Sunday, November 18, 2012

Old acquaintances

One thing I find interesting is how many of the oneshot characters are already known to at least one character in the main cast (without being related to any of the main characters). But there’s different categories of people the main characters have known before.

The most characters seem to fall under the label of “People the cast knew years before the series.” This category is mostly populated by old friends of Perry’s, including the defendant in The Married Moonlighter (the little girl who proposed marriage to Perry when they were young kids, aww), the businessman in The Difficult Detour, Major Jerry Reynolds in The Misguided Missile, the family with the drugstore in The Promoter’s Pillbox, and dozens of others.

Sometimes Della has an entry in this category too, such as Della’s friend Janet in The Weary Watchdog. (Or at least, it’s assumed by fans that Della and Janet have been friends since before the events of the series, although it’s not known for sure.) I’m sure Paul also has people in this category, but at the moment I can’t think of them.

Of course, Hamilton has at least one person in this category—his friend Jefferson Pike, from The Prudent Prosecutor. And Mignon Germaine may or may not fall into this category; we only know that she and Hamilton have been friends for “a long time.”

Steve has his friends Dave and Susan Wolfe in The Silent Six, and Andy has the Norden family in The Hateful Hero, but it’s unclear how long they’ve known these people. The Wolfes, at least, probably belong in the below category.

Then there’s the category of “People the cast knew closer to the series.” That is to say, characters that Perry only met once he became an attorney, Paul his go-to private detective, etc. Mostly we see characters that were childhood or wartime friends, or from an unknown period that was still very likely pre-series. Still, there are quite a few businessmen and corporations that fall into this other category, since Perry is already the companies’ attorney when the episodes open. (Seriously, how can he be the company attorney for so many companies all at once? I would think it would pretty much be a full-time job to be the attorney for just one of them. I should make a list of all the companies Perry is the attorney for.)

A much less populous sub-category of this is “People who are from specific mysteries in the past.” In fact, off-hand I can only think of one episode that falls under this sub-category.

The Bogus Books introduces two oneshot characters that Perry and Paul originally met only several years ago. With both, they were brought in and addressed so familiarly and with such case-specific information that at first I found myself wondering if they were recurring characters and I hadn’t seen their original episodes. But that is not the case with either one of them.

One such character is the English professor Muntz, whom Perry first runs across in Joseph Kraft’s bookstore. Muntz muses on their first meeting and says it was five or six years ago during a “regrettable hazing incident” at the college where he teaches. Perry says it was six years ago. I was intrigued and wished that there had been an episode detailing said hazing incident.

Muntz is mixed up in the used book racket Kraft was running, but becomes concerned when Kraft’s pretty employee is arrested for Kraft’s murder. Muntz doesn’t want her to get convicted, nor does he want to get blamed for the murder himself, so he tries to investigate and find out what really happened. He and Paul end up tangling in the dark and punching each other in the face.

Muntz is quite a likable fellow, in spite of his involvement in the racket. He doesn’t seem to want any actual harm to come to any people and is, in general, good-natured. I would have liked him to turn up in a later episode, after serving whatever prison sentence he got for being involved with stealing books.

The other character is conman Gene Torg. While attempting to close a deal with Kraft that would let him and his girlfriend profit a great deal off the used book racket, he hears that Perry has arrived and immediately becomes concerned. Perry seems to recognize Torg, but Torg denies that they’ve met and hurries out.

Perry is undaunted. He remembers Torg and Paul does, too. In a later scene, Paul explains that they met Gene before, during a con game case. Hence, Perry had Paul begin investigating Gene immediately.

Gene is a bit of a mystery. He also seems fairly good-natured, and definitely takes a more actively visible pleasure in his illegal activities than Muntz seems to, but it’s somewhat unclear just what the full extent is of what he’s willing to do where said illegal activities are concerned. He’s a smooth-talker, and likely quite a deceptively charming conman, but he appears to shy away from violence. His girlfriend wonders if he could have killed Kraft by accidentally shoving him too hard, although she may have said that only to counter Gene asking it of her first.

Gene has one of the most amusing lines in the episode, when Perry is trying to find out the whereabouts of everyone at the time of the murder. Gene’s girlfriend was getting a shampoo, and Gene says he knows it sounds like he’s kidding, but he was getting a shampoo, shave, manicure, “the works” at the time.

I was also amused by Perry’s initial quizzing as to whether he had met Gene before. He says Gene looks familiar, which gave me a giggle in light of the fact that Perry and the others have met four doubles of Gene’s in past seasons—Daniel Conway, Slim Marcus, Deputy Sampson, and Max the diver.

(On a mostly unrelated side-note, I re-watched The Traveling Treasure on MeTV Friday night and was amused by Max chewing gum in court. I don’t think anyone else has ever tried that. . . . And now I got a silly mental image of Sampson giving him a black look because of it.

Max is a gold thief, but he’s not mixed up in that episode’s murder, and he still has enough decency to not try to involve fellow diver Charlie in the smuggling. He’s adamant about Charlie not being involved. But I’ll talk more about him when I do a post for his episode.)

I wonder if anyone’s written fan stories for the cases in which Muntz and Gene first appeared. I bet those would be fun to read.

Oddly enough, I can't recall if Tragg has any old acquaintances who pop up in the series at all. I kind of think he doesn't. Anyone know otherwise? It's one more instance of Tragg especially being slighted where background information is concerned.

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