And here's the second part of this two-part essay... because LJ does not like long posts :-P
Sam and Carol: the odd ones out
I was really struck by how much Carol mirrors Sam in this episode. In the pre-coital scene between Carol and Sam ("I knew you'd take your socks off first"), it's impossible not to sense a fellow feeling between them, a recognition that they're both unwanted by their "partners".
In the bedroom scene, Sam asks her no fewer than three times whether she has misgivings about her husband's philandering; each time Carol drops her eyes and her posture sags; each time she fails to answer Sam directly. In turn, Sam's body language screams out his reluctance, indicating that he really doesn't want to be there at all.
In the split-second before Carol asks Sam to kiss her, she literally braces herself, crossing one arm across herself and rubbing the other as though to give herself reassurance.
It's ironic, then, that this is the one couple we see actually engaged in anything sexual — even if it's merely an interrupted (and very unenthusiastic) kiss.
In general, there's a lot of male incomprehension of women in this episode. Consider the other main pairing of the episode.
Sam and Annie: words left unsaid
Sam's protectiveness of Annie is prompted partly by concern over the risk she faces (especially in the undercover job), but Annie correctly senses that this is bogus; he's never before shown particular concern over her walking alone. So she objects:
"Are you walking Chris and Ray home?"
She naturally reads this as condescension, believing that Sam doesn't respect her or take her seriously, as a woman or as a colleague.
It's impossible to know the degree to which Sam is motivated by protectiveness, but it seems to me — given the scenes of Sam's loneliness, which only we the viewers can see — that what he really wants at this point is Annie's companionship. But it seems that Sam can't bring himself to admit this need, perhaps not even to himself, and he may have convinced himself that "protecting" Annie is what he's really after. When she says no, and explains why she's angry, Sam's at a loss for words.
Sam is certainly guilty of underestimating Annie at times, but he's not the most introspective of men, either. My guess is, he's primarily motivated by loneliness but doesn't entirely realise it, so he's using "Manc the Knife" as a pretext for spending time with Annie which doesn't require him to examine or confess his own vulnerability. (I think the clue is Sam's offer to treat her to a drink, a date-like gesture he wouldn't have made to either Chris or Ray. Unfortunately, Annie didn't pick up on the significance of that.)
For her part, Annie doesn't clearly explain why she's so annoyed with Sam. In fact, in the middle of the canteen exchange in which she is (quite reasonably) stroppy, she breaks off and asks Sam why he's upset — thus making the "problem" his rather than hers.
She mockingly sings a snatch of "Anything You Can Do", from the musical Annie Get Your Gun. (The full lyric is: Anything you can do / I can do better. / I can do anything / Better than you. / No, you can't. / Yes, I can. No, you can't. / Yes, I can... "
SAM: This is not a competition! You don't have to prove yourself to me, you know, or anybody in this station.
ANNIE: What is wrong with you today?
And then out comes the eyeroll. You know it's bad when Annie lays down the eyeroll.
Sam worries aloud that if Trilling is the killer, "we" (he and Annie) will be imperiled by going undercover. Annie, correctly, hears this as Sam being worried primarily about her.
That's when a beaming Gwen interrupts to give Sam his special custard, in the sole maternal/nurturing gesture that 1973!Sam experiences in the entire frigging episode.
This, too, irks Annie, possibly because she doesn't get that kind of pampering from either men or women at the station. (Although it should be noted that Sam fetches tea for Annie, not the reverse, at the beginning of the backstory scene.)
Annie bridles at Gwen's almost fawning presentation and asks Sam, "What is it with you and women?", echoing Chris's earlier comment of "Women like you!"
At no point does Annie come out and say she's fed up with being treated as second-class by the men of CID, although this fact of life surely underlies most of her choices in this episode, not to mention the arguments she has with Sam. Perhaps she, too, has issues with vulnerability ("Anything you can do—"). Or maybe she's just deeply annoyed that Sam can't see how dickish he's being.
In some ways, come to think of it, they're very much alike.
Watching the detective
In preparing for the undercover job, Annie and Sam concoct, together, a back story for them as a couple. I love this scene because of the way Annie teases Sam about "Tony's" being a virgin prior to marriage ... implying that she (or, at least, her character "Cherie") is not.
