Series 2 - Episode 20
School For Traitors
Teleplay by James Mitchell
Directed by Jonathan Alwyn
Venus sings "The 'Varsity Drag" at ... a varsity rag and is asked to dance by Ted East (John Standing) when she finishes. She turns him down, saying she promised to dance with her friend, Richard Davis. Claire Summers (Melissa Stribling) gives up trying to get Roberts (Richard Thorp) to dance and asks Ted for a dance, while Venus fights off the advances of another student, only to find Richard is dead.
Steed meets the aristocratic One Seven (Frederick Farley) in a bar run by Higby (Reginald Marsh) and tells him of Davis' apparent suicide; One Seven reveals that Davis had informed him he was being blackmailed to hand over his research, and had handed over unimportant data to keep them happy, but hadn't told One Seven who had blackmailed him. One Seven admonishes Steed for assigning Venus to keep an eye - unsuccessfully - on Davis, saying he disapproves of amateurs. Steed tells him his cover is literary research into "Dr Johnson's friend - Italian name". One Seven drawls, "Piozzi", and complains about his covers often having a large element of wishful thinking. He announces he'll stay with his friend the Vice Chancellor and when Steed asks what he's to do, One Seven quotes Piozzi, saying, "Sir, I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding."
Dr Shanklin (Anthony Nicholls) congratulates Roberts on being promoted to fill Davis' post and Professor Aubyn (Frank Shelley) echoes the words, lamenting what a loss Davis was - his research was flawless. Aubyn polishes off a sherry and they leave. Green (Terence Woodfield) is ushered in by the Proctor (Ronald Mayer) and asked why he's been returning to college after hours. He denies having 'an attachment' in town ... any more... and is warned that he'll be sent down if he does it again.
Steed catches up with Venus in the bar where they're served by Sally (Janet Butlin). She's just told him there was no note or indication Davis planned to commit suicide, and that he'd been seeing an artist but the relationship had foundered when Ted arrives with Claire. They're introduced, Ted calling Claire the 'bohemian girl' and he serves them a few drinks - Higby telling him it'll be 3/6½ but is told to chalk it up. When Claire reveals over the snooker table that she paints, Steed hurries Venus along to 'see her agent' and chats with Ted and Claire. He says he's doing literary research and comments on Davis doing the same. Ted scoffs and says he was hardly literary, and boring, and probably didn't have any friends. Steed says Venus was a friend and Davis sent her a note, contrary to the police report. Claire hurries off 'to get a picture ready' and Ted tries to casually learn more about the note.
Roberts arrives at Claire's studio, bursting with the news that he's been given Davis' job. They kiss but she breaks away sadly, confessing she owes Higby a large sum of money. He's flat broke and unable to help but she says she didn't want it, she just had to tell someone, and a recent sale brought in no income because the cheque was made out incorrectly. She blusters that the buyer is in the middle of the Atlantic and had accidentally given her a blank cheque as well, and she coerces Roberts into trying to copy the signature. Venus meanwhile returns to her room and finds Green searching her chest of drawers. She challenges him and he claims he was a friend of Davis and wanted to see the letter he'd sent her before he died - she denies she ever received one and sends him away.
Roberts arrives at the bar and gives Higby the newly made out cheque and asks for the difference in cash, but Higby sneers at him and fetches another cheque he claims was given to him by Lynch and says the signatures don't match. Roberts protests but Higby says he collects information and Roberts is a forger - bright boys like him end up being stinks master in lowly prep schools if they're convicted and he keeps the cheque, asking for information in exchange for him not informing the authorities. Roberts departs with his tail between his legs and Claire enters gloating at her new victim. Higby tells her Green didn't get the letter, but Venus didn't go to the police and she muses whether there's a note at all - why would he have sent a suicide note before being murdered?
Venus is telling Steed about Green when Claire rings and they listen together as she anonymously claims to be a friend of Davis, and ordering her to leave the letter behind a noticeboard on one of the college staircases that night. She's baffled - as Steed hasn't told her he invented the letter - and he sits down to prepare the letter Davis ought to have written, and seals some blank pages in an envelope. Green meanwhile is up in front of Shanklin again as Higby has set him up, claiming he was found in Venus' room and cigarettes and money were later found to be missing from the bar. Shanklin tell him he has no choice but to recommend he be sent down and he dismisses the boy, who runs into East on the way out and tells him all. Steed meets Aubyn in the pub and chats with him about the metal fatigue research he's doing, and learns that Roberts has replaced Davis. Later that night Venus slips the letter behind the noticeboard and Steed, loitering in the quadrangle, rushes up the stairs when he hears a gunshot - and Higby arrives. He enters Roberts' room to find an insolent East waving a revolver around, claiming to be trying to work out how Davis killed himself. He says the rooms are stuffy so the window was probably open, so how come no-one heard the shot? Steed reminds him the dance was on and East counters that the band didn't start until 8pm and he died before then. From the window, Steed sees Higby's hat approach the staircase but by the time he's descended the villain has vanished. He sees the letter has gone and East arrives, complaining about their conversation being interrupted, and they spot Green lying in a corner of the quad, Steed grimly observing he's been sent down all right - he's dead!
