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Boat Story episode 1 recap: rocking the boat

 Janet (Daisy Haggard) and Samuel (Paterson Joseph) sitting together in Boat Story.
Janet (Daisy Haggard) and Samuel (Paterson Joseph) sitting together in Boat Story.

This article contains spoilers for Boat Story episode 1. 

Boat Story is a dark comedy thriller that revolves around Janet and Samuel, two figures whose lives are turned upside down when they come across a stash of drugs on a shipwrecked boat.

In the show's first episode, we learn how Samuel (Paterson Joseph) and Janet (Daisy Haggard) ended up being drawn together on this bizarre caper. Unfortunately for them, we also meet the other interested parties who are quite keen to get their stolen drugs back... seemingly, by any means necessary.

Here's what happened in Boat Story episode 1.

The stage is set

Janet (Daisy Haggard) has her hand crushed in an industrial press in Boat Story episode 1
Janet (Daisy Haggard) has her hand crushed in an industrial press in Boat Story episode 1

The episode opens by setting up the story; how the boat washing up on the boat changed so many lives. Things then get underway with a major reveal; a young child stumbles across the severed head of Samuel in a random field, under an electricity pylon.


Then, we cut back in time to the small town of Applebury, with Janet heading to work on her moped. It's an average day at her manufacturing plant, but the day takes a nasty turn when she loses her fingers in an industrial accident involving an industrial metal pressing machine.

After Janet's accident, Boat Story cuts to nighttime, on the titular boat. A lone sailor is onboard when a police officer hails the vessel and comes aboard to inspect his cargo. The sailor insists he's just transporting mackerel, though the officer soon finds bricks of cocaine hidden amongst the fish.

The sailor pulls a knife out and the pair engage in a brutal fight. The officer eventually gets the upper hand and stabs the sailor. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much time to rest, as a wave crashes onboard; the water knocks the officer sideways, and he also dies when he cracks his head on the hull.

After that dramatic scene, we rejoin Janet preparing to head out and putting on a prosthetic hand. She heads to a nearby funfair, where she gifts a toy frog she got from a shooting gallery to her son, Alan.

They chat for a few moments, but Janet's ex-partner arrives with his new, younger partner and tells her to leave, threatening her with a potential restraining order. Disheartened, Janet picks the frog toy out of the bin (Peter discarded it), and heads home on the bus.

'Sometimes, the world throws you a bone...'

Samuel and Janet retrieving the stashed drugs from the shipwreck in Boat Story episode 1
Samuel and Janet retrieving the stashed drugs from the shipwreck in Boat Story episode 1

Early the following morning, Janet is out walking her neighbor's dog on the beach, when she spots a washed-up boat (the same one we saw in the opening few minutes). She soon crosses paths with Samuel, who's doing the same thing. The pair chat idly for a while; Samuel reveals he recently moved up to Applebury from London with his family (though they couldn't track down the family cat before they left).

Whilst they talk, Samuel's dog begins barking and rushes over to him, covered in blood. They follow the dog to the boat, finding the bodies of both men onboard. Distressed, Janet urges Samuel to phone the police, but he's distracted by the potential street value of the bricks of cocaine that are onboard.

Janet is shocked that he's considering taking the drugs, but he eventually manages to talk her around. He reveals he used to be a lawyer in London, and that he knows someone who might give them a lot of money — he estimates there are tens of millions worth of drugs onboard —and he wants to take it.

As it turns out, Samuel's family moved to Applebury because he gambled away their life savings and sold their house in London, and his wife has no idea of the trouble he's in. With the prospect of a few million quid each on the table, she becomes convinced to keep it, so they take the drugs off the boat and put them in Samuel's car.

As they prepare to leave, Samuel realizes his dog is still covered in blood, so goes to wash her off in the water. As he does, Arthur tries to call his boyfriend, the dead officer on the ship.

Whilst washing his dog, Samuel spots another woman (Pat, played by Joanna Scanlan) walking along the shore, so he pops his hood up, returns to the car and the pair drive off. Meanwhile, Pat picks her way to the beachfront and investigates the boat; when she finds the bodies, she calls the police.

The Tailor

Janet chugs a whiskey bottle in front of her manager, Nigel (John Henshaw) in Boat Story episode 1
Janet chugs a whiskey bottle in front of her manager, Nigel (John Henshaw) in Boat Story episode 1

At this point, a new character enters the frame. We join "The Tailor" hard at work measuring a man up for a new suit. After the customer leaves, the tailor heads into the back room of his establishment, where we learn he's up to no good.

