Sorry for the delay in posting this – I had computer troubles on Tuesday!
This episode kicks off with Alex and Gene chasing a suspect through a “fun run”. As Gene accelerates to catch the bad guy, Alex slows down. Suddenly the street is empty, and she can hear Molly’s voice asking for her. She has a vision of herself being led through the street (towards surgery) on a gurney. She becomes very woozy and starts to sit in the street, but she’s suddenly jarred back to reality as people in costumes jog by her. Gene calls her over to attend to the suspect he has nabbed… only the suspect attempts to get away by jumping over a wall that was a little taller than he had perhaps thought. As the two carry “Heroin Harry” off to jail, Alex looks around at the beautiful little section of London that they’re in:
Alex: “You know, you forget sometimes, how beautiful London can be… the architecture, the canals….”
Gene: “… dead body floating along…”
Alex: “You really have no poetry in your soul at all do you?”
Gene: “No. That dead body, there… look.”
At the morgue, the medical examiner reveals that the body had little water in the lungs, indicating that the man died before hitting the water, probably from blunt trauma to the head. The ME also points out some bizarre scars on the man’s arm, which Ray immediately blames on Satanists. Later on, Chris finds a missing persons report for one Colin Mitchell. Gene looks at the report, then sends Chris and Ray to talk to the man’s wife, while he and Alex go and talk to the man’s father. Gene reminds them that this is a murder investigation, and to keep any information leaked to the wife to as minimum. Before heading out, Shaz asks Chris for a wedding date. Chris evades her.
Alex and Gene find the father – Stanley Mitchell – at a community center, trying to set up a Neighborhood Watch program. In fact, everyone initially thinks that Alex and Gene are there to speak to the “crowd” (which, in reality, only numbers 5 people). Gene wants to get right to the point, but Alex convinces him to wait until the “crowd” has left. Gene and Alex then give one of the funniest “speeches” in Ashes history:
Gene: “How can you help your community? D.I. Drake, any ideas?
Alex: “Well, um… you should never be afraid to call the police if you see something suspicious.”
Gene: “Well, within reason… I mean if some bugger’s nicking a milk bottle off your doorstep, it’s hardly worth calling the flying squad ’round, is it? Feel free to give them a clip round the earhole.”
Alex: “Although you should never take the law into your own hands, of course…”
Gene: “Not unless you can handle yourself…”
Alex: “It’s best just to stay out of it… even if you can handle yourself.”
Gene: “Well, obviously… but if some bastard climbs through your bedroom window, you’re within you’re rights to smack him over the head with a vase, or a chair or any other such blunt-ish object that may come to hand.
Alex: “Technically though, that would be assault.”
Gene: “Well, just make sure the bugger’s still breathing when you ring 999. Nobody will have a go at you for fighting back.”
Man in audience: “What if you can’t fight back?”
Gene: “Then remember the Dunkirk spirit and run like hell.”
The man in the audience then lifts his shirt to show Alex and Gene a chest full of bruises that he says came from three men with baseball bats. The man angrily storms off, leading Stanley to break up the meeting. Alex and Gene can then finally tell Stanley that his son is dead. Although they don’t tell him much about the man’s death, they do mention the cuts on his arms, and ask if that means anything to him. Stanley immediately blames Trevor Riley, a local loan shark that Colin worked for. Gene seems genuinely hurt that someone was able to operate on “his” turf without him knowing about it.
While all this is going on, Chris and Ray visit Colin’s wife, Donna, to tell her the bad news. At first, they’re blown away by the Mitchell’s swanky house and his trophy wife… but then she simply refuses to believe that her husband is dead. She’s in such denial that Ray and Chris see no other way to get their point across except to take her to the morgue to view the body. There, Donna breaks down completely:
Gene marches in to the office, demanding to know everything there is to know about Trevor Riley. While barking out orders, Gene is interrupted by the wailing of Donna, who has taken refuge in the break room. When he asks what the noise is, Ray and Chris start yammering excuses like teenagers caught with whiskey. Alex goes to the break room to comfort Donna. Alex asks Donna about Trevor Riley, and Donna is adamant that he wouldn’t do anything like this.
