Jonathan Creek: The Coonskin Cap (TV)

Episode Details

Originally broadcast March 1, 2003
Season Four, Episode One
Preceded by Satan’s Chimney
Followed by Angel Hair

Written by David Renwick
Directed by Christine Gernon

Familiar Faces

Anna Wilson-Jones has appeared on several other crime-themed shows, making several guest appearances on Midsomer Murders as well as Inspector Lewis, Inspector Morse and Agatha Raisin. She is probably best known to international viewers though for her appearances in the first episode of Black Mirror (as the Prime Minister’s wife) and a recurring role in Victoria.

Adrian Edmondson was one of the most familiar faces from Britain’s alternative comedy scene. After appearing in The Young Ones he worked with Rik Mayall, also a Creek alum, on Bottom. While he doesn’t have a lot of crime and mystery credits beyond Creek, he did recently appear on an episode of Death in Paradise.

The Verdict

While it may not be a classic, this episode offers two very solid takes on the impossible disappearance.

Episode Summary

A serial killer has strangled several women and the only thing that seems to be known about them is that they are described as wearing some rather distinctive headgear – a Davy Crockett hat. Carla Borrego, now the host of a true crime show, is working with the police on a reenactment at the scene of the most recent murder when shots are fired at the reenactors. The police quickly identify the position of the gun and converge on the location within moments only to find the door locked from the inside and the gunman vanished.

My Thoughts

The Coonskip Cap feels quite strikingly different from all of the episodes of Jonathan Creek that preceded it. Some of that is visual as the episode sports a darker, richer look with moodier lighting and considerable amounts of night-shooting but it is also noticeable in the script itself. This is a story about a serial killer who preys on women, a scenario that seems to have far more in common with news headlines than most Jonathan Creek episodes which usually seem to feature the sort of crime scenarios you might find in golden age detective fiction.

The result is quite jarring when watched shortly after the Maddy Magelan era though of course there was a gap of several years between them. Personally I think it helps to define and separate this next phase in the show’s development from what has come before and while not every change is wholly successful, I am happy that this episode is structured around a couple of pretty solid impossibilities.

The first impossibility involves the disappearance of a suspect from within a room moments after gun shots are fired. When the police arrive they find that the door is locked from the inside and have to break it down to get access. Meanwhile the window, the only other exit to the room, is under observation from several other officers. When the bullets are retrieved they match the sniper rifle found inside the room so how did the suspect manage to escape?

This impossible disappearance is a fine appetizer though I think that it would disappoint if it were the main meal. There is a logical solution to the situation that I think becomes all the more obvious when the viewer sees what Jonathan is interested in at the crime scene. It’s still a good idea though and executed well and there are some very solid questions about who did it and why that are left to linger for much of the episode.

The second impossibility is the meatier one as it once again involves an apparent disappearance but this time the killer has struck successfully, strangling a police officer in a gym in a really effective sequence that plays out in near pitch black. There is nowhere to hide in the gym and only the one locked exit which Inspector Ted Parnevik and other officers have under observation. Furthermore the moments leading up to her death are captured in a rather grim radio recording so how did the killer strike and then get away?

There are a couple of reasons that I think that this is more effective than the first impossibility. For one thing, a character has actually died which raises the stakes. For another, we are given clearer physical confirmation about characters’ movements around the moment that the situation occurs and the narrow window in which it takes place. The trick, worked in tighter constraints, seems all the more baffling and even Jonathan appears to be struggling at first to solve it.

Of course Jonathan does eventually figure out how the various elements relate to each other and I have to say that I was pretty satisfied with his explanations of how and why these two impossibilities occurred. The only thing that disappointed me a little was a visual clue which I’ll describe in my Aidan Spoils Everything section after the page break. I think that is the least important part of the denouement though and so it didn’t spoil my enjoyment too much.

Looking at various online episode rankings though it does seem that I am a bit of an outlier in feeling that way. In several posts I read this episode tends to place towards the bottom. I suspect that the reasons for this lack of popularity lie with the character of Carla and the adjustments made to her background to enable her to become a viable on-going assistant for Jonathan.

Back when Carla was introduced she was a theatrical agent. That made sense as a rationale for that story but clearly she could not keep encountering Jonathan in that guise. The true crime TV show, while being a little reminiscent of Maddy’s true crime books, feels like a further updating of that idea and provides a much stronger reason to keep bringing them together – particularly as the collaboration is essentially forced on her.