In this scene and elsewhere, Annie seems more sexually knowledgeable, and perhaps more sexually confident ("Hope you've got clean Y-fronts on, sir"), than Sam is himself (especially in the two "sex scenes" with first Carol, then Roger Twilling). Annie also invents very freely for her back story. If only we could have seen more of this side of her in other episodes!
In contrast, Sam's part of the scenario is honest ("I was lonely... wondering if I'd ever find her... the one we're all searching for"). He self-consciously rolls his eyes on the word 'her' but, when forced to explain, Sam then drops his gaze and makes a totally unnecessary "note" on his notepad.
Annie's responses to this are flippant; she doesn't seem to realise that this isn't entirely a role that Sam is playing. Or maybe she's just amused.
Unsurprisingly, Annie shines in her undercover role. She manages to be flirtatious and provocative with Twilling at the tennis club — far more so than she ever is with Sam in their sometimes-professional, sometimes-romantic relationship. (In this episode, she flip-flops almost continually between familiarity and calling Sam "sir".) In fact, she plays her undercover role with far more confidence than Sam does; Annie really is, as Twilling calls her, a "forward woman".
A forward woman
Not only this, but Annie joins Sam in arguing with Gene for the undercover operation at the sex party. At the party itself, Annie plays along deftly, feeding Sam one of the dreadful hedgehog canapés and thereby keeping their hostess happy...
Whereas Sam draws unwelcome attention to himself by audibly deriding the hostess's choice of music:
Later, when Sam says he's off to the "little boy's room", the phrase seems apt. Sam shows a sexual naïveté in this episode that is quite striking. When he asks Carol in the bedroom whether things get "frisky", he reveals he's concerned that "it must be difficult sometimes, to keep things under control... when people get excited," Carol naturally asks if that's what turns him on. Significantly, Sam avoids the question in such a way as to imply that he was referring to Annie's welfare and not himself ("It's my wife's first time, too, so... you know, she won't want to be — hurt").
However, it's hard not to get the impression that Sam is afraid of unbridling his own passions — or experiencing someone else's. (Witness his pure astonishment when he finds Annie whipping Twilling: "Police, don't mo— what the hell? Are you all right?" It's telling that his next physical action is to punch Twilling in the stomach as hard as he can, and then stalk straight out of the room, all without saying a word.)
There are two times where Sam and Annie express uncomplicated concern for each other. The first is when Sam goes off to search the Twillings' house, and Annie tells him to "Be careful." He answers, "I will."
The second is at the beginning of the actual sex party, when Sam whispers, almost inaudibly, "Don't do anything you don't want to do." Annie looks at him and knows he's not speaking from condescension, but out of genuine concern for her as a partner and a friend. And she replies, simply, "Okay."
This echoes Sam's own advice to Chris: "She's a human being, just like you. She'll be nervous, she wants to be liked, same as you. Be kind. Show her some respect."
As we later learn, when Chris takes this advice (something Sam himself has difficulty doing properly with Annie), the unnamed girlfriend responds with warmth, and she and Chris find happiness together. But the simplicity and honesty of this approach eludes Sam himself.
At the end of the episode, Annie is completely vindicated. Gene praises her ("Cartwright, you did well today") and, possibly more importantly, bestows a special honour on her that truly acknowledges her as one of the team: "I'll allow you to buy me a whisky chaser." This is wholly different from fetching tea and Garibaldis, and Annie knows it. She goes happily to buy Gene his Scotch; it's her baptism of acceptance.
Interestingly, Annie doesn't linger to enjoy the moment, but leaves immediately. Sam follows her, and adds his praise ("The guv was right, you know. You did well."), but she brushes this off modestly ("Well... I learnt from the best.").
Both of them know, though, that this was entirely Annie's accomplishment, born out of her stubbornness, intelligence, and resourcefulness.
And Annie's not staying not to bond in the pub with the CID team or to have quality time with Sam. No, she's off to enjoy the evening by "meeting a bunch of mates" and, perhaps, celebrating with them instead.
