Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Raisins and Almonds
December 29, 2014 9:53 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

A young man dies after a seizure in Melbourne's Eastern Market. Miss Fisher suspects foul play, and pursues the line of inquiry by chasing leads through Melbourne's Jewish community. The investigation leads Phryne, Jack, and Dr. Macmillan to a personal laboratory and the dead scholar's attempts to recreate the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

We return you to your regularly scheduled viewing as Phryne buys a painting at a charity auction for the Jewish community association. The auction is interrupted and Phryne learns the painting is stolen. As she tries to recoup her losses, a young woman rounds the corner and shouts for help: a man in her bookshop has had some kind of fit. Phryne breaks the bad news of the man's death to her new friends and suggests they call DI Robinson. A broken teacup and a warm teapot suggest poison to Miss Fisher, and Jack pursues the idea by interviewing Miss Lee and other associates of Saul Michaels. During the course of the interviews, it becomes clear that Saul Michaels espoused Zionist ideas against the wishes of the community leader, Ben Abrahams; and Miss Fisher is hired to prove Miss Lee's innocence. Phryne discovers the dead man and Miss Lee were in an illicit relationship, and calls in her friend Dr. MacMillan (Mac!) to assist with the investigation of Saul's laboratory. Mac's recreation of Saul's work leads not to gold, but to the formula for artificial rubber. Eventually the autopsy and a trail of clues leads the gang to discover aconite poisoning as cause of death, and Abrahams' brother as the killer.

Meanwhile, Cec discusses a future married life with Dot, Bert, and his fiancee. Burt is hurt by Cec's plans to move away from Melbourne with his new bride and become a farmer, giving up the taxi business [1]. Dot's insistence that the Socialists work together to locate a local veteran, however, helps repair their relationship, and in the end Cec turns down the farm offer in favor of his life as a cabbie.

[1] And possibly Burt as well-- see discussion here.
posted by WidgetAlley (5 comments total)
Historical notes:
- The painting Phryne buys is by Margaret Preston.
- The vase for the flowers is Noritake.
- The philosopher's stone.
- "Raisins and Almonds".
- And the Kadimah in Melbourne, founded in 1911.

Also, Phryne's hat in the opening scenes (the red cloche) is lined with velvet on the inner brim, which is ridiculous and amazing. The beautiful black/grey loose-weave tweed-ish coat she wears in the middle of the episode has a weird and interesting detail-- 'racing stripes' (not sure what else to call them) of a plain white fabric down the back seam, across the sleeves, and down the sides. To my eye it immediately looks like the fabric they used for the coat wasn't wide enough to cut full panels for wider parts of the coat, so they added inserts of a contrasting fabric as both a fashion detail and a way to make up the difference. Does anyone know if that was a costuming decision or the style for the time? It looks great.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:01 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

This site has oodles of Miss Fisher screencaps (around 1000/ep), so if anyone ever want to link to a particular outfit... hat, coat.
posted by fings at 5:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is essentially the first episode in which Jack is implicitly conceding that there's something between him and Phryne, but it's also when he sets a boundary on their relationship that Phryne respects. First, there's the exchange about Ms. Lee and Saul Michaels' affair, during which they are standing very close to each other, eyes locked, inches away from kissing: "She wouldn't have killed him, Jack. She loved him. They were having an affair." "He was married," responds Jack reprovingly. And Phryne then says, rather breathily, "It happens."

Then at the end, during their apparently now customary post-case drink, Jack opens up to Phryne about the state of his marriage and how he came back from war a different man than the one his wife had married. He and his wife are separated, apparently, but Jack isn't using this as an opening to start an affair with Phryne. Instead he says, "But a marriage is still a marriage, Miss Fisher." And Phryne accepts that Jack is setting this boundary: "Especially to a man of honor."

I think this was a great way to handle the burgeoning unresolved sexual tension. Jack is an honest man, both with himself and others, so he's trying to nip this thing in the bud, aware that he can't and won't commit at this point given the state of his marriage. And Phryne respects this, if a little ruefully. It's a nicely subtle and adult bit of communication that helps the slow burn of UST feel less egregious. Their tension isn't spooling out indefinitely for no reason.
posted by yasaman at 7:59 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's one of the things I love about the show - Jack and Phryne are both adults and are written that way.
posted by Mogur at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2014

It's interesting that the show seems to be setting out to deal with a number of diversity issues in a row, and they're not screwing it up!

I noticed that the elder Abrahams wears a yarmulke; the younger, more assimilated Abrahams did not. A nice subtle touch.

Cec's fiancee is the victim from the first episode, correct?
posted by bq at 8:42 AM on November 4, 2015

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