Sunday, January 29, 2012

Exploring the myths of cop-killer episodes and Andy in season 8

I’ve been pondering on this subject since seeing The Sausalito Sunrise several weeks ago, and more strongly since seeing the episode upon which it was based, The Moth-Eaten Mink, this past week. Both episodes are good, although I prefer the original, but I’m hesitant on what I think of how they presented a certain important angle.

Both episodes partially concern the unsolved mystery of a police officer who was killed. It’s almost mythical and legendary, or at least it was back then, to portray the other police bent on locating the murderer for killing a brother-in-arms. Perry notes this outright in The Sausalito Sunrise, to which Steve Drumm says, “Is there anything wrong with that?” Perry says No, not unless it starts to affect a police officer’s judgment.

I agree in general, except for this little problem. Usually when mentioned in media, this dogged determination is portrayed as a negative thing, an indication that the police care more about their own than about the citizens they’re trying to protect. And while I’m certain that some police do go after the killers feeling a certain need to avenge a fellow officer’s death, the actual reason that they seem to search more vigorously for a cop killer is that if someone is deranged or desperate enough to shoot down an armed police officer, they wouldn’t hesitate to gun down an unarmed citizen. So the police aren’t forgetting the people they protect by any means.

This was rarely brought out, except in police procedural shows such as Highway Patrol and Dragnet. Since Perry always strove for accuracy in their depiction of legal and police procedures (with the exception of the break-down confessions in court, of course), I don’t quite understand why they didn’t bring out the full truth about this matter. I suppose they just wanted to tell an intense story and the idea of having an officer be vengeful in both versions seemed a good twist to take. They could have still had that, but I wish they had made it feel less like the common mythical stereotype and more steeped in realism. The Sausalito Sunrise did have Perry concerned about Steve’s vengeful attitude, but I would have liked to have seen a scene in either that episode or The Moth-Eaten Mink where another police officer speaks in concern to the ones depicted as feeling vengeful.

No mention was made of the danger of such a villain as a cop killer being at large. Instead, it was more implied in both versions that all the police generally feel that vengeful determination and that is the driving force and the purpose behind such manhunts. And I really can’t think it’s a good idea to perpetuate such ideas. In the end, I feel it’s far more damaging to the police than anything else.

I suppose it could be argued that the show really didn’t care if it made the police look bad, since the formula is set up so that the audience is supposed to root for the defense and the police are seen in a more antagonistic light. But I believe they really did try to make the police come across as good people too. Tragg, Andy, Steve, and their comrades are all portrayed as three-dimensional characters. And the times Perry has talked of the efficiency of the police are countless. So I feel that they did not want to cast a bad reflection on the police. Considering that they were boxed in by Gardner’s formula, they probably did the best they could, for the most part. Any and all attempts to bring out well-rounded characters despite the formula is one reason why the show is so wonderful in spite of its flaws.

Perpetuating the myth of the police’s vengeance on cop killers, however, was not necessary. To most viewers, it was probably half-expected and did not bother at all. But it does concern me. I wouldn’t have expected it of Perry.

And continuing today’s police theme, I am also wondering more and more what’s going on with Andy in season 8. I thought his stressed behavior and Paul’s derogatory comment in The Careless Kitten was an isolated event. But in the earlier season 8 episode The Wooden Nickels it happens again. Andy behaves more like Tragg, particularly Tragg in season 1, as he tries to get information from Paul and threatens him with the loss of his license. It’s true that Andy was somewhat stern in a few earlier episodes, such as The Golden Oranges, but it was never to the extent it’s been in these season 8 ventures. He seems like a different person altogether. There’s no trace of the easy-going friendliness he’s so well-known for. Is it bad writing, changing the character’s personality for no real reason? Or could there have been a reason?

Season 8 was the first season without any appearances by Tragg at all. (Even though Ray Collins remained credited all through the season.) Could Andy’s new behavior be an indication that Tragg really is gone (and not simply unseen by the audience) and Andy has fully taken over all of Tragg’s duties? Perhaps he is stressed because of the extra workload and because of missing his friend (especially if Tragg died rather than retired).

That still would not explain Paul’s remark in The Careless Kitten, where he said “There’s nothing Andy would like better than to …” and then was cut off by Perry. Andy was always focused more on catching the crooks than on causing trouble for Perry and Paul, but Paul’s comment indicates the opposite, as it did when he said it (and finished it) concerning Tragg or Hamilton earlier on. Perhaps with Tragg gone the writers thought they should make Andy more like him. And maybe they were already taking steps to try to move the show back to its season 1 roots, as they did more vigorously the following season.

It’s a pity we’ll probably never know. It’s possible there’s no real explanation for it at all. But it’s also possible that there is.

I’m not sure what my posting schedule will be this coming week. I may only make the one post, on Saturday the 4th, or I may do my weekday post a day early, on Wednesday. I have a musing I want to do on The Negligent Nymph, so I may write that for the middle of the week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Birthday Tribute: William Hopper

This time we’re going to have a birthday tribute on time! (And there’ll be another at the end of next week.)

Today we’re spotlighting the wonderful William Hopper, born January 26th, 1915. The son of journalist and socialite Heddy Hopper, William was not fond of associating with celebrities or of the acting scene in general. He tried other careers before resignedly coming back to acting.

I have to be honest, I haven’t seen William H. in a great many other roles yet. And some of the ones I did see, it was so long ago I barely remember! It’s been years since I’ve seen Rebel Without a Cause, for instance. (Something I need to remedy.) And I’ve been highly curious about The Bad Seed. That always sounded like a very dark and disturbing movie to me, but at the same time I had an interest in seeing it. I have even more of one since learning that William H. is in it!

The main thing I can talk about that I’ve seen him in other than Perry is 20 Million Miles to Earth. One of the countless B-quality sci-fi/horror flicks to come out of the 1950s, it features our William H. in a starring role as Colonel Robert Calder. (The only reason I watched the film was because he was in it.) The leader of a failed mission to Venus, Calder is the only survivor. A native creature he and his crew brought back as a specimen escapes and starts wreaking havoc around the world a la Godzilla. Most of the movie features Calder and the military trying to recapture the creature, in between Calder exchanging barbs with the female lead.

It’s not a particularly remarkable film, aside from the early usage of stop-motion animation. The stop-motion elephant is quite interesting. William H.’s character is enjoyable too. He has some similarities with Paul, particularly his love of the ladies. But Calder is different too. It’s really intriguing to see William H. play a character in a leadership role, and one who can be a bit of a jerk sometimes. Overall, Calder is a good person just trying to protect the people of Earth. (And of course he gets the girl.)

