And here we are at the end of another exciting episode!
We open on a shot of a big old urn and a voiceover from Coxworth: “If Miss Holt doesn’t have it, and you don’t have it, where is the painting?”
“In the museum, where it belongs,” Steele tells him.
He starts to handle the art, which seems to alarm Laura a bit. The agency is already in enough trouble!
Aha! Steele cleverly concealed the painting inside the urn! (When?)
Coxworth examines the merchandise. Yep, it’s the naked ladies, all right!
Coxworth hands the canvas over the Head Security Guy, who inexplicably seems to have retained his job. “Quickly! Get this into its frame. There’s still a chance we could make the opening!”
Steele gives the disgruntled guy a little toodle-oo as he goes off to reinstall the painting in its frame (Are security personnel trained as art curators?) Now Coxworth wants to know why they didn’t just tell him where the painting was hidden.
“Too risky,” Steele explains. “Gutman had to believe the painting was in our possession, or he would never have come forward.”
“For you to capture him,” Coxworth assumes. But Steele gallantly demurs.
“Actually, Miss Holt was responsible for that. I was indisposed at the time.” Technically true, I suppose: Laura did knock Gutman through the wall while Steele was hanging by his hands. Still, Mr. Steele downplays his role here.
Coxworth has the grace to apologize to Laura for being so hard on her at the police station. Then, citing several million things to be done (like hiring a new curator. And assistant curator. And security team.), Coxworth dashes away.
Looks like Laura is feeling a little sheepish, too. “I’m afraid I’ve been a bit hard on someone myself,” she concedes.
“Nonsense!” Steele assures her. “Your mother’s a strong woman. She’ll get over it.”
Droll, Mr. Steele. Very droll.
“You could have kept the painting and disappeared. What made you decide to leave it in the museum?”
“You’re not serious!” Steele answers. “I don’t want the Five Nudes of Cairo. The painting’s got a bloody curse on it!”
Cue the sprightly incidental music and roll the credits!
For me, a key theme in this episode (as it will be throughout the series) is the concept of identity. We are all different people, depending on whom we’re interacting with. Laura has a professional identity that is confident, determined and controlled – but that identity was challenged in this episode by her anxiety about Steele’s motives. Laura’s identity as a daughter, a role that is much more problematic and uncomfortable for her, is on display here. As cool as Laura is under normal circumstances, we see that she is vulnerable and self-doubting in the presence of her mother. Though she’s distanced herself from Abigail to pursue her own path, Laura desperately craves mom’s approval. We see Laura’s own worries about her life and future reflected in Abigail’s disapproval.
Mr. Steele, whose entire life has been about shifting identities, finds two of his in conflict. He is reminded of who he used to be by Felicia. On the other hand, he has established himself in this new role as the upstanding citizen and brilliant detective hero. I think it’s interesting that Steele doesn’t seem at all tempted by Felicia and her implied invitation to return to his old life; we see that Mr. Steele has staked a genuine claim to this new identity, and intends to keep it.
We also see some subtle shifting in Steele and Laura’s identities in relationship to one another. Laura is willing to open herself up emotionally to this man, even to take great risks for him. And Steele shows himself determined to be the kind of man Laura wants her Mr. Steele to be. They are good for each other.
Next up, Steele Belted!