Perry Mason recap: Pete pursues Ennis while Perry investigates a career change
Anyone holding out hope E.B. Jonathan survived last week's suicide attempt is in for a sad truth. “Chapter Five” begins with Della Street finding his body. Slumped in his kitchen chair, eyes still open, mouth drooped in one corner, he doesn't look anything like the dapper, distinguished attorney we got so well acquainted with over the previous four episodes.
His faithful assistant — no doubt feeling some guilt over how they left things — restores some of his dignity, however, recruiting Perry Mason to make his suicide look like a more “insurance-friendly,” natural demise. The pair drag his body up to bed, put him in his pj's, and wipe the drool from his face.
Sister Alice's day is off to a better start, as she, Birdy, and the elders are opening piles of mailed-in donations. In the wake of the preacher's epileptic seizure and promise to bring baby Dodson back from the dead, they've received an “outpouring of love and charity,” according to Alice. But her mom tempers her enthusiasm, reading a less charitable letter aloud: “'May God pour honey over your body and stake you to an anthill, you blaspheming whore.'” The harsh sentiment doesn't dissuade the emboldened Sister, who threatens to relieve Birdy of her duties if she doesn't agree to use the donations to post Emily Dodson's bail.
Pete Strickland's also feeling confident, albeit for entirely different reasons. He's visiting a crime scene, asking a detective about his strained relationship with “fourth man” Ennis. The fellow lawman is no fan of the crooked cop, claiming he bumped him from “the biggest case in town,” bribing the division chief to ensure he worked the Dodson kidnapping.
Following a train trip up north, Della and Perry are disappointed to see such a poor turnout for E.B.'s arrival at the cemetery. Apparently he wasn't much of a family man, and there's no love lost between him and his adult son. Later that evening, the pair share a bottle and reminisce about their former boss. They also learn a bit about each other. Della comes from a wealthy family, but skipped out on them – and her inheritance – while Perry justifies his rule-breaking moral code: “The way I see it, there's what's legal and there's what's right.”
The next morning Mason hitches a ride to see his ex-wife Linda (Gretchen Mol) and their son. The latter shouts “Daddy, Daddy,” and offers a big hug, while the former's far less enthusiastic over the surprise visit. Perry floats the idea of the boy staying with him for awhile, but Linda tells her ex the ship has sailed on him being a father to their son. Sister Alice, on the other hand, is adding one to her brood. Emily Dodson arrives at her estate, in cuffs and escorted by Detectives Holcomb and Ennis, who remind mother Birdy the suspect must remain confined to the premises from dusk till dawn.
We next catch up with Paul Drake and his wife, seated in an auditorium listening to an impassioned civil rights speaker argue the merits of rising up against segregation. After the event, friends of the couple ask for their take on the speech. “No point fighting to change what's not going to change.,” replies Mrs. Drake. Paul bites his tongue: “Best to always agree with my wife.,” he says.
Meanwhile, Della stops by the preacher's place to check on Emily and inform her she'll need a new lawyer. To her surprise, court-appointed Frank Dillon is already at the Sister's dining room table, shoveling cake in his maw and instilling little confidence in his ability to properly represent Mrs. Dodson. This leads Street to seek out a new attorney, starting with E.B.'s old partner Lyle. The lawyer informs Della that Dillon is probably in D.A. Barnes' pocket, and she'll have little luck finding anyone to take the case. “It's a pre-ordained loser, a real career killer.,” he shares bluntly.
Meanwhile, the Drakes are enjoying the sun and surf at Santa Monica beach. Paul is being pitched on a “big opportunity” in the trucking industry by a buddy, while the Mrs. is having a blast frolicking with a friend in the ocean. It's a perfect day until a white policeman arrives to kick them off the beach, even threatening to toss their stuff in the water if they don't comply. When the Drakes inform the officer Paul is a cop, the racist lawman doubles down on his demands. Later that night, Paul's reached his boiling point. He's done holding his tongue. His don't-rock-the-boat better half finally recognizes his struggle: “You do what you need to do, however you need to do it, and I'll be right there next to you.”