She invites Sam to come along, but that's not what he wants, and he stammers out what is obviously a false excuse: "No, no, it's okay. I'm, er... I'm-- I'm hoping to... meet a, see someone... myself tonight, so..."
She leaves him with a verbal pat on the head: "Well, good for you, sir." And off she goes, while Sam stares longingly after her.
Because the sad thing is, Sam still can't bring himself to say that he needs Annie. Maybe he feels that he can't trust her with that admission (she might reject him, especially in her newly empowered state). Or, more likely perhaps, he's scared to acknowledge out loud just how lost and lonely he's feeling.
So Annie goes off to her evening with her "mates", and Sam? He goes back to his bedsit, his wine bottle, some final words from Heather-on-the-telly, and the chillingly maudlin lyrics of Gilbert O'Sullivan.
You're left wondering what might have happened if he'd been honest with Annie instead, confessed how lonely he was, and agreed to go out with her and her "mates" — even if the price was to have to share Annie's company with others.
This episode — the one in which Sam most keenly longs for female companionship, but is singularly inept at attracting it — is the only episode in which Annie is comparatively unsympathetic to him. As mentioned previously, in the canteen scene Annie is indignant when Gwen sidles up to Sam with her offering of pudding. She says incredulously, "What is it with you and women?", echoing Chris's earlier comment of "Women like you!"
"Women like you!"
The problem is that in this episode, women don't like Sam. They think there's something's really wrong with him. In fact, they're always disagreeing with him, opposing him, or being flat-out insulting.
Denise is suspicious of Sam and disappears when he goes off to buy her a second drink:
Heather rejects him harshly, asking "What is wrong with you people?" (meaning Sam), telling him not to touch her or to try his "lame lines" on her:
Annie herself rejects two attempts by Sam to "walk her home", and also demands at one point, "What's wrong with you today?"
Carol is suspicious of Sam's investigation of her bedroom, looks decidedly unenthusiastic at being paired off with him, and (when finally captured) taunts him with: "There's nothing more stupid than a man who thinks he knows everything." She knows he's clueless.
Mrs Luckhurst disagrees with Sam by opposing him on the question of Gene and Suki's participation in the party ("I think Mr Brown should be allowed to stay");
Even Suki pushes back at one point, when Sam exclaims that she's a prostitute and she retorts, "I am here, you know." She's reminding him that he's being ungallant; she is a human being with the same feelings he has.
Ultimately Annie does "do better" in this episode by playing the same game Sam and Gene does, only more successfully. When the men bug Twilling's car with Sam's transmitter, Twilling's solicitor threatens them with legal action and public humiliation. When Annie covertly does the same, she discovers critical information about the murderer's identity and, ultimately, is able to save Denise's life.
Annie: a success story
Sam may be the one who gets to cuddle and comfort Denise (taking the role of nurturer here, rather than receiving nurturance)...
But it's Annie who muscles the murderess out the door of the caravan and to her fate.
It is, after all, Annie who pushes for the undercover operation to continue when Sam tries to back out — no fewer than three times!
SAM: Er, well, maybe some other—
ANNIE: We'd love to!
SAM: I'm sorry. We should go.
ANNIE: If you go, you go without me. I'm enjoying myself.
SAM: Okay. This is getting out of hand. You were right. We should just pull him in.
ANNIE: No! [Twilling's] gonna give himself away, I know he is!
GENE: Good girl, Cartwright, at least somebody's got some balls.
Similarly, although Sam and Gene are both with sexually confident women at the sex party (Carol and Mrs Luckworth respectively), only Annie is shown as being in control of her partner and her situation. Sam is clearly uncomfortable with Carol (not with her personally, so much, as with the sexual intimacy that's about to occur, and possibly with the fact that she's taking the lead). In fact he's done nothing more than to reluctantly remove his socks, unbutton his shirt and begin kissing Carol when he's "saved" by Annie's shout.
(It's also implied that Mrs Luckworth, a sexually assertive woman if ever there was one, is more than Gene could handle, judging from his ambiguous description of her: "You know that bloke in the Bible who wanted to stuff a camel through the eye of a needle? [...] Well, he had nothing on Mrs Luckhurst." I favour the theory put forward by amproof: that Gene is describing anal sex, an interpretation supported by Carol's earlier comment that "Trevor learnt things from Mrs Luckhurst that would be illegal in some parts of Wales".)
