Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Episode-by-episode: The Labours of Hercules

(c) ITV
This episode was based on a series of interconnected short stories, assembled in The Labours of Hercules, first published in 1947. It was adapted by Guy Andrews and directed by Andy Wilson. SPOILERS to follow.

Script versus short story collection
This adaptation was a Herculean task (to borrow the pun). Fans - me included - have been discussing for years how the team behind Poirot would ever be able to adapt this collection. Essentially, this is a series of thematically interconnected stories. They are linked together by Poirot's decision to do only a selected number of cases before he retires, and all the cases are to resemble the labours of Hercules in some way or other. Now, in the earlier years of the series, this could almost certainly have been expanded into a series of 50 minute episodes, and a part of me is disappointed that this didn't happen. But for those of us who know a bit about the history of the television series, that would probably never have happened. As a matter of fact, it's remarkable that they even got to make all the other short stories in the early years, before the series was effectively cancelled in 1994/1995.(That is not to say that I wouldn't have loved to see these as a series of episodes!). Considering that the final series nearly didn't happen - and the fact that this collection was one of the candidates to be dropped - I think we've been lucky to see an adaptation of it at all.

The scriptwriter chosen for this difficult task was Guy Andrews. Just to remind you: he also scripted The Mystery of the Blue Train, Taken at the Flood and Appointment with Death. That's one weak, one slightly unbelievable, and one terrible adaptation (in very crude terms). As you will know if you've read my episode-by-episode look at Appointment with Death, that's a very clear candidate for my least favourite episode of Poirot. It's saved by the beautiful cinematography, music, production design and acting. I was more than a little nervous when I heard that he had been commissioned for The Labours of Hercules. At the same time, this adaptation called for changes. Radical changes. And I was perfectly prepared to accept loads of them if he - against all odds - managed to make it work.


I think he did. It's not perfect and it's not 'complete', since all the stories aren't included. But it actually works as a full-length episode. Andrews' crucial decision was to create a new story using elements from several of the short stories. The prominent short stories here are 'The Arcadian Deer', 'The Erymanthian Boar', 'The Augenean Stables', 'The Stymphalean Birds', 'The Girdle of Hippolyta' and 'The Capture of Cerberus'. 'Boar' is definitely the central one, though. We get a political scandal ('The Augenean Stables'), an art theft ('The Girdle of Hippolyta'), a murdered girl, Lucinda LeMesurier (a reference to the only unfilmed short story, The LeMesurier Inheritance), a heart-broken chauffeur (mechanic in the story, 'The Arcadian Deer') reunited at the end of the episode with his Nita (aka the ballet dancer Katrina Samoushenka), two con-artists and an easily fooled Foreign Office secretary ('The Stymphalean Birds'), the marvellous Countess Vera Rossakoff, her daughter (daughter-in-law in the story), a dog and a doctor (from 'The Capture of Cerberus'). Nearly all of these characters are gathered in one location, the Hotel Olympus in the Swiss Alps ('The Erymathian Boar'), joined by a dodgy hotel manager (partly inspired by 'The Stymphalean Birds'), a shifty waiter, a parlor-game enthusiast and a mysterious master criminal called Marrascaud ('The Erymanthian Boar).

This means that six of the short stories have been more or less properly adapted. The remaining six have not been adapted, but there are some elements of the adaptation that might be linked to them, if you look hard enough. (You can skip this paragraph if you disagree). Elements of 'The Cretan Bull' are in the relationship between Katrina Samoushenka and Dr Lutz. He is playing with her mind, convincing her that she is mad, much like Hugh Chandler is manipulated in the short story. Dr Lutz might also share a passing resemblance with Dr Andersen from 'The Flock of Geryon'. Lutz might be working on Katrina in order to have her money (assuming she has some, since she's a world famous ballerina). Also, in a conversation with Poirot, he is most anxious to underline that he is 'not a Nazi'. This could be seen as a reference either to Lutzmann in Christie's first version of 'The Capture of Cerberus', or a reference to Dr Andersen in 'The Flock of Geryon', who was expelled from university in Nazi-Germany for being a Jew. Moreover, Alice is charismatic, just like Dr Andersen; she persuades Katrina into hiding the diamond necklace for her, and makes Gustave do her 'dirty work' for her. Binky, Alice's dog, whom Poirot refers to as Cerberus, could also be a reference to 'The Nemean Lion', as could Alice herself (the central criminal of the adaptation, much like Amy Carnaby in the short story collection, and Dr Lutz, who might be Binksy's true owner, since the dog recognised him so instantly (cf Sir Joseph Hoggin). The scapegoating of Katrina could also be seen as a link to Tony Hawker in 'The Horses of Diomedes'. The false rumours surrounding Harold Waring (who has taken the blame for the Foreign Secretary) can be considered a reference to 'The Lernean Hydra'). The diamond necklace is possibly a reference to 'The Apples of Hesperides'. Poirot says he 'knows the story of these stones' (though, in context, this seems to refer to the story of how Katrina has been hiding them). Tom, a reader of the blog, suggested that the diamonds might be called 'apples', similar to Ruth Kettering's 'heart of fire' from The Mystery of the Blue Train. This would tie in well with the goblet from the short story, which also has a long history behind it. Finally, the character Countess Rossakoff recognises from a night club in Brindisi could be a reference to the drugs ring in 'The Horses of Diomedes'. Admittedly, these connections are very far-fetched, but they underline the fact that The Labours of Hercules could be considered more or less adapted.

After a few false turns, including the subplots from 'The Stymphalean Birds' and 'The Arcadian Deer', Poirot reveals the culrpit Marrascaud to be Alice Cunningham, Rossakoff's daughter. She stole the jewels and hid a series of paintings (collectively titled 'The Labours of Hercules' - a clever way to include the title) in the hotel. Poirot restores order, and reunites 'Nita' with the chauffeur.

Certain elements of this adaptation don't seem to work. For instance, I was not too pleased about the Mexican stand-off in the denouement scene, and I am still not convinced that bringing together all these different people with different accents was an entirely good idea. It's more over-the-top than we've been used to with Poirot. 

Having said that, I think the decision to focus on Poirot's inner journey (as a sort of sequel to the turmoil he was facing at the end of The Murder on the Orient Express) was an incredibly wise one. This is the penultimate episode of the series. Not only is there a need to continue challenging Poirot's ideas of justice and morality; it's also appropriate to give him a chance to recollect his thoughts on his career and his choices in life. Tom, the chauffeur, is a reminder of what he has missed out on in life. As Dr Burton puts it, Poirot has had a remarkable career 'at the expense of having a family'. In my opinion, Andrews manages to combine these two threads of Poirot's character in the reappearance of Countess Rossakoff and her daughter. He is challenged by Rice and Clayton, who suggest; 'The Countess Rossakoff is a criminal, monsieur, and you have done nothing to promote her arrest. You could do the same for us'. Poirot declines the threat, stating that 'Poirot, he will not be pressed'. However, when he reveals the culprit to be Countess Rossakoff's daughter, and Rossakoff tries to convince him to let her go, he is more explicit:

'I am not the law, Countess'
'Hercule. Spare my daughter. Spare her as years ago you spared me. Please, dorogoy.'
'No Countess. Poirot, he is not your love. He is Poirot'
'Then I shall accompany my daughter. A love like ours could have burnt down a city. Such a waste.'

