Alex and fiancé Edward are fretting about where to have their forthcoming wedding-that-isn’t-going-to-happen when she receives a call from Ella, being held at gunpoint in Ethiopia. Her captors clearly share some of our reservations about the Western-centric approach taken by this show to the appropriation of cultural treasures: they want the Sabean spoon, an artefact held in the British Museum, handed over to them within 48 hours. Although Alex is told to come alone we know that Hooten will be her plus-one, just as soon as she can tear him away from taking bets on bare-knuckle fighting in Turkey.
And so to Africa, starting in Eritrea, where in Bond-ian manner the woman picking Alex and Hooten up at the airport is, of course, under orders to kill them. She fails – twice – which leaves them with the minor problem that they don’t actually know where Ella is, although once they make some improbable connections between the spoon and the lost treasure of the Queen of Sheba they work it out quickly enough, assisted by Clive, this week on his own in the Chloe O’ Brian role back at the museum.
Ella is tracked down, then Alex is captured as well, leaving Hooten on his own to save the day. It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that he does so, in an episode which is an entertaining and handsomely-mounted (location filming in South Africa) way of passing an hour, if not as good as last week’s. The best news is that, because Ella finally gets out of the museum, the terrific Jessica Hynes is allowed a little more room to breathe. Once at large, though, Ella can’t fail to pick up on what’s definitely not going on between Hooten and Alex: “unresolved sexual tension”, muses Ella to Hooten, an odd thing to say in a show which is allegedly devoted to the proposition that nothing is going to happen between its two leads. As it happens, Hooten could do much worse than have a fling with Ella; although, sadly, I think we can more or less rule that out. Finally, it’s worth noting that this episode was written by the young actor Karla Crome, who was one of the very best things in the final two seasons of Misfits, and evidently has big things ahead of her, whatever side of the camera she ends up on.