Monday, March 5, 2018

Endeavour Series 5 - Quartet - Episode Review

My review of the previous episode: Colours.

There's no real reason for all of the Thames Valley crew to be at the Jeux Sans Frontières, a weird game show pitting European teams against each other. Are they there for security? I mean, that's for beat cops, not detectives. I can't imagine Morse or Max attend such events for fun, especially Max, who's fully decked out in his usual bow-tie and suit. In any case, it's lucky the team are there to immediately respond when the German "Giant" is assassinated by the Swiss. A little boy is caught in the cross-fire. The Swiss giant disappears. International incident, here we come.

It turns out the person who was originally going to race for Switzerland called in sick, and when Morse goes to the Swiss team's hotel, he finds the original racer strangled and stuffed into a wardrobe.

The plot thickens when Special Branch sweeps into the Cowley Station in the night and spirit away the evidence. Morse, frustrated, refuses to abandon the case, beginning an investigation on his own. Max's corpses and notes may have been confiscated, but he remembers the dead German's dentures looked like they were made in East Germany, even though he was supposed to be from Bavaria, in the West. Morse calls in Dorothea and they compare notes (she also, in her capacity as Morse's big sister, advises him not to let Claudine go).

Thanks to Dorothea's information, Morse tracks down Gerhardt Schneider, a friend of Karl Pfuscher, who's unusually and suspiciously helpful, providing information about Pfuscher's girlfriend, Danulke, another beau named Samantha Smith, and Professor Alexander Richmond, who says he doesn't remember Pfuscher (the porter, Albert Mullion, confirms there were no messages left the day Karl was in Oxford).

Schneider's information also leads Morse to Millie Bagshot, played by Ellie Haddington of Foyle's War fame. In a bit of Cold War intrigue, it turns out Bagshot is really a secret agent who saves Morse from the Russian assassin that killed Pfuscher. (knew Hilda Pierce faked her death! She moved to Oxford in the 50's and lives on in the British detective expanded universe.)

Meanwhile, Morse gets a call from "Singleton," a mysterious man who summons Morse to London and takes him to meet "Louis," another member of the "Royal Peculiar" of the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula. I'm not entirely sure whether they mean that to be taken literally, or if they're just coyly implying they work for a powerful government agency. Enlighten me, internet.

Singleton and Louis, who are rather like two lost Wodehouse characters who stumbled into a Fleming novel, tell Morse to check out Sebastian Fenix, a perfumier, and in particular whatever he's doing in lab 4. Morse goes to visit Fenix, who's got creepy fish and gives Morse perfume (don't take that the wrong way). On a return visit to the factory, Morse finds some pure ambergris, which provides evidence that Fenix is striking illicit deals with Russian Baltic whalers.

Fancy and Trewlove's first date appears to have gone well, as Morse spots them smooching on a bridge. Meanwhile, Claudine dumps Morse to go to Vietnam (what is it with these women with French names who dump Morse to go to foreign countries? Shout out to Adele). Joan turns up to keep him company and they have another close encounter which ends with a kiss that turns into a clue.

A seemingly unrelated subplot with Thursday visiting Joe and Elsie Dozier's news agency leads to some extra drama. Joe is beating Elsie, and when he mysteriously trips on the stairs, Fred pointedly looks the other way. It turns out he doesn't give Elsie enough credit. In a twist which would make Dickens blush, it turns out Joe and Ellie were the other half of a Soviet cell operating out of Oxford. The other half are Mullion and Richmond.

I haven't decided how much I'm willing to forgive the show on the corniness front. Any attempt to do a Morse-as-James-Bond episode was going to run up against plausibility issues, but coming as it does right after last week's credulity-straining episode means I'm not in a forgiving mood.

Quartet has style and menace, but it never quite builds the right amount of paranoia or self-awareness to sell itself as a spy plot (Masonic Mysteries was nuts, but characters constantly drew attention to that fact, which made it somehow OK). Morse breaks into a factory, purloins evidence, and avoids the dastardly snake-fish without ever really seeming in danger of life or limb. True, he does get garroted, but most of the threats he receives throughout the story don't hold much water. Singleton and Louis, a young Statler and Waldorf, just don't seem like real people. Bagshot is real, but she's basically Hilda from Foyle's War. That the most concrete result of the episode is for Thursday to decide it's time to retire shows how the stakes never quite manage to matter.

My review of the series finale: Icarus.

  • "It's a machete-wielding West Indian with a distinctive facial scar we're trying to find, in Oxford. It's not the Scarlet Pimpernel." -Bright, nicely hanging a lampshade on the gang's incompetent search for Cromwell Ames.
  • Speaking of which, we finally meet Cromwell Ames, who, it turns out, is just as much a cliche as he's seemed so far. Honestly, when Bright trots out the description of the man, I started to suspect it may be a false lead. He seems like every "ethnic" villain in Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • "Forget it, sergeant, it's Summertown." Come on, Fred. 
  • Charlie Thursday called again. He hasn't got the money back. Looks like Fred is concealing that from Win. Does that mean he wagered all his retirement money on Charlie? Will Fred be able to tango happily into the sunset?
  • But speaking of which, Fred! He's finally decided to hang up the "tin star." Poor Morse looks adrift, and he says for the second time that he's not "ready." He's not ready for many endings, from Claudine's exit to Fred's. What will this mean for the future of the show? The end of the Thursday saga is due - it's run out of dramatic steam. It will force the show to reinvent itself, possibly with McNutt. That's all well and good. But it will be difficult for everyone to get over the absence of Roger Allam, who's been an essential part of the show from day one.
My reviews of Endeavour:
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Series 5

If you enjoyed this article, check out my full list of detective reviews.

