The TV adaptation starts with a murder scene, but unlike in the book, this is not the main murder, but the murder of Alice Corrigan. A woman who was on a bike ride finds her corpse, and alerts the police. At the same time, we can see a priest’s sermon. His name is Stephen Lane, and he is fanatically giving a speech about Jesabels. In the bible, Jesabel is a phenician princess, who married the kind Habab of Israel, and had a strong influence over him. She drove him to change his religion and follow the cult of Baal. Lane uses this story as an illustration of the wickedness of women, as Jesabel is a concentrate of corruption and wickedness. Her punishement fir that was a wrathful, unforgiving death, that Lane considers as the price that must be paid.
What is stunning about this sermon is how much this minister looks angry and passionate, he’s sweating and looks pretty much like an extremist, he is intense and religiously zealous. His negative view of women is so extreme that it looks unhealthy and makes the minister look sort of suspect.
While hearing this sermon, we can see a forest, in which a scream is heard. Then a woman running to her bike, leaves the scene of what we suppose to be a crime. The sermon heard in the background creates a link between the victim, who soon appears to be a woman, and the concept of Jesabel. Maybe the victim was a Jesabel who was punished.
The victim’s name is Alice Corrigan, as we said above. She was found at 10:15am, and killed a short while before only, strangled. Jane Martindale was on a cycling holiday when she discovered the body and immediately contacted the police, who