Episode Seven: “Khyber”
According to BBC One:
Jack Turner demands he be awarded the dam, revealing he has evidence implicating Byzantium’s client in a terrible crime. With the operation nearly over, Aidan presses Sam to revisit childhood memories of her mother’s murder and her own kidnapping – to understand the reasons why the Hourglass conspirators have targeted her for death.
We’re nearing the end of our acquaintance with Jack Turner (booooo!! although I’d really prefer him in a Byzantium-free show of his own), and this episode gets the wheels rolling on the crux of the whole dam escapade (pun intended). We have three lovely tour-de-force Turner scenes, one of which answers questions that have been bugging me since the very first episode. Frank Spotnitz finally saw fit to plug a few plot holes, though it must be noted that in doing so, he opened up a couple more.
The Contents of That Briefcase
We start out with a flashback to “sixteen months ago”, with the now-deceased Dr. Horst Goebel (Peter Vollebregt) going on a clandestine night-time trip to a lake in Pakistan, which looks suspiciously like Scotland, but never mind. He’s guided to the right spot by a young Pakistani girl, but it’s evident by the gas masks and sensors they’re using (and the numerous dead bodies lying about) that something catastrophic occurred here. Goebel goes out to the middle of the lake in a dinghy and takes two soil samples from its bottom, which he stores in a by-now-familiar Mysterious Briefcase™. “Doctor, what’s in the briefcase?” asks one of his guides. “Evidence,” replies Goebel. Oh, so that’s what was in Turner’s briefcase this entire time! (Ummm… unless it was tampered with in the meantime.) “Evidence of what” will be answered later.
How Not to Evade Detection
We jump forward in time to the present, and Sam is breaking into the country estate of Hector Stokes (Richard Lintern), CEO of Polyhedrus. She gets in just fine, evading a butterfly knife-wielding security guard (seriously, the guard is armed with a butterfly knife? Why not a gun?) and making it to a computer, which is conveniently 1. on, 2. logged in (no password needed!), and 3. loaded with an easy-to-use floor plan of that very house! Sam manages to locate the exact room she wants – handily labelled “Archive Room” in big letters – and sneaks on down there. In a lovely, old-fashioned file cabinet (perhaps borrowed from MI6?), in drawer “Hi – Hu”, she finds a file with her own name on it, jam-packed with confidential information, and promptly steals it. She also discovers a file for “Katherine Morton” (hey, shouldn’t that be “Morton, Katherine” and be in the “Mi – Mu” drawer? Evil corporations just aren’t hiring good file clerks these days), her mother. That file contains documents concerning her mother’s murder, complete with gruesome crime scene photos.
Unbeknownst to Sam, opening the file drawer has set off a silent alarm and Butterfly Knife Guard is on his way to the archive room. She’s alerted to his imminent arrival by the lights flickering (inexplicable – why bother with a silent alarm if you warn the thief anyway?) and she hides. She jumps the guard when he comes in to check the file drawer and there’s a fight (yaaawwwn – I’m sorry, but Sam’s fights have lost all suspense for me). Another guard shows up; she fights both of them off but doesn’t quite render Butterfly Knife Guard helpless, meaning that he stabs her (presumably not too deeply) in the chest (just about in the same spot where Grizzled Baddie slashed her in episode two, which I find amusing), before she’s able to kill him and escape out an iron gate (leading directly outside, which seems odd) into the courtyard and away. See, if he’d had a gun, she wouldn’t have escaped. On her way across the courtyard, she neither avoids security cameras nor tries to hide her face; in fact, she looks back over her shoulder photogenically as she runs so the camera gets a really good shot. Once back in her car, she doesn’t immediately peel out as one would expect; instead, she pauses to catch her breath and inspect her wound, never mind that there might be more pursuers! Byzantium’s best agent, everyone!
Sam turns over the file, by now dramatically stained with her own blood, to Aidan, who recognizes that it holds Natalie Thorpe’s communiqués, containing the information Aidan gave her in Tangier about Sam. (Note that Sam gives Aidan the original file and doesn’t, oh say… give him copies and keep the originals herself? Sigh.) Aidan logically, if tonelessly, points out that Sam must know something about Stokes since she was held on Stokes’ estate for a period of time after her mother’s murder, and Stokes seems to want her dead. Sam replies that she doesn’t know anything and skulks back to chez Turner. Meanwhile, Keel is brought word of Sam’s extracurricular activities (news travels fast) – his reaction is his usual expressionless one – and Stokes contacts Orla Fante (Juliet Aubrey, in a vastly different role than her “Middlemarch” one, where she last appeared with Patrick Malahide) to come take care of “a problem”.