Re-introducing Rossakoff  is important, because Poirot is able to confront both his sense of justice (where is the line between an 'acceptable' and an 'unacceptable' crime, and how far can he stretch his role as judge, jury and executioner?), and his loneliness. In the end, Poirot draws the line at allowing Marrascaud aka Alice to escape justice, and he realises that he made the decision about 'family life' several years ago. The final scene, in which he looks down on a pair of cufflinks he was given by the Countess, seems to suggest that he has reconciled himself with the decision to leave the Countess behind.

Poirot's inner journey of self-discovery and redemption is also emphasised in his scenes with Alice. She suggests a link to the episode title that I am a lot more intrigued by:

'The Labours of Hercules. That is how you unconsciously conceive your career. You are the modern incarnation of Hercules.'
'How resourceful of me.'
'Dr Lutz should name a condition after you: the Hercules complex; the compulsion to conquer all obstacles however forbidding. It is why you are driven to chase Marrascaud. You simply have to.'

To me, this is what truly elevates this adaptation to the level of a character study. Andrews links the mythological figure to the fictional detective by emphasising their common purpose. Poirot is convinced that his raison d'etre in life is to rid the world of crime, as he says to Hastings in Peril at End House (the novel). Faced with failure, he has once again plunged into an investigation of a missing maid (cf The Adventure of the Clapham Cook), and by chance been given the possibility of catching the criminal who killed the girl he had promised to protect. His aim, of sorts, is redemption. But has he redeemed himself? Alice Cunningham suggests that he hasn't.

'Do you feel redeemed, monsieur? Does this atone for the death of Lucinda? Because that was a bit of a mess, wasn't it. I heard you say the words Poirot promising to protect her. You poor man's Hercules. So vain, so ineffably smug, and you failed... Don't turn your back on me. I shall find you.'
'I shall not hide.'

Although the adaptation ends with the reuniting of the lovers from 'The Arcadian Deer' and Poirot seems to reconcile himself with his decision to 'travel alone' in life, I think this scene is left ambiguous for a reason. Poirot has solved the case, but he has not remained unchanged after years of murder and horror. This is important, because it helps set the scene for the final Curtain.

Poirot's journey (...) is a rather brilliant classic hero's tale. Poirot is at a low ebb, is given a mission, takes up the call to action, receives help and hindrance from various shades of his life and past and arriving at a physically cleansed and renewed position where he no longer has to "hide" himself  and his doubt. 
(Andy Wilson, director) 

I realise now that this has evolved into a discussion of Poirot's character and Suchet's interpretation, instead of a straight-forward look at Andrews' adaptation. However, I think it's necessary to include this, because I am convinced this is why the adaptation works for me. Yes, the premise is silly. Yes, it's not perfect. Yes, we didn't get all the short stories. Yes, some of the characters are caricature. But this is an elaborate character study of the man we have become so familiar with. It's a point to reassemble Poirot's thoughts on himself and our thoughts on Poirot. In the words of Goethe (and Poirot): 'the threshold is the place to pause'. We are at the threshold, just about to enter the base, the finale of Curtain. What better place to reassemble the loose ends (loneliness, professional life, love life etc) and prepare to enter?

Direction, production design, locations, soundtrack
Andy Wilson's direction is perfection itself in this episode. Some viewers have complained that it's too dark, but his note in the episode press pack  gives the reason for this: 

'After a bright and garishly coloured opening sequence, when Poirot visits his doctor and in the journey through the hotel, colours will be drained and subdued, at the hotel almost monochrome. The snow ad landscape and the pale interior of the hotel itself lending weight to the monochromatic state of Poirot's feelings; the world for him has become colourless as he cannot find the energy to engage his little grey cells in proper employment. The film should have a slightly psychotic tone.'

His directing choices are interesting and not distracting. Several of the scenes have been beautifully shot. I particularly enjoyed the evening scenes at the hotel, as Poirot, Rossakoff and Alice play 'snap'. There's also a brilliant shift of location from the entrance hall to Poirot's hotel room, as Suchet turns around (rather like the recent Sherlock series).

Jeff Tessler's production design is as good as ever. Despite the heavy use of CGI, the team almost manage to convince us that this is a snow-bound hotel, when in fact the episode was shot mainly on location at RAF Halton House, Aylesbury.There's a glimpse of Whitehaven Mansions, too, through the window of Poirot's car, but I can't tell if that's footage from a previous episode. It probably is. Read the interview with him in the press pack if you are interested in the production team's process. Other locations used include The Funicular, Saint Hilaire du Touvet, in France (yes, the funicular was actually shot on location, but the inside was re-built as a set at Pinewood Studios), and the pavilions at Syon House, Brentford (the chauffeur sequences).

Christian Henson's soundtrack is particularly good in this episode. Such a shame that it isn't released on the new soundtrack album. There's a touch of the old theme tune (see, for instance, the moment when Poirot considers taking on the chauffeur's case), and a general sense of nostalgia mixed with psychological thrillers. Excellent.

Characters and actors
This really is the David Suchet Show. Honestly, this is an acting masterclass. We get some hints of Poirot's eccentricities, like him carefully unpacking his 'toiletteries' and his tendency to speak in the third person ('It helps Poirot administer a healthy distance from his genius'). There's also his loneliness and disillusionment (the scenes after the first murder), and his sense of regret (all scenes with Rossakoff). To crown the performance, we have Poirot's matchmaking trait at the end, reminiscent of several previous episodes. (By the way, the little box containing the cufflinks is such a nice homage to 'The Chocolate Box' and Virginie Mesnard's lapel pin vase. Now Poirot wears momenta from both of the women in his life; Countess Rossakoff and Virginie Mesnard.)

Of the guest cast, Orla Brady (taking over the part from Kika Markham) and Simon Callow are the standouts, but all the characters are wonderfully fleshed-out, perhaps because of their short story origins. Brady actually manages to create some sense of continuity from Markham's portrayal, although she's slightly more vivacious and humorous (in keeping with the short story). Callow and Suchet simply interact well together, and they create some classic moments.

78 comments:

  1. It might be on the soundtrack. There's a track called "The White Mountains" and I can't think of where else it could be in other than LABOURS. Speaking of LABOURS, this may sound like an odd question but would you happen to know what font was used for the episode titles? I just (finally!) realized that they've been using it since FIVE LITTLE PIGS (I think).

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    1. I thought so, too, but I've been told that "The White Mountains" is the track that was previously called "Love", from the end scene of "The Clocks". As for the titles; they've used the same font since 2003-2004 (so that includes FIVE LITTLE PIGS, yes). I did a post on that a while back: http://investigatingpoirot.blogspot.com/search/label/titles. I don't know what the name of the font is, but the one from the early series is fairly close to a font called "Plaza Regular".

