I apologize in advance for any possible disjointedness of this entry. I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get it written and posted today, as I haven’t been feeling well at all.
There’s something curious I noticed some time back: it seems that if a canary is present in the episode, it’s going to be awesome. I’m aware of two episodes in which a canary is most important, The Lame Canary and The Reluctant Model, and both rank very highly among my favorites.
The Lame Canary is the final episode of season 2. It concerns a woman certain her husband is trying to kill her. Later, he winds up dead and she is accused. The bruised state of the little canary bird in their ransacked house eventually leads Perry to begin putting the pieces together concerning who killed the guy. It’s a very exciting and intense plot all the way along, and the epilogue features Hamilton’s first friendly visit to Perry’s office. It’s about time; Tragg’s been randomly popping in to say Hello since the beginning of season 1! They’re both present here, and the epilogue concludes with all the original five cast members plus the defendant sharing a good laugh. Hamilton’s joke may be a bit corny, but I love the fact that he feels relaxed enough to make one in the first place.
Also of interest is his discomfort around Perry’s client when they show up. He awkwardly says that they’ve met and he’s sure both of them would rather forget the circumstances of their previous meetings. We don’t see her reaction, unfortunately, but it’s an interesting bit in any case. I think it’s only one of a handful of times where Hamilton interacts with any of Perry’s clients after the case is solved. Another time is in The Lover’s Leap.
Season 7’s The Reluctant Model brings us many unique elements. Poor Perry ends up walking into a legal trap set up by the episode’s resident creep and eventual murder victim and ends up feeling that instead of being a genius, as he’s hailed to be for an idea of his during the plot, he’s actually a “prize boob.” Della finds the body later, and screams for Perry in a fit of horror. Tragg and Andy are both present; indeed, this is Tragg’s second-to-last appearance. And Hamilton and Andy are along for most of the solving of the case.
The plot itself involves a painting reported to be a fraud by afore-mentioned creep, Colin Durant. Perry suggests to the irate art gallery owner Leslie Rankin that the painting should sue instead of her, since that would turn the spotlight away from her having been accused of shady dealings. Mixed up in the mess is a hapless and innocent protégé of Colin Durant’s, aspiring art student Maxine Lindsay (the “reluctant model”). It’s her canary that plays a part in the tale, as someone posing as Maxine runs off with it right before the body is found, fully clothed, in Maxine’s shower. Maxine, meanwhile, is apprehended in Mexico after taking a bus there in hopes of getting into an art school.
Towards the end of the scene in court, following the bus depot attendant’s testimony, Perry says that it’s become obvious that Maxine couldn’t have killed Durant. When court adjourns for the day Hamilton goes over to him, apologizes for interrupting, and asks to know what Perry meant. Perry responds by asking Hamilton if he would like to go on a bus ride. Hamilton is bewildered.
Of particular interest to the case are the lockers at the bus station. The murder gun, Maxine’s, was found in one. Perry asks for twenty cents from Hamilton to demonstrate the locker’s usage and points out that by counting back to when the gun must have been placed in the locker according to the attendant’s testimony, it proves it was put there after Maxine was already in police custody. Andy is chagrined and says that the detective who brought the gun to the station will be walking a beat tomorrow.
Also heavily mixed up in the case are the Olmeys, a couple constantly squabbling over the picture that caused all the fuss to begin with. When Perry and company go to the Olmeys’ yacht, the Olmeys’ involvement in the mess becomes more twisted. Apparently each wanted a copy of the painting (which is a copy itself) and both paid a beatnik artist to make one.
Hamilton gets some very classic lines in these scenes. In addition to the previously noted exchange between him and Della concerning the canary, there is this bit on the yacht:
Mr. Olmey: Now wait just a gosh-darn minute, Grace!
Hamilton Burger: Now wait just a gosh-darn minute everybody! Two paintings here, another in court . . . Perry, what in the name of . . .
Eventually he inquires of the Olmeys as to which one of them killed Colin Durant. They explode, and despite the fact that they’ve been flinging insults at each other the whole episode, they now each chew out Hamilton for ever thinking that the other would be capable of murder. A classic arguing but ever-loving couple there.
As it turns out, both are innocent. But Mrs. Olmey was the woman who ran off with Maxine’s canary, using the cage to conceal her face from the landlady. She was at the apartment paying off Durant for her copy of the painting. He was the one who arranged the deals with the beatnik artist. It’s the artist who ends up being the murderer, although it seems to have been an accidental death during a struggle over the gun.
The epilogue reminds me of the epilogues of The Curious Bride and The Blushing Pearls. Hamilton is grateful for the exposing of the true killer, but that doesn’t mean he feels he needs to lose twenty cents to the locker at the bus depot. He sends Perry a bill.
It’s very obvious throughout this episode how things have changed since season 1 (although that’s apparent in The Lame Canary, too). Hamilton is by and large relaxed and very friendly towards Perry. The events could have potentially happened during season 1, I suppose, and maybe even played out largely the same, but I don’t know if the writers even would have thought of it back then. Although it is an adaption of one of the books, I highly doubt that any of this fascinating stuff with Hamilton was in the source material.
You know, suddenly I wonder how and why the writers even came up with the idea of having Perry and Hamilton grow closer through the seasons. There was certainly no precedent in the books. Was it because of the actors’ real-life friendship? The fact that Hamilton was always more sympathetic and three-dimensional on the show? Was it even just something that sort of happened, with no rhyme or reason to it? I know that when I’m writing stories, and there’s continuity for them all (i.e., when what happens in one affects the next, and so on), character relations are going to change and deepen over time. It’s just something that naturally happens, since good characters, like people, never stop developing.
I suppose all in all, The Reluctant Model is my favorite of the two episodes, but they’re both such fun. And I must wonder at the amusing coincidence of the canary birds present in each.