All photos ITV
This third installment of Law & Order UK titled “Vice” is based on the original series episode “Working Mom” from season 7. Despite the fact that the story was very familiar to me after seeing the original many times over, I thought that this “remake” was well done. I am really beginning to enjoy the pairing of Brooks and Devlin, especially the colorful colloquialisms that they trade back and forth. (I think I learned many new words for “penis” in this episode!)
The other thing that interests me is how controlled the attorneys are in the courtroom, they seem subdued compared to our sometimes apoplectic Jack McCoy, where it wouldn’t be a good case unless Sam Waterston got his eyebrows knotted in a frenzy. Still, the tone set by James Steel (Ben Daniels) in the courtroom only seems to enhance the underlying tension that one would expect in a criminal trial such as this.
The one weak spot in the show is the same weak spot in the US version – Natalie Chandler, who is the equivalent of Lt. Anita Van Buren in the US version – seems underutilized. She’s one character that I think could stand a little more screen time. I enjoyed her comment to Devlin to get his foot off the table – frankly I was surprised he even put it there!
Here is the recap:
In Paddington, a young man, and accompanied by a girl, attempt to break into a car. As he does so, the car alarm goes off, and while the man continues to work, he sees a body laying in the car with him. As the police arrive and he claims he didn’t do it, the police see the dead body. Later, back at the crime scene, DS Ronnie Brooks (Bradley Walsh) is told that the man in the back seat had no ID, and was killed with a blunt instrument. DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber), who was already at the scene when Brook arrived, tells him about the two kids who found the body. They also are told the victim’s “john thomas” was hanging out. They also find the vehicle belonged to Frank McCallum, previously Detective Sergeant McCallum, who used to be a copper from Vice. Devlin says, “He’s one of us.”
At the morgue, they talk with McCallum’s wife Annie (Polly Kemp). She has been separated from her husband for 9 months. He used to be a hopeless romantic, but working for vice changed him. They had no children. Later, Josh Pritchard (Sean Pertwee) arrives who is Frank’s boss who worked at the company Battle Fieldz, Frank was their operational director. Brooks bluntly asked if Frank was into prostitutes, and Pritchard is taken aback by the question, and says that’s not the kind of conversation one has with his boss.
Back at their unit, they bring Natalie Chandler (Harriet Walter) up to speed. They haven’t found the murder weapon and some fingerprints at the scene lead nowhere. Chandler wonders if it’s a prostitute gone wrong – Devlin thinks that but Brooks does not. She suggests that they talk to the friendly neighborhood “tarts” to see what they heard.
Back in Paddington, they talk to the local “tarts.” They tip them off to a young Irish girl, Niamh (Niamh Quinn) and they ask to see what is in her purse. They see McCallum’s wallet. Back at the unit, they are questioning Niamh, and she says she just found the stuff. Devlin asks about where she is from and her family, and asks if her parents know she is there. Her mother is dead, and says her dad’s a bastard. Brooks tells her the murdered man used to be a policeman and her prints were in the car. She says the driver’s door was open and he was already dead. The wallet and phone were in there so she just took them and the keys. Brooks tells her they are charging her with theft and will keep here there. She insists he is telling the truth but Brooks says sometimes people lie.
Elsewhere, talking with the forensics guy, he says Niamh is telling the truth. There was no skin or blood from McCallum on her fingertips, and she doesn’t share the same lipstick as the killer. Devlin begins to ask where he got the lipstick trace, and the tech guy confirms it was off his “wangdoodle.” Brooks says Niamf could have other lipsticks, but the tech guy says it’s not the kind one can get in the drug store, it’s American manufacture.
They are also told that that there were text messages on Frank's mobile phone. There was a text message from a Sanchia (Annette McLauglin) saying that she must see him (Frank) tonight, and “don’t mess me about.” Sanchia is the accountant at Battle Fieldz Paintball Centre. They go to see her, and she tells them they had been on a date, he’d been asking for a while and she finally gave in. She got drunk quickly that night, and he ended up at her place. When he asked to go out with her again, she said no, and Frank threatened to blackmail her, since she works in accounts, she knows the systems, sometimes she gets people in for free or takes some of the supplies. She told Frank this when she was drunk. Devlin asked what kind of lipstick she wears, and she says none. She also said she was at the paintball center at the time of the killing.
