After three weeks of mysteries that either furthered Leonard's story or distracted from it, this week's Grantchester brings a fulcrum of sorts. Technically, this week's case is separate from the ongoing soap opera, pulling Will away at a critical time so Daniel and Leonard can work through his continuing crisis. But thematically, it hits the same notes as what's happening back at the vicarage. And it's all the fault of a bunch of Americans.
Miss Scott: It's the teeth.
Three American airforce GIs, drunk as skunks, are setting up for some big race when their commanding officer (Ben Wiggins) turns up. Unfortunately, the local farmers have already reported headlights and noise, so Larry is dispatched and takes everyone prisoner: Stanley Obrero (George Hannigan), Howie Bennet (Victor Alli), Bobby Cooper (Declan Baxter), and the commanding officer, who introduces himself as veteran fighter, Lieutenant Ellis. Stanley seemed inebriated before the arrest (he threw up at Ellis' feet in the opener). But he keels over dead when Miss Scott attempts to bring him a cup of tea.
Geordie and Larry might have dealt with the crisis solo had not Tamara Gurney-Clifford also been arrested this fine evening for attempting to run out on a bill with the restaurant's flatware in her dress. Will gets called in, so he is on-site when Stanley's death is revealed. Moreover, he helps check the body (since the pathologist has gone home for the night), discovering pills jammed in Stanley's throat in a not-very-believable attempt to make this look like an overdose. But since Larry can confirm Stanley was alive when arrested, this was a murder in the back of a police van.
Ellis attempts to snow Geordie into calling Stanely's death an overdose and releasing them back to base where it can all be shoved under the rug. But Ellis' casual failure to know basic military protocol — like the commanding officer enters the vehicle last — gives away he is neither a Lieutenant or a veteran. He's impersonating an officer. But Geordie is stunned Will didn't know this basic fact either, revealing a significant difference between them. Geordie Keating served his country, including spending months as a POW; Will got out of it by being the scion of a man who could pull strings. It's a significant difference between Will and former Rev Sidney Chambers, who did serve.
It's a blow to Geordie, whose duty to country is a significant part of his self-identity. He abruptly dismisses Will, telling him to get Tamara and get out. Will accepts this meekly, though not before pointing out the "racing book" Larry found is a black market ledger, using the classic British rich heir code of Pig Latin. Will's pointer solves the case, as Geordie realizes "Ellis" is Orson Wade, son of Colonel Wade (Corey Johnson), who runs the base, and sends the Keatings Christmas cards. Orson failed to make the military. Instead, he recruits hapless low-level airmen to steal American contraband for him to sell.
Confronted with the truth, Orson insists Stanley was the real mastermind; his death was a blessing. But he goes too far, insisting the recent death of another airman, "Mikey," was also Stanley's doing. Except Bobby already revealed Mikey was Stanley's brother -- and with that, the story collapses completely. When the truth comes out, technically, Bobby is the one who killed Stanley at Orson's command. But both are guilty, though Colonel Wade is clearly only planning to punish one of them.
With Will down at the police station, Leonard is left alone to not cope with his current situation. He's dived into a bottle of vodka and plans to pickle himself in it. Mrs. C is too heartbroken to help, but Will isn't about to let Leonard stay alone. Instead, Daniel comes over, and the two finally have it out over their relationship. As far as Leonard sees it, Daniel can't possibly understand what it's like to live like this; after all, he's comfortable in who he is and his sexuality, while Leonard wasn't until recently.
But Daniel isn't about to let Leonard believe that lie. Though he's been happy to play the strong one, Leonard's knight-in-shining-armor, it's not like either of them have had it easy. As fans will recall from his original introduction into the series in Season 3, Daniel was married. And his case wasn't one of coming into his self-knowledge too late after the church bells rang. He chased a girl down and seduced her into falling in love with him, knowing he could never be faithful. Worse, their breakup was compounded by her miscarrying their child. He took the blame for her losing the baby, not only from her but the rest of the family as well — his and hers.
So how does one live with shame, move through it, get over it? Living with the choices we make means not only accepting our mistakes and our failures but making the opposite choice Bryan made, not punishing those around us for how we feel about ourselves. Leonard admits he's been too hasty to push everyone who loves him away; he may be about to lose the church, his home, his livelihood, and his freedom too. But he can not lose Daniel in the process, and maybe that'll be enough to get through it.
Will gets Tamara released, along with several not-exactly-familial moments of attraction and filling her in on the Leonard situation. But before Will goes, he tells Geordie he's ashamed he didn't serve his country. He just never questioned his father's authority to get him out of it either. Orson, meanwhile, has no shame about what he's done. Will's words help Geordie realize he doesn't have to give way to that authority. After all, Orson isn't protected by the military. Guess there won't be more Christmas cards from that family. But even though Geordie seems inclined to forgive Will, this is a wedge between them. As Geordie looks back through his own memorabilia, it seems his time in WWII may hang heavy for the rest of the season.