Morning at Chez Turner
It’s morning at chez Turner. Jack is shaving (with a straight razor, natch) when he gives himself a nasty nick at the mention of Fatima Zahir on the news. He seems a bit perturbed by the drop of blood that splashes into his shaving water. (I was quite relieved to find that this had nothing to do with the Mysterious Briefcase™, nosebleeds, or any dread diseases, as I’d feared it might.) Meanwhile, Stephen is studying “Alex Kent’s” police file, given to him by D.I. Everett in the previous episode. It would appear Fowkes is not the only Byzantium operative who neglects to wear gloves around crime scenes. Stephen goes to confront Sam, but finds she’s already left the house and taken Eddie with her.
Sam and Eddie have gone to an inner-city mews to visit Eddie’s pony (Grandad really is loaded) and are having a bonding moment when Stephen shows up to confront Sam. He demands that she explain what she was doing at Lewis Conroy’s offices the night before his murder (note that Stephen doesn’t call it a suicide), as per the police file; Sam goes on the offensive in return, asking if Stephen is accusing her of something and saying Lewis took her to his offices on urgent business for Jack, “Goncourt or something”. The mention of Goncourt causes Stephen to back off immediately and drop the line of questioning (Stephen, you idiot!!). He ends up apologizing, asking for Sam’s forgiveness, and inviting her to run away from chez Turner with him and Eddie.
Meeting at the Docks
Meanwhile, Turner heads off for his business that day, tailed by Fowkes, for our first best scene. He’s got a meeting with Rahim Soomro (Aaron Neil), the Pakistani government minister overseeing the dam’s sale, down at the docks, Turner’s other old stomping grounds. Fowkes sets up with a parabolic microphone and camera in a nearby parking garage in time to catch the whole thing, and also conveniently escapes the notice of either of Turner’s two henchmen. “I used to unload ships down here,” Turner reminisces, “Twenty-four hour shifts. Real work, that was. Made your hands raw. Not like the bankers I sold the land on to – men with soft hands.” “Men like me,” replies Soomro, and Turner counters that men like Soomro “have made a lot of money off the backs of men like me.” Soomro states that he’s actually quite unhappy with what Turner has done for him so far because Madame Zahir is still alive; Turner replies that doing away with whistle-blower Arthur Hill was “the main bit”, which is news to our Byzantium Spy Kids (but not to us). Turner expresses annoyance (always dangerous) that he’s “been through hoops” for Soomro, raising his bid and bumping off whistle-blowers, but Soomro keeps “moving the goalposts”; Soomro answers that the Pakistani government will be awarding the dam to the Chinese after all (the whole run-off process, which seemed to be a big deal in episode three, is never referred to).
Upping the Ante
However, Turner is by no means out of the game, and he goes on to reveal that he has more than a few tricks left up his sleeve. He says it’s not the Pakistani government, but Soomro himself who’s giving the contract to the Chinese, and furthermore that Soomro has been “bought and paid for by Polyhedrus”. Turner shrewdly points out that the Pakistani people would be “upset” to learn the dam was being sold back to Polyhedrus with the Chinese as a front, for less than it cost to build, with the Chinese assuming water control rights for a large part of central Asia. Soomro attempts to leave, but Turner calls him back, saying he was expecting a double-cross and has “proof”, aside from what was in Arthur Hill’s head, of what Polyhedrus did to get the dam built: “If word got out, their shares would tumble… cost ’em tens of billions of dollars”. Turner knows he has Soomro over a barrel, and adds with complete assurance, “You tell your masters what I said, and come back with a contract for me to sign.”
