Roger & Val Have Just Got In: The Woman in the Attic (2.2)

Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Shock (2.1)
Roger & Val Have Just Got In: Surprise! (2.3)
BBC Series 2

It is the evening before Roger’s (Alfred Molina) appearance at the employment tribunal, which will decide if his sacking from a job as botanist at the Winter Gardens three months before was justified. He’s been watching a lot of crap American legal docudramas, the sort that end with a white rolling script on a black background, telling viewers what happened to the protagonists. Roger desperately wants his own victorious white script.

But for now, he turns off the TV and rehearses what he might say tomorrow. We get a glimpse of what was in that incriminating email, and it’s not looking good: “A brief mention in an email of mons pubis. Pubic hair! Let’s just get it out there. Let’s face it head on.” Perhaps not. Roger orders a Chinese takeaway – Celebration Banquet – which Val thinks is tempting fate when she hears of it – though it’s only because they always order that meal, and it has “rice for Val, noodles for me.”

Then Val (Dawn French) gets home, bizarrely dressed in black as some sort of housekeeper, with a sticker that says, “I believe Roger Stevenson was unfairly dismissed.” Val has been handing them out to all her friends and acquaintances, but we later learn that Phil, who sacked Roger, has had them banned from the court room. An affront to democracy, in Roger’s view. “Winter Gardens…North Korea.”

The reason for Val’s odd clothing choice is explained a bit later – World Book Day at her school, and the teachers came dressed as characters. Val is Mrs Danvers from Rebecca, while her rival for the post of Deputy Head came as Aslan. Evidently Val is seeking to undermine the authority of the heiress apparent to the position.

She brings a gift from another teacher, who apparently wore a hat from the brim of which were suspended swimming figures. It’s one of those figures, with the message to “keep swimming.” I’m struggling to understand which fictional character the hat represents – Australian obviously – but beyond that I’m stumped. (Just watched it again – Robinson Crusoe) The swimmer plays a large part in Val’s supernatural unease at Roger’s choice of Chinese meal. Like something from a horror story, it seems to follow them from room to room, a harbinger of doom for tempting fate. It even shows up in two places at once – her Mrs Danvers hairpiece and swimming in the bathroom sink. The mystery is explained by the donor having given her a hug while wearing the hat. Another swimmer must have got caught in the hairpiece.

Val is hugely supportive of Roger. “You’ve run a brilliant campaign for me, ever since we were married,” he says, and this extends not only to distributing stickers, but also running a Facebook page. There are 57 supporters, one of whom leaves the cryptic message, “You can’t pretend it didn’t happen.” Roger denies knowing this “Jean Duggan,” and suggests it might be the name of a French man. Absurd, of course. Val thinks it might be Phil, trying to set Roger up for another indiscretion, while he really doesn’t want to talk about it. When he goes to the door to get the Chinese meal, Val sends a Friend request to “Jean Duggan” to find out more.

Roger has to come clean when he notices the request. Apparently Jean Duggan, then 41, used to clean his rooms at college 31 years ago. While trying to persuade her not to buy her council house on political grounds, one thing lead to another, and they ended up in bed. Jean has seen the notice in the paper about the employment tribunal, and is hoping to re-ignite the flame. Roger has an septuagenarian stalker.

So the hand-delivered envelope that sent Roger into shock in the last episode obviously contained a love letter from Jean.

Is he telling the truth? After working out that they weren’t being haunted by multiple swimmers, Val says, ” A simple explanation, unlike your story.” My suspicions are certainly aroused by the final scene where Roger surreptitiously types something on the laptop. I’m guessing the woman in the attic refers to Jean.

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