Zodiac: e03 – The Strength of a Gemini


In case you doubt my motives for the above picture, it does come from this week’s episode, which ladles on the glam with guest appearances by Jenny Hanley and Deborah Norton, in only her second TV credit. That’s about all the episode has going for it as the story was both weak and artificial, not to mention being cretinous in its central conceit.

Guest star Norman Eshley plays Philip Deening, a con man. Deening seduces attractive young Honourables, ladies whose fathers are aristocrats and who consequently, when appealed to to put money up for the betting coup of a lifetime, can’t fail, then let’s nip off to an island somewhere, just you and I, put up the money. The horse then fails to win, which is fine on one level because Deening hasn’t put a penny on, just pocketed it to continue to fuel the lifestyle he cannot otherwise enjoy, and disappears.

But Deening has made two fatal mistakes. The one is that he impresses, and seduces, all his pretty victims by knowing them intimately, due to his ‘deep empathy’ with them, an empathy gained by obtaining their birth dates and having star charts drawn up for them by a prominent astrologer: three guesses, and the second two don’t count. The other is that he’s about as obvious a con artist as there is, and whilst I have no high regard for the average intelligence of the aristocracy, I find it unbelievable to think of even the dumbest Honourable bimbo falling for such complete and utter tosh.

Though Jenny Hanley does, I’m afraid, make that plausible. She’s only in for the first act, during which she wears puzzled eyebrows and keeps her mouth open all the time to indicate that it is posible to make a pretty face look unpretty, and signal that the wind is blowing unobstructed from ear to ear within.

By some mystical means – so much handier than actual explanations – Esther realises that practically all the letters she’s rever received have come from the same person under multiple names, both male and female, in disguised handwriting. By the same mystical means, she works out the kind of con Deening is pulling, identifying him because one of the letters is from him in his real name, you know, like con men always do, so she sweet talks Grad into investigating via an apparently delicious shrimp paste (the long black dress with the low cleavage can’t have had anything to do with it).

Deening, an inveterate roulette player, plots his victims with the aid of his long-term girlfriend Penny (Ms Norton, who’s clearly not getting enough of it from Philip whilst he’s out shafting these aristocratic birds). Penny works in a fashionable flower shop where customers are always ordering flowers for the birthday of sisters and the like, birthdays that always coincide with Penny’s, thus providing dates and times of births.

So Grad goes in, doing the complete Hooray Henry look and manner with spectacular effectiveness (this time I’m not being ironic), Esther gets a request for the star chart of the Honourable ‘Anthea Gradley’, gets picked up by Deening, teases theaudience with the suggestion that she might be seriously considering two falls and a submission and then Grad arrests him.

There are some more details than that, though nothing of consequence, but it really isquite plain why, with only half the Zodiac used up, Zodiac did not get a second series to clean up the rest. Despite Anouska Hempel in a bikini. Or a bath towel. Or that low cut dress.

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