Analysis of a Scene XXXIX: Cool Confident Chisholm

Cool, confident Chisholm.  His nails are more important than those two.

Time for a look at another one of our favorite scenes. This time we’ll be analyzing a brilliant DS Chisholm moment from Minder S02E12 “Caught in the Act, Fact.” (Recap here.) We particularly love this episode because Chisholm is very cool, collected and droll.

Just so you know what is going on, Arthur got Terry a “minding” job keeping an eye on a Lady Margaret Thompson who is also a magistrate. Unfortunately, she is also a total kleptomaniac. Her husband told Arthur to make sure Terry fully understood this little flaw in her character, but Arthur kept that tidbit to himself in order to ensure Terry would take the job.

Terry caught holding the bag full of nicked goods.

Shock, horror! Terry escorted her while shopping where she took advantage of a five-fingered discount. Of course, Terry was the one left holding the bag (literally) and was taken in by the store detective while Lady Margaret made a very smooth getaway completely unnoticed.

To make matters worse, earlier in the episode Terry’s fingerprints were found on a car that had been used in a robbery. There weren’t enough prints to secure a conviction or even a formal charge, but it certainly put Terry right on Chisholm’s well-honed radar. Let’s just say, Cheerful Charlie is living up to his nickname at the moment.

“Listen, I’m innocent…”

[The scene opens in the police interview room.]

Terry: Listen! I’m innocent. There is no way I’m going to plead guilty to something I didn’t do.

Chisholm: I don’t see you got much choice, Terry.

Terry: Oh, do leave it out. I mean you know I didn’t do it.

Chisholm: All I know is that you and your fellow conspirator here have given me a story that’s going to be laughed out of court.

“I don’t see you have much choice, Terry.”

Admin: You can see right away that Chisholm is very comfortable having the upper hand. He knows that their attempt to prove it really was Lady Margaret who stole the goods is going to go nowhere fast. You can hear the amusement in his voice.

RF:  Yeah, Chisholm is enjoying this, especially after failing to find enough evidence to make charges stick over Terry’s fingerprints on that getaway car.  This is a far cry from the usual Wile E. Coyote version of Chisholm, who frequently ends up with Terry and Arthur running rings around him.  He’s very calm, cool, and confident.

“This is a gross breach of human rights.”

Daley: Conspirator? I demand to speak to my lawyer.

Chisholm: Shut it, Arthur, will ya’.

Daley: [Rises] This is a gross breach of human rights and a diabolical abuse of police power. I wish to make a formal protest.

Chisholm: Arthur, I’ll tell you this once only: You are only walking free cause I give you license. I only put up with you because I’m too busy trying to capture real villains and can’t be pissed about with a bit of petty. You want to make a formal complaint, that’s fine with me. It’ll be no problem to get a warrant and take a look at the goods and chattels you got tucked away in that lock-up of yours. Take my meaning? [Arthur sits down.]

“Shut it, Arthur.”

Admin: Well, he’s not so amused now. He gets fed up when Daley starts bleating on about “human rights” and “police power.” I like the calm and controlled way he lets Daley know that he is only walking free because Chisholm gives him license to do so. This is a vastly different Chisholm from the one who is fixated on nabbing Daley. Some of his humour returns when his eyes roll and he mildly threatens Daley with a search warrant. That has the old spiv sitting down soon enough.

“…I’m too busy trying to capture real villains and can’t be pissed about with a bit of petty”

RF:  I like how Chisholm isn’t the least bit impressed by Arthur’s bluster.  He knows it’s all bafflegab that Arthur thinks will sound impressive.  And as you say, it’s refreshing to see a Chisholm for whom Arthur is one of the least of his priorities; he’s got far better things to do.  Nonetheless, he still knows how to threaten Arthur with something that actually makes an impression.  If this version of Chisholm had been on the Orient Express, he’d have busted the entire gang and been promoted by the end of the trip.

Admin:  I love the word “bafflegab.” 🙂  It describes Arthur perfectly.

Terry: [to Arthur ] Well, do something, I’m being fitted up here, int I. I mean you know Thompson. You can prove it.

“I played golf with the man.”

Daley: Yeah, he’s right, Mr. Chisholm.

Chisholm: Mr. Thompson’s never heard of you.

Daley: Never heard…look we grew up in the same street. I played golf with the man.

Chisholm: I don’t care if you claim to sleep with him, Arthur. When it comes to your word against his, there’s no contest.

