This week's episode of Grantchester finds that murder is not a sporting game. And neither is love for that matter.
Hilary: What are you having?
Leonard: A pint of ale. I... always have pints of ale.
We open this episode with a game of cricket. Considering how flattering the uniform is on James Norton's Sidney Chambers, it's a little amazing the production didn't think to do this earlier. Our mystery, according to the trailers, revolves around cricket, but sadly this is misleading. The cricket game is merely a set up, not only for the mystery but as a reminder of how things stand in the village.
Mrs. Maguire shows up, not only with Amanda (who she insists on referring to as "Mrs. Hopkins"), but also with Hilary Franklin from last week's adventure. Apparently Leonard is attempting to date her, and Mrs. Maguire is doing her best to facilitate. Our matriarch of the game, one Mrs. Towler (Emma Davies), is a clearly horrendous human who forces her adult daughter Annie (Ciara Charteris) to wear matching dresses with her. She attempts to refuse Amanda's victoria sponge cake by archily suggsting she take it home to her husband. (Thankfully Maguire isn't having *any* of that). Geordie, meanwhile, discovers he has an extra cheering section outside his family made up of Margaret in short-shorts. (One wishes Cathy wasn't having any of that).
Mr. Towler (Doctor Who's Peter Davison), the town solicitor, is running the exhibition game. But he gets openly racist when a couple of Muslim Indian exchange students, Zafar and Munir Ali, show up to play, and shuts down the game rather than allow them to be refereed properly. While Annie makes eyes at the younger one, Zafar (Dinesh Sundran), everyone suddenly gets freakishly sick. Yes, everyone, including Sidney and Geordie. Sick? Or poisoned by the ale? Whatever it is, don't worry Mrs. Maguire, it's not your bakes that did it.
When Zafar winds up dead in the morning, our investigative team become more and more convinced this was a case of poisoning. But by whom? Was it Annie, whom Zafar was having an affair with (and trying to get married to?) Was it her father, who hysterically hates brown people? Signs point to her boss at the vet clinic, Neil Cross, who had guessed about the affair, especially when Dickens, who also was poisoned because Leonard had been feeding him the ale, doesn't seem to get better with Cross' meds. Next time Leonard, just claim as a vicar you don't drink.
Mrs. Maguire: Cover yourself up! This is not a bordello!
But this is Grantchester, and it wouldn't be a mystery if it didn't reflect what was happening in Sidney's own life. A couple of talks with the guilt-ridden Munir make it clear that his brother was doing what our culture terms today as "living his best life." He wasn't fettered by expectations, his religion, their family customs, or their prejudices. He'd fallen wildly in love with the Towler's daughter, and was even looking to convert to Christianity so he would be accepted... since apparently she's pregnant. (There does seem to be an awful lot of out of wedlock pregnancies going around the village. The pill obviously cannot arrive soon enough.)
The problem is that everyone was against them, and one person enough so that they needed to kill him. Sidney can relate. No one in the village is actually against him and Amanda enough to murder anyone, but at every turn someone else is looking at them with rank disapproval, or scolding them about appearances. And once again, they seem perplexed that everyone knows about them. For godsake, last week, the murderer, who barely had his name said right by anyone because he was such a minor figure, knew about Sidney, Amanda and Grace. Yes, people know. Yes, the solicister knows--his wife tried to openly snub Amanda at the game! Yes, the Archbishop knows--and this week he's back to spell out his warning to Sidney in letters big enough that they can't be missed!
Everyone knows about Sidney and Amanda, just like everyone is cluing in superfast to Geordie's affair with Margaret. At least Sidney and Amanda's platonic emotional affair (for now) is excusable by today's standards. If it were 2017 in Grantchester, only the those pensioners 75 and older would bat an eyelash at the vicar dating his separated-from-her-husband school days sweetheart, and the few who would bat would do so only because he's a vicar, not because it would lose his place in the church.
Geordie, on the other hand, is straight up mid-life crisising with a woman nearly young enough to be his daughter while his wife's at home raising their three kids alone. In fact, such behavior is even less acceptable now in 2017 when divorce is available, patient, kind and waiting for you. In 1955, when divorce was not a thing in the same way, men were just shrugged off as men, and not expected to treat their women as equals anyway. To attempt to equate the two in viewer's minds just isn't going to fly.
The show also attempts to parallel both Sidney and Geordie's affairs with Zafar's love of Annie, but that's only flying so far. After all, Zafar had no job, and no parents and now family but his brother here. Sidney and Amanda are not free as all that. Which is why, despite Sidney's sermon that they should all be more like Zafar, they bow to the inevitable by the end of the hour and try to walk away form each other. They, like Leonard's attempt at dating Hilary, are trying to fit into what society says they should be. Bowing to societal pressures, indeed.
Geordie, on the other hand, dives back into Margaret's bed, despite an attept to break up. When Cathy figures this out, it's going to go over like a lead balloon.
Sidney: Can't blame them for sneaking around, the way people are around here.
Geordie: You'd know.
In the end, we discover that Zafar wasn't done in by Annie, Neil or her father, especially once her father is poisoned in a painfully obviously staged suicide. It's Annie's creepy narcisstic mother, the same one who tried to cut Amanda down at the match. The one who insisted her daughter and she were best friends. Apparently dear old mum had a crush on Neil Cross, and had gone so far as to send gifts to her own daughter with his initials on them, in a deranged attempt to force them together. Living vicariously is a dangerous thing. When she found out Annie was in love with Zafar, she not only came up with the poisoning at the game, but followed it up by giving the girl poisoned tea to take to him afterwards.
As a quick aside, considering all the talk earlier in the episode about how Sidney and Geordie would need to be absolutely sure before they went after the Towler family due to his "powerful friends", nothing seemed to materialize when they arrested the mother on what amounts to Sidney's hunch. Curious if that carries over in the coming weeks, or is dropped in favor of focusing on more love in the time of conformity.
Next week: Armed Robbery! Now there's a scandal for you.