Something rich and strange...
written by Stuart McDonald
directed by Sue Brooks
Frank Wilson as Len Connors
Denise Scott as Wilhelmina Seagull
Greg Ulfan as Couda
Brett Swain as Griff
This was a really good episode (and not just because there was no Jack).
There were four storylines which although unrelated story-wise, were thematically linked by the notion of grief:
This is just a rough review - I'll re-visit it when I have time to expand and proof-read. =)
The episode opens with Max swimming out to sea relentlessly and the music playing in the background is a somewhat unsettling dirge: "Swimmer swimmer in the sea, bring my body back to me"
Kevin upon discovering Alfonzo Dominico's dead body in the Pearl Bay pool alerts Sergeant Grey who begins the investigation. Although the matter should be a fairly unemotional case of unlawful littering, willful damage and Health Act offences, it becomes an investigation into the "murder" of Alfonzo Dominico. There is also a foray into whether Alfonzo Dominico was the charisma and conscience of Bucket. Was Bucket jealous?
I don't agree that this was the town's way at expressing grief over Elena's death. Let's face it, they didn't know her. They knew Alfonzo Dominico. They probably felt sorry for Max, but that would be it.
At this point, I will unnecessarily explain that the offence of murder requires that the victim be a human being. Lyn has pointed out to me that "although Kev keeps saying 'murder', the charge in court is polluting a waterway and cruelty to an animal".
The Macquarie Dictionary defines murder as follows:
/'merduh/ noun 1. Law the unlawful killing of a human being by an act done with intention to kill or to inflict grievous bodily harm, or with reckless indifference to human life.
2. Colloquial an uncommonly laborious or difficult task: gardening in the heat is murder. --verb (t)
3. Law to kill by an act constituting murder.
4. to kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.
Kevin is using meaning number 4, above. As Alfonzo Dominico was a dog, his death was probably more a job for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In Australia, each State and Territory has a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which controls all uses of animals. In Victoria, it is the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. Section 9 of the Act defines certain acts as being acts of cruelty. A person who does one of the specified acts commits an act of cruelty upon and is guilty of an offence.
The relevant sections for the death of poor Alfonzo Dominico would be:
(c) knowingly or negligently does or omits to do an act with the result that unnecessary, unreasonable or unjustifiable pain or suffering is caused to an animal; or
(j) other than in accordance with the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994, the Wildlife Act 1975 or the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, intentionally administers to an animal or lays a bait for the animal containing-
(i) a poison; or
(ii) any other substance which, when administered to that type of animal, has a harmful effect on the animal; or
The penalty for the above offence is 60 penalty units or imprisonment for 6 months. As I've done no environmental law, I've had to guess at the offences pertaining to pollution of a waterway. Is a pool really a waterway?
On a preliminary peek in austlii, I discovered that under section 278(b) of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Act 1958 (Vic), the Board has the power to make by-laws "preventing or minimizing the pollution of waterways mains drains or main drainage works". There is probably similar legislation that applies to Pearl Bay.
There is also the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic). Section 39 says that a person shall not pollute any waters. Section 4 defines"waters" to include a reference to:
(a) the bed and sub-soil lying beneath those waters;
(b) the air space superjacent to those waters; and
(c) an open, piped or underground drain-
Which makes it unlikely that a pool constitutes "waters".
I think it mostly likely that the proceedings were under the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic). Under section 7(d), any person who "throws any offensive matter or thing or any animal into a waterway, canal or other place whence a supply of water for human use is obtained" is guilty of an offence for which the penalty is 25 penalty units or imprisonment for six months or both. The reference to "or other place whence a supply of water for human use is obtained" would probably cover a pool. Swimming would count as human "use", and it is an "other place".
