“Chapter Four” builds to a tragic conclusion, as Sister Alice earns the ire of the Elders and Perry uncovers further coincidences.
This recap of Perry Mason season 1, episode 4, “Chapter Four”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Perry Mason episode 4, the creatively-titled “Chapter Four”, continues from more or less where it left off, with Sister Alice recovering at home after her epileptic prognostications about resurrecting Charlie Dodson. This recovery goes poorly when a baker box delivered by a young couple and their cute little girl turns out to contain snakes; “The Lord refutes you!” the mother shouts as she’s escorted away. Quite.
None of this is made any better when the press gets hold of it, and it’s no good to Emily Dodson anyway, since the presiding judge won’t knock her bail down from $25,000 – though he is willing to stretch to protective custody after the attempt at a forced confession – and Emily’s own husband, Matthew, is set to testify against her. This isn’t just terrible news for her but for E.B. Jonathan, who is wearing the stress of the trial on each of his face’s many crags.
At least Perry and Pete are having fun romanticizing the life of a private investigator for the benefit of Virgil, the coroner they have schmoozed into Perry’s basement where they’d like him to perform an autopsy on George Gannon’s smuggled corpse.
From one bit of unpleasantness to another, the church Elders are naturally concerned about public perception and their bottom line, so it’s imperative that they get Sister Alice back on the pulpit to redact all her claims of bringing babies back from the dead, despite the fact that the doctor recommends an extended period of bed rest. This is justified by Herman Baggerly thusly: “We can no longer afford to teeter on the whims of hysterical women.” Of course.
Fiscal realities are also weighing upon E.B., whose usual bank won’t loan him Emily’s bail money, but things seem to be looking up when Perry informs him of the progression of the case and the possibility of a mastermind, which E.B. wants to use to get Maynard to drop the charges against Emily. No dice, though; Maynard blackmails E.B. with prior instances of “misappropriated funds” from former clients, but he does chew out Holcomb and Ennis after the fact, demanding to know about the so-called “fourth man” Perry had mentioned to E.B. They assure him the case is watertight, but it’s a tough sell.
A clear highlight of Perry Mason episode 4 comes next and is once again thanks to Sister Alice, who is coached by Birdy into half-believing that she “misheard” God’s message, and then wheeled out in front of the press and public to say so. But her prepared statement – signed off by the Elders – is quickly abandoned when a believer rushes through the crowd to deposit a gift at Sister Alice’s feet; a blanket for Charlie Dodson, who’ll be “cold when he gets back.” This inspires Sister Alice to reiterate her promise of resurrection, this time setting a date for the miracle: Easter Sunday. The crowd goes bonkers with the cries of heretic and blasphemer, but also with joy and support.
Another highlight of “Chapter Four” – Della clashing with E.B., who’s increasingly frantic. After a volatile argument, she goes home and decides to take the next day off, leaving him to sleep in his office while wearing his shoes, which doesn’t go unremarked upon when Perry presents him with George’s new autopsy report the next morning. As E.B. and Perry discuss their old age there’s a clear sense of E.B.’s spiraling despair and existential angst. This is a deeply sympathetic character and it’s a tremendous performance from John Lithgow bringing him to life.
Proper sleuth shenanigans are a bit thin on the ground in Perry Mason episode 4, but there are some as Perry and Strickland retrace the kidnappers’ steps from the Dodsons’ hotel room and once again determine that a fourth man was involved; this mysterious perpetrator must have been close by to retrieve the suitcase and get away, and a bridge outside leads to a nearby members’ club where Perry encounters Ennis during a kids’ fundraiser. They enjoy a pretty loaded conversation.
“Chapter Four” ends tragically, but not entirely unexpectedly. First, E.B. visits Emily, whom he tries to convince into taking the plea deal under Barnes’ threat of disbarment, but he can’t go through with it – as she tearfully debates this decision, E.B. finds his resolve, stating, “No, we won’t do this, will we?” He promises Emily that he’ll do what’s best. But what is best for E.B., right now? As it turns out, not living. He goes about his morning routine but tweaks it a little to include opening the oven door and pumping gas fumes into the house. He sits and inhales and waits to die.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.