Here are a pair of scenes from the excellent Inspector Morse episode “Driven to Distraction” (recapped here). Patrick Malahide plays bad boy car salesman and murder suspect Jeremy Boynton. Despite being a married man, Jeremy is a serial philanderer. Things start getting awkward for him when one of his lovers, Jackie Thorn, is found murdered in her apartment. In these two scenes he bullies Jackie’s friend Angie (Tessa Wojtczak) into keeping the affair from the police.
[Jeremy slides rather suspiciously into the bookshop where Angie works. A customer has just purchased a book.]
Admin: I love the way he slithers in. They have it filmed so that the remnants of the previous scene, a stick figure illustration drawn by police of the imagined assailant, is fading from the screen. Jeremy is slap bang in the middle of the chalk head, clearly suggesting he is a suspect. His slippery and suspicious demeanor certainly support that theory.
RF: Yeah, there’s a pretty direct implication that Boynton is the murderer right off the bat. He doesn’t help things by being his generally creepy self. He certainly looks furtive and suspicious as he makes his way over to Angie, darting glances this way and that.
Angie: Hello, Jeremy.
Jeremy: I was…passing. I just wanted to say…you know…it’s terrible. It’s terrible about Jackie.
Jeremy: You must be devastated. [pulls a sad face] I am.
Angie: How did you know I worked here?
Jeremy: Jackie must have mentioned it.
Admin: He adds a little “I am” almost as an afterthought, as though he is trying to make himself appear innocent and sympathetic. He fails miserably at it. Even the way he mentions her name, “Jackie”, comes across as an afterthought.
Angie is clearly less than pleased to see him, so she probably has a very good idea what his character is like. Her main concern is trying to figure out how he knew she worked there. She asks him about it in a rather challenging manner. Despite his casual off-handed response about Jackie probably mentioning it, it is far more likely that he has followed Angie there.
RF: I noticed that Boynton starts off by imposing on Angie’s personal space, leaning on the books and the counter and just generally getting right in her face. You can also tell that while Angie knows exactly who he is right away, she’s not at all pleased to see him there: “Ugh, my friend’s sleazy boyfriend knows where I work.” And his slight hesitation before Jackie’s name (“…terrible about… uh… Jackie”) makes it seem like he had to work to remember it. All in all, as you say, he fails miserably at appearing saddened by Jackie’s death (his “sad face” is laughable), or at having a legitimate reason for being at the bookstore.
Angie: Anyway… [tries to walk away]
Jeremy: What time do you close, Angie?
Angie: Oh, I’ve got an evening class.
Jeremy: I just wanted a little chat, a little um… Just a little chat.
Angie: As I said, I have an evening class.
Admin: She tries to make a smooth get away but Jeremy finally starts getting to the point. He wants to have a chat with her, just a little chat. He’s trying to appear harmless, and once again, failing at it. He comes across as utterly shifty and even a bit intimidating.
RF: Poor Angie! You can tell she wants nothing more than to be rid of this creep, but he’s having none of it. She definitely doesn’t want a little chat with him under any circumstances. Mentioning her class is an indirect way of saying, “People are expecting me elsewhere and they’ll notice if I don’t show up, so go away and leave me alone.” As you say, he seems to be utterly shifty and untrustworthy – not someone you’d ever want to be stuck in a car with!
Jeremy: I could take you in the car! We could talk on the way.
Angie: No, I don’t think so.
Jeremy: I think we should. I think it’s, what’s the expression, it’s to our mutual benefit. I’ll wait. I’ll browse. I’m in no hurry. Oh, there you are, you see. [grabs a book] Candida. Something I’ve always wanted to know about.
Admin: He’s not going to take “no” for an answer. I will say, he perks up somewhat at the prospect of taking her out in his car. I think Jeremy feels much more at home behind the wheel than in a bookstore. To possibly prove that point, he very bizarrely chooses a book a on candida. Oh, Jeremy! I think it might be this title. Order now before they go! 🙂
RF: Well, yeast is a fungus, so maybe Jeremy feels like they have something in common. 😉 But yeah, he’s sticking to Angie like a limpet, willing to hang around the bookstore until it closes. If I were her, I’d be sneaking out the back way. He does seem to perk up when he talks about his car. Perhaps he thinks Angie will be so impressed with it that she’ll overlook how creepy he is. Or more likely, he’s unaware of just how creepy he is. Even the music is low and ominous, further enhancing the suspicion that Jeremy is the murderer.
