The scene opens with Laura …
… getting ready for her dinner with mom and Steele. Her dress is very 80s, with the tie neck and ruffled sleeves, but it’s a pretty color for her.
She heads toward the bathroom. We see a photograph on a small bureau – it looks like a man with a little girl on his lap. Could be young Laura and her dad?
Turns out the bathroom is already occupied – by Abigail, leaning over the tub and scrubbing furiously.
Laura is embarrassed. “Mother, you don’t have to clean my bathroom. It’ll aggravate your asthma.”
“You know how I hate mess,” her mother responds. Funny, I would have pegged Laura as a neat freak – she’s so precise in everything she does. And her house looks immaculate to me. Could it be that mama is finding fault where there is none to be found?
Abigail wants to know if Laura has spoken to Frances lately.
“I called her on her birthday.”
“Your sister has done very well for herself, Laura. You could take a lesson from her.” She informs Laura that Frances’ husband Donald’s company now owns 12 athletic footwear stores. She asks Laura if she knows how far the jogging shoe has come in the last five years?
Here is the first of two statements Abigail makes in this episode that will be problematic, continuity-wise, in the future. This one will be given an explanation (albeit kind of a lame one) in a future episode.
Laura is saved from having to answer by the doorbell. “I have to go answer the door now, mother,” she says, a little peevishly.
“Always running somewhere,” Abigail mutters. One senses that there may have been many such scenes in these two women’s history together. Is it possible that our strong, independent Laura has felt the need to run away from her mother’s disapproval?
It’s Murphy at the door. “Hello, partner,” he says, rather overstepping his bounds again. He’s got the background information on that painting that Laura asked for.
“So where’s your mother?”
“Cleaning the bathroom.”
“You made your mother clean the bathroom?”
Laura doesn’t find this funny.
She and Murphy sit on the couch and get down to business (Not the same sort of business she and Steele would get down to on a couch, I’ll warrant.)
Murphy reports that the Five Nudes of Cairo have been through a lot of hands, and most of them are not around to talk about it.
“But get this,” he says, a little gleam beginning to appear in his eyes. “Six years ago the painting was stolen from a private collector by a woman and a guy calling himself Michael O’Leary.”
“Ring any bells?” Oh, you’re just a little too smug, Murphy.
At first Laura can’t place the name. Then it dawns on her: It was one of the aliases in the five passports they discovered among “Remington Steele’s” belongings, way back in episode 1!
“But you’re not seriously suggesting-“ she protests.
Oh yes he is! “Think about it: If he really is a thief, what better place for him to watch for a big score to come along than in a detective agency.”
Laura reminds Murphy that Steele didn’t even want to take the museum case.
“Less interference that way,” Murphy gloats. He tells Laura he’s sure Steele has been waiting for an opportunity like this, and there’s nothing to keep him from stealing the painting and leaving “OUR agency to take the rap for it. He’s stolen it once already.”
OUR agency, Murphy? I don’t think so. Mr. Michaels seems very determined to position himself as Laura’s equal in their work and the business.
Laura thinks he’s jumping to conclusions. “I know him better than that.”
“No, you don’t.”
Laura says they both need to keep open minds. She orders Murphy to run a check on the museum’s employees (sounds like an equal partnership there, Murph.)
Murphy urges her to call him if she needs him. (Hm. Bit of foreshadowing here, perhaps?)
At the door, he cracks wise again: “Is your mother really in there cleaning the bathroom?”
Laura is not amused.
The scene shifts abruptly to Laura’s cute little car pulling into the drive in front of Steele’s apartment building. We hear Laura and her mother discussing Frances’ wonderful life in voiceover.
Except as they pull up, we can clearly see that neither woman’s mouth is moving, even though we hear Abigail say, “Why is it so awful to settle down with someone like Donald?” (Perhaps mother and daughter have a telepathic bond?)
Laura informs her mother (using her vocal cords) that she doesn’t want to marry a pair of jogging shoes.
Abigail doesn’t like your attitude, missy! She tells Laura she’s not asking her to marry footwear; there are other alternatives. Laura can’t believe what she’s hearing. Then she can.
“Take your Mr. Steele, for instance. I bet THERE’S a catch and a half.” (I can’t say I disagree, Mrs. Holt.)
Laura breaks the painful news: “Mother, men aren’t fish any more, and my line isn’t out there to hook a big one and reel him in.”
“Well, your line has to be somewhere,” Abigail snaps.
“I’m a licensed private investigator.”
Abigail professes not to know what that means. What, she didn’t watch The Rockford Files in the 70s? Mannix? Barnaby Jones? Cannon?
Laura seems discouraged. “Are you coming with me upstairs?” she asks, a little timidly.
Nope. Abigail prefers to wait in the car and “collect” herself.
Laura heads off to fetch Mr. Steele. Something tells me there’s a bumpy night ahead!
I’ll stop there. I have to feel for Laura in these scenes. Mom is a piece of work, no? And yet somehow I can’t really dislike Abigail (maybe because I associate her with the much more sympathetic Dotty West.) I believe Abigail really does want the best for her daughter, but her worldview and idea of what constitutes “best” is very different from Laura’s. And on top of the stress with her mom, now Laura has to deal with the possibility that Steele is preparing to betray her. What a lousy day! Do you think Murphy has shaken Laura’s belief in Mr. Steele?