dying in a pretty horrible way.
Boyfriend: Look, if trying to contest the will is making you feel better, go for it. But I don’t think it is. Also, seriously, we don’t need that pension money — we’ll figure it out. You could just quit and we’d be ok.
Cassie: Ugh. You’re right. I’ll call Dad and apologize tomorrow. But I have to stay and finish this case now… there’s reasons, but I’ll tell you later.
Oh GOD Cassie be careful! I really hate that the first thing my brain did after this exchange was panic, but “I’ll tell you later” and “I just have to do this one last job” are two of the top most dangerous lines a character can say! Anyway, the next morning DS Grumpy goes to chat with Million Year Old Landlady, who doesn’t look a day over 999,999.
Million Year Old Landlady: Oh well obviously I remember DCI Suspect, we ALL had a crush on him!
DS Grumpy: So you remember this bar fight?
Million Year Old Landlady: Yeah, I was the one who called the cops. Matt really messed up DCI Suspect’s face, it was awful.
DS Grumpy: And do you remember the girl that they were fighting about?
Million Year Old Landlady: I don’t remember her name, but I had to keep banning her because she had a drinking problem. She was also a trainee, and she was there with DCI Suspect and Not Good Enough.
DS Grumpy: In the record it says that Matt made a pass at the girl?
Million Year Old Landlady: Not quite! It wasn’t just flirting; he assaulted her in the alley next to the pub. DCI Suspect caught Matt in the act, but I think the fight was more than he could handle.
YIKES. If we’re headed for another “the victim deserved what he got and now the whole squad is wracked with guilt about bringing in the murderer” situation, I am saying now that I don’t want it! And speaking of guilt, the next morning Cassie calls her dad and leaves a conciliatory message, asking him to call her back. Unfortunately, it might take him a couple of days, given the amount of grumpiness with which he tosses his phone down on the kitchen island after listening to her message.
Out in the countryside, Family Therapist’s partner interrupts her gardening to ask some questions about this horrible secret dangerous driving conviction. Notably: when did it happen? And since it was before she became a therapist, why didn’t the regulators in charge of her professional licensing care about that conviction?
Family Therapist: Well, they sure would have cared about that… if I had a license.
Partner, maybe should take a couple of hours and go watch Catch Me If You Can or something: Uh. You do have a license; it’s on your letterhead? And you surely couldn’t practice without one!
Family Therapist: It’s fake. I got it online. Look, my degree, and all my training: that’s all real. But I never applied for a license because I knew I wouldn’t get one.
Partner: So you’ve been illegally practicing for 16 years?
Family Therapist: Yep! I always kind of figured I’d get caught, but I never did.
Partner: Oh my god. So we have a loan that we’re supposed to pay back with money from a job you’re not legally qualified to do?
HAHA well that’s a kick in the pants, huh? Family Therapist’s situation is getting more precarious by the second, and even more than she knows, because while that happens, an elderly chap sees the posters the squad has put up near the allotment, and immediately approaches the cop on duty. And that’s not the only new info we have: Sunny and Cassie chat over breakfast, where he tells her that phone records show that Charity Auction Guy and DCI Suspect were in the same area a few days after the big press announcement about finding Matt’s body.
At MahlerFan’s house, Eugenia ponders an envelope, handed to her by Not Good Enough.
Not Good Enough: It’s actually more than you asked for — just consider it backpay, because I should have listened to you. I’m really sorry.
Eugenia: Look, I wouldn’t ever actually say anything; we both know how your mom is. I do think you’re a good person. You deserved better.
I’m not sure I really agree, given how low Eugenia’s pay is for who she has to deal with, but I guess blackmail isn’t classically great. Anyway, back to Sunny and Cassie:
Cassie: This never seemed like it was a group kill, ya know? No other wounds! If it wasn’t an accident, it must have been just one of them, and then the others found them.
Sunny: Yeah, agree, and then for some reason they all conspired to cover it up, which makes NO SENSE.