Before Alex can ask any more questions, she’s interrupted by Shaz, who says that she has an urgent phone call. Martin Summers is on the phone, and he taunts Alex for not choosing “his” side in Operation Rose. He further says that the doctors are “not holding out hope” for the operation, and that everyone is putting on a “brave face” for Molly. Summers hangs up, and Alex turns around to face Gene. “Riley?” she asks. The two take off in the Quattro to the strains of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”.
Riley has apparently had dealings with the police before. He immediately recognizes Gene and Alex as police officers and refers them to his lawyers. When Gene asks about Colin Mitchell, Riley says that “he worked here, then he didn’t”. He does seem surprised to hear that Colin is dead, and that he was “branded” with Riley’s alleged calling card. He also says that he’d be pretty stupid to kill someone that he’d just branded. He remains defiant… and even says that he’s “two seconds away” from having Gene brought up on harassment charges. Gene won’t take that, though, and he grabs Riley, staples his tie to the desk, and says:
One second. Two seconds. Go on, then… try me. You know, I’ve had harder shites than you, Friday nights, after a curry. And when I’m done, I don’t sit and ruminate about the individual’s role in society, my son. I flush ’em away.
Back at the office, Viv says that they’ve found Colin’s car. As punishment for screwing up telling Donna about Colin’s death, Gene sends Ray with Alex to check out the car. Meanwhile, Chris tells Shaz that he thinks it’s better to elope… only he does a bad job of telling her that he thinks it would save them money. Instead, Shaz jumps on his case, and says that the marriage is off.
At the abandoned car, Alex hears voices from the operating room in 2008. She tells Ray to take the lead in checking out the car. Alex uses the Socratic Method to get Ray to find the “little details” that solve crimes. Inside, Ray finds a couple of blankets with blood on them… and two airline tickets. One is for Colin to go to Turkey the day he disappeared; the other is for his wife, but is dated two months later.
Back at the station, Alex receives a dozen dead roses (presumably from Martin Summers). A little while later, Donna is back in the interview room. She says that the tickets were only for a holiday. Alex wonders why Donna’s ticket is for two months later. Gene then tries his own version of “profiling” by saying Donna is “from the gutter” and hints that she might have liked money so much that she took out an insurance policy on Colin, then killed him. Alex counters that they might be running away from someone. Gene argues that people tend to run away together. It then dawns on Alex that Donna knows that Colin was going to disappear. Donna admits that Colin was going to disappear, and that they were going to take the insurance money to set up a new life in Turkey. She says that Gene was right, that she grew up in a council estate (housing project) and that she knew Riley growing up, and that she saw how Riley had turned from a garden variety thief to a semi-legitimate businessman, and they she wanted some of his wealth. She further says that Colin was much smarter than Riley, but that Colin’s dad rarely spoke to him anymore after he started working for Riley. She also says that Riley promised her that he wouldn’t harm Colin.
Shortly thereafter, Viv says that he’s got some bad news for Gene: Stanley Mitchell has apparently been beaten up. Alex and Gene go to Donna’s house to talk to him, and he says that the man that showed Gene his bruises earlier was visited by by some of Riley’s men. Stanley and the rest of the neighborhood watch went to defend their friend, and got beaten up for their troubles. Whilst there, Alex has a vision of her being operated on. She becomes woozy, and her speech becomes slurred.
In her vision, the doctors say that the bullet has been removed. Alex then passes out. When she wakes up, she gives Gene a giant hug and says that she feels much better. Gene says he’s glad she feels better, because they’re going after Riley “the old way”.
