By Matt Cabral
August 02, 2020 at 11:12 PM EDT
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Perry Mason: Season 1

S1 E7
type
  • Movie

Perry Mason's penultimate episode picks up far from the courtroom drama that defined last week's chapter. In a stretching field along an abandoned road, a young girl picks flowers. It's a flashback: the child is Alice, who's busying herself while her frustrated mother tries to fix their broken-down automobile.

Birdy's relieved when a stranger in a bowler hat arrives and offers a gallon of gas. It's the “Christian thing to do,” he says with a smile. But Birdy and Alice, having come all the way from Saskatoon, Canada, are also out of money and food. A tank of gas isn't going to cut it. The stranger offers additional help in exchange for some time with Alice. Birdy complies: “The Lord has sent this good man to rescue us. Go and thank him,” she directs her daughter.

Present-day Alice drifts from this dark, disturbing memory at the dinner table, where Birdy is saying grace. While Emily Dodson patiently waits to dig in, her hosts engage in an awkward exchange.

Birdy: “Something on your mind, daughter?”

Alice: “Wondering what the Lord has in store.”

Birdy: “Well, we'll know soon enough, won't we?”

Indeed, we'll all know soon enough. By episode's end, in fact. But there's plenty of ground to cover before Easter Sunday.

Perry's walking through the woods with the mysterious Jim Hicks, introduced last week as someone with a suspicious connection to the Radiant Assembly of God's finances. Before literally digging up answers beneath a scarecrow, Hicks tells Mason the land — purchased for cheap by Elder Seidel and Herman Baggerly — was intended to be the “village for the Olympics.” Using a shell company and George Gannon's shady accounting skills, they'd planned on making a killing.

Meanwhile, Paul Drake's doing some digging of his own. At a social club, he meets with his precinct's secretary. She's got a soft spot and wandering eye for the patrolman, so she's agreed to bring him a gift. Drake's apparently been playing hooky, suffering from a “stomach bug,” so he's recruited his flirtatious friend to fetch the Dodson case police report.

The next day, on Good Friday, Sister Alice is saving souls from the comfort of her radio studio. As performers reenact Christ's crucifixion for listeners, former church Elder Brown storms in with his anti-Alice supporters. He's also brought the man the preacher “healed” last week. It seems the miracle didn't stick, and the man wants answers. Alice tells him — as well as anyone else tuned in to the “Radiant Hour of Power” — that he lacked faith.

Back in the courtroom, Perry has Hicks on the stand. Despite the smelly garbage drying on his suit — courtesy of an unhappy protester outside — the fledgling attorney is killing it. His witness spills the beans, telling the court the church was essentially stealing from itself, writing checks to a fake company so it could claim it as an asset.

Sensing the jury's confusion and boredom (not to mention us viewers at home starting to scratch our heads), Mason has Hicks break everything down in simple terms. During Hick's time as the church's accountant, the parish extended itself too quickly. They invested in the radio station, wrongly assuming that putting Alice on the airwaves would bring in the big dollars. Saddled with insurmountable debt, Elder Seidel pressured Hicks to cook the books. When he refused, George Gannon was given the task of finessing the church's crooked finances. Seidel came up with the schemes, Gannon kept the ledgers clean. Seidel also bought Hick's silence by gifting him a parcel of land from the doomed real estate investment.

Stunned, but not yet down for the count, D.A. Barnes begins to argue the lack of proof supporting these damning allegations of financial misconduct. But then comes Mason's massive mic drop: He presents piles of ledgers — we now know what was dug up beneath that scarecrow — that Hicks kept over the years to cover his own ass.

During a court recess, Perry gets more good news. Pete's back from Denver, where he's connected one of the kidnappers to Detective Ennis and Elder Seidel. The former two worked as heavies for Colorado Fuel and Iron, where the latter served as chief financial officer. Determined to get Seidel singing like a canary on the stand, Perry sends Pete to put a tail on him.

The hits just keep coming when court resumes. Herman Baggerly is now on the stand, reluctantly admitting he was the Radiant Assembly of God's go-to financial lifeline when its debt got too deep. But Matthew Dodson's wealthy daddy turned off the spigot after the Olympic village deal went south. Three weeks after Baggerly stopped bailing out the Elders, his grandson was kidnapped to the tune of a $100,000 ransom — the same amount the church owed its lenders. With a very satisfied smile stretched across his face, Perry takes a seat. But his thunder is stolen by Elder Brown's brigade, who storm the court with a smoke bomb.

With the trial cut short for the day, Perry and Della track down Emily in the hall. They tell her the church doesn't have her best interest at heart and suggest she avoid the cemetery on Easter Sunday. But Mrs. Dodson's already inebriated on Sister Alice's Kool-Aid, believing everyone will be begging for her forgiveness once Charlie rises from the grave.

