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.