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Recap / Endeavour S 8 E 01 Striker

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There are some blows from which one never quite recovers.

The football episode.

February 1971. A parcel bomb explodes and kills Maggie Widdowson, a young secretary at Lonsdale College. Meanwhile a threat is made by the Provisional IRA on the life of Northern Irish footballer Jack Swift, who plays for local side Oxford Wanderers. Morse is assigned to protect Swift, which he is not happy about due to his lack of interest in football and the fact that he would rather be investigating the death of the secretary. Still reeling from the events of "Zenana", he's drinking more heavily than normal.


This episode contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Morse is starting to show signs of this, swigging from a hip-flask while on duty.
  • Always Murder: A given with Endeavour. This episode has two murders, neither of which are connected to each other in terms of motive, although the killer is the same; a third is prevented by Morse and Thursday. Another police officer is shot in the denouement, although it's stated towards the end that he has survived and will likely "pull through".
  • Blackmail Backfire: Maggie Widdowson found out about a nefarious plot between the Master of Lonsdale College (her boss) and the chairman of Oxford Wanderers. She tried to blackmail them ... and they decided to kill her rather than buy her silence.
  • British Footy Teams: Of the fictional variety. Jack Swift plays for Oxford Wanderers of the First Division. John Paul Martinelli, a younger player tipped to replace Swift, plays for the lower-division Cowley Town ... who happen to be playing Wanderers in an FA Cup tie which goes to a replay. It's speculated that if Wanderers sign Martinelli, Swift will be loaned out to Fulchester. Said speculation is rendered moot when Martinelli is murdered shortly after the replay.
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  • The Bus Came Back: Joan, who was absent for Series 7, has returned. In-universe, she was away working in Stevenage but in actual fact Sara Vickers, the actress who plays her, did not work on Series 7 as she was away on maternity leave.
  • Call-Back: To the pilot episode, when Thursday says of Morse that he's "no more the kid who got off the coach from Carshall Newtown".
  • Call-Forward: To the novels and the original series. Widdowson, the surname of the first murder victim, is also the surname of a female character in Last Bus to Woodstock — although she was called Sue in the novel and Mary in the TV adaptation. In the novel, she was the murderer, although in the adaptation it was a case of accidental death.
  • Continuity Snarl: Before telling him that he's been assigned to bodyguarding Swift, Fred Thursday asks Morse if he's into football. Had he recalled the events of "Nocturne" in Series 2 (set five years previously, during the 1966 World Cup), he'd've known that Morse neither knows nor cares about football. He might be being sarcastic, though, as Morse's disinterest in football makes him the ideal person for bodyguarding Swift, as he's unlikely to be star-struck by hanging around with professional footballers.
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  • Contrived Coincidence: Both football matches — the original cup tie between Oxford Wanderers and Cowley Town, followed by the subsequent replay — are settled by Jack Swift scoring from a direct free kick in injury time; the equaliser for the first match (thus setting up the replay), the winner for the second.
  • Domestic Abuse: Joan is now running a shelter that takes in abused women and their children. One of the women in her care is Frida O'Rourke (Maggie Widdowson's sister), who has escaped from her violent husband and taken her children with her. Later on, Sarah Sellers is shown to have been beaten up by her husband, George, who was jealous that she had been with John Paul Martinelli.
  • False Flag Operation: The IRA threat against Swift is eventually revealed to have been one of these. The threat was actually made by a loyalist terrorist group, who planned to have Swift killed for raising money for the IRA — although he had actually taken part in a charity event to raise money for Northern Irish youth groups and had been unaware that the IRA had taken a cut of the proceeds. Given the threat, his death would have likely been blamed on the IRA.
  • Fictional Counterpart: As with Oxford colleges in the Morseverse, so with football teams. Oxford Wanderers is this for the real-life Oxford United.
  • Formerly Fat: Jim Strange has lost a lot of weight since Series 7. In-universe, this could be explained by the fact that he's been on medical leave after being stabbed in "Zenana", although this is only alluded to with a brief "welcome back" and no further explanation. A possible case of Dyeing for Your Art on the part of actor Sean Rigby.
  • Historical Domain Character: Eamonn Andrews, presenter of This is Your Life. He's played by Lewis MacLeod, who also played Eamonn Andrews in Hattie, a 2011 biopic of Hattie Jacques. The circumstances in which Jack Swift is presented with the This is Your Life red book (Andrews 'interrupts' a fashion show that Swift is attending) are reminiscent of the circumstances in which George Best was presented with it in 1971, the year in which this episode is set.
  • Is This Thing On?: Maggie found out about Fenner and Stamfield's plan to let the football club's lease on their ground expire and then sell the land to property developers, netting a tidy profit for both of them, because Stamfield left his dictaphone on while they had their conversation. Maggie, being Stamfield's secretary, collected his dictaphone tapes to type up his letters as per usual, and so found out about their plan by accident. She then decided to blackmail them, which didn't end well for her.
  • Mistaken Identity: It is initially assumed that Martinelli is killed because he is mistaken for Swift, given that he's found dead wearing Swift's number 10 shirt (the two had swapped shirts at the end of the match) — despite the fact that it would be very difficult to mistake the two as they do not look like each other. Ultimately subverted, though, as the killer really was going for Martinelli here, although he also intends to kill Swift, albeit for a completely different reason.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: There are plenty of references to Britain adopting decimal coinage, "Decimal Day" being 15th February 1971. The Max Bygraves song "Decimalisation", part of the substantial public information campaign, is played shortly before the parcel bomb explodes. There was also a postal strike in Britain at the time, which plays a key role in the investigation of the parcel bomb as it — and the Valentine's card Maggie opened just before the bomb went off — could not have been delivered by post. It's also speculated that the parcel bomb could be the work of the Angry Brigade, a far-left terrorist group operating in Britain in the early 1970s. Their bombing campaign targetted banks, embassies and Conservative MPs, resulting in property damage but no deaths — the latter of which is suggested by Morse as a reason for the Lonsdale bomb not being their work as it was clearly intended to kill. He's right.
  • Red Herring: Morse overhears a conversation in which a man with an Irish accent says he'll "get" Swift when he's invited onto the stage at the end of the fashion show at the hotel. Fearing the worst (given that Swift has police protection because the IRA has been threatening to kill him), he calls in reinforcements ... only for the set-up to be for TV; the Irishman is Eamonn Andrews, the presenter of This is Your Life. And Swift is the featured celebrity in the show's latest episode.
  • Ship Tease: Strange, needing a plus-one to take to his Masonic Lodge's dinner-dance, asks Joan — with whom he has hitherto been on no more than friendly terms — if she'll go with him. She says yes. note 
  • Shout-Out: Among the fictional football teams that exist in the Morseverse is Fulchester, the side Billy the Fish plays for in Viz.
  • Valentine's Day Episode: A very downplayed example. Prior to her untimely death, Maggie Widdowson received two Valentine's cards, one at her home (from her boyfriend) and the other at work (from a secret admirer). The police are keen to find out who sent the latter, as the parcel bomb was also sent to her desk at around the same time.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Surprisingly little is mentioned of the climax of Series 7, which saw Morse travel to Venice to arrest Ludo and Violetta, and Thursday follow him out there. It ended with Ludo shooting Violetta, who died in Morse's arms, and then getting shot by Thursday although whether or not he died wasn't confirmed. Morse was also shown in what looked like an Italian police interview room. None of these various loose ends are tied up (or in some cases even acknowledged) in this episode.

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