Sunday, January 22, 2017

Endeavour Series 4 - Lazaretto - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Canticle.
"I suppose everyone's got their own secret sadness, 'aven't they?" 
"I suppose. What's yours?" 
"Flat feet."
Lazaretto begins quite simply, for a Morse episode. Perhaps thanks to director Börkur Sigþórsson (a Scandinavian, if there ever was one), the episode has a bare simplicity and white light that's unusual for the usually warm, cozy show. The color palette reflects the sterile hospital at the center of this week's plot. It takes Morse and co. a while to get there however, because they've another death to attend to first.

Mrs. Evelyn Zacharides died at home, accompanied by no one but her parrot. Her husband died six months before, at Cowley Hospital. According to her daughter, Mrs. Zacharides was convinced that some of her husband's goods had gone missing, but when Morse checks with Nurse Clodagh MacMahon, she denies any wrongdoing. Mrs. Zacharides's parrot keeps repeating the phrase "evil old cow," which, in the tradition of Chekhov's parrot (I may be making this up), must constitute a clue later in the story (it does).

Next up: prisoner Terence Bakewell. His testimony will put the remaining members of the Matthews gang behind bars (remember the thugs from the bank raid last season?) so the police are keeping a close eye on him. In the meantime, Bakewell is left sulking in Fosdick Ward's Bed 10, with Morse on guard duty. Besides Clodagh MacMahon, a handful of nurses staff the ward: Flora Byron, Jo-Beth Mills, and Daisy Bennet (who's having an affair with handsome Dr. Dean Powell). There's also the famous Dr. Merlyn Chubb, who's not as young as he used to be, Lyle Capper, an eccentric porter who talks to the corpses, and Lester Fagen, who runs a radio program for the Cowley patients.

Quickly enough, Morse finds something is afoot on Fosdick Ward. Another patient, Burt Talbot, is convinced that Bed 10 is jinxed, given the amount of people who have died in it lately. Even more suspiciously, each death comes accompanied by a single white sweet pea, that Nurse Clodagh MacMahon presses and hides away in her office.

His account is backed up by the evidence of one Monica Hicks. Morse runs into Monica in the course of his investigations and finally has a chance to catch up with his old flame. It's an awkward exchange. She seems to still have feelings for him, but not enough to overcome her disgust that he cut himself off from her while he was in prison. "Treat the next one better," she throws at him, and walks away. Fair enough, Monica. You deserved better.

But it's not "the next one" that Morse has on his mind, but rather a sequence of old ones. While at Cowley Hospital, Morse runs into the mother of his original lady love. Caroline Bryce-Morgan is not overly thrilled to see him. She clearly thinks Susan had a lucky escape when she refused to marry the beleaguered constable. Caroline makes her feelings even more clear as the episode progresses, rubbing Morse's failed sergeant's exam in his face (she's a bit of detective herself, sussing out the information from the assistant chief constable.) The use of Schubert's Quintet for C is a nice reference to Susan's cameo in Inspector Morse.

And the latest romance? After that confusing telephone call from Leamington, Morse decides to track down the caller. Sure enough, it's Joan. While she's in a comfortable situation, she's in the same pickle as Monica with regard to Morse. She likes him, but he continues to give mixed signals, waiting for her to make the move. The opening Joan gives him this time isn't quite as welcoming as her wide-eyed "help me" look in Coda, but it's still enough that his refusal to act leaves me with very little sympathy for the indecisive constable.

Joan still has a penchant for bad boys. Her well-furnished flat appears to be funded by her latest beau: an older, married man. Morse sees, but doesn't say anything, to either Joan or Fred, when the latter asks him where he's been.

Of course, Fred has other things to deal with. Early in the episode, Mr. Bright collapses with a stomach ulcer, leading to an intriguing suggestion for the future of our favorite chief inspector. Could we be looking at Chief Superintendent Thursday instead of Dead Thursday or Retired Thursday or Arrested for Beating Up a Suspect Thursday? On the one hand, answering phones doesn't suit Fred, but as the episode continues, he seems to lean into the necessary responsibility. "Hell of a responsibility though," he muses. "The power over life and death."

It'd keep Win from worrying, too. Mrs. Thursday has sunk into a deep depression. She misses Joan and blames herself for her daughter's disappearance. When Fred finds a bottle of pills, he discovers that Win is so jittery these days that she can hardly bring herself to go out of doors.

And no wonder, because Oxford's Finest are kept busy saving lives this week, with the Matthews gang's revenge plot on top of the mysterious goings-on in Fosdick Ward. The Matthews send professional hit men to take out Bakewell, and they're just barely thwarted by Morse and Thursday. As it is, Bakewell is taken out anyway, and it could be due to Dr. Merlyn's shaky hands, Dr. Powell's desire to cover up his secret past, or Lester Fagen's plot to avenge his dead lover. Truly, Fosdick Ward is a deadly place.

