Perry Mason recap: Mason hunts his 'fourth man' while a close friend draws his final breath
Perry Mason: Season 1
Perry Mason's fourth episode wastes no time exploding the powder keg Sister Alice lit last week. Following her fainting spell — and Charlie Dodson-resurrection revelation — she' recovering at home. She's visited by concerned members of her congregation, including a young couple and their little girl. Dressed in her Sunday best, the child offers Alice a bakery box and a kind smile: “Do you like sweets, Sister?” But the sugary treats turn out to be a pair of slithering snakes, dumped on the unsuspecting preacher. While the family's escorted out, the mother yells, “The Lord refutes you!”
Based on E.B. Jonathan's morning newspaper, the press has also pounced on the Sister's proclamation. “BACK IN A JIFF!” reads the headline above a picture of sweet baby Dodson. But E.B.'s more concerned with getting his client's bail reduced. Sitting before the judge, he and D.A. Barnes argue their cases. Given the department's detectives' attempt to force a confession from Emily, the judge places her in protective custody but refuses to reduce the $25,000 bail. Worse news for E.B., Maynard reveals Matthew Dodson has decided to testify against his wife.
Perry and Pete are having a better time, sharing a bottle and regaling coroner Virgil with tales of their P.I. shenanigans. The latter's loving the attention until he finds out why the pair have taken him to Mason's house. They've smuggled George Gannon's across-county corpse into Perry's basement, hoping to convince the coroner to do a “proper autopsy.” Virgil's romanticized vision of the private investigators' lives drains from him as quickly as the color from his face. He wants no part of this.
Back at the preacher's estate, the Sister's doctor reveals she suffered an epileptic seizure. He strongly recommends rest for several weeks, but the Elders are more concerned with their financial health than Alice's well being. Elder Brown — and the other dozen or so white men in suits — bring Birdy up to speed on their concerns. They want the Sister back on the pulpit, redacting her claims of bringing the Dodson baby back from the dead. They're not only worried about the “ramifications of her message,” but the fact that Alice continues to support Emily publicly. “We can no longer afford to teeter on the whims of hysterical women,” says Herman Baggerly. Elder Brown adds, “You will censor the Sister or the spigot will be turned off.”
E.B.'s also receiving some unfortunate financial news, as his longtime bank is refusing to loan him the money for Emily's bail. Sitting outside the meeting, Della learns the law firm has been treading water for some time.
Coroner Virgil's day isn't going much better. George Gannon's body — strategically dumped at a golf course by Perry and Pete — is lying on his slab ready for that “proper autopsy.” Meanwhile, Mason informs E.B. of this promising development and brings him up to speed on the blood trail, dentures, and what he believes to be a “fourth man” that masterminded the kidnapping.
Armed with this fresh intel, E.B. confidently brings it to Maynard, demanding the charges against Mrs. Dodson be dropped. But Barnes fires back with evidence that E.B. misappropriated funds from some former clients. He essentially blackmails the dumbstruck defense attorney, offering him three options — a plea deal, trial, or disbarment.
Despite setting E.B. straight, Barnes is worried. He orders his detectives to a men's room meeting, where he rips into Holcomb and Ennis for not securing Emily's confession. “You couldn't break a f---ing housewife?!” He also asks about this “fourth man” and demands to know who killed Charlie Dodson. The dirty cops ensure the case is tight, Perry's a bum, and there are no other co-conspirators. Maynard isn't buying it.
Back at Sister Alice's mansion, mamma Birdy's feeding her daughter soup and trying to convince her she “misheard” God's message. But the preacher believes it was real, that God is in her head. Despite her convictions, she meets the press and members of her congregation the next morning. Clutching an Elders-approved statement, she speaks from her front lawn, conceding her revelation was a product of her “arrogant, sinful pride.”
