Inside No. 9 – ‘The Bill’

insideno9thebill

Series 3, Episode 2

CONTAINS SPOILERS

After the Christmas episode ‘The Devil Of Christmas’, the remaining 5 episodes of series 3 are being shown in a continuous run in the standard one episode a week. The music used in the trailer for the rest of series 3 was ‘Perfect (Exceeder)’ by Mason vs. Princess Superstar. That’s a blast from the past!

‘The Bill’ was the first. I’m going to start putting a cut under posts which have spoilers in, and as I’ve said before this review CONTAINS SPOILERS,  so click at your own risk.

The Number 9 this time is restaurant actually called The Number Nine.  The resturant has no customers apart from one table, a group of four men who have just had a game of badmington. The evening seems to have gone well, but arguments start when it comes to who will play the bill.

Malcolm (Steve Pemberton) wants to pay for the whole meal as he is club secretary. Archie (Reece Shearsmith) is put out by this, thinking Malcolm keeps trying to buy people, and accuses him of buying votes to become club secretary by taking members out to dinner. Archie lost in the vote despite being at the club five years longer. Craig (Philip Glenister) wants to pay for the whole meal to show off the fact that he’s a rich Londoner. At one point, Malcolm, Archie and Craig are putting their debit cards in the air at the same time. Kevin (Jason Watkins) in contrast keeps arguing why he shouldn’t pay as much, like that he didn’t have a starter and didn’t get a drink. He’s tightfisted and miserly, and has a coin purse and coupons rather than notes and debit cards.

They are being served by a put-upon Eastern European waitress Anya (Ellie White).

Craig tries to pay, but his card is declined. He rings up his au pair Anoushka and asks her to bring his other card over, even if it means her leaving his kids alone in the hotel room. Malcolm insists it would be easier if he paid. But then Archie says he has a brain tumour and has 3 months left to live if he is lucky. That’s why he was so desperate to pay.

Craig tells him that he knew someone with a brain tumour who went to Switzerland for “the best possible treatment”. By which he means that he got a private room with a 52 inch plasma screen and every channel. The man didn’t survive. It says a lot about Craig’s priorities.

The atmosphere turns vicious after Malcolm says he has texted Archie’s wife Susie who tells him she knows nothing about a brain tumour. It was just a lie Archie came up with just so that he’d be able to get attention and pay the bill! Archie tries to say that Malcolm drove him to it. All four fight over the bill receipt.

By this point, Anya just wants them all to leave and says the bill doesn’t matter anymore, they don’t have to pay. But Malcolm says it’s gone beyond the bill, and he and Archie have to settle their conflict once and for all.

Malcolm goes into the kitchen and gets the sharpest knife. He wants a game of Stab Scotch, like they did at school.  It was of course with a pencil or a compass back then, so nowhere near the same damage a sharp knife can do, but he and Archie will compete over who can put the knife between each finger the fastest. After Malcolm has completed his try, a desperate Archie is worried he won’t beat Malcolm’s time and keeps stabbing his fingers in the process. Craig snatches the knife off him, but ends up accidentally slitting Anya’s throat, which is a horrible, gory moment in the episode.

Anya dies, and the four are panicing of what they will do. Archie makes a phone call not to the police, but a criminal contact who will get rid of the body and clean the place of evidence. But it still needs paying for, 200 grand in cash tonight. Only Craig has that sort of money and makes a phone call… during this though, he steps on Anya’s hand and she cries out in pain.

It turns out this whole thing was a scam against Craig, and the others were all in on it. Anya didn’t die, she wasn’t even injured, the blood was fake. In fact, she isn’t even Eastern European or called Anya, she’s an English girl named Karen. They got the manager to close the resturant for the night and allow them to use it especially. It looks like the seemingly meek and mild Kevin was the mastermind behind it all too! As they know Craig is rich and was going back to London the next day they thought they could stage this and have him leave, unlikely to want to ever come back, tricking him out of 200 grand. Craig tries to leave the restaurant, but the door is locked…

On another night, Malcolm, Archie and Kevin are in the same resturant having the exact same conversation they were having at the start of the episode, but a different man is sat where Craig was. Karen/Anya is sat at the table too. Craig is playing the role of the waiter this time.

Even if you are expecting a twist, there is so much stuff coming through from the conversations in this episode you might be misdirected as to where it is going. There are red herrings, such as why Craig’s card is declined, and Archie’s criminal past having been in prison for fraud, though it turns out most if not all of this was part of the scam.

That said, it still leaves you with things to think about. While the others are scamming him, Craig is a bit dodgy himself. Why exactly has he got at least £200,000 stashed in his hotel room safe? He’s also got stuff in his wardrobes and drawers he really doesn’t want anyone to find.

Inside No. 9 episodes often are rewarding to watch more than once. Stuff makes sense if you look back. Like it was a bit strange that there were no other customers in the restaurant. At the beginning of the episode, Anya changes the sign on the restaurant from open to closed and pulls the blinds down. I think most people would barely notice that on first viewing, but looking back the clues were literally there from the start.

They even lampshade some things, Archie saying the plan was too elaborate in the first place, and that some of Anya’s broken English was a little too much to be convincing, such as asking “can I offer you guys to be shot?” instead of offering them a shot of vodka, or saying the meal can be “at the home” rather than on the house.

The age old North/South divide comes into ‘The Bill’, showing stereotypes of both regions. Northerners are boorish, grudging and poor, Southerners are boastful, superficial and materialistic. It’s a lot more subtle and nuanced than many attempts at it though, I guess it’s a subtext rather than the text.

With the obvious exception of Craig they were all probably using fake names. A brief moment in a conversation reveals that Malcolm’s real name is Jerry, but apparently Archie’s wife is really called Susie. Not important in the grand scheme of the episode I suppose, but I found it quite interesting.

The dynamic between the characters in this episode reminded me of The League Of Gentlemen scenes with the businessmen Geoff, Mike and Brian and the sketch where the hospital DJ and two doctors are playing a ludicrously complicated card game Go Johnny Go Go Go Go.

There were quite a lot of bits I liked from this episode.

The reference to Going For Gold host Henry Kelly. (They confused him with Helen Keller!)

Craig – “Why is a wife like a hand grenade? You remove the ring, and BOOM, your house is gone”.

Hypocritical humour with Malcolm/Jerry tutting at how greedy the resturant is for how much they are charging to allow them to have it to themselves for the night.

Karen/Anya saying Craig crushed her fingers, and Archie replying what about HIS fingers which were stabbed.

I liked the brief mention of Otley as well.

‘The Bill’ was a solid episode. It was funny, had an interesting plot, a great cast and fitted well as a 30 minute episode. Perhaps not a classic or among the best of Inside No. 9, but it was still good TV.

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