Back at the office, Gene tells the gang that Al Capone was caught by not paying his taxes, and that he’s sure that they can find some evidence in Riley’s office that could take him down. He asks Ray to get his search warrant. Alex wonders how Gene was able to get a warrant on such sort notice… until Ray answers the question by showing her the “search warrant”:
At Riley’s office, Alex and Gene search while Chris and Ray keep a lookout. Riley does, in fact, show up at his office, but due to a dead battery in Ray’s radio, he can’t get in touch with Gene to warn him. Chris, thinking quickly, uses another “search warrant” to smash the window in Riley’s car. Chris asks Ray what they’re supposed to do now… and Ray just says “nick it!” He shoves Chris out of the way and starts to hotwire the car, taking off just as Riley shows up. Riley gets a clear look at Alex and Gene, who have gotten into the Quattro and take off. By the way, they managed to steal a video tape that was locked in a box in Riley’s office.
Back at the station, the gang views the tape. Chris’ prediction that it’s a porn tape turns out it be correct: it’s a tape of Riley and Donna having sex. Although all the men of the gang are oblivious, it’s obvious to Alex (and the home viewer) that Donna is not enjoying the sex she’s having on the screen. At Luigi’s Gene says that they have a tape of the wife having sex with the prime suspect, not to mention the insurance policy, so it appears to him to be an open and shut case. Alex doesn’t back down from her assertion that Donna was not having fun in the video. Gene and the men then whine about how women change their minds so often. Alex then says they might not have to worry about her, as she might be going away soon. She hands out letters to everyone, and begs them not to read them until after she’s gone.
We next see Alex at home, doing some paperwork with the TV on in the background. We suddenly see Molly standing on the screen, while a voice-over says “Your mum’s resting now Molly. She’s had a very big operation and won’t wake up for a long while. We just have to wait now and see how she responds to the surgery”. Alex tells Molly not to worry, that she’s coming home. Molly turns and slowly walks down the hallway.
Meanwhile, we see Gene walking home from Luigi’s. A voice asks him for a light, and when Gene turns to offer his lighter, he’s attacked. At the same time, we hear noises in Alex’s apartment. She turns off the light and hides, and two men come into her apartment. When they don’t see Alex, one of them turns and smashes Alex’s TV.
The next day we seen Gene walking through the station. When Alex sees him, he says that he “walked into a door” and tries to evade her. Alex follows him into the men’s room. Gene is initially outraged that Alex would follow him into the “sacred turf” of the men’s room, but he changed his tune when Alex says that they visited her as well. Gene asks if they “laid a finger on her”, to which Alex says no, that she hid behind the sofa. Alex says that she’s called Donna in, and Gene says that he doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Gene storms out of the toilets and demands that Viv put him in a cell, so that he can get some peace and quiet.
Alex, Ray and Chris wonder if Gene is having some kind of breakdown. We see Alex going to talk to Gene after he’s had some time to think. Alex says that they can’t “sink to Riley’s level”, to which Gene says:
You know there’s always been scum, praying on decent ordinary folk. There was a code of honor as well. You came at him from the front, not like a coward from the back. Everybody wants to be the center of the universe these days – writing their own rules, doing whatever they want. You know a good beating clears the head, Bols. Our Mr Riley thinks he can run his little empire… thinks he can bump off someone like Colin Mitchell without retribution. I’m just working out exactly what sort of retribution is required.
Alex begs him to do it the “right way”, but Gene insists that you fight fire with fire.
Alex and Ray question Donna, who says that she knew that Riley had always wanted her, and that she agreed to do it if he’d leave Colin alone and let them start a new life. She further states that Colin didn’t care about the big house or the flashy cars, and that he’d only taken the job in the first place to please Donna. She then breaks down into tears.
Meanwhile, Chris is trying to make up with Shaz. He starts giving her a little speech, but quickly has to look at a “cue card” he’d written. Shaz is… both amused and shocked that Chris wrote down what he was going to say, but when he tells her that he was afraid of saying something stupid. She asks for, and reads, the “cue card” and visibly softens. The two kiss and hug, which causes Ray to moan.