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  2. I wonder if we'll ever be able to get the soundtrack to this episode? It seems such a shame, it was stunning, especially the final song!

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    1. I hope we do, at least if the new soundtrack is a hit. Or perhaps Henson might upload it to his website, as he did with some of the scores from Series 12. But ufortunately I don't think it's likely.

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  3. Excellent review. For me also, the atmosphere and character study more than made up for any plot niggles.

    A sentence missing in the 2nd last paragraph?

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    1. Thank you!

      Oops! Thanks for that. Will edit the post! :)

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  4. One of the best episodes of Poirot. I had no idea what to expect, but the cast were brilliant. I also loved the Guy Andrews adaptation of The Mystery of The Blue Train and Taken At The Flood. Appointment With Death wasn't quite as good. Despite his tendency to be unfaithful to the original plots, he has an ability to create exciting and unexpected screenplays that have been refreshing in this series. Wish he had adapted The Big Four.

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    1. Yes, regardless of what one might think of the changes he makes, he does manage to create exciting screenplays! :)

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  5. I'm sorry to say it (it seems that I'm in opposition), but for me LABOURS is the weakest episode of the 13th series, and probably of all episodes ever. I like realistically possible stories which screenplay of this LABOURS is not. I know it is hard to make a screenplay for story (stories) like this, but in my opinion this adaptation is very disappointing. And it is not only for its screenplay - I also object to the "design" of main location, hotel Olympos. Almost the entire film you can see a building (otherwise pretty nice RAF Halton House) which is quite absurdly placed in inappropriate place - in the mountains (in the Alps) the building with this architecture would not "survive" the first winter (nor its residents). For me this is a gross mistake. And one could go on... On the other side, casting is good (maybe dr. Kreir/Francesco should be a little bit serious), camera too and atmosphere full of tension as it should be...
    Overall, as I said, for me LABOURS is one of the poor episodes... But it is only my opinion:-) (P.S.: sorry for my english...)

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    1. Hi there! Thank you for your opinion! I suppose we will have to disagree, but I can certainly see your point. It's not a very credible plot and the CGI (including Halton House) doesn't really work. However, for me, the atmosphere and the character study of Poirot make up for this. We have to bear in mind that, due to budget constraints, they would never be able to actually film in the Alps - this had to be done 'on the cheap', as it were, somewhere in the UK. Also, it's almost impossible to make a believable story out of something that's really 12 separate stories with dozens of unrelated characters. The main focus would have to be Poirot and the mysterious characters surrounding him, and for me that makes up for the two negative points you mention. But thank you again for your contribution - much appreciated!

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  6. This is my favorite episode.

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  7. Great pre finale to a wonderfully genius series of nostalgia poirot and christie are. I thought the plot was complex and would have been difficult to hold for most . various different stories were quite beautifully integrated to create a script and a stunning screenplay.. I think the atmosphere was superb .. I feel we should really be ignoring the technical aspects such as CGI effects etc as they were quite secondary to the plot .. We would be missing the point if we harped on alps location and if it was convincing .. The photography was superb nonetheless especially the scene in which the manager francesco comes out to receive his guests and the terrace scenes. The whole focus was on assembling random characters together stuck in a hotel for days and the end justified the means .. Music was mellow keeping in tune with boxed in situation ina hotel unlike rousing scores of several other episodes... Classy stuff ... Hope we have more of poirot .. I am from Mumbai india and they showing it on local channels here , I can tell you its been followed here hugely .. I think england has gained in the process , poirot has brought her back into people's minds .. Cheers ..... Rajeev

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    1. Hi Rajeev! I definitely agree that the photography (and direction) was excellent throughout (director Andrew Wilson's essay in the production notes is great, by the way, explaining the process behind the creative decisions). Glad to hear Poirot is popular in India!

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    2. I'm from India and I read almost all Agatha Christie novels during my adolescent years; some later on. Revisited them recently after over 40 years. Now I have them in the Hercule Poirot TV series format except for Series 13. Would love to have the last four in that series since I have the one on Elephants. YouTube took them down before I could lay my downloading cursor on them!

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  8. I wasn’t really happy with this, it’s by far Guy Andrews best effort, but that’s not saying much, instead I’m going to talk about he series as a whole.
    It has been brilliant, nothing has really been missing. Some things have been replaced and happen in a different order, but overall everything is intact, even the outlandish things. For example, Countess Rossakoff has been removed from the big four, but is “present” in Murder in Mesopotamia, likewise we don’t get to see poirot dress up as achillie, but instead, get him as the Swiss locksmith.
    I feel we haven't really missed out on anything overall.

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    1. That's very true. I keep telling people what an achievement this series as a whole really is. Knowing what we know about the behind-the-scenes challenges (budget constraints, cancellations, viewing figures, creative decisions etc) just makes it all the more impressive. Lots of things have been changed, but they've remained true to the characters and the overall 'story arch' created by Christie. I'm currently deciphering the stories all over again for a new blog post project, and I'm still pleasantly surprised by how true to the character descriptions etc they have been throughout.

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  9. I wasn’t really happy with this, it’s by far Guy Andrews best effort, but that’s not saying much, instead I’m going to talk about he series as a whole.
    It has been brilliant, nothing has really been missing. Some things have been replaced and happen in a different order, but overall everything is intact, even the outlandish things. For example, Countess Rossakoff has been removed from the big four, but is “present” in Murder in Mesopotamia, likewise we don’t get to see poirot dress up as achillie, but instead, get him as the Swiss locksmith.

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  10. I have finally seen it. I should just warn everybody up front that my posts are going to contain a lot of spoilers for the original "Capture of Cerberus" story.

    It seems to me (and you alluded to this) that this was a very Moffit-and-Gattis-ian adaptation, in the sense of being over the top, and deviating enormously from the source material while also constantly tipping the hat.

    Here is yet another tip of the hat: in the original Cerberus story, Poirot's initial reunion with the Countess occurs in a subway escalator, she is going the down way, and he is going the up way. The ski lift seems to parallel this (and that's sort of a pun, I guess.)

    This exchange occurs in the story:
    Poirot: Where can I find you?
    Countess: (as she descends into the subway): In Hell...
    Poirot searches the subway frantically and is thoroughly turned on by her mysteriousness. Hell turns out to be a nightclub of which the Countess is sort of an owner. (It is Miss Lemon who knows this!)

    Poirot goes on what is a kind of date with her there, but soon learns that the club is being observed by the police because it might be a drugs-for-jewels dropoff - and of course, the Countess is the main suspect.

    There is an odd discontinuity regarding previous encounters with the Countess in the stories. In the Double Clue, Poirot sees her only twice, and the first time she is pleading for mercy on behalf of Bernard Parker! (Although, the other time she is wearing a negligee!) In the Big Four, they are supposedly enemies but end up making several deals. What is odd is that in Cerberus they greet each other very warmly, as old friends, and there are references to stories the Countess has told Poirot of her early life...implying conversations we have not seen. The references are almost references to the Double Clue adaptation!