More Byzantium Antics
Back around the giant iPad (which apparently only Zoe knows how to operate) the Byzantium Spy Kids recap and discuss the plot thus far. Fowkes is given the task of obtaining the Mysterious Briefcase™ (and “curse of [his] life”) from Dave Ryder, so that Turner will lose his proof. Fowkes also openly theorizes that their client is Hector Stokes, who’d obviously want Jack Turner out of the way as real competition for the dam. I admit I found this part rather disappointing. I’d actually speculated that Turner himself was the client, which would’ve made it a lot more interesting; and I’d also guessed that Turner was going to use whatever was in the Mysterious Briefcase™ to contaminate the dam’s water, create a disaster (he likes manufactured disasters), and make money that way, so I was wrong twice. So far.
We next get more of Aidan rehashing that Sam has to try to remember what she might know about Stokes, so she can figure out why he wants to kill her (though one does wonder – surely Stokes has the money to have hired a good hitman and have Sam killed long before now; why wait some twenty years? Why wait oh-so-patiently for Byzantium’s “op” to be over? Is Sam that essential?) and use it as leverage. However, it does seem that Stokes has belatedly remedied the situation by hiring hitlady Orla Fante, who likes fast cars and wearing leather; her plan is to get close to one of Sam’s teammates and convince him or her that Orla’s interest is helping Sam. It appears she regards our old friend Blankie as her direct competition.
Aidan also meets again with Natalie Thorpe, to (inexplicably!) give her back the bloodstained original (again, no copies made!) of Sam’s file; Natalie says that she’ll figure out how it ended up in Polyhedrus’ secret archive room, when only George Ballard and “the Minister” (which one? I’ve lost track) were supposed to see it. It’s worth noting that no one acts very surprised or shocked when they see the bloodstains, or even asks what happened. We’re also shown a Blatant Clue™ in the form of an octagonal cup stain on one of the pages (yes, Spotnitz is hitting all of the clichés here; next it’ll be a lipstick-smeared cigarette butt). Natalie uses the opportunity to remind Aidan and us, the viewers, that Sam wouldn’t be happy if she was to find out “who [Aidan] really was”. Dun dun duuuunnn!! I’ll go out on a limb and speculate right now that Aidan is probably Stokes’ son or something like that, estranged from his father and in the spy biz. He and Stephen should get together over coffee and discuss overbearing, murderous fathers and family dysfunction. They might find it refreshing.
Stephen Gathers Evidence
Back at chez Turner, Sam sows a little discord by pointing out a planted newspaper item about Horst Goebel’s death to Stephen, noting that the timing is suspicious. Stephen renews his resolve to leave his father’s house with Eddie and Sam. Once they both leave, Turner gives Bingham the nod to search Stephen’s room, and Bingham discovers “Alex Kent’s” police file – which he realizes should have come to him instead of to Stephen. Rebellion in the ranks! As it turns out, Stephen rebels further by meeting with Everett and asking a bunch of leading questions about what it would take to have someone “taken care of”. Everett proves himself to be the stupidest, most useless paid stooge ever by blabbing details of the entire network to Stephen, who’s recording the whole conversation on his cell phone in order to prove that his father is responsible for Lewis’ murder. Not to worry, Everett pays for this later, most thoroughly.
Finding the Mysterious Briefcase™ At Last
Meanwhile, Fowkes goes off to beg asylum from Dave Ryder in order to find the Mysterious Briefcase™, and Zoe gets a call from her significant other/husband(?) Andrew that “an old friend” wants to see her. To cut two long stories short, Fowkes eventually finds the case after trashing Dave’s apartment, but Dave is murdered by Tyrone for it, and Fowkes has to fight his way out of the situation in a knock-down, drag-out battle that’s somehow far more convincing than any of Sam’s fights. (I felt quite sorry for poor old Dave. He was so incredibly lonely and had obviously adopted Fowkes as a sort of surrogate son. I got the impression he’d even have forgiven Fowkes for trashing his apartment.) Zoe finds Orla Fante waiting for her at her apartment and realizes something smells fishy; Dorothea Orla says she’s another security operative, like Zoe, and spins the tale that she only has Sam’s best interests at heart. If Zoe wants Sam to live, she says, she should help Orla keep Sam safe from Blankie.
