Slow Horses – S03E02 – Hard Lessons | Transcript

River Cartwright is tasked with a risky mission to retrieve the Prime Minister's vetting files from Regent's Park. After failing to trap the abductor, River confronts the abductor who is revealed to be none other than Diana Taverner.
Slow Horses - S03E02 - Hard Lessons

Episode Title: Hard Lessons
Series: Slow Horses
Season: 3
Episode: 1
Original release date: 29 November 2023
Plot Summary: River Cartwright is tasked with a risky mission to retrieve the Prime Minister’s vetting files from Regent’s Park. River is given one hour to complete the task, or Catherine will be killed. River manages to find the vetting files but is discovered by Diana Taverner, who tries to stop him from leaving. River escapes, but he is caught in a traffic accident and loses the vetting files. Catherine is reunited with the Slow Horses, but she is traumatized by her experience. River promises to protect her, and he vows to get revenge on Taverner.

* * *

[footsteps thudding]

[door slams]

Get out of the way! Move. Move. Move.

[passerby] Oi!


What the fuck?

River, you have to do exactly as I say.

You’ve got Catherine?

I don’t know anything about Catherine.

[grunts, breathing heavily]

If you hurt her, you know I’ll kill you.

I was just told to come here and give you a message.

[both breathing heavily]

That’s bullshit.


They’ve just sent me a picture of my sister with her kids at the swings.

Who did?

I don’t fucking know, okay?

But I have to do what they say, or they’ll kill the kids in front of their mother.

[breathes shakily] These are bad people, River-Please–

Look, I’m a shit and I’m a prick,

and I don’t-I-I-I don’t blame you for hating me, but these are kids, River.

They’re gonna kill kids.

Well, they’re gonna kill Catherine as well. So, who are they?

How many times-I don’t know. I-I’m not in the Service. You tell me.

They want you to get this. I wrote it down. [breathing heavily]

The PM’s vetting file? [scoffs] You know where that is, right?

Course I know where it is.

[sighs] Well, then you know I can’t get that. [sniffs]

No, you have to get it.

No, it’s impossible.

No one gets into that part of the Park.

You have to get it.

Even if I could get in, I’d never–

You have to get it by midday.

Mi-An hour?

Or my nephew, my niece, my sister, Catherine, they are all gonna die.

No, I need more time.

Oh, come on. You have to try!



Who do I even give it to if I get it?

I don’t know.


I just-I don’t know.

They just said they’d make contact again at midday.

Why didn’t they just get you to get it?

I’m not in the Service anymore.

You know that.

And I’m in Slough House, which you love reminding me of.

Yeah, but you don’t belong in Slough House. Everyone knows that.

Maybe they do too.

Maybe they want you because you’re-Fuck’s sake–

[sighs] Because you’re special.

[sighs] That you’re the only person who can pull this off.

[chuckles] S–

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

[breathing shakily] Oh, Jesus. Oh, God.

Oh, Jesus.

River, please, go. Run. Now.

Please, don’t let ’em kill me. Please–

Fuck. All right, fine.

[sniffling] Please. Please.

[breathing heavily]

What are you-What are you doing?

What are you doing? River!

Oh, fuck.


[“Strange Game” playing]

[announcer] Mind the gap.

[passerby shouts]

[passerby 2 grunts]

[scanner beeping]


Move, move, move, move!

Thank you. Excuse me. Sorry.

Move. Move. Sorry. Excuse me. Thank you.

[stammers] Can you just–

What’s-What’s the hurry, mate?





Let me in. Let me in. Come on.

Come on. Come on. Come on.

[gate buzzes]

Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.

[door beeps]


I need to speak to your head of security. [sniffs]

There’s a queue.

Get him on the phone now.

That doesn’t even get you into the building.

[sighs] God, I’ve missed you.

[cell phone chimes]

[security] Phone off.

I said off!

[River] Yep, one minute.



[security] He’s here, sir.

[sighs] Thanks.

[door closes]

You fucking me around?


So, this isn’t bullshit?

Have you got somewhere else to be, River?

Uh, no.

Uh, no, it’s not bullshit

and, uh, no, don’t have anywhere to be.

