This week's Endeavour puts Morse and Strange together on an investigation when Thursday is deemed "too close" to a model's murder.
Marcus X: The motion before this esteemed house calls for all settled immigrants to return to their ancestral lands. So, that being the case, I have to say, 'After you.'
Before we dive into this week's doozy of a mystery, we should take a moment to recognize how much has come to a head at this, the midway point of the season. Over the first three episodes of Season 5, the show has alluded to the immigration and racism issues of the latter 1960s, the "old world-new world" of the last generation, the up and comers of this one (and how Morse is firmly planted in the old one), and the politics of it all. But nowhere does this all come together more perfectly than in the opening to this week's episode, with the Thursdays returning to the ballroom dancing competitions of their youth, Morse and his now-girlfriend, photographer Claudine (Claire Ganaye) attending an Oxford debate on racism between Fascist sympathizer Charity Mudford, Lady Bayswater (Caroline Goodall) and activist Marcus X (Marcus Griffiths), all while an Army barracks prepares for their daily routine.
The King's Own South Oxfordshire Light Infantry barracks is where our murder mystery starts, following the adventures of Lance Corporal Sam Thursday, who is in charge of bringing a group of models to the property for a photo shoot. The sight of a VW bus full of magazine-ready summer-of-love styled girls pulling up in the middle of the dry dull brown and green of the barracks is a heck of a juxtaposition, especially when they start posing sexily on tanks. The head model, Jean Ward (Leo Hatton) is all smiles and kisses for Sam until she admits to being taken and then winds up dead anyway.
The murder links back to the Oxford debate when the photographer on the shoot, Farage, reveals "Jean" is just a pseudonym to hide who she really is: Moira Ward, stepdaughter of our Fascist-wannabe. (Though if Hitler danced at your family's wedding, perhaps one is less "wannabe" than "real-damn-deal.") Since Sam found the body and is a suspect, Thursday can't be allowed to work this case, throwing Morse and Strange together to cover it instead, and leaving Bright to liaison with the army generals who run the place. The barracks has some drama of its own as an undercurrent as well. Like the Oxford City Police, they are also counting down the days until closing their station forever, hours actually. In less than two days, they're all to be shipped off to Germany. Sam was looking forward to it, his first time out of the country. The officers and top brass, however, see it rather differently. This, of course, might change all that, or at least delay it.
The cracks in Morse & Strange's roommate relationship are starting to show, as Strange is clearly envious of Morse's continuing success with women and his golden child reputation, when, by rights, Strange should be the station's DS, and Morse would have been transferred elsewhere upon promotion if it wasn't for the upcoming merger with Thames Valley. It doesn't help that Morse and Strange are both friends with Sam, who is looking a likelier and likelier suspect, despite everyone assuring each other that he'll be fine. Nor does it help that the beret that turns up with blood on it belongs to the only black soldier in the regiment, Oswald, who Strange takes in, despite Morse's protestations this is a murder that would likely be done by an officer of her own class who recognized who she really was, or someone she used to be engaged to, like the visiting military history professor, Dr. Laidlaw.
Thursday: When it comes to the army, no one is ever in the clear, only the dead.
Meanwhile, racial tensions are flaring around Oxford, with the latest hotspot a hairdresser with a "No Coloureds" sign in the window. Joan is part of the protest crowd, while Trewlove is working protection and Claudine is hopping around with her camera, capturing it all. When the scene finally collapses into a riot, Trewlove takes it on the nose, while Joan gets packed into the paddy wagon. Much like his arrest of Oswald by Strange to make sure Sam Thursday stays safe, Strange also arranges to make sure Joan isn't part of the group that's charged for unlawful unrest. Joan and Trewlove aren't the only ones having a bad day, Fancy innocently walks out into a minefield, causing the entire operation to grind to a halt while he gets rescued. At least Trewlove and Fancy are moving towards happiness over it, even if he accidentally dings her bruises trying to kiss her.
Morse isn't having much luck either. He tries to do a bit of night sleuthing only to run into McDuff, a drunken old soldier who spent two years in a Chinese prison and has the severe PTSD to show for it, and nearly makes Morse our second stabbing victim of the episode. He can't press charges though, the base's Colonel makes it clear he's considered a hero, and untouchable. Meanwhile, Sam starts kicking up a fuss, he'd rather take it for murder than Oswald, because he knows his friend is innocent. He must be, because Farage's body turns up the next day on base, shot through the head, while Oswald is in custody.
When the bayonet that killed Moira turns out to be of German make, not English, the entire investigation turns sideways, especially when the bullet that shot Farage was German too. Bright's wife's knowledge of the upper classes turns out to be invaluable, as she heard Moira might not even be the legitimate daughter of Ward, but a daughter of an officer from that very base. Also, with the stepdaughter out of the way, Charity stands to inherit all the money, which was through the first wife's side anyway. Champion, it turns out, was a regular houseguest at Ward's place during the years Moira was born along with Major Coward. He admits to an affair with her mother, and that Moira was actually his mother's name. But he didn't know it was her when the models arrived on the base, and to be honest, he never knew if the kid was his, or if her mother just named Moira that as a cruel joke.
The valet comes forward and reveals Moira was in a relationship. She wasn't lying to Sam. Her boyfriend was Marcus X. He has alibis for both murders, but he did speak to Farage after Jean's murder and was going back to the base to find out more. But who on the base was Farage meeting that has German WWII era weaponry? Turns out the answer is our military history buff, Laidlaw. He was obsessed with Moira, bought all her headshots from the racist hairdresser, and had in fact concocted an entire fantasy where he's married her and they had two kids, including fake photographs around his German SS paraphernalia-decked office. Of course, he framed Oswald, because he's horrifically racist.
The chase to take Laidlaw down sees him shoot down MacDuff on his way to kill Morse, who runs out into the minefield to escape, as Laidlaw follows. One of them steps on a mine. It is thankfully not Morse. The regiment ships out to Germany, intact, and with Sam able to say he's proud of his father for fingering the right man.