Thirteen Recap: Catch and Release


Part Four
Season 1 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Valene Kane as Merchant, Natasha Little as Christina, Jodie Comer as Ivy. Photo: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC

One of my favorite aspects of Thirteen is that we know so little of Ivy’s kidnapped years. Besides the occasional twitch and odd phrasing (“This was ours!“), she doesn’t reveal much. The story choice works because it creates a larger mystery, while also rendering Ivy unreadable. Is she a sympathetic victim or potentially dangerous? Both? This week, Thirteen finally reveals Ivy’s state of mind, as her repressed memories begin to surface.

At the beginning of the episode, Ivy is still fuming over her father’s abandonment and Emma’s doubts about her identity. Ivy’s arrested development feels authentic in these moments: Like any bratty teen, she turns up the car radio so she doesn’t have to hear Craig stick up for her sister. In a moment of frustration, she also petulantly crumples up a note from Carne (Richard Rankin) after discovering he left her room.

He’s gone because he’s been summoned by Merchant and his boss, the latter of whom informs a surprised Carne that a body was found in Mark White’s home. (Was this detail not left in any of the many voice-mails?) Merchant is irritated with Carne’s disappearing act — which he blames on a night out with friends, rather than admit he slept in Ivy’s room — but Merchant’s task of identifying the body takes precedence over any partner squabbling in this episode.

Dental records reveal the body is Dylan, White’s half-brother. More shocking to the detectives, evidence shows Dylan was killed and placed in the cellar in 2009 — seven years ago, which means Ivy must have known about him. And so Merchant and Carne seek out Ivy for yet another round of questioning, but there’s a stark difference this time. The detectives work at a brisk pace, their knock on her door more stern, and, when they finally find her, they pull out a pair of handcuffs. There’s no good cop/bad cop anymore; they’re both playing bad cop. After reading Ivy her British Miranda rights, they arrest her for obstruction of justice. At the station, Carne and Merchant interrogate her with an air of distrust and anger. Despite these efforts, Ivy stays silent, even as they warn her that, if convicted, she could go to jail for three years.

The ante is upped when the police lab reveals that the sheet covering Dylan’s body has Ivy’s — and only Ivy’s — DNA on it. Merchant and Carne tell the Moxams that, without an explanation from Ivy, the police will have no choice to but to arrest her for murder. Faced with this outcome, Christine takes over the questioning.

This next sequence is a highlight of the miniseries, both in terms of character development and performance. Slowly, Christina starts to draw the truth of out of Ivy. Dylan was her friend. He was kind to her. So much so that when White once left him in charge, Dylan let Ivy escape. White found out at the last moment, thwarting Ivy’s plan to leave. As punishment, White repeatedly smashed Dylan’s head until he died. White then forced Ivy to bleach the body and cover it with a sheet. (Hence, the DNA.)

That White killed Dylan and forced Ivy to keep it secret is hardly a surprising plot development, but that’s not the truly satisfying aspect of this scene. Ivy’s confession to her mother repairs and explains the gulf that has existed between them since the first episode. Ivy explains that she’s been keeping this secret for fear that her mother would hate her if she knew the truth. Jodie Comer expertly weighs down her performance with the burden of Ivy’s secret. When she finally lets it out, her relief is palpable.

Of course, Merchant and Carne watch this confession with their tails between their legs. They understand now that Ivy’s silence doesn’t meant guilt. They pick up their interview again — with Christine present this time — since they still need to locate Phoebe. Ivy insists that White won’t hurt Phoebe as “everything needs to be proper” when she turns 16. No more is said about this, but the way Christina flinches, it means something terrible happened to Ivy at that age. With Dylan’s murder explained, Ivy is released. As she exits the station, her face breaks out into the tiniest of smiles. A burden is lifted.

Throughout this episode, everyone unburdens themselves. Tim confesses to Eloise that he thinks he’s in love with Ivy. Eloise gently points out that Tim is probably in love with 13-year-old Ivy, a concept and ideal that’s unfair to compare to the everyday hassles of marriage with Yazz. Later, Tim and Ivy speak candidly about the fact that they don’t really know each other anymore. Neither tears nor heartbroken pleas appear in the scene, as they acknowledge this “gap” between them. They simply hold hands.

Eloise, in turn, confesses to Ivy that she thinks the kidnapping was her fault — i.e., if she hadn’t ditched her that fateful date. “If, if, if …” Ivy responds, explaining that a million things put her in White’s path that day, like the fact that she was wearing headphones. She lets Eloise off the hook, but will she do the same for herself?

After Ivy returns home from the police station, Christina lets go of her own secret. She tells Angus that, at the time of Ivy’s disappearance, she had been seeing another man for a year. It was nothing physical, she explains, but an affair of the heart. She doesn’t tell Angus the name of the other man, but the episode makes clear that it was Ivy’s headmaster. Christina also admits she thought Ivy’s disappearance was punishment for her time spent with another man. Angus holds her and offers to put the kettle on, which I’m pretty sure is British for, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let’s just move on.”

Ivy is only home for a hot minute before Carne and Merchant return, asking to speak with her yet again. Mark White has called the police station and will only speak to his “Alison.” Ivy offers to talk with White to make up for any delay her lies caused, and she’s handed a cheat sheet of questions to ask him. The officers want Ivy to keep White on the phone long enough to trace his location.

When White calls, a disturbed Ivy does her best to keep focused on Phoebe. But he says Phoebe isn’t important; he only wants to see Ivy. And if she doesn’t meet him at the requested time and place, he’s going to kill Phoebe.

Stray Thoughts:

  • At the end of the episode, we get our first physical glimpse of White — a scruffy beard talking into a phone receiver. I like that he’s been a ghost for most of the mini-series, as it heightens the suspense. The idea of him is scary enough.
  • The interrogations raise an interesting issue: Should police be able to question developmentally disabled adults without the presence of a parent or lawyer? Ivy is intelligent, but at times, she seems as emotionally mature as a 13-year-old.
  • Richard Rankin, thinking while in a hot shower. Richard Rankin, thinking in a towel. Yes, please.

Thirteen Recap: Catch and Release