Synopsis: Turpin and Swiftnick hold up a traveller only to be informed that he’s already been robbed. Turpin concludes that a ‘poacher’ is working their patch. They chase a likely suspect, but decide not to follow the rider into the woods and to head him off instead. They meet a foppish young man called Willoughby (played by Rupert Frazer) who claims also to have been robbed. He is the nephew of Sir John Glutton and is en route for Rookham Hall. Turpin and Swiftnick allow Willoughby to go on his way, laughing at him as he does so. A mysterious man is watching all three of them from behind the trees.
Big Nell (played by Joan Rhodes) tells Turpin that a newcomer to the neighbourhood by name of Vizard (the mysterious man) is absent all day and when he returns his horse has been hard-ridden. Turpin is convinced that Vizard is the poacher.
Meanwhile at Rookham Hall, Captain Spiker is not impressed with Willoughby’s ways and is openly aggressive in his behaviour towards him. Glutton tells Spiker he should acquire some social polish if he wants to get on in life. While Spiker is practising his courtly bows in front of a mirror, a maid brings him a letter from Vizard, in which Vizard promises to help Spiker catch a notorious thief.
Spiker rides to meet Vizard at the appointed time, and Vizard (played by Michael O’Hagan) informs him that the thief referred to is Willoughby.
Turpin is planning to catch his poacher by means of posing as a wealthy traveller. He dons a wig and affects a foppish manner by way of disguise and joins Willoughby in a tavern. While Willoughby and Turpin drink together, Swiftnick goes through Willoughby’s saddlebags and discovers his identity as the poacher. Swiftnick takes Turpin aside to inform him of this, and then Turpin returns to the table to blow Willoughby’s cover. The three of them agree to co-operate in order to rob Glutton, and Willoughby, who longs to return to London, agrees to leave once he has acquired the sum sufficient to cover his gambling debts.
Turpin infiltrates Rookham Hall and, disguised as a servant, steals the key for the strongroom from under Glutton’s pillow. Willoughby is engaged in distracting Spiker. Glutton discovers that the key is missing and shouts for help. Turpin and Willoughby are cornered by Spiker, Glutton and Vizard as they try to escape. Spiker steps forward to challenge Turpin, but Willoughby intervenes, leaving Turpin to deal with Vizard. Willoughby outclasses Spiker in swordsmanship and easily defeats him, thus getting his revenge for Spiker’s earlier treatment of him. Turpin also wins his fight with Vizard and, having become firm friends with Willoughby, they get away with Glutton’s money.
Commentary: First of all, it has to be said that this is one of the funniest episodes I’ve seen so far, and it features a hugely entertaining and show-stealing turn by Rupert Frazer. The final confrontation between Spiker and Willoughby, when Willoughby outshines the captain as a swordsman, is an absolute joy, and the odious Spiker well and truly gets his comeuppance.
And, of course, Willoughby’s main contribution to the series is the discussion surrounding wigs. Turpin wears one disguise or another in practically every episode and more or less every disguise is effected by a wig, a coat and a different voice and/or accent.
O’Sullivan himself displays his versatility when he dons yet another round of disguises as the bogus servant Zachary and the rich traveller intended as bait for the poacher (click on the images below to enlarge).
And Swiftnick is not to be overlooked either: he reveals his talent for picking locks in this episode when he and Turpin have the key for the strongroom, but not for the treasure chest.
Big Nell also comes to prominence in this episode as someone who both shields Turpin and provides him with information, and she will feature in many more episodes as the series goes on.