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'Vera,' Episode Seven Recap: Sandancers'

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

Previously on Vera

When a drowned woman washes up along a river, Vera (Brenda Blethyn) and her team re-open a two-year-old social work case.

This Week's Episode: "Sandancers"

Written by: Colin Teevan
Directed by: Julian Holmes

As a platoon returns to the Otterford military base after a tour in Afghanistan, their celebration is cut short when somebody discovers the body of the highly decorated Staff Sergeant James "Dev" Deverson (Barry McGee) in his home, dead from apparent handgun suicide. But nothing in Northumberland County is ever what it seems, and when medical examiner Billy (Paul Ritter) notices irregular angles and a piece of tooth in the back of Dev's throat, he classifies it as murder. Working with Captain Shepherd (Clare Calbraith) and Lieutenant Colonel Chapell (John Duttine), Vera and Joe (David Leon) hope to get to the bottom of this malfeasance.

When Dev's platoon is gathered together in the mess hall, Vera and Joe demand any relevant information to Dev's past. Reluctantly, two soldiers raise their hands: Corporal Vince Grafton (Steven Cree) and Lance Corporal Kevin "Budgie" O'Connor (Alex Price). Getting nowhere with either of them, Vera speaks with Dev's widow Laura (Naomi Bentley) and learns that their marriage seemed strained. Alas, Laura's alibi checks out, living with her children and mother off the base. Is there anything in Dev's military record that could lead to another suspect? Laura has nothing, as Dev "didn't really like to talk about out there" and was never much for writing e-mails.

Analyzing the vomit found at the crime scene, Billy finds that it couldn't have been Dev's regurgitation as there was still plenty of alcohol in his stomach found during the autopsy. Somebody else was in Dev's home the night of the murder, but who could it be? The case seems all but closed when they trace ulcer blood found in the vomit back to Budgie, and under interrogation, Budgie confesses to the murder. But as Budgie details what he can remember of his drunken night, it becomes clear that he blacked out (confirmed by the level of valium found in his vomit) and woke up to the dead body, believing he was the culprit. It wasn't him.

If not Budgie, then who? Tracing Dev's military accolades, Vera learns he won the Military Cross for heroism under enemy fire. Six months earlier, one of his soldiers Oliver "Ollie" Barton accidentally set off an IED, killing himself immediately, and Dev was able to protect his team and extract Ollie's body with gusto. Is there something in that story that the soldiers aren't telling the police? Vera and Joe visit Ollie's parents Keith (Simon Chandler) and Diane (Barbara Marten) and learn that they were at the on-base celebration two nights earlier, the night of Dev's murder. Were they, upset that Dev may have led their son to his death, mad enough to kill Dev? No, as their alibi check out, having had a nightcap with Chapell, Keith's old army buddy, at the time of the crime. Keith gladly hands over Ollie's laptop to help with the investigation, but later Joe notices that Ollie's e-mail inbox has been cleaned down considerably.

The next morning, Budgie is found dead, a gunshot wound to the head nearly in the same manner as Dev. Billy points out that this looks much more like an actual suicide, but considering the connection to Dev's case, he cannot rule out homicide. Chapell berates Vera for causing Budgie so much grief that he felt the need to take his life, that maybe he wanted to be arrested to save him from himself, but Vera turns the conversation around on him when she grills him about his involvement with the Bartons. Had they spoken to him on the night of Dev's murder to demand an inquiry into Ollie's death. Chapell says no, but Vera can always spot a liar.

With Grafton and his impressively large (and unlicensed) gun collection, he is considered the case's #1 suspect, but Joe stumbles upon something else. It seems that Ollie was holding a picture of Laura, Dev's wife, when he died. Are the missing e-mails proof of an affair between Ollie and Laura? Laura confirms the truth, and also confirms that when Dev found out, he threatened to kill Ollie. Did he make good on his threat and intentionally get Ollie blown up?

When Shepherd and Joe prove that Chapell lied about the Bartons alibi, Vera has her killer. Visiting the Barton estate once again, she confronts Keith about his crime at the exact wrong time; while he's holding a shotgun and doing gamehunting. Keith confesses, saying that a unit must stand together whatever it takes, whether family or army. He turns the shotgun to himself but is stopped before he can finish the deed, resulting in only a flesh wound.

Impressed at her investigative skills and how she was able to stand up to superior officer Chapell, Vera offers Captain Shepherd a job with the force.

Hey! I Know That Actor!

Clare Calbraith, who portrays Captain Shepherd, played Jane Moorsum on the second season of "Downton Abbey," Kay McLeod on "Doctors," Robyn on "Coronation Street," and Dr. Tricia Summerbee on "Heartbeat."

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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