The Pinkertons Episode 3: The Play’s The Thing

Will Pinkerton is many things, but cultured is not one of them.

The Pinkertons Episode 2 The Play’s The Thing

The man's in his element nabbing bad guys, winking at barmaids and beating bearded hillbillies at poker. But appreciating high art? No, not so much. So he was understandably petrified when Kate dragged him to go see a travelling company of actors put on a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

"Grown men dressed as clowns, play-fighting with toy swords" was Will's take on the greatest writer in the English language. And with Will snoring in the audience while Kate gazed lovingly at the stage, it almost looked like we were in line for a comedy episode. Then one of the actors collapsed and died during the play, foaming at the mouth. Nope: not a comedy episode.

Kate's science brain kicked into gear and tests on the corpse soon proved it was indeed murder. The chief suspect was Rudy, another actor in the company. The two men were both having an affair with the leading lady, so jealousy looked like a motive. But things are never that easy in Pinkertons-land, and Rudy himself almost died after being stabbed in the back by an unseen assailant.

The knife belonged to a certain Mr Burgess, the most prominent actor in the company. There were clearly some very shady shenanigans were afoot, so to get to the bottom of things Will went undercover as an actor himself. Yes: the same Will who snoozed through Hamlet now had to sell himself as a thespian with a passion for the Bard.

We've had amusing moments in The Pinkertons up till now, but nothing to match the sight of Will blundering his way through Shakespeare and acting like a fanboy with a man-crush on the stern and dignified Burgess. The plan worked, though. Burgess confessed that, far from being the man who poisoned the actor and stabbed Rudy, it was he himself who was the real target of the killer.

Kate's science brain kicked into gear and tests on the corpse soon proved it was indeed murder.

Drum roll for the big reveal: "Burgess" was really Edwin Booth, a once-celebrated stage star and brother to John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot President Abraham Lincoln. Despite being estranged from his brother, Edwin was tarred with the same brush and cast out of polite society after Lincoln's murder. Which was why he was forced to become a jobbing actor under an assumed name.

'It's murder

And Edwin wasn't the only one lying about his identity. It turned out that "Rudy" was really John Parker, who was Lincoln's bodyguard on the night of the assassination. Rudy/Parker was out for revenge on Edwin for the actions of his brother, but things had gone awry when he poisoned the wrong actor by accident. Then, to rule himself out as a suspect, he'd cunningly stabbed himself in the back using a knife lodged in a tree. Now that's a dramatic ending Shakespeare would have approved of.


  • Like the Murdoch Mysteries, The Pinkertons is partly about the birth of forensic science, and we got a juicy moment in this episode with Kate using hydrogen peroxide to detect blood splatters on a tree. Even Will went a little CSI on us, getting a corpse tested for tetanus.
  • Edwin talked about the time he saved the life of Lincoln's son. Incredibly, this is based on historical fact: the brother of Lincoln's assassin really did rescue the president's son from a train.
  • Almost as amazingly, the real-life Kate Warne really did foil an early assassination attempt on Lincoln by disguising him as her invalid brother. With cases like this, you can see why they made a TV show based on the Pinkerton Detective Agency.