Spooks: The Snog, the Tortoise and the Big Bang… (S 10, ep 5)

In this penultimate episode the tentative Anglo/American/Russian relationship finally took centre stage, as Harry went rogue and planted one on Ruth…

Harry, the Gavriks and Coaver…

The episode began with Sasha meeting Harry in his car to ask him what was being done about Coaver’s apparent involvement in falsely utilizing Tourmaline (Elena) as an asset and then the attempt on her life. According to Sir Pearce the matter was already in hand, and by the knowing look that crosses his eyes you know he has a Baldrick-style cunning which can only really go one way. Then the conversation moved on to Mrs Gavrik and her son’s extraction-that-never-happened from Berlin. Apparently Harry had every intention of bringing Elena and ‘their’ son to Britain, but Coaver threatened to shoot him if he didn’t leave them where they were, thus protecting his own assets across Europe who might uncovered should a Russian double agent be uncovered. Evidently not satisfied with the answers on both counts Sasha bugs his biological father’s car.

The cunning plan that Harry has in mind is to kidnap Coaver on his way to a trip to The Hague, and so the classic car switch was employed where Calum the Tosser made himself useful again, and hopped in the car meant for the American CIA agent, whilst Dimitri cut a fine figure in a chauffeur’s uniform, as Harry and Erin got extremely friendly with Coaver in the backseat. (No, not that friendly at all.) Taking him to an unfeasibly trendy, yet sparse MI5 interrogation building Harry questions his former friend and colleague, but yet again Coaver doesn’t seem to understand what he’s talking about and just as the penny appears to drop the CIA cavalry arrives to sweep their agent to safety. Except they didn’t. The US agent was apparently handed over to mercenaries who bundled him into the back of a van, roughed him up and then dumped him on the road at the end of a car chase, which had SpyMum™ hanging out of the car door and going all Bruce Willis on their asses with a handgun, alas to no avail. As Coaver laid dying on the London roadway he managed to summon the energy to point his former friend in the direction of his laptop at the American Embassy, and inform him that had push come to shove he wouldn’t have pulled the trigger if Harry had decided to go ahead with Elena and Sasha’s extraction.  Yet again ‘the good guy’ appears to have suffered at the hands of others with less noble intentions. It was also great to see Harry verbally take down Dimitri’s pretty american counterpart who threatened to take him into the custody of the CIA because they believe he’s responsible for Coaver’s kidnap and murder:

“Contrary to what you believe, you are on UK soil, subject to British laws, and                  we do not allow foreign agents to wave their guns around. You want to call                      me to account, you go through the established channels. Is that clear?”

Too right Harry! Who the bloody hell does the young whippersnapper think he is?!

So what’s to be done except to pull Ruth from the dreariness of her post as Towers’ Security Adviser complete with the PA called Margot, and get her involved in Operation ‘Let’s-steal-a-laptop-from-the-American-Embassy-and-make-the-Yanks-look-silly’, which of course she does expertly with her usual dry sense of humour; the ‘1776’/Declaration of Independence keypad code for the storeroom bit was hilarious. When will they ever learn eh? You may be free of us, but we can still plunder the bowels of your State buildings. Unfortunately this was where the bug that Sasha planted in Harry’s car came into play, allowing him to intercept Ruth when she got into her car after a phone call with her former employer/love interest. Holding a gun to her head the young FSB agent forces her to log into Coaver’s laptop, paying no heed to the bomb in the van going off somewhere in the distance, which killed one of Towers’ bodyguards, but left the Home Secretary with little more than a mild case of tinnitus, soliciting obvious comparisons with the ‘unsinkable Molly Brown’. Now able to access the files on the laptop, once back at the Russian delegation’s hotel Sasha discovers that Harry is really his father and consequently takes out his frustrations with the laptop on a piece of furniture, making things even worse for himself by probably losing his deposit on the room. If only he could learn to control that temper of his, otherwise it’ll be the death of him. Probably. 

This week’s episode also saw two respective visits from the elder Gavriks to Harry’s home. The first one was made by Elena who informed him that, despite her initial ambivalence towards Illya after Harry failed to bring her to Britain, she stopped seeing him as her ‘captor’ and began to respect and perhaps even love him because she realized that despite his sense of duty he was ‘a good man’, something that’s hard to find in this murky world of espionage. At the end of the scene Harry apologizes that he wasn’t able to remove her and her son and she almost begs him to kiss her. Instead he gives her a conciliatory, but sincere hug. To me this smacked of her once again trying to use her feminine wiles to manipulate, but them finally falling short of the mark. It also begs the question was she ever really in love with either Harry or her husband, or was she just using them for her own gain? Superficially in all of this Elena appears to be the victim, but I suspect if you dig a little deeper she’s actually the master puppeteer, something which I’ll discuss in more detail shortly.

