Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Negligent Nymph: Definitely not a case of negligent writing!

Since my weekend post will be on Saturday this week, I decided to throw my weekday post ahead a day.

The Negligent Nymph is an episode the likes of which I wish there had been more of. The plot is intense and twisted, as season 1 plots generally are, and everyone has a chance to shine. Hamilton and Tragg make an awesome presentation in court that proves once and for all that Perry is not the only one who can put things together in the correct way. Given the chance, the district attorney and the police do so as well.

Our defendant today is played by Peggie Castle, to my surprise. Peggie played opposite William Talman in the little-known Western Two-Gun Lady, which we will be learning more about on Saturday. (Hmm, so we go from romancing Peggie to prosecuting her.) She’s an interesting character here. Unlike the usual tearful, sometimes hysterical, and/or often very innocent-seeming defendants that populate season 1, Peggie’s character Sally Fenner gives the impression that what she has seen and experienced in life has made her somewhat aloof and cynical.

She is the secretary of businessman George Alder, who has paid blackmail money for a note claiming he killed a relative in what was supposed to be a boating accident. While attempting to get the note that night, she is unaware that George Alder has been killed. The nightwatchman and his Doberman realize she’s in the house and chase her down the beach, where she escapes into the ocean and is rescued by Perry and Paul as they return from a fishing expedition.

It’s the next day when news of the murder hits the papers and Sally is sought by the police for questioning. Perry sends her to his apartment with Della for the time being—a bad move on his part, as they are later discovered by Lieutenant Tragg and Della is taken to Hamilton’s office to be charged with aiding and abetting a fugitive. Hamilton agrees to let her go when Perry arrives and says she was only acting under his instructions, but then wants to charge Perry.

It is, as I thought I remembered, the episode where Hamilton outright calls Perry’s conduct unethical. Perry gives his response about, “Is protecting a client so unethical?” and Hamilton stares at him in disbelief before exclaiming that Perry was helping a fugitive from justice. They debate for a moment over the role of a prosecutor in the grand plan of justice, which ends with Hamilton saying he just hopes Perry is serving the ends of justice and not obstructing them.

During court, George Alder’s alcoholic wife testifies to seeing the blackmailer leaving the house on the night of the murder and going down the beach. Hamilton suspects something amiss in her testimony when she says she saw this from her bedroom window. He has Tragg go out to the house to photograph what can be seen from said window. When Tragg returns, they make a presentation in court showing pictures of the house, the beach, and how the view at Mrs. Alder’s window is blocked by trees, thus proving that she has perjured herself. Hamilton thinks she is lying to protect her friend Sally; Perry takes this further and eventually exposes Mrs. Alder as the murderer.

I was absolutely ecstatic over the court presentation scene. In most episodes, it would of course be Perry thinking something was amiss and sending Paul to find the holes in the testimony. This episode proves it doesn’t have to be that way. I wish they had come up with scenes like this more often. The prosecution shows many times that they are putting together well-thought-out cases, gathering evidence and witnesses before Perry even thinks of wanting them himself. That can easily be taken a step further to show them dismantling false testimonies completely on their own, without any suggestions from Perry. This episode brings that out very clearly.

It also brings us Paul having some humorous encounters with Mexican food. He and Perry go to question a witness at a restaurant and end up ordering. Paul insists he was raised on the hot and spicy topping, but he takes one bite and grabs the entire water pitcher in horror. In the epilogue he refuses Mexican food and orders bacon and eggs, but then becomes so caught up watching a beautiful dancer that he doesn’t realize he just told the waitress to put salsa on his food. Again the water pitcher becomes his best friend.

All in all, this is one of the best of season 1. There are even some hints that Perry and Hamilton are already starting to grow closer—yes, even in spite of the reason why they’re meeting in Hamilton’s office. It’s all in their attitudes. Whereas in The Runaway Corpse Hamilton seems to feel quite rocky and cold towards Perry (even refusing to call him anything but Mason), in the following episode The Crooked Candle and this one, he does not. Perry in turn treats Hamilton familiarly; each calls the other by his first name and they have a more relaxed, congenial approach overall.

A very nice precursor to even better things to come.

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