Back at the unit, Brooks says that Sanchia’s alibi is rock solid, and Chandler says they need to know more about Frank. Devlin says he’s a classic divorce bloke, but Brooks says not all divorced men live like that. Both Brooks and Devlin are putting on ties, and Chandler asks why. Brooks says that vice is on their way down to the Golden Hind Tavern and they want to talk to them and see if they can find more about him.
Later, at the Golden Hind Tavern where there is a gathering to remember McCallum, one man says he spoke with Frank 10 days ago when Frank asked him to check on a credit card charge that seemed false which was on the company credit card. The company was legit, Velvet Holdings, and he gave Frank the information but Frank never got back to him. When Devlin asks the man if Frank was into prostitutes, the man tells Devlin to have some respect. Devlin presses – is that a yes or a no? The man said Frank was good copper, but he wore his heart on his sleeve. He thought he could help the girls, and vice is not a good place for a man like that. When Brooks asks him for a list of people Frank pissed off, the man says Frank was not like that and they’ve hit a dead end.
Back at Battle Fieldz, Brooks and Devlin question Pritchard about who is authorized for the company credit cards. While they are checking files, Brooks says to Pritchard that he thought he’s said he’d never heard of Velvet Holdings, but he sees that Battle Fieldz has made several payments to them. He says maybe a supplier changed their name, and asks Sanchia to check the invoices. Brooks says each payment was made by company credit card #2, which is Frank’s. They invoices were for miscellaneous supplies. Brooks tells Devlin to check out Velvet Holdings.
Back at the unit, it’s late and Devlin seems to be bitching about going through all the paperwork. Brooks says he can find nothing on Velvet Holdings. They decide to go to the address.
At Virtual Offices LTD., they are told the location is a clearinghouse for many business. All they do is forward letters, and a camera monitors him all the time. The clerk gives him the file on Velvet Holdings, and the mail is forwarded to a shop called Toby’s Playroom. The phone number in the file is also on Frank’s mobile phone bill, he called the shop the day before he was killed.
Later, at Toby’s Playroom, the are told by Kate Barton (Deborah Cornelius) that Velvet is a trading division of the shop, the accountants set it up. She doesn’t know who Frank is. Another woman walks in, and the woman introduces her to the detectives as Emma Sandbrook (Juliet Aubrey) who owns the shop. She says she spoke to Frank, and they supply kids products to the paintball company. He was asking about his delivery and he picked it up on Tuesday. When asked if they saw him on Wednesday, Emma waffles a bit, and then says that they didn’t see him, that’s when she and Kate went shopping, had a late lunch and did window shopping. When Brooks asks more questions, Emma asks if everything is alright with Frank, and Devlin tells her he was beaten to death Wednesday afternoon. Kate and Emma both look stunned, but Devlin and Brooks both grin, looking like they are on to something. They depart the store, and talk about the case outside.
Back at the unit, Chandler, she asks if it’s not paintballing equipment, what is the company supplying to Battle Fieldz? Devlin wonders about drugs. Brooks says the company looks legit on the surface, and she tells them to look further into it and find out exactly what they are paying for. She also tells Devlin to get his feet off the table.
They speak to someone who apparently had a transaction with Velvet Holdings, and find that it is a front for prostitution. Devlin asks him if he recognizes the woman from Toby’s Playroom, and he identifies the women at the shop as Coral and Amber.
Later, at St. Celine’s School, Brooks and Devlin approach Kate and Emma, and asks them to come to the station relating to Frank’s death. Emma objects, as they are there with their children. But Brooks says they are arresting them, and he read them their rights. Emma’s husband approaches, and when he asks what is going on and asks if it can wait, Devlin says no.
In interrogation, Brooks tells Kate there is no record of their transactions that day or evidence of their presence shopping on CCTV or on Bond Street. He asks if she has any receipts from her shopping and when she say she threw them away, Brooks says he’s been married twice and no woman throws away receipts for clothes they only just bought. He presses her on how the prostitution started. They bought a house they could not afford, her husband was cheating on her and ran up huge debts in her name and she could not cover the mortgage. He asks her if she or Emma killed Frank, and she says she was shopping all afternoon. But Brooks continues to press her, saying that by providing a false alibi to protect a killer she is in deep trouble. She says she is telling the truth.
