Series 1, episode 6
When we first see Abby in this episode, she is at home with Connor, giving him lessons in how to chat up women. She seems at ease with him, the irritation from the previous episode now gone. She’s encouraging when he’s on the right track, and quick to stop him when he strays into inappropriate, and faintly despairing when he starts to talk comic book heroes. As soon as the conversation strays into more personal territory, though, she is quick to emphasise that they are just ‘pals’. She focuses on fiddling with Connor’s tie, and won’t meet his eye when he says, “You can fancy somebody who’s a pal, can’t you? The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”
It’s an interesting scene. It’s clearly meant to be fun, and to some extent a situation designed to make the audience point and laugh at the socially inept geek trying to chat up women. But throughout the scene, Abby isn’t laughing at him, she seems to be genuinely trying to help him. It would be interesting to know which one of them suggested this little role-play, whether Connor asked for help, or whether Abby offered. Given Connor’s later comments that he already thinks he can talk to women okay, I’m tempted to suggest that Abby was the one who offered.
Abby is relaxed and enjoying herself all the way through, and only appears to become slightly uncomfortable when Connor alludes to his interest in her specifically, rather than women in general. Why would she put herself in a position that is likely to bring up a subject that she is uncomfortable with? I refuse to believe she is unaware of Connor’s interest at this point, so does she simply think that if she continues to emphasise the fact that they are just friends, that he will eventually give up?
With that in mind, it’s tempting to view it as a sign of how much Abby trusts Connor, even at this early stage. That she knows he would never deliberately hurt her, or take advantage (not in a sexual sense, at least, even if he does blatantly take advantage of their friendship in other ways), and that if she was genuinely uncomfortable enough to want to stop, he would stop and back off when she told him to. Maybe this is why she goes ahead with the situation, even at the risk of a little awkwardness?
We next see them at the zoo, and Abby manages to sneak Connor into the lion enclosure, and explains that one of the lions has disappeared. They discuss whether it might have been a creature attack, but there’s no real evidence, until Connor spots a splash of blood on the ground, and takes a sample of it.
Why did Abby bring Connor in rather than Cutter or Stephen? Perhaps she didn’t want to raise the alarm on so little evidence, but did want to bounce ideas off someone else ‘in the know’. True, they are trying to keep it under the radar, and she may have thought that Cutter would come in blustering and being loud, so probably not the best person. But logically, Stephen would actually be the best person for a second opinion considering his knowledge of tracking animals in the wild, and, unlike Cutter, he knows how to be discreet. And yet she calls Connor. From an out-of-character perspective, it’s clear that in the latter half of series 1 they have increasingly separated the team into Connor and Abby in one group, and Cutter, Stephen and Claudia in another, so by now we are getting used to seeing Connor and Abby working together.
We next see Abby feeding the elephants at the zoo, a nice bit of continuity, as she is presumably still working on the parasites in elephant dung project. She is being watched by the future predator, and at one point Abby looks up and looks around, as if sensing she is being watched or that there is something else nearby, but she doesn’t see it.
Abby and Connor are at the Home Office, but excluded from the meeting with Lester about Helen. This isn’t unusual – they haven’t been included in any meetings with Lester at all for the entire series, but why would they be hanging around the Home Office if they aren’t there for the meeting? Abby comments that Stephen was acting really weird that morning, and it’s obvious that neither of them have been told what is going on. Connor, however, does have information about the blood sample from the zoo, and Abby reveals her boss has gone missing and hasn’t been seen since yesterday. It’s a particularly clumsy scene that seems to be entirely there to dispense plot information, without having any rational or obvious in-character reason for either of them being present at the Home Office.
We see Abby back at the zoo, and again she seems to sense that there is a creature nearby, but again doesn’t actually see it.
Connor tells Stephen about the missing lion and Abby’s boss, and Stephen races to the zoo when he realises Abby might be in danger. He makes her jump by appearing right behind her, and Abby smacks him on the arm and tells him not to creep up on her. Stephen insists he wasn’t creeping, he was walking normally. This is presumably him testing a theory after his conversation with Helen earlier, but somewhat at odds with the fact that we’ve seen Abby apparently aware that there is something around, even if she can’t see it.
Abby doesn’t show much of a reaction when Stephen tells her that a creature may have killed her boss, which seems a little strange considering they seemed to have a good relationship in episode 1. She immediately changes the subject and seems pleased that Stephen rushed here on his own to make sure she was safe, which Stephen brushes off with a joke about how he wanted to protect the sea lions. Just playful teasing, or is this meant to be an indication that Abby still feels something for him? Or that she thinks he may still feel something for her? Either way, they are interrupted by the arrival of the future predator, which Stephen senses approaching long before Abby is aware of it. He pushes her against the wall and tries to shield Abby with his own body, and after an initial shocked protest, Abby lets him.
Abby isn’t involved in the search for the predator; she still seems to be working while the team investigate the woods near the zoo. She hears a commotion outside, and goes to investigate, and sees Connor about to be attacked by the future predator. Abby immediately shouts to distract it, and throws a rock that hits the predator. It’s successful – the predator immediately turns its attention to Abby, but now she is defenceless, and seems to realise this as soon as it turns towards her. Then Stephen appears and shoots the predator, which runs off. Abby grabs Stephen and hugs him, although Stephen doesn’t return the hug.
This is the first time that Abby has actively saved someone else from a creature rather than just saving herself (Tom, in episode 1.4), although it isn’t the best rescue ever, and still needs Stephen to finish the job. Abby acts on instinct – she sees Connor in danger and tries to distract the creature without thought to the danger that she is putting herself in. This is still series 1 when they don’t have weapons, so there really is little else that she can do apart from throw rocks or run away, and she can’t run away without putting Connor back in danger.
Afterwards, Connor thanks her for saving his life. Abby brushes it off with a smile and a comment that she had to – he hasn’t paid this month’s rent yet. Saving each others’ lives is no longer so unusual, and Abby isn’t the type of person to show off or accept the glory. However, there is no trace of the embarrassment that she has shown when people compliment her appearance. It’s interesting that she is far more able to accept compliments and praise when someone is talking about her knowledge and abilities, rather than when it is about her appearance or personality. It shows where her priorities lie, and Abby repeatedly places far more importance on what she can do rather than how she looks or how she acts with other people.
At the anomaly site Abby seems to catch on to the look that passes between Helen and Stephen, and her expression suggests she suspects there is something not quite right. However, she shows very little reaction to Claudia kissing Cutter, except for possibly a little embarrassment.
When Cutter and Helen return, and Helen drops her bombshell, Abby spends a large amount of the scene watching Stephen. It’s difficult to read her expression, but she doesn’t seem as openly shocked as Connor, or even Cutter. Even after Helen has gone and Cutter starts asking for Claudia, Abby continues to stare at Stephen. I’m not sure that she had actually guessed about the affair, but she does seem to have picked up that there is something not quite right between Helen and Stephen. Her strangely controlled reaction seems almost resigned, like she expects people to disappoint her, and something like this was inevitable.
This is something we will see again in future – the expectation that people will let her down, no matter who they are. There are all sorts of theories about Abby’s past, and Hannah Spearritt has apparently said in an interview that she thinks Abby may have been abused as a child. None of this is ever mentioned, or even hinted at, in canon, though, so we can only speculate as to what may have caused this lack of faith in other people.
Link to part 5 - episode 1.5
Link to part 7 - episode 2.1