Cassie: Mhm. Which leaves us with the question of which one it was. DCI Suspect is the most obvious candidate — he’s got a motive, he’s kind of a loose cannon, he got out of the car first… but we have to look at the others. Family Therapist was assaulted by the victim.
Sunny: Yeah, but it’s not typical for a woman to stab a guy in the head.
Cassie, snarky: Well I don’t know, I want to stab people when they make sexist assumptions.
Sunny: Fair hit. We also don’t know if the assault brought something up from her previous experience. What about Not Good Enough?
Cassie: We do think she might have been dating Family Therapist. But WOULD a lady stab a man in the head??
Sunny: Ok, I get it, women can stab too! I guess that leaves Charity Auction Guy and Dead Hoarder.
Cassie: Yeah, and we do NOT have enough info on Dead Hoarder, we need to deal with that. But Charity Auction Guy has a family with a lot of criminal history.
Sunny: And some violence in there.
Cassie: Yes, but not in connection to the victim, and we’re not even sure he was in the pub the night of the fight.
Sunny: Should we bring DCI Suspect back in?
Cassie: No, he’ll stonewall us, we’re getting nowhere with him. And we don’t have enough to charge him. I think we need to divide and conquer — make them all think we know more than we do, scare them, and get them to turn on each other. We have a LOT on the women, but let’s get more. If we can get Not Good Enough on hiding that blood test that would really shake her up. We need to find something concrete on Charity Auction Guy and DCI Suspect, but the fact that they were together makes it seem like they’re colluding and confirms that they lied about not being in contact. Let’s get DCI Suspect’s disciplinary record and really study that, and for Charity Auction Guy, we can track down his shady family.
Sunny: We should also look at their finances. Family Therapist might not be the only one who called in a favor, as it were.
Cassie: Totally. We also NEED more info on Dead Hoarder, because if I were the others, and I had to finally admit to being there that night, I would 100% blame the dude with the headless corpse in his basement.
It’s not Dead Hoarder, but we ARE about to get some info on Matt. While Coroner starts doing her work on his head, Cassie and Sunny interview the witness who came forward after seeing their signs at the crime scene.
New Witness: Well I remember that night because it was my birthday! I’d be out having celebratory drinks, and when I took my dog out after I saw a group by the allotments.
Cassie: How many?
New Witness: Uh. Two were carrying whatever they had, and then one might have opened the trunk of the car. But after I definitely heard two people arguing — a woman and a man.
Sunny, trying not to get too excited: Did you hear anything they said?
New Witness: No.
Sunny: Did you say anything to them?
New Witness, perhaps unaware of how ironic this is: Yeah — “what are you moving, a dead body?” Pretty funny, right?
Meanwhile, Not Good Enough brings her dear horrible mamá MahlerFan some tea and a confrontation.
Not Good Enough: How long have you known?
MahlerFan, prim: I do not know to what you are referring.
Not Good Enough: The thing I told dad.
MahlerFan: He told me just before he died, but you know he was out of it, so I didn’t take it too seriously. Obviously I should have! And you know what, it made me like you a lot more — you’re almost interesting now!
Not Good Enough: Fun fact: I’ve made some mistakes, but I am so happy with my choices overall. I would hate to be like you; a mean old woman who’s never even considered helping other people.
Not Good Enough: I know you’ll never love me, but you better respect me, or I promise you I will come in here while you’re sleeping and straight up murder you. And now you know for sure that I’m capable of it, so… be threatened.
Damn, ok Not Good Enough! While she plots a matricide, we get to visit a woman who clearly has almost been done in by her kids’ actions: Charity Auction Guy’s Mum.
Charity Auction Mum, answering the door to Sunny and Cassie: Ugh, Liam and Sean don’t live here anymore.
Cassie: Oof. Sorry, we’re actually here about your OTHER kid.
Charity Auction Mum: What in the hell would I tell you about him? I haven’t seen him in three decades.
