Psychological thriller Cheat sees university academic Dr Leah Dale (Katherine Kelly) and student Rose Vaughan (Molly Windsor) wage war against each other as a dispute over plagiarism spills out into theft, infidelity and murder.
In episode two, Leah’s husband Adam (Tom Goodman-Hill) falls for Rose’s charms and makes a serious error, while Leah is so blinded by rage that she makes a fool of herself.
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As we puzzle over the big mysteries at the centre of this story (did Rose really cheat? And who killed Adam? And which woman has been jailed?), the second episode gives us plenty to think about.
Here are the six big talking points…
1. Rose DID steal the engagement ring
Rose’s psychological campaign against Leah really is extraordinarily well-planned, and perfectly pitched to make her tutor (and nemesis) look unhinged.
First, Leah’s pricey engagement ring goes missing from her gym locker at the tennis courts when she leaves it unattended for a few seconds to investigate a mysterious sound in the other room. Later, at a fancy formal dinner, Rose – who is on the catering staff – flashes a suspiciously similar ring directly at Leah.
Leah is taken in by the trick, yelling at the student in full view of all her colleagues and demanding to see the ring. When Rose insists it’s her late mother’s jewellery, Leah snatches it right off her finger – and discovers that it is not her engagement ring, after all.
The potential damage to Leah’s reputation as a teacher and as an academic is huge, and this is a Very Bad Look for someone who hasn’t yet passed their probation period. It’s also a blow for her relationship with Adam who never really believed her about Rose – and certainly doesn’t buy into it now. “She set me up, Adam, she’s clever – can you not see it?” she begs as he storms upstairs.
But as viewers, we now know the truth: Rose did steal the ring, and the bona-fide article (with “A&L” engraved inside the band) is sitting in a locked box in her desk draw.
2. Rose seduces Adam – to hurt Leah
Rose began her campaign of seduction in episode one, and in episode two Leah’s husband Adam proves an extremely easy target – almost as easy as Ben the lovesick college porter (Burn Gorman) who she has wrapped around her little finger.
With Adam, all it takes is a bit of flirtation and flattery (“you’re not what I thought you’d be like… boring as f**k like the rest of them”) as well as some well-timed “chance” encounters and a heavy dose of alcohol.
In the aftermath of the ring debacle at the formal dinner, and in an apparent attempt to build bridges, Rose insists that Adam and Leah join her for the open mic night at the local pub. But this, too, is a tactical move; she correctly calculates that Leah won’t come and that Adam will turn up alone.
Like a fool, Adam rises to the bait and by the end of the evening he’s sent her a photograph of his – ahem – intimate parts.
The following morning, Rose then texts Leah moments before heading in for the official review about her allegedly-plagiarised essay: “I have something you should see. Nothing personal… or is it? Does this picture look familiar?”
We’ll have to wait until episode three to find out how Leah reacts, but Rose is clearly angling for an emotional reaction from her tutor – and by the look on Leah’s face, it looks like she will get one. The university professor could come out of this looking like she’s waging a personal vendetta against a blameless student.
3. What will Leah do about Adam’s infidelity?
Unless Adam comes up with an exceptionally good cover story, he’s in big trouble. His relationship with Leah is on the rocks already and now he’s betrayed her with the worst possible person.
And we have to ask: is that a motive for murder? Seeing as we know Adam is going to end up dead?
4. What will Rose do about Leah’s break-in?
This drama comes from the production team behind Liar, with Harry and Jack Williams serving as executive producers – so perhaps we should have guessed that there would be a nail-biting scene where protagonist Leah “secretly” enters Rose’s room, accidentally leaving evidence of her visit behind. (Fans of Liar will recall Laura’s close shave at Andrew’s house and an unfortunate incident with a missing earring.)
When Rose sends her a flower and a condolence note about her cat, Leah sees red and charges over to her student’s room. Finding it unlocked thanks to the college cleaner, she walks straight in and has a poke around Rose’s wardrobe, desk and computer.
So stupid! Of course she is caught on CCTV, and of course she accidentally leaves a petal from the yellow rose. For some reason she doesn’t realise what a clear violation this is, dismissing Adam’s concerns that she could be fired: “Well, that’s not going to happen. So.”
But Rose finds the petal, and her lackey Ben gives her illicit printouts from the CCTV. The question is: what now? How will Rose use this to her advantage?
5. What’s the deal with Rose’s dad?
Rose’s incredibly wealthy father seems a nasty piece of work. William, played by Adrian Edmondson, is full of malice towards his daughter – and she hits right back.
When Rose asks after “Auntie Pam” he becomes furious, telling her: “You’re a spiteful little girl, aren’t you? She’s in a lot of pain. But she’s battling.”
With an ironic smile, Rose responds: “Send her my love, yeah?”
“This essay business, I imagine that’s just you attempting to embarrass me, is that it?” he asks, and Rose seems genuinely upset that he doesn’t even question whether she cheated or not.
So what’s the deal with their relationship? The full story has yet to be revealed, but Rose does give this explanation to Adam about her mother’s death: “She killed herself when I was six years old. Got drunk, drove off a cliff. My dad and I were never really close but after that we barely spoke for ten years.”
6. Why does Rose have that photo of Leah’s dad?
We’ve not seen much of Leah’s dad Michael (Peter Firth) yet, but one thing has piqued our interest.
Rose seems to have a folded-up photograph of Michael and Leah in her red lock-box, but when Leah questions why the photo is missing from its spot on the wall of her family home, her dad replies: “Bloody thing fell off the wall and the frame broke.”
Did it? Or is there more to the story? And… how did Rose get hold of the photo?
Cheat continues on Wednesday 13th March at 9pm on ITV