Since the opening scenes of The Syndicate’s first season, it’s been clear that its protagonists’ astronomically good fortune would be plagued by a host of ironies. Over the course of the show’s first three hours, we’ve seen Stuart, Denise and Bob all wrestle with challenges and difficult decisions that no amount of money can remedy. The last episode examined the lengths we’ll go to in an attempt to buy more time, and as Bob booked a plane ticket to South Africa, it was with the knowledge that even his vast winnings offered no guaranteed cure to the cancer in his brain. This week, extreme measures came to the fore once again as we learned more about Leanne’s past and the true scope of her efforts to keep her daughter safe.
Need to catch up on watching this episode first before you read on? The Syndicate S1E4 is available to stream here until July 9, 2014.
Things started off with a flashback to the day of the press conference announcing the lottery win, which offered a sharp reminder of Leanne’s discomfort when answering questions from the press. Up until now, it hadn’t been entirely clear why she was so hesitant to step into the spotlight, but this week, it quickly became clear that she feared unwanted attention from figures in her past. Back at Bob’s party however, it seemed as if most of those worries had been forgotten, as Leanne and her coworkers lived it up in their friend’s honour. Having put Stacey safely to bed, Leanne agreed to leave her daughter to sleep upstairs as she and Stuart returned to enjoy the last bit of the party.
Finding that everyone else had dispersed (and that there were no more rooms available), Stuart booked himself into the hotel’s suite for the night, and he and Leanne set about enjoying the drinks and fireplace that came with it. Finally feeling as though they could enjoy their new wealth, their conversation remained platonic, until Stuart once again asked about her past and Stacey’s father. Once again, Leanne dodged the question, only revealing that she was no longer in contact with him, and that she didn’t like to talk about the circumstances of her departure. Instead of pressing her for more information, Stuart told her that he wouldn’t let her move away from Leeds, and it became obvious that the feelings the two (former) coworkers had for one another were more than friendly.
The revelation left Leanne rattled, as she admitted that Stuart was already the only reason that she had remained in town, and when she returned to her room to check on her daughter, it seemed that there was more to her reaction than she let on. Her panic when Stacey wandered from her room might’ve struck others as slightly more than motherly overprotection, and though no harm came from the incident, her anxiety wasn’t without reason. Back in town, things took an ominous turn when Leanne noticed a strange man awaiting their return the next morning. Although she managed to avoid him long enough to reach the Right Buy U, she only just missed her ‘husband’, who arrived there asking for her contact information (a request Stuart staunchly refused).
Luckily for Leanne, she arrived at the supermarket just as the stranger left, and Stuart was able to get both her and Stacey somewhere safe. When he told her that he knew the man looking for her was her husband Gareth, Leanne initially tried to deny it and refused to call him as he’d asked. Despite Stuart’s confusion, she seemed bent on running from him and her reluctance to get the police involved was the first indication that she perhaps had more to hide than just a failed marriage. As frustrating as her decision to leave might have been, Stuart continued to offer help, saying it would be best if she stayed with him and Amy until she could get her things together.
Of course, Amy was far from pleased by Stuart’s sudden interest in aiding Leanne. A nagging hangover (the product of a night of partying) left her even less reasonable than usual and though the arrangement was only temporary, she couldn’t help but kick up a fuss. Things only got worse when Jamie, always happy to start trouble, decided to stir the pot further. Knowing that Amy was already suspicious of his brother, he accidentally-on-purpose showed her a photo of Stuart and Leanne at the hotel together.
The image did exactly as he had predicted, and sent Amy into a jealous rage (an infuriating reaction given her apparently questionable behaviour of late). Any sympathy that we might’ve once been able to muster for Amy was kicked to the curb as quickly as she booted Leanne’s belongings from her foyer and her decision to make a call to Gareth was a low point for a character that’s only become more insufferable over the course of the season.
Having her belongings thrown from the house was the least of Leanne’s worries though, when she went to pick Stacey up from ballet only to find that Gareth had made it there first. Desperate to get in touch with her husband, Leanne asked Stuart for the number to his phone, but when he called his fiancée to get the number, she refused to hand it over – until the boys’ mother threatened to reveal Amy’s own indiscretions if she didn’t cooperate. When they finally caught up with Gareth and Stacey, the reality of the situation finally became clear and was far less dramatic than it had first seemed. Gareth had made his way to Leeds to get Leanne to sign their divorce papers and it was revealed that their separation had more to do with her actions than his.
The truth about Leanne’s past finally came out, as she told Stuart that she and Gareth had taken Stacey in as a foster child when she was baby. Only weeks before they would’ve been able to adopt her, her birth mother had asked to take her back. Having raised Stacey from infancy and fearing for her safety, Leanne opted to go on the run with her daughter rather than give her up. Though Stuart understood why she acted as she did, their return to the house revealed that Amy didn’t share the sentiment. No sooner had they walked through the door than they were confronted by the police, called when Amy discovered traces of Leanne’s past on the internet.
Although it seemed as though the ensuing police interrogation might end with Stacey being taken into care, the legal work of Bob’s son Peter was enough to reunite her with her mother, for the time being. Meanwhile, things weren’t quite so easily mended between Stuart and Amy, as he made it clear to her that he no longer wanted her in the house. Although she wasn’t about to go without a fight, it seemed that even she was starting to realize just how damaging her actions could’ve been – if not to Leanne, than at least to her now-tenuous grasp of Stuart’s finances. And with the last episode looming (a Jamie-centric installment that will have to work some magic to make us feel anything other than resentment towards the younger Bradley), we wouldn’t be surprised to see Stuart cut ties with more than one person in the season’s final hour.
– Kate Shepherd