But she lets them in anyway, and explains. Charity Auction Guy’s Dad, a career criminal, saw Charity Auction Guy becoming a cop as the ultimate betrayal. When he found out about his son’s career aspirations, he encouraged Charity Auction Guy’s brothers to beat him up. Speaking of whom, one of the brothers, who appears to have taken every single one of his sartorial cues from the central casting English mobster handbook, arrives and tries to get rid of our cop friends.
Charity Auction Mum: Get outta here, I’m talking to the cops and it’s not to do with you. Anyway, how is my son? Still a cop?
Cassie: Uh. No? He left right after training.
Charity Auction Mum: Bummer. Is he happy? Is he married?
Cassie: Yeah, he seems to be. He’s got two kids.
Charity Auction Mum: Please tell me where he is?
Cassie: I’m so sorry; we can’t do that.
Charity Auction Mum: Please? I won’t live much longer.
And SPEAKING of Charity Auction Guy, he’s actually followed through on his promise from last week’s episode to tell his wife what the heck is happening. Well, sort of.
Charity Auction Guy: I don’t know what to tell you — France was a one time thing. I won’t do it again. My family… well I don’t know if any of them are even still alive. They’re not good people, I don’t want them around you or the kids. I hated them and their values, and they almost made me like them. It’s been so hard for the last 30 years, please don’t make me go back there.
Folks, I won’t lie, he seems extremely genuine and very very emotional, but as we know, some people can turn it on when they need to, so he’s still on the suspect list as far as I am concerned. Back at the station, we get updates on the group from the squad. DCI Suspect has indeed had some violent encounters throughout his career — in both cases he says he was reacting to racial slurs, and witnesses added that he had a quick temper. DS Beanpole reports that Dead Hoarder was kind of a bummer: worked a lot of dead end gigs, and stopped being able to hold down a job after his alcoholism got too bad. DS Beanpole found a teacher from his childhood who said he was a nice kid, but not great at school, and very susceptible to peer pressure. DC Babyface shares that while he can’t PROVE that Not Good Enough deliberately hid evidence of Family Therapist’s guilt, she was definitely on duty when Family Therapist was arrested, and volunteered to work overtime that night. Given all that, Cassie decides to start their strategy by putting pressure on Not Good Enough and Family Therapist, and then tells DS Beanpole to start looking into Charity Auction Guy’s brother; of the four sons in the family, he’s the only one who is deceased, and that seems worth checking out.
Not Good Enough is right in the middle of what seems like a pretty long budget conversation when she notices DS Grumpy and DC Babyface arrive. I guess normally ANY excuse to get out of a dry budget meeting is welcome, but if someone’s about to question you about a death you were almost definitely involved with in some capacity, that might just be the exception to the rule. Anyway, Not Good Enough, perhaps realizing that she’s about to be rapidly transferred from the frying pan into the fire, quickly withdraws her candidacy for the promotion she was so keen on just two weeks ago.
Her Boss: Uh… what??
Not Good Enough: I just need to tell you that I am so so sorry if I’ve embarrassed you.
Before he can splutter anymore, the desk sergeant escorts in our squad, and Not Good Enough’s slumped, embarrassed posture says everything we really need to know. But before we see the outcome of that conversation, we get an interlude with Family Therapist, who’s been instructed to explain her whole situation to her stepkids. They look the way the kids on How I Met Your Mother should have looked after nine seasons and that ending, i.e.:
Anyway, she starts to explain that she lied about a lot of stuff, including when her dad died, how she was raised, her tiny short career as a cop, and how it led to her alcoholism. The more she talks, the more freaked out her family gets, especially because mid-rant, someone (we know who) starts rather insistently knocking on the door. Family Therapist, on a roll now, doesn’t stop when her partner goes to answer the door, revealing that she had been extremely depressed, attempted suicide, and been in an accident where she killed a child. Of course, as she says that last bit, DS Beanpole enters the room.
DS Beanpole: Hey, you gotta come with me. Right now.