Annie, on the other hand, is not only comfortable in her role as spur-of-the-moment dominatrix but is actually obtaining information when her male team members rush in to interrupt the show. It's actually possible that she might have put together the whole story earlier if she'd had more time to extract particulars from the hapless Twilling.
At the beginning of the episode, we see children playing together in the urban waste land where the victim was found. Gracie, the girl with (Hollywood) Tourette's, is some distance off from the others.
Gracie: Annie's unexpected ally
We learn from Chris that she was the one who discovered Sandra Trotman's body. Because she's unable to speak in anything but obscenities ("Wanker! Shit bloody shit! Shit woman dead! Bugger! Arsehole!"), the police don't take her seriously. The normally kind-hearted Chris calls Gracie a "foul-mouthed inbred," and even the other kids seem to be avoiding her. We only see her from a distance, and she seems small, scrawny, of no significance.
*The question of Gracie's cursing reminded me of a feminist I once read who said that the reason masculinist society considers it offensive or unacceptable when women and children curse is because the world is not theirs to damn. And indeed you'll notice that in the course of the series, Annie and Phyllis don't curse, not even so much as a "bloody" or a "damn". In Sam's world of 1973, the only women who curse are shrieking harridans like Mrs Trent in 1x02 (whom Gene silenced by stuffing a pair of knickers in her mouth).
As we learn at the end, it's possible that Gracie might have witnessed something more — who knows, perhaps she even saw the murderer placing Sandra's body there. But even the 'enlightened' Sam, who recognises that Gracie has Tourette's and knows it implies no cognitive deficiency on her part, never thinks to try and learn more from her.
When the identity of the murderer is revealed at the end, it's because Gracie is heard on the police radio to be speaking virtually the same gnomic words as she did at the beginning ("Shit bloody shit!"). And again we see the Cortina charging through dust into the same waste land. Again a handful of kids are present, and again Gracie stands slightly apart from them. This time, though, we see her at close range for the first time. Sam asks her the whereabouts of "the lady with the makeup", i.e. the Beauvoir Lady*.
*TBH I'm puzzled as to why Sam assumes Denise would still be wearing her uniform. As it turns out, she was, but the previous victim hadn't been; Sandra's corpse was dressed in a cream-coloured shirt and a slate-blue cardigan.
This is when we discover that Gracie herself is wearing makeup — as I mentioned, she's sporting a single gash of lipstick that crosses her mouth and continues across her face. (Why the lipstick? I don't know; but this drabble provides one possible explanation.)
She's older than she appears at the beginning, recognisably a young woman and not a "kid", actually beautiful but still strangely alien. When Sam asks her for directions, she no longer speaks (in obscenities or anything else), but only points, in an almost oracular fashion. This time, Sam asks for and accepts her silent counsel, and it leads him to catch the murderer, who is on the cusp of killing another woman.
My favourite murderess!
Just to recap what we know (or think we know):
At the end of the ep, we learn that Carol murdered Sandra Trotman because of a love affair Sandra was having with Carol's husband Roger. Wife-swapping under controlled conditions was acceptable: falling in love and endangering Carol's marriage was not. Carol was too possessive of her husband to let the affair continue. So at some point, she kidnapped Sandra, (presumably) took her to the caravan, and killed her.
Because Denise was "harassing" Roger about the fate of her friend. Carol decided to kill Denise — presumably because she thought Denise posed a potential threat to Roger. So this murderous impulse was prompted not just by possessiveness but by a kind of protectiveness of her husband.
Granted, murderesses are rare, but it's still surprising that Sam, even when presented with the evidence of Carol's sadness over Roger's philandering, doesn't twig that Carol had motive, means and opportunity. When Carol tells him in the cells that her husband is incapable of murder, she is being nothing less than truthful; but Sam fails to draw the correct conclusion.
So Sam misreads Carol, correctly perceiving her sadness at Roger's infidelity, but not recognising that it might be powerful enough to provoke her to violence. As with Annie, he doesn't really believe that she's capable of agency. It's a near-fatal mistake.
