Though I'm not sure the humor is intended, this is one of the more absurd--and ultimately humorous--episodes in the Inspector Morse series. Though the series is always well acted, especially by John Thaw and Kevin Whately, and the photography and music are always gorgeous, the plot is such a jumble here, with so many weird scenes, that it is difficult to take the episode seriously, even when it involves accusations of murder within a church setting.
Several competing--and incompatible--plot lines play out here. Victoria Hazlett, a young female deacon hoping to become a priest in the Church of England, collapses and dies during the special exam she is taking. She is part of Pax, a group of liberated female clerics who have become active at Oxford. Hilary Dobson, another member of the group, is applying to become chaplain of St. Saviour's Church, competing for the position against a young man who has the backing of the conservative wing of the church, a group of neurasthenic priests much in evidence at Oxford and in this episode. Inserted between the church scenes is a beauty pageant for Think Thin weight loss program participants, with the bathing suit-clad candidates vying for weight-loss queen of the year. The primary connection between these two unlikely subjects seems to be Dinah Newberry, a former weight loss queen, who solos at the church.
During the episode: A priest with serious mental problems glares menacingly throughout the beginning scenes, orating about witchcraft and harlotry. Several priests are caught in a "Harlot's Room" at the vicarage, a room filled, floor to ceiling, with kinky, adulterated photos of the local female clergy. All Victoria Hazlett's ecclesiastical research is stolen and burned by the weight-loss impresario, and Dinah Newberry, hysterical, is seen smearing her face and clothes as she gobbles a paste of flour and water, one of the most grotesque scenes in the entire Morse series. Several attempts at murder occur, and Morse, not surprisingly, flirts with one of the female clerics.
One of the weaker episodes, plot-wise, Fat Chance is enjoyable for its off-the-wall absurdity. I suspect that even Morse and Lewis were smirking into their beer and orange juice, off-camera. n Mary Whipple