1/4: The Man in the Tree

Foreign. Bound to be suspicious.

Four episodes in, I am already rather fond of Lady Felicia. And here she comes, strolling across the fields with an art box in hand (no doubt to knock out a charming watercolour landscape).

What’s that she’s spotted? A body up a tree! Womanfully, she shrieks. And so we have: 1) the swiftest appearance of The Body thus far, and 2) Lady Felicia’s third dramatic discovery.

The twist is that The Body isn’t actually a dead one. But, he is stripped to his pants and comatose, so it’s proper mysterious, all the same.

Alas, we don’t see much more of Lady Felicia and her magical wardrobe this episode. In one scene she gets to flounce around with Lady Chatterley’s Lover as a sign of her rampant raciness. Except – can I just nitpick here? – that would either put us in 1960 or make her excitement such as to be enflamed by an expurgated version.

We’re back snuggled in the 50s proper with the arrival of Father Frank – visiting from Germany like a cassock-clad reminder of the war. Mrs McCarthy greets him by clutching a union jack to her bosom. Susie retreats into angry Polish-ness. Lady Felicia – village pulse – hosts a soiree.

A couple more suspects new characters appear, both hopping off the same train as Father Frank – the same train the man in the tree had tumbled from. After I grumbled last episode about the local density of big houses, the common folk are upon us. And, the poor are as brushstroked as the posh: meet the rag & bone man (on loan from The Wurzels) and the local prostitute (who just got out of jail).

Actually, I appreciate the inclusion of a ‘fallen woman’ here. It offers some consideration of the difficult realities of destitution and the choices (or lack of) in working class women’s lives. The woman slyly visited by ‘pillars of the community’ is also a counter to idyllic rurality.

Meanwhile, mystery man is still comatose (with Mrs McCarthy hovering by his bedside and knitting him into good Catholicism). And evidently someone doesn’t want him to wake up.

Meanwhile again, Susie is slipping from post-war anger into a spot of fancy for Father Frank … while Sid the Spiv (who has a spot of fancy for her) gets hauled off in handcuffs for having filched the not-dead man’s wallet. Knowing that he can’t have done it (recurring character rule) Father Brown pootles about like a cake-fed bloodhound, to the scowls of Inspector Trenchcoat.

Whodunnit? Well, it’s a case of secret sins and of semblances otherwise. With a spoonful of Nazi revelation thrown in for good measure.

Things learnt this episode:

  • Never scrub a floor with a bandaged hand.
  • Never claim your Nana gave you £50 when all she gave you was socks.
  • When greeting a foreigner, wave a flag at them. And don’t forget to tell them that they’re foreign.
  • Cassocks are a comfortable disguise, flattering to all figure types.
  • Don’t mention the war.