According to IMDB.com, William H. was in, among many other things, The Angels Wash Their Faces. I believe that was the last of the Dead End Kids series of films. It wasn’t the most enjoyable, but I did like it, and now I’ll want to see it again to catch William H. in his uncredited role of a photographer. He was also in one of the 1930s Nancy Drew movies with Bonita Granville, The Hidden Staircase. While I’ve never cared for Bonita’s portrayal of Nancy (she’s too perky and ditzy, in my opinion), the films are fun and I would love to see William H. in that one! But you know, I can’t help thinking that the movie This Is My Love must have one of William H.’s most fascinating and ironic roles ever. He plays a district attorney! Paul Drake’s mouth would drop in astonishment.

The Perry Mason 50th Anniversary DVD set includes a rare film reel with some of the cast’s various screen tests. A couple feature William H. testing for Perry Mason himself! I think what I found the most interesting was seeing the little gestures and voice inflections that are William H.’s and not Paul Drake’s. He definitely brings his own unique characterization to the role. He did a good job, but I can’t help thinking that the perfect choice was made in casting him as Paul.

Paul is a great guy to have around. He’s loyal, intelligent, and enjoys having a good time. Too bad he rarely has the chance to show the ladies out on the town. So often he gets interrupted in the middle of dates by new assignments. I wonder if he charges more when that happens.

He’s also the general comic relief. He often comes with a sarcastic or ironic remark to a situation and sometimes makes amusing flubs, such as discovering he can’t tolerate the hot Mexican food in The Negligent Nymph. His stunned reactions to the various odd things Perry sometimes requests on cases provide a good chuckle. (“Two dozen flies?!”)

One of the things I look forward to the most when watching episodes is seeing him interact with Della. His customary “Hello, Beautiful” greeting is sweet, and he and Della often get a playful banter going. As previously highlighted, the scene in The Carefree Coronary when Della brings the news of Paul’s life-threatening condition to Perry is absolutely heart-wrenching. They have a very close bond. Their innocent flirting is only further proof of it, especially since I doubt they would ever become seriously involved with each other. To feel comfortable and relaxed enough to engage in the flirting shows how well they must be on the same wavelength.

Paul is a tough guy. He’s had to punch or wrestle many an attacker to the floor. And sometimes he’s the one who ends up attacked. Out of all the main cast, I believe he’s the only one to be knocked unconscious (repeatedly so, too). He’s also the only one to end up on death’s door during a case. (Perry has come close a couple of times, but he’s never actually been harmed.) And he’s the only one to end up charged with murder. (Poor Hamilton. It was so clear that he did not want to prosecute that case.)

Paul is angry with injustice and sometimes loses his temper with the bad guys or other characters lurking around causing trouble. I’m not sure he’s ever been angrier than a couple of times in season 9. The Sausalito Sunrise features him undercover as a truck driver and getting very tough with a reporter who’s stowed away with him. He doesn’t know whether to believe the guy’s story or not, and warns him to do exactly as he says or he’ll be shot. And in The Dead Ringer, both he and Della become outraged when Perry’s client believes the frame-up crafted to make Perry look like a shyster.

Out of all the characters, he’s interacted with Hamilton the least. He’s even spoken to Tragg and Andy more than Hamilton. And his obvious friendship with Steve Drumm never fails to fascinate me. Paul seems extremely relaxed around Steve, perhaps even moreso than with Andy. And Steve reciprocates; he’s often joining Paul and the others for meals. Even Andy, with his fairly friendly nature, rarely if ever does this.

William H. was such a classic choice for Paul. (I believe every one of the cast was absolutely ideal, for that matter.) And as I discover William H.’s many other roles, Paul will probably always be the one for whom I hold the softest spot.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Case of the Ice-Cold Hands: An above-average season 7 venture

For the last day or so I’ve been caught up deeply working on the climax of my story The Case of the Broken Ties. But while I’ve been thinking about that, I’ve also been thinking of what to write my post on today. It will probably be a shorter one this time, but no less enthused.

In the end I’ve decided to spotlight season 7’s episode The Ice-Cold Hands. It’s based on one of the original books. The plot is interesting and twisted, as the book-inspired ones tend to be. What I find most intriguing about it, however, is something else, something that is probably only in the television version.

The plot involves a girl who had an uncanny knack for choosing a winning horse at the races. (She claims it’s because of how the horse looked at her. A running gag throughout the episode is trying to find out if that’s a cover-up for the truth. By the end we still don’t actually know. It reminded me a bit of Anne-Marie and her uncanny connection with animals in All Dogs Go to Heaven.) She hires Perry to pick up her winnings for her, for a mysterious and unknown reason. When Perry goes to do, he is greeted by two men and accused of using stolen money to place the initial bet.

While he tries to unravel that mess, one of the men is killed and the girl is accused. Apparently she has a fascination with mystery novels and methods of murder, and right before the killing she was telling how to alter the time of death by chilling a body with dry ice. There’s evidence that exactly that was done to the real body. It doesn’t help that she drives out to dispose of several empty dry ice containers and the murder weapon is discovered in the trashcan underneath them.

During the course of the hearing it comes out that her brother, who had asked her to place that bet, had been the one to steal the money. Hamilton tries to grant him immunity in the hopes of learning more about the connected murder. Instead the brother delivers a shocking confession on the witness stand, claiming to have killed the man himself. Horrified and shocked, and certain that he’s lying to protect his sister, Hamilton doesn’t want him to repeat the question when Perry asks him to. Perry accuses Hamilton of misconduct for trying to silence the witness and demands a mistrial. Hamilton explodes off-screen, “A mistrial?!” The judge calls a recess to sort things out.

While Perry is talking to his client, trying to discover what’s fact and fiction, he’s told that the girl is afraid her brother really did kill the guy, so she used the dry ice to alter the time of death. A much calmer Hamilton then comes to the door and wants to talk. Perry follows him into the hall.

“You put him up to that, didn’t you?” Hamilton immediately asks. “Oh, of course I know you wouldn’t do anything unethical. But you probably gave him a nudge.” Perry denies it. Exasperated, Hamilton continues, “Look, I lost my temper out there and made a fool of myself. Let’s get your blasted mistrial and get out of here.” Perry wants instead to cross-examine the witness, who was indeed lying. Hamilton, who has withdrawn immunity, agrees to allow it.

