Sunday, September 2, 2012

Mystified Miner Musings

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

I saw season 5’s The Mystified Miner again, in full, Friday night. I had wondered if I would feel any different about it, but I didn’t in the least. If anything, I was more irritated than before! And I discovered other things I’d forgotten that irritated me too.

The plot itself is very intense and exciting, between Kathie Browne guesting and a shoebox of money and the two mysteriously appearing and disappearing Amelia Cornings. My most favorite scene is when Perry, Paul, Tragg, Andy, and Brice find the crooks’ hideout and save the real Amelia Corning. It’s quite different from most other episodes! I figured Mrs. Corning was probably dead. It was a thrill to realize she had been kidnapped and was still alive.

This one is based on a book, and if the plot in it is anything like this episode, I stand by my opinion that Gardner really knew to write a good plot. It’s some of the details within said plot that he had some trouble with.

As previously mentioned here more than once, Perry really pulls a doozy of a stunt in this one. Actually, he pulls more than one. Having a lab man go over the car to satisfy himself as to fingerprints and blood? I don’t recall him ever going that far in any other episode. He always respected the police and stood back to let them do whatever they had to with vehicles and homes and whatnot. The only other time I remember him fooling around with a murder scene is in the very first episode, The Restless Redhead, when he fires a gun and makes two new bullet holes in the area so it looks like his client’s gun fired those harmless shots. Good grief, Counselor!

(Then there's the infamous doorbell/buzzer antics in The Curious Bride. If I remember right, that location was across from the murder scene, instead of being the murder scene. It's still an integral part of the case, though. But that time it was brought to everyone's attention, and Perry was testing a witness, so it doesn't seem quite as bad as these other times.)

And then there’s the previously complained-of stunt with the car in this Mystified Miner episode, when he lets the air out of a tire and recruits a bunch of kids to change it, so their fingerprints will be all over the thing. That was terrible!

But you know, I think what annoys me the very most about those antics is something I just realized Friday night. Perry is way better and way cooler than to have to resort to such cheap shyster stunts. Those are the kinds of things he pulled in the early books, I’m told, where he really did come across at least somewhat as a shyster lawyer. I’m not sure why Gardner wanted to do that when he was supposed to be improving the public’s image of lawyers. Well, I suppose he must have succeeded with some people, anyway, or those first books would not have taken off. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to take down some people’s opinions of the police and the district attorney at the same time.

Seriously, though, television Perry’s biggest weapon is his sharp legal mind when he goes to work in the courtroom. And his best “tricks” are his elaborate plans and demonstrations in court to show what really happened. It may turn things into a sideshow, but it is very effective. I am not complaining about those demonstrations, not in the least. This is completely different.

When he proves time and time again that he doesn’t need to do things like messing around with the murder scenes to manipulate his cases in his clients’ favor, to have him suddenly do it feels very, very wrong. Television Perry graduated beyond such stereotypical stunts (as did the book Perry in later volumes). I don’t like seeing him fall back on them, especially after that point in time. Filming a book that may have included such antics is no excuse. If that was the case with the book, the television version should have deviated. (Or been filmed in season 1.)

And then we come to a third thing that annoyed me. The audience is no doubt supposed to feel that Lieutenant Tragg is totally in the wrong by questioning Susan Fisher and Della Street at the station when he realized Perry had neglected to mention certain information involving the murder and the people involved (re: Susan). But I say he’s fully in the right. What’s more, it’s not the first time he’s done it, not by a long shot. And yet Perry is absolutely furious, for one of a handful of times in the series. I don’t think he’s ever treated Tragg more coldly.

I suppose fans of the Perry and Della dynamic might point to that with glee and say that Perry is so angry because Della is being questioned. And . . . well, I have to admit that’s possible. It’s more logical than thinking that the case itself is getting him that tied up in knots. Except that Della has been questioned before. That isn’t a new scenario, either.

. . . I wonder if what Perry is really mad about is that Tragg is sitting at Della’s desk (and answering her phone)? Suddenly Perry’s exclamation of “This time you’ve gone too far!” takes on a whole new meaning. I am amused.

And it’s all supposed to look like Perry really didn’t “obscure” Susan’s fingerprints, as Tragg accuses, since he pulled that stunt with the kids and made more fingerprints instead of wiping the car clean. But he did obscure her prints. He just didn’t do it the way Tragg thought he would. And the way he did it, there’s no way for Tragg to prove anything. Which Perry knows quite well. I suppose the audience is also supposed to think Perry did a wonderful, heroic thing there. But I most strenuously disagree. It was unnecessary and cheap.

Between Perry’s gimmick with the car and calling out the lab man, Hamilton would have been thoroughly justified in bringing charges against Perry in that episode. As it is, Hamilton doesn’t know about the car gag, to my knowledge. No one really does. Tragg is most likely left absolutely bewildered (or else still suspicious of Perry but without a way to prove anything). And since Perry turns the lab evidence over to the police after Susan is arrested, they apparently have no claim on bringing charges against him for that, either. But since Perry knows very well what he’s doing, I say calling out his own lab man is tampering with evidence. The thing with the fingerprints on the car (and moving it at all!) is still what gets on my nerves the most, however.

Also, I don’t like when the judge thinks Hamilton is out of line for one of his objections. Sometimes Hamilton is, I’m willing to admit that. But this time I think he’s in the right. It’s kind of aggravating when the judges side with Perry even in those cases. I think most of the time, though, they’re a little more strict. At least, they sustain Hamilton’s objections more than some people remember, and some of them don’t like Perry’s “fishing trips”. And I remember one judge who comes down pretty hard on both of them. That is certainly interesting.

Perry is a hero to me when he doesn’t resort to stingy shyster tricks to get ahead. I love when he solves the cases and how determined he is to prove his clients innocent. And I adore the little kindnesses he shows and how often he takes on cases where the clients can’t pay much, if anything. But when he pulls things like what he did in this episode, I am most displeased.

I don’t really like the message it sends out, either, considering that Perry is the protagonist, someone to look up to, and is never called out for what he does in this episode. Sometimes other characters, Paul as well as Hamilton and the police, comment negatively on what Perry’s doing. They didn't here; they didn't know (other than what Tragg suspected and couldn't prove). Strange, that the very worst things he’s done are never discovered. Pulling stunts like that is not okay, folks. And said stunts shouldn’t be done by a good guy who’s proven himself way better than that, unless they’re going to do something fascinating and possibly character-developing with the angle and say that he got extremely desperate that time. (Sort of a “Stumbling/Fallen Hero” storyline, where the act would be treated as bad.) And it doesn’t seem like he would have become that desperate; the case wasn’t any more serious than the great majority of the rest of them.

Even if they were going to use that angle, though, it could still be construed as out-of-character behavior if it wasn’t written right. I might actually be really interested in seeing one that was written well. (Although it would be very depressing, I’m sure, even if it managed to have a hopeful ending.) I love both of the episodes where Perry has moral dilemmas. I’d rather see him make the right choice in the end, though, as he does in the existing moral dilemma episodes, instead of choosing to pull a Mystified Miner stunt.

If The Mystified Miner had been filmed for season 1, it would make a lot more sense, characterization-wise, but I’d still be just as irritated with Perry’s stunts. And I can’t say I really would have wanted it to be season 1 instead of 5, for at least one reason: Andy.

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