It's all fun and games on Endeavour this week until murders and international conspiracies start piling up.
Thursday: This is just a bit of silly fun. Why on earth would people have guns?
In 1968, the biggest show on telly was It's A Knockout!, which was sort of like Eurovision for sport, with international competitors representing their countries in silly games while competing in oversized costumes. This week's heat is coming from Oxford, and Fancy is competing! He was, anyway, until he sprains his ankle, leading Morse to take his place and to be there when bullets take down the West German competitor, Pfuscher. A stray shot accidentally hits a young boy as well. Luckily, DeByrn gets the boy to the hospital and his quick work saves the child. The West German, not so fortunate.
Footage from the race shows the Swiss competitor smashing into the German just before he fell. But the competitor who should have been in the suit, Verfelli, wasn't in it, and his body is found stuffed in the hotel wardrobe. Who was Pfuscher, and why all this effort to kill him live on TV? His passport is West Germany, but his dentures were made in East Germany, his girlfriend is Czech, and he went shopping for medium-sized, easily-shippable items (like a clock) upon arrival in the UK, which are now missing.
As an international incident, Special Division is called in, but they just make the case disappear, much to Morse's frustration. His off-the-record sleuthing means using Frazil's reporting evidence. Her photos lead him to Pfuscher's good friend, Dr. Schneider, and then to Professor Richmond, who Morse took courses from, and played bridge with, as a student. Though Pfuscher's hotel phone logged a call to the phone here, gatekeeper Mr. Mullion has no record of it. (Mullion is old-school British, never seen without his bowler hat and brolly.) Morse's relentless questions do get noticed though. The next thing we know, he's straight James Bond it up in an evening suit to London, where a pair of upper-class spies are waiting. Fans of the 1960s spy genre that rose in the wake of Bond's popularity will get the in-jokes here.
They point him towards perfumier Sebastian Fenix, millionaire playboy philanthropist etc. (Aren't they all?) Pfuscher worked for the man as a translator. Fenix is a villain straight out of a Bondian adventure, complete with a creepy attachment to a pet, an estuarine snakefish. (At least Morse turns down the martini to die for.) Like all good Bond villains, Fenix reveals his mysterious Laboratory 4 is conducting bacteriological and virological research for the Crown. But Fenix isn't the only oddity Morse is now confronted with. There's also ESL tutor Millie Bagshot. When Morse pushes the vaguely absent-minded woman on Pfuscher, she snaps into an M-like persona, telling he's involving himself far above his pay grade and to go home.
Singleton: Two old friends, going to see a concert
Morse: But we're not old friends.
Singleton: And we're not going to see a concert.
This week's other case weaves in when Thursday starts noticing the local newsagent, Joe Dozier, is beating his wife Elsie. (He and Mr. Mullion are both regulars there.) By the time the episode reaches the halfway mark, Elsie's been taken to the hospital, claiming to have fallen somehow on both sides of her face at once. But what can Thursday do? She's been with him 40 years. She knows no other life and has nowhere else to go.
Also, Bright wants to get back to the Nero problem that's been plaguing the show all season. Strange and Thursday focus on it when Nero's bar gets ransacked, with Aims' dead black rooster calling card left behind. Nero doesn't know it's Aims though, at least not until he comes to visit, revealing himself to be a surprisingly young man, and an ambitious one. Nero can keep the car business. But Aims is here to take the rest.
Morse misses all this. His sleuthing takes him to a safe house where he's nearly strangled to death by a man who Morse recognizes from the Swiss team photograph after Bagshot saves him. Turns out the now-disposed-of killer was KGB. Pfuscher was a British asset, recruited by Richmond. (Richmond tried to recruit Morse too as a student.) Pfuscher had uncovered a Russian cell, called NEWS, operating out of Oxford since the 1930s. He was supposed to pass on those names to Bagshot the night after the games. Morse tries to run to Thursday with this, but he's not willing to get involved. The Russian killed the German, the UK agent killed the Russian. This is not stuff for meat-and-veg coppers. The circle is closed.
At least Morse's affair with Claudine is still going. They go punting down the river, giving Morse a chance to accidentally see Fancy and Trewlove making out on a quiet little bridge. But Morse recognizes Claudine, like the summer, is slipping away. By the end of the episode, she's gone to Vietnam, without a word, leaving behind only a photograph. Joan comes by at the bar to check in on him, knowing he'll be trying to drink himself down. Morse ends up walking her home, but he turns down coming in when her perfume reminds him of something he saw at Fenix's. It's a decision he will probably live to regret.
Fenix: I'm a scientist, yes, but not a mad one.
Despite Thursday's warnings, Morse sneaks back into Fenix's business and comes up with proof he was cutting a deal with the Russians for whale waste for his perfumes, paying with state secrets from Laboratory 4. Our upper-class twit spies are so pleased with Morse's work proving what Pfuscher's claimed, they point him to the broadcasting radio evidence of the Russian cell, which traces back to Professor Richmond. But as Morse and Thursday arrive to accuse Richmond of being a double-agent, Mr. Mullion gets a look on his face. Richmond doesn't live to say much of anything after that. (Even better? It's the brolly that hides the sniper's rifle.)
NEWS turns out to be named after Richmond's love of Bridge. He and Mullion were North and South. So who were East and West? Special Division is called back in because this is above everyone's pay grade. Besides, there's been a death at the newsagents, which Thursday assumes is Elsie, and he wants to be there to arrest Joe. Meanwhile, Morse takes Fancy back to Pfuscher's hotel because apparently, he'd rented two rooms, and Morse thinks the evidence Bagshot wanted is there.
But Elsie is fine, Joe fell down the stairs. Thursday tells her point blank to call it an accident. When Morse tries to go ballistic, Thursday tells him it's karmic justice. Besides he's putting in his papers anyway to retire at the end of the year. He can't keep up with this spy stuff, and he's too old to go to Thames Valley. But Morse isn't upset over Joe's death. He wants her arrested because he found the evidence in Pfuscher's clock: our NEWSagents were hiding in plain sight. Mullion wasn't coming by just to pick up the paper. As Morse leaves, Bagshot and her men wait across the street to move in.
Morse is facing losing his mate at work and the man who he's relied on all this time. He's lost his girl, and he's facing down next week's finale with a future of being alone.