Poirot (Classic): S05E02 “The Underdog”

Mais ouis, but it is good to be back! Unfortunately, your faithful chronicler is now the the death grip of a nasty sinus infection, and so we have but time for an abbreviated recap this week. This would make me sadder if A) I didn’t have a headache the size of Milwaukee constantly pounding my skull from the inside out and B) this were an episode worthy of more than a few bullet points.

Here’s the setup: Blustery jackass Sir Reuben Astwell is murdered in his study one night after a weekend dinner party involving no small amount of family, business associates, and of course Poirot and Our Man Hastings. There’s a MacGuffin involved in the form of “Astroprene“, a new synthetic rubber compound Astwell is planning to license out to pre-war Germany, much to the consternation of his wife and brother.

The Good:

  • Sir Reuben is exactly the sort of person who would hide an office safe behind a gaudy self-portrait, to wit:


  • Poirot is initially excited to check out Astwell’s collection of Belgian bronze figurines, and assumes Astwell must be a person of rare taste and sophistication. His realization that Astwell is a cheap, greedy, brute is pretty funny.
  • Miss Lemon is a hypnotist. Of course she is!

The Bad:

  • Virtually everything else about the episode is by-the-numbers procedural, without the benefit of a clever crime or compelling suspects to keep us engaged. The victim is so odious that we’re never really invested in caring about whodunnit or, worse, the how or the whydunnit.
  • Speaking of: the motive is… uh… a little stupid?

    So the murderer (the improbably named Horace Trefusis) is a chemist working for Astwell who had a contract guaranteeing him a lot of money based on how much Astroprene was produced by Astwell. But since Astwell was going to outsource production to Germany, Horace would get nothing? A) That’s a terrible contract, B) it’s unclear how stealing a copy of the contract solves Horace’s problems, and C) getting caught in the middle of sneaking out of the office attempting to steal said contract, panicking, then murdering your boss because you’ve had enough of his bullying would play a lot better if you weren’t the one person in the episode we never see getting bullied.

  • The script’s inability to make hay out of Our Man at a golf tournament or in a high speed car chase borders on unforgivable at this point.
  • The whole thing is just dull, without any memorable dialogue, scenes, or even direction to remark on.

The Ugly:

  • It’s revealed as soon as the body is discovered that the murder weapon was one of the bronze figurines in Astwell’s study. At no point does anyone bother to suggest checking it for fingerprints, which would pretty much have solved this case in ten minutes flat.
  • “The Underdog” is a terrible, terrible title for this episode.


Next Week on Poirot: Our Belgian finds himself with the opportunity to solve a case from his past! He may get a second chance at justice, but will the killer get a second chance at murder?!? Find out in… “The Yellow Iris”!