While all of this is going on, Sam learns from Aidan that Horst Goebel was sponsoring a Pakistani girl, Noura (Arati Menon), to come live in London. Noura tells Sam that Polyhedrus gassed her entire village to clear the way for their dam, and that they burned her face with acid (why didn’t they just kill her?) to keep her from talking about it. Goebel collected mud samples that would prove the gassing was not due to a natural seismic event as Polyhedrus claimed. The Byzantium Spy Kids seem a bit nonplussed to learn their client company is willing to commit mass murder, but apparently killing one or two innocent bystanders (as per Keel’s orders in the previous episode) is somehow more acceptable. Fowkes returns, a little the worse for wear, with the Mysterious Briefcase™. However, when opened, it contains… rocks. Turner has deked Byzantium yet again (yeeesssss!!) as they belatedly realize Dave’s case was a decoy all along and Jack still has the real one containing proof of Polyhedrus’ misdeeds. This is later confirmed by Zoe when she studies the surveillance records and sees Turner switching cases, raising the questions of… they never noticed this before?? Didn’t anyone review all that surveillance video? What’re they taking video for if no one looks at it??
Attempted Betrayal and the Best Fight Ever!
As for Stephen, his foray to the Dark Side from the previous episode appears to have been a brief one. He arrives at a police station to meet with a Commander Brooks, presumably to rat out his old man, the fink! He’s left cooling his heels for an hour before he’s finally shown into the commander’s office, and when he gets there, he discovers… Jack waiting for him. This is by far the best scene of the episode and I actually clapped my hands in glee. 😀 The desk officer shows Stephen in, shuts the door, and stands guard in front of it with an air of studied nonchalance. Jack turns around and Stephen is visibly stunned. I was quite impressed and delighted that Turner could infiltrate a station full of cops, but when you’re a multi-millionaire crimelord, it makes perfect sense that you’d have bought off more than one police officer.
The two of them start right into it, and it’s the Best Fight Ever. “You call yourself a son? You call yourself my son?” demands Jack, and Stephen retorts, “You murdered Lewis and I can prove it!” while brandishing his cell phone. “Who’s listening?? You treacherous little shit!” says Turner, and there’s a brief but energetic scuffle for Stephen’s cell, which Turner (of course) wins. “You wanna call the police??” shouts a wild-eyed Turner, just before flinging the phone into the wall and smashing it to bits. Stephen screams that Jack will answer for everything and Turner replies, with a Finger of Doom: “Whatever you think I’ve done, you don’t betray your own blood.” After the initial explosion, Jack actually calms down a bit and starts pushing Stephen’s buttons, provocatively and very effectively. He taunts Stephen that Lewis was “knobbing” Stephen’s wife all along, and that she felt horribly guilty about it and it’s probably why she killed herself; but the thing that makes Stephen grab him by the lapels and slam him into a wall is when Jack asks if Stephen’s “taking the tart [Alex]” with him when he leaves. Personally, I think Stephen could have/should have done that when the discussion was about his wife, but whatever.
“Careful, son… you don’t like violence,” warns Turner while being mashed against the wall, but it’s obviously not Stephen’s violence he’s referring to. (My favourite line, by the way.) We know that Stephen would be no match for his old man in a fight. He might have the advantage of youth, but there’d be no way he could beat Turner in dirty fighting or sheer bloody-mindedness. Luckily for Stephen, the police commander doesn’t have any busts of Karl Marx or anyone else lying around his office. Turner continues: “She is a tart, you know. She’s being paid to screw you. She is screwing you, isn’t she?” with a knowing smile and an oddly gentle look. Stephen backs off, still disbelieving, but Turner persists, saying “Alex” is “a plant… a professional” who staged Eddie’s kidnap to gain Stephen’s trust, and (and this is was so satisfying!) planted cameras all over the library, which Bingham found. YEEEESSSS!!!! I was overjoyed that Turner figured out Sam’s game a long time ago, just as we’d guessed (hoped!) he would! It casts an entirely different light on everything that’s happened at chez Turner.
Father/Son Reconciliation (Temporarily, Anyway)
Stephen calms down and appears to be listening as Turner continues to try to persuade him: “These are powerful people we’re up against. They will use anyone, do anything, to destroy me!” Stephen finally concedes that Sam was “[his] mistake” and says he’ll get her out of the house, but Turner says they don’t want to do anything that would result in “Alex’s” employers becoming suspicious, and he’ll “deal with”Alex when the time comes. Stephen begs Jack to promise not to hurt her, and he says he won’t, but one gets the sense that he can promise that because he’ll get someone else to do it. It’s not clear at this point if Stephen is really agreeing with his father or not. He did describe Jack as “paranoid” when he met Sam at the stables, and he could just be going along with it to allay Jack’s fears, nor does he demand any proof of Jack’s accusations, but for now it seems genuine. There’s a fatherly kiss of forgiveness on the cheek, and then they go home. Wonderful scene!