Of course the truth is arrived at and the crime is solved. The episode ends with Paul taking the former defendant out on a date.

Naturally, I am fascinated by Hamilton’s conversation with Perry in the hallway. In season 1 he was so often accusing Perry of misconduct and seemed to feel that Perry did indeed do unethical things. In The Negligent Nymph, I believe he comes right out and says as much, prompting Perry’s famous response, “Is protecting a client so unethical?”

Now, in season 7, we have him admitting he knows Perry wouldn’t do anything unethical. I doubt Perry would have ever given the boy a deliberate nudge, either, but we do have some definite improvement here. Hamilton has changed from the man he was.

And we see a different side to him in more ways than one. Hamilton is a prideful fellow. I doubt anyone would contest that. His awkwardness when trying to apologize or acknowledge his mistakes says it loud and clear. But it also shows what a good person he is. He wants to make things right, in spite of the blows to his pride.

Here we see him without any trace of that awkwardness. He flat-out, matter-of-factly admits his mistakes. I don’t think we see anything like that at any other time on the show, aside from the apologies he’s made in court when admonished. (And one time when he voluntarily apologizes in The Lost Last Act.) Outside of court I believe we see his awkwardness, except for this instance. Although not exactly an apology, it’s certainly something we don’t tend to hear from him. He seems disgusted with himself.

And it seems that some of his most humiliating moments happen when it’s a jury trial. In both this episode and The Shapely Shadow he has definitely made a fool of himself. I wonder if it’s because jury trials put far more pressure on him than a preliminary hearing, so when something shocking and unexpected happens, he’s much more likely to fall apart.

I would have loved to have seen a scene in The Shapely Shadow such as what The Ice-Cold Hands gave us. But having it in just the latter episode is plenty satisfying.

The episode itself is fine, a good Perry mystery that should entertain fans. But I believe it’s this element with Hamilton that makes it an above-average venture. I am thrilled with how The Ice-Cold Hands handled that angle. After watching this episode, I love him even more.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Season 5 overview

Season 5 is the first full season after William Talman was reinstated as a regular cast member. I find it a bit sad that just when we got that back to normal, Ray Collins’ health declined and he could no longer be present all the time as he had previously been. I had been looking forward to seeing him and William interact again.

Season 5 is an experimental season in several ways. We meet two new supporting characters, one of whom stays and one who quietly fades out. Perry returns to his season 1 roots on occasion and performs some eyebrow-raising stunts, such as obscuring his client’s fingerprints on a car by getting a group of teens to push it after deliberately flattening a tire. (That is totally tampering with evidence. Hamilton Burger would have blown a gasket if he had found out.)

The most important thing that happens in season 5 is that we meet a fellow named Wesley Lau. In the second episode he portrays the defendant, Amory Fallon—a troubled man who is certain his wife is messing around with his partner in business. Amory is a good person, as is his wife, and by the end of the episode they have reconciled. The show’s staff apparently saw something they really liked in Wesley, as it was not long before he joined the cast as a regular. But instead of Amory Fallon, his character became the stand-in for Lieutenant Tragg—Lieutenant Andy Anderson.

Andy is an interesting character, although in season 5 he doesn’t branch out much into his own territory. The writers largely gave him dialogue meant for Tragg. I don’t know if that’s because they were just lazy or if they weren’t expecting Andy to stick around very long. Or both.

He is often seen working with Tragg on cases, appearing in some scenes by himself so as to lighten the work load on Ray Collins. In other episodes he is alone throughout (albeit often assisted by good old Sergeant Brice). It’s most unclear whether he is always an associate of Tragg’s or if Tragg, being older and more experienced on the police force, is training Andy.

He hasn’t fully established himself as a friendlier, more easy-going person in season 5, but again, that’s largely due to him not having his own dialogue. In some episodes there is some sense that he is just not as dogged as Tragg in pursuing Perry and Paul in their law-bending, but that doesn’t really come into play until the next season.

The other character we meet is someone we already met at the end of season 4—David Gideon. Introduced in The Grumbling Grandfather, David is young, impulsive, and a former law student. After his experience as a defendant in a murder case, he takes up law again. Perry let him study from his own books while he was in jail.

In season 5 David is still a law student. He hangs out at Perry’s office, reading books in the library and sometimes trying to help out on cases. He investigates various angles and sometimes ends up in trouble, one time even getting drunk for his efforts. He is an eager beaver, wanting to please and to help. He usually manages to do so.

David is not popular with fans, at least not that I’ve seen. The usual complaints are that he is annoying. What actually constitutes this opinion, I am not certain. I frequently see it when a character younger than the rest of the main cast is introduced, in any series.

I have nothing against David myself. I think he was portrayed quite realistically and that he’s fine as an occasional player. As a regular, perhaps the show would have got overly crowded with his presence and he would have worn out his welcome. But I feel a bit sad that he’s last seen around the middle of the season and then vanishes altogether, with not so much as a mention afterwards.

(I admit I haven’t found a place yet for David in my stories, but I’ve thought about it long and hard. Like it or not, he was important in the first half of season 5, and I don’t want to ignore that he exists.)

Interestingly and perhaps amusingly enough, his actor Karl Held later joined the prosecuting side of the law. He appears as an assistant to Simon Oakland’s prosecuting attorney in Ready for the People, which I wish so very much I could locate and watch.

Season 5 brings us several more adaptations of Erle Stanley Gardner’s books, which became scarce the last season or two in favor of many TV series-only plots. Perhaps the returning book influence is the reason why Perry reverts to some of that law-bending behavior that Hamilton and Tragg find so frustrating. It was a frequent occurrence in the books, to my knowledge.

It may also be because of these season 1 influences that Hamilton is not as friendly as he was in seasons 2, 3, and 4. In 4, of course, he was rarely around because of the scandal with his actor. When he was around, however, the episodes almost always included some of those wonderful scenes I love so much that show his growing friendship with Perry. Perhaps that was a bit of real-life sneaking through, with William Talman and Raymond Burr glad to see each other again. They were very close friends. I believe William even said that Raymond was his best friend.

In season 5 the characters very rarely share friendly exchanges outside of court, which is surprising after the previous three seasons. Of course, season 5 gives us The Traveling Treasure, which is not only one of my favorites of the season but of the series as a whole. It features Perry and Hamilton working together to solve the case, as they often do in the seasons that follow. Their interaction is quite relaxed and congenial.

