Sacre bleu! Your Man Marlowespade is taking a vacation this week, but didn’t want to go without posting a few thoughts on this episode, the third in what is rapidly becoming the Season of Strychnine.
Short version: a bank sends a million bucks’ worth of Liberty Bonds on the Queen Mary bound for New York. After two attempts on the life of the manager intending to travel with the bonds, the bank sends a troubled employee to keep watch over them instead – with Our Heroes along for the trip as well. Upon arriving in NYC, though, a locked case is opened to reveal that the bonds have been stolen!
- Hastings’ joy at getting to travel on the Queen Mary, then getting
seasickfood poisoning promptly upon arriving (which, honestly, given his previous episodes on all manner of boats is probably true, even if it’s funnier if it’s not).
- The newsreel footage showing our heroes in line to board and Suchet’s expression of discomfort to the camera.
- A disguise that doesn’t give away the plot or actively look stupid!
- A bait-and-switch shell game of a plot that manages to keep throwing up enough distractions to keep one guessing.
- A few snarky zingers from Our Belgian towards the bank security officer McNeil
- A neat little callback to “The Lost Mine” as Miss Lemon and Hastings point out that Poirot ruined the last bank he did work for.
- Little details during the front half of the episode add up to important plot points in the back half (Vavasour’s failing eyesight, the location of the keys).
- A credible number of suspects larger than “one”.
- A relatively high percentage of scenes in which Hugh Fraser gets to exclaim some variation of, “I say!”
- I thought for sure the ol’ strychnine-in-the-coffee trick was gonna be more cliched than it actually was. Nicely done.
- A little credulous in terms of playing with the timeline and the presence of the culprit aboard the Queen Mary, who apparently wasn’t missed at all by visitors/associates while indulging in skulduggery?
- I spent way too much time typing the above line trying to think of a portmanteau for “indulging” and “skulduggery” but couldn’t get farther than “skuldulging” and I am SO disappointed.
- A happy ending for a suspect that kind of handwaves away all the troubling aspects of his character by basically saying, “Yep! Everything’s better now!”
- The ending sort of comes out of nowhere, but it’s sort of supposed to, so I can’t really fault it for that, especially as the underlying motive – greed – still works for just about anyone anyway.
- A coda that I frankly don’t understand, where Hastings gets weirdly despondent about the fact that it’s possible for a ugly woman to disguise herself as a pretty one? I think the most charitable reading of the scene is that he’s realizing that anyone can pretend to be something that they’re not (and his own susceptibility to attractive women), but… the way it’s played it really just seems ickier and more superficial than that.
All told, it’s a perfectly cromulent episode of Poirot that doesn’t really break any new ground but is a pleasant enough hour to spend with the lads. Good stuff three weeks in a row here, maybe strychnine was the secret ingredient all along?
Next Week, on Poirot: A murdered daughter! Train-based skulduging (I’m gonna make it a thing, dammit)! The word ‘Express’ in the title! It’s… “The Plymouth Express”! What, you were expecting something else?