Episode Title: "Arsenic and Old Cake"
Writer: Kevin Deiboldt
Director: Jeff Woolnough
Previously on "Copper":
When a dentist turns up dead in his own apartment and his wife, whom he beat regularly, goes missing, Sergeant Burns investigates. While casing the apartment, the Sergeant partakes of a bottle of wine and some fruitcake from a well-known local bakery. Shortly after, he drops dead.
Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh) tries to convince Jasper not to box, for fear he'll be killed if he wins but the young man is determined to fight. Meanwhile, Corky (Tom Weston-Jones) learns that the dentist and Sergeant Burns were both poisoned with Arsenic.
As the boxing match is about to begin, Matthew tells Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid) that Marcus lied and Jasper has no intentions of throwing the fight. However, Morehouse explains that the crowd will riot if he puts a stop to the match.
Corky finds rat poison inside the dentist's apartment and brings it to Matthew to examine and he tells Corky it contains Arsenic. The dentist's wife is found and brought to the precinct but she denies killing her husband. She explains to the detectives that she was visiting her family in Poughkeepsie and was not trying to escape the police. Later, Eva (Franka Potente) tells Corky about Annie, who paid her a visit after she ran out of Elizabeth Haverford's townhouse. Corky asks Eva to bring Annie back to Elizabeth.
After examining the handwriting on the card that came with the fruitcake, Corky and Andrew visit the baker who made it. He doesn't recognize the writing. Corky then visits the dentist's landlord and asks for his signature on a document. The handwriting matches the card and Corky arrests him. He admits to giving the fruitcake to the dentist as payment for his services but had no idea it was poisoned as he got it from his butcher.
When Corky and Andrew (Dylan Taylor) question the butcher, he says he got the cake from the dentist's wife, who he was having an affair with. He then put the cake in a box from the bakeshop and gave it to the landlord, who he owned rent to.
As the fight between Jasper and "Irish" Jake drags on, Morehouse signals to the ref to end it. He knocks Jasper out with a sucker punch and declares "Irish" Jake the winner. Back at the bar, Corky and Andrew explain to Maguire (Kevin Ryan) that the dentist was trying to poison his wife. But the fruitcake he laced with Arsenic was passed around and ultimately came back to him – and the glutenous Sergeant Burns.
After the fight, Matthew attends to Jasper's bruises. Morehouse arrives and tells Jasper he'll need to leave town. He gives him passage to Halifax and Marcus' half of the winnings.
Corky visits with Elizabeth (Anastasia Griffith) who tells him about Annie. After Eva brought the girl back, Elizabeth, at her wits end, sent for Annie's father who took the girl away crying and screaming. At first, Corky is upset but Elizabeth reminds him that though he may have been a great father to his own girl, Annie is not his daughter. The two then kiss and begin to make love.
Did you ever hear the old wives' tale about the butcher, the dentist, the landlord and the killer fruitcake? Well, Detective Kevin "Corky" Corcoran can tell you all about it.
How can I criticize an episode with a premise like that? Suffice it to say, I've had problems with "Copper's" lack of character depth and over-reliance on historical tropes. But "Arsenic and Old Cake" won me over with this preposterous tale of karma coming full circle via poison fruitcake. With this episode, "Copper" may have found its niche among historical dramas.
That's not to say every episode should have such a silly premise, but "Copper" is a better show when it veers towards the lighthearted and whimsical rather than the overtly dramatic. Taking a break from Corky's relentless search for his family, a plot that's feels heavy and burdensome yet not that interesting, this episode gave us a case that's take good advantage of a time before the high tech crimes of this modern age. A simpler time when people relied on arsenic-laced baked goods to do their dirty work. And some might argue it was a better time..
All kidding aside, when we weren't following the fruitcake to the next suspect, "Arsenic and Old Cake" did have some sticking points. Like how Jasper was able to last forty-plus rounds against "Irish" Jake and yet was knocked out by the ref with one shot. Was it a loaded punch? I watched the scene a couple of times and didn't see anyone hand the ref a sack of coins, etc. Also, why isn't Corky concerned that the family member who took Annie to California could be her husband, John Riley, who was chased out of town a few episodes back? Was he that swept up with Elizabeth not to consider the possibility?
These are, however, minor concerns in what I'm happy to say is my favorite episode of "Copper," yet. Yup, it was over-the-top silly, some of the acting felt like it was straight out of a minstrel show and it was all very entertaining. Yet there was still enough drama to anchor some of the more serious storylines. Good stuff, now pass the fruitcake.