Life on Mars – S2 Ep4

The key party!

This episode is the reason “The Story in Your Eyes” used to be my ringtone.  Anything that reminds me of the key party episode is always good for a smile.

The funny thing is, when they first mention the key party, I didn’t quite get it.  When Denise says that this is the sort of party where the men put their car keys on the table, I thought “they drink a lot and are acting responsibly?”  But key parties were a bit different in the 70s, as is soon explained, and, happily, illustrated.  But, when rewatching the episode for the recap, I realized that there’s a lot more going on in this episode than just the delicious key party.

Sam holding antennaFirst, there’s Sam’s inability to connect with 2006, and how it really pisses him off.  The ringing phone isn’t for him, and he can’t get anything on the TV — not even (possibly) evil Test Pattern Girl.  He’s fitting in great in 1973, but he’s quite flustered about the absence of contact.  Is he losing his connection and ending up stuck here?  He couldn’t bear it.

Second, there’s Annie.  She’s the subject of a squadroom joke when she arrives late — due to a suspect copping a feel (“upstairs outside,” as the blokes would say) and running off.  But it robbed her of her dignity as an officer.  You can tell because she keeps calling Sam “Sir,” when he asks how she’s doing — she’s upset so she’s put her wall up and won’t treat him as a friend.  Sam blows it by offering to walk her home — she doesn’t need his protectiveness here; she needs to regain her authority.  You see her try when they run down Denise outside the Beauvoir office, she catches the girl (who was a victim and witness, but not a suspect) and pretty roughly grabs her — you almost expect Annie to throw her against the wall.  She’s trying to show she’s still a tough cop who can do her job.  She’ll get her shot at redemption at the key party, though, not to worry.

Hey, Annie! Eyes up here!

Third, and most interesting, there’s Sam and Annie.  Annie is a natural at undercover work — she knows just what to say to make Twillings interested in inviting them to the key party.  But she’s so good at it — like feeding Sam the bit of pineapple hedgehog — she’s actually better at fitting in here than he is.  Or is Sam simply startled because the idea of Annie as his wife is appealing?  She’s certainly been flirting wildly with him during the whole episode (starting from when they were working on their cover story).  Sam flirts back, too, when he offers to walk Annie home at the end of the episode — now the offer isn’t from a protector, but from someone who might be interested in her on a personal level.  And when Sam turns to leave, Annie’s eyes drop to check out his bum as he walks away.

Their cover story, by the way?  Tony and Cherie Blair?  This is more of Sam just amusing himself (and us) with modern references.  Gordon and, er, “Suki” Brown?  That’s just fun.

By the time Gene has crashed the key party, he’s pretty much on his game.  But there’s something odd about him at the start of the episode.  When he first learns of the crushed red geranium in the hand of the victim, he immediately thinks he might have arrested the wrong man for prior red-geranium-marked murders.  That’s Gene Hunt thinking he might have arrested the wrong man.  When has Gene ever thought he arrested the wrong man, when there’s a perfectly logical (or even illogical) alternative available?  Is this more evidence that Gene is growing as a person/detective?  He’s willing to consider being wrong, without fearing that anyone would think less of him for it.

Sam unnecessarily rescues Annie (and spoils the screencap)

But none of that really matters — the whole point of this episode is to get Sam, Gene and Annie at the key party.  The way they each react to the situation is just a perfect illustration of who they are.  Sam is cautious and respectful; Gene jumps into the moment with gusto; and Annie, to their great surprise, regains her authority.  With a whip.

I hadn’t noticed, until this particular re-watching, how Annie dealt with the moment when Gene entered.  She had been willing to strip down to her bra in front of Sam and the other party guests, but she pulled at her shirt to cover herself when Gene came in.  It fit the role she was playing — as “Gordon Brown” was a party-crasher — but I couldn’t help but think that she didn’t want to be exposed in front of her boss.

Welcome to Britain:

Black forest gateau is just black forest cake.  Sometimes, the English just use French words.  (In this regard, see also “serviette.”)

This is actually a note for the next episode, but you might want to look into Camberwick Greena children’s show done with stop-motion animation puppetry.  Every episode starts with a rotating music box, which opens to reveal the puppet central to the episode.