The Most Sinister Tea Service Ever
Once back home, Stephen is stiff and distant and Sam (who is Byzantium’s best agent, after all) notices. Stephen says they won’t be leaving tonight, but doesn’t explain why. And in the Next Best Scene of this episode, we have the Most Sinister Tea Service Ever. A deceptively soft-spoken Turner invites “Miss Kent” (he’s so polite!) into his office for a spot of tea. It’s the first time he’s addressed any words to her directly since the first episode, let alone engaged her in conversation. He starts out by describing himself as “not an easy man” (understatement) who “[doesn’t] trust easily” (understatement), and adds that “nothing is more important to me than my family. Nothing.” (understatement) He further notes that he’d “have to be a fool not to notice” Alex’s effect on his son and grandson – with one of the scariest “grandfatherly” smiles I’ve ever seen – admonishes himself for being “too hard” on Alex, says he “wants to apologize”, and hopes she stays with them “for a long, long time”. Could the nice, tea-drinking man in the red-striped shirt, striped tie, and polka-dotted suspenders really mean anyone any harm? 😉
The music and lighting help, but Patrick Malahide is truly scary here, all the more so for his soft-spoken words (which under any other circumstances could be taken as a sincere apology) and genial smiles (which have an incredible air of menace). We catch a fleeting glimpse of a drug bottle as Turner closes his desk drawer before serving Sam the tea; I personally think this was very clumsily staged and it would have been far better not to show it at all. Turner is more than smart enough not to shut the drawer while Sam is there, or to have done it beforehand, and at any rate, why remove all the suspense by showing the bottle so blatantly? Turner’s words and manner are more than enough to suggest that something’s going on. We have to wait for the outcome anyway; the scene fades to black as Sam takes her first sip.
Next Episode Teaser
Next week’s episode teases us with Zoe planting a bomb under Turner’s vehicle, and the rest of the Byzantium Spy Kids freaking out because Sam is too close to the “kill zone” – note that the tea didn’t kill her. All I have to say about it is that if Aidan can survive an explosion unscathed from mere feet away, Jack should surely be able to as well. He’s much tougher. But Byzantium’s client Hector Stokes has told Keel to get rid of Jack and secure the evidence of Polyhedrus’ atrocity. Is it just barely possible that Stannis will decide Jack Turner is the lesser of two evils? Or perhaps Jack still has a trick or two up his cufflinked (and probably striped) sleeve? I hope it’s the latter!
We had three great, strong Turner scenes in this episode, showing different facets of our favourite crimelord. First, the dock scene, where we got just a hint of his background and the way he clawed his way up from the bottom, with signs of his canniness and being two steps ahead when he sprang his proof on Soomro. Then, the police station scene, where he was easily four steps ahead of poor Stephen and proved that he wasn’t the dupe he appeared to be. We could believe that he saw Sam despite her Sweater of Invisibility in episode four (yes, this still annoys me), was putting on an act for the cameras throughout, and maybe – just maybe – knew of all of those stupid snooping trips into his office. But the best part was Turner’s initial explosion (proving he’s very much a force to be reckoned with) and provocative button-pushing followed by gentler, almost sympathetic tones when he explained to Stephen that he’d been fooled by Sam. He was being quite fatherly there; I even thought he was a bit pleased to see that Stephen had some fire in him. Splendidly played by both Stephen Campbell Moore and Malahide, who make a very believable warring father and son. And finally, the wonderful, sinister tea service, with soft-spoken words, incredibly creepy smiles, and hidden poison. Just perfect! And all moods brilliantly played by Patrick Malahide.
We don’t want Jack Turner to go! It’s so much fun to root for a villain who obviously relishes his life and his villainy, has some principles (even if they’re evil ones) and style and strongly loves his family, rather than a morally ambiguous corporation (Byzantium) that will do anything for money and countenances the killing of innocent bystanders while its agents unconvincingly tsk-tsk disapproval over their client’s committing mass murder in a foreign land.
You can watch “Khyber” for a limited time on BBC One’s Web site.