You can’t imagine the young Endeavour Morse letting his hair down in the Summer of Love – even less so, Fred Thursday – and indeed Morse is lurking in his dingy basement flat, Fred is wheezy, and Strange has been promoted to DS, taking over Jakes’ post. Not only that, this episode – Prey – has plenty more surprises.
When Danish au pair Ingrid Hjort disappears from her college, suspects include her employer Dr Lorenz, shifty caretaker Turnbull, drunken park-keeper Hodges, weaselly student Mark, and gloomy South African land-agent Craven.. Morse gets a lead to a boyfriend at Crevecouer Hall, owned by the Mortmaigne family.
This family is of course the subject of the Lewis episode The Dead of Winter, and the boyfriend, gardener Philip Hathaway, is the father-to-be of James (pretty much the first time we’ve had any reference to Lewis episodes in Endeavour?).
Fred follows similarities to a previous case, Sandra Jordan, attacked four years previously and still in a coma; but then a townie, Parker, dies in a suspicious drowning, with just his arm found, and a birdwatcher, Dr Moxem, disappears from the woods.
Morse discovers Moxem’s tent in ruins; and WPC Trewlove finds a clue, a handkerchief with the initials HL, Dr Hector Lorenz’s.
Strange visits Morse at home with the well-chosen gift of a James Last LP, takes him out for a pint of Double Diamond, and apologises for nicking the promotion that obviously should have been his – well, that’s what being in the Masons gets you. So that’s why Morse hated them.
Then a woman has her livestock slaughtered, and the blood trail leads to the river – is there a murderous animal on the loose? The locals set up a hunt, during which Bright recounts a horrific tale of tiger-hunting in the Raj. When there’s a disturbance in the woods, and someone shouts ‘It’s coming! It’s in the trees!”, they’re probably not quoting cult movie Night of the Demon, or indeed Kate Bush’s The Hounds of Love.
Hector Lorenz is found slashed to pieces, and Philip Hathaway covered in blood; is a big cat indeed to blame? Lorenz haas been working for the Mortmaignes on a breeding programme for a safari park. Morse questions sisters Julia and Georgina, both emotionally disturbed, one from being mauled by a tiger, the other from losing her husband in a boating accident; there’s bad blood in the family, Julia says, in dialogue mirroring that in The Dead of Winter. Georgina seems remarkably calm about having been mauled, but was keeper Goggins to blame, and has he returned to seek revenge for being fired?
Fred is bearing down on suspect Hodges, whose story is increasingly unconvincing; he gave Ingrid a lift to the woods, and says he heard screams.
By this time, the viewer is as baffled as the cops; it seems impossible to account for all the murders and maulings. As Morse puts it, either there’s a tiger roaming Oxfordshire, or someone wants it to be thought that there is. Morse reads up on the ritual killings of the Leopard Men of West Africa; Trewlove finds that a musk sample has been stolen from Lorenz’s lab.
Student Mark eventually reveals that Lorenz and Ingrid were lovers; and Fred beats a confession out of Hodges, unnecessarily as it turns out, as evidence linking him to Ingrid and to Sandra Jordan is found in his hut. Bright agrees to cover up Fred’s lapse, and next we know, he’s back in action, following a lead to missing animal trainer Goggins.
What’s found is a pen in the woods which seems to have been holding a tiger, plus bits of Goggins and of Ingrid; but who’s been keeping the tiger, and why is the missing musk sample hanging in the pen? Morse deduces that Georgina was in love with Lorenz, killed him and Ingrid out of jealousy, using the musk to attract the tiger; and as Fred arrests her, the tiger returns following the musk scent, and is cornered in the maze at Crevecoeur.
Morse enters the maze in search of Julia, Fred follows More, Bright follows Fred, and the whole thing becomes like a Laurel and Hardy farce. Bright eventually shoots the beast just as it’s about to pounce on Morse.
Finally, Morse is motivated to put in for Sergeant.
Quite the most ludicrous episode of Endeavour, and possibly of any TV detective show ever, Prey just goes to show that given their head, even the best writers can come up with the most hilarious rubbish. The joy of finding out a bit more about the ghastly Mortmaignes was more than offset by the ludicrousness of the plot and the comical denouement.
The question remains why Morse never said to Lewis, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was chased around a maze by a tiger?” That would have been a conversation stopper down the Eagle And Child.
We can at least now see Morse putting some effort in to furthering his career, but we fear this may be at the expense of Fred, whose shrapnel wound is likely to be the end of him. Will Thursday breathe his last in the finale?
For our episode one review, go here
For our episode one review, go here
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