I don’t want you here any longer than necessary, you fucking Jonah.



That seat there is for proper fucking grown-up spies.

Spies who don’t crash Stansted or call in fake fucking Code Septembers.

Look, I get the impression sometimes that you don’t like me.

I’d like to see you eaten feet first by pigs.

Well, you have a very eclectic bucket list.

But this is not bullshit.

You have the diamond?

[River clears throat]

You’re welcome. See ya.


How did you get it?


There were only three people on that roof.

Standish, Longridge, Guy. Not you.

I mean, look, obviously the person that’s taken it, they’ve acted impulsively, and they’ve regretted it.

Which one was it?

I don’t know, Duffy.

It was left on my desk with a note to return it to you.

Did you bring the note?

No. And you can’t tell who it is from the note anyway.

No, obviously you can’t.

You’ve got your diamond back. That’s what’s important, okay?


[River sighs]

Let’s go and see if this one’s genuine, shall we?

Why would it not be genuine?

I don’t know, River. You tell me.

Look, it was handed to me…


…and I handed it to you. That’s all I know.

Well, let’s go and find out together then, shall we?

Do I need to come for that? Why? Why–

[chuckles] You said that you didn’t have anywhere else to be, River.

Yeah, okay, let’s go.

River, if you are fucking me around, I’m gonna punch you so hard you’ll shit teeth.

Standish hasn’t shown in the morgues or the hospitals.

Mmm. Someone’s grabbed her.

She contacted Cartwright, or he said she did before he scarpered.

Well, where is he?

No idea.

Well, call him.

I tried.

His phone’s off, which means I can’t track him either.

Jesus Christ, you lot are about as much use as a paper condom.

[sighs] Where are Little and Large?

Do you know what’s in that?


Ice cream, sauce, whipped cream, marshmallows. It’s why I bought it.

There’s enough calories in there for a week.

I burn them off. I know it’s harder to keep the weight off at your age.

[chuckles] Look, we might not be each other’s first choice, but it is just you and me.

We share an office, is all.

Yeah, and River and Louisa have got the other one.

Ho is his own thing.

And Lamb and Standish are in some twisted codependency.

So, maybe we should team up.

To do what?

Get out of Slough House.

Unless you wanna stay there forever.


I’ve got time to take stock, consider my options, unlike you.

[scoffs] I’m only five years older than you.

[cell phone vibrating]


Shh. Lamb.

Has Standish reached out to you or Shirley?

No. We’d have let you know if she had.

[Jackson] I’m not sure you would, seeing how’s you slacked off for an ice cream.

Get back here. She’s been kidnapped.

[line beeps]


He said she’s been kidnapped.

Who by? What do they want?

He didn’t say. He wants us back straightaway.

How did he even know we were here?

Yeah, that’s definitely what I’d focus on.

Standish’s been kidnapped and what? You just processed that and moved on?

Come on. If he knows we’re here, he probably knows we haven’t started moving yet.

God, we’re gonna get a triple bollocking.

Ho must have tracked our service phones.

He’s probably got cameras in our toilets at home too.

Yeah, I’m gonna need you to slap him again.

Is this gonna take long?

You said you had nowhere to be.

Well, by nowhere, I meant Slough House, of course.



What are you doing in here?

He’s returning the missing diamond, supposedly.

I didn’t ask you. I asked him.

I’ve returned the missing diamond, actually.

And I’m taking him to get it examined and verified.

You can do that by yourself. I need to talk to Cartwright.

Ma’am, technically you no longer have oversight of me or the Dogs.

I still have oversight of the Slow Horses. Lucky me.

Come on, Cartwright.

I want you back in my office when she’s done with you.

If I have to come looking, it’s not gonna be pretty.


I don’t want you in this building ever.

You are the bane of my career.

When you show up, frogs start raining from the sky and blood pours from the taps.

I was returning the missing diamond.

I don’t care about the diamond.

The fact that it was missing made Duffy look like a fool, which I was rather enjoying.

Until you messed that up like you mess everything up.

Well, I didn’t mean to mess anything up.

Oh, shut up.

Because of your rolling disasters…


…I have been put in charge of moving boxes around.