The final solution is surprisingly straightforward after all the plot twists and turns. That's not necessarily a criticism. With an episode this eventful, it's probably a good thing that the mystery is a bit rote, and the murderer makes up for an obvious motivation with a creative method. It's a thematically coherent episode, reminding us of Morse's two main conflicts this season - his failures in life and love. There's even a bit of a hint about Bright's missing child(?) when Bakewell talks about his daughter. Sterling direction and a manageable plot make this a solid installment.

My review of next week's episode: Harvest.

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  • The tarot card for this week is "Death." I don't think I need to explain the meaning of that one, though, according to my extensive five-minutes-on-google research, it can mean figurative death. Very convenient, tarot readers. Very convenient. The other, "The Tower," has to do with sudden and negative change. My prediction for the Tarot card woman? Sheila Hancock's character, according to IMDb, is called Dowsable Chattox. That's my bet.
  • I think this is the last we'll see of Monica. As for Joan, while I think any hope of a relationship with Morse is off the table, she still needs to face her parents. So does Morse. When that time comes, will that mean a permanent split between Morse and Thursday? 
  • Speaking of which, "Chief Superintendent" Thursday would shuffle the whole deck. Would that mean Inspector Strange and Sergeant Morse? Or would Strange leave and provide us with Inspector McNutt and Sergeant Morse, reporting to Chief Super Thursday? Comments?
  • Bright is strangely underutilized, considering this amazing opportunity to provide us with Undercover Agent Reginald Bright. (Hey, last year, the man shot a tiger, give him a chance to use his Skills).
  • "Maybe she needed to prove to herself that she wasn't wholly lost."
  • A lazaretto is a quarantine area for people travelling by sea. 
  • With all the effort put into explaining the conflict between "Wendy Spencer" (the name of Morse's old flame in the books) and "Susan Fallon" (her name in the TV series), I'm surprised her mother's surname wasn't Spencer.



  1. Great recap and review as always, Hannah! A lazaretto is a quarantine station for maritime travelers (travellers for your other fans) and I can't really make the connection with the episode--it's usually quite apparent. I know it takes place in a hospital, but that can't be it. Does it refer to Morse's romantic relationships, Monica and now Joan Thursday?

    1. Hey wait a second! You added bullet points after "shot a tiger." No fair! You covered lazaretto.

    2. Adding bullet points is my new way to avoid a bad habit of sneak editing. Anyway, I didn't think anyone else would be up at midnight to notice!

      I was wondering about lazaretto too. Game made sense. Canticle was more complicated - it was about music, though not religious music. My best guess for lazaretto would be the isolation caused by...emotional inability to commit? I don't know. Ships in the night?

    3. I like the ships passing in the night theme. I read that hospital ships were called lazarettos, and that those with leprosy were isolated at certain lazarettos. So maybe emotional isolation is the key for the title? Internalizing everything like Morse, or hiding like Joan, or harboring long-festering jealousy like Sister Clo or executing a secret revenge like Jo Beth...

    4. I think the porter's comment that "everyone's got their own secret sadness" is key here. Sadness causes a sort of quarantine. And maybe that's the reason Morse didn't make a move with Joan: he's still too confused by the feelings he has for Monica and even Susan resurfacing. Plus, of course, this is the reason he can't tell Fred about his "secret sadness."

      I love how Russell Lewis has a character deliver this rather profound thesis statement for the episode, then pivot and say that his own secret sorrow is his flat feet. Perfect.

    5. That inability to commit that you said is a good comment. For the type of shy human Morse is, the real illness in that kind of romantic character is victimization. If Morse stayed with Monica or Joan and settled. They could play the role of Win with Thursday (even though I think end up like her is a reason why Joan escaped): a serviceable, good, caring wife (though not intelectual, neither that kind of platonic love Morse would like).

      I don't think Morse would want to settle like Thursday as he prefers to self pity, drink, and hear dramatic opera arias (It's not that he really wants it, but he's not a man of action to do something about it). Meanwhile throughout Literature, music, art and alcohol is something to live for, without getting your feet wet in the real world. Something equally full of life than life itslef, that's how old Morse ended, and I don't blame him.

      (("Art and life, Lewis, art and life. I don't know about life (...) I always thought art was... Because it gave me so much... that is being something different (...) how's your wife Lewis? -Fine sir. In for once- give her my regards, Lewis. Good night))

      (Beautiful scene by "Twilight of the Gods")

    6. I think you're right, that Morse has this idealized, impossible idea of love that couldn't survive a real relationship. That's part of what makes him appealing, but it's also his curse.

  2. Would you/could you just walk away if you saw that cad and bounder walking up to Miss Thursday's flat? I know what Fred Thursday would have done--introduce him to Sarah and Duck. I would have, too.

    1. I certainly hope Fred gets to meet said bounder before the end of the season.

  3. ‘Lazaretto’, or perhaps more aptly, ‘Girlfriends of Episodes Past’. Monica. Joan. Susan. He needs a dance card to keep track of them all. A fine instalment; back to the best of Endeavour.

    Morse has a terrible dilemma. He’s in trouble if he tells Fred and Win about Miss Thursday; he’s in trouble if he doesn’t. As you say, ‘When that time comes, will that mean a permanent split between Morse and Thursday?’ Is that Joan Thursday or Fred Thursday? Either way, it could mean a permanent split.