Back to the show. Carmen gives Max unwelcome advice on how to deal with grief and informs him that his "purpose" for being in Pearl Bay is to start up a newspaper. The scene is a classic:
|Carmen||Why don't you try what I did. It was the most incredibly experience. All this gunk came rushing out my throat and I let it all go in one almighty scream. Afterwards I felt like I'd cried and vomited and had sex all at once|
|Max||That sounds like a very good Saturday night.|
|Carmen||Well now I don't have any blockages. I can express myself purely.|
|Max||Well good for you.|
|Carmen||I'm ready to start writing again. And here you are.|
|Max||here I am.|
|Carmen||You're a journalist. Once a journalist|
|Both||...always a journalist (Carmen with sincerity, Max with irony)|
|Carmen||This town is crying out for its own newspaper and eveyrthing points to you being here for that reason.|
|Max||Yeah. Yes yes yes yes yes. YES. Yes. I've heard so many reasons why I should be in Pearl Bay but that one is a beauty.|
(Carmen's brow furrows as it slowly dawns on her somewhat arcane childish disposition that Max is not being entirely sincere with her.)
I'm getting some seriously negative vibes. Have you every considered doing a tribal man's weekend?
|Max||No, but if you want to hear my version of a primal scream, darling, just stick around and tell me what I should be doing again.|
Despite his sarcasm, I received the impression that Max rather liked Carmen and wasn't as cruel to her as he no doubt could have been.
Max is equally brusque with Laura's attempts to help him come to terms with his grief and she is completely unable to comprehend Max's response.
|Laura||It must have been such a shock|
|Max||No, no, no shock at all Laura. She had a good an Elena - top shelf. Tiny dilated blood vessel right in the brain stem. It came with a solid gold guarantee that sooner or later it was gonna go. Just like turning off a light.|
|Laura||She knew it was coming?|
|Max||Oooh yeah. Yeah we knew. We hoped for a couple of years but you know what they say. See Pearl Bay and die.|
One of the more comic elements of the episode are Bob's plans to upgrade and rename the local pool after himself. At the Council meeting, despite requests from Kevin and Karen that they have a show of support in honour of Max's loss, Bob is clearly more concerned about the pool than Max:
"Well it's a... very sad... right, so we can get back to the pool".
Kevin guilelessly suggests that naming the pool after Max's father, Len, a long distance swimming hero might help him to deal with his grief. Max, influenced by a combination of grief and alcohol plays along out of a sense of malicious diversion rather than any genuine intention to honour his father. He gives an impassioned speech about why he would like the pool named after his father, convincing everyone. At the end of it he gives the slyest of little winks to Bob, infuriating the great man.
Angus is in mourning. The sandbar which him with surfing waves has disappeared, leaving him emotional and sad. Karen is startled when she realises that her boyfriend is capable of passion and eloquence - even if the feeling is directed at a sandbar rather than herself. When she realises that Angus may leave, she is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice by sleeping with him again even though she had sworn that it would not berepeated until they had a firm commitment.
Rupert goes through a philsophical stage of what is going to happen to Alphonzo Dominico's soul. I liked Laura's frank and thoughtful discussion with her son about concepts of dog heaven and dog hell. She took him seriously and didn't laugh at him. I also liked the fact that as Rupert continues his spiritual musings and informs her that Phrani tells him about reincarnation, Laura doesn't dismiss the idea but acknowledges that some people believe in it. She decides that Max would be a dog that barks a lot
Despite being in a drunken stupor, Max (after more convincing by Carmen) opens up the Pearl Bay Oyster - named thus "because in side every issue there's a little pearl of wisdom". Carmen is remarkably tolerant with his abrasive manner and their little publication has its fledgling beginnings.
The court-room drama over the death of Alfonzo Dominico continues. Of course we never see Bucket. Emotionally overwrought he bolts from the courtroom, devastated at being accused of "murder". Laura is still grappling with Max's method of dealing with grief, troubled that no one is looking after him and baffled that there is a bigger outpouring of grief over dog than Elena.
|Laura||All this fuss over a dog and why on earth does everyone call him Alfonzo Dominico Jones?|
|Angus||(looking baffled at such a silly question) That's his name|
|Laura||(impatiently) Yes but why do they insist on using all three names all the time?|
|Angus||Well they're only adding the Jones bit to be formal cos it's a courtroom. I mean normally we just call him Alfonzo Dominico.|
|Laura||Well why say his middle name?|
|Angus||Well that's his name|
Len and Carmen have a touching discussion about the concept of loss and grieving - he for his wife Margaret, and she for her unborn daughter Talulah.
|Carmen||I had to do a womens's tribal workshop before get over it.|
|Len||I don't think I'll
ever get over Margaret. There hasn't been a day in the last 8 yrs when I
haven't thought ofh er .