There are only a handful of other season 5 episodes that have scenes such as this. Most of them occur before the halfway mark and The Shapely Shadow. While it certainly bears an intriguing and intense plot, this episode also marks what is probably Hamilton’s worst day in court. I gave this episode a more detailed post in the past, so I won’t reiterate it all now, but I will say again how I cringed and felt sorry for him when he grew desperate to save his case and ended up making quite a fool of himself in front of the jury.

I can’t help wondering if he smarted from that defeat for the rest of the season. It would certainly fit with how the friendly interludes are all but gone. There is really only one in the latter half of the season, in The Promoter’s Pillbox. Then he finishes out the season with The Lonely Eloper and a comment that Della actually deems “nasty.” Della rarely ever says anything about him, and since that is the only time I’ve ever heard her speak against him, it seems significant.

Of course, I should also mention that, in spite of things such as The Lonely Eloper, Perry and Hamilton's interaction in season 5 is not especially antagonistic, either. It seems rather static, oftentimes neither good or bad. As I recall, many season 5 episodes unfold without even a clash in the courtroom. Others have such clashes, but they are not like the episodes of season 9 that I complain about, the ones that seem to throw all character development to the wind.

Overall, I wasn’t fully sure what to make of season 5. There are episodes I absolutely love, such as The Traveling Treasure and The Renegade Refugee. There are episodes I consider more average, but I’m not sure I want to name them now, as I feel they deserve a second viewing before I pass judgment. And there are episodes I could do without, such as The Lonely Eloper. (Completely aside from Hamilton’s comment, the defendant and titular character really quite irritated me. Of course, maybe I’d be more lenient upon another viewing.)

Naturally every season has its ups and downs. Sometimes I felt that season 5 had more average episodes than some other seasons. But I could have been merely shooting from the perspective of not liking that there were so few friendship scenes between Perry and Hamilton. After all, since that’s what attracted me to the show in the first place, I can’t deny that I find those scenes among the meat of the series.

I am not certain what the general fan consensus is on season 5 and how they feel its episodes hold up in comparison to other seasons. I will be taking special note of the episodes the next time they come around on my local station. I’m curious to see if my opinions still hold true, as far as I’m concerned. As it is, right now there are four things I’m especially grateful to season 5 for bringing us, with a fifth as runner-up.

First, William Talman as a regular cast member again.
Second, Wesley Lau.
Third, The Traveling Treasure.
Fourth, The Borrowed Baby.
And fifth, The Renegade Refugee.

I definitely plan to make posts on all of these episodes, and other season 5 ventures, in the future. Meanwhile, I am even more grateful for what came next. Season 6, as regular readers probably know by now, is just about my most favorite season ever (with the possible exception of 2).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Case of the Broken Ties: Finally addressing interaction between Hamilton and Paul

I’m still working on my Perry mystery with a supernatural twist, The Case of the Broken Ties. So far it stands at eleven chapters. I believe I’m coming close to the climax now; tentatively I think the plot might wrap up at fourteen chapters. But I’ve made wrong estimates before and I could be making another. It might end up longer.

For those who don’t remember or did not see the previous entries where I mentioned this venture, the basic plot involves a couple of Perry and company’s enemies teaming up to unleash a cruel plan that will get them out of trouble and put the good guys at a serious disadvantage. Through the usage of long-lost magic, they have tried to make everyone except them forget their true memories and lives. Some, such as Della, have been completely displaced. Della is now a schoolteacher. Andy works as the principal of her school. Steve is a private eye.

Others, such as Perry, keep their jobs but lose key memories. He doesn’t remember Della or Andy. And though he knows Hamilton, he has no idea that they have become friends. His memories extend only to more season 1-type events, and even then, what he thinks he remembers has been badly warped.

Both the femme fatale Vivalene and the crooked Judge Heyes are bitter against Hamilton for prosecuting them, but Vivalene wants to take it further. Among her manipulations, she crafts false memories for almost everyone that puts them on the warpath against Hamilton. Mignon remembers that she and Hamilton had a falling out that has never been repaired. Clay thinks that Hamilton is trying to shut down his restaurant. Paul is informed by Tragg that Hamilton is recommending that his license be revoked—for something that Paul knows he didn’t even do.

What the villains were not counting on is that both Hamilton and Paul remember the truth. They meet, and after Hamilton assures Paul that he is not trying to have his license taken away, they opt to form an uneasy alliance while they try to get the world back to normal. This proves very difficult, as they meet with copious amounts of resistance from most everyone. Vivalene, though irritated that they remember, also finds it darkly amusing. It makes her torment of Hamilton all the more poignant, when he remembers the truth but can’t get anyone to fully accept it.

I always try to re-read past chapters repeatedly to make sure I don’t forget things I meant to bring out later. As I’ve been doing that, I’ve noticed how increasingly disconsolate and wearied Hamilton has become by the current point in the story. It’s such a contrast to his confidence and pleasure at the beginning. That was not done intentionally. Instead, it seems to have just happened in the natural order of things as the existence he’s known has spiraled downhill. From what he’s had to deal with, it’s not surprising at all.

It’s been interesting trying to determine how everyone acts. I don’t want anyone to be harsh or cold just for the sake of the story, using the fact that they don’t remember as an excuse. I’ve tried to make them aloof enough to be realistic with the situation while writing their reactions as much in keeping with the characters from the show as I can. Perry, for instance, instead of being out-and-out stubborn and refusing to listen at all, is deeply troubled by the things Hamilton tells him. And when Paul starts saying the same things, Perry wonders even more if there’s something to it. He and some of the others are having a particularly rough time fully accepting that everything they currently remember is false, but they are at least trying to consider the idea.

As previously discussed, it’s hard to know exactly how Paul feels about Hamilton. The great majority of the few times he’s mentioned Hamilton at all in the series, he has said something that sounds derogatory. Later on, I do get the impression that Paul has mellowed at least somewhat, but I don’t know if he actually considers Hamilton a friend. I don’t know how Hamilton feels about him, either, but Hamilton’s agony over having to prosecute Paul in Paul Drake’s Dilemma says quite a lot.

I’ve always tried to give the impression in my stories that Paul recognizes Hamilton and Perry are friends, and respects that, but he does not share the sentiments. In my first mystery, The Persecuted Prosecutor, Paul has to deliver the news to Perry that a body found badly mutilated has been identified as Hamilton. (It’s later shown to be a lie perpetrated by the medical examiner.) He tells Perry he’s sorry. It’s subtle, perhaps, but my intention with the line was to show that Paul knows how terrible Perry will feel, while not taking Hamilton’s death as hard himself. However, during the time they believe Hamilton is dead, Paul and Della talk and Paul finally, resignedly admits that it won’t be the same without Hamilton and of course he’ll miss him.

