Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Case of the Screaming Woman

I didn’t have the chance to see Perry Thursday night, so I decided to watch the uncut version on my DVDs. I was rather disappointed to discover that the episode aired was not The Substitute Face, but The Screaming Woman. I mixed up their placements. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the uncut Substitute Face, a favorite season 1 episode, but it’s also been ages since I’ve seen The Screaming Woman in any form, so I adapted to that and watched it.

Usually I seem to either deliberately avoid that episode or circumstances strangely crop up and prevent the watching of it. Mary K. Davis, the murder victim, is one of those who really makes me rage inside. This viewing, however, I wasn’t as bothered as in the past and it certainly made for easier viewing.

The title is one of those that makes very little sense to me. I wonder if it makes more sense in the book? Who’s screaming? The only person I saw screaming in the episode was the murderer in the climax. Perhaps that’s what it refers to, although that seems a bit odd. Usually the title refers to some occasionally obscure but always important thing that happens in the case long before the climax.

I was completely surprised by the murderer’s identity; it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I had entirely forgotten. She seemed such a sweet girl, it’s hard to imagine her being the guilty party. I wonder what happened to her. Hamilton decided to go for second-degree murder instead of first, since there was a fight. But I wonder if murder was ever intended at all and if Mary K. Davis could have instigated the fight. I wouldn’t put it past her. I wonder if the killer could end up getting off with self-defense. I kind of hope so, mostly because I felt so sorry for her boyfriend.

And this episode is certainly an eyebrow-raiser for legal-bending and even breaking. Perry and even Della do quite a bit here that is blatantly illegal, albeit they try as always to use little loopholes to get out of it, such as Della never actually saying she’s Mary K. Davis when she answers the door to accept the package.

Della’s little adventure, by the way, is certainly one of the most intense scenes involving a main character in the series. The door opening and the intruder’s silhouette on the wall, holding a gun, makes it clear that Della is in danger. Even knowing she gets out of that okay, I still tense up every time I watch that scene.

I have mixed feelings on the destruction of the record book. On the one hand, it’s good that a lot of other people won’t have to be dragged into the mess, hurting the children involved. But the book is evidence in the trial and it’s still appalling that Perry encourages the doctor to throw it in the fire, even though he doesn’t outright tell him in words to do so.

I also have mixed feelings on what the doctor was doing. I agree that there are a lot of wonderful people who should be able to raise kids, perhaps even if they don’t quite meet all the requirements that the adoption agencies set up. But getting a kid illegally doesn’t seem a very good start for parentage. At least it wasn’t done with “baby brokers” and other alarming black market criminals, but still.

I was rather glad that Perry was appalled and didn’t seem to agree with what they were doing. And I found it an intriguing element when Perry and the doctor discussed the ethics of killing Mary K. Davis. The doctor seemed to feel that it needed to be done, but that he should have done it and not his nurse, while of course Perry drew the line at any such thing being done by either one of them. “I do understand, Doctor; I just don’t agree” is one of my favorite Perry lines, especially from season 1.

And the infamous fake Dictaphone cylinder. What to say? That was one more blatantly illegal move, whether it was done just to draw a confession or not. Wouldn’t it have worked just as well for them to play the partially unbroken cylinder? Or did Perry worry that the confession wouldn’t come before it was revealed that none of the incriminating evidence had survived on the broken cylinder? Actually, there was the same gamble with the fake one they fixed up, since it only had a sentence or two more than the real one.

I wondered if there was any significance in the cylinder sticking while trying to play it, but there didn’t seem to be; it was just a slightly amusing bit of reality thrown into the scene. Alternately, I wonder if it wasn’t in the script and it really did stick, but William Talman ad-libbed and they kept it in!

It was kind of surprising to see Della so gung-ho about all of the illegal actions, although it was good that she and Perry both fretted over her having to bring the book back to the office. I was amused by Paul’s horror over their subsequent decision to write on the envelope, but at the same time I rather agreed with him. Sometimes Paul is apparently the only one in the office against doing legal-bending activities.

