Poirot (Classic): S11E03 “Third Girl”

Zut alors, but where does the time go, mes amis? Apparently I was supposed to have this up LAST week, but here we are. (In my defense, watching this episode seemed to make time itself slow to a c r a w l.) This one’s getting the bullet point treatment, because honestly… it’s pretty skippable.

  • With a good hook, though! Norma Restarick is recommended to M. Poirot because A) she thinks she killed someone, and B) she lives above Ariadne Oliver.
  • Unfortunately, upon meeing Our Belgian she immediately thinks better of it, and spends the next hour pointedly not engaging his services. To which he decides to take up the murder of her old nanny on his own d’accord.
  • Norma lives in an apartment with two other girls, hence her appellation as “the third girl”, because she’s the one with the crappy bedroom. Eh, it sounded a lot better when Zoe Wanamaker explained it.
  • Did I mention she’s an heiress? Because she’s an heiress, and along with the title of “heiress” comes a few side benefits, like having every single member of your family being motivated to frame you for murder. Chase that paper, Norma! Just sleep with one eye open.
  • But most of the ep is spent being very, very obvious. There’s the “suddenly returned from abroad, haven’t seen-them-in-years” relative who’s probably not who they say they are. There’s a ne’er-do-well shady member of the artisan class who skulks about. There’s the business venture that probably isn’t a business venture. There’s a blind guy who probably isn’t blind (in a shocking twist, he is blind, though I’m not sure skeet shooting at a crowded party is something I’d recommend he do on the regular). By this point we’re on the lookout for every trick in the book, and the episode trots them out dutifully. Not for one minute do we believe that Norma killed anyone.
  • Special mention goes to an extended bit of Ariadne tailing a suspect, in a sequence that manages to be both weirdly long and strangely uneventful until she gets caught and subsequently bonked on the head.
  • Characters and plot points just sort of happen here, and nobody remarks on them. Did someone in hysterics just call her dad a phony, slash his self-portrait and run upstairs crying in front of the whole garden party? Yes, they did. Does anyone seem to care in the slightest? No, they do not. They sort of look concerned and then we’re back to “Brandy in the foyer, then?” None of the threads in the narrative seem to connect to anything, much less themselves, and there’s not much sense of a coherent story here.
  • Spoiler

    The schoolteacher was a tutor and the mistress of the father who sired a half-sister who’s the real killer because she has a heretofore unseen blinding psychopathy towards Norma and her inheritance?

    [collapse]
    Erm, what now? I’m all for third-act twists, but this one really came out of nowhere, and I didn’t buy it. You can’t just have Poirot tell us the motivation, you’ve at least got to back it up with some dialogue, or facial expressions, or something to sell us on the explanation.
  • I haven’t read this one, but it feels like something significant was left out of the adaptation that makes this all just a tad more believable in the execution and resolution of the murders.
  • Also, it’s a bit cruel. Norma has a severe trauma in her past, which is not only preyed upon by our criminal but is leveraged by Poirot himself to catch the killer. And although there’s a happy ending of sorts (and a big emotional moment for Suchet), Norma’s father’s final words as relayed to her at the end are just a dagger. Perfectly in character, mind you, but I thought needlessly vicious.
  • Ultimately, it’s got all the elements you’d expect of a Poirot, but it never comes together for me as anything but a bit soggy. Felt a lot like they were definitely at the stage of, “Well, if we’re gonna do ’em all, we’ve gotta get this one out of the way.” Wanamaker gets her biggest role in the series to date here, and it’s great, but nothing else really held much interest save for Poirot treading further down the getting-old-and-starting-to-regret-how-he’s-prioritized-his-life path.

Next Week (SERIOUSLY) on Poirot:  Wadsworth! Belloq! Mycroft Holmes! It’s Our Belgian’s final appearance at an archaeological dig, and it’s… well… out of all the Poirot episodes, this certainly is one of them. Write it down in your datebook then cryptically rip out the page, because we have an… “Appointment With Death”!