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  11. In the Big Four novel, Poirot convinces the Countess to save his life and Hastings' by promising to reunite her with her son (whom we have never heard of until this point.) Some fans think Poirot was the son's father. I confess to being rather delighted by the Countess's taunts about Alice's paternity (again, somewhat the way Moffitt always uses fan theories in Sherlock.) And really, up until the Reveal, Alice really seemed to have Poirot genes!

    Did anyone else get the feeling that Alice's very existence was rather painful for Poirot? During the dinner scene, I thought the Countess, in being dismissive of Mr. Cunningham ("Forget him! I have!") was trying to reassure Poirot, "Don't worry Hercule, there wasn't a man that meant more to me than you did." But I think it backfired. That conversation, and Alice's very presence, sort of threw it in Poirot's face that the Countess had, well...gone further...with someone else.

    I am sure if they had been totally mysterious about Alice's paternity fans would have speculated that she was Poirot's daughter. And by the way, if in fact the Countess met Mr. Cunningham after "The Double Clue" Alice is 19 years old at the very most.

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    1. Poirot's reaction to Countess assuring him that she had given up crime was ambiguous...not just in the sense that he wasn't sure he believed her, but in the sense that it was hard to tell whether he was glad or sorry! In the books there is a definite sense that her jewel thefts, and the way she pulls them off, well, turn him on. I used to dislike her appearance in the Big Four because I thought, the thievery might be kind of exciting, but not the more violent crimes she's helping the Big Four with. He should disapprove of that. And it seemed that in this adaptation her taking the side of someone who committed murder along with robbery broke the camel's back for him.

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    2. If this were any other show but Poirot, I would say, whether a Mr. Cunningham ever actually existed was up for debate, and the Countess's teasing could suggest Poirot was in fact the father. Some of Hastings' dialogue in the Double Clue makes it sound like Poirot spent ALL his time with the Countess for three days.

      The reason I say, "If it were any show but Poirot" is that one really can't imagine Poirot doing the actual deed. You can't imagine him doing anything so...conducive to deshabille. ("A love that could burn down a city?!) And, let's face it, he and the Countess had opportunities for that while snowbound, if they'd wanted to.

      Although it is said in the books that his passion for symmetry doesn't apply to what he finds attractive in women.

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  12. After watching Lord Edgware, with some dialogue implying that Jane Wilkinson was the first woman who had ever had an effect on Poirot, I was afraid they were going to use the Countess in the Big Four or Labours and play it as their first meeting. So on that score I am relieved. Having said that, I think there were ways of "tightening up" the continuity more. They could have played a clip or two from Double Clue, as Poirot's memory? And I really felt Poirot should have said something about hotel bill business. Perhaps that was the beginning of the end for him, so to speak? Maybe in the Double Clue it was like, "She's a thief, but thieves can fall in love." And after Mesopotamia he confronted the possibility that she was a con artist all the way, including conning him?

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  13. We had at least two scenes that started with Poirot asleep in bed, and then someone opening his door. Was I the only one who half expected it to be the Countess?

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  14. The Countess of the books was not nearly as refined-ly aristocratic is Kika Markham. She dresses flamboyantly and occasionally provocatively (actually receiving Poirot in a negligee for the denouement of the Double Clue!). She is outlandish with her gestures and dramatic exclamations. And she is a bit "forward" and not perfectly ladylike, kissing Poirot very ardently when he proves her innocent of the major crime (drug-dealing). That takes place at his flat in the middle of the night, and she teases him about how it would be scandalous of they weren't old. But when Japp rings the bell, she says, "I better go into the other room." Which could either mean, she can't let Japp find her, or she's going into Poirot's bedroom to prepare for the rest of the night! I know that's far-fetched but we don't see her depart from the flat. And in a way, it seems like a fitting end to the Labours of Hercules. Hercules wins his "bird of paradise."

    Orla Brady was a little closer to the books...perhaps less flamboyantly dressed but almost more "forward" - making no bones about making the circumstances of Alice's conception sound like a one-night stand, for example (which is something a lady with a title should have been much more ashamed of back then).

    Before seeing the adaptation I had read the line about "our love could have burnt down a city." There were some suggestions that she had been kind of, well, selling herself, and I wondered if she really was going to offer Poirot that kind of "reward" for sparing Alice. While she wasn't quite that explicit about the trade, it did feel like she was saying that in a way. I wasn't actually positive she was "just using him" - it was more like, "I wish we could have a relationship but we're not on the same side, now."

    I like Kika Markham, I really did, but after watching this one, hers is the piece that doesn't fit the rest, so to speak.

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    1. As, in the original Cerberus story it is said that the Countess has told Poirot contradictory stories about her past (leaving us to wonder when she did the telling), I thought there were some contradictions in what the Countess said in this adaptation about what she had been up to in the 20 years since she and Poirot had last seen each other. Everything about the character is contradictory, and really, it ALL hangs together only if you believe she's just an all-around con.

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    2. Many things that the Countess does in Labours, including trying to protect a killer, I don't see Markham's version doing, or condoning.

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    3. Did you catch that the Countess talked about her father wearing the cuff links when they were fleeing somewhere...I didn't catch it, but it sounded like somewhere in Russia from where, presumably, they would have to flee during the revolution. But in The Double Clue, she is supposed to have just arrived from Russia.

      Did you also notice that nowhere in this episode was the first name of Vera ever used? Poirot's not in the habit of calling ladies by their first names, perhaps, but usually, someone says the first name at some time. In the Double Clue, it was definitely Vera; Hardman used it when he introduced them and then later Poirot mentioned the full name because it became relevant to the "double clue" itself.

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  15. While, to me, it doesn't make much sense for the Countess of either "verse" to have a child, her maternal protectiveness and love are actually very much in line with the books. Her love for her son overrides her loyalty to the Big Four when Poirot has the power to reunite her with her son. And later, Alice is supposedly engaged to her son, Niki, and she discussed with Poirot why Alice is not her kind of person, but says she is going to love Alice for Niki's sake. When Alice is proven to be a drug dealer, the Countess is at first alarmed for Niki's feelings, but a week later is engaged to someone else! (Since Alice came to England and Niki always stayed in America, it is possible Alice was lying all along about being Niki's fiance.) But note that the Countess never asks Poirot to save Alice. She thanks Poirot for saving her from being framed and ending up "sitting in a prison cell with my hair cut off, and smelling of disinfectant!" And she kisses him! She also expresses deep distaste for the drug trade and the misery it causes.

    (Her weakness for taking jewels proves to be alive and well and is what enables Alice to set her up - she tries to plant jewels in Poirot's pocket(!) leading Poirot to exclaim "Vera, you are impossible!" Yes, using her first name, for once.) Not sure whether he's really disappointed, or titillated, though.

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  16. I have to say that I think the circumstances immediately before and after Lucinda's death were in fact a HUGE clue that Marrascaud really had to be female (or have a female accomplice, at least.) But maybe I was slightly "spoiled" before seeing it.

