This was the penultimate Hustle episode of the series, and in many respects combined what the show does best with those things it desperately needs to avoid. As usual, our latter day Robin Hood’s taking someone for whom the audience can have no sympathy whatsoever. No not a banker, but almost equally reviled: a standing MP.
Actually, Rhona Christie MP, as played by Kate Fleetwood, is quite horrible in all the self-obsessed ways that the very worst of the political elite can be. They possibly went too far with her, and the parody becomes so great that, on at least a couple of occasions, I thought it might be Ronni Ancona playing her. Now that would have been funny, but, alas, it wasn’t.
The MP and the crew cross paths when a youth club that Mickey knows looks set to close, because Christie and her unscrupulous property developer chum want to redevelop the area. It’s part of the MP’s job to remove listed buildings from protection, which she does for personal financial gain.
Their first job is to get more information on how her scams work, so they deploy Sean to replace her recently fired researcher and get an inside line on what she’s up to. There quickly develops a schism where conning her and stopping the youth club being demolished become two separate, but intrinsically joined objectives. This story is a prime example of how in this show often less is certainly more. Because while we’re given lots of information about how the MP will be fleeced, the approach masterminded by Albert and Ash is a series of curious teases with a clever reveal at the end. Often the temptation that at least two of the season’s stories in this series couldn’t resist is to tell you too much, entirely undermining the conclusion.
The rest of the entertainment comes from Emma, Albert and Mickey taking over the office of a successful property developer over the 45 minutes he takes for lunch each day to offer Christie a bribe, which they’ll later record her accepting. I found this whole scene a stretch, not because it’s not possible to pull off such things, but because I’ve never seen an MP turn up on time for anything, ever. Given such a tight window of opportunity, the chance of one actually appearing on cue seems remote if not entirely implausible. But the way that Albert, replete with wheelchair, gains access into the building amused me, at least.
What didn’t amuse or appeal is the way that the writers have chosen to use Matt Di Angelo’s character, Sean, which is becoming irritating in the extreme. Where this story had the possibility of bringing out some interesting reactions to being bullied by Rhona Christie, he exhibits the two personality traits that he was given in the first episode in which he appeared and have since been worked remorselessly. The first is being naïve, which, considering the rest of the crew never actually tell him anything, isn’t a surprise. And the other, which is getting older than Viking smoked kippers, is the jealousy exhibited in respect of his ‘sister’ and Mickey. If it doesn’t turn out that he isn’t actually her brother in the final story of the season, I’m drawn to conclude that his interest is slightly creepy if not an extremely worrying reaction. Kelly Adams who plays Emma will be thirty this year, which makes this dynamic even harder to accept. It’s been pushed in every story so far, and I’m getting bored with whatever it’s supposed to represent or achieve. Matt, refuse to play this character again unless they give you something more interesting to do!
Overall, this story lacked bite, but was actually better than the very poor story last week. I’m hoping that the stops get pulled out for the season finale, as this series might not get another if they don’t allow themselves to get a bit wild and unpredictable at some point.
I’ll bring you my views on that, and a season 5 overview next week.