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'Vera,' Episode Eight Recap: A Certain Samaritan'

Miss an episode of KCET's newest British detective series? Read our "Vera" recaps here.

Previously on Vera

Vera (Brenda Blethyn) takes on the army when a returning soldier is found dead from an apparent suicide.

This Week's Episode: "A Certain Samaritan"

Written by: Paul Rutman
Directed by: Edward Bazalgette

After a bus passenger witnesses one man attacking another on a highway overpass, a local cop arrives at the scene and finds nothing but a single shoe and small pool of blood. Six hours away in Portsmouth Docks, an unidentifiable body is discovered in the bed of a truck wearing the other shoe. Who is this John Doe, and how could his corpse have traveled so far without anybody noticing?

As medical examiner Billy (Paul Ritter) waits for the pathology report to be sent in from Portsmouth, Vera and Joe (David Leon) trace the shoes to a local manufacturer who keeps records of all their sales. The shoes were sold to B.J. Guthrie (Sean Campion), a local beekeeper. He claims that he had given his shoes away to somebody else, but he isn't forward with the details, worrying instead about whoever had destroyed his beehives recently.

When the pathology report comes in, Billy recites the information: multiple stab wounds made by somebody who seems to be new to such violence, heavy bruising on the upper torso, and a partially fractured spine. What if the body fell over the railing, Vera wonders, and onto a passing truck on its way to Portsmouth? As Kenny (Jon Morrison) and Bethany (Cush Jumbo) work on tracking down the truck, Vera and Joe happen upon a missing persons report local widow Shirley Coulter (Phyllis Logan) made on her 29-year-old son Niall. At headquarters, Vera questions Shirley, especially on the fact of why she waited a full three days to report her live-in son missing. Vera informs Shirley that the body was found to have heroin in his bloodstream, which helps to explain why Shirley seems so reluctant to discuss some of her troubles with her son.

Using the DNA from a comb Shirley brought to the interview, the body is proven to be Niall. As Vera and Joe visit Niall's place of work, a home improvement store, they meet his girlfriend and coworker Roxy (Frieda Thiel), somebody Shirley had written off as a drug addict. After Vera and Joe go to Shirley's house to break the bad news to her, they find a full dufflebag in Niall's room, indicating that he intended to run away. But to where, and with whom?

Matching paint found under Niall's fingernails with highway surveillance footage, Kenny is able to track down the truck that transported the body so far. They bring in the driver, Andy (Billy McColl), who hands over Niall's missing wallet. Inside, they find £300 and a credit card belong to...B.J. Guthrie.

Unable to find Guthrie at his home, they find him at a nearby farm where he keeps some of his beehives, but he is not well. Dazed and full of track marks, they bring him back to Vera's place and question him. As Guthrie tells it, he went to the home improvement shop needing a "strapping man" to help empty his house of all its clutter. Swearing that they were not lovers, he claims that his wallet was stolen.

As the case continues, we watch as Shirley chucks a suitcase into the North Sea. Later, she has a late-night meet-up with local drug lord Lester (Gary Cargill), which ends in her being beaten and abandoned on a street as Lester bleeds out into the back of his town car.

Focusing on an angry message Roxy left at the Coulter household, they return to the home improvement store and uncover her beestung arms. Believing that Niall was leaving her for Guthrie, she was the one who set fire to Guthrie's apiary. But why would she believe all this? As it turns out, Guthrie was suffering from leukemia, and with little time left in this world, he had asked Niall to stay by him until the end.

At the hospital and recovering from her beating, Shirley says she didn't call in the missing persons report for three days because she had taken a long weekend ferry trip to Amsterdam and Brussels with Marty (John McArdle), who also happened to be Niall's boss. As they question him, Kenny and Bethany decide to track down Lester, only to find him dead, washed ashore along the North Sea coast, stabbed and drowned. Questioning Lester's son and wheelman Charlie (James Burrows), Vera finds that Lester and Shirley were in constant contact. In fact, Shirley's cell phone only had Lester's number in it, indicating that she was running drugs for him, likely from Amsterdam. But why would a widow do such a thing, and what does it have to do with Niall? Checking the voicemail messages, they find an angry one from Lester, demanding to know where his suitcase is.

Visiting Guthrie at the cancer care ward, Vera helps Guthrie have his last wish, bringing him to a pier for a moment of pace. After confessing that the heroin was a gift from Niall to help with the pain, Guthrie dies in Vera's arms.

Returning to Shirley's house, Vera confronts her about the life insurance settlement she got from her husband's death, a cool £120,000 that has dried up. Where did all that money go, and why did Shirley remortgage the house? Checking out a series of detailed files Shirley kept, they realize that she was managing her son's terrible drug habit. This was the only way she knew how to wean him off heroin, and while the records indicate there were spells of him being clean and sober, it never lasted. Now in debt to Lester for over £8,000, she and Marty began running drugs for him. But when Niall died, Shirley immediately suspected Lester of the crime and got her revenge by throwing the drugs into the sea. Checking her story against Marty's and noticing a time discrepancy, Vera realizes that Lester didn't kill Niall. It was Marty, having had enough time to do the deed between boarding the ferry and the trip's departure time. Also responsible for Lester's murder, Marty is brought to justice.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

Phyllis Logan, who plays Shirley Coulter, is a Scottish actress known for her work on the television programs "Lovejoy" and "Hope and Glory" as well as the Mike Leigh film "Secrets & Lies." She can currently be seen as Mrs. Hughes on "Downton Abbey."

John McArdle, who plays Marty, has been seen on such shows as "All the Small Things," "The Bill," "Mersey Beat" and "Brookeside."

Marcus Gorman is the author of the novel "Triceratops" and the editor of the film blog Ten Years Ago: Films in Retrospective.


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