(Carmen's face becomes reflective)
I don't know what I would want to forget her.
|Carmen||Actually, sometimes I still miss my baby, too.|
Max succeeds in stirring up Bob with the first edition of the Pearl Bay Oyster while Laura's still grappling with why Max has this compulsion to swim and swim.
"So is that an animal instinct then, if you're distressed you head for water?" she asks the vet giving evidence in court. As Max keeps swimming, Laura watches him in concern, poring over "Confronting Grief Head On" in an attempt to understand him.
She decides to try to reach out to him once more.
|Laura||I just wondered if there was something else that you might like to talk about|
No you're right, there's a real issue. Underneath all the nonsense of the swimming pool Laura. I don't know what it is. It might be about democracy, that started with Plato years ago.
He continues with his flippancy, frustrating a bewildered Laura with his manner, but now and then, he slips and his grief reveals itself:
"Well I could try something a little more refined, a little more British - I'm terribly sorry, chaps the love of my life seems to have died"
Then he resorts to flippancy again and Laura tries again.
|Laura||I think that it wasn't fair that she had to die so young.|
|Max||It wasn't fair compared to what? She didn't suffer. It wasn't violent and it wasn't ugly...and there no children left motherless, there was no unfinished business. She just slipped away and now it's time for a song to get us back in the grieve groove....|
As he bursts into a few lines from Polly Vaughn, Laura gives up and tells him that he knows where he can find her and he stares at her with a bleak expression in his eyes that says everything.
"Laura - I'd howl at the moon if I thought it would help. But it won't."
Did anyone else feel like bawling their eyes out at this point????
In relation to the sand bar saga, Meredith has helped Angus come to terms with the loss of his sand bar by reinforcing to him that it was not something permanent, and that like everything else in life, it is shifting and changing. For some reason, the somewhat frightening notion that nothing is immutable soothes him.
"You see Angus, you might have thought that sand bar was permanent and solid, it was always at the mercy of the currents".
Meanwhile, Karen is preparing to compromise her moral integrity and immolate herself on the altar of duty for Angus. It's slightly deflating for her when the sand bar moves a short distance away.
There is resolution of other issues as the truth about Alfonzo Dominico's death is finally revealed.
Len, being the canny father he is, realises that Max's stirring of Bob Jelly is his son's way of dealing with his grief. He attempts to tell his son that he doesn't want the pool to be named after him.
|Max||No he's not, that's not the point all right. I mean, he doesn't deserve it. It's not about his name being on the pool, it's not even about you, all right. It's about the principle of the matter so just accept it all right please dad. it's yours ... take it.|
|Len||Bob Jelly didn't kill Elena, son. (face taut and filled with anger and grief)|
Carmen has forced Max to face a few home truths. He calls her sloppy around the edges and she accuses him of being guilty of the same thing. Although he is slowing growing angered by her truths, she deflects it with her simple honesty and her lack of maliciousness and when he asks her how he can make things up to his father, she proves that despite her slightly ditzy and flaky exterior, she is insightful: "You could start by going for a swim with him".
At the next conucil meeting, Max realises that there's more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to infuriate Bob Jelly. He suggests a name for the pool that satisfies everyone except Bob and his grin of satisfaction is beautiful.
|Max||I think a few words should be said about what Bucket's gone through lately. Firstly he loses his best friend and then he's accused of murder and even worse, well not everyone in the town kept faith that he was innocent. It was very hard to know what to do but I think it's important we find a way to make it up to him and that pool was Alfonzo Dominico's final resting place|
|Bob||(outraged) eh? you can't name a pool after a dog!|
|Max||Not just any dog Bob - this is Alfonzo Dominico Jones.|
|Kevin||what about Len?|
|Max||No he's all right about it Kevin. He understands, especially when you consider what Bucket's been through, it's the least we can do.|
Ordinarily the touching exchange between Kevin and Trevor takes place at the end of the episode, but not in this episode. As Trevor and Kevin put up the sign for the pool, Trevor ponders the full name of Alfonzo Dominico Antonio Jones. The Antonio part of the dog's name was never said and he wonders why:
"The bit you don't say is the most important part" his father tells him wisely.
