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'Mi-5,' Episode Forty-One Recap: 'The Message'

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Previously on Mi-5

Given permission to do full surveillance on a world-changing international summit, the Mi-5 team uncovers a terrible assassination plot. For more, read the full episode recap here.

This Week's Episode: "The Message"

Written by: Zinnie Harris
Directed by: Kenneth Glenaan

On her way to an underground tube station, Ruth (Nicola Walker) helps a passenger (Jonathan Barlow) by exchanging his bank note for some change, but when she chases him down to give him his leftover change, she can do nothing as he fatally jumps in front of a moving subway train. Immediately calling boss (and former lover) Harry (Peter Firth), she admits that her spy alarm went off, considering that the bank note the man gave her might be a drop. Harry talks her down, telling her that she's letting the stress of her work get to her, only to hang up, make a visit to the crime scene, and confirm with a uniformed officer there on the dead man's identity. Whoever he was, he was of absolute interest to the security services.

Whatever secret Harry is keeping from Ruth doesn't last long, though, when she stops him at headquarters, tells him she's done some digging, and that the dead name was Mik Maudsley, the head of security for southeast prisons. More importantly, Maudsley was present at Cotterdam Prison two weeks earlier where, in the midst of a terrible fire, seven terrorists went up in flames while the other 240 inmates were evacuated to safety. Not an awful tragedy considering the victims, but there is no mention of any of this in a Special Branch report on Maudsley Ruth just happened to intercept hours before Harry's meeting with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

At the meeting, Harry immediately confronts JIC chairman Oliver Mace (Tim McInnerny), asking why the Cotterdam fire is being buried. Harry's vote of no confidence in Mace gets no support, and he leaves the meeting with his tail between his legs. Outside, though, Mace stops him and suggests that Harry choose his battles. "Cotterdam is unimportant," Mace tells him, as seven dead terror suspects are not worth anybody's energy.

Never one to go down without a fight, Mace's warning only lights a fire under Harry's rear, and he gathers the Mi-5 team, Ruth included, to get to the bottom of this cover-up. After a debriefing on the seven dead terror suspects, all members of the deadly extremist group Acts of Truth, and proof that the once-bankrupt Maudsley died with a full bank account, the team is all caught up on the hypothetical conspiracy: Somebody murdered the terrorists, an act of vigilantism that the moral Harry will not stand for.

Working halfway in secret (as Harry is the only one who knows of her interaction with Maudsley), Ruth via Malcolm (Hugh Simon) finds no evidence on Maudsley's bank note, prompting her to use one of Malcolm's contacts to get into the morgue and examine Maudsley's body. Finding nothing, she sifts through his personal belongings, looking for something. Anything. "What were you trying to tell me?" she asks the corpse.

Working undercover as an IT Inspectorate and her assistant, Ros (Hermione Norris) and Zaf (Raza Jaffrey) visit the prison. With a fake asthma attack prompting the prison's IT guy to leave his post and find Ros' inhaler, they hack into the system and download the prison's records. Bringing the info back to headquarters, they look through the entry/exit logs and find that one name doesn't check out. Cross-referencing with the CCTV footage of the night of the fire, they find their man. Klee, otherwise known as Zakir Abdul, is a known associate of Acts of Truth. Acts of Truth must have paid off Maudsley to allow Abdul to enter the prison and kill their own men. Tracking Abdul to a warehouse in King's Cross, Adam (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Jo (Miranda Raison) arrive at the scene hoping to arrest the man, only to find him dead from a gunshot wound. Not only that, but they find forensic evidence that Maudsley visited the warehouse.

But Ruth, ever sympathetic, feels that Maudsley is innocent. She could see it in his eyes during their brief encounter. So how to prove her gut feeling? Without informing the team, she breaks into Maudsley's house in East London looking for clues, only finding one note on the fridge: "Pay fruit & veg. Stall £10." Visiting the nearby fruit stand, he hands the grocer a tenner and receives something hidden inside a rolled-up newspaper. What she doesn't know, though, is that Ros and Zaf had been tracking her the whole time, visiting the Maudsley house after her exit and finding a Chinese Type 67 gun--the exact one used to kill Abdul. What is their colleague up to? Can they actually trust her anymore?

When Ruth returns to headquarters, she finds her colleagues, along with Oliver Mace, waiting for her. This is serious. After Mace asks about the gun, he informs her of everybody's suspicions, that the her interaction with Maudsley, her visit to the morgue, and her visit to his house can only mean one thing: She was working with Maudsley and for Acts of Truth and has spent the last few days covering up evidence. Sure that she has proof to say otherwise, she hands him the fruit stand drop, a CD, which Malcolm pops into his computer. It's blank. Mace produces his own CD, nothing less than CCTV footage of Maudsley death, cut to look like Ruth pushed him in front of the subway train, and there's a witness to back up the story. Mace's guards arrest Ruth and confiscate all of her files.

Nobody defends Ruth except for Harry, who instructs Adam to keep on the Cotterdam case. Pleading to his mercy, Mace gives Harry one day to prove him wrong. But there is a caveat: There will be no communication with Ruth while she's under house arrest. If he suspects any foul play, she will be thrown into jail.