Elsewhere, with Emma, she is telling Devlin about her money issues, putting all their money into the shop start up. Her husband Steve lost his job. She knew Kate through the boy’s school. They tried to come up with a solution and were joking about the “escorting” as a joke but then it turned serious. They went after young blokes with money and class, and when Devlin comments that it sounded like desperation, she tells him not to judge her. She knows what she is and what people will think of her. She has been doing it to keep her family together. She’s good at it and makes others feel good. Chandler enters, and tells Emma her DNA was all over the scene and on Frank’s body, and on the tool kit in the back of his car. She says it was from Tuesday, when he came to the shop and she helped load his car. But Chandler said they found the blush lipstick in her home, which was also found on Frank’s body. She calmly says she is not a murderer, but Chandler says they are charging her with the murder of Frank McCallum.
At the Crown Prosecution Service, Crown Prosecutors James Steel (Ben Daniels) and Alesha Phillips (Freema Agyeman) review the case with their boss, George Castle (Bill Paterson). They are going to use her motive to help prop up their case, but the women were very cautious in conducting business. As they talk, defense barrister Phyllis Gladstone (Lesley Manville) barges in; she is representing Emma. She is standing on the sexual exploitation of woman for her argument. When they tell her they have DNA, she scoffs. When she asks about motive, Castle orders her out, and she concludes they don’t have a motive worked out as yet. She chuckles as Castle throws her out of his office, saying she’ll tell her client. Phillips notes that Gladstone is impossible, and Steel adds, “and brilliant.” Castle tells them to prod the husband for motive.
Outside Toby’s Play Room, where the word “WHORE” is painted across the whole face of the storefront, Steel and Phillips talk to Emma’s husband Steve. He is trying to get the paint off. He gets annoyed when they refer to Emma as a prostitute, but the apologizes. He says sometimes it is too much to take in. Before they got married he told Emma that if she ever slept with anyone else he would be out, no discussion and no second chances. When Steele asks why he is still with her, he said he couldn’t do it. Maybe he should take their son and go, but there is no off switch when you love someone, he wants to keep the family together. When Steel adds that’s as long as that doesn’t include lying for them, Steve says he told them everything she told him.
Back at the CPS, Phillips says that that Frank McCallum’s credit cards records show that every time there was a Velvet Holdings charge, there is a charge the same day for Hotel 103. She wonders if they had a falling out. Steel tells her to check out the hotel staff for information. Later, at the CCTV office at Hotel 103, she sees them on the video, entering the elevator. But, when the man turns around, it is not Frank – it’s Josh Pritchard.
Later, Steel and Phillips confront Pritchard about his lie to the police. He says he’s sorry but to stop going on about it. He swears he had nothing to do with Frank’s death and neither did Amber….he corrects himself and says Emma. Phillips asks what Frank was doing in a car with Emma. He says that he asked Frank to find her, she had told Josh she didn’t want to see him any longer and he does not know why, she said it was nothing personal. He wanted a relationship, not a transaction. She stopped returning his calls, and since Frank was with the police, he asked him to help find her. He said he loves her.
As they walk down the street, Steel comments that Frank lied to his old friend about why he needed information on Velvet Holdings. It wasn’t credit card fraud, he wanted to find Emma for Josh. This means Frank knew everything about her, her name, her family, etc. Phillips asks if that’s why she got into his car, rather than meet him at a hotel room? She didn’t meet him for sex at all, he picks her up, drives her somewhere else, where he threatens to tell all unless she sleeps with him whenever he wants. Steel concludes Emma’s motive was to keep her family together, and that Frank threatened to expose her secret and tear her family apart.
Later, Steel tells his theory to Gladstone. He adds that Emma put lipstick on Frank’s penis to make it look like it was prostitution. He makes an offer that if she pleads guilty to manslaughter and Frank’s widow is spared the embarrassment and trauma of a trial, if she refuses the offer he will try her on bigger charges. Gladstone says he will make the suggestion to the client.
Afterwards, Steel brings Castle up to date on the offer. Phillips approaches and tells them that Emma wants to confess. Later, in interrogation, she tells them that she didn’t want the information getting out, and said Frank said he wouldn’t say anything as long as she gave him sex free of charge whenever he wanted. She didn’t want that, and when she tried to get out of the car, he grabbed her at the wrist, and then by the hair, and pulled her head down into his crotch and forced her to perform oral sex. She was struggling and managed to get into the back of the car, and he came after her and she was trapped. He was clawing at her and pulling at her clothes, she took a spanner (for US readers – a crescent wrench) out of the tool kit and swung it at him to protect herself, she thought he was going to kill her.