Admin: I like that analogy. 🙂 Jeremy is very much like a fungus.
[Jeremy is waiting in a car as Angie is leaving work. He honks the horn.]
Admin: Again the previous scene is used to highlight Jeremy’s status as a potential killer. Morse (John Thaw), Lewis (Kevin Whately) and DS Maitland (Mary Jo Randle) have been trying to get into the killer’s mind by trailing single women. Following that scene with an image of Boynton casually smoking a cigar in his Jaguar as he waits for the single and vulnerable Angie gives him a suitable air of menace.
RF: Yes, all the things that DS Maitland mentions as the murderer’s characteristics seem to fit Jeremy to a T. It looks as though Angie was hoping to walk by without Jeremy noticing her, but no such luck as he honks his horn. Can’t blame her for looking like she’s dreading what comes next.
Admin: You could really see her cringe when that horn honked and she spied him.
Jeremy: Hop in. [she gets in and adjusts her skirt while he leers] Nice outfit. [Jeremy smirks]
Admin: Jeremy can’t go five minutes without adding a bit of sexual innuendo. He stares at her lecherously and is terribly obvious about it.
RF: He says “Hop in” in a sort of proprietary way, as though he’s expecting obedience. His smirk and laugh at Angie’s obvious discomfort when he says “nice outfit” also seems to suggest that he’s relishing making her uncomfortable.
Admin: Good point. He issues it just like a casual command, showing her no respect at all. Not polite!
Jeremy: So, where to?
Angie: It’s just… Honestly, It’s really not far. I can get a bus.
Jeremy: Don’t you need books for an evening class?
Jeremy: Well, what’s the course?
Jeremy: È vero? [draws on his cigar] I thought you were going to say ”gardening”.
Angie: I haven’t got a garden.
Jeremy: No, but you like growing plants, don’t you?
Angie: Yeah. [annoyed] What do you mean?
Jeremy: I can never remember the Latin name for these things. You know – pot plants. Pot plants.
Angie: Oh, come on!
Admin: Isn’t he full of questions? His Italian seems nice at least. I wonder if he’s fluent. I suppose it would help to speak Italian if you specialize in luxury cars. He’s clearly having a bit of fun hassling Angie, but he amps up the menace when he finally mentions the pot plants. His intense stare is extremely unsettling.
RF: Earlier, DS Maitland mentioned that the murderer could be meeting his victims at an evening Italian class. I just realized, upon this reviewing, that they’re making it even more obvious that Jeremy could be the murderer by having him toss in an Italian phrase or two. But apparently Jeremy can’t resist the impulse to let Angie know that he’s got the goods on her right away by dropping the “gardening” reference. Subtle, Jeremy! He likely thinks that Angie will be an easy mark because she’s got secrets to hide.
Admin: The evidence against him really is being stacked up. It doesn’t help that he’s clearly enjoying blackmailing her over what should be a terrible loss for the both of them.
RF: No, he’s not wasting any time on mourning for Jackie.
Jeremy: I expect you’ve had to hide them under the bed, with all these bobbies snooping about. I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. I mean, obviously, there’s nothing I like better than to take a sexy girl for a ride.
Angie: Oh, give me a break!
Admin: He pushed it a little too far there. Angie finally breaks some of his control by snapping back hard at him after he makes the ill-advised “sexy girl” comment. She has absolutely no interest in him whatsoever and obviously finds his entire persona to be completely off-putting.
RF: I’m sure that was Jeremy’s idea of offering her a compliment. But yeah, Angie finally starts to get angry instead of reluctantly going along with his requests.
Jeremy: It’s a question I’m always asking myself. Why is it that you ladies wear these tiny skirts, which, by no stretch of the imagination, I mean no stretch, you could call prim, could you, really? And yet, when a chap notices, you get all aggravated. It’s a mystery to me.
Angie: I think it’s my business what clothes I wear.
Jeremy: Of course it is. Of course it is. Get to the point, Jeremy.
