Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Case of the Impatient Partner

It’s always nice, to finally see the uncut version of a well-loved episode. Sometimes additional scenes are available with favorite characters, either important to the plot or to the character’s personality. Other times, not much has been snipped.

My local station is usually pretty good about getting prints with most of the episodes’ content intact. Season 1 episodes, which seemed to be longer than later ones, usually suffer the most. Others, by around seasons 5 and 6, are generally only missing one or two scenes.

When I saw the uncut version of The Impatient Partner, I had hoped for more scenes with Amory Fallon. There were none. What had been cut from my station’s copy was a short scene between plant chemist Burt Nichols and Amory’s secretary Miss Ames, as well as a longer scene with Perry and Burt conversing outside Miss Ames’ apartment. So the main thing I hadn’t previously known was that Burt and Miss Ames were friends and had been a couple in the past, before she started going out with Amory’s partner Ned Thompson.

Aired as the second episode of season 5, The Impatient Partner would really have quite an impact on the majority of the rest of the series. It gave us our first Perry-related glimpse of Wesley Lau.

I wonder how they stumbled across him. From what I’ve read of how television writers and other crew members operate, they often have specific people in mind when they write parts. Could that have been the case with Wesley, who was already a familiar character actor (mostly in Westerns and a few movies)? Or did they not have anyone in mind and Wesley just showed up for an audition? That would be really interesting to know.

Rare for the series, The Impatient Partner opens in Paul’s office. Amory Fallon, a client of Paul’s, is questioning an old lady. She has trouble sticking to the subject and exasperates Amory when she starts to ramble. He tries to stay calm and polite as he pays her for her time and ushers her out. Paul also leaves, to take a call in his very full waiting room. (Wow, I wonder if days are usually that crowded for him? They’ve definitely given the impression that he runs a large-scale agency, not some dinky little thing. He’s referenced many operatives over the seasons. Then again, maybe the office was so full that day because of all the ladies showing up to be questioned.)

A mousy fellow who has been observing things in the office gets up to talk with Amory. It seems Amory brought him along because he’s Amory’s brother-in-law and Amory thinks he might need a witness. He also thinks that the lady who just left is the woman he’s been looking for.

After further conversation with the woman at her apartment, however, Amory realizes she is not the one. He’s looking for someone who was standing outside the Fallon Paint company Monday night, when there was an explosion. This woman was at the nearby bus stop Sunday night, but not Monday. Frustrated, Amory leaves and remarks that it was her coat that fooled him.

The audience, and not Amory, sees the woman take the coat across the hall to the woman who really was there. The coat was a loan, and its real owner would have gone with her friend to the office, had she not come down with a cold.

Amory is a built-up bundle of nerves. In addition to his paranoia that his wife is having an affair with his business partner, he is certain that someone tried to kill him in that explosion. Though it was set up to try to look like a group of punk kids did it, Amory believes (and it’s later discovered he’s right) that it was someone else, someone deliberately trying to cover up a crime and destroy some important files that revealed it. And he believes it was someone in his company.

Apparently he didn’t tell Paul all of this. Paul shows up at the Fallon Paint company, angry at being used and worried that he’s done something wrong that may jeopardize his license. Amory breaks down and admits the truth to Paul and tells him that nothing out of sorts was being done. And he has no desire to keep anything from the police. He just wants to find out if the woman at the bus stop might have seen someone going in or out of the company building right before the explosion, and if she could identify said person.

Before and while they’re attempting to converse, Mrs. Fallon calls several times trying to talk to Amory. He doesn’t want to talk with her, convinced of the affair and certain that he really means nothing to her. He hasn’t even been home since returning from a month-long trip to Mexico the other day. Instead, he’s been staying in a hotel.

He talks with his partner, who appears in the office, and introduces Paul as Mr. Henry. He then goes around the building speaking with other employees as he tries to get to the bottom of what happened in the explosion. He learns that the suspicious files were moved to where they would be blown up on orders of Ned Thompson.

As he finally leaves the building at the end of the workday, he goes by way of the back stairs. He stumbles across his wife Edith, who has come down out of worry and bewilderment over why he hasn’t been home. He softens at her concern and is trying to work out a reply when Thompson appears on the same stairs. This tips Amory over the edge and he decides that Edith must have really come to see his partner. He screams that he doesn’t want to ever see her or speak to her again. As he flies off in his overwrought state, Edith stares after him in shock. Thompson looks on, his expression impassive.

Meanwhile, Paul has finally located the woman who actually was at the bus stop Monday night. They observe everyone coming out the main entrance of the company building, but she doesn’t recognize anyone. That night Paul has her at the apartment building where Thompson lives. He’s the last possibility, so they figure it must have been him. Suddenly the woman sees who she saw, and amid a flurry of exclaiming and pointing, Paul hurries out and across the street to apprehend him. He grabs a drunk and dazed Amory Fallon.

Back at Perry’s office, Amory finally tells his entire story while Perry and the others listen. Though sympathetic and declaring to help by speaking with Ned Thompson, who refused to see Amory when he showed up, Perry also very frankly tells Amory that a lot of what he thinks is wrong could be in his own mind. There isn’t enough evidence to support the idea of the affair between Edith and Ned, nor is it likely that the arsonist was trying to murder Amory, since no one even knew he would be at the building that night.