Save for one main scene, Hamilton and Paul do not interact much after Hamilton returns and discovers everyone thinks he’s dead. Nor does Paul tell him any of the things he told Della. They also do not interact with any great significance in The Memento Mori Murderer, although towards the climax they have to more or less team up to keep a horrified Della from running into a deathtrap after Perry.

The Macabre Mansion begins to address the problem of their interaction. Hamilton needs to hire Paul to help him with a case Mignon has presented to him. Paul agrees but is clearly reluctant to work for Hamilton. In exasperation, Hamilton tries to tell some of his side of things and says that even though he sometimes loses his patience over Perry’s winning streak, he would never want an innocent person to be convicted. He also says he has nothing personal against Perry or Paul and that he can’t just look the other way if the law is being bent or broken. Paul is grateful for the conversation, but doubts that he and Hamilton will ever be friends. They interact throughout the story, with Hamilton even admitting at one point that he went to look for Paul in a tunnel through which Paul vanished because he was concerned for Paul’s safety.

In The Broken Ties they are forced to work together out of necessity. But even though they are generally congenial and I’ve tried to give the impression that they could be friends, all along I’ve also tried to write their interaction with a tense undercurrent. Naturally at some point it will burst open. I didn’t stop to seriously think about the possibility of them having a bad argument, however, until I was almost at the point where there was an opening for it. I still hesitated, wondering if it should happen later or not at all or if I would be able to write it without making Paul look like the bad guy. I didn’t want either of them to come across that way; I wanted the feeling to be that two good people on rocky terms with each other had finally just lost their tempers.

In the end I felt I had a good place for the argument and that it should happen, so I wrote it. I think and hope it turned out close to what I intended. I think they really did need to get those feelings out in the open. When they calm down, they opt for an official truce and are able to go back to being congenial with each other. In the most recent chapter Paul curiously asks Hamilton how long he’s known the Germaines. That question, and the relaxed conversation that ensues, is meant to show that things are not always as they first seem. Perhaps, though neither is altogether aware of it, they have already been friends for some time.

Steve Drumm has appeared in both this story and The Macabre Mansion, but I have been a bit unsure of how to write him so he won’t sound like an Andy clone. He always reminds me of a hardboiled cop from the forties, however, so if I keep that idea in mind I think I’ll get a better handle on his character. He appears again at the end of the most recent chapter, and though his scene is short, I’m proud of it. I also include a brief reference to Vern St. Cloud, a character from The Rockford Files whom I have wanted to bring in for a cameo appearance. I haven’t found a good opening for that yet, but the reference slipped in fine.

Many subplots are woven throughout the twists and turns of the chapters. Each character, both those who remember and those who don’t, must go through their own uniquely difficult decisions. Sometimes they make the wrong choices. Sometimes they choose right.

One thing Judge Heyes is particularly concerned about is that the effects of the spell could not fully eradicate all memories Perry and Della have of each other. Although they do not recall anything specific, they are drawn to each other. Despite the villains’ attempts to keep them apart, they are reunited and begin to go out and talk. Della, who ends up being the most receptive to the ideas Hamilton and Paul have been presenting, has been softening Perry’s concerns against the seemingly impossible concepts. For it to feel so right for them to be together, Della says, perhaps everything else is true too.

I still honestly don’t want to actually put Perry and Della together as a romantic couple, which causes consternation from some of the large number of Perry/Della fans. But I feel it’s better to keep it closer to the TV show, going deeper where I can yet still leaving a lot up to the shipper fans’ imaginations. Besides, most people who write Perry fanfiction stories write some level of Perry/Della romance. I like to focus on more platonic relations instead, since that is my favorite and not often explored in others’ stories.

I’ve also been exploring more about Tragg. Someone is pretending to be his wife and he has no memory that his wife is really dead. With this cruel backdoor entrance into the group, the devilish woman has been draining an unknowing Tragg of his life energy to fuel the spell. As long as Tragg lives, the spell is not permanent.

A niece of Tragg’s is mentioned, someone who came to stay with him in the real world after his wife’s death. She hasn’t appeared in the story, although she’s been mentioned a couple more subsequent times. She is a character I’ve had in mind since before the post where I mused on possibly exploring Tragg’s family life if I did a Christmas story. While I didn’t get to the Christmas story I’d planned, this story does take place in December. But it’s more of a backdrop rather than an important plot point.

I have a very distinct image of what Tragg’s niece looks like and acts like. She reminds me of some actress or character from around the 1950s, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to think who. She will probably appear in some future story.

The climax of this story has been in my mind from the beginning. It will proceed in large part similar to the climax of the role-play story between Crystal Rose and I that inspired this fanfiction. There will be some necessary changes, however, and some others that I think will tighten the plot and make it better. I am very anxious to get to it and share it, but I do not want to reveal any of the details for it or any other upcoming chapters. I think perhaps some elements of this story have been unintentionally hinting at some of what may happen, but I don’t know if any of my readers feel the same.

I really love and value comments I receive from my readers on how I’m doing, how they like the stories and specific elements, and so forth. I don’t always get a lot of those compared to the numbers of comments I’ve received for stories written about other shows, but I do know people are interested in these Perry stories. I’m able to see how many people are reading each chapter (something only visible to a story’s author on fanfiction.net) and I’m honored and thrilled! I hope the rest of the story will continue to interest!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birthday Tribute: Ray Collins

I have made my fourth epic fail while trying to keep track of important dates. And this is only my third attempt to try to rectify it. I wanted to make tribute posts for each main cast member’s birth dates and, where applicable, death dates, as well as a post for the day our show debuted. I made belated posts for both Raymond Burr’s and Wesley Lau’s death dates, but I never did get around to making a post to honor the debut of the show. And now I’ve flubbed enough to have not checked birth dates in time to make a post for Ray Collins’ birthday. This is over a month late!

Ray Collins was born on December 10th, 1889. He was a seasoned and beloved actor, appearing on the stage as well as in many movies and TV series throughout the years of his long career. He passed away before Perry finished its run, and even after he could no longer be on the show he remained listed in the credits throughout the end of the 8th season.

(He must have been very well-loved on the Perry set. He was also the only actor playing a policeman who sat next to William Talman in court. When Ray wasn’t around, neither Wesley Lau nor Richard Anderson ever sat next to William Talman. They always sat behind him, in the gallery. I can’t help but think their reasoning must have been that they did not want to take anything away from Ray.)