Admin: He tries harassing her again, this time being really rude about it all. I mean, not that it matters, but her outfit isn’t even remotely scandalous. His wolfish attempts at shaming her are really creepy. She is pretty stalwart in trying to not let him fluster her, but he is obviously getting under skin. Still, he better get on with it before she just gives up and leaves.
RF: He keeps eyeing her legs and leering as he talks about “tiny skirts” and being “prim”, which is just… eeeeewwww. And yeah, he’s pouring it on strong. I think he’s trying to put her on the defensive with a great, big “neg“, but he just seems to be making her more angry than anything else. Too bad she didn’t get out and slam the car door in his face right then. Oh, and side note: you just know that entire car reeks of cigar smoke and Brut cologne. 😛
Admin: He needs one of those dangling air fresheners. 🙂
RF: It would probably be one of those horrible pine-scented ones.
Jeremy: It just struck me that you and I have these little secrets about each other. Your smoking habits and my friendship with poor Jackie.
Angie: I won’t say anything.
Jeremy: Terrific! [starts car, throws cigar out of window]
Admin: Well, getting to the point worked a treat, actually. His enthusiastic “terrific” is even sort of cute. Of course, he ruins that by chucking the cigar out of the window. Litter bug! Again, though, he is really creepy when he refers to his “friendship with poor Jackie.” There is still no real sense of remorse, and his only interest is in keeping his name out of the picture. Angie is very calm, almost relieved it seems, when she promises not to say anything. I think she’s just glad to be getting the whole thing over with.
RF: His enthusiastic little “Terrific!” is somewhat at odds with the fact he’s just made a blackmail deal, but I guess he’s pleased that they have an “understanding” (ugh). That’s right, Jeremy shows absolutely no signs of remorse or grief that Jackie is dead. I got the impression that he might be considering Angie as her replacement, even though it’s obvious he makes her skin crawl. And yeah, she likely agreed not to say anything just to get away from him as quickly as she could.
Jeremy: I’ll tell you what. A girl like you shouldn’t have to rely on buses. Come and see me, and we’ll fix you up with a special deal
on a little car. Hmm?
Angie: I don’t think so.
Jeremy: Well, if you change your mind, any time. I’ll tell you what. I’m a little late, so I’m going to drop you off. [opens his wallet and tries to hand her some money] Why don’t you get a taxi the rest of the way?
Angie: [refuses the money] No, thanks.
Jeremy: Suit yourself. Ci vediamo.
Admin: And he tries to sell her a car. 😀 His timing is not great. He really is kind of clueless when it comes to Angie. But, he is happy enough to see that his threats worked. I like how he bids her farewell in Italian.
RF: Angie’s side-eye when he offers her the car is a wonder to behold. 😀 It says she she’d never buy a car from him, even if it cost £1 and it was the last working car on Earth. And after all that, once he gets what he wants, Jeremy reneges on the offer to give her a ride – not that I think Angie was all that disappointed. He makes it even more creepy by offering her money for a cab, which she eyes with disgust before getting out – with a huge sense of relief, no doubt. A narrow and lucky escape!
Admin: These are a really good pair of scenes. We get to see Jeremy in all his sleazy glory trying to intimidate and pester someone into silence. Everything suggests his guilt. He hits on Angie, doesn’t seem at all bothered that Jackie died a horrible death, and is only interested in his own self-preservation. He even tries to turn a bit of profit by offering to sell Angie a car. He is creepy, wolfish, threatening, oily and generally unlikable. And it really feels like he is kind of proud of those qualities. What a guy.
RF: We’ve said before that Jeremy has terrible game and it’s really true. That’s right, the entire situation is being set up to suggest Jeremy’s guilt; the viewer is certainly given no reasons to think he might not be guilty. He’s one of the least sympathetic protagonists I can think of. You end up rooting for Morse to find something on him so he can arrest him. But Jeremy himself seems comfortably unaware of how he comes across, or at the very least doesn’t mind as long as it gives him the upper hand. It does make me wonder, though… what is Mrs. Boynton like? Does she wonder about her husband’s extracurricular activities? Or is she too busy contacting her divorce lawyer to care? Yep, whatta guy!