Erghhhh…. look, gang, it’s not a great episode this week.
I mean, to borrow the title of a much more interesting episode we’ll see in the future, cards on the table here: the plot is at once too complicated and too simple.
Belgian film star Marie Marvell (Rosalind Bennett, looking every bit the ingenue) and her husband Gregory Rolf (Oliver Cotton, looking every bit like a vampire in a zoot suit) are visiting London when she receives threatening letters about her diamond, the Western Star. The letters purport to be from a Chinese person blaming her for the theft of the “left eye” of an ancient Chinese idol, and say that when the full moon comes it will be “returned”.
JUST SO HAPPENS that Marie and Greg are visiting their friends the Yardlys, and Mrs. Yardly (Caroline Goodall) has a companion diamond, the Eastern Star (though Marie doubts the existence of it). She too has been receiving the same type of letters warning her to return the diamond.
Anyway, there’s also a shady German gem collector named Von Braks running around London that Japp is tailing. He’s well connected, as witnessed when Japp arrests him and is promptly ordered to let him go.
Poirot and Hastings go to visit the Yardlys, where they learn that they’re frankly broke, and that Mr. Yardly is planning on selling the Eastern Star to cover costs. The lights go out, and the Eastern Star is ripped from Mrs. Yardly’s neck; the thief escapes, with only a piece of silk from a Chinese robe left behind as a clue.
That same night, the World’s Stupidest Night Manager at the hotel Marie and Greg are staying at opens up the lockbox the Western Star is being kept in and hands it over to… well, to someone who dressed like Greg, which was apparently good enough for the World’s Stupidest Night Manager to hand over the diamond. “He signed a receipt,” the World’s Stupidest Night Manager offers in his own defense.
In an explanation that’s delivered halfway through the episode by, uh, Mrs. Yardly:
Mrs. Y and Greg had a fling in California some years back, and she wrote some saucy letters, as one does. Greg blackmailed her into giving him the Eastern Star, which he promptly gave Marie as a wedding present, renaming it the “Western Star”. The “Eastern Star” that was stolen from Mrs. Y’s neck was a paste copy she had made, and when she realized her husband wanted her to sell it she panicked and staged the theft complete with fake letters and a piece of silk to throw suspicion on a nonexistent “Chinaman”.
Which… fine, I guess, but there’s little suspense to be had once Mrs. Y drops that particular penny. The rest of the episode is spent watching
Greg steal his own diamond from the World’s Stupidest Night Manager Who Wasn’t All That Stupid After All, I Guess? by – ahem – wearing his own clothes and wearing makeup to slant his eyes upward. Ye Gods.
We then follow these dopes around as Poirot convinces a fence to switch fake and real diamonds with Greg, who wants to sell the Eastern Star to Von Braks, who spots the fake, still probably isn’t arrested, and Poirot breaks the news to Mme. Marvell that her husband is a jerk in a scene entirely in French. Greg is arrested at the airport wearing a goofy-ass fur coat.
We end on Hastings and Poirot having dinner together, with Hastings still under the impression that a nefarious Chinese person was involved. Wokka wokka wokka!
I just didn’t care for this at all, despite a couple of funny moments Hastings-wise: he preens as a great detective when Mrs. Y comes to see Poirot, jumping to conclusions (and arguably being responsible for Mrs. Y’s fraud in the first place) under the impression he’s using “Ice. Cold. Logic.” And the gag at the end where we learn he’s still convinced there’s a “Chinaman” behind the whole thing was an unexpected laugh, even if it does make Our Man out to be more of an idiot than is warranted.
Poirot’s deference to Mme. Marvell with a deep bow at her door was worth a chuckle, as was the running gag about nobody realizing Belgium even had film stars.
Everything else, though, was just a slog. Don’t get me started on the whole business with the hotel night manager and Greg’s sort-of-not-really-disguise. Let’s just move on, as I’ve already spent more words on this episode than it deserves.
In Two Weeks, On Poirot: We did it, folks! That’s a wrap on Series 2 of the show, which I’d characterize as pretty uneven, all told. Some fun highs, but some low lows, and a few episodes which commit the ultimate TV sin of being boring. But! Our prize is that we get to move on to Series 3, which we’ll kick off after the holiday week with our heroes’ origin story. A former Army captain! A Belgian refugee! A country manor and a poisoned matriarch! It’s “The Mysterious Affair At Styles”!