Family Therapist: I’m a little busy absolutely terrorizing my children?
DS Beanpole: Yeah, well I don’t think you want me to do this in front of them though?
Family Therapist: Aw crap. You’re here about the body huh?
Literally everyone else in the room:
Shocking slipup slipped, we now go to interrogation rooms to turn up the heat even more, starting with Not Good Enough.
Cassie: So. We know Family Therapist was sexually assaulted, and then DCI Suspect got into a fight with the guy who did it. We think you were there too.
Not Good Enough: Got any evidence?
Cassie: We’ll come back to that, but let’s talk about the night Matt disappeared first. I think you got out of the car after DCI Suspect saw Matt, and I think you all ended up near the allotments, where Matt died.
Not Good Enough: Again, evidence?
Cassie: Great question: a witness saw a group loading a big ol’ parcel into the trunk of a car.
Not Good Enough: That’s circumstantial, and you know it. I’d expected better of you.
Cassie, ignoring that: So, when did you last see Family Therapist?
Not Good Enough: Training, I guess?
Cassie: Huh, well, what about when you guys lived together? Did you just lie?
Not Good Enough: I’m just stressed; it’s making me confused. Here’s the deal: I haven’t seen her since we shared a flat, 26ish years ago?
Cassie: And you were in a relationship?
Not Good Enough: Yes.
Cassie: Well you told me something very different when we spoke the first time. I really would have expected better of YOU.
Switching gears, let’s talk about an incident in 1993. Your girlfriend was in a traffic accident where a child died.
Not Good Enough: Um. We were actually broken up at that point.
Cassie: Huh, glad you said something, now I’m REALLY curious about why you “lost” the blood samples that would have confirmed that she was drunk that night.
Not Good Enough: I didn’t though.
Cassie: We’re pretty sure you did! Here’s the deal: there’s a lot we don’t know about what happened the night Matt died. Was it on purpose? Was it just one person, or more of you? But we do know that he died after he saw the group of you, and you all worked together to hide that and the body. So who’s gonna be the first one to come clean and get a better deal during sentencing? Anything you’d like to say?
Not Good Enough: No.
An interesting move for a woman who started putting her affairs in order just a few minutes ago, but I’m sure she’s got some kind of plan. Between interviews, Cassie gets an update from Coroner: the spike she found in Matt’s head? It was a fountain pen. Swords? Who needs ‘em! The pen really implies he was stabbed — you could, I guess, stick a pen in a guy’s head after he died, but, in the words of Coroner, why?
Anyway, now it’s time to talk to Family Therapist. Cassie quickly gives her the rundown of everything they know so far: the assault, the fight, the allotment, the car accident. From Family Therapist’s face, Cassie deduces that none of that is a major surprise, but Cassie has that “it was a pen” ace up her sleeve, and she uses it.
Family Therapist: No.
Cassie: Yep, stabbed RIGHT in the head.
Family Therapist: No, no way. He can’t have been, I’m sure. It was an accident. He said it was an accident.
Family Therapist: DCI Suspect. He said Matt tripped and hit his head — he said it was an accident.
Gotta say, I expected Family Therapist to crack first, but even I was surprised by how easy that was. Dare I say… too easy? Anyway, we won’t know just yet because first we have to go over to Charity Auction Guy’s house, where he’s got a surprise visitor: his mum? But before we see that sure to be stressful reunion, it’s back to the interrogation room, where Family Therapist spills the story.
Family Therapist: We were driving through a crappy suburb, and DCI Suspect saw him. He made Dead Hoarder pull over, and it was definitely the guy who’d attacked me, and who beat the crap out of DCI Suspect. It was 100% him. Anyway, DCI Suspect said we should search him for drugs; he was sure to have some on him, and we could scare him. Not Good Enough and I told him no; he was being a drunk fool, but before we could stop him, he ran out of the car. And then Dead Hoarder followed. Charity Auction Guy was so quiet… and then he said he had to go stop them from doing something bad. He walked after them, and we just stayed; waiting. Finally, Not Good Enough said we should go too. So we did. We walked around for 15 minutes, and at some point we split up, and then I came around the corner and found DCI Suspect and Dead Hoarder, and I realized that Matt was on the ground, and DCI Suspect was trying to give him CPR. He kept saying “I just found him like this” over and over, but then when someone said to call an ambulance, DCI Suspect said no; Matt was already dead.