And Sam's not the only one to miscalculate. Roger seems aware of Carol's jealousy but is oblivious to how profoundly unhappy it makes her — and how that unhappiness is capable of driving her to murder. Carol is aware of her husband's philandering, but unwilling to face the fact he will never be truly faithful to her. There's a lot of denial going on in that family.
Still, there's one thing about this story that puzzles me. After Sandra is killed, we hear (through the magic of radio surveillance) Roger and Carol talking together at the car dealership:
TWILLING: That bloody tart's [Denise] been hassling me again.
CAROL's VOICE: Just ignore her.
TWILLING's VOICE: I don't know anything about her poxy friend [Sandra].
Obviously Carol knows about the affair because Sandra has already been murdered. But Twilling's speaking about Sandra as though he despises her. Are we to think that he hasn't yet confessed the affair to Carol? Or has he confessed the affair, but not the part where he'd fallen in love with Sandra (as he later admits to Sam)? Was Carol left to work that out on her own? If so, and the "love" element was never acknowledged, then on what grounds did Carol object to the affair?
Not to mention the mystery of the wardrobe and Sandra's (?) Beauvoir uniform. Heh. I think there are stories yet to be told about the Twillings! Including the possibility that Roger is one slippery customer and may have been cleverly pulling Carol's strings the whole time... ;-)
So in conclusion...
(1) The focus on women — women as agents, as movers, and as the essential characters in this story — and the subtle feminist message underlying its portrayal of sexism.
(2) The story of Annie — her complex emotions, Sam's profound incomprehension, her triumph at the end of the episode. Yes, Sam got her promoted to WDC in 2x01, but 2x04 is all about Annie proving herself despite Sam's efforts, not because of him. And she resourcefully applies the techniques (undercover work, radio surveillance, suspect interrogation) that the men in the ep spectacularly fail to master. Sam nearly blows his cover with his Santana outburst, then does so decisively when he bursts into Twilling's bedroom; his radio connection fails (thus obliging Gene to crash the sex party); and Sam and Gene are useless when interrogating Twilling in the presence of his solicitor. In contrast, Annie's undercover work is seamless; her spontaneous smuggling of the radio transmitter into Twilling's car breaks the case open; and her interrogation of Twilling (avec whip) was getting answers right up until Sam interrupted.
For Sam/Annie shippers, this is arguably the shippiest of all episodes. Not a great ep for slashers, especially with Gene's two (!!) references to his wife, but a wonderful one for anyone who loves Annie as a character. And what's not to love here? She's hard-working, patient, annoyed, defiant, resourceful... as well-rounded a female character as the show ever gives us.
And we even get to see Sam and Annie hanging out in the pub, reading peacefully together like a couple of old marrieds:
(3) The themes woven through the story: red as erotic signifier, the clever mirroring (including Sam and Carol as funhouse reflections of one another), the feline motif, the layers of meaning under "Beauvoir"...
(4) The possibility of other interpretations. Is Roger Twilling sexually aroused by women in red, does he need them to be dressed in red in order to come? Does he know all along what his wife was up to? Is he actually manipulating her to take care of his 'problem' women? What is the timeline of Sandra's kidnapping/murder, when did Roger acknowledge his affair (he seems not to have done so in the "tart" conversation), and most of all, how in the world could Roger have been unaware of his wife's guilt? He acknowledges that he knew she was unhappy about the affair...
(5) Sam's story: he really is remarkably useless with women. His fixation on Heather. The possibility that he can only relate to women well when he's acting as their protector (cf. Denise at the end)... not so different from Gene after all, perhaps?
(6) The Sartorial Sam. More clothes changes in this ep than in any other! We've got little!Sam in pyjamas, big!Sam in pyjamas, Sam's usual leather-jacket outfit, the jogging suit, the tennis whites, his two-piece pinstripe suit and jacket/tie ensemble at Roger's parties... the lad should go undercover more often.
And the HUMOUR. "God help us!" Men are stuck skulking about in surveillance vans and darkened garages while Annie simply gets the job done <333 Vol-au-vents!
Yes, it's full of women.
And it's FANTASTIC.
* * * * *
chamekke is the daughter of an Avon Lady.