Pete Strickland's still following Ennis, this time to the Asian whorehouse frequented by the dirty detective. But Ennis spots the tail, and invites Pete inside the establishment for a chat. He claims all he wants is to, “make things right for the baby boy,” and that any improprieties involving the case point back to his partner Holcomb. Before buying Pete a prostitute, he tells him of Perry pursuing a “fourth man,” “He's way wide on all of this.” Ennis throwing his partner under the bus and trying to “buy [Pete] off with p—sy,” only serves to strengthen Strickland's suspicions. He meets with Perry, and the two decide the coincidences have piled too high to ignore. They agree to continue chasing their “fourth man”/Ennis, despite Perry not being able to pay Pete.
Back at the Radiant Assembly of God, Sister Alice is feeling her oats. She's preaching to a packed house, while Emily sits in Elder Brown's vacated spot on stage. Brown, meanwhile, is doing some preaching of his own, just outside the church. He's got his own following, an angry group determined to dethrone and denounce Alice. But the preacher can't hear their cries of heresy because she's busy performing a “divine healing.” She summons a disabled man on stage, coaxes him from his wheelchair, and calls his stumbling-with-plenty-of-assistance a miracle. As Birdy shakes her head in the balcony, Emily shouts “I believe!” from her prime seat.
Della's still busy trying to find a competent lawyer to take on the Dodson case. While she's continuously rejected over the phone, Dillon's made himself comfortable behind E.B.'s desk. He wants Street's help gathering all the case files, but she plays dumb, suspecting – per her intel from Lyle – he's working with Barnes. Her suspicions are confirmed when she eavesdrops on a call between Dillon and the D.A. Later that night, she's storing the missing files at her home. When her girlfriend calls her on the questionable act, she regurgitates Mason's moral code from earlier: “The way I see it, there's what's legal and there's what's right.”
Perry later arrives at the office and laughs out loud when he discovers Dillon. Upon literally booting him from his former boss' chair, he brutally berates him, then pitches a bunch of thick legal books at his head. While nearly choking him, he offers this colorful threat: “What if I just popped your head, Frank, like a shiny puss ball full of rot, and just squeezed and squeezed until 'pop?'” Dillon meekly returns the threat – “I have friends downtown.” – before getting the hell out of there.
Just after dusk, Sister Alice sneaks Emily away to visit Charlie's grave. The grieving mother pushes away the flowers left by mourners, clutches the fresh mound of dirt, and begins sobbing. She asks Alice if she'll need to dig the boy up to do the deed, to which the Sister responds with silence and averted eyes.
Still riled up over his encounter with Dillon, Mason heads to Della's house. He's taking hits from a flask, of course, and winding up for another rant. More impassioned and inspiring – and less focused on popping heads like puss bubbles – he offers an expletive-laced speech on the many injustices Emily is up against. At one point, he even tosses in a mock, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury...,” to which Street responds by feeding a sheet of paper into a typewriter. With a glint in her eye, she types furiously, telling Mason she's “finding our lawyer.” She rips the paper from the machine, forges E.B. Jonathan's signature, then proudly hands it to Mason. “No f—king way.,” he responds.
The next scene sees the pair handing the same letter to Emily, who's book-ended by Birdy and Alice on a couch. The documentation shows Mason has been learning law at E.B.s knee for the last two-plus years. This “apprenticeship,” along with the fast-approaching bar exam, positions Perry as the perfect person to defend Mrs. Dodson. Like a pair of protective parents, Birdy and the Sister are skeptical. But Mason tells Emily she's being railroaded, and promises he'll not only prove her innocence but find her son's murderer. With an approving nod from Alice, Emily responds: “I want you to represent me, Mr. Mason.”
Seated across from each other at a coffee shop, Della and Perry dig into their new strategy. Mason's feeling a bit underwater, but Street provides a life raft in the form of Deputy D.A. Hamilton Burger. Boasting a law degree from Yale and 22 years of trial experience, the man takes Della's seat, orders a hot tea with a slice of lemon, and offers to help Perry pass/cheat on the bar exam. The P.I. scoffs at the generous offer until he surmises Burger is gunning for Barnes' job.
The episode's final scene gives us the series' first genuine “feel good” moment. Mason – sporting a clean shave, combed hair, and non-soiled tie – is sworn in before the bar. With his right hand raised, he recites the oath, concluding with, “So help me God.” The screen goes black, and we begin counting the seconds until we can watch the private dick/freshly-minted lawyer defend Emily Dodson in a courtroom.