The Tailor has a man named Georges gagged and tied to a chair; he explains that the customer he was seeing to likes to talk, just like Georges. Whilst we don't know what exactly Georges has spilled the beans about, we swiftly learn the Tailor is not one to be messed with... as he coldly cuts the man's tongue out of his mouth. During the "surgery", he gets a phone call, wherein he learns that his shipment of drugs has gone missing.

We jump back to Samuel and Janet on a tense drive to a storage unit. During the journey, Samuel manages to head the wrong way down a one-way road, and the pair are pulled over by the police.

Nervously, they wait to be caught out. Thankfully, the smiley officer who chats to them, Ben (Ethan Lawrence) lets them off with a warning, failing to spot the drugs in the back seat. Then, they head to a self-storage facility and drop the cocaine off, sealing their storage unit with two coded padlocks — each of them only knows one of the passcodes, so both of them will need to be present to open it.

Janet then reveals that her manager had played her immediately after her accident; he gave her some whiskey to take the edge off the pain, but later claimed Janet had been drinking on the job, so she couldn't make any sort of injury claim against the company. As they're about to leave, Samuel gets a call from the state agent: his cat, Major Tom, has turned up, and he's supposed to go and fetch him.

The Aireside Raid

Arthur (Jonas Armstrong) with officer Ben (Ethan Lawrence) in the police station in Boat Story episode 1
Arthur (Jonas Armstrong) with officer Ben (Ethan Lawrence) in the police station in Boat Story episode 1

We leave Janet and Samuel behind again and join the officers of Aireside Police Station, where Arthur is waiting to be seen. Ben offers his condolences to Arthur, but his superior steps in to stop his babbling.

Arthur has been brought in because there are suspicions his partner, Mark (the deceased officer) was potentially involved in the drug smuggling, somehow. Mark took the police boat out onto the water, at night, alone, in suspicious circumstances.

Incensed by the accusations, Arthur storms off. He left just in time, too, as a gang of thugs pulled up outside the station in a white van mere moments later. After deciding which of them will be the getaway driver, the remaining two men pull masks down over their faces, retrieve shotguns from the back of the van, and enter the station.

They proceed to shoot their way through the station in search of the evidence locker, killing officers as they go. After one of the officers redirects them to the right floor, they finally reach the evidence locker. However, there's a twist in the tale, as they find that the thing they're searching for isn't being held at the station at all.

Fast friends

The Tailor (Tcheky Karyo) on the phone in his jet in Boat Story episode 1
The Tailor (Tcheky Karyo) on the phone in his jet in Boat Story episode 1

We return once more to Janet and Samuel. The pair of them are at a pub; he asks why Janet agreed to keep the drugs but wants to know more about her, seeing as Janet knows all his secrets already.

Janet reveals that she had purposefully bumped into her son at the fair, and explains the situation between her and her ex. Alan is not her biological son; she began raising him when she was with Peter. But when Peter met his new partner, he forbade her from seeing Alan at all, and the separation hit her hard.

Janet then takes Samuel to see the last painting Janet had ever sold, which is currently in a shopping center. She likes to come and look at it to pretend she's having a better life and hasn't lost everything. At this point, she tells Samuel not to f**k her over their new deal.

She then gets a cryptic phone call from Alan, who says there's "something" going on, as Peter and Susie keep going quiet around him, but he doesn't get to explain what he's suspicious of.

As they move to leave, Samuel invites her out to continue drinking after the day's excitement. Whilst they rush off to karaoke, we rejoin Arthur. Arthur's nighttime run is disturbed by a phone call from The Tailor.

The Tailor suspects that Arthur has kept his shipment of drugs, but Arthur (truthfully) maintains that he knows nothing about what's gone on. Because his partner was one of the bodies on the board, he believes Arthur is stealing from him.

The Tailor explains that two people in police uniforms had seized a shipment from him just a few weeks prior. Since two missing shipments are bad for business, he's setting off to track down his missing drugs. The Tailor sits down in his private jet and makes a promise to find the money and punish whoever took his drugs to a mystery figure over the phone.

We then jump back to where the episode began, with the children crowded around the severed head. A hooded figure wanders over to scare them away. When he bends down to pick up the head, we see that the hooded figure... is Samuel! Has he just faked his death?

Boat Story continues on BBC One on Monday, November 20 at 9 pm. All six episodes of the series are available to stream on BBC iPlayer, and the series will air on Amazon FreeVee in the US.