Meanwhile, Pete's keeping a close eye on Seidel, who, coincidentally, is in the process of being denied a bank loan for the church. Once outside, the Elder spots his tail and attempts to evade Strickland by blending in with a crowd of protesters. To Pete and Perry's dismay, Seidel disappears. This leads to a friendship-killing fallout between the two. Pete even suggests that Perry hire Paul Drake for future sleuthing jobs (a callback to the character's role in the original Perry Mason, and possibly a nod to his future on HBO's version.)

Perry sees another close relationship fractured this episode, as his girlfriend informs him she's purchased his house. She has half-jokingly threatened this throughout the season, but an auction triggered by Mason's unpaid property taxes presented an opportunity too good for the pilot to pass up. She plans to build an airstrip where Perry's childhood home sits, but promises not to disturb his parents' graves. “Isn't that f—king generous,” replies Perry before leaving.

Della's also at a social engagement, albeit a far less contentious one. Enjoying cigs and spirits with Deputy D.A. Hamilton Burger — who we learn has a thing for young waiters — she asks if he can stop the planned resurrection with a court order. We also discover the pair are good friends, comfortably exchanging playful banter as easily as talking business.

Having scored the doctored police report from his coworker, Paul Drake's on the case. He's scouting a motel where the kidnappers stayed, possibly with baby Dodson. After striking out with the manager, a motel maid secretly offers Drake the goods. Not only were the suspects there with a baby, but another man and his “Chinese wife” were called in for assistance when the little one wouldn't stop crying. Paul delivers the intel to Perry, and the two conclude Ennis — and an acquaintance from his favorite Asian whorehouse — were actually the “married” couple in question.

Speaking of the scumbag detective, we finally catch up with Ennis at the episode's 40-minute mark. He's meeting Seidel on a remote road, helping the corrupt church Elder flee town and avoid court. Upon admitting he'd fold under pressure if Mason forced him to take the stand, Seidel ponders his crimes: “What we did to that baby...” Ennis cuts him short, “Yeah, no one wanted that. We were just trying to help.” But it's all lip service, as Ennis just wants to send him on a bus to San Diego. At least that's what he tells him. In reality, he wants to eliminate this loose end. He stabs the Elder dozens of times, then makes it look like a robbery-gone-wrong.

Perry and Paul pay a visit to the whorehouse. Due to his race, Drake is turned away. Mason makes it in and is immediately instructed to pick his pleasure from a book of cartoon porn. Embarrassed, he mumbles something about “milkmaids” and points to an illustration of a woman squirting breast milk onto a man wearing a diaper. Once alone with the sex worker, he begins questioning her. There's a language barrier, but he learns it was another woman, who's now dead, that was taken to the motel by Ennis. Upon receiving this lead, Perry's dragged outside by security, where he gets what's gotta be, like, this poor guy's third beating this season. Drake comes to his rescue, however, in a satisfying scene that makes a strong case for the two starring in a buddy-cop spin-off.

Beaten but undeterred, Perry pays his friendly neighborhood coroner a visit. Virgil reluctantly shows him the body of an Asian “Jane Doe” he believes was a prostitute. Based on the tracks of needle punctures in her arm, he also surmises she's a heroin addict. Mason asks what the effect would be on an infant nursing from a “junked-up mother.” The coroner somberly replies, “He'd suffocate.”

As “Chapter 7” heads into the home stretch, we're finally invited to Sister Alice's Easter Sunday festivities. With what looks like the entire city of Los Angeles in attendance, Alice, Birdy, and Emily arrive at the cemetery to bring baby Dodson back from the dead. Perry begs his client to leave and asks the Sister to abandon the service. Neither of them listens.

With one hand on Charlie's exhumed casket and the other raised to the heavens, Alice begins. But the coffin is empty. Absolute mayhem ensues. Fistfights erupt, flashbulbs go off, Perry gets gut-punched — again — and Emily drags herself toward her dead son's vacant grave. “I don't care anymore. I just want to be in there,” she cries. Birdy's posse scoops up Alice, while Perry picks up Emily and escapes with Della, just as someone cracks the windshield of their car.

But the chaos is just beginning, at least for Sister Alice. Birdy instructs their driver to take a detour, abandoning the motorcade aiding their escape. Their car stops before a crowd of people in the street. Birdy exists the vehicle, wades into the gathering, and emerges cradling a bundled baby. “Charlie Dodson lives!” she screams to stunned onlookers. As a shell-shocked Alice approaches, her mother says, “You did this. This is your miracle.” But Alice clearly isn't down with whatever Birdy is cooking up.

Sensing her daughter is not onboard, Birdy leans in and whispers, “There's too much at stake. There's nothing else out there. It's just you and me, Alice.” The Sister looks at her mother with a dead, ghost-like stare — not unlike the one she shot the pedophile at the episode's start — before breaking into a sprint. While Birdy instructs the press to report on the “miracle baby,” Alice continues to run full speed from the scene.

The episode ends with a close-up shot of her running — mouth agape, blood streaking down her face — as if her life depends on it.

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Episode Recaps

Perry Mason: Season 1

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
  • UNRATED
director
  • Jack Arnold
  • Earl Bellamy

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