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"Bend It Like Brackenreid" is the sixth episode of the tenth season of the Murdoch Mysteries and the one hundred thirty-eighth of the series. It first aired on November 14, 2016.


As Murdoch investigates the strange death of a footballer, Brackenreid gets caught up in the team's run for the Olympics.

An old friend of Brackenreid’s is coaching at the games to decide who represents Canada at the 1904 Olympic Games, the exhibition games between U of T and Galt, when an unfortunate tragedy takes place on the soccer field. The murder of star player Robert Semple means it is all hands on the soccer pitch, with everyone working together on the case. But while Murdoch investigates the football player's death, Brackenreid gets caught up in the team's Olympic quest.

At a momentous football (soccer) match, John Brackenreid, his father, and Thomas' oldest Canadian friend, coach "Nobby" Nobson watch his Galt team compete to win the games to advance to the Olympics. When U of Toronto's star player is downed by a hard hit and doesn't recover, fellow spectator Dr. Ogden rushes to Semple's still body and pronounces him dead. Murdoch is called to the field to investigate. Dr. Ogden discovers that Robert Semple had been stabbed. The other lad tackled him with his legs, so there was no way that Semple was stabbed on the field.

Interviews reveal that Robert Semple was not a particularly nice person. The possible suspects make a tangled web of relationships: Esther Fields is the victim's sweetheart. Harriet Harcourt is Miss Fields' bosom friend. Leland Harcourt is a Galt player, also Harriet Harcourt's brother. Harriet Harcourt is from Galt and of course, Jack Gourlay is Galt's team captain.

The night before the Galt team hosted a smoking concert for both teams. At 8:00 p.m., he arrives with his teammates at the town hall for the smoking concert. He stayed there for the duration, until eleven. After the smoking concert broke up at eleven, Mr. Semple and his friends, along with Wesley Patten, U of T's captain, carried on to a speakeasy at College Street and Brunswick Avenue.  Nobody saw hide nor hair of him after 2:00 a.m. – until he showed up at the field this morning.

At the City Morgue, Dr. Ogden and Miss James conclude that the cause of death was shock due to a rupture of the liver. It appears the liver was nicked by an average dinner knife, which itself would not have been fatal. But when he collided with the Galt player, Dr. Ogden believes the nick tore open and the liver ruptured. His body went into arrest, stopping his heart.  Given the amount of alcohol in his blood, he was likely inebriated enough to dull the pain significantly. The stabbing occurred between two and four in the morning, likely with a knife that was stolen from the town hall. Also, he may have seen a friend after the stabbing because they found remnants of thread inside the wound and puncture marks, consistent with a sewing needle; a professional did not do the stitching. The Inspector points out that no athlete worth his salt would want to miss a shot at the Olympic Games, no matter what the cost. Crabtree reports that catering is missing a knife but that's not entirely uncommon after such a large function. In fact, they engrave the hilts of their knives with "H&L," in order to discourage such theft.

The next day, Miss James comes across Constable Crabtree rummaging bins in an alleyway, "Just how bad is a constable's salary that he is forced to forage for his lunch in such a manner?" Crabtree explains that he is searching for the murder weapon. Detective Murdoch and the Inspector discovered two trails of blood and he is to follow the route, checking every "... garbage can and sewer hole". Miss James offers to help being used to having her arms elbow-deep in arguably worse conditions and she knows the kind of knife to look for. As they search, they talk football. "Surely, there is a ladies team at the university," asks Crabtree but Miss James doesn't think she'd be welcome. Crabtree reaches for a discarded head of cabbage and places for a kick "...there you are, come on. Nobody watching." Miss James stops short of kicking it, "That looks like blood!" Looking into the trash bin from whence the bloodstained cabbage came, they find the murder weapon wrapped in a bloodier handkerchief. There are no finger marks on the knife, but it does have the engraving on the hilt. Crabtree informs the Inspector that it was found outside Andrew Nobson's hotel. Brackenreid interviews his friend and reveals the bloody handkerchief with his initials but Nobby remains silent, no doubt protecting someone.

Murdoch and Brackenreid re-examine the Galt players, Jack Gourlay and Leland Harcourt. Gourlay has motive, seeing as his fiancé was the one carrying on with the victim. But without the coach's cooperation they have nothing on him. If Mr. Nobson won't speak, perhaps Miss Harcourt will – the last time they tried she burst into tears. The Inspector suggests asking the good Doctor to lend a hand.

When Murdoch and Dr. Ogden question Harriet Harcourt about her alleged "dalliance" with Robert, Harriet breaks down and confesses to the murder, claiming Robert attacked her and she just defended herself. But the evidence doesn't support her story. Murdoch and Ogden suspect more to her story. Murdoch leaves Ogden to elicit the actual story: Robert Semple had sexually attacked Harriet earlier. It was someone else who sought to avenge that act of violence perpetrated against her honor and reputation.

