Will and Geordie are both broken-hearted as Will mourns his relationship with Maya and Geordie is stymied in repairing his marriage. But there’s another black mood at the vicarage now, too: Mrs. C’s. Geordie finds her staring into space in the yard with a pie burning in the oven and the vacuum and faucet running. She feels she’s being punished by God with her uterine cancer diagnosis.
Not that Geordie knows about that. Leonard won’t explain to him or Will, and soon finds something to draw away Geordie’s attention: a dead man on the stoop of his café. He’s the third homeless man found dead in a doorway, covered with a blanket, in recent times.
This man has a book of Tennyson poems. The name Robin Fellows is written in it, along with letters and numbers that Leonard recognizes as a room number at St. Margaret’s College.
Will has his own distraction from Mrs. C’s depression and anger, although he does argue with her. She has berated Ernie Evans, the son of Geordie’s niece Bonnie, for carving initials into a church pew. Bonnie is furious at Ernie for his desecration, but Will wants to help the boy, who Bonnie admits won’t talk about his late father.
Will works on his motorcycle with Ernie, but the boy rebuffs him when he brings up his father. Bonnie also changes the subject when Will asks about her husband, so he goes to Geordie for his opinion instead. He also realizes that Ernie wasn’t carving his initials into the pew—they’re his father’s.
The vicar does some carving of his own and adds Ernie’s father’s years of life to the initials: he has realized the boy was immortalizing his father. Ernie then opens up about missing his dad, and Will comforts him. They end the day pretending to ride on Will’s motorcycle, to Ernie’s delight.
The boy sends his mother to give Will a present: a bike bell, which Will had admired on Ernie’s bicycle. “You’re brilliant!” Bonnie exclaims to Will. She had begun to doubt whether Ernie would get over the death of his father; now she believes he will be okay. Feelings are clearly growing between Will and Bonnie.
Leonard is eager to help Geordie investigate the death of the homeless man—perhaps as his own distraction from Mrs. C’s turmoil, or a penance for not helping the man when he was alive. At St. Margaret’s College, Robin’s fellow student Jim Baker tells Leonard and Geordie that Robin left school at the end of last term. It was rumored that he had lost his mind, and his parents had picked him up for a period of seaside recuperation.
The dead man is not Robin, however. There’s no way to identify him. But Geordie realizes that the handwriting in Robin’s book of Tennyson matches that of a card sent to the police. All it says is a Tennyson quote: “All things must die.”
Robin’s condescending professor tells Geordie and Leonard that she also just received a note with another Tennyson quote about death. She thought Robin had left Cambridge, but perhaps not. He was working on a thesis about the destitute, and often helped homeless people along with Jim, wanting to rehabilitate them.
Geordie and Leonard go to an encampment of homeless men that Robin used to visit. Most of the men don’t want to talk, but one named Danny recognizes Geordie and chats—he’s been arrested numerous times. He identifies the dead man as a Barney, and said he didn’t like him—Barney recently stole Danny’s whiskey, resulting in a fight. Barney then went into town—a dangerous decision, Danny says, given the recent deaths of the other two homeless men in town.
Geordie demands a postmortem over his boss’s wishes and discovers that all three homeless men were strangled—they didn’t die of “misadventure,” as cited.
Robin’s parents haven’t seen him for a week. They tried to take care of him themselves instead of sending him to an asylum. After Miss Scott kindly brings Geordie dinner and a clean shirt at the station, he realizes how Robin is connected to the deaths. All of them were clean-shaven: Robin cleaned them up and then killed them—and his dorm room seems to confirm the theory, with a washbasin and sketches of the men.
But Robin’s not in his room. He visits Leonard’s café before it opens, and Leonard soon realizes who he is. Leonard calls the police station with a message: he’s here. Robin tells Leonard that he didn’t want the homeless men to suffer any more. I want to make it stop, he says, before hugging Leonard.
Just then Geordie bursts in and Robin grabs a knife from the counter. Geordie talks him down and arrests him. Geordie had once again talked to Robin’s professor and learned that the death of the first homeless man coincided with her failing Robin’s thesis, and the second murder with a time when she told him he had a savior complex and threw him out of a lecture.
Robin wanted to prevent anyone from hurting the homeless men further. He is taken away by a doctor to an institution.
Jim tells Leonard that he hopes to be a vicar some day, and feels guilty for not recognizing Robin’s problems and helping him. He, Geordie, and Leonard are the only attendants at Barney’s funeral, presided over by Will. Geordie leaves to give blankets and a bottle of whiskey to Danny, and Leonard sets up a soup kitchen at his café.
Mrs. C hasn’t found such purpose; in fact, she has lost hers. She takes Leonard to a fancy restaurant and eventually storms out, insulting everyone, after being condescended to by the waiter. She feels ashamed, she tells Leonard. When she was a teenager, she was much wilder. She had an abortion, and promised God that she would change. She has held to that promise ever since, even though she has never been able to have children.
Now she’s angry at God, who she feels has forsaken her. If you turn your back on me, I will turn my back on you, she shouts in church before retreating to the vicarage’s kitchen to weep.