The idea that the show would be produced by her husband seems to be a common source of annoyance with this era. He is certainly another smarmy showbiz type though nowhere near as obnoxious as Adam Klaus, but I think that this episode does use him to make some interesting observations about the philosophy of television programming. Some of those observations specific to true crime programming feel even more relevant today than they would have been back then because of the glut of such shows being produced now both through traditional media and online.

There are two other reasons I quite like him, at least in the context of this episode. Firstly, I think Adrian Edmondson is well cast in the part, giving him a strong (if sometimes pretty frustrating) personality. The other reason is that Carla being married gives our investigators a more obvious obstacle to their being together romantically. This was welcome after three seasons in which I frequently wondered just what the problem was that stopped Jonathan and Maddy getting together when they both clearly wanted it at points. Now, I’m not foolish enough to claim that it would always be so – just I don’t hate it here.

Overall then, I think that this one is better than its reputation would suggest. While it is clearly not on the level of some of the classic stories in the show’s second season, I’d take this over almost any from the third. Whether I will be as generous of the next story… Well, you’ll have to wait to next week to find out.

Aidan Spoils Everything

ROT-13: Vg’f n fznyy guvat ohg gur funqbj bs gur ‘pbbafxva pnc’ jbhyq erdhver ernyyl fcrpvsvp yvtugvat pbaqvgvbaf gb abg whfg ybbx yvxr sevmml unve va n fpehapul. Nyfb, jub rknpgyl jbhyq vzzrqvngryl guvax gb qrfpevor vg nf ybbxvat yvxr n Qnil Pebpxrgg ung? Fgvyy, juvyr V nz hapbaivaprq gur zbzrag Wbanguna ernyvmrf gur fvtavsvpnapr bs jung ur unf frra vf jbaqreshy naq V nccerpvngr gung juvyr Pneyn erprvirf uryc fur abgvprf gur zbirzrag oruvaq ure naq unf nyernql ortha gb svtug onpx.

Gur vqrn bs bhe zheqrere fcbggvat na bccbeghavgl gb hfr nabgure pevzr gb znfx gurve bja vf n fgebat bar naq Erajvpx unaqyrf vg jryy, tvivat ivrjref n uvag va gur punatr bs gur xvyyre’f zrgubqf (juvpu vf arprffnel gb sbepr n fvghngvba va juvpu gurve ivpgvz jvyy jrne gur gnzcrerq ohyyrgcebbs irfg). V nyfb yvxr gung ur unf uvagrq nyernql ng gur zheqrere’f oyhag naq unefu angher, frggvat hc gung gurl unir gur fbeg bs crefbanyvgl gung zvtug frrx gb rkprffviryl chavfu fbzrbar sbe n pevzr. Juvyr bhe zheqrere vf uneqyl gur zbfg yvxryl bs fhfcrpgf (V erzrzore nffhzvat gung fbzrguvat bqq jnf tbvat ba jvgu gur tha pyrnavat – juvpu jnfa’g rknpgyl jebat ohg vg jnf abg va gur jnl V rkcrpgrq), guvf qrsvavgryl qbrfa’g pbzr bhg bs yrsg svryq.

Bar bs gur nfcrpgf bs guvf rcvfbqr V yvxrq zbfg jnf gur arne cvgpu oynpxarff bs gur zheqre fprar juvpu tbrf n ybat jnl gb perngvat n fbeg bs pynhfgebcubovp frafr bs greebe nf gur ivrjre fgehttyrf gb frr jung vg tbvat ba. V qbhog V jnf gur bayl bar fgenvavat zl rlrf gb frr vs V pbhyq crepvrir fbzr gval qrgnvy gung jbhyq or gur pyhr gb gur jubyr guvat. Gur gevpx urer vf gung guvf abg bayl fhvgf gur ohvyqvat bs fhfcrafr, vg vf ragveryl arprffnel gb uvqr gur tnqtrgel hfrq gb chyy bss gur zheqre.

Juvyr gur xvyyre’f pubvpr gb chyy bss gurve zheqre fpurzr vf pyrneyl uvtu evfx tvira gur urnil cbyvpr cerfrapr, V guvax vg vf pyrne gung jrer gurl abg gb trg gur bccbeghavgl gb vfbyngr gur ivpgvz gurl jbhyq fvzcyl erfpurqhyr naq unir nabgure gvc pnyyrq va. Va gung frafr gur jvaqbj sbe orvat bofreirq vf vaperqvoyl fubeg – whfg gur gvzr vg gnxrf gb ghea bss gur yvtug naq ybpx gur qbbe sebz gur bhgfvqr.