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  17. I will be interested to hear everybody else's take on what you think about the Countess in relation to Alice's crimes: was she 1) actively complicit; 2) sort of silently aware, and keeping silent because it's her daughter, or 3) completely innocent and ignorant? As much as I want it to be number 3, I sort of can't believe it. One, I can't believe she was that clueless about what her daughter was up to (although parents CAN be clueless about their children, as Christie often remarks) and two, she didn't show outrage and horror when Poirot disclosed Marrascaud.

    If she was totally innocent, she could have salvaged the situation with Poirot by taking his side and being in favor of Alice being punished (as she was in the story). None of her thefts that we know about have ever involved hurting actual people, so she could have made a distinction: ("I may steal sometimes, but I don't condone taking humans' lives.") Instead, her big concern was "saving" Alice - implying she didn't think what Alice had done was so bad, and maybe she wasn't surprised.

    Also, was she only using Poirot? Was she sort of offering to trade "a relationship" for Alice's freedom, or did she really care for him and was she more saying, "We can't be together now because we're not on the same side"?

    Note that she claimed she was leaving the resort and came back precisely BECAUSE she saw Poirot on the other lift. And note that Alice claimed that her mother talked obsessively about Poirot.

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    1. Poirot himself doesn't seem to be accusing the Countess of complicity with Marrascaud. He refuses to spare Alice for the sake of her mother's feelings, but on the other hand he doesn't seem totally repulsed by anything the Countess herself has done. If he were really disgusted by her and done having feelings for her, he wouldn't have looked so sad in the last few scenes, and wouldn't have kept those cuff links.

      But even before Alice is exposed, there is a big difference in Poirot's attitude toward the Countess compared with The Double Clue. It is obviously significant to him that she is there, and it is a distraction, but much less so than in The Double Clue. He is far more focused on the case, and far less overtly romantic and courtly. On the other hand, she is a little more direct in trying to "woo" him - touching him, using terms of endearment, and giving him gifts, all the while trying to reassure him that "[her] life of crime is largely over" - while still teasing him about it.

      Poirot's feelings for the Countess could have made him more or less automatically feel affection for her daughter...but I felt like it was actually the opposite. That he felt a dislike for Alice that was in fact jealousy of Mr. Cunningham. That the Countess was so flippant about having NOT been intimate with Poirot and about having done it so casually with someone else couldn't have helped.

      I think if it had been the Countess herself he had to decide to save from justice or not...I think he probably would not have done so, but I think the decision might have been more difficult.

      She implied that if he saved Alice they could be together. However, when he protected the Countess herself in The Double Clue, it was done in a way that meant they had to part.

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    2. Differences in how Poirot interacts with the Countes:
      In The Double Clue he says, "I wanted to bring you somewhere that was worthy of you,"..."You astonish me. I am lost in admiration"...."You are the most remarkable, the most unique woman I have ever met."
      In Labours he greets her with, "You look well," and she even points out that it's a luke-warm compliment at best.

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  18. I do think they did a rather brilliant job of using many plotlines, characters, and other aspects from multiple stories...but at the same time, I agree that it did become over-the-top, (especially the climactic denouement and standoff, as you said) again, kind of a la what Moffit does to Sherlock.

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  19. Did everyone know that Christie wrote a different version of "The Capture of Cerberus" which was not published back then? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1208212/Unseen-60-years-Mail-proudly-present-Agatha-Christies-lost-masterpiece-The-Capture-Cerberus.html

    And then, there is the 2002 made-for-TV Murder on the Orient Express, in which Poirot (Alfred Molina) has a relationship with a (stunning, flamboyant, young, and model-like) woman named Vera who runs a nightclub in Istanbul. It is implied to have been going on for a while when the movie starts. He has a line about how she shouldn't expect him to fly out to solve every crime that happens. She says "Should we marry..the world famous detective and the never-quite-reformed jewel thief. Think what fun you will have trying to catch me!" But their work is in different countries, they are both independent, and let's face it, they would probably both find domesticity dull.

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    1. It's generally assumed that the original Capture of Cerberus was rejected by The Strand for being "too political" - but would they really have issues with satirising Hitler? It seems more likely that they were uncomfortable with the idea that Hitler could be redeemed - or just that they found the premise a bit twee.

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  20. David Suchet has said he would not appear in a movie or TV version of the upcoming Sophie Hannah Poirot book, or anything else that is about Poirot but not written by Christie. ("I only serve Agatha Christie.") Some might call that pretentious. I think it's very Poirot! But apparently he doesn't mind adaptations that go pretty far afield from the source material.

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  21. In a sense, the Countess in this adaptation is the Countess in the novel Big Four - willing to go along with master criminals who do more than steal. I now would almost have preferred to see her feature in the Big Four in some way...not as a guilty party...perhaps also falsely accused by Darrell of involvement, or unwittingly used by him to lure or torment Poirot.

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    1. The Countess' plea for her child to be spared somewhat calls to me the end of the book Big Four, where Poirot secures the cooperation of the Countess (who is working with the Big Four!?) by telling her that her son, Niki, is alive and that he (Poirot) can reunite them. And it is implied that they stay friends (at least) after that, because of the Cerberus story. Here, the Countess was saying him saving her child was what it would take for them to stay friends (or whatever).

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  22. "But has he redeemed himself? Alice Cunningham suggests that he hasn't."

    My first thought is, who is SHE to talk about redemption?

    But added to the "personal journey" and issues about loneliness is the fact that this story ends on a far less triumphant professional note than is usual. Let's face it - we as viewers like Poirot and we like to see him triumph: to solve something seemingly impossible, to clear the name of someone falsely accused, or to show up some police officer who has been belittling him. While other cases have ended with a sense of sadness about the human tragedy, most endings also have a sense of triumph - reaffirming Poirot's status as "Great Detective." Here, even though he did figure out who was who, there was more of a sense that the situation got out of his control and the police just happened to save the day.

    Now, again a-la-Sherlock, I was honestly confused as to whether Poirot was truly faking it with the wireless. He said he was - but then, how did the police know when to show up and where and who to arrest (given that they weren't really there while Poirot was denouncing everybody)? But assuming that he WAS faking it and wasn't in communication with them, they saved the day independently and it feels less like a success for Poirot.

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  23. "In the end, Poirot draws the line at allowing Marrascaud aka Alice to escape justice, and he realises that he made the decision about 'family life' several years ago. The final scene, in which he looks down on a pair of cuff links he was given by the Countess, seems to suggest that he has reconciled himself with the decision to leave the Countess behind."

    I actually don't get the "decision about family life" but usually, men don't have to choose between careers and families - though admittedly it's more complicated for detectives. (The question has to be asked, could he marry Miss Lemon and then could she still do the same work for him?) But with the Countess, I think it's a different, and admittedly cliched decision: he's excited by someone whose sense of justice and right and wrong are (on the surface) different from his, but can he really be with her? Remember that last time, he and the Countess parted ways precisely because he WAS compromising his principles and allowing her to escape. That meant she had to leave the country for both their safety.

