Woooo, look, we’re back already on The Stranger! And wondering how our bizarre happenings are connected; how does a tragically brutalised alpaca tie in with a marital issues, a flat in the middle of a block and a kid popping up in the woods after a wild bonfire? Let’s find out what Harlan Coben and Red Production Company have in store for us in the second episode of The Stranger!
We open where we left off, at the Brown Sugar Cafe with it’s proprietress Heidi Doyle (Jennifer Saunders!! Legend) shutting up for the night. She doesn’t know it, but she’s being followed by The Stranger (Hannah John-Kamen) who likes to drop super inconvenient truths on people that don’t know her.
Oh! But just as I’ve been wondering what The Stranger’s skin is in the game, we find out. She and another woman Ingrid (Lily Loveless) approach Heidi to air out some of her dirty laundry. There’s this Sugar Baby website, etc, etc, where older men connect with young women who would like to be taken care of. Just as Heidi’s spitting mad at her husband, The Stranger drops a bigger bomb: they’re talking about Heidi’s daughter Kimberley (Callie Cook), then hits her up for 10 thousand pounds.
Oh good, I like a nice monetary motive, it’s sensible and you know where you are. I couldn’t understand why The Stranger approached Adam Price (Richard Armitage) last episode and told him about his wife faking a pregnancy without asking for anything. Maybe The Stranger had been blackmailing Adam’s wife Corrine (Dervla Kirwan) and she wouldn’t pay up?
Adam wakes up alone in bed, his wife Corinne (it’s spelled Corrine in IMDb but his mobile contact info had this spelling, so forgive me pedant heart) didn’t return home at all last night. She had promised to explain everything after the school awards show then didn’t show up for that either.
(This is feeling similar to Safe, the other recent Harlan Coben/Netflix/Red Production CO. series)
He leaves a message for Corinne then checks on the kids, who are acting true to form. Ryan (Misha Handley) tried to snatch his brother’s toast, Thomas (Jacob Dudman) responded with this epic flop when he saw his dad.
*I have a flopper at home, I am slow clapping as we speak.
Thomas catches a ride from Mike Tripp (Brandon Fellows), whose stolen his dad’s car with absolutely no mercy. His dad Doug (Shaun Dooley – has he been working out?) begs a ride to school from Adam in his tiny shorts. Even a sandwich doesn’t slow Doug down, he talks the whole time, mostly asking questions about where Corinne is / has been. Doug puts a smile on Adam’s face at least, seat and hand dancing to “Dancing In The Dark” in an extremely dorky fashion.
Adam looks for Corinne at the breakfast club but her friend and fellow teacher Vicky Hoy (Jade Harrison) is covering for her and defiant about something else. She drags him inside a room to explain; someone has posted illegal photos of her daughter Ella (India Brown) online. They’re illegal because Ella is very much underage and they’re not pictures of her face. Adam advises Vicky to go to the police.
Now back to Adam’s problem, she doesn’t know where Corinne is, she hasn’t missed school since…she lost the baby.
But. DID she lose a baby? Was she faking the pregnancy as The Stranger told Adam?
Corinne texted Vicky the night before to ask her to cover, that’s all she heard. Adam immediately demands to see the text, but that scares Vicky a little, she knows they’ve been having issues for a little while. As far as Adam knows, they’ve only been having issues since The Stranger shook his whole world upside down two days ago, so he presses harder, scaring her more.
Last time we met Dante Gunnarsson (Kai Alexander), he was unconscious in the woods after running around naked post-bonfire, he was brought to the hospital and they’re fundraising for him at school. Investigating the case is DS Johanna Griffin (Siobhan Finneran) with her partner DC Wesley Ross (Kadiff Kirwan), who’s calling Johanna with the news of a cake delivery from the Brown Sugar Cafe. We know it’s a “special cake” because he sneaks a peek.
Wes was actually calling with Dante’s toxicology report, the young man had alcohol, cannabis and MDMA in his system.
Thomas and Mike have snuck back into Thomas’s house to retrieve the head of Louie the alpaca. Ah yikes, we get a really graphic shot of what happened to our poor decapitated alpaca, Mike attacked Louie with a shovel. That ain’t right.
Thomas’s friend and Vicky’s daughter Daisy Hoy (Ella-Rae Smith) shows up next to find out what’s going on, I think Mike’s still got some kind of drug in his system. His vision seems to swim in and out of reality.
Did he..did he bite Louie? There were human bite marks on Louie’s leg. Let me see your teef!!
Their discussion of who drugged who and who went where with Dante is cut short with the arrival of Adam back to the house, so they sneak away, leaving poor Louie’s head behind.
Adam plays back the ansaphone’s message, remembering a good day with all of them setting the message. Adam has dad jokes for days.
He’s not as happy when he remembers The Stranger telling him to get DNA tests on his boys. So he does but can’t bring himself to complete them.
Instead he chases a lead Corinne gave during their confrontation. He stops by the flat of retired police officer Martin Killane (Stephen Rea) to ask him to look for Suzanne Hope, whom Corinne mentioned was faking pregnancies all over the place.
Martin’s not just a former detective with a name like Spillane, he’s also sitting on a flat very much wanted by a local developer. Adam is acting in his interest and he’s off to the big meeting today.
Heidi checks the Sugar Baby website over and over on her way to see her daughter, calling Johanna from the train but not able to get a word in edgewise. The agree to meet at the cafe at 8 pm and Johanna meets her partner and….Harlan Coben! Wooooooo I heard he had a cameo! He’s playing a police tech guy, that’s a great suit, Harlan. (Like we’re buddies) He speaks not a word.