I can’t remember when I first made his acquaintance via the screen. I can only say for certain that I’ve been aware of his roles at least since I was about 10, when I started watching the Ma & Pa Kettle films. Ray appears in two of them as the father of the Kettles’ oldest son’s wife. His character is quite laid-back and enjoys the Kettles’ approach to life, in contrast to his stuffy wife (although she loosens up eventually). It’s very possible that I saw Ray in movies long before this, but just did not remember. I used to be terrible at identifying people.

I believe my most favorite role of his other than Lieutenant Tragg is General Birabeau from The Desert Song. I was familiar with Perry Mason by the time I saw that film and found the General an interesting alter ego for the man who brought Tragg to life. General Birabeau is stern but compassionate, and all too easily swayed by his daughter Margot. (Yes, for those familiar with The Desert Song, several plot points were changed for the 1953 movie, including making the Margot character the General’s kid. I’ve read the original script for the play, and I honestly prefer the way the movie did things.)

Last year I saw him in the movie Commandos Strike at Dawn, in which he plays a man defiant to his town being taken over by the enemy during World War II. His character is captured and tortured, but I want to say he survives the events of the film—unlike some other unfortunate characters. I can’t remember for certain on that point. As always, he turns out a brilliant performance.

Another film I saw him in last year was The Racket, which is particularly unique. William Talman, who is also present, plays a police officer. Ray plays a district attorney—and a crooked one, no less! Hamilton Burger would have thrown a fit.

After an extensive career in the movies, Ray moved almost exclusively to TV by the late fifties. I’ve been told that Tragg in the books is younger than the TV show character. That’s interesting, but difficult for me to picture. To me, Tragg is Ray Collins’ character. No one else could play Tragg, or any of Ray’s characters, for that matter, the way he did. Tragg is such an intriguing, amusing enigma. He’s almost always smiling, but half the time his friendliness seems to be a fa├žade. It’s difficult to tell when it’s completely genuine. His epilogue visits are among those occasions; in many of the early episodes, Tragg appears in the epilogue to visit with Perry and company and tie up loose ends. Hamilton rarely accompanies him (or comes alone, for that matter) until later on in the series.

Tragg is scarcely visibly angry. At times he gets stern with Perry or Paul, warning them that their law-bending actions could lead to disaster. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him angrier, however, than in The Moth-Eaten Mink when he rescues Perry from a dirty cop. Tragg is utterly disgusted and repulsed by the bad apple and remarks on how a policeman works hard for years trying to protect the people and then one bad cop comes along to ruin things. He finishes his speech by telling Perry not to hurry when he calls the ambulance for the dirty cop, whom Tragg wounded in the arm before he could shoot Perry.

By season 5 Ray’s health was beginning to decline. They brought in Wesley Lau to ease the strain. Sometimes Wesley’s Andy character appears alone. Sometimes he and Tragg work together. They’re more than comrades on the police force; they’re friends, as evidenced by both the ease which they work together and short, serious scenes such as when Tragg has to tell Andy of Andy’s friend’s death in The Hateful Hero. I love Andy dearly, but when Tragg’s character had to be phased out completely by mid-season 7, it never was the same. There was always a sense of something missing. You can’t replace a good character, ever, and Tragg is a good one. Ray Collins had a great deal to do with that.

It’s interesting how times have changed. A few months ago, my dad was watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I was walking past in another room and did a double-take. I was sure I’d seen a familiar face. And I was right. These days, I recognize Ray Collins on sight and by voice.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Carefree Coronary: A five-star season 9 winner

I was going to rave about another wonderful season 8 episode, but since I was raking season 9 over the coals again I decided to turn around and praise one of the good season 9 episodes now. Anyway, I don’t think I could wait to talk about this one!

One thing Perry Mason doesn’t often have are instances where the main characters are in life-threatening danger. It’s usually the guest-stars who are in the worst trouble. I could probably name the episodes where the main characters are threatened on one hand. And when that happens, it rarely ever involves one of them actually ending up hurt.

The Carefree Coronary is quite an exception. It has not only this, but many other fascinating elements. All in all, it is definitely one of season 9’s best offerings. If every season 9 episode had been up to this level of writing, they would have been in fine shape.

The mysterious and twisted plot involves people who have been having heart attacks and surviving to collect disability checks. It all seems a bit too pat, so Paul sets out to investigate. He discovers that one of the “victims”, who had a heart attack a month ago, is very active in playing sports and such. He captures this on film. Perry then wants the fellow to be examined by his doctor again. The guy calls Perry the night before the appointment, frightened about something, but doesn’t get to say what’s wrong. The following day, he arrives at the doctor’s and promptly collapses and dies. His widow claims it’s from the stress of being called in and wants action taken against Perry.

Hamilton, while not feeling Paul’s film is conclusive evidence that something is amiss, also doesn’t feel that there’s a strong enough case against Perry. He doesn’t intend to do anything until the results are in from the coroner’s inquest.

Paul decides to go undercover. As he starts to find evidence that there is a crooked ring in operation, they get wise to the fact that he is not what he claims to be. They set him up with poison. He ends up taking it and collapsing, appearing to be having a heart attack.

One of the most heartbreaking scenes throughout the series, if not the most, is when Della rushes into the room where the inquest is being held. In tears, she tells a stunned Perry that Paul is dying and falls into his arms.

The rest of the episode is spent with them worrying over whether Paul will survive. Perry consults the doctor and learns that Paul was poisoned. He returns to the investigation, while Della wants to stay at the hospital and wait for news of Paul’s condition.

Hamilton has many wonderful scenes throughout. He is very levelheaded and fair to both sides, wanting only to get at the truth. At one point he is mobbed by reporters wanting to know what he is going to do and if he will press charges against Perry. He tells them what he told Perry and Paul, that he won’t do anything until the inquest is over. He handles the interview very calmly and maturely. Later, when it seems that at least some of the villains are at the inquest, Hamilton orders the room sealed until the inquest is over.

He isn’t shown reacting to the news about Paul, but it’s a safe bet that he’s shocked and horrified, especially judging from how reluctant he was to prosecute Paul in Paul Drake’s Dilemma.

I only have two regrets about the episode, both minor. The first is that of course I would have liked to have seen Hamilton’s reaction and have had him ask Perry later how Paul is doing. The second is that there is no reunion scene with Paul, Perry, and Della once Paul wakes up and is going to be alright. After the inquest, the epilogue shows him awake and recovering and being fawned over by three nurses. He deserves it, after everything he went through! But I still would have loved to have seen the reunion.