Gene walks in and asks Ray if he still has a friend that owns a car rental agency. Ray says that he does, and asks why. Gene says that he’s planning on “taking a scenic drive down to a friend’s scrap yard”. Gene punches Riley as he walks out of his office, then cuffs him. “Nice day for a drive”, Gene says. Riley says he doesn’t wanna go anywhere in the beater that Gene has. Gene throws him in the back seat and drives off.
Meanwhile, back at the station, Ray asks Alex about the psychological profiling she does. Alex is intially standoffish, but Ray points out that the Colin’s body was apparently transported in the front seat, not the trunk, as a murderer might. Alex then asks who might have done it. Ray thinks it’s an amateur, but Alex thinks it’s someone that cares about Colin and couldn’t face putting him in the trunk. Alex notices that one of the bloody blankets is folded up, like a pillow. Alex asks where the Guv is; Ray says he doesn’t know.
We next see Gene and Riley pull up at the scrapyard. Gene gets out of the car and gives a bribe to the crane operator to walk away. He then gets into the cab and asks Riley who killed Colin. Riley tells him to sod off, so Gene smashes the roof of the car and picks up the car. He again asks Riley who killed Colin, and Colin this time says he doesn’t know. He’s obviously terrified, but it’s obvious by this point that Riley didn’t kill him. Alex, Ray and Chris suddenly pull up in the Quattro, and Alex screams that Riley didn’t do it. Gene, not knowing how to work the machine, accidentally releases the car, which falls 20 feet to the ground. Riley screams inside, and Chris and Ray help him out. Alex says that he could have killed Riley. Gene says that he had his suspicions.
If a man isn’t going to squeal when he’s about to have his bum conkers crushed by a big machine, the chances are he’s telling the truth.
Gene tells them to let Riley go, but Ray says that they were thinking about his mention of Al Capone, and they would a pile of parking tickets that Riley has not yet paid. “It’s a good start”, Gene says. Alex also says that she knows that Gene hates her “psychological bollocks”, but he’ll have to trust her on this one.
We next see them at the Michell’s house, where Gene walks in and announces that Donna is under arrest for the murder. Gene and Alex go on and on about how guilty she is and what a tough time she’ll have in prison. It’s obvious to the home viewer that Alex and Gene are just goading Stanley Michell into confessing, and that’s exactly what he does.
Back at the station, Stanley says that he was happy that his son had quit the business with Riley, but when he mentioned the insurance scam, he just kind of “snapped” and pushed him, and that he fell over and cracked his head on a table. Alex then asks if he set Riley up and started the neighborhood watch to “make a difference”. Gene then says that when Colin found out what Riley did, he walked away.
At Luigi’s, Italian football plays in the background while Gene says that there are three types of people in this world: the “haves”, the “have-nots”, and the “have not paid for what they haves”. Luigi then mentions Gene’s gigantic (and unpaid) bar tab. Gene asks Luigi to turn off “Campione del mondo” and turn some music on, but as soon as Luigi goes to turn the dial, Molly’s voice comes across the radio. She asks if her mom will be OK, and the doctor says that the operation appears to be a complete success, and that it won’t be long until she can talk to her mom. A nurse then walks in a says that the “coma patient in room five is having a seizure”. Just as the doctor says “I’ll be right there”, the radio switches back to the soccer game, and “GOOOAAALLL” is heard. Luigi and Alex jump for joy (albeit for different reasons).
Alex orders some champagne, and then looks at the gang. She says that she’ll miss them, and that they’re “not that bad”. Ray says that that isn’t what she said in her letter. She demands the letter back and says that she’s putting them in her desk, and that they can have them after she leaves. Ray says that he’s not “repressed” , as Alex has said in her letter. Shaz thanks her for telling her about her potential. Chris says he doesn’t understand a word of his. Gene hands his letter back to her… unopened. Alex asks if he’s really miss her, and Gene says he would.