Outside the interrogation room, Steel can’t believe Gladstone is using attempted rape as a defense. Gladstone said when the jury hears her story, they won’t convict her. Later, Castle, Steel, and Phillips speculate why Emma didn’t use the rape story before, Phillips wonders if it’s because she didn’t think she would be believed. Steel tells her unless she can find proof of her theory, he is going forward as he still owes the victim justice. Steel thinks he has a good case.
Before the Crown v Sandbrook trial starts on day 1, Gladstone says Emma’s husband corroborated the story and is helping to discover the murder weapon. Steel says now Emma has others lying for her, and the lies won’t be sustained under pressure. On the third day of the trial, Gladstone is questioning Frank’s friend about Frank’s work with prostitution when he was with vice, apparently there were complaints from prostitutes that they were arrested after they refused to have sex with Frank. He says the complaints were not upheld, it was an easy excuse for prostitutes. No one else in the squad had those kinds of complaints, though. Steel questions asks if those complains alleged Frank used violence, and he said no. He said the complaints were thorough investigated and the charges cold not be supported.
Afterwards at the CPS, Phillips tells Steel they found no saliva in the lipstick found on the body. This contradicts Emma’s account that she was forced to perform oral sex. Forensics also looked further and wondered why, if his penis was out at the time of the attack that there was no blood on it, only lipstick? Steel concludes it wasn’t out, which means the lipstick was applied after she killed Frank. They hear a knock on the door, and Annie McCallum, Frank’s wife, enters. She was in court, she insists Frank was not a rapist, who is speaking out for him? Steel says that they are.
Back at trial, Emma’s husband Steve is on the stand. He says they are a family, their son needs their mom, and despite of everything she supports his wife. He didn’t agree with selling the sex but is certain she is telling the truth about what happened in the car. Steel then asks if it is difficult being continually humiliated by his wife, and the judge tells Steel to ask pertinent questions. He goes on to ask why when Emma told him his story he did not tell her to go to the police, and he says that they wouldn’t believe her. Steel says he must have thought they would find out about Emma, and pressures that none of this is the truth. He continues to press him, bringing up his original statement that Emma was not there. Was he lying then or is he lying now? Can anything he says be believed?
Kate is now on the stand, and Gladstone asks if she was ever asked to do something she did not want to do. She said one man threatened her with a carving knife so she allowed him to rape her. She said if she refused she may have been killed. Steel asks about Emma’s suggestions to be prostitutes, and Kate says it was supposed to only be short term. Emma wanted out before Steve discovered. Steel realizes she has just made an important comment, and asks no further questions. Gladstone looks concerned. They have as short adjournment. Steel whispers to Phillips that he needs Emma’s police statement and her husband’s.
Afterwards, Emma is on the stand recounting her experience for Gladstone. She said she did not go to the police as they would only see a whore, she was trying to protect her family. Steel questions her, asking how many strangers have paid her to have sex with her? Steve looks on, embarrassed. She says 80, maybe 90 men. She is not proud of being a prostitute, and is sometimes ashamed. Steel asks why she wanted to stop, and when she asked him what did he think, the judge reminds her that it is her evidence. She says it’s because she has a husband and son and couldn’t live with herself unless she stopped. When Steel asks if she was worried that her husband would leave her as he previously threatened, and she answers she never meant to hurt Steve. Steel then asks if Frank threatened to tell Steve she had to kill him, but Emma says that he raped her. Steel says she hit him 14 times with the spanner, a frenzied attack. She repeats that he was attacking her, but Steel continues to press and she begins to shout back at him, denying it saying that is not how it was. He asks at what point he actually lost consciousness that she cold manage to get out of the car. She doesn’t know, and Steel says she doesn’t know because her story is lie. Emma continues her denial and Steel drops the bomb that there was no saliva found in the lipstick on Frank. The attack was not self defense. Gladstone looks defeated.
Afterwards, Emma rises to hear the jury’s verdict. The find her guilty of murder. Emma is shocked and she begins to sob, as Steve and Kate look on, upset. She looks at Steve, and he begins to cry. Steel and Phillips look on as Emma sobs uncontrollably.
In the court hall, Phillips wonders why Emma didn’t take the first offer. Steel says there is always more than one victim, and it was the right verdict for Frank McCallum. Justice has been done. Phillips nods in agreement, and as they walk off, we fade to black.
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