And you and the other quarter-wits at Slough House are making a meal out of even that.

Well, it is a lot of boxes, to be fair.

I don’t want excuses.

I want you to never have happened. [sighs]

Feels like I should go. Yeah.


Keep walking until you get to the sea.

And when you get to the sea, keep walking with your mouth open.

You know the way out.



Whoa. Hey, hey. [sighs]


H-Hey, uh, this is weird, isn’t it?


Um, I am not sure why I stopped.

Me neither.

Do you wanna grab a drink?

No, thank you.

No, yeah. Fair enough. Well, I’ll see you around then.


Unless I give you my number.

Do you remember that I kicked you out of my flat?

Yeah. I guess I was just hoping we might part on better terms.

Look, I know you think I’m a dick.

I am. [chuckles]

But probably not as much of a dick as you think. [chuckles]

Look, I’m just-I’m not really in a good place at the moment, so it’s possible I slightly overreacted and…


Excuse me, why are you taking this?

It’s double yellow lines. Is it yours?


It’s not your business then.

Actually, it is.

You make that yourself?

I’m MI5, and I need to look inside this car now.

Yeah, all right.

Stupid cow.

[breathing deeply]


Oi! Oi!

What the fuck are you doing?

Easy, easy, easy.

Fucking mad.


[impounder] Oi.

I’ll fucking have you for that.

[breathing heavily]

Next time, just do as you’re asked.

[keys jingle]


[Shirley] She’s been kidnapped?

Yeah, that’s what Lamb’s saying. [sighs]

By who? What do they want?

You’d have to ask Cartwright. [sighs]

He got a message, supposedly from Standish, then he ran out like a whippet with a chili up its arse.

What’s Lamb doing about it?

More than you two.

I watched you come in in case you were being followed.

Save you the bother.

We’d have known if we had.

Nah. Yeah, there was no one on you, as it happens, but these people are good.

I think they’re out there. [stammers] Call 999.

Give ’em the address and tell them that there’s some guy out here on the street, waving his dick at passersby.

[sighs] They followed Standish from here to AA.

And they knew that Cartwright was gonna be here when they contacted him.

So, they probably have the whole building under surveillance and a tap on the phones.

Get out there. Tail anyone who moves from the café to the bus stop opposite the minute after the call goes in.

How long should we follow for?

Well, until we can work out who they are and what they want.

Keep your distance.

[Roddy] Police, please. [sighs]

Yeah, I’m at 152 Aldersgate Street.

There’s a man outside with his dick in one hand and a gun in the other, shouting about God telling him to kill.


Should hurry them up.

Not even close.

This is Duffy. Is Cartwright still in the building?

[sighs] Ah, fuck!

[Diana sighs]


[Diana] Come in.



Where’d Cartwright go after you spoke to him?

Mmm. Don’t know. He left the building.

Well, he hasn’t left the building. We’ve no idea where he is.

Oh, that’s not good.

Who signed him in?

[breathes shakily] I did.

[smacks lips] Oh, dear.

And the diamond?

[chuckles] Hmm. Ma’am.

[door opens]


[door closes]


God, it’s been so hectic. I even forgot my parent’s wedding anniversary.

Oh, my God.

Luckily my brother said I could go in on a present with him. Lifesaver.

[keypad beeping]

[Hobbs] River fucking Cartwright.

Last time we was by a lift, you twatted me in the face with a fire extinguisher.

Yeah, well, sorry about that.

But you were trying to nick me for something I had no part in.

[scoffs, chuckles]


[chuckles] Funny.


Fair play, mate. Oh, you got the drop on me.

Gotta respect that, innit?


[keypad beeps]

So, what the fuck are you doing over here? Still a Slow Horse?

Still stink the place up like a dead horse full of horse shit?

[chuckles] Yeah, well, uh… [clears throat] …that’s actually why I’m here.

I’m giving a lecture to new recruits on how not to end up in Slough House.

[keypad beeps]

Don’t be a twat.

That’s not me saying I don’t believe you.

That’s me saying that your lecture on how not to end up in Slough House should just be you saying, “Don’t be a twat,” over and over again for an hour.


Right, right. I mean, I’m probably gonna flesh it out a bit more than that.