    But to the extent there was a second chance for them with this reunion in Labours, we could turn it back around and say it was the Countess who made the decision: If she had acted all horrified about Marrascaud, and made it clear that thief or not, she doesn't condone murder, and disowned Alice, and been happy about Poirot's role in bringing Marrascaud down, wouldn't it have gone very differently between them in the end? Instead, she was the one who chose Alice (Alice who came close to murdering her!?) over justice, and then asked Poirot to choose her over justice.

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    1. I guess I see it less as Poirot making a choice between career and family and more about the conflict between 1) how he emotionally feels about the Countess, 2) how he intellectually feels about crime, and the ambiguity as to her motives. If she stole out of financial desperation, if he had proposed, or whatever the next step would be, could she give up crime if she was being supported by him? Or is it kleptomania or some kind of compulsion she can't help? Or, does she perhaps need the money but prefer to support herself, even outside the law, rather than being supported by a man?

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    2. From the Double Clue -- -

      Poirot: You are the most remarkable, the most unique woman that I have ever met, but also...
      Countess: Opposites.
      Poirot: You must continue your work and I must continue mine...but not in the same country.
      So, not being able to stay together is more about their being "opposites" (and I put it in quotes because I question whether they really are - he's obviously attracted by her audacity, at least) than about him being all career and no family life. But he almost gave approval to her "work"...

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    3. If anything, I think here Poirot was in a sense uncharacteristically gentle in his refusal of the Countess' request. He kind of used the excuse that he had no power to assist Alice, and acted apologetic. Why did he not say, "Your Alice is the serial killer most brutal! If not for the 'senselessly heroic act' of Mr. Waring she would most likely have shot you! So how I am cruel for allowing justice to be done? Why do you want her spared?"

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  24. When you watch some of the early 50-minute episodes, and then a later one like this, or vice versa, the difference in tone is STARK. They are practically two different "'verses."

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  25. As with Sherlock, a lot happens at once, with scenes shifting, and there are ambiguities that are not resolved by the ending: How complicit was the Countess in Alice's activities, or how much did she know? Were they really mother and daughter? (Alice's comment about uselessness sounded like the Countess was an accomplice Alice had hired.) How reformed was the Countess? Did Poirot really want her to be reformed or did the whiff of criminal tendencies (of a kind that were harmless to human lives) make her all the more interesting? What, if anything, about herself, during the years they were not in contact, and before they met, was true? Did Poirot really talk to the police on the wireless? He said he didn't - but then, how did they know just when they were needed?

    Was the Countess just using Poirot or she did genuinely care about him and feel sad that they couldn't be on the same side? What made her side with her serial-killer daughter?

    Notice how they Countess was glad to see Poirot and went out of her way to interact with him. And that was true of The Double Clue, as well. She was all smiles when they were introduced, with no sense of fear of him finding her out.

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  26. This reviewer sees a parallel between Nita/Ted and Poirot/Rossakoff, and said that Poirot gets his happy ending vicariously through Ted and Nita who "overcome their status and roles in life." http://opionator.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/agatha-christies-poirot-the-labours-of-hercules-2013/ I am not sure there is a real parallel, though, in that I don't think social class, as such, is what's coming between Poirot and the Countess (even if she is really a Countess - no doubt some titled women, especially from England, would shy away from having a relationship with someone in Poirot's position but I don't think it was an issue for the Countess.)

    Reviewers such as this one seem to feel that Poirot's two opposite decisions - the letting the Countess escape justice, yet sending her away in The Double Clue, and taking a hard-nosed approach to justice that leads to her arrest in Labours - are equally wrong and unsatisfactory choices that served to part the two, and that the letting her get away the first time contributed to her becoming a worse criminal.

    Were there other options? Are they implying that if Poirot had declared his love, proposed, or somehow taken the next step in the relationship, whatever that was, she would have reformed?

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  27. In the original Cerberus story, Alice has the theory that Vera steals because her life has been safe and dull and she craves drama (!)(?). Poirot says, "But her life surely cannot have been safe and dull as a member of the ancien' regime during the Russian revolution?" Alice looks at him cynically and says, "Is that what she told you?"

    "She is undeniably and aristocrat," said Poirot staunchly, FIGHTING BACK CERTAIN UNEASY MEMORIES OF THE WILDLY VARYING ACCOUNTS OF HER EARLY LIFE TOLD HIM BY THE COUNTESS HERSELF." (Sorry about the caps but I can't use bold or italics here.) Poirot goes on to say that the Countess' aristocratic aura is part of what he finds attractive and he's not going to let Alice ruin that! The Countess is definitely having an effect on him!

    This from Hercule Poirot, who claims he never believes what anyone tells him!? But - when did the Countess tell Poirot those stories? We didn't see it happen when they meet in either Double Clue (the story) or the The Big Four (novel.) In both cases, of course, we saw them together through Hastings' eyes.

    On the other hand, it would have been possible for her to tell him things about her background during their "dates" in ITV's Double Clue. So someone who read Labours and saw the series, but never read the original Double Clue story, could be excused for thinking that their courtship in ITV is canon.

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  28. It was inevitable that some of the plots and characters of the original short stories would have to be left out, but I think it is rather notable that two plots completely left out involved Poirot assisting criminals to escape legal and other consequences of definitely criminal, albeit nonviolent, acts: The Nemean Lion and The Augean Stables. The criminal, Amy Carnaby, and her motives in the first case are actually pretty sympathetic, and she later brings Poirot another case and works undercover to help him solve it (Flock of Geryon). In fact, one might ask the question what Vera Rossakoff has that Amy does not, and the answer might well lie in the physical (since they are both daring, adventuress, and unwilling to be typical women.) In the Augean Stables, we are left with an uncomfortable sense that Poirot is definitely doing something sleazy to help someone sleazy.

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  29. The identity of the main criminal in this adaptation is actually very "Christie-ian." She frequently used the trick of having the murderer be the person who professed the most interest in "helping" Poirot investigate. Although not so much when the helper was a young woman (Death in the Air, Triangle at Rhodes, Three Act Tragedy.)

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  30. More than being a sequel to MOTOE, this feels like it's a PRE-quel to Curtain, with the disturbing implication that this case leads Poirot toward being ready to be done with life!

    The book Curtain is one of the few Poirot books to come near to matching the darker tone of the later episodes of the series - with Poirot's self-doubt, personal journey, questions about right and wrong, etc. The change of tone as compared to the other books is a little too sudden, and Poirot's actions - shooting someone who has never directly harmed anyone, and seemingly willingly letting go of his own life - are hard to buy, frankly. Here it seems the series tried to work Poirot toward that point, and get us ready.

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  31. More than being a sequel to MOTOE, this feels like it's a PRE-quel to Curtain, with the disturbing implication that this case leads Poirot toward being ready to be done with life!

    The book Curtain is one of the few Poirot books to come near to matching the darker tone of the later episodes of the series - with Poirot's self-doubt, personal journey, questions about right and wrong, etc. The change of tone as compared to the other books is a little too sudden, and Poirot's actions - shooting someone who has never directly harmed anyone, and seemingly willingly letting go of his own life - are hard to buy, frankly. Here it seems the series tried to work Poirot toward that point, and get us ready.

