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.

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