All in all, it’s an amazing, beautiful episode that shows the strong bond between Perry, Della, and Paul. Della’s heartache and fear over Paul lying at death’s door is so moving and shattering all at once. One wants to hug her and tell her everything’s going to be okay. And Perry, despite remaining composed, is no less deeply affected.

Character interactions are, to me, the most important thing in a series. My stories are filled with it and with many instances of what the characters do to overcome various trials. This episode comes just about the closest to the types of storylines that interest me when writing. Everyone is in top form and has a decent amount of screen time. This is a winner for not only season 9, but the entire series.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Surprise! A weekday post again!

Now that things have settled down after the turn of the year, I may go back to posting more than one entry a week. At any rate, I felt that this entry needed to be written now, while it’s fresh on my mind.

For the last nights in succession, my local station (which has skipped most of season 7 and all of 8 for some unknown reason) showed two season 9 episodes that I feel bring out even more strongly what is wrong with The 12th Wildcat: The Vanishing Victim and The Sausalito Sunrise. All three episodes have some elements in common. Some handle them better than others. The latter two handled everything better than The 12th Wildcat, despite The Vanishing Victim having problems of its own.

As might be recalled, my problems with The 12th Wildcat are varied. Some involve my complaints that Hamilton’s misconduct went without explanation and hence, looked more out-of-character than anything else. There’s my problem with them not explaining the crime. And there’s one other problem I realized when I saw a bit of the episode again last Saturday, when my station did its annual New Year’s Eve Perry marathon. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The Vanishing Victim is the second reworking of season 1’s The Fugitive Nurse, following season 3’s The Frantic Flyer. Season 9 remade several episodes from season 1, which isn’t a surprise since it seemed to think it was season 1 reborn.

One of my problems with season 9 is that some of the episodes seem to forget any and all character development that came before. Season 1 often featured Perry and Hamilton working against each other. I’ve observed the episodes from all the other seasons, and those instances greatly diminish to almost nothing by seasons 6, 7, and 8. Instead, Perry goes to Hamilton or vice versa, they discuss the case, and Perry has an idea for what to do next. But by season 9, they’re sometimes back to working against each other. There’s no explanation for it, no rhyme or reason to it. It just is, as though someone decided that they were getting too friendly and it had to be stopped.

Such is the case with The Vanishing Victim. Its plot is long, complicated and twisted, unlike both The Fugitive Nurse and The Frantic Flyer. First one man is thought dead, then another, then a third. Each time it’s wrong. By the time we finally learn who really died, at the very end, it feels absolutely incidental and randomly thrown in. The real point seems to be the vicious battle Perry and Hamilton are fighting over the client caught in the middle of this mess. Perry gets the case thrown out of court once. Then Hamilton and Drumm plot to arrest the client on a trumped-up charge outside the courtroom, presumably because they’re certain she’s guilty and don’t want her running free while they seek the information and the missing person Perry wants brought in before the hearing can reconvene. Perry pulls a switcheroo and gets the client out of the courtroom. Drumm catches him with Della later, instead of with the client. The problems between Perry and Hamilton continue in that vein throughout the episode.

One other little thing I didn’t like there was that when Paul told him of the trumped-up charge plan, Perry said, “One thing about Burger—he’s predictable.” The only thing is, he isn’t. I don’t recall them trying something like that ever before, even in season 1. But if they did, it was in season 1 and then didn’t happen in the succeeding seasons until 9.

Perry and Hamilton working against each other reminds me of the scene in The 12th Wildcat at the train depot, where Perry and company are there to meet the train and Hamilton and Drumm are tailing them. If the episode had been in most other seasons (or heck, if it had even been one of the more sensible season 9 episodes), Perry would have squared with them and they would have been at the train depot working with and not against Perry and company. Instead there’s suddenly this adversarial element that hasn’t been heavily seen season 1. Why?

Of course I’m sure the writers didn’t care one way or another. As long as their scripts were accepted and they got paid, that was probably all they cared about. But why was there suddenly an influx of such scripts being written and accepted in the first place? That’s what I want to know. Why does season 9 seem like a reboot of season 1 half the time? Was it intentional? Were they trying to get back to their roots and make things more like the books again?

Even if most people don’t care about that puzzlement, they should all care about this next one. The problem in The 12th Wildcat of not explaining the real crime is absolutely preposterous! So what if the defendant’s husband wasn’t really dead. Without explaining what actually happened, the defendant could easily be accused of killing whoever died.

The Vanishing Victim had a similar scenario. But to my surprise and pleasure, they acknowledged that very problem. Perry wanted to convene in the judge’s chambers to discuss what really happened and who actually died, so that his client could not be dragged into court a third time, being accused of the real murder. That was certainly a plus for that episode.

And how does The Sausalito Sunrise fit into all this? By bringing up my complaint of Hamilton’s gross misconduct in The 12th Wildcat. As I’ve explained before, he was chewed out by the judge at least half a dozen times, and rightly so. The way he was acting, it really seemed that he had something personally against the defendant aside from thinking he was guilty. And Perry was visibly frustrated with Hamilton for one of only a handful of times in the series.

If there had been an explanation for Hamilton’s behavior it could have been an interesting and intense exploration into a darker but very human side of his personality. Without any explanation it looks stupidly cobbled together and out-of-character. Hamilton never behaved in such a way to that degree in other episodes. And when he got emotional, such as in The Fatal Fortune, it only took one reprimand to get him back in line.

The Sausalito Sunrise explores the darker side of Lieutenant Steve Drumm. Vengeful after the murder of a fellow officer, he is losing sight of all the facts of the case and focusing on his determination to convict whom he believes is the killer. Perry is worried about him. He says to Steve early on, “This isn’t like you.” And it’s clearly brought out that it’s this particular case that is getting to him. It’s still painful, to see Steve like that, but at least we know why, and we know that the other characters realize something is very wrong. That is the way to handle such scenarios, not by wildly flinging them around without any obvious point or reason to them!

In the end, the latter episode is the one I like best of the trio. By contrast there are only a couple of things I like in The Vanishing Victim. One is that they explained the crime, unlike The 12th Wildcat. I also really liked Perry’s speech to Lisa Gaye’s character, where he tells her she can never be truly happy if her happiness is built on an innocent person going to the gas chamber. (I remember a similar speech in The Fugitive Nurse, but I don’t think it went into as much detail.) And lastly, the very last scene is quite unique. Hamilton himself gives the last line of the episode, as he talks to the killer. The killer says something about a last trip. Hamilton remarks that that is what the killer will be taking—one last trip. Cue the fadeout and the credits.