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  1. Thanks for the review; most enjoyable. The radio seen in the shed and tuned into a number station did not have shortwave. I used to intercept the one heard in the 75m band.
    This was meant to be happening in 1968 but the Land Rover used by the 'Royal Peculiars' was a G registration ---- July 1969 issue.
    The best line from Morse was 'Number Station .... we listened to them all the time in the Royal Signals.' Absolutely true, as an Official Secret he was most unlikely to say that and if he was listening in barracks without orders to do so it would have been a 252 and an appearance.
    A most enjoyable episode; when it opened and the German Number Station started my wife and son groaned audibly and with good reason.

    1. That must have been an interesting field of work. What particular group did you work for? Did the Official Secrets act lift eventually?

    2. The Official Secrets Act is still as viable today as it was then. To actually mention Number Stations at the time was frowned upon. Members of the public who researched them were given off the cuff explanations that ran from the sublime to the ridiculous; coded Fishing Fleet transmissions was a reasonable explanation but having a certain HMG minister tell a rather prolific researcher they were for contact with flying saucers was rather insulting to the intelligence of the person who enquired.
      I still follow these transmissions to this day. If you look up the case of Heidrun and Andreas Anschlag [excellent surname that] you'll see they were arrested as Heidrun, codename TINA, was receiving her message. Not voice or Morse, that used polytones, was 717 groups long as I recall and took 10mins26sec to send at 0540z. I heard the entire transmission and reduced it to its numerical form as Heidrun fell off her stool as the GSG-9 burst through the door of her kitchen.

      With transmissions having migrated from Short Wave to the Internet and the STASI [of which that snippet in the programme was] closing as the wall came down removed most Number Station transmissions. The Russians are the most prolific but there are others from China and indeed North Korea. If the subject interests you look up ENIGMA2000 Number Station Monitors; there's even a decent newsletter.
      Hope this is of interest to you and that I have answered fully.

  2. That lingering hand on Morse’s shoulder; Thursday’s long goodbye is very nearly complete.

    "Dasvidanya tovarishch." Say it ain't so, Fred.

    1. Yep - the hand made it seem pretty definite.

  3. It's always good to read your reviews. This episode (Quartet) and the first one (Muse) are my favorites so far for Season 5.

    1. Those are two of the better ones, though I like Passenger a lot.

  4. Morse is highly intelligent. He is a crossword addict and dislikes spelling and grammatical errors; in every personal or private document that he receives, he manages to point out at least one mistake. He claims that his approach to crime-solving is deductive, and one of his key tenets is that "there is a 50 per cent chance that the person who finds the body is the murderer". Morse uses immense intuition and his fantastic memory to get to the killer so why are we getting such varied episodes?

    Despite this storyline being good we see improbable scenarios- attempted garrotting, breaking and entering, removing evidence, incorrect phraseology (above your paygrade? in 1968??)and Trewlove a probationer policewoman being shoehorned into CID matters
    Oh and JSF was huge so a few straw bales in a farmers field falls far short of reality.
    All was not bad tho'. Morse subbing for Fancy, Fred and his "I'll tell you hoe I see it" common sense approach (Yes he got the characters wrong)and Max, showing his is more than capable with "live ones" he just prefers the dead.

    On balance an enjoyable episode 4/5 as a score

    1. Agreed, the quality has varied this season, and there just doesn't seem to be a strong focus. I haven't seen today's episode yet, but I really don't have any expectations for it - as I don't know where the season is going. No sense of tension.

  5. "Mansfield Park"

    Why does Morse make this glaring mistake? The quotation that Joan is alluding to comes from Pride and Prejudice. This is clearly intentional.

    Is this a message from Morse to Joan, or a message from the writers to the audience ?

    1. Skimming the transcript, it seems he actually references Netherfield Park, which is indeed from Pride & Prejudice.

  6. So glad to have your summary. The series so far this season has been so disappointing I’m no longer bothering to watch. Fixing something that wasn’t broke—-not a good idea, as usual. Waste of Evans and Allam.

  7. This is not Colin Dexter, but rather John Le Carre; however, that does not mean it is bad!

  8. In the hospital scene near the start, the doctor refers to someone coming from the JR but that didn't open until early 1970's

  9. Hello, just discovered your reviews and enjoy them very much.

    Not sure if it was mentioned yet, that the phrase "Hans, knees, and boompsadaisy", a newspaper headline seen 24:40 into "Quartet" is a reference to the Inspector Morse episode "Death is Now My Neighbor".
    The phrase, (but with "hands" instead of "Hans") is found by Morse and Lewis on a note card in the effects of the murdered Rachel James.


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