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'Miss Scarlet and the Duke' Recap: Season 4 Episode 5

Daniel Hautzinger
Nash and Eliza stand in the street
Nash and Eliza continue to clash over running their business. Credit: Playground Entertainment and Masterpiece

Miss Scarlet and the Duke airs Sundays at 7:00 pm on WTTW and is available to stream. Recap the previous and following episodes.
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William’s sudden departure for New York City has made Eliza irritable, not that she’ll admit it – or that she can hide it from her friends. Ivy has been writing to William herself, since Eliza won’t respond to his letters, but Eliza won’t hear it when Ivy tries to talk to her about William.

Nash also picks up on something off with Eliza and suspects William is the cause, which makes Eliza even less inclined to agree with him as they set to sorting through a voluminous pile of applications to work at the firm in response to their advertisement. They reject all of each other’s preferred candidates.

Nash has found a new client: Mr. Bracewell, the co-founder of Britannia Telephone Company. The telephone is a new technology, only nine years old, so Eliza is eager to test it out while meeting with Bracewell.

One of the company’s engineering workshops has just exploded after a gas leak was ignited, the police suspect, by Bracewell’s co-founder Mr. Davidson while lighting his pipe. Davidson and an inventor named Alfred Baker, who had designed a new telephone, were both killed.

The newspapers are speculating that Bracewell is responsible, because he was supposed to be at the meeting in the workshop, which was a standing appointment that he never missed. Baker wasn’t supposed to be there. The company’s value is falling because of the accusation, so Bracewell has hired Nash and Eliza to find out what happened. He admits that he and Davidson disagreed about expanding the company by buying out rivals, and that they had argued that morning, so Bracewell skipped the meeting.

Nash and Eliza try to examine the crime scene, but Phelps is in charge with William gone and won’t let them in. Phelps is in line to replace William as inspector, and won’t tolerate Eliza’s brazenness. Nash advises Eliza to get along with him if she wants the business to succeed.

In the meantime, she and Nash visit the inventor Baker’s widow Betty. They had only been married six months. She says that Baker started as an apprentice to Daniel Archer at Britannia, and Archer resented Baker’s success. Baker thinks Archer tried to steal his plans for his new phone, and so moved them from the hiding place in his office – but Betty doesn’t know where.

Nash manages to get photos of the crime scene from a source, and Eliza notices that the scorch marks are on the opposite side of the room from the bodies – suggesting that Davidson’s pipe wasn’t the igniting spark. They return to Phelps, and Nash offers to help the overworked detective with the case and give him all the credit in exchange for access to the crime scene. Phelps accepts.

Eliza notices that insulation is missing from the wires of a phone near the scorch marks, and recalls that the current model has a tendency to short-circuit when activated – hence Baker’s new version. Someone called the phone, thus igniting the gas and causing the explosion – and they were likely also the person who tampered with the gas to cause the leak in the first place.

Nash poses as a police inspector to try to see who made the call from logs stored at the telephone exchange where operators connect calls. But a manager asks to see a warrant and then kicks him out when he admits he’s not with the police.

Nash finds a contact who works at the exchange. While he’s waiting for him to arrive, he and Eliza see the manager leave and get in his own carriage – a surprising expense for someone making his salary. They then get access to the call log and find that the call to the workshop right before it exploded came from their client Bracewell’s office.

Given that Baker’s contract – obtained by Clarence – gives him only ten percent of the profits from his new telephone and each co-founder 45 percent, but all shares revert to a survivor if anyone dies, Bracewell had incentive to kill the other two. Eliza believes he is responsible, but Nash insists that they not blame their client and keep looking into Baker’s rival Archer – especially since Baker’s house was just broken into and his favorite book, which Eliza suspects hid his plans for his telephone, was taken.

Without telling Nash, Eliza goes to Bracewell and presents their findings. He tells her that he wasn’t in his office at the time of the phone call, as he had originally said – he was negotiating the buy-out of a rival – a deal he wanted to keep secret. Also, why would he kill Baker and thus his plans for a new telephone that would make Bracewell money? He didn’t know Baker had made copies of his plans.

Bracewell fires Nash and Eliza by telegram, so Nash sets off to placate him. Eliza has checked out Bracewell’s alibi and it stands up. But Clarence has learned that Baker’s rival Archer has been making regular cash withdrawals from the bank, including one as recently as an hour ago. Eliza sets off to follow him, and sees him hand over money to the telephone exchange’s manager in exchange for an envelope.

She races to Archer’s office to beat him there and finds the book stolen from Baker’s house, with his phone plans inside. She asks Archer when he arrives what the exchange manager gave him, and deciphers the shorthand writing: it is transcripts of phone calls, including between Baker and Davidson. That’s how Archer knew where Baker had hidden his phone plans.

Nash convinces Bracewell to keep him on as a client, and then he and Eliza go to see the exchange manager. They ask to look at the log of calls on the day of the explosion again, and Eliza notices that it’s all in the manager’s handwriting, whereas other days feature various hands. He admits that he was blackmailed the night of the explosion: a letter threatened to expose his practice of selling call transcripts unless he changed the details of the call that ignited the explosion. He had to redo the whole page to do so. The call actually came from a public phone.

The blackmailer knew about the manager’s side hustle, so they probably worked at the exchange. Eliza sets about trying to match handwritings to the blackmail letter and finds that the blackmailer was an employee who left six months ago to get married: Baker’s widow, Betty. Nash, visiting the public phone from which the explosive call was made, has learned she was the one who placed it.

Betty admits that she set everything up to kill Bracewell and Davidson, but then Bracewell didn’t show up to the meeting and her husband did. She just wanted to avenge the injustice of his contract, and instead killed him.

Eliza reluctantly gives Phelps the evidence in the case and the credit for solving it, even though doing so will probably lead to his promotion. Nash has advised her that, with William away, she had better get along with Phelps if she wants any help from the police on cases.

But Nash is trusting her more and more: he invites all the applicants she favored for the new job and lets her interview them without him, since she will be their boss. He also installs a phone in the office.

Eliza reconciles with Ivy, with whom she quarreled when Ivy advised her to write to William and get over her anger at him for leaving: he’s just trying to give both himself and Eliza time to figure out what they want. Eliza finally sits down to write to William.