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  32. I found myself with the sensation that Poirot has now encountered two enigmatic Russia women who both call themselves Countess Rossakoff. I just struggled to think of them as the same woman. The physical resemblance between the actresses is passable, and I'm not criticizing either's performance...it just seems to me that the characterization was written differently. Part of my larger sense that the early set and these later sets are practically two different series, or two different "verses" what with the differences in tone, issues, and characterization.

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    1. ...though, in fact, The Big Four adaptation in some ways felt more like the earlier episodes, particularly after the reveal.

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  33. Quoting: "In the end, Poirot draws the line at allowing Marrascaud aka Alice to escape justice, and he realises that he made the decision about 'family life' several years ago. The final scene, in which he looks down on a pair of cufflinks he was given by the Countess, seems to suggest that he has reconciled himself with the decision to leave the Countess behind."

    A lot of reviews are worded like the above, or even imply that Poirot and the Countess are separated by class differences or roles society has assigned them, or inhibitions of some kind.

    Given the brutality of the crimes Alice committed, killing several people in a brutal manner, including one Poirot had vowed to protect...are fans and reviewers wishing that Poirot had been willing to "spare" her so he could be with her mother? Don't forget Alice tried to kill the Countess herself! And yet the Countess calls Poirot "cruel" for "letting" her be arrested? Don't you think the Countess should have been more horrified at what Alice has done? Does her lack of horror and outrage make her as bad as Alice? And wouldn't Poirot be as bad as Alice if he let her go?

    How likely is it that the Countess was totally ignorant of everything Alice did, in the first place?

    Admittedly, Poirot himself doesn't point these things out to the Countess is in really moralistic way...he refuses her plea but he seems regretful about it, and he keeps the cuff links. Not a particularly forceful, "You're just a conwoman and I'm done with you," message.

    And yet, people talk about Poirot's helping the Countess escape early in the series as choosing justice (and work) over love, too. Or, Is there a feeling (by those of us watching) that if Poirot had done something different then, the Countess could have been reformed? He did, in a sense, give her permission the first time to "continue [her] work" in other countries.

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    1. I suppose you can think about the implications a whole different way: if Poirot had somehow established more of a relationship with the Countess...Marrascaud might never have been born? (Because the Countess would not have gotten involved with Mr. Cunningham?)

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  34. Wasn't there a sense here of Poirot "losing his touch" as a detective? It never occurred to him that there could be danger to Lucinda from a female, or that it might not be a good idea to show Lucinda a secret code right out in the open? And he is fooled by Gustave pretending to be Drouet, even giving Gustave the name of the policeman he is supposed to be! In the original Labours story about Marrascaud, "The Erymanthian Boar" Poirot is NOT fooled by Gustave pretending to be a policeman.

    And the situation is out of his control by the end and he needs to be saved by the real police...although this is not so inconsistent with earlier episodes. Japp even says this in "Johnny Waverly." Hercule Poirot almost always finds out who the criminals are, but if said criminals pull guns or otherwise get violent, it's almost never Poirot who saves the day.

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  35. Perhaps the hardest point of all on which to suspend disbelief is that the L LeMesurier family (presumably civilians) permitted their barely-adult-daughter to be used as bait that way. Some of the women we meet in Poirot-verse would do such a thing for the thrill, but I got the distinct sense Lucinda was unwilling and had been pressured into it.

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  36. I would have liked some reference to the hotel bill in Mesopotamia...even if it was being mentioned by Poirot as a reason for not trusting the Countess or suspecting she was using him. The hotel business didn't, for me, line up with the Kika Markham characterization but you could see it with Brady's character.

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  37. Did anyone catch that Kika Markham was around 50 the year the Double Clue was made...but Orla Brady is around her early 50s NOW (if sites such as Wikipedia and Imdb are to be believed?

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  38. Re: elements from the short story - I think the whole setting, the hotel Olympus, is a nod to "Hell" the nightclub in the final Labours story...both are populated by criminals, and this is referenced, and the proprietor is "devilish"," and it's just...very dark. There is also the scene of Poirot and the Countess first seeing each other as he is going upward on the lift and she is coming down, paralleling the "tube" scene int the story.

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  39. The Countess's familiarity towards Poirot seems to presume they're in a relationship of some sort (she calls him "beloved") or at least, are old friends. And that was true in the original story"The Capture of Cerberus." They refer to each other as old friends, and make references to a history that doesn't sound very much like we see in the earlier stories where she appears.

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  40. You have defended Andrews well, but combining Alice Cunningham with Marrascaud hopelessly confuses the two plot lines, and I cannot agree that it is proper to twist a story about a series of Poirot's end-of-career triumphs into a story marred by his nauseating failure to protect Lucinda.

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  41. @Anonymous - I agree with you about triumphs vs failure - it felt like Poirot was off his game and failing all the way through this.

    I actually thought the combining of the search for Nita with the chase of Marrascaud worked rather well, because in the books, both of those led Poirot to similar, out-of-the-way locations.

    And Alice Cunningham does turn out to be the criminal of one of the originals. What bothered me about that was changing the Countess's role from being innocently used and set-up by Alice, genuinely disgusted at what Alice is doing (drug-trafficking), and MOST grateful to Poirot for exonerating her in the story to essentially defending Alice and showing more outrage at the police and Poirot fingering her daughter than at her daughter's murders. (A sly dig at parents today, perhaps?)

    Some reviews of Labours implied that if Poirot had made a different choice at he end of The Double Clue, he could have redeemed the Countess. His actions there seem to be based on an assumption that nothing he could do would change the Countess's tendency toward theft. At the time, I would have agree - I'm not a big fan of "love changes the criminal" endings.

    But as I worked my way through the series, I realized Poirot made a career out of redeeming people, making them either better morally or stronger emotionally in some way. He seems to have that effect on most everyone he meets - some of whom start out worse than the Countess.

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    1. The original Labours of Hercules book ends with Poirot clearing the Countess of suspicion of drug-trafficking, and her gratefully embracing him in the middle of the night as a result (in fact, I contend you can read that she spends the night in his flat).

      While I am glad certain things from the original didn't happen in the series - like Augean Stables - after watching this and Curtain I find myself wishing they had ended on a happier note for Poirot, at least making the ending of Labours more triumphant and leading to improving/upgrading his relationship with the Countess instead of the reverse (and they would not have had to change all that much - Alice IS a criminal in the original, but the Countess does not take her side.)

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  42. The Countess' defense of Alice at the end (trying to get Poirot to spare her) I think feels "out of the blue" because it is a gesture that should either stem from upper-class sensibility about the family reputation, or motherly love. The former is not in character for the Countess...so that leaves us with motherly love...but we don't see a lot of affection between them, the rest of the time. Especially on Alice's side - she displays contempt for her mother, sometimes speaking to her like an accomplice who has failed - and there are some weird mixed signals as to whether they live together, have been travelling together, met up at the hotel by accident, are working as a team, etc. On the other hand, the dinner scene, where Alice tells Poirot that her mother talks about him all the time, and the Countess tells Poirot that Alice studied him, sounds like they have spent a lot of time together (because they've heard so much about what the other is interested in) and almost feels like they're working together to manipulate Poirot by flattering him.