Terry: Listen! I can subpoena him and his wife. Get them in court under oath, they’ll have to tell the truth.

Chisholm: [mockingly]  Such touching faith.

But Mr. Thompson has never heard of Daley.

Admin: Chisholm drops a few truth bombs here. He knows there is no way Terry can pin this on Lady Margaret (even though she’s guilty as sin) when he was the only one the store detective noticed. And of course the minding job was 100% under the table. You can blame Arthur for that because he insisted on taking cash when offered a check. Sometimes a paper trail is a good thing, Arthur. I love Chisholm’s sarcastic “such touching faith” over Terry’s belief that the Thompsons would tell the truth.

RF:  Yeah, there’s no way Thompson is going to allow Lady Margaret to be subpoenaed, especially since he’s already got her stashed away in a private sanitarium.  And as you say, the minding job was completely under the table.  Even if Chisholm suspected there was some truth to Terry’s story, he knows there’s no way Terry can prove it.  Not that he’s overly concerned about helping Terry prove his innocence as it is.

Admin:  Helping Terry certainly isn’t on the top of his priorities list.

Terry: What, well, I know their house. I can describe it. I mean that proves I know them, don’t it.

Chisholm: Oh, that’s interesting. They were burgled a couple of months ago.

Terry: Oh, do leave it out. You’re not sticking that on me and all.

“Oh, that’s interesting. They were burgled a couple of months ago.”

Admin: Chisholm’s mild surprise when Terry claims to know about their house is so cute 🙂 It is just getting better and better for him.

RF: Chisholm remains calm and cool-headed while Terry gets progressively angrier.  You can even see Terry’s face beginning to go pink, while Chisholm hasn’t changed posture since he sat down.  I also like that he has the information about the burglary already available at his (metaphorical) fingertips.  😉  He’s not even pressing his advantage particularly hard, because he seems to know it’s all going to fall into place.

Admin:  That’s right, he trotted the burglary charge out very quick.  He really is a twenty-four hour copper. 😉

“I’m just a hard-working cop who likes to get through the day with the least aggravation.”

Chisholm: I’m just trying to point out the facts of life to you, Terry. [stands up] In case I’m not getting through to you it goes something like this. Lady Margaret is not only a magistrate, she’s a well respected and liked member of the community and well known for her various good works in the field of charity.

He’s not into unnecessary paperwork.

You, Terry, are a nobody. A nobody with form at that. Me, I’m just a hardworking cop who likes to get through the day with the least aggravation. Which means I don’t want to spend time doing unnecessary paperwork, calling unnecessary witnesses, and wasting hours in court on what is a cut-and-dry case. Now you may or may not be innocent, but frankly I don’t care cause you…and you, Arthur…are well overdue for a warning. Take my meaning?

Admiring the grim scenery.

Admin: I love that bit. Chisholm’s description of the lofty Lady Margaret’s life is immediately juxtaposed by the grim, grey vision outside the window highlighting the contrast between those in the room and Lady Margaret. And again, we see more of the cooler Chisholm who has better things to do than waste time with a couple of “nobodies” like Arthur and Terry. Harsh language, but he’s clearly trying to spell things out to poor Terry.

RF:  Chisholm’s exactly right about how the whole thing would appear in a court of law.  I also like that he throws in a bit of physical leaning – emphasizing his words while doing a bit of intimidation – as well as using a more intense tone and a very direct stare when he mentions the “cut-and-dried case”.  He’s also right that there’s loads Arthur and Terry have gotten away with, even if they’re innocent on this one.  He’s being more ruthless here than he might otherwise be, but he does have his reasons.

Admin:  Agreed. His body language is very effective, especially during that bit.

Amused at Terry’s request to confront Lady Margaret (she’s been committed to a sanitarium)

Terry: Listen, hold on, look why don’t you take me to see the lady, huh?

Daley: Yeah, let him confront her.

Terry: I mean, I don’t understand it, she seemed so nice.

Chisholm: Can’t do I’m afraid, Terry. Seems she’s had some sort of nervous breakdown. Mr. Thompson has her in a private sanitarium where she is incommunicado for the likes of you and me.

“Can’t do I’m afraid, Terry.”