But if it’s any consolation, that’s pretty much the gist. Yeah.

[elevator dings]

[doors open]

Well, glad there’s no hard feelings.

No. No, mate. Now you’re over there, and I’m over here.

And I would rather drown in my own piss than swap places with you.


Actually, you know what?

I don’t want to miss a solid hour

of you telling the new recruits what a fuckwit you are.

Is that all right?

[exhales deeply]

How could I say no?

[keypad beeps]

[cell phone vibrating]

Prick in baseball cap. Bus stop.

And don’t spook them. They could lead us to Standish.

[cell phone ringing]

What the fuck are you doing?

[Marcus] Following from in front. It’s way more subtle.

And don’t fucking call me.

Don’t fucking answer if you don’t wanna speak.


Keep on him. I’ll try and cut ahead.

All right, all right. Fuck.

Oi! Little fucker.


[tires screech]

[car horns honking]

[grunts, groans]

For fuck’s sake. [pants]

[groans] Nice one.

[both sigh]




Fuck. [panting]

[panting] F–


[both panting]



I told you to keep your bloody distance, not scare him off like a pigeon.

[panting] I got the plate.

Lamb. [panting]

Yeah, I need to do some laundry.

Yep. So…


What time did you say it starts?

[stammers] In the next ten minutes. Yeah.

Oh, wait. Oh. [clicks tongue] Hold on.

Starts at 1:00, not 12:00.

Aw, a shame.

Ah. Yeah.

Gotta be somewhere at 1:00.

Oh. Well, I’m-I’m sure someone’s gonna record it, so…

I do hope so.

Need something new to wank over. [chewing]

Um, yeah.

Well, I’ll probably just, you know, stay here.

Get my thoughts together, you know?

Try and forget about what you just said.

Yeah, man. You do that.


[Hobbs] Oh. [clears throat]

[sighs] Just before I go… [clears throat, sniffs]

Show us your security pass?

My security pass? You know I’m Service.

No. You’re a Slow fucking Horse,

which means you need a security pass to be in here.

Uh, yeah, yeah, yeah. They-They gave me one.

That’s a visitor’s pass.

That’ll get you through reception, but to be this deep in the building, you needed a security pass.

Yes. Got it on my phone.

Show us. Yeah.

You wanna see it? Okay.

You run the plates?

It’s fake.

Why Lamb didn’t stop to get it.

Where did he disappear to then?

He’s got nothing to go on.

Can we find out who faked the plates?

[sighs] There’s about 500 people on the dark web who offer that service, and they won’t know who they sold it to.

Why am I having to explain this?

This must be how Jesus felt, surrounded by dickheads.

Yeah, he was famously hated by everyone who met him.

Uh, a hire car was left outside the café where Catherine was snatched.

Those are the details of the guy who hired it.

[scoffs] What, you think the kidnapper signed their real name and address?

Sean Donovan. [scoffs]

Well, it’s something to go on, isn’t it?

That’s nothing to go on, babes.

[computer chimes]

[Marcus] Is that the van?

Shut up about the fucking van.

You should be tracking it.

I am tracking it.

But after you spooked them, they’ll have swapped the fake plates for a new set.

Well, what’s that ping then?

Cartwright. He turned his phone on.

Where is he?

The Park.

Oh, fucking come on, mate. You haven’t got a pass, have you?

Yes, I do, I just-I just–

I just had a few tabs open there that I should’ve shut.

Ah, here it is. Right, there you are.

[grunts, choking]

[groans] You fucking bastard!

[phone ringing]

[Roddy] Cartwright’s at the Park.

What the fuck is he doing at the Park?

He’s about as welcome there as a turd in a hot tub.

Search me.

Did he sign in?

Yeah. And now he’s AWOL in the building.


Name and address check out.

[Roddy] Yeah, right.

Let’s see who this is.

We’ll stake out the address.


Wait, it’s my lead.

[Roddy] Not a lead.

Please don’t leave me with Ho.

[groans, scoffs] Still think it’s a fake ID?

So I made a mistake.

I’m vulnerable.

[sighs] No. [groans]

Oof. That bad, hey?

They got Standish.