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  43. The Countess really behaves toward Poirot with familiarity, as if they were truly old friends, but HE is more restrained. Maybe he doesn't trust her? Or maybe he's not feeling as confident in HIMSELF, because of his failure to protect Lucinda? Maybe that carries over into being less confident that a woman could reciprocate his attraction, interest, whatever?

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  44. In the original Arcadia Deer story, Katrina has been rumored to be descended from Russian aristocrats, but she finally admits to Poirot that's not the case - she and Ted are pretty much the same class. It might have been nice if they had clarified that in this version.

    One character / story that I am kind of sorry they eliminated is that of Amy Carnaby. Poirot catches on to her extortion scheme, but after she lectures him about the limited opportunities for uneducated women like herself and how horrible the upper classes are to her, Poirot lets her escape. In a later story, she has concerns that a religious cult her friend belongs to is a scam, and suggests to Poirot that they work together to expose it. One wonders why she wasn't a potential love interest...at the very least, she's a bit like Mrs. Oliver, perhaps (although, Mrs. Oliver doesn't seem to have the same insecurities about her financial situation.)

    Given Suchet's stance that Poirot is always fighting the class system, Carnaby would have fit well into this series. Also, at one point during their investigation of the religious cult, she has to pretend even to Poirot that she's actually been converted...because the cult's watchman can see her.

    I REALLY wanted that to be what the Countess was doing - only pretending to be on Marrascaud's side because Marrascaud was watching - when she pleaded for Marrascaud to be spared. I wish they had taken that off of the Carnaby story line.

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  45. For me, the Poirot short stories are generally very weak, but the Labours are much better than most. A shame, then, to see them churned up into such an unbelievable story where EVERYONE in the hotel is a criminal. They would have made a great set of individual hour-long episodes.

    And surely the doctor isn't from Cerberus but rather Boar, considering they have the same name.

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  46. That policewoman rather obviously telegraphs the signal to the entire party. It's very unsubtle writing. (As is "Poirot - he is the master of technology.") And why is Lucinda Lemerurier needed as bait? Surely the painting's the bait.

    Poirot always referring to himself in the third person really is irritating, and horribly overdone.

    The "I shall find you" "I shall not hide" moment doesn't carry much weight when you know there's only one more episode left.

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    1. I totally agree about the knock signal being stupidly handled - and I partially blame Poirot - didn't it occur even to him that if we demonstrate that signal here, someone on Marrascaud's team might see it? And I can't believe that, in a society where gender roles were still pretty rigid, a civilian, upper-class couple would ALLOW their daughter to be used as bait like that.

      Poirot comes across as totally losing his touch all through this one (in the original story about Marrascaud, he is NOT fooled by the waiter who pretends to be a policeman but is really a criminal.) It is absolutely true that the original Labours stories are much more triumphant for him.

      There is a certain implication that, after this case, Poirot was ready to give up on life!

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    2. "There is a certain implication that, after this case, Poirot was ready to give up on life!"

      I hadn't thought of that. You could be right - it may have been a deliberate choice considering Curtain was next.

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    3. In the original story, the Countess is innocent of the "main" crime, and is grateful to Poirot for making that clear (even though he points the finger at the woman who might have married the Countess's son), so, although it is her final appearance of the books, it is good ending as far as her relationship with Poirot is concerned.

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    4. I found the whole "Don't turn your back on me" "I shall not" exchange weird...too serious for Christie, maybe? Or at least for Poirot. It was like something out of a classical "quest" story, but of course, that theme ran all throughout this episode.

      Partly because of the way they did the lighting effects, I was very confused throughout about which character was which, and their reasons for being at the hotel. Of course, many of them were not stating their real reasons, but in some cases they didn't even articulate cover stories. For example: the Countess was going down the mountain when she saw Poirot, so, was she about to leave? Later, she says she finds it boring to be stuck in the hotel...so why did she stay when she didn't have to? Was she coming back JUST for Poirot? To keep an eye on Alice? Because she knew Alice was at the hotel for criminal purposes and thought she could use her influence to save her from Poirot?

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    5. The exchange did seem a bit too melodramatic, at least. But I think it can be excused in light of the quest-theme. There's something almost supernatural about the entire episode (too many coincidences, all the mythological references etc).

      I thought she was supposed to have visited Alice when we first see her leaving? And when she complains, isn't that after they've been told about the avalanche? So she couldn't leave, even if she wanted to. But I like your explanation, too. She is certainly the kind of person who would think she could "use" Poirot for her own advantage (i.e. to save Alice). But then she does seem genuinely surprised by Alice in the denouement (unless that's just acting).

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    6. I think it's a lot like an episode of Sherlock - taking elements of the original and mixing them together until they come out in a form bearing little resemblance to the original. But I think the combining of the Nita and Marrascaud stories actually works rather well - because both hide out in the same kinds of locations, so perhaps they really would pick the same one.

      The Countess's conversation and mannerisms toward Poirot are very familiar - as if they really are old friends. That could show her being modern or unconventional. On the other hand, her reaction to the crimes themselves are very "hysterical damsel."

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  47. Did the Countess really say "those terrible jews" after the sisters were unmasked? Don't tell me its historically accurate, I'm sure it is, but for modern audiences, don't you think this was a way to help us distance ourselves from her before she ends up leaving the picture?

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    1. Stuart Farquhar10 April 2015 at 01:33

      "Those terrible SHOES." She's referring to the supposed clue of the shoes worn by Alice's alleged attacker.

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  48. almost all cristie's stories, and this series based on them, are not 'slightly unbelievable', but unbelievable, period. don't expect realism from her.

    what makes some of her stories 'classic', and highly entertaining, are complex challenging murder(or other criminal) plots (however absurdly impracticable), interesting characters, and more rarely, poignant drama and tragedy.

    while this episodes is not faithful to original stories it is based on, it actually improves on them, and it is in the spirit of the best cristie stories and best episodes of this series.

    poirot's blinkered moral posture, was an important factor in more 'darker' latter episodes. in contrast, poirot is morally indifferent for most part in books. however, while they were successful in confronting him with complex moral issues in some episodes (eg 'murder on the orient express'), they let the ball drop in some others; raising complex issues then refusing to let poirot confront them on screen (eg 'the clocks). this episode is a success on that front. and i liked the fact that principal criminal was explicit in condemning some of poirot's moral blindnesses, in addition his failings as a detective.

    unfortunate lowering of quality of production design in the final season is quite obvious in this episode. this is a pity since from the start to season before this, production design of this series was highly praiseworthy, almost without exception.


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About Me

I'm a passionate fan of Poirot, Agatha Christie and the ITV series. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or requests, please e-mail me at poirotchronology@gmail.com, post a comment on one of my blogs, or get in touch on Twitter @pchronology. (I used to call myself HickoryDickory)