Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will

It’s New Year’s Eve, and a gathering of middle-aged friends is counting down the last few seconds to 1926. They toast the New Year as three children—two boys and a girl—watch secretly from above. The host—Andrew—thanks his friends for being there and reveals he’s pretty darn rich, thanks to his incredible luck of having happened to buy a farm on top of a copper seam. His lawyer takes the moment to announce that Andrew’s drawn up a will that heavily favors a local medical foundation of which another guest—Dr. Pritchard—is chairman. Pritchard promises to use the money well. Two bequests are left to the young boys upstairs—Robert Siddaway and Peter Baker. Their mothers thank Andrew, but another guest points out that Andrew’s left nothing to his ward, young Violet. Andrew shrugs that she’s a girl, so she’ll get married and doesn’t need money. Yes, marriages come cheap, you know. His lady guest is disgusted.

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Poirot: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Ahh, springtime. When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and other people’s fancies turn to thoughts of murder. At least, that’s how it is in this case.

We start off with a good closeup of the Soviet flag, flying over the Soviet embassy in London, presumably. A woman in a totally covetable gray coat strides purposefully inside and meets one of the officials, whose office is primarily decorated by a HUGE portrait of Stalin. She doesn’t get to admire the décor, because he comes downstairs to meet her in the hall, where they have an exchange in Russian that, unhelpfully, is not subtitled, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’re talking about. He sounds annoyed (though I’ll admit, Russian always sounds annoyed or angry to me), and she seems to be pleading. That’s all I’ve got. At the end, they exchange smiles, and she hands him an envelope. As he heads back to his office, he opens it and pulls out a ticket to the Chelsea Flower show that, for some reason, has WTF stamped across it in big, red letters. I know it didn’t meant the same thing back then as it does now, but I still laughed when I saw that.

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“The Woman I Love”

On June 3, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, Duke of Windsor and former King of the United Kingdom, married Wallis Warfield Simpson, the woman he gave up the throne for. The lead-up to the marriage, with its sordid affair and constitutional crisis, is fairly well known. Suffice it to say, the twice-divorced Wallis was not popular in Britain after Edward vacated the throne … Continue reading “The Woman I Love”

South Riding: Bad Romance

Previously on South Riding: Lydia’s mom died, and she had to leave school to take care of her siblings. Sarah almost seduced Robert, but he was too overcome with guilt over making his wife crazy to seal the deal.

The morning after the affair that wasn’t, Sarah comes tripping down the stairs to the front desk of the hotel and asks them to ring Robert’s room. They inform her he checked out early that morning. She asks if there are any messages. There aren’t. Honestly, what did she expect? Does he seem like the type to leave love notes around hotels?

Sarah drives to Mrs. B’s house, and Mrs. B’s pretty confused, because it’s Christmas Eve and she knows Sarah’s supposed to be with her sister’s family in Manchester. Sarah says she changed her mind. Probably because she wore and therefore essentially ruined her sister’s gift.

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South Riding: So Sorry

Previously on South Riding: Sarah Burton showed up and got the job of new headmistress at the school. She wasn’t in town five minutes before butting heads with Robert, a local landowner with plenty of problems. Also, the town’s trying to clean up their slums, and some hellfire and brimstone-preaching type is being blackmailed by the local prostitute.

Sarah wanders the school and finds Lydia in one of the classrooms, bent over a book. She asks Lydia what she’s doing there and Lydia explains she’s doing her homework, because it’s too loud and crowded at home. Sarah invites her to her office and hands her a new coat to replace the one she’s wearing, which is too small. She also offers to let Lydia study in her office and suggests the girl could try for Oxford someday. The teacher who was being pushed around by her class last week shows up and asks for a word, so Sarah sends Lydia away. The teacher closes the door after her and says there’s a problem with Midge.

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South Riding: The Schoolmarm Cometh

Laura Linney starts off telling us all about how the deaths of so many men in the First World War left lots of women with nobody to marry (as one would imagine), and the author of the novel this is based on was one such woman. Write what you know.

As a man gallops a horse along a beach and through the countryside, a young woman in bright red sits on a train, smoking and writing in a journal. She hops off the train at a station and hauls ass to wherever she’s going, leaping onto a moving bus and everything. Meanwhile, the horseman dismounts (presumably at home) and Isobel Crawley calls ladies in to an interview. Red Dress finally arrives at the interview spot, and soon our unnamed horseman arrives as well. Isobel (that’s what I’m calling her until she gets a real name) ribs him for arriving just in time for the finish.