You didn’t tell me that.

I didn’t tell you anything.

They bugged our phones.

They trail you here?

Eh, I got rid of ’em.

Why are you talking to me and not the Dogs?


They made contact with one of my team, who’s just flashed up at the Park.

I’m guessing they told him to do as they say or Standish turns up in bits.

I’m keen not to accelerate that process.

What can you give me?

They’re ex-military.

You can tell that by looking?

Oh, yeah, they walk around like they got a bayonet stuck up their arse, and spend three hours a day in the gym, which means their clothes don’t fit.

So mercs?

No. Mercs are fucking lunatics.

No, these guys, uh, they’re organized, controlled.

Private security then?

[sighs, inhales deeply]

Who’s big enough to try and penetrate the Park?

There are three firms that can mount that kind of op.

Stormbreak and Strike Force–

Jesus Christ. Fucking names.

Why don’t they just go for Rock Hard Cocks?

[snickers] Well, Stormbreak’s guys are all tied up in Syria.

And I know for a fact that Strike Force are about to take out a Liberian warlord.


I’m doing the logistics.

What’s the third option?

[clicks tongue] Chieftain. New dicks on the block.


Ran by a Sly Monteith.

[scoffs] I hate to judge a person on their name alone, but he sounds like an absolute ponce.

Old Etonian, well-connected, went to school with half the Cabinet.

Hmm. Well, my judgment stands.

Yeah. Now he’s living his wet dream of having his own private army.

But a hell of a move for him to make, to kidnap and blackmail Service agents.

I mean, who’s gonna pay for him to do that?

Other than a hostile foreign power, which would land him in all sorts of shit back here.

Huh. I can think of someone.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.


Yep. [sighs]

[breathing heavily] Cartwright’s on east stairs.

Yeah, I’m on the fucking east stairs, and he’s heading to the fucking basement.

[River panting]

[Hobbs] Don’t even think about it.


[Hobbs] Move!

[grunts, panting] Fuck.



Oh, fuck.

[pants, groans]


[Hobbs] Come here, you bastard.



[Hobbs] Open the fucking door.

[River panting] Hello?

Cartwright, I’m so serious.

Open this fucking door!

[panting] Hello?

If you don’t open the fucking door…


…I am gonna kick your head in.


[sighs, sniffs]


Uh, Duffy, Hobbs. [panting]

Cartwright’s in the basement. He’s, uh-[sighs]

He’s jumped me and he’s took me pass. Anyway, I can’t get in-in that room.

No, the fucking troll not letting me in.

[River panting] Ah.


[Molly] Are you a Dog?

Huh? No. There’s one of them behind that door.

Then keep him there.

[sighs] Fine by me.

Right, I need this now, or someone dies, okay?

You’re Cartwright Jr., aren’t you?

Yeah. [coughs]

I can see your grandfather in you.

[pants] I need this. Come on.

I can’t possibly give you this.

Well, you need to… [sniffs] …because if you don’t–

See this woman? She dies. Okay?

Then I’m afraid she dies.

What? Are you f-She’s Service. They’re gonna fucking kill her.

I didn’t much like your grandfather.


But I like him more than I like the Dogs.


If I let you walk out of here with this file, the Dogs will work you over till you’re in a chair like mine, and she’ll probably die anyway.

But I will call someone who might be able to help you.

Okay, well, whoever it is, they have three and a half minutes to help me. So…

Fuck it. I-I-Fuck it, I don’t have time for this.

Just-Just-Just give me the file. Fuck it, I’ll find it.



Oh, shit, she’s dead.

Fuck. Oh, Catherine. [panting]

Cartwright, phone, now.

[breathing heavily]


[pants] Yeah, what?

[Jackson] Get the fuck outta there now.

What, why? Lamb, listen to me.

Someone has Standish, and I have to get a file, or they kill her.

No-No. You listen to me.

You might think you’re hot stuff, Cartwright, but in fact, you’re cold shit.

Lamb, did you hear what I said? Standish dies.

No, she doesn’t. Now get the fuck out of there before you screw us all.

[line disconnects]


What? What? What does that mean? What do I do? What the fuck do I do?

Whatever Lamb told you to do.

