Hey, it’s me, Ryan McGee. Been doing these recaps of your summer show Hidden Palms for the past few weeks now. And, as one of the eight people in America who bothered to do so, I’d now like to ask for those eight hours of my life back.
I mean, that was it? That’s all you had in the tank, Hidden Palms? You actually expected to stretch that out over more than eight episodes? Clearly, you did, because roughly 25 of the 41 minutes of actual show tonight had absolutely no business actually being in the episode. I don’t care that Nikki’s a horrible waitress. I really, really don’t care if Johnny’s mom stayed with her second husband or not. All I wanted was a final episode that wrapped every loose end of the Eddie murder mystery, with the minimum number of generic alt-pop songs assaulting my eardrums. Instead, I got…well, THAT. What THAT was will be explained in the following, spoiler-filled paragraphs.
A good murder mystery always leaves the viewer/reader with the feeling that there’s a fair chance he or she can solve the mystery before the protagonist does. Not only is the identity of the killer(s) within reach, but a motivation is within reach as well. Hidden Palms left absolutely no chance anyone could accurately predict the motivation for the murder of Eddie, since the nominal reason (Alan sensing Eddie knew he was killing his cancer-ridden wife in order to be with Eddie’s mother Maria) was only revealed in the VERY LAST SCENE OF THE SERIES. There hadn’t been the slightest indication that there was any foul play involved with Greta’s mother. No way anyone could have predicted the eventual outcome of the series, because the show didn’t do a good job in laying out all pertinent information to the audience. Lazy writing. Given an infinite number of lazy monkeys, and an infinite amount of typewriters…well, those lazy monkeys would have still introduced plausible doubt around Episode 6. Just sayin’.
Identifying Alan as the killer wasn’t hard after the end of last week’s episodes, since all evidence pointed towards Maria, and Storytelling 101, even on a show as awful as Hidden Palms, dictates that applying that much heat to one character instantly clears them of any wrongdoing. Around the 54th time someone on the show tonight said, "I bet Maria Nolan killed Eddie!" I figured she was off the hook. That left Alan, He Who Cleaned The Crime Scene, as the murderer. Alan later turned into He Who Removed Evidence From a Crime Scene, which pretty much makes Alan a combination of Johnnie Cochran and "The Wolf" from Pulp Fiction. Seriously, if you plan on spiking your spouse’s chemotherapy or sleeping with your son’s underage friend, get Alan on speed-dial, like pronto.
Alan’s Achilles heel, it seems, is the inability to understand how a webcam works. Happens to the best of us. There are elder members of my family who don’t get that having high-speed internet means they don’t have to log on to their AOL account. Blows their minds that "AOL" and "the internet" are not in fact the same thing. So I get it. But we’re led to belief that Alan’s in fact a very good lawyer (as evidenced by his wealth and his connections within law enforcement), so having such sloppy knowledge of how a laptop works reeks of, you guessed it, lazy writing.
Speaking of lazy, let’s turn to Johnny. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. A man who approached the question of "Who killed Eddie?" with the same vim and vigor as he approached the question of "Hey, where did my socks go?" I mean, have you ever seen someone pursue a murder investigation with such intense lethargy? The only way I could tell that this case stressed him out was the fact that he managed to gain roughly 15 pounds since the last episode. Dude’s stress eating, big time. (A fun drinking game: drink each time you see Johnny eating something in this episode. You won’t make it to the last commercial break. Maybe it’s better that way.)
And here’s the kicker: Johnny never really solves the mystery. Flat out doesn’t. The answer is ultimate merely handed to him when all his said and done. His method of investigation throughout the show was to annoy the heck out of people with his, "Boy, I wonder who killed Eddie…ooh, you gonna finish that donut?" babble that they just spurted out clues to shut him up. He did find out that Liza was sleeping with Eddie, but that ended up having nothing to with the murder. Looking back on the eight-episode series, we’re meant to believe this apathetic blonde boy shook the trees of Alan and Maria’s carefully constructed world, rending asunder their elaborate scheme, leading to the truth. Riiight.