I'm not even going to try to go through the open-hearted discussion between Max and his father on the beach. It was long, it was truthful and it was heartfelt. We learn how Elena knew that Max was afraid of flying and always said, "Max I don't wanna go" just as the plane was taking off - staring an argument with him to take his mind off his fears.
"The night she died, the night she died she was tryin' to say something to me. And she touched my cheek and she said: "I don't want to go Max." and she smiled."
Earlier in the episode, Len gave Laura a letter from Elena:
It was nice to spend time with you. I know this is Max's home town but even here I am worried about him. I am asking you this because you know what it's like to feel adrift in Pearl Bay. Could you keep an eye on Max? He says that the ocean is home and where he feels safest but I'm worried that one day he'll swim out to sea and not come back. Thanks
The episode then ends with the very, very uneasy, disturbing sounding song "Ocean Beast" written by W. Morisson and performed by Felt. "
Swimmer, swimmer in the sea,
Body won't come back to me
Swimmer, swimmer in the sea,
Cut my body, let me be.
(Click here for the full lyrics)
Max is the standout character in this episode. He spends must of the episode in an alcoholic daze, befuddled, bewildered and wickedly malicious. He doesn't say a great deal, but he looks like a man in pain. More on this later....
For once, I'd have to disagree with Koala, in that I really didn't think this episode was that great. There were fantastic individual scenes, but the whole wasn't as satisfying as it could have been.
I think the main reason for this was the quite silly plot about Alfonso Dominico. I think Koala is absolutely right in her analysis about how it fits into the episode's focus on grief. But in execution, it was distracting. The worst scene to my mind was the courtroom in uproar after Bucket had rushed out. In trying to maintain the tradition of never letting the viewer see Bucket, this scene was annoying and contrived. It also didn't make a lot of sense. Bucket worked so much better as an occasional joke for the regular viewers, and involving him in a plot in this fashion just didn't work.
I'll also admit to being a bit of a Rupert fan, as I think the kid who plays him is quite phenomenal. This was the first episode in which I found Rupert to be genuinely irritating: all the 'cute' scenes about dog heaven got a bit much.
But how this episode did work, was in the scenes of Max trying to deal with his grief, and the juxtoposition of this with the efforts of people in the town trying to deal with Max. I liked the opening scene of Max and Angus, in which Angus is standing on the beach stunned and grieving the loss of his sandbar. Max walks up, and Angus starts to tell him that it's gone, then stops, remembering that Max has just lost his wife. Angus's awkwardness reminded us that no one really did know Elena. Although it's a big thing for Max and Laura, it isn't for anyone else.
There's a great scene towards the beginning of the episode where Max carries a suitcase up to a clothing bin, and starts trying to stuff it in. Meredith approaches him and asks if it's Elena's, saying 'I don't think that's a very good idea.' Max snaps back angrily, 'And why's that Meredith?' She answers that a widow tried the same thing a few years back with her husband's clothes, only to find half the town wearing his suits. 'It's a small town, Max'; she says, 'you try to get rid of something, but it comes back.' A short moment, that captures how the dead can haunt the living through prosaic reminders.
Len, Max's father, was also a wonderful inclusion in this episode: great actor, and his empathy for his son's suffering was beautiful to watch. I doubt there was an entirely dry eye in Australia after the harrowing scene when Max tells his father about how Elana 'didn't want to go'.
But to finish on a minor irrelevant detail: did anyone else notice when Laura was cooking the curry (or whatever it was) for Max, she was grinding the herbs? There was a great scene with Diver in A Matter of Taste, in which Laura received her first cooking lesson from Dan. Whilst he sits watching Laura grind up spices, Laura rants about how 'some people have gone to the trouble of taking all these herbs and putting them into packets in just the right amount; and then people like you feel the need to start from scratch. I just don't see the point.' To which Dan replies; 'Keep grinding'. Anyway, Laura's use of the little mortar and pestle in this scene was a cute little reminder of Diver's influence. He may be in the Galapagos islands, but his legacy remains . . .
Lyn's Spiels © 1999 Lyn
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