The show’s hit a nice stride lately; this episode’s rather good, with little in common with the previous two other than Ashleigh Cummings’s detective skills continuing to develop. Otherwise, the setting is all different—Essie Davis has drug Cummings out to a vineyard (after telling her they were going to a farm but didn’t want to tell her about the wine) to meet a new client. Only the client’s dead when they get there and everyone in town is giving them the cold shoulder and worse.
Even more concerning is the local law enforcement (David Field) seems to be covering up evidence and whenever Davis tries to call him on it, he threatens her. Though the whole town is threatening them, complete with snakes hidden in their room and guns getting stolen.
It’s very tensely executed, Davis and Cummings far from home and their regular supporting cast. Davis calls and gets Nathan Page to head out—it’s a rural town—before they’re able to get the investigation going properly.
Almost complicating the investigation is the victim’s brother, James Saunders, being unhelpful to the point he’s suspicious. Everyone in the town—save maybe kindly doctor Geoff Morrell and his daughter, Ramona Von Pusch—is hostile. Hotelier Geneviève Picot is terrifying.
So lots of rural empty night tension and scares—excellent direction from Catherine Millar. Even when Page arrives, it doesn’t seem like Field is going to let the big city copper make any difference. Very interesting to see Page’s authority ignored.
Meanwhile, Hugo Johnstone-Burt has decided it’s time to propose to Cummings and is trying his best to make it romantic—with Page’s help—only Cummings sees it as Johnstone-Burt doing a slapdash job of investigating. It’s real cute, real funny. This episode’s the second time I’ve noticed Chris Corbett’s credit as writer; he’s doing a rather good job.
The acting—from Field, Picot, Morrell, Von Pusch, Saunders, Davis, Page—is particularly excellent.
Also there may be another Phryne Fellow but it’s unclear how far things went when Davis was stomping grapes….