Amory doesn’t say whether or not Perry’s assessment makes sense to him, but he is grateful for the offer of help. He mentions writing a note and shoving it under Thompson’s door when he wasn’t allowed admittance to his apartment. Being drunk at the time, a state he’s rarely ever in, he can’t remember what he wrote. Perry says they’ll get the note back.

That turns out to be impossible. So is conversing with Thompson. When he and Paul arrive, Lieutenant Tragg answers the door. Thompson is dead.

One interesting note on Thompson’s apartment: he must really like chess. Not only does he have a board set up with some of the largest chess pieces I’ve ever seen, there’s also a huge statue of a knight chess piece on the floor near the body.

Paul talks with Amory’s brother-in-law during the investigation, who tells him that there was nothing between Edith and Ned and that it was something that just built up in Amory’s mind over a period of time, torturing him. When Paul leaves, Mrs. Fallon comes out and insists to her brother that she has to help Amory.

The court scenes are very intense, as everyone tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding Thompson’s death and the activity at the paint company. Someone was embezzling money and the books were doctored to reflect it. Thompson photographed everything, certainly making it seem like he couldn’t possibly have been the embezzler. Perry finally uncovers that there were two embezzlers and Thompson was indeed one of them. The pictures he took displayed the other embezzler’s work.

And there was also a deal going on under the table with Thompson and Burt Nichols working together with businessman Carlos Silva of Mexico. Thompson and Amory already had an aboveboard deal pending with him. That was the reason for Amory’s trip. But Amory knew nothing of the other deal.

Perry also pieces together why Amory can’t remember anything that happened after he tried and failed to get into Thompson’s apartment. There’s a forty-five minute gap between that and him stumbling out of the building. Perry finally gets Burt to admit that Amory was asleep on the stairs due to his uncharacteristic, heavy drinking. Burt was going to visit Ned to further discuss the deal with Silva. But Burt insists he did not kill Ned.

It’s Edith, Amory’s devoted and worried wife, who manages to close the case for them. In between court sessions she revealed information to Perry about her brother that made Perry suspect him as the second embezzler. And when Perry accuses him of the murder in court, the weasel leaps up, it having been bubbling inside him all during the examination of Burt, and repeatedly screams that yes, he did kill Thompson! Edith covers her face in sickened grief while everyone else in court stares on.

The epilogue finds Perry noting the great sacrifice Edith made in telling the information about her brother’s heavy gambling and money losses. Amory acknowledges that he’s aware of that, and apologizes to Edith for all of his wild imaginings concerning her and Ned. The episode ends on a happy note with them reunited.

Amory is one of my favorite oneshot characters. As already mentioned, he was responsible for making me realize my fondness for both Wesley Lau and Lieutenant Anderson. His tense, jumpy behavior is so completely different from Andy’s usually calm, aloof nature. When I first saw the episode and saw him so anxious, I wondered whether he would be the defendant or the victim. (Or the killer.) I was very happy that he was the defendant!

I was also happy that Edith really wasn’t having an affair with Ned, and that she was so loving and devoted in spite of Amory’s imaginations. As I’ve mentioned, I get a little tired of seeing so many marriages on the rocks. It was refreshing to see one that could be mended.

Also, something a bit amusing. While Amory does lie to Paul at the beginning, he never lies to Perry. And that is a rarity among his clients! It seems like they're always either lying or holding something back. I think I could count on one hand the clients who tell Perry the whole truth.

After I’m able to return to and finish my mystery The Denying Detective, which I hope to do in July, I have been toying again with an idea involving a double of a main character. In the past I had considered one where Hamilton has a bad double creating havoc for him, but I abandoned that after becoming aware of The Dead Ringer. Although the series has touched on doubles more than once (even with one of Perry’s season 6 stand-ins!), I don’t think there has ever been an episode where the double and the main character are both good guys.

Being as fond as I am of Amory, I had the thought of featuring him as well as Andy in one of the mysteries. Perhaps one of them (probably Amory) is found lying unconscious in a park, stripped of all identification, and is thought to be the other. Meanwhile, the other (probably Andy) is abducted for some reason. One of them is a mistaken target while the other is the one meant to be taken. And so far I haven’t quite sorted out which should be which. Amory’s already had so much trouble with people causing trouble for him in his company. But Andy’s had trouble in one of my past stories with someone trying to kill him, so it probably evens out.

There’s also the question of motive. If it’s some nut out for revenge on Andy, it could start seeming too much like my past story The Memento Mori Murderer, where some nut is out for revenge on Perry. And in that case, it might be better for it to be Amory who was the real target all along, and for a reason other than revenge.

If I decide to write the story, I’ll get it all sorted out by that point.

If someone else had played Amory, The Impatient Partner still would have been a good episode. But it would not likely have been significant in the overall picture. With Wesley Lau in the role, the episode’s place as an important installment is assured.

I wonder what viewers thought when Wesley appeared two episodes later as a Homicide detective. Maybe they were used to character actors popping up repeatedly and they didn’t bat an eye. In any case, they must have been receptive. If only the crew and not the audience had liked Wesley, it likely wouldn’t have worked out for any length of time. But he would be regularly present over the next four seasons.

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