– At the beginning of the episode – just after Alex has her first vision – Gene says to Alex “when you’ve stopped being Doris Stokes, we need to get Heroin Harry here into a nice comfy cell”. Doris Stokes was a British spiritualist, alleged to have psychic abilities.
– Whilst going through the missing persons reports, Ray comes across a larger large woman, who he says “Could plug the Watford Gap”. The Watford Gap is a break in the hills in Northamptonshire, and has been used since Roman times to connect the Midlands and the southeast. It’s a quarter-mile wide, and currently the A5 road, M1 motorway, Grand Union Canal, and West Coast Main Line railway all run through it.
– When Alex and Gene arrive at the community center, Stanley offers them Garibaldi biscuits. This is yet another reference to that one type of biscuit (cookie). I believe that this is reference number 6 to Garibaldis in the “Life On Ashes” universe. Honestly, I’ve stopped counting.
– Gene’s mention of the “Dunkirk spirit” is, of course, a reference to the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II.
– Trevor Riley was played by Sam Spruell, who has appeared in Spooks and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He is, to me, a dead ringer for Jason Flemyng, who you might know from Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
– After leaving Riley’s office, Gene says that “he’s dirtier than a bank holiday weekend in Blackpool”. Prior to 1834, the Bank of England was closed 34 days a year for various religious festivals and observances. In 1834, this was reduced to 4 days, which were coded into law in 1871. Bank Holidays are public holidays in the UK, and occur on Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Blackpool is a seaside town in northern England that rose to fame as a vacation destination for factory workers. It has a reputation somewhere between Daytona Beach and Las Vegas, and is probably the “seaside town” that Morrissey mentions in “Every Day is Like Sunday”. Random trivia: Blackpool is thought to have more hotel beds that the entire country of Portugal.
– GOOF: The airline tickets shown are of a much later vintage than the ones that would have been used in 1982. The ones Alex and Ray would have found would look like this.
– After Alex’s “incident” at the Mitchell’s house, Gene says that he’s glad she’s not “tripping all over the place like Norman bloody Wisdom”. Norman Wisdom is an English actor, comedian, singer, and songwriter.
– The TV show Alex has on the background after is Angels, a “drama dealing with the subject of student nurses that was broadcast by the BBC between 1975 and 1983”. It was created by Julia Smith, who later went to create EastEnders, one of the most popular soap operas in British history. EastEnders debuted on February 19, 1985, and is still on today. Like EastEnders, Angels was set in the fictional rough and tumble neighborhood of Albert Square.
– Is there any significance to Alex’s TV getting smashed? That was her main contact with Molly – will she be able to get a new TV that “works” in the same capacity?
– The big question from this episode: who is the coma patient having a seizure in Room 5 in 2008? Is it Martin Summers? Or is it someone else?
– The main story of this episode must be based on the story of John and Anne Darwin, the infamous “canoe couple” who claimed that John drowned in the North Sea in 2002 and claimed £250,000 in insurance money… until John showed up, alive and well, in late December 2007, claiming to have lost his memory. The couple were convicted of insurance fraud in 2008 and are spending around six years in prison at this time.
– Ya know, Life On Mars was great TV. Ashes to Ashes is pretty good TV, too. But while Ashes is incredible when the clock is ticking on Alex’s life, filler episodes such as these can be a bit… tedious.
MUSIC HEARD IN THIS EPISODE:
Dire Straits – “Private Investigation”
Captain Sensible – “Happy Talk”
Grace Jones – “Pull Up To The Bumper”
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
Donna Summer – “I Feel Love”
Motorhead – “Ace Of Spades”
Pigbag – “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag”
Daryl Hall & John Oates – “Maneater”
Anti-Nowhere League – “Streets of London”
Billy Idol – “Hot In The City”