Very upsetting, but I already see a problem with this story: why would DCI Suspect perform CPR on a person he’d stabbed in the head?
And speaking of DCI Suspect, while this is all going on he’s at his parents' house, his shoulders heavy with the weight of his father’s disappointment. Just like the last time he was over, his dad refuses to look at him, even after DCI Suspect makes an impassioned plea. Back in the interrogation room, Family Therapist continues her story.
Family Therapist: I guess I always knew we should have called for help.
Cassie: And who suggested you take the body?
Family Therapist: DCI Suspect. He knew they could trace it to the fight, and he thought there might be clothing fibers on the body. You know this thing changed my whole life, and it happened in a second.
Cassie: So once you decided — Dead Hoarder went to get the car?
Family Therapist: Yeah, and then everyone but me helped get Matt into the trunk. And then Dead Hoarder’s hands were shaking so much DCI Suspect gave him some whiskey to calm him down. And that’s why he was over the limit when we got pulled over.
Sunny: And he was supposed to get rid of the body?
Family Therapist: Yeah. See, he idolized DCI Suspect, and so DCI Suspect convinced him he was in the best position to do it. We all assumed Dead Hoarder had gotten rid of the body. And we all thought it was an accident, otherwise we really wouldn’t have covered it up.
Not to be a jerk, but you know what they say about people who assume things, right, Family Therapist? Meanwhile, at Charity Auction Guy’s house, his Charity Auction Mum tells her son she doesn’t expect them to have a relationship, or for him to forgive her. But she’s unwell, and she wants him to know that she loves him, and that she’s sorry, before she dies.
Back at the station, Sunny and Cassie discuss what just went down: is Family Therapist telling the truth, as far as she understood it?
Sunny: Or is this just a really good lie to minimize her guilt?
Cassie: Do you think she did it?
Sunny: No, I don’t think so.
Cassie: I also don’t think she knew he was stabbed; she’d have to be a way better liar to get away with that. So who did it? Anyway, it’s late, I’m gonna go chat with Coroner.
Sunny: Should we charge either of them?
Cassie: Nah, just let them stew. We’ll see what we can get tomorrow.
Sunny: Look, I know this has been real crappy but look on the bright side: progress!
Cassie halfheartedly agrees, and then walks out of the station, trying to give her dad another call on the way to the morgue. Once there, she gets some good news: this wasn’t just any pen, it’s a fancypants pen: fancy enough to have a serial number stamped on the nib.
Coroner: If we get lucky with the lighting and stuff, we can possibly find out who bought that.
Cassie, conveying the opposite sentiment of what she’s about to say: Yay. I’ll look into it tomorrow.
Coroner, concerned: Hey, go home, ok? You look super tired.
Cassie, cheering up: You’re an amazing coroner/genius, you know that?
Coroner: You bet your ass I do.
Cassie: Cool, I’ll send someone first thing. Night!
Cassie heads out, checking her phone to see that, unfortunately, her dad still hasn’t called her back. Meanwhile, Downstairs comes home to an empty house, which makes some sense because DCI Suspect, like all of our other suspects (and Cassie), is currently behind the wheel of his car. Stopped at a red light, Cassie checks her phone, again, and then pulls forward into the intersection, where SHE GETS T-BONED, and then the EPISODE ENDS. WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK, UNFORGOTTEN??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS IS THE MEANEST POSSIBLE WAY TO MAKE EVERYONE TUNE IN NEXT WEEK, BUT HAVE IT YOUR WAY, I GUESS. JERKS.