Apparently the Powers That Be had decided that they needed to save some money, and requested the writer and his wife to come up with a "bottle show" to avoid the expense of new sets and outside locations. The writer himself was not impressed with the result. While it's not the sort of show that you would want to see more than once or twice, it is part of the great diversity that made this show so fascinating, and I enjoy it as such.
There's no attempt at subtlety--cliche is piled on cliche, starting with the obligatory dark and stormy night. Paladin is prepared to spend the ugly evening with a fine meal and congenial company--in the person of the hotel's stenographer, Pegeen Shannon. The "cool" relationship Miss Shannon insisted upon back in "Charlie Red Dog" seems to have gone by the wayside. Too much so, perhaps--the relationship seems to have reached the point where Pegeen is taking Paladin for granted. Paladin may be taking her for granted, too--a comment he makes while discussing the meal with Hey Boy makes it sound as though he had arranged the evening before asking the lady if she would join him. Best-laid plans...he finds Pegeen being monopolized by another guest, Prince Alexei Romanoff. It's a unique form of courting--the prince is having Pegeen write down his love letter to her. Paladin is disgruntled, and comments dryly that the Prince is borrowing his words from elsewhere--Shakespeare, in fact. The prince comes back magnificently--he borrows from the best.
Resigned to dining alone, Paladin starts to pick at the first course, when there's a knock at the door. He finds a dagger plunged into the door jamb (cue the sinister music) and a lovely lady unconcious on the floor. Never one to let an advantage pass by, Paladin fetches her in, and remains crouched very, very close to the lady as she prettily comes to, begs his help, and introduces herself as a princess--Mapuana, of the Sandwich Islands. Her evil stepbrother is trying to steal a ring destined for the King of the United States--er, President. She wants Paladin to keep the ring safe for her. After enjoying the lady's lush proximity for a time, Paladin escorts her to the door and shows why he took her explanations with a large grain of salt--the dagger had been placed in the jamb at an impossible angle. Miffed, the princess takes her leave. Paladin is not surprised in the least to find that she had left the ring with him anyway.
Hey Boy brings Paladin his main course--wild duck--and there's another interruption. Prince Kimo of the Sandwich Islands is demanding the ring, so that he--not the princess--can give it to the president. Paladin was suspicious of Mapuana, but he doesn't like Kimo's attitude, either, and refuses to cooperate. Trying to prove himself, the prince steps to the threshold--and drops dead. (More sinister music). Paladin removes a dart from the corpse. Rather foolishly, under the circumtances, he runs right out into the hall. Luckily for him, the killer is already gone. Paladin knocks on a door near the stairwell, and greets an Englishman, who had already gone to bed--in his boots! (Ah, HAH!) The Englishman doesn't turn a hair, and shuts his door. Paladin turns to find that Hey Boy, for no reason that I can see, is lurking around a corner armed with a cleaver. (Perhaps he was hanging around Paladin's room, but in that case, he should have seen who the killer was.) Paladin sends him to fetch the manager, and returns to his room. A sinister (naturally) Prussian (you can tell by the scar on his cheek) descends the stairs from the next floor up and stands, illuminated by the lightning and surrounded by rumbling thunder.
The manager, is flustered at all these goings on. He knows nothing of a visiting Princess, and wants to put the ring in the hotel safe. Paladin prefers to use it as bait. The manager agrees. (I often wonder if Paladin is part owner of the hotel--he gets away with an awful lot.) Settling to his cooling dinner, Paladin is interrupted again by someone at the door. Paladin is getting mighty irritated (he's hungry, poor man), and surprises his visiter, Prince Alexei, with a punch to the gut. (His attentions to Pegeen had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.) Alexei's superiors had instructed him to try and get the ring--for some reason they're equating possession of one little ring with possession of the entire Sandwich Island chain--but Alexei really isn't interested. He's enjoying his life as a distinguished foreign visitor too much. Having made his token effort, he cheerfully bids Paladin goodbye. Paladin contemplates the situation. Russians, and Prussians, and English, oh my! (This would seem to be an error, because Paladin, at this point, has not yet seen the sinister, scarred Prussian.) Paladin's soliloquy reminds him of a tune, and he bursts into song (good Heavens!) in which he is joined by another voice. The sinister Prussian has made himself known. He tries to take the ring by force, but Paladin has his derringer handy, and gets it back. Hey Boy abruptly bursts into the room (oh, dear) and gets grabbed as a hostage--but the Prussian doesn't take the opportunity to grab the ring again. Hey Boy gets clobbered out in the hall, and the Prussian rushes off. Paladin and Hey Boy go after him--but it's not necessary. The Prussian proves that he is not the killer by the simple expedient of dying himself.
Another poison dart in the hotel safe to await the police--who are dealing with a riot at the Barbary Coast. Paladin thinks he knows who the killer is--well, how many other sinister foreigners have we seen lurking about? Paladin asks Hey Boy's help in setting a trap, and Hey Boy responds in melodramatic fashion. Paladin can't help smiling, but he recognizes his friend's sincerity and loyalty, and doesn't openly laugh in Hey Boy's face. Paladin has given up on his wild duck, and asks for grilled swordfish. He also asks for a special bottle of wine, in a highly polished silver bucket.
Alone in the public dining room, Paladin shows why he wanted the bucket polished, and carefully angles it so that it will show the area behind his table. Hey Boy is sent off behind the curtains with a glass of wine to drop if he sees anything unusual. Picking up his knife and fork--he must be really hungry by this time--he's interrupted by the princess, who forces her way in past the manager. Hey Boy is so interested in watching this, he doesn't notice the glass being removed from his hand until it's gone, and he doesn't think to yell until he's knocked out. (Well, we wouldn't want this too easy, would we?) Paladin, for his part, is so interested in the princess--perhaps he thinks she really is the killer--that he leans close to her, and completely ignores the bucket. Bad move--there's a blowgun poking out from behind the curtains. They're interrupted yet again by Alexei, who apparently can't help poking his nose into things even when he's not really interested. There's a really clumsy bit of editing at this point: the killer, who's standing at close range and unnoticed, aims his blowgun and fires it--yet doesn't hit anyone. Either Paladin or the Princess should have dropped dead. Paladin does not turn until after the dart has been fired, at which point he promptly kills the killer--the Englishman. Well, sort of an Englishman, he has a wide assortment of passports to choose from. The princess, who had been in cahoots with the man--whoever he was--immediately becomes a poor, deluded victim taken in by a scoundrel. Paladin isn't inclined to argue. Nor is he inclined to deal with her. Seeing that Alexei is looking at her with appreciation, he suggests that they hook up. Pegeen, who has made her way into the scene, is rather dismayed. Prince and Princess happily accept exile together, and go off, making plans for Paris. Paladin, who's had a rough (and hungry) night, punishes his fickle lady by getting her hopes up (for one instant) before sending her on her way. Presumably she was annoyed enough to leave the hotel's employ, because we won't see her again.) Paladin will send the precious ring on to the President--but not until he's had something to eat.
I guess that the President didn't accept the offer from the Sandwich Islands--because Hawaii is not the thirty-ninth state of the Union. After all that hassle, Paladin must have been a little put out.