Claire is furious when she discover the letter is blank and gives Higby a jar of acidic face cream to give to Venus. He's horrified but she tells him to do as she says. Venus is making herself up when Steed arrives and conveys the news of Green's supposed suicide. She smiles when he says she's looking particularly beautiful and thanks him for the face cream. He leaps into action and grabs the jar and smells the contents then manhandles her across the room to the sink to wash it off, only stopping when she admits she didn't like the smell and didn't use it. He explains it would have scarred her for life and she wonders why anyone would do that - to warn you off, Steed suggests.
East is strumming a guitar in the quad when Roberts arrives, who tells him his thesis is poor. Venus enters and is introduced and she's stunned to see East with a guitar. He jokes that five years hard practice has let him learn one number, 'Yellow Bird' which he plays while she sings. Roberts buts in and asks Venus if he could have a word about Davis and they go to his room, leaving the troubadour in the quad with the other undergraduates. He makes her a cup of tea - and asks for the letter from Davis! She bluffs that its personal and she doesn't have it with her and he suggests she made it up, then tells her he believes Davis was murdered as he's discovered he was on the verge of a big discovery and wouldn't have killed himself at such a time. Steed enters and is introduced and Venus mentions the letter. Steed is interested to learn that Roberts thinks Davis was murdered and Venus leaves them to chat. Steed postulates the existence of a subversive organisation which blackmails undergraduates to gain control over tomorrow's leaders and Roberts confirms he's been subject to the blackmail and names Higby, but doesn't think he's the top of the ladder. Steed promises him immunity from the forgery prosecution and asks him to pretend he's ideologically convinced and he returns to the pub and tells Higby he doesn't need the cheque as they're on the same side and he had been trying to get in touch with the other side for some time.
Venus sings another song for rag week and this time agrees to dance with the besotted Ted, but Steed arrives soon after and whisks her away to let her know that Roberts has disappeared, leaving the glum undergraduate to be easy prey for Claire. Ted walks Claire home but she sends him away from her door and enters to find Roberts. He confronts her over trying to trap East as well, then asks her why she set him up with the cheque. She claims to have been trapped by the same people and she really loves him, then moments later lets Higby in and tells him they never believed his claims of being one of them.
The police inform Shanklin and Aubyn that Roberts died from an overdose, and Shanklin mentions that Steed found both Green and Roberts, which he thinks odd... Higby and Claire meanwhile are ensnaring East with the same 200 guinea cheque ploy. He laughs in their faces when Higby enters and says they want something done in return for not turning him in for forgery and is stunned when they ask him to kill someone. Steed meanwhile is telling Venus he's managed to get the county police to keep a lid on things and learns in return that Claire had gone out with every single man who had recently been found dead. East timidly visits Shanklin and tells him about being tricked into forging a cheque, but when he says he's been told to kill Steed, Shanklin gives him the revolver to do it with! Steed breaks into Claire's studio, leaving Venus on guard in the hallway, and he's just found the cheque book when Venus rushes in to give the alarm. Higby enters and is knocked out by Steed and they hide in the corridor when Claire returns home. She learns from the groggy Higby what happened and phones Shanklin, who tells them to come over. Steed meanwhile meets East in the pub, who candidly tells him he's been instructed to kill him. Shanklin tells Claire one of their 'old boys' is going to Washington on a diplomatic mission that week, and produces the cheque. Steed is led in by East, who tells him he wanted Shanklin to do it himself but when Claire grabs the revolver he reveals that the gun isn't loaded and the villains are overpowered, Steed handing Ted a revolver that does have a few shots in it.
The next morning, Aubyn learns from Sally that Higby is helping the police with their enquiries, which he considers very public spirited. He exchanges a few witticisms with Steed about Mrs Piozzi and Steed leaves, quoting Johnson's line about the high road to London. Venus is miffed but gladly accepts when Steed returns, saying, "Coming my dear?" and they depart together, which makes Aubyn smile and order another half.