But directs them to where a pin was dropped (an iPhone reference?) and a bunch of anonymous messages have given the impression that they’re chasing someone.
Adam arrives for the hearing about Martin’s flat, it’s never a good thing if your opposition is this happy. There’s something between Adam and Ed Price (Anthony Head whom you probably know from the Nicola Walker series The Split but I know from Sarah Lancashire’s Rose and Maloney!), maybe that’s his dad.
The hearing isn’t awesome for Adam, especially since Ed Price is the owner of the construction company and makes a point of attacking him personally.
Yep, Ed’s Adam’s dad and while Ed could have let Adam know he owned that company, he didn’t. Lots of complicated family dynamics going on there. It’s interesting that Ed and Adam used to live in those flats when Adam was young.
Heidi confronts her daughter Kimberley with the pictures of her profile on Sugar Baby 4 U or whatever, apparently Kimberley is paying her way through school, just like in the good old days! Heidi decides she’ll pay, she can’t see Kimberley getting a decent job otherwise.
I mean, not to be a contrarian, but is that a big deal these days? That’s not even technically sex work, which is thisclose to legal and should be.
Johanna and Wes arrive at the pin drop, that’s the bonfire and that makes sense. They call in for a inspection team and head back to the hospital where Dante has woken up.
In that space of time, Killane already found Ms. Hope. Wow! Adam heads over, checking out Killane’s creepy porcelain Dresden dolls along the way. Well, Dresden-ish. Martin’s got a whole room of other creepy things, cold case files of missing people. Killane hands over the address he found for Suzanne Hope, Adam has to leave almost right away.
*I don’t know if I was imagining things, but when I saw all those pins and photos tacked up on Killane’s walls, I wondered if he’d murdered some people and buried them in his basement and that was why he was resisting leaving. But he’s a copper, no way!
When Thomas and Mike got into the house earlier, they used the key under the plant pot but took it with them in their hastened departure. Ryan’s home, hungry and locked out. He has homework, dad!
Mike, Jacob and Daisy are at the hospital staring at Dante through the glass, Johanna and Wes get there in time to watch Dante have an adverse reaction. Johanna noticed Mike twitching a bit and follows them out to ask some questions. Mike has zero poker face.
(He’s the twitchy short blonde on the end with zero poker face)
Johanna threatens them with drug testing and lets them go.
Vicky shows up as Adam gets home to let his son in, she shows him the text he was so worried about and they calmly discuss why Vicky thought Adam and Corinne were having issues. She’d been acting stressed out the last two or more weeks, like Adam is now.
The teenagers all reconvene in Tom’s room, Daisy’s come up with a plan! There was a suspected satanic ritual site a couple of months ago, they’ll bury Louie’s head under a bunch of satanic symbols and Bob’s your uncle.
The cake that Heidi sent Johanna at work? Everyone’s been dying for her to open the box with her special cake inside.
The shenanigans are halted by an alert on Dante’s Anonymous app, three friend dots are on the move. Hai Tom, Daisy and Mike! They’re watching you! Maybe turn off Location on your Anonymous App. I’ll wait.
Oooh but someone else is watching them from the woods. Who is that? The Stranger?
Adam lurks outside Suzanne Hope’s address in the dark, better to go knock, mate. He rings the doorbell and gets Stuart Hope (Joey Ansah) instead. He says his wife Suzanne (Aretha Ayeh) isn’t home but when Adam mentions his wife Corinne, Stuart goes ballistic and attacks him. Suzanne comes flying down the stairs to stop the fight, Stuart drags her back inside and Adam is left outside, shaken and most likely bruised. What the hell?
He’s banging on the door when his son Ryan calls, the police are at his place!
Heidi works late into the night on her books at the Cafe with a male stranger watching. He finally knocks, identifying himself as police but she didn’t even ask to see his badge! C’mon Heidi! He says he’s John Katz (Paul Kaye – aka Thoros of Myr! From Game of Thrones), they need to talk about Kimberley. He’s with the Cyber Crime Unit, investigating the hack of the sugarbaby website.
He still has not provided any identification.
She tells him how she was approached for blackmail and hands over the papers given to her by The Stranger. She figures out that he’s lying (like, duh) and tries to phone Johanna but he knocks her out before she can. So we absolutely had to see her get backhanded, did we?
Heidi wakes up to find John waiting for her and wanting to talk about The Stranger. He shoots Heidi in the leg when she tries to run, we needed to see that too, did we?
Mikes not faring well in the woods, he’s on the verge of a panic attack when Tom calms him down as Daisy notices they’re being watched.
They run, but Mike’s this big clumsy kid, clearly the one in trouble. He makes it to the road to be met by Johanna and Wesley who are only too happy to relieve him of the plastic bag that once held poor Louie’s head.
Wait, it’s not the police waiting for Adam at home, it’s Coach Bob (No Name Yet) and another parent Jason Yeong (Chike Chan – if that isn’t the best name ever, I don’t know what is) who want to speak to Corinne NOW. No-one wants to take this further. Take WHAT further? Did Corinne take a bunch of money? They do think she did! From the football club.
Across town we see the vicious John Katz striding into…the police station.
He IS a cop! You can’t go around just shooting people willy nilly when you’re a police officer! Why does he want The Stranger? And why does Johanna look so happy to see him? What’s going on??!! So we’ve got two women running around blackmailing people for their family secrets, and a cop investigating them all on his own, well outside of police regulations. But they didn’t ask Adam for any money, so he maybe Corinne was the target who wouldn’t pay. We don’t know yet, but when she gave up the name Suzanne Hope, it wasn’t for what she said it was.
We’re not going to find out right now, that’s for sure. We’re oot with more questions that answers. Until next time! Cheers.