The second visit came from Illya Gavrik armed with a jazzy bottle of vodka and his acerbic wit, intending perhaps to re-enact the Cold War in microcosm in what was one of the stand out scenes of this series, and not least of all because of the number of times he mentioned his pet tortoise and compared it to his old adversary. (Every time he mentioned it I couldn’t help but think about Aesop’s fable of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’. The creature might be scaly, slow and not much to look at but it does reach the finish line first simply by plodding along steadily, as the feckless hare who appears to have everything, gets distracted and loses through his own stupidity and smugness. Prophetic? I hope so.) After insulting Harry by telling him his life is essentially as empty as his house, the Russian Ambassador proceeds to fill in the gaps about what happened after the British Intelligence officer left his wife stranded in Germany. Apparently Elena was taken in for questioning, but even though he knew his wife had been ‘turned’ by MI5, Illya protested her innocence and eventually had her released and moved away from his ‘sense of duty’ towards his country to protecting his wife and ‘his’ son. Yes ‘his’ son. It’s evident that Gavrik Sr. is just as much in the dark on Sasha’s true parentage as he was himself, a fact which Harry has no intention of enlightening him on as it could obviously prove to be useful. Of course this means that Elena has been lying to her husband, as well as her son and I can’t help but feel that the scenes where we’ve seen her reveal her motivations to Sasha as to why she defected, thus challenging his loyalties to the FSB, echo conversations she’d had with her husband in previous years. Getting them both on side means she has access to their resources, which in Gavrik the Elder’s case means those nasty looking mercenaries. With ALL the men in her life, her sense of duty to them has probably been outstripped by her sense of duty to the cause of undermining the Russian government which sanctioned the execution of her innocent parents. Perhaps there’s still a grudge there with Harry and the British government too because of how they abandoned her, hence her now pitting one against the other and throwing the Americans into the mix to add a bit of spice. A woman scorned and all that….

As the episode draws to a close Harry has been taken into custody by the CIA, as he’s still suspected of Coaver’s murder, and it looks like he’s set for certain extradition to the States… 

Harry, Ruth and the worst timing on the planet…
Happily there was lots of meat to get your teeth into on the Harry and Ruth front too. After last week’s cuddle in the park with Elena, Ruth was understandably a little hacked off, but as they discussed the matters in hand in his car he made it perfectly clear that ‘guilt can look a lot like love’ and that she had nothing to worry about on that front. However the main crux of the conversation seemed to be that they both knew things as they knew them were coming to an end, especially his role in the intelligence services: “We both know it’s time.” Similarly matters turned from work to those of the heart when Ruth was fleeing from the American Embassy and they were both forced to admit that timing isn’t their strong suit, Harry gloriously referencing the marriage proposal at Ros’ funeral at the beginning of last series. (I don’t care what anybody else says, these two trained killers are adorable.) The second-to-last scene where Harry is about to be taken away by the CIA was a thing of heartbreaking beauty though, and mirrors Ruth’s departure in series 5. As Tower’s departs admitting he can do little more than ensure he isn’t forced to wear an orange jumpsuit and subjected to country music, Harry and Ruth are left to say their final goodbyes, the latter telling the former that she’s put an offer in on a house in Suffolk and him imploring her to have as normal life as she possibly can after everything they’ve been through. Their final exchange-“Harry this can’t be the end”/”Well let’s pretend it isn’t”, followed by an understandably awkward kiss on the banks of Thames as umpteen CIA agents looked on was tonally perfect and admittedly left me gulping back a lump in my throat. Somehow these things are never over though are they?

Things to note….

  • Two really nice touches. First Ruth opening the tablet bottle for Towers, who despite the fact he often seems to be channeling Oscar Wilde, on occasion seems incapable of scratching his own backside. Satire alert: those pesky politicians! Anyway this evidently gave her the idea about the paracetamols in the Embassy. Secondly, Harry emptying the milk bottle down the sink. He obviously realized that he probably wouldn’t be returning, so it was an act of conscientiousness towards the person who’d be taking care of his house after he’d gone. Perhaps Ruth? If so, awwwwwwwww! 
  • What did Harry burn in his back garden? I’m guessing we’ll never know, but I’m secretly hoping it was a hard and paper copy of a manuscript for a Barbara Cartland style novel, as well as assorted drafts of Hart to Hart fanfiction. 
  • The Red Herring pub that Towers is driven past just before the bomb explodes- yeah there’s been a few of those this series both for the audience and the characters.
  • Erin- after she threatened to pull rank and not support Harry’s plot to kidnap Coaver I can’t decide if she is a mole or just the world’s biggest bureaucrat. Either, or. 
  • Dimitri was as loyal and pretty as ever in this ep, but sadly as wooden as a forest.
  • So after all these weeks the Russians in the swanky glass house weren’t Russian after all. At least they aren’t still stuck in Ikea looking for soft furnishings, and instead are making themselves useful doing things like making bombs so the Home Secretary will get angry and say something witty. Good times! 
  • And the light bondage made a long awaited return for all you S&M fans. It’s Harry though. Tied to a chair and beaten in a room so dingy it’s likely it’d make the most hardened spy consider taking his own life.  

Guardian Spooks Blog


About Optimistindisguise

I blog therefore I am. I think.
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