The episode The Veiled Lady begins (more or less) and ends with Poirot, Hastings, and Japp enjoying a pleasant jaunt in a park. This particular park is full of boys who have somehow acquired toy sailboats and are taking them out for a float on the water.
Poirot: “They fear me, Hastings, the criminals, they fear Hercule Poirot so much that they have repented of their naughty ways and have become citizens of the most upright.”
Hastings: “Oh, rubbish, Poirot– I say! Look at that schooner!”
Poirot: “Rubbish, do you say, Hastings?”
Hastings: “Well, I don’t imagine most of them have ever heard of Hercule Poirot.”
Poirot: “You strike a man while he is down, eh!”
Japp: “I wish you were right. I wouldn’t mind retiring early. It strikes me they’re getting even cleverer, our criminal friends…”
Japp goes on to explain a recent jewel robbery that has impressed him; Poirot seems to consider it not really in his line, being a mere crime of “audacity.” But he falls into a reverie– what fun it would be to work against the law. Who better to confound Japp and his men than a great genius like himself, Hercule Poirot?
And at the end of the successful case, they’re back at the park and Hastings has procured for himself an enormous sailboat.
Poirot: “Sit here, Hastings. Now I hope that you will not again wound my feelings by saying that I am unknown to the criminal classes.”
Hastings: “Oh, I didn’t mean that, exactly.”
Poirot: “Ma foi, they even employ me themselves when they do not know which way to turn!”
Hastings (finishing with the boat): “What do you think?”
Poirot: “Well… I think… that we have made a good choice, Hastings.”
Hastings: “Not bad, eh?”
Japp (suddenly coming up): “Poirot, Hastings? I thought she’d never stop talking!”
Hastings: “What do you think?”
Japp: “It’s a beauty. I thought you were going to get the smaller one.”
Hastings: “Oh, I’d feel silly with a small one.”
Japp: “You going to try it out now?”
Poirot: “Captain Hastings has not brought it here for the good of his health.”
Japp (wistfully watching Hastings launch off): “Did you ever think of going to sea, Poirot?”
Poirot: “No, no, my friend. This is as close as I like to get.”
Japp: “I used to dream about the sea.” (Boat drifts away; credits roll.)
What. Was. That. All. About. ??
It drives me crazy when I can’t figure out just why dialog is used. I mean, the boat scenes certainly serve a couple of obvious useful purposes. They showcase Hastings’ impulsive boyishness (often directed toward cars, tracking down criminals, or auburn hair). Perhaps the juvenile nature of the activity is part of what directs Poirot’s imagination to the prospects of playing the criminal and the fun it would be. And is that an unconsciously jesting dig against Poirot when Hastings tells Japp, “Oh, I’d feel silly with a small one”?
But what is the takeaway supposed to be? It has the feel of a takeaway. Is Japp considering the “audacity” with which Poirot and Hastings pulled off their little investigative stunt– audacity inspired by the initial jewel robbery– and reflecting on his own stolid and by-the-book existence in Isleworth? Japp’s a homebody who likes his garden, and never really seems too enthusiastic in the few times we see him abroad. Does he feel a sudden longing for adventure? Are his words about early retirement coming back to him? “When I retire, I shall have a little place in the country, far from crime– like this,” Japp had said in Christie’s “The Market Basing Mystery.” Does he sense early retirement might be coming after all, what with Poirot putting all these criminals away? 😉
Hastings, that impulsive romantic who pushes off his sailboat, does in fact ultimately get in a boat and go across the sea, all the way to South America, leaving Poirot and Japp behind. Is this a deliberate presage that we, the viewers, are seeing?
What are your impressions of these scenes? What’s up with the boats? What do you get from watching it?