Zl bayl erny sehfgengvba jvgu gur raqvat bs gur rcvfbqr vf gur vqrn gung pyrneyl gur bgure cbyvpr bssvpref unir orra gvccrq bss naq ner fgnaqvat ol gb fgrc va naq neerfg bhe zheqrere. Juvpu vf vafnar nf gung fvghngvba bayl orarsvgf gur cebqhpgvba pbzcnal jub trg fbzr terng sbbgntr gung znxrf vg nyy gur zber yvxryl gung gur fgbel bs n pbc xvyyvat nabgure bssvpre ur jnf va n eryngvbafuvc jvgu jvyy trg rira terngre zrqvn pbirentr. V qb yvxr gur yvggyr zbzrag gubhtu jurer gurl fubj gurve erfcrpg sbe Wbanguna’f novyvgvrf nf gurl ner orvat yrq njnl – n ernyyl avpr gbhpu.

13 thoughts on “Jonathan Creek: The Coonskin Cap (TV)

  1. Not an episode (or series) that I have particularly fond memories of – not much compares with the first two series – but I might give this one another go after reading this. I haven’t rewatched this since it was first on, maybe it’s time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand feeling that way. There is definitely a drop in quality in the third season. This wouldn’t compete with the best from those first two years but I don’t think it deserves to be near the bottom of an episode ranking either. If you do end up rewatching it I would be curious what you make of it!


  2. This was the first episode I ever watched, with friends in a student house, and was memorable because fbzrbar cvpxrq gur xvyyre sebz gur irel fgneg orpnhfr gurl gubhtug uvf ebyr jnf gbb cebzvarag naq jung jnf uvf checbfr ncneg sebz gb or gur xvyyre. Fyvtugyl snhygl ernfbavat va guvf pnfr V srry ohg fbzrgvzrf vg pna qrsvavgryl or gehr gung gurer vf n punenpgre jub qbrfa’g ernyyl svg vagb n fgbel naq vf gurer cheryl gb qb gur xvyyvat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lrf, V pna frr gung. Gurer’f nyfb gur pbagrag bs uvf ivrjf juvpu V guvax pyrneyl fhttrfg gung gurl jvyy cebzcg n erfcbafr bs fbzr xvaq yngre va gur rcvfbqr. Gur zvahgr fbzrbar cbvagf bhg fbzrguvat yvxr gung gubhtu vg’f uneq abg gb frr vg!


  3. Bqqyl rabhtu zl znva ceboyrz jvgu guvf vf fvzvyne gb gur bar V unir jvgu gur cerivbhf rcvfbqr – fheryl na nhgbcfl jbhyq unir fubja fur jnfa’g fgenatyrq? Nyfb, gur phycevg jnf irel yhpxl gung fur qvqa’g hfr uvf anzr va ure qlvat zrffntr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lbh pbhyq jryy or evtug – V jbhyq pregnvayl rkcrpg vg gb ybbx bqq nf gurer cebonoyl jbhyqa’g or abgvprnoyr oehvfvat nebhaq gur arpxyvar naq vg jbhyq ybbx qvssrerag sebz gur cerivbhf pnfrf. Ba gur bgure unaq gur pvephzfgnaprf nebhaq gur pevzr ner fb fhttrfgvir gung vg zvtug whfg or nffhzrq gung gur xvyyre punatrq gurve zrgubq n yvggyr nf unq nyernql orra fhttrfgrq ol gur fgntrq thafubg vapvqrag.
      Lbh ner nofbyhgr evtug gubhtu gung ur trgf yhpxl gung fur qbrfa’g znantr gb anzr uvz tvira ubj ybat vg gnxrf gb or shyyl rssrpgvir!


    1. I don’t feel particularly original saying this but Black Canary and Danse Macabre are probably my favorites. And thank you – it’s fun doing these!


      1. Thanks for the recommendations. I had seen Danse Macabre already (indeed it is good). Last evening I watched Black Canary for the first time and enjoyed it. Some parts stretched credibility including whether the culprit actually could have been successful. But if John Dickson Carr had written a Jonathan Creek script, this could be the type of episode he would create.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I more or less agree with you. I thought this episode was pretty good indeed. As I mentioned in the comments on the last episode, I am not at all happy with the changes made to Carla – I feel that she is made much more insecure as well – and the addition of her husband, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the mystery itself. I think the plot is good, and it’s nice to get two impossibilities in one episode.

    So, overall I’m quite positive in my feelings towards this episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I certainly do miss the brasher version of Carla from Satan’s Chimney. I do wonder if there was a consideration to bring Maddy back. Carla’s situation could so easily be adjusted to work for her with minimal tweaking.
      But yes, very appreciative of the two solid impossibilities!


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