As Birdy and the Elders look on — cautiously optimistic their troubled ship's about to be righted — a man rushes to the front of the crowd with a gift. It's not another box of snakes, but a blanket for Charlie Dodson. “He'll be cold when he comes back,” says the believer. Alice's eyes widen, a smile stretches across her face, and her lips let loose: “Emily Dodson is innocent, Charlie Dodson is in purgatory.” She promises to resurrect the boy on Easter Sunday. The crowd goes wild — with equal amounts of support and cries of heresy — while an enraged Elder Brown repeatedly shouts, “Blasphemer!”
While this episode's a little light on Perry screentime, we're treated to a fun scene reminiscent of the premiere's subtler moments. Mason's in a phone booth talking to his son, apologizing for the late arrival of the boy's Christmas present (remember that returned-to-sender package from "Chapter One"?) Morals clause-breaching actor Chubby Carmichael catches up with him during his call. His indiscretions have made the front page, so he returns the favor by beating the crap out of Perry.
Later that night, Mason nurses his wounds with another evening of smoking and sex. As he and his girlfriend debate the pros and cons of resurrection, she notes the case is getting to him. He responds by getting up, wrapping himself in a blanket, and obsessing over his wall of clues and evidence.
Back at E.B.'s office, Della arrives to find her boss frantically digging through old files. Panicked over Maynard's claims, he's scrambling and scared. He takes his frustrations out on Street. Not a smart move. She effortlessly puts him in his place before throwing his car keys at him — “Drive yourself home!” — and exiting behind a slammed door.
Stealing a page from Perry's stress-relieving playbook, Street heads home for sex and cigarettes. In bed with her girlfriend (whom we meet for the first time in this episode), Della discusses her frustration and anger over Emily's presumed guilt and her “son of a bitch” boss. She decides to take the next day off and see how E.B. fares without her.
This leaves Perry to find E.B., who's spent the night in his office, sleeping on the couch. He immediately calls for Della to answer the phone when he wakes. Mason's looking for info on Matthew's initial interview with the detectives, but E.B.'s fussing over the fact he slept in his shoes. Groggy and unsteady, he sits while Perry helps him remove his wingtips. E.B. ponders his old age — talking of hemorrhoids and arm-length nose hairs — before the pair reminisce of a time when they were both much younger. Perry produces George's new autopsy report, but E.B. is distant and despondent.
Mason and Strickland return to the hotel room the Dodson's occupied the night they retrieved Charlie. They attempt to retrace the kidnappers' steps, again coming to the conclusion a fourth perpetrator was involved. They determine this mystery suspect must have been close by, so they could quickly scoop up the suitcase and flee the scene undetected. Outside, they discover a sky-way bridge leading to a nearby building.
Following this fresh lead, they find themselves in an Elks Club. Posing as potential members, they poke around and discover a kids' talent show/fundraiser is taking place in the club's auditorium. Perry sneaks in and takes a seat by Detective Ennis. While questioning the lawman about this extraordinary “coincidence,” he outbids him on a pair of gold-plated antlers. Ennis, whose daughter is in the show, claims he's a member of the social club, attending three meetings a week. Perry asks if he was there the night of the exchange. “I dunno. Run me in and find out," says Ennis. Without missing a beat, Perry hits back, “Will you hold up as well as Emily Dodson?”
As the episode heads into the home stretch, we finally catch up with Emily. E.B. visits her, and she tells him she wants to go home. Backed into a corner by Barnes' disbarment threat, he tells her the case is “complicated” and pushes the plea deal. He puts on a brave face and tries to justify his recommendation, but cracks when Emily tearfully questions whether admitting guilt to the tune of 20 years in prison is the best move. “No, we won't do this, will we?" he says about the plea deal. At his request, Emily repeats, “I'm going fight,” but asks, “And you're going to help me, aren't you?" Holding back tears, he responds, “I promise I'll do what's best.”
The next morning, E.B. goes through the motions of his morning routine. He prepares his bird feeder, gets dressed, and combs his hair. Rather than leaving the house for work, however, he pulls a comfy chair into the kitchen. He then cranks up his stove's five gas burners, opens the oven door wide, and takes a seat. As fumes hiss, he removes his glasses, slowly inhales, and takes one final look at the hummingbird outside his window.