When Lady Greer Stevens (Carolyn Seymour) and Sheila Northcott (Sarah Douglas) share a drink on a flight back to the UK they discover they have something in common. Both are trapped in unhappy marriages and Greer suggests that each of them should kill the others husband. Sheila idly agrees, not realising that Greer is quite serious and also quite mad.
Greer fulfills her side of the bargain by killing Guy Northcott (Michael Medwin) and now expects Sheila to murder Sir Trevor Stevens (Donald Pickering). Fortunately for Sheila, she has the Saint on her side …..
The Arrangement is essentially a rewrite of Patricia Highsmith’s novel Strangers on a Train (later filmed by Alfred Hitchcock). Strangers on a Plane, as it were. Carolyn Seymour is mesermerising as the completely unhinged Lady Greer Stevens. We get an early example of her disregard for others when she trips up a rather loud American at the airport (he’d been annoying her on the plane). Simon’s there to tend to him, although given that the man had just fallen a long way down an escalator it seems rather reckless for the Saint to roughly drag him away!
Sir Trevor Stevens is an influential politician, but it’s clear that he’s not satisfying his wife’s needs, despite her (somewhat half-hearted) claims to the contrary. An interesting moment occurs when their servant Nina (Vikki Richards) announces that Greer’s bath is ready. Greer mentions suggestively that Nina might like to scrub her back and this – together with a zoom into Nina’s expectant face and a shot of Sir Trevor looking disgusted – broadly hints that there’s more to this mistress/servant relationship than meets the eye. Given that ROTS was a pre-watershed series it’s not surprising this is never explicitly spelt out – but the inference is clear enough.
Seymour’s mad-as-a-hatter turn is highly entertaining and by far the best thing about the story. The second best thing is the Survivors mini-reunion, as Ian McCullough has a small role as Inspector Stone. Seymour and McCullough only exchange a few words but it’s nice to see them together again.
As Greer Stevens is such a vivid character, Sarah Douglas’ Sheila Northcott can’t help but seem rather pallid when the two are put side by side. Sheila is the typical sort of Saint heroine, utterly dependent on Simon to get her out of trouble. And she’s not the only one in danger, as later on Greer kidnaps Sheila’s sister Aileen (Jane Hayden).
Aileen is younger than Sheila and quite a different sort of character. Nina drugs Aileen’s drink when the pair of them are at a new-wave/punk club. It’s not the first time that ROTS has dabbled with the underbelly of modern Britain and like the previous examples it doesn’t feel totally convincing. Although the band are vaguely shouty, the club still seems rather sedate and well-behaved. Later, we see Aileen kept captive and docile (she’s been pumped full of drugs). Again, this is something that sits somewhat uneasily alongside the series’ more usual escapist atmosphere.
The ending might be a little predictable (and obviously shot in the studio) but The Arrangement easily rates four halos out of five.