Course, what Johnny’s ambling investigation leads to is the suicide of Maria Nolan, a suicide that for some unknown reason everyone assumes wasn’t foul play. Unbelievable. Tell me what they put in the water in Palm Springs; I want to make sure I never sip any of it. While we learn through Maria’s email that it was in fact suicide, we’re first treated to a montage of people who all basically say, "Well, here’s Eddie’s mom, apparently having killed herself after leaving a suicide note. We all thought Eddie killed himself too, because hey, there was a note and all, but thanks to the Blonde Bland Boy Wonder, now we all think maybe he was murdered. I could put two and two together and suspect foul play here, but that would hurt my brain, so I’ll just call it a day, assign Eddie’s murder to his mother, and call it a day. I think Jessie Jo’s got a show in 15 minutes, anyways."
Good grief. Know how Las Vegas has that "What happens here, stays here" motto? Maybe Palm Springs can have a "Who murders here, gets away with it here" motto. Then again, so near as I can tell, the entire economy of Palm Springs is powered by Jessie Jo and a small army of teenagers. Apparently, no adults actually work in Palm Springs. Maybe the police force is made up of kids who couldn’t get country club positions. It’s possible.
In any case, there we were, we few, we unhappy few, we band of Hidden Palms viewers, watching a Parade of Stupid descend upon Maria’s house, as Coldplay’s song "Amsterdam" mournfully played over the montage that inexplicably veered between slo-mo and normal speed, with no rhyme or reason. It was like suddenly watch a student film, or worse, a Michael Bay film. I’m sitting there, slack-jawed on seven levels, trying to justify this insanity by thinking, "OK, well, maybe they’re going for a dark ending. You know, Alan gets away with murder, everyone else moves on not knowing…I mean, OK, this show hasn’t remotely earned such a noir ending, but fine, I can sorta respect that on some distant level I’ll maybe arrive at after a few cocktails."
But no, the show couldn’t even do that, as Johnny’s SpyderMail message from Maria Nolan, minutes before suicide, confirms that Alan indeed did it. And then…blackness. Don’t know if Hidden Palms was going for a Sopranos-like finish or if the show ran out of money to film any other scenes, but in any case, holy let-down. It would have been one thing if we’d seen that video on Eddie’s laptop, viewed by Alan after Greta gave the first tentative step towards accepting Alan as her father. Now THAT would have been a compelling finish, not enough to make this series as a whole any good but a strong choice nonetheless. But in seeing Johnny see the video, and then end the show…I just can’t understand the logic. I suppose we’re to assume that Johnny then shows the video to the police, who arrest Alan, and THEN peace and prosperity and annoying Nikki/Cliff makeouts can rule the day, but honestly, we couldn’t have see that?
Because I personally need to see that. I need to make sure Johnny won’t take his laptop downstairs in order to call the police, only to be distracted by a big slice of cake on the countertop, chow down, and while he’s chowing down, Alan comes in and deletes his email. It’s entirely plausible within the realms of Hidden Palms that that could have been a plausible plot point. Jessie Jo went from "Cliff is Satan in a pink polo shirt" to "Eh, you know, if you wanna lick him, I suppose that’s OK" in approximately 24 hours, so I’ll believe anything in this show at this point.
But, luckily, I don’t have to believe anything else, since it’s all over except for Johnny’s doleful, doughy stare, which will haunt me for at least a few weeks, I must admit. Hopefully these recaps haven’t haunted you, however. As much as the show’s sometimes pained me to watch, recapping the show has been nothing but a pleasure. I hope you’ve enjoyed these recaps. If so, check out my weekly takes on John From Cincinnati, a show that has just about nothing to do with Hidden Palms except that both can theoretically be watched on a television.
What did you think of the culmination of the mystery? Will you miss this show or will you say "good riddance?" And did anybody else notice that creeptastic Clearasil ad halfway through the show that essentially played the Cliff/Maria storyline for laughs?