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'Unforgotten' Recap: Season 5 Episode 1

Daniel Hautzinger
Jess James stands against a blank wall
DCI Jess James undergoes an unexpected personal crisis on the very first day of her job at the head of DI Sunny Khan's team. Photo: Mainstreet Productions

Unforgotten airs Sundays at 8:00 pm and is available to stream on the PBS app and Recap the previous and following episodes and previous four seasons.
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DI Sunny Khan is still devastated by the death of his colleague and boss, Cassie Stuart. He continues to accidentally order two coffees, one for Cassie, and his grief is even interfering in his engagement to Sal, leading him to sit at Cassie’s grave so long that he misses a promised dinner with Sal before she leaves for several days.  He also lies about his excuse to Sal, telling her he was caught up in work.

Clearly, anyone hired to replace Cassie would have a hard time, much less one who is going through her own crisis. The very morning that DCI Jess James is due to start her job, her husband Steve reveals that he cheated on her. He refuses to discuss it further until he returns from a trip for his construction job.

So when a human leg is found in the chimney of a home that is being renovated and Sunny and Jess are called out to take a look, she’s in no mood to listen to the homeowner’s objections to tearing down a wall to get a better look and retrieve the body stashed in the chimney. (Bite marks on the leg suggest that it came off easily because rats had chewed it.) Jess drives Sunny back to the station, but neither of them speak the whole way, and Sunny quickly gets out of the car at the station when Jess mentions Cassie and the big shoes she knows she has to fill.

The home has been unoccupied for about five years, although neighbors mentioned possibly having seen squatters. The current owner bought it from a developer who went bankrupt before being able to tear it down. Before that, it was owned by a single woman who bought the house decades earlier from a family that bought it in 1947 and raised five kids there.

The fireplace was covered by drywall, and was only just exposed during the new owner’s renovations. Jess orders some of the drywall pieces to be tested for their composition, which can reveal their age based on building regulations. That could give a clue to how long the body has been in there. She warns Sunny that she won’t be running the team as Cassie did. While the team has acquired a reputation for solving historic cases, they are expensive to investigate and the budget is tight, so the team will be limited in what cases they can take on.

Given those strictures, Jess denies the use of a new, expensive technique to retrieve fingerprints from an old body in order to help identify the corpse. It was clothed in an old-fashioned dress that appears to be from the early postwar period, so Jess is working on the assumption that the body is decades old.

Other notes about the body: it’s a small woman, and she was missing several teeth. She was between thirty and her early forties. She has a C-section scar. The dress is all the body was wearing—no socks, shoes, or underwear. The label on the dress is from a brand that only existed until 1962, but there’s also a smaller label that’s harder to read.

As always with Unforgotten, we are also slowly being introduced to people connected to the case under investigation, although it’s not yet clear what their relationship is to the case. There’s the hardworking Karol Wojski, who works freight at an airport in Paris in addition to doing food deliveries and ridesharing. He speaks several languages and seems to have had a good education, as his mother is disappointed in how his life has turned out—including that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Except he does—he just hasn’t told his parents.

Lord Tony Hume is a powerful man with connections in politics and a soft spot for a youth club where he plays games with the youth and tries to secure funding for the club. But he has recently received a grim medical prognosis that he appears to be concealing from his wife, Emma.

Ebele Falade runs a very popular vegan restaurant in Bath called Tinhu. Her romantic partner, Dave Adams, is the chef. He is less enthusiastic about Ebele’s ambitions to expand, and gives an equivocal answer when asked by potential investors if opening more restaurants at the same standard is possible. Ebele is enraged that he might have jeopardized their bid, and argues with him in the car ride back, bringing up that he was living in a tent when she met him, and that she has bankrolled him. She punches him in the face as things get heated, so he pulls over, gets out of the car, and walks away, to her distress.

When she returns to her houseboat, she calls someone named Jen to say that she’s going to have a drink—she may be an alcoholic—before tearfully explaining what happened.

Jay Royce’s girlfriend Cheryl is most certainly an addict. He and she live in a crumbling, barely furnished flat that she never leaves. He steals to support their habit, snatching purses and then using any credit cards inside before they are cancelled and selling any phone or other valuable. He does make sure that Cheryl eats, despite herself, and tries to monitor how much drugs she takes. Despite that, she overdoses while he’s not watching and he has to bring her to the hospital.

Jess can’t get Steve to talk to her on the phone, despite repeated calls and texts.  She tells her mom that the marriage has to be over, and that, for the first time in her life, she doesn’t know what to do. She might have to resign from her job.

But for now, she’s continuing—and she has decided that the fireplace case is not worth pursuing. Testing of drywall from the house places it as from between 1951 and 1967, so the case is too old to warrant resources. “It’s not therapy,” she tells Sunny when he pushes back.

He sits at his desk and begins to write a resignation letter, effective immediately. But Fran interrupts him: she has deciphered the smaller label on the dress. It’s from a vintage shop that opened in 2010. Furthermore, she found the exact dress on the shop’s website—it’s the only one of that brand they ever sold. It was purchased in 2016 with a debit card.

Sunny closes his resignation letter draft—but he saves it instead of deleting it.

When he brings the new information to Jess, ensuring that the case will continue to be investigated because it’s a mere five or six years old, she asks him if he applied for Cassie’s job. He says no. But higher-ups begged him to take it, he says, before walking out of her office.

He then goes to the bathroom to have a small meltdown, kicking a stall door repeatedly before composing himself.