I think every kid must love treasure hunts. Who doesn’t? Even when I would setup the easter egg hunt for the kids in years past, I’d be excited to offer clues for them to find all of the eggs. I remember reading this story and loving it. It’s not the best of the canon but it’s such an enjoyable story. Yet, watching it now, I realize just how horrible it is for most of the secondary characters.
Holmes and Watson go to see an old school chum of Sherlock’s: Reginald Musgrave. Holmes is a bit bored of the idea but, wanting to get away from Watson’s “bullying” to clean their apartment, he goes. He tells Watson that he has a trunk full of old cases, which makes Watson positively salivate with excitement, but little comes of that short of hearing some colorful titles from Holmes. Upon arriving, the trio spend an enjoyable night. The next morning, the butler is gone and upon saying his name, the maid goes into an hysterical fit. Something is up at Musgrave Manor!
For once, the butler didn’t do it! In fact, the poor chap had a mishap. Through the course of Sherlock’s investigation, we discover that murder may be the crime. The Musgrave’s have a tradition that hints at a buried treasure if one could only figure out the convoluted clues. The butler, Brunton, worked it out on the night he was dismissed but he lacked the strength to lift the heavy slab. So he goes and gets Rachel, the maid, to help him. But there’s no fury like a woman scorned, said Shakespeare, and he fails to take into account how he had wronged her by leaving her for another woman. When Brunton goes into the place where the buried treasure is kept, the heavy slab that had kept the secret buried for so long falls, burying Brunton alive.
Musgrave’s family had years to figure out the clues and the fact that the erudite butler pulled off what none of the Musgrave family could seems like a fair deal. I don’t know that he doesn’t deserve to be the winner of the prize and he just intends to get it and be off, possibly with Rachel in tow.
Brunton finds the treasure and offers to split it with Rachel, but when the treasure appears to be nothing more than debris, Rachel snaps. She had already been treated poorly by him and the thin thread of hope she clings onto that she might at least become wealthy is dashed by the discovery. She realizes Brunton’s words to her are hollow and there’s no money to be had. Whether she merely left Brunton buried alive, or actually pushed the wood that held up the slab, we may never know, but Rachel takes her own life soon after. A miserable affair indeed.
Holmes: “How is the dear wife?”
Musgrave: (shocked) “I’m not married!”
Holmes: “How wise!”
Once again we have a number of exquisite moments with Holmes and Watson. Holmes, again having taken his 7% solution, seems to be in very good form, laughing boisterously at the merest trifle. Watson is excited by learning of Holmes’ earlier cases.
This episode also featured a surprise guest for me. When a certain inspector comes to retrieve the body of Brunton, I had to pause the screen. I was overjoyed to see Ian Marter – Doctor Who’s Harry Sullivan.
The only complaint I had about the episode is that everyone is surprised to find Brunton gone, but after half a day, Musgrave makes the comment that he fired him the night before. So why the shock? Well, he had fired him but offered to let him stay on for a week to exit of his own volition, rather than in shame. (Musgrave fires him because Brunton was reading family documents.) It makes sense… sort of, but one would expect him to share that information a bit sooner than he does.
The episode spends a lot of time on a ritual (which is fun) but there’s not a lot of meat to the story and the end is downright brutal. The butler betrays both his employer and his one-time girlfriend and is buried alive for it, although I might be reticent to really hold him accountable for betraying his employer. A simple confession might have resolved that amicably for both of them. Rachel, we find out as the end credits roll, drowned herself. The “other” woman is the very person who finds Rachel’s body in the lake. Dire indeed. Not to mention the treasure… It seems the treasure was actually the ancient crown of King Charles I, but having been left in the ground, it had deteriorated almost unrecognizably. Holmes reconstructs it, but it is little more than a museum curiosity now. A very bleak ending for such a fondly remembered story. ML