Monday, July 20, 2015

The Uncut Vanishing Victim vs. The Fugitive Nurse

First, a quick note: Rose and I have started a new Simon Oakland project, a Tumblr. We have weekly photo sets and post other Simon-related things during the week. I put up a Frantic Flyer photo set on Saturday. We're hoping the project will eventually reach the attention of all classic film and television fans on Tumblr, in addition to all fans of specifically Simon. If anyone wants to have a look, the link is:

The other day I finally did something I’ve been meaning to do for months: watch the uncut version of The Vanishing Victim. It’s taken so long for me to get to it since it’s one of my least-liked episodes. It remains so after the uncut viewing.

I watch it so seldom I’m actually not sure which scenes are new to me, besides the infamous epilogue. I ranted a lot about the cut version in another post, so I don’t think I’ll go into all of that examination here. I’ll just say that my previous opinions on the episode as a whole still stand. It’s a very messy, confused conglomeration, and the constantly changing idea of who’s actually dead around here makes it very wearisome by the time they finally get around to letting us know that the real dead guy is an extremely minor character we only barely saw.

And I’ll make a couple of comparisons with the episode it claims to be patterned after: The Fugitive Nurse. That season 1 episode is one of my most favorites, both of season 1 in general and the series as a whole. Hamilton and Tragg really have a lot of chances to shine in it.

Hamilton and Steve get a lot of screentime in The Vanishing Victim, but aside from Hamilton’s final comment to the murderer (which was just awesome) and Steve’s adorable appearance in the epilogue, they don’t really have much chance to shine. They’re by and large depicted as the antagonists, behaving ridiculously and unfairly, calling the hearing before there’s enough evidence and then, after the judge throws the case out, planning to re-arrest the defendant on a trumped-up charge while they try to gather new evidence to prove the murder. They honestly don’t often tend to pull stunts like that, so Perry’s comment about Hamilton being predictable with the re-arrest plan is still irritating to me.

Also, the defendant in The Vanishing Victim honestly seems like a block of ice. I’m all for aloof characters, but I like to get to know them a little even if they remain a mystery to the other characters. I couldn’t figure that woman out at all. Usually we get to know the defendants enough so that we can dredge up some sympathy for them, but it didn’t really seem like we got to know this one at all. Perry mused on trying to discover whether she’s a grieving widow or a murderer, and she didn’t seem to be either one. Her husband didn’t seem like a nice guy, but when Lisa Gaye’s character commented on how miserable she had made life for her husband, there was no refuting of that statement. I have to wonder exactly what their marriage really was like.

Compare that with the defendant in The Fugitive Nurse. She realizes she’s being selfish to not let her husband have a divorce if he wants it so badly and thinks the nurse will make him happier. She wants to do the right thing. She opens up to Perry and the audience gets to know her and that she’s a good person who handled some things wrong. Maybe the bad marriage was partially her fault, and she’ll own up to that.

The restaurant owner who was so key in The Fugitive Nurse doesn’t play much of a role here. In this version, the friend isn’t dead and his wife didn’t try to kill him. Their marriage is on the rocks, and she’s serving him divorce papers, but she’s not the cold-hearted penny-pincher Jeanette Nolan expertly played in The Fugitive Nurse. This character has class, running a very swanky restaurant instead of just a cheap burger joint. Her only scene has her sitting down with Paul to discuss her husband.

And then the epilogue. I was always annoyed by what I’d heard of Perry supposedly paying Paul and then taking the check away from him. I was also annoyed when I watched the epilogue alone and didn’t see the whole episode.

This time, having watched the whole episode and seen the epilogue again, I’m not sure what to make of it. My opinion hinges on the key question: did Paul really have some expenses totaling $175.19, or was he totally trying to rip Perry off just so he’d have the money for his golf clubs?

I honestly can’t believe Paul would try to cheat Perry like that. Maybe he’d add a random 19 cents, but I can’t believe the $175 wasn’t a real expense.

If Paul really did try to cheat Perry with the whole amount, then Perry taking the money away from him and giving it to Steve is perfectly fine in my book. But if, as I originally thought, Paul had an actual expense and Perry was just refusing to pay up, then the epilogue still annoys me. I suppose the interpretation is up to each viewer to determine.

Overall, The Vanishing Victim never will be a favorite episode of mine. The war between Perry and Hamilton would work better in season 1 than season 9, but the confusion over the dead man’s identity would be exasperating and bewildering in any season. Pretty much the only things I like are still Perry’s speech to Lisa Gaye’s character, Hamilton’s final comment to the murderer, and Steve being adorable in the epilogue.

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