    All the pieces are in place for a cracking finale. Bring on ‘Harvest’.

    1. I liked how they tied in the 3 girlfriends, i guess it sort of fits suitably with the 30th anniverasy of Morse on TV.
      I'm looking forward to Harvest as well.
      Why do you think Joan denied ringing Morse on the phone? Do you think it was someone else who called him?

    2. Yes, he's betraying one Thursday no matter what he does.

      While it's a possibility that it was someone other than Joan that called Morse, I think she's just trying to conceal her true feelings. She doesn't want to appear needy.

    3. On the other hand, he could take a tougher route and tell Fred that Joan is okay, while refusing to tell him where she is. Or he could have told Joan he couldn't keep her secret. It's unreasonable of her to ask him to do it.

  4. Thank you Hannah, for a great review as always. I enjoyed this episode greatly, even if the punchline may have been rather simple in the end. It was interesting throughout, nicely paced and just full of terrific characters as opposed to the caricatures of Canticle.

    Max had great line delivery again, and lines to deliver. His cadence and knowing sarcasm are just perfect. I wish Monica had been given more to do, though she at least had a good exit line. As for Joan, it was great to see Sara Vickers on the screen again, but it's hard to empathize with her many poor choices. Just seems cruel of her to not at least check in with her parents. We know that Morse's relationships don't have happy endings, but it seemed odd for him to take a day to track her down and then do nothing once he found her. This was a better opportunity than when she was leaving, she spelled out how she felt (or at least used to feel) and all he could do was mope. All in all, a terrific episode, and one that leaves me waiting eagerly for next week. Thanks again Hannah.

    1. I agree completely. It's a breath of fresh air after Canticle. Wonderful atmosphere, well paced, and I was able to keep up with all the different plots reasonably easily.

      I know it's too late for that, but I'd still like to have heard a little bit about what happened with Monica after Neverland. Did Morse contact her at all? Did she attempt to get to him in prison? Why didn't she talk to him when she saw him in the hospital back in Ride? And why in the world doesn't Morse see she's so much more worthwhile than Joan?

  5. Replies
    1. I think we're supposed to assume it was the Matthews gang covering their tracks.

    2. Lazaretto hints at the parable of the rich msn without any name and Lazarus the beggar (as told by Jesus. I haven't fully explored this connection but at first sight there is a rich man keeping Joan, who seems to be resurrected in Endeavour's mind (like Lazarus was), not to mention the figurative resurrection in his mind of Susan Bryce-Morgan.

      Morse may be indecisive, but to blame him for his misfortune in his love-life is a travesty. Susan pulled out of a wedding (snobbery, quite possibly reinforced by her ghastly mother) and Joan is the kind of extremely attractive woman who chooses bad eggs rather than decent men like Morse. It's the inside that matters most, to paraphrase one quote

    3. I considered the etymological connection to Lazarus, but I'm not sure there's a connection. Its literal meaning of a quarantine station makes a bit more sense.

      I'm not blaming Morse for Susan leaving him, but the way he abandoned Monica and can't bring himself to announce his feelings to Joan makes me feel that he's bringing some of it on himself.

  6. This was great to read, as were the comments. I just love it that there are people so caught up in this world of Morse. I'm in the process of going through (again) all my Morse DVDs, in honor of the 30th anniversary. Coincidentally, I am just on the two that connect to this show - The Promised Land, and Dead on Time. Did I hear it right in the Endeavour episode that Susan's mother said Susan has a son?? Because in DOT, we learn it was a daughter who died in the car accident.

    1. I'm rewatching Morse too. Those are two of my favorite episodes.

  7. Susan's mother said that William, who I took to be Susan's brother, was visiting Susan, who was married to oh so successful Henry.

    1. Yes! I misunderstood and thought they were talking about a son of Susan's, not the son of her mother, Susan's brother. Thanks.

  8. It's difficult being able to see the future. Normally I'd be willing to believe that Morse and Joan might eventually break through their uncommunicative ways and become a couple, but since we know they don't I kind of mentally hand-wave that whole subplot. Not that I like seeing either of them be so unhappy.

    As others have said, my main worry is how Morse's failure to act will ultimately affect his relationship with Thursday. Win as well, because neither of them deserve that level of betrayal. Morse and Thursday's relationship is the thumping heart of the show for me and my only quibble with S04 is that they've been so prickly with each other.

    Joan usually wears her hair pulled back and she looked (intentionally I assume) older and a bit disheveled with it down.

    Dang. Morse's timidity and repression in his personal life will be the death of me. But it seems like we can't have it any other way these days -- detective characters must be competent and clever at work but a mess at home.

  9. Could someone claify? Why was Mrs Bryce-Morgan leaving the hospital at the end of the episode? Was her husband (Edgar??) one of the victims of bed #10?

    1. She was leaving because he died, as far as we know - of natural causes. Nurse Clodagh told Morse and he went to talk to Mrs. Bryce-Morgan.


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