He told me to get out.

There’s a service hatch at the back. It leads to the car park.

I won’t have the Dogs on my floor, so you have some time.


[River sighs]

What if he’s wrong?

It would be a first.

[sighs] Oh, fuck.

[groans] Fuck.


[door opens]

The last time I saw you, you put a gun to my head.

Now you’re offering me room service?

We needed the photo to look real.

Who did you send it to? Lamb?

‘Cause if you’re trying to blackmail him with a threat to me, I’m not sure it’ll work.

We need to move you.

You have about 20 minutes to finish that.

If you want anything else, please let us know.

I’d like to go home, please.

Um, I wasn’t sure if you’re a vegetarian, so there’s o-one ham, one cheese.

And what is this place?

I mean, safe houses are usually empty, impersonal. This house feels lived in.

Uh, or you could combine them. Ham and chee-cheese.

[inhales deeply] Mmm.

[cell phone vibrating]

A rental car was towed from outside the café where Catherine was snatched.

And the rental doc was filled out in the name of Sean Donovan, who works for Ch–

Chieftain. Anything else?

[chair rolls]

[whispers] Stop staring at me!

Marcus and Shirley are sitting on his home address.

Why, have they not worked out what this is yet?

What is it?

[sighs] Massive wank, that’s what it is.

[stammers] Wha-What do you mean?

That Chieftain are just doing this for fun?

No, for money.

Get down to their office.

And if you haven’t worked it out by then, don’t come back.

Can I open my eyes yet?



[inhales, exhales deeply]

She won’t open it.

Ms. Doran!

It’s Duffy!

I’m coming in!

[intercom beeps]

[intercom clicks]

[Molly] Fuck off.

[intercom beeps]

Well, if I can’t come in, could you please send River Cartwright out?


I don’t know who that is.

There isn’t anyone else here.

I would ask you to come in and take a look, but I will not have–

But you don’t have Dogs on your floor.

Yeah, but I have to override that if you’re harboring an intruder.

Okay, come on in.

But I’ll need your details, especially the one who called me a troll.


I’ll need his name for the HR complaint I’m about to file.

[Nick] Hobbs!

We’re just gonna leave him in there?

He’s not in there.

[employee] It’s their golden wedding anniversary.

[chuckles] I am not buying them a subscription to a bacon delivery service.

[laughs] I don’t care how good the bacon is.

Yes, I know that’s what Dad wants, but what about Mum?

You know when she’s all, “I don’t mind. Don’t make a fuss”?

She’s always lying.


Okay. Okay, fine.

You get them that, and I will get them a decent present.

You know, to stop Mum rightfully stinking out the whole weekend.

[employee sighs] Okay.

[car door opens]

[object bangs]

[guard] Hey, heading off early?

Nope… [sighs] …still working.

Gotta go sit in on a meeting at the Met.

[guard] So you can write down the big words for ’em?

[employee, guard laugh]

I used to go out with a police officer, you know.


[guard] Oh, uh, sorry. [chuckles]

[employee] Honestly, don’t be.


[employee] He got suspended for tasering himself in the foot.

And that wasn’t even in the top three reasons why I left him so… [laughs]

[guard laughing] Oh, wow.


All right, take care, yeah.

[employee] I’ll see you.

[grunting, breathing deeply]

[cell phone vibrating]

Right, I’m out. [panting]

[Jackson] Don’t think you’re getting a gold star.

Come on. I just broke in and out of the Park. That’s not nothing.

[sighs] Oh, I take that back. Thank you for the sun which shines out of your arse.

What, are you gonna tell me why you pulled me out then?

Because you shouldn’t have been in there in the first place.

Yeah, well I thought Standish’s life was in danger.

No, you didn’t think at all.

Then what the fuck is happening. Who’s got her?

[breathes heavily] A Tiger Team.

[call disconnects]

Oh, shit-[groans]

[tires screech]

River! I can’t believe you left without saying goodbye.

Hey, you dumb prick? Up here. Look.

Now, listen. No, let’s-[groans]

[coughs, groans]

[Nick] Ah, it’s just starting for you, sunshine.

Put him in the fucking car!

[“Strange Game” playing]


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