Character Revelations

  • Inspector Brackenreid’s prowess on the soccer field is revealed and invents the wall, he calls 'the barrier', and the 4-4-2 formation.
  • John Brackenreid still wrestles with his father's "big shadow" – on how to play football, how to be a man, and a Brackenreid – to which Julia asks him, "Surely there can be more than one kind of Brackenreid?"
  • Dr. Ogden attending to the players foretells sports medicine and future team doctors.
  • Miss James foreshadows the Canadian women's soccer team.


  • In Raised On Robbery, Brackenreid, with his Sheffield Wednesday 1867 tattoo revealed, states that he's a football (soccer) man not a rugby man.
  • Crabtree informs Brackenreid: "Soccer" is a term nicknamed by some Oxford chap and that some Toronto lad was using the term which seems to be catching on.
  • The 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, see A Case of the Yips.
  • Two up-graded hand-held Ultraviolet Light (Torch/Flashlight) are used, see A Study in Pink.
  • The Inspector has a new use for Murdoch's chalkboard – football tactics.
  • John Brackenreid confides in Dr. Ogden about meeting his father's expectations again, see Republic of Murdoch.
  • Lost count of how many times Crabtree has to dig through garbage to find evidence– yet again.
  • When John and Thomas Brackenreid return to Toronto as Olympic winners, it starts him on a different path altogether. MM writer Michelle Ricci suggests, "and a different sort of idea about what he may want out of life. That will take him on an adventure we have never seen before."
  • While the mention of a speakeasy is bit ahead of its time, it does allude to the Temperance movement and Prohibition story line in The Local Option.

Historical References

  • The University of Toronto (U of T, UToronto, or Toronto), situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park, was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in the colony of Upper Canada. Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed the present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution. 
  • Galt Collegiate Institute (GCI), founded in 1852, informally known as "Tassie's School", gained a reputation as one of the top schools in Ontario. GCI has been designated as an historic landmark in Cambridge. The ' Porridge Eating Galt Invincible’s ' was really their nickname. They didn’t win another Olympic medal, but they won everything over the course of the next, five or six years.
  • "Lord love a duck!'" is a mild and inoffensive expression of surprise, dating from the latter years of the 19th century.
  • Smoking concerts were Victorian era social occasions to introduce new musical forms to the public, sometimes held at hotels where men would smoke and talk politics while listening to live music.
  • Brackenreid also compares Semple to Tommy Crawshaw, a midfielder on Sheffield Wednesday F.C.
  • Brackenreid tells Miss James to "cut to hecuba", a theatrical idiom (1880–1940) meaning 'cut to the chase'.


  • Filmed in part at McMaster University, a public research university, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. 
  • Soccer (called fútbol or football in most countries) is the most popular sport in the world. American football has more in common with rugby (carry the ball down the field) than with soccer (kick the ball down the field).
  • The episode title is an allusion to the film Bend It Like Beckham (2002).
  • The plot has many similarities to the British movie The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939).
  • Referring to a speakeasy at College & Brunswick may be a nod to a recently closed pub, The Brunswick House , colloquially "The Brunny".

Notable Quotes

Inspector to Crabtree: "I will not have you copying some toffee-nosed prat repeating another toffee nosed prat. The sport is called football, Crabtree, plain and simple...Should a sport wherein the players pick up the ball in their hands and run down the field be called football, or should it be the sport wherein the players kick a ball with their feet?!"


  • MM writer and avid soccer fan Michelle Ricci: "The game was a bit of a fudge because there wasn’t actually a game that decided who was going to the Olympic Games. The way it worked back then was, if you had the money, you could just go and compete. There was no qualifier,...that’s why there were only three teams in the 1904 Olympics. I think there were something like four Canadian teams that were going to go. Two of them couldn’t raise the funds and the third one was the University of Toronto team...they played Galt in these two exhibition games before the Olympics—one in Toronto and one in Galt—and U of T tied one game and lost the other one. After they lost the second game, they were like, ‘Why should we bother going to the Olympics? We can’t even beat Galt!’ So, they didn’t go."


Main Cast

Yannick Bisson as Detective William Murdoch
Hélène Joy as Dr. Julia Ogden
Thomas Craig as Inspector Thomas Brackenreid
Jonny Harris as Constable George Crabtree

Recurring Cast

Mouna Traoré as Rebecca James
Charles Vandervaart as John Brackenreid

Guest Cast

Shaun Smyth as Andrew "Nobby" Nobson
Alice Snaden as Harriet Harcourt
Daniel Henkel as Leland Harcourt
Benjamin Sutherland as Jack Gourlay
Jake Foy as Wesley Patten
Melinda Michael as Esther Fields
Austin Duffy as Robert Semple


Murdoch Mysteries Season 10
Great Balls of Fire, Part 1Great Balls of Fire, Part 2A Study in PinkConcocting A KillerJagged Little PillBend It Like BrackenreidPainted LadiesWeekend at Murdoch'sExcitable ChapThe Devil InsideA Murdog MysteryThe MissingMr. Murdoch's NeighbourhoodFrom Murdoch to EternityHades Hath No FuryMaster LovecraftHot Wheels of ThunderHell to Pay
Season 1Season 2Season 3Season 4Season 5Season 6Season 7Season 8Season 9Season 10Season 11Season 12