Admin: Chisholm is amused again. This is an interesting part because it is a massive clue that indicates Terry is telling the truth. I’m pretty sure Chisholm generally believes him, but there is genuinely nothing he can do to properly pin it on Lady Margaret.  Plus, he doesn’t actually care enough to do so because he sees Terry and Arthur as a dodgy pair.  It is quite egalitarian of him to say “the likes of you and me,” but that really means he can’t contact her. He’s actually being honest.

RF:  True that it’s a massive clue that Terry’s telling the truth, but Chisholm knows it wouldn’t be worth his job to insist on seeing Lady Margaret while she’s in a sanitarium.   I also have to wonder if there isn’t some rule about letting suspects confront witnesses and/or other suspects, whether with supervision or not.  Chisholm have a very pleased little smile on his face as he explains this, even as he acknowledges that he and Terry are both on the wrong side of the class divide.

“Gah! This is ridiculous.”

Terry: Gah! This is ridiculous.

Chisholm: Oh, not really. You could look on it as a bit of a result. I mean that Kentish town blag is still on the cards now, isn’t it? The thing is I can’t drop this hoisting charge because the store want to press it, and there’s no out from that. [sits down again] So, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You cop a plea and I’ll try and make it easy for you. Leave out some of your past form and the verbals, say you’ve been cooperative, whatever. It’s the best I can do.

“I mean that Kentish town blag is still on the books.”

Admin: Oooh, the quick reminder of the Kentish town blag is sharp one, and Chisholm is quite pointed with it. But, he is being as reasonable as he can logically be. It seems he would like to drop the charge, but the store is determined to press on. So, his hands are tied. But, since he probably does believe Terry’s story about Lady Margaret, he’s prepared to do what he can to stop Terry from getting a custodial sentence by having him plead guilty.


“You cop a plea, and I’ll try and make it easy for you.”

RF:  Yeah, Chisholm was likely quite disappointed at having to let Terry go over the getaway car, so he certainly hasn’t forgotten it – I don’t think he forgets anything, come to think of it.  He’s still being very calm and reasonable – one might even say “kind”, but that’s because he knows he finally has Terry dead to rights on something.  And as he says, dropping the shoplifting charge is out of his hands because of the store, so even if he wanted to let Terry go free, he can’t.  Not that he wants to, of course.

“Every cloud has its silver lining, Terry.”

Terry: Cor, that’s terrific, innit.

Daley: Every cloud has its silver lining, Terry, at least it means I can personally go into the box on your behalf as a character witness.

Chisholm: [looks amused]

An anticipatory smirk when Arthur says he’ll be Terry’s character witness in court 🙂

Admin: The look on Chisholm’s face when Arthur promises to support Terry as a character witness is delightful. I have a feeling Arthur Daley is the last person Chisholm would choose to be a character witness. 😀

RF:  You’d only want Arthur as your character witness if you really wanted to spend some time in jail.  Chisholm’s Cheshire Cat smirk of satisfaction is due to the fact he knows that even if the store’s evidence isn’t sufficient to convict Terry, Arthur’s testimony surely will be.  He’s probably rarely had such a good day of Community Policing™.


So cool, butter wouldn’t melt.

Admin: This is such a good scene.  The episode itself was a bit hit and miss. There was a subplot where Arthur devised a scheme involving conning kids with goldfish that was kind of hokey.  And Lady Thompkins, although very well played by Angela Browne, wasn’t as well-drawn as she could have been.  I really would have liked to have seen her shoplifting, but I think the goldfish stuff got in the way of some of the storytelling.  However, all the Chisholm scenes were fantastic and really made the episode.  His incredulity at Terry’s and Arthur’s naiveté, overall body language, and utter amusement at being handed such a cut and dry case are fantastic.  He isn’t bothered in the slightest that Terry is likely innocent nor that Lady Margaret is clearly (a somewhat stereotypical) rich lady klepto.  He’s got an easy job to do and can rest soundly, happy that Terry and Arthur are getting their well overdue warnings. 🙂

RF:  Agreed that the goldfish subplot was a bit humdrum.  I think it mostly served to free up Terry for “minding” Lady Margaret, which set the ball rolling on the main action.  I also agree that this was one of Chisholm’s better episodes.  We rarely got to see him so cool, confident, and in control of a situation, and it was great to see him have his Moment of Win.  He didn’t get many of those, since the deck was usually stacked against him.  And it was very enjoyable watching Mr. Malahide conveying Chisholm having the upper hand for a change, through his overall demeanour, language, and small nuances of expression.  He didn’t even gloat when he could have!  Now that’s some restraint.  😉

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