I still do not like The 12th Wildcat at all. At this point in time, I feel it was the worst episode the series did. It was very badly handled.

Now that that’s out of my system, I plan to praise another good episode this weekend.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Case of the Careless Kitten

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Careless Kitten is, I believe, the fourth episode to feature a cat. The Silent Partner, The Caretaker’s Cat, and The Golden Fraud are the others. In all of those fairly early episodes, the cat is a Siamese. And despite the gap between season 3 and season 8, they didn’t forget that they wanted a Siamese cat in the role of The Careless Kitten. I love Siamese, but I really have to wonder why they always chose one. Is it the same cat in every episode? It’s a curious mystery.

I was a bit concerned about The Careless Kitten, wondering if the cat died. Originally I thought he did, as all I’d read was that he was poisoned. Later I realized that it didn’t actually say he died. And when I saw the episode I was happy to discover that he lived. Actually, of all the episodes featuring cats, the cat in this one was the most prominent. He even helped solve the mystery!

The plot involves the supposed return of the uncle of our female protagonist—the dead husband of her cruel aunt. The cat Monkey, whom the aunt hates, ends up mysteriously poisoned. That becomes an important element of the case later. He’ll be alright, but his owner asks a friend to look after him for a few days while he recovers.

(The friend, by the way, is played by the incomparable Allan Melvin. And for the only time that I’ve heard, he uses a Southern accent instead of his natural voice.)

The girl finds out that the uncle wants to meet with her. After a long and bewildering wild goose chase, they discover another man—an old friend of the uncle’s—dead. And before the night’s out the aunt is taken to the hospital, also having been poisoned.

As Perry tries to unravel the mystery he eventually winds up at the house of the friend. Monkey perks up when they enter a back room and immediately scampers in to see what they’re up to. He leads them to the discovery of the gun in a flour canister.

Monkey is a very mischievous fellow. The episode opens with him stalking the aunt and her brother and then jumping down on the table to disturb them. He does the same thing in the epilogue, this time disturbing Perry and company in Perry’s office, where for some reason he’s been brought and is sitting on top of a bookcase. But they can’t be too angry with him, after all his help.

Aired towards the end of season 8, The Careless Kitten is one of the last episodes to feature Andy. And while overall it’s excellent and one of my favorites, I’m puzzled by Andy’s behavior in it. Instead of friendly here, he is extremely uptight, starting right with his first scene and continuing throughout the episode. We don’t even get an explanation as to why he’s so frustrated until later, when we come to my favorite part of the episode. According to Hamilton, it’s because everywhere Andy goes to try to investigate, Perry is there first. That would be enough to exasperate anyone. But usually Andy takes Perry’s investigating in stride. What made his patience bend and break this time? Perhaps nothing in particular; it could have simply been the last straw. Or maybe it had already been a bad day for him. Or maybe it was the writers being lazy or just not caring how Andy came across as long as it made the plot more intense. I would hate to think that, since the episode is wonderful. Maybe it’s exactly as Hamilton says and it doesn’t usually work out that Perry gets absolutely everywhere first, so that seriously rubs Andy the wrong way. It does seem that the police have generally questioned the witnesses before Perry does. That wouldn’t explain why Andy was stressed right from the start, however, so maybe he was having a bad day and Perry’s antics just made it worse.

I do think that there was some level of out-of-character behavior going on, but that opinion comes more from Paul’s reaction than anything Andy says or does. At one point Paul says in frustration, “There’s nothing Andy would like better than to . . .” and then is cut off by Perry. It sounds very similar to remarks Paul has made in the past about Tragg or Hamilton wanting to catch Perry bending the law. And since Andy has never seemed to care about that, and Paul knows it very well, it strikes me as out-of-character for Paul to even say something that implies otherwise. Of course, maybe that wasn’t what Paul was going to say, but they were discussing Andy’s behavior at the time and that Perry should probably stay away.

By contrast, Hamilton is adorably sweet in this episode. In the vein of many later episodes, and some earlier ones, he is very clearly depicted as Perry’s friend. In fact, for probably the only time, he comes right out and says as much. As Perry continues to investigate the case and aggravate Andy, Hamilton goes to Perry’s office to plead with him to keep out of it—or at least, out of Andy’s way. He says he’s coming to Perry as a friend. And he is very obviously worried.

Paul arrives in the middle of this discussion with some new information. Hamilton switches gears, harshly warning Paul and Perry if they’ve been up to any tricks involving bending the law. But the mood is provoked by his genuine concern and soon gives way again to his visible worry as he begs Perry to not go to the mansion where Andy is currently investigating. Perry thanks Hamilton for his concern but is determined to continue pursuing the case, even if that means continuing to disturb Andy.

Perhaps the writers decided to make Andy somewhat antagonistic in order to work in the scene with Hamilton visiting Perry? If that’s the case, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. However, I don’t agree with making one good guy character the antagonist just in order to show another good guy character’s good side. There should be a logical reason for any unusual behavior.

In any case, Hamilton’s scene shows how far he’s come since season 1. In season 1 he would have been displaying behavior as frustrated or moreso than Andy. I can just imagine him exploding at Perry over Perry continually popping up during the investigation. Going to Perry to worriedly beg him to back off would have been the farthest thing from his mind. Yet in season 8 he does that and also flat-out acknowledges his friendship with Perry.

Another unique factor about this episode is that there is no hearing or trial; the case never goes to court. A handful of episodes throughout the series are this way, focused on solving the mystery outside of court. Many of them either don’t feature Hamilton at all or have him in a very reduced role, so I am thrilled that he is important in this one. After Perry is at the mansion, he calls Hamilton on the phone and asks him to come out. Hamilton and Andy are hence both present at the unmasking of the true villain. Andy seems to have calmed down by this point. Either that or the writers didn’t want to bother furthering the plot point of his aggravation. (Hmm, maybe they really were leading up to the scene in Perry’s office, and with that accomplished they had no reason to keep Andy mad.)

I saw this episode on Christmas Eve and it was a wonderful Christmas treat, what with Hamilton’s concern for Perry and the twisted mystery and a furry kitty playing such a central role. It’s definitely my favorite of the cat episodes. I’ve long wondered why the cat in The Caretaker’s Cat didn’t have a bigger part to play, when the episode’s title refers to him. This episode more than makes up for it.