A tremendous penultimate episode of Perry Mason finally slots the pieces into place, setting up a much-anticipated finale.
This recap of Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 7, “Chapter Fifteen”, contains spoilers.
“Chapter Fifteen”, the penultimate episode of Perry Mason’s second season, opens in media res, with Perry and Pete Strickland schlepping ashore like drowned rats after what looks very much like a dip in the ocean.
There’s no context for the opening. We’ll understand how they got there later, but it scarcely matters. It’s about the image of two aging, scruffy, tired men standing side by side, fed up with the world and their position in it. That’s what Perry Mason – or at least this interpretation of it – is about. You can do the right thing, but it’ll cost you years of your life, a packet of cigarettes, and your leather jacket, at the very least.
Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 7 Recap
Pete is feeling bad. In Episode 6 we learned – or at least figured out – it was him who broke into Perry’s office safe and told Milligan that the gun used to execute Brooks McCutcheon was being kept in there.
Why does Pete offer to help Perry?
While Milligan and Pete drink fancy cognac and toast to victory – the judge in the trial is going to admit the gun as evidence and not declare a mistrial – Pete realizes the error of his ways. The cognac doesn’t go down well. He later calls it “p*ssy punch”. When Milligan offers him a refill, he declines it. “It’s wasted on a guy like me.”
And that’s the point, isn’t it? Pete and Perry might have been waiting to punch each other all season, but they’re still cut from the same cloth. Pete would rather be served a right hand from someone he respects than cognac from a slimeball he loathes. So, he asks Perry to meet him and confesses all. They fight a little, rolling around on the floor huffing and puffing, and eventually, Pete brings the cognac back up onto the concrete. It’s a sobering – literally! – and faintly embarrassing moment, two messy guys realizing they’re old playthings of the powerful.
But at least Pete is on-side now. He wants to help. When Perry brings him into the office and reveals to Della and Paul what he did, another brawl almost erupts – “Do you want to lose two fights today?” – until cooler heads prevail. Pete might have a habit of sticking knives in the backs of those closest to him, but he has his uses.
What is going on with Lydell and the Japanese?
“Chapter Fifteen” finally reveals what has been going on with the McCutcheon boats, the dumped produce, and the oil, and it’s a simpler plot than anyone probably thought.
In a dinner with some Japanese government types, Lydell and Camilla get into a bit of a revelatory spat. Camilla, in what seems like flawless Japanese, talks over Lydell to encourage a change of shipping arrangements given the current heat around the McCutcheon family. Lydell takes it personally. He isn’t consoled by Camilla’s claims that today’s papers wrap tomorrow’s fish. He’s worried about Brooks’s children – his grandchildren – waking up every day without a father, being reminded by the front page of every newspaper that he liked to choke women until their brains short-circuited.
Lydell calls Camilla a “barren spinster”, and Hope Davis sells the barb like he just stuck a knife in her. But it’s an oddly personal attack for a business disagreement. There’s more to this resentment, clearly.
But we know through this scene that Lydell is in bed with the Japanese. When Pete and Perry sneak aboard one of the McCutcheon ships disguised as deckhands and witness the produce being tossed overboard in exchange for oil, we start putting the pieces together. When they get back to the office – after swimming back to shore, catching back up with the cold open – Marion adds the final piece to the puzzle. The oil is for the Japanese military, which has been hamstrung by heavy U.S. embargoes.
Lydell is selling oil to the Japanese. He’s committing treason.
Why was Brooks killed?
This raises the obvious theory that Lydell had Brooks killed because his indiscretions were raising way too much attention around this scheme.
In a flashback, we see that Lydell tried to force Brooks to leave for Havana. His sexual peccadilloes and constant mishaps made him a liability. Lydell had encouraged him to focus on his charitable endeavors, and he had – he tried to use the dumped produce in the soup kitchens, attracting the attention of the Department of Agriculture, who subpoenaed him.
But Lydell dug not only his own grave but that of his son. He deliberately kept Brooks away from the deal with the Japanese, which means he had given him what was essentially blackmail material. When Brooks refuses to go to Havana, he reminds his father that, compared to him, he’s squeaky clean. Suddenly he’s much more of a liability than it first seemed.
What’s going on elsewhere?
Let’s round up some errant subplots before we get to the ending.
Firstly, there’s Clara and Paul, who have a lovely moment this week after Paul confesses to being scared of the predicament he presently finds himself in. He’s worried about the wide-ranging ramifications of his choices, and he’s scared of dragging Clara down with him.
But Clara isn’t that easily dissuaded, so she joins him in staking out the blue sedan he has been tailing, while they reminisce about how they met. When they follow the car home, Clara poses as a Jehovah’s Witness to try and get the owner’s name, but she’s invited inside to discover the woman has overdosed on the couch. While Clara hides, the woman’s husband returns home and finds her catatonic – it’s Camilla’s lawyer, Phippsy.
Hamilton Burger is also being blackmailed by persons as yet unknown, which he confesses to Della, handing her black-and-white photographs of him being intimate with another man. And, finally, Luisa informs Mateo that Rafael has been accepted into art school, putting him in a position where he can take the fall to secure his brother’s future. When Rafael returns from his spell in solitary confinement, though, he’s a wreck, and Mateo tearfully scrunches up the letter, which he had kept hidden under his pillow.
Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 7 Ending Explained
The penultimate episode of the season ends with Perry confronting Lydell at his home, dumping some of the McCutcheon produce on the floor and telling him that he knows everything.
Or, at least, he thinks he does. But despite Lydell evidently being a nasty piece of work, and perfectly willing to use the rifle he was using for skeet shooting with his grandson that he angrily points at Perry’s chest, he didn’t want his own son murdered. So, who did?
The final shots of the episode cut to Camilla playing the piano, being interrupted by photographs of Della taken in the Department of Agriculture office and parking lot. The implication is clear. Camilla is pulling the strings.
You can stream Perry Mason Season 2 Episode 7, “Chapter Fifteen” on HBO and HBO Max.