On reflection, I suppose even in later episodes Della is quite all for doing whatever has to be done, no matter whether it’s quite legal or not. The Weary Watchdog, and Della’s involvement in her friend’s problems, comes to mind. Even though Della wasn’t told that someone had been hurt and might be dead, she surely knew that what her friend was asking her to do in driving the car could result in a sticky problem. Her snarky, fake-innocent exchanges with the police certainly show she knew what she was doing. She got in the wrong car by mistake, ignoring the luggage, and somehow got the car started with the right key? Oh yes, how very logical. Not. I liked that Perry was so upset about her doing that, and about the friend deliberately involving Della in the disaster.

I’ve curiously wondered now and then how Perry (and now Della) would get along with Simon Templar, a.k.a The Saint. Naturally they wouldn’t agree with some of the extremes that book-Simon goes to, but as far as the basic idea of doing some rather law-bending things to achieve justice, I’m not sure they would entirely discount the ideas, especially considering some of the shenanigans they do in season 1 (and in the books). After the review of The Screaming Woman, and thinking on Della’s behavior in The Weary Watchdog, I’m especially curious as to how Della would react to Simon.

It’s very obvious throughout the series how much Della admires and looks up to Perry and yes, even loves him (although what kind of love is up to the fans to guess). In season 1, I’ve been noting how she seems to support Perry and believe that whatever he does is justified, due to his motivations. To that end, she reminds me a bit of book-Simon’s girlfriend Patricia Holm (albeit Patricia is more extreme in her views and feelings than even book-Simon, which is certainly a difference between her and Della). But it’s interesting that Della behaves that way, instead of trying to steer Perry away from law-bending activities. That is apparently Paul’s role and is something he generally has very little luck with.

The Screaming Woman has a lot of intense courtroom scenes, and while on the one hand it was a bit amusing for Perry to keep finding technical ways to object to Hamilton’s examination of Della, it was also exasperating. I really felt for Hamilton and his frustration. I love the scene after court when Perry says that he’s sure the next day Hamilton will do things right.

As always, season 1 proves interesting for seeing what the characters were up to in their younger years. And the storytelling is always so twisty and suspenseful and tight, the product of Mr. Gardner’s books in a way none of the other seasons are. I was thinking while watching the episode that it is something I miss in later seasons. But I still love how the characters mature later, so I always look forward to that when starting over.


  1. Been watching some of the earlier ones too, Lucky, and it's insane what he and Della, along with the rest of them are getting away with XD. Don't blame (in part) Ham Burger, for reacting the way he does back then.

    1. LOL. It is indeed! I definitely don't blame Hamilton either. Although strangely, it always seems like the most jaw-dropping incidents are the ones he never finds out about, at least onscreen.

  2. Yea he's good at getting things past him XD. It kind of reminds me of Wile E. Coyote trying to get the Roadrunner in a way. He never was able to do so ;) Lol.

    1. LOL. ;) I always felt sorry for the coyote, too. That Roadrunner was such a cheeky little cuss. The coyote was smart enough for his plans to work, too; I think he needed to sue ACME for all their products' malfunctions. Actually, I remember a skit on Tiny Toon Adventures where their coyote did sue. In hindsight, that was pretty amusing, although I didn't fully get the jokes when I was 8 and 9.

      If Hamilton had ever learned about the most shocking things Perry had done, Perry really might have lost his license, which is probably why the writers didn't let him find out about things like burning the book or shooting extra bullets into a crime scene.

  3. Me too XD. Poor guy never got to get the Roadrunner. Yep. Good idea ;). Sweet.

    Probably. And it wouldn't be good for any clients.

  4. It was an amusing moment in the last scene when Tragg came to Perry's office and showed him the smashed cylinder that Hamilton threw at him. I always loved when they all burst out laughing. One of those moments when you know deep down they really are friends.

    1. LOL. Yes, I love that epilogue, and all the ones that end with the whole group, or most of the whole group, laughing. My very favorite to that end is probably The Lame Canary.