6.3 Tiger Troubles
The third in this seasons Hustle had a strangely familiar feel about it, as it borrowed some of the elements from the season 5 opener New Recruits. That being the theft of a priceless object from behind an impossibly secure location.
However, their motivation this time is the fate of poor old Albert, whose mark turns out to be unexpectedly connected to notorious person trimmer, Czech Charlie.
We meet the mark, Phil (played by the sixth Doctor Colin Baker), briefly in the opening scene before. During a close game of poker, he promptly drops dead. This time there is no regeneration, and Albert is left with Czech Charlie wanting the money Phil was expecting. Desperate for a big con that will net them the half million that Charlie wants, the gang decide to go after Luke Baincross, the amazingly crass owner of a life-sized gold tiger who’d rather have the cash instead of the tiger.
Baincross is played by the excellent Simon Day, who can do abrasive people in his sleep. My only disappointment is that they didn’t make his character Australian.
The trustees of his estate won’t let Baincross sell the tiger, so the Hustle team propose to steal it from a museum that wants to display it, so the insurance can be collected. The performances were generally good, and the story moved at a reasonable pace. There were, for me, only two issues that marred what could have been classic Hustle.
The first was the tiger itself, which was supposedly gold encrusted with precious jewels. We’re told it’s worth 10 million, which seems a paltry amount just for the gold value, but it doesn’t look worth a fiver. It’s like it was made by Blue Peter, and on one of their especially ham-fisted days. The irony is that later in the story an ice-sculpture copy is made, which actually looks more impressive than the gold one.
But BBC craftwork skills aside, the other big issue was that the entire twist in this story was very badly telegraphed to the point where I’d worked out everything about the ‘reveal’ before it actually arrived. There was an early scene with Three Socks, where he explains the nature of slight-of-hand to the terminally dim Eddie, and, true to form, those are exactly the same methods that they use to swap the tiger before it goes anywhere near the vault at the museum.
They then compound that sloppiness with a fake robbery where two men are seen carrying out the tiger to a van, except if it were gold that wouldn’t actually be possible due to the weight of it. The museum creator fails to register this, or even investigate the absorbent platform that the ice tiger was placed on. Supposedly smart people being stupid is a pet hate of mine.
Perhaps I’m being pedantic, but this show is all about small details and a good number got overlooked when they put this one to bed.
Tiger Trouble was better than last week, but still short of the form I know Hustle can deliver. All the stories so far have been enjoyable, just not hitting the high creative arc that this team can hit. Maybe this is evocative of a show that’s peaked, and needs a break? I’m not sure.
Next week we’re promised some actually character development, of which season six has so far been devoid, with the appearance of Rex Kennedy, Sean and Emma’s dad, who walked out on them 25 years ago. This scenario might inject precisely the sort of tensions that the show needs to elevate its game above the lightweight conman entertainment we’ve been offered recently.
Read our review of the episode 2 here.