Between last week and this, I’m starting to think there’s a correlation between the title of a Danger Man episode and its quality. ‘The Hunting Party’ promised a good, rock-solid story, and the episode delivered.
Unusually, the open focused upon Drake himself, in London traffic, attending the House of Lords, summoning a Lord to re-interview him on his contacts during a period when secrets were leaked. A similar tape, invcolving another suspect of previously irreproachable reputation provides the link. Both men deny discussing the subject under question at all, but both men have enjoyed the hospitality of Basil and Claudia johnson at their estate on the Loire, in France. Bing bing, bing bing, bing bing.
So, over the opening credits, Drake files to France, via the Lake District (don’t try to kid me that the skyline of the Langdale Pikes lies anywhere on a flight path from London to le continent) where we get our first glimpse of the Jordans: Claudia, the richest woman in the world, attractive but beginning to fade despite clothing by Christian Dior – seriously – waspish and emasculating, played by Moira Lister, and Basil, aging, a little slimy, a hanger-on kicking against the traces ineffectually, played by Denholm Elliot: we have top quality guest stars today.
The immediate question is how on Earth this pair ever married in the first place, but it’s not important: Lister and Elliot do enough with the script to convince us that here is a couple in whom love has long since died, leaving a bonding of spite on both sides, she for his living off her ample means, he for her directness in manipulating his strings.
Witness to this is their imperturbable butler, Ross (a cameo but an excellently grounded performance by John Welsh), Drake, using his own name, promptly hires him away, on generous terms, to become his manservant back in London, and offers himself as the new butler, a role for which he has expertise and experience: remember ‘No Marks for Servility’ in series 2?
Much of the episode is well-made but oplain. Drake oils around the chateau, paying close attention to Basil’s locked den (which contains his extensive Scalextrix racing track as well as some dubious looking phials of strange liquids) and plants bugs almost everywhere he goes. Mrs Jordan presides and don’t you know it, and its fun waiting for the moiment where she basically summons the handsome, athletic butler to satisfy needs that aren’t getting attended to by her lawfully wedded husband, mainly because she has too much contempt for him to ever let him see even her naked calf. Sadly, the episode ends without our seeing how Drake would have got himself out of that without being sacked on the spot.
Despite Claudia holding the purse-srtrings and being determined to ensure Drake is valid and not just another gold-digger, it is Basil who is the most discontented with Drake, as well he might be, for it is he who has secrets to hide. There’s an up-front tip in mid-episode, in a nasty exchange around the dinner-table, when a furious Basil shouts, “You know, I don’t know why you ever married me,” to which Claudia, with a voice dripping with icicles and boredom, replies, “You hypnotised me, darling.”
And there it is. Basil, out to build up a fortune of his own against the day when Claudia kicks him out, is using a combination of drugs and his own hypnotic abilities to put honoured guests under, draw their secrets out of them and sell them via a foreign agent, Zepos, of whom Drake knows already.
We’ve already established that Drake is a crack-shot at clay pigeons, as well as an expert Scalextrix racer (I had Airfix: it was so much better) so it’s inevitable that gets gets roped into the titular Hunting Party where, between Basil and Zepos, a tragic accident will occur. However, series stars are always on the alert for tragic accidents and chance favours the preferred mind, so Drake not only avoids the fatal shot but beats both men to a semi-pulp, breaking up one more leak.
We’re very close to the end now, just five more episodes and then the extremely truncated series 4. Despite how patchy series 3 has been, I really do wish there was more to come.