With the team now forced to meet in secret outside of headquarters, they reassess where the case it at. Maudlsey had a military background and intelligence training, so if Ruth is right and he really did make a drop, he would have done it with extreme care. There's no use relying on official evidence, especially if there is a cover-up. With a quick change of coats, the team is able to have Ros pose as Ruth while Ruth escapes out the back of her flat. Meeting with Zaf and Adam, they hand her satellite photos from the Russian embassy, showing seven people being removed from Cotterdam two hours before the fire. The terrorists are alive, and the team comes to a terrible conclusion: the British government removed them and faked their deaths so they could do with them what they want, all the way and up to unchecked acts of torture.

But this still isn't even proof, and when Adam and Ruth revisit Maudsley's home, this time from a safe distance away from the searching eyes of the uniformed officers at the scene, Ruth spies something in Maudsley's window, something she didn't see before: a drawing of Offa. Explaining to Adam that it is one of Ruth's obsessions, she informs him that Offa was a king of Mercia in the 8th century. Having written a thesis about Offa, Ruth knows exactly where to look, and arriving at the site of his palace on nearby Wood Street, they search under a plaque and find the drop, microfiche of a top secret document.

Using a microfiche-reading device, they read the document's contents, a record of a government meeting, and they find the exact words they were looking for: "Extradition Order" and "Special Interrogation Measures," otherwise known as torture. Present at the meeting was Mi-6, Special branch, Military Intelligence, an unnamed "government attaché," and an Mi-5 Section D agent known only as "Fox." Somebody must have planted that name as an insurance policy. But what's the next step? How do they expose this information without getting killed? Why, get Ruth arrested. And by Ruth, they really mean Ros posing as "Ruth," who exits the house and is promptly apprehended by the armed agents on her surveillance.

Meanwhile, Harry meets with Mace at Mace's club, where the Chairman tells him Acts of Truth had planned on hitting a major sports stadium and were not to be taken lightly. Basically admitting to kidnapping the prisoners for their own purposes, Mace defends the decision. "I'm not saying it's ideal," he explains, "but what else can we do? Sit back and let this country take hit after hit?" The choice is really Harry's: Join Mace in this conspiracy, or allow Ruth to take the fall.

But the feelings Harry has for Ruth will not allow this to happen, and he planned this meeting far in advance. Hearing that "Ruth" has been arrested and is facing 12 years in prison, Harry informs Mace that he's willing to take the fall for Ruth and bring Mace down with him. Then he takes a glass, breaks it over the table, and cuts Mace on the arm.

Now in a holding cell, Harry tries explaining to Adam what he's doing when a guard comes in, notifying Harry that the charges have been upped to murder. If he really is going to pretend that it was him who committed the crimes and not Ruth, he's going to have to face swift justice.

But Ruth, now meeting in secret with Zaf and Adam, has a plan of her own. There is no way she is allowing Harry to waste away in prison, but there is also no way she can't expose the secret document proving that the British government is participating in torture and a cover-up. But if they expose the documents, Harry will be fingered as Mi-5 agent "Fox" and tried for condoning torture. For the good of the case, for the good of Mi-5, and for the good of Harry, there is only one solution: Ruth will expose herself as "Fox" and admit to murder, which would in turn expose the conspirators' plot to the world and put Mace behind bars.

Photoshopping herself into a picture with Mace, "proof" that they were plotting the torture conspiracy, Ruth has one final step. The mini-team learns that there was no way the subway witness could have seen the "crime" from her vantage and must have been paid off. Ruth goes to the witness' flat (complete with a gun filled with blanks) and threatens her with violence, making sure to cause a commotion and get her to call the police.

Returning to the holding cell with a handful of guards, Adam tells Harry that the jig is up, that they know Harry has been covering for Ruth and pretending that this was Ruth's plan all along, a set-up that Harry fell for. But where is Ruth? She has disappeared.

The final bits of the plan coming together, Adam goes to Mace with news that the Defense Secretary has gone to the Prime Minister and resigned, and more resignations are along the way. Mace scoffs at his suggestion, saying that as Chairman he'd only get his wrists clapped, and his post will be reinvented. But no, Adam says, as the PM will go to Parliament and truthfully exclaim that he was not aware of the conspiracy. "You'll be buried, Oliver, along with all the blame," Adam says. "Oh, and by the way, the seven from Cotterdam have been found in Egypt and they're being brought back for proper questioning."

With the conspiracy exposed, Harry returns to his post at Mi-5 where he immediately receives a distressing call: Ruth's dead body was dragged from the Thames earlier that morning.

Except Ruth isn't dead at all, and Harry makes his way to a boat along the river to give his former lover his final goodbyes.

Harry: "I don't know what to do without you. You take good care, yes?"
Ruth: "You too. Don't get shot. And can you take care of my cats?"

As he turns to leave, Harry stops her, saying he has something to tell her, something he should have said years ago. But she stops him, asking that they leave at least one thing unsaid. They kiss deeply. "Let me go, Harry," she says, getting on the boat and leaving England forever.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

Jonathan Barlow, who plays Mik Maudsley, has been seen on British television as Terry Prince on "Feet First," Jack Pertwee on "Ruth Rendell Mysteries," Gordon on "Making Out," and Richard Morrison on "Fat Friends."


About the Author

Marcus Gorman is a pop culture writer and the author of the novel triceratops.
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