Morse and Thursday team up to solve a poison pen case on Endeavour, but as the investigation of Fancy's murder comes to a head, they find themselves on opposite sides.
Mrs. Neal: She worked in the Jelly Room!
This week's Endeavour opens with an actual bang, first in the small town of Chigton Green, where Mandy-Jane Bell is cut down with a shotgun on her way to work at Creswell Sweets, and then again during a morning of foxhunting at Creswell Hall, when factory owner Greville Creswell turns up having taken a shotgun blast to the skull. (The ugly view of Downton Abbey on full display here.) The latter is found first when his horse returns riderless and is quickly identified as a murder by DeBryn, one blast to the chest to knock him off the horse and second to the face at point-blank range. The former is discovered after the local Constable, Potter (Oliver Farnworth), reports her husband, Rennett, was seen driving fast, shotgun in hand, in the direction of Creswell Manor.
Rennett is found in the bedroom of the house, having committed suicide after killing Creswell. Box and company, naturally, want to call this open-and-shut: Jealous husband murders wife, wife's supposed lover, then himself. But Mary Jane's brother insists his sister wasn't that kind of girl, and Morse, naturally, is not convinced either. There is an anonymous typed note to Bell that his wife was cheating, which came with a "Happy Families" card, part of the collectibles that come with every box of Creswell chocolates. Potter says typed notes of this type have been flying around the village, each with a Happy Families card attached.
The Creswell children Murray (Jack Hawkins) and Rupert (Ben Lamb) put on a united front, though Murray's wife Clemmie (Claudia Jolly) and Rupert's fiance Sarah Clamp (Katie Goldfinch) clearly dislike each other. Within a few questions, it comes out that the family business was under threat to be bought by a competitor, though no one can agree on if this would be a partnership-merger or a hostile takeover with an endgame to be bundled up and sold to an American conglomerate. (Also, the inheritance of said business is up in the air.) The Creswells don't mix with the villagers much, but Sarah, it turns out, is the daughter of the grocer, and well-known to all. In fact, her family was the first to get one of these anonymous letters, after her grandmother passed earlier in the year, claiming she'd been poisoned.
Both Creswell sons are horrified at the idea their father might have had an affair with an employee. Though the file on Mandy-Jane doesn't suggest someone who could have been sleeping with the old man, the head of personnel, Miss Neal (Tilly Blackwood), reveals she'd gotten drunk at the company Christmas Party, and made remarks about Sarah being a gold digger. Apparently, before she was engaged to Rupert, Clamp was a factory worker too.
There have been a lot of notes since that Christmas party incident. Neal reveals she's gotten several, one of which suggested Mandy-Jane was sleeping with Constable Potter. Another, which turns out to be accurate, is that the daughter of town vet Charles Shepherd, Isla Fairford (Olivia Chenery), isn't a widowed mother. The father of her son, Henry, is alive and well, having walked out on them. When Morse's next case, a suicide in Oxford of Rufus Burrough, has burnt bits of an anonymous note, he discovers Burrough is related to Sarah Clamp, and spent a lot of time in Chigton Green, suggesting this all goes much farther than anyone realized.
While the A-plot bubbles along, the slow churning B-plot of Fancy's murder has started to rattle its tea kettle lid a touch. Strange is making it his business to turn up at every heroin overdose, including attending DeBryn's findings on them. Thursday and Morse are also helping out a bit, but Morse seems particularly dubious that it will all ever come to anything. His cynicism runs so deep that even when Strange points out that this conspiracy to keep poisoned heroin on the streets of Oxford might include Box, and an investigation could take down Morse's hated overlord, he shrugs. But Strange has dug in, and he's going to turn this place over if he can. "Trust no one," he tells Morse. Strange isn't kidding either. Neither of them knows it, but Thursday's on the take now too.
The Creswell case comes to a head when Murray is found murdered in a vat of chocolate. Clemmie accuses Rupert and Sarah, but Morse discovers that Shephard seems to have been set up to take the fall, with his horse gun used to kill the elder Creswell, and him with no alibi, sent out on a call to a farm that didn't exist. But it too turns out is also a setup. Isla is the one writing the poisoned pen letters with the ultimate aim of raising Bell's suspicions to the point where he'd beat Mandy-Jane. At the Christmas party, Many-Jane hadn't just called Sarah a gold-digger, she's cornered Murray and told him she's figured out the truth.
Isla's story that her husband left her for another woman was as false as the one about being a widow. Murray was Henry's father, and Mandy-Jane was blackmailing them to keep it all quiet. Rufus was Isla's accomplice, mailing the letters from Oxford. She's not directly responsible for the deaths of the Bells, Creswell senior, or Rufus, who committed suicide after he realized his actions caused three deaths. But she shot Murray because he threatened to claim Henry as his son to prevent any more blackmail attempts, effectively taking the child away from her.
Next week, the finale for Season 6, and maybe Fancy's murder finally resolved.