Red Dress (and I must ask—is a scarlet red dress really appropriate attire for a job interview? As a schoolteacher?) is in for her interview with a panel of mostly men, plus Isobel. One of them notes her empire experience—she taught in the Transvaal before going to London. Isobel informs her that this isn’t a fancy school, like they have in London, and Red Dress (oh, hell, her name’s Sarah Burton) counters that if one has high expectations, the girls will rise to meet them. Some will. Isobel’s not sure Sarah knows what she’s in for, in this far northern town, but Sarah zings them all by saying she does, actually, because she grew up nearby. Horseman doesn’t seen so keen on her, so now we know they’re totally going to hook up by the end of this. We’ve all seen this situation before. He’s totally the Mr. Darcy of this film.

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Upstairs Downstairs: The Cuckoo

Image: BBC

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: Housemaid Rachel died suddenly, leaving her child alone in the world, so Hallam took her in, despite his wife’s objections.

Not a moment after walking through the front door, Hallam’s intercepted by his mother, who bitches about his and Agnes’s plan to name the baby Hector, if it’s a boy, instead of after Hallam’s father. If it’s a girl, she naturally expects the baby to be named after her. Oh, yeah, I’m sure Agnes would be delighted with that. Name speculation is rife throughout the house; even the servants are putting their two cents in.

In other child news, Rachel’s daughter, Lotte, is being looked after by the staff; we see her sitting on the outside steps leading down to the kitchen entrance, looking bored, while Ivy jumps rope and teaches her some alphabet rhyme. She stops and scolds the poor kid for failing to realize she was supposed to jump in when Ivy got to “L”. The fun’s interrupted by the arrival of Pritchard, who pointedly tells Ivy that some cakes have gone missing. Ivy claims they were for Lotte, and since the kid’s apparently not talking, she doesn’t argue this. Pritchard glares at Ivy for a moment before going inside.

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Upstairs Downstairs: The Ladybird

Image: BBC

Previously on Upstairs Downstairs: The Hollands moved into 165 Eaton Place, hired a staff that included former housemaid Rose, and were joined by eccentric and annoying relatives.

Rose comes rushing down the stairs to the kitchen, bitching about the paper being late, which means there’ll be no time to iron it. She snippily asks why breakfast hasn’t gone up yet and hears it’s because Agnes’s maraschino cherry-topped graperfruit is holding up the show. Really? Come on, folks.

Upstairs, the grapefruit has been deposited in front of Agnes, and Maude offers up this gem of a line, regarding the monkey: “he’s doing it again. He’s caressing that cherry with his eyes.” I honestly don’t know whether to be grossed out by that, or to crack up entirely. Agnes is not amused, but she hands the cherry over to the monkey.

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Mildred Pierce, Part V

Previously on Mildred Pierce: Mildred opened a chain of restaurants but was still unable to please the dreadful Veda, who finally took one step too far when she wound up blackmailing some poor sap. So, Mildred kicked her out of the house, and Veda became a singing star.

Mildred intercepts Mr. Treviso as he’s leaving the music school and introduces herself as Veda’s mother. That immediately puts the man on his guard. Mildred fails to notice and plows on, telling him she’d like him to start forwarding Veda’s bills directly to her. Treviso tells her no way and excuses himself. Mildred gapes for a bit and follows him outside to protest. Treviso speaks for the audience when he asks Mildred why she wants this girl back so badly anyway. He continues to be awesome by going on to say that Veda’s a really talented coloratura, but a spectacularly awful human being, and he’s not interested in pissing her off.  Plus, Veda warned him that, after she was on the radio, her pathetic mother would probably come around and start trying to pay for the lessons, and if that was the case, he was to send her packing. Wow, does Veda have her mother pegged or what? How does she know Mildred so well and Mildred knows Veda so little?

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Mildred Pierce Part IV

Previously on Mildred Pierce: Mildred opened her first restaurant, to great acclaim, and started raking in enough cash to keep Veda somewhat satisfied. She also allowed Monty to start a seriously inapproprate relationship with her young daughter, and when she finally wakes up to that (and to how totally insufferable he’s making her kid), Mildred breaks up with him.

Jaunty music brings us to the coast, where waves crash, seagulls wheel, and Mildred and Lucy arrive at a large clapboard house to scope it out as the next outpost of Mildred’s fast-growing waffle house empire. Lucy approves, even though she wonders if Mildred’s stretching herself a bit thin, financially, having already opened a second place in Beverly Hills, run by Ida. Mildred wants Lucy to run the new beachfront place, and after some persuading, Lucy agrees, as long as they don’t do chicken. She knows people don’t come to the shore for chicken, so they’ll come for surf ‘n turf instead, which Lucy apparently invents right then and there. I’ve never really understood the great appeal of surf ‘n turf. I’ve never looked down at a plate and thought “you know what this lobster really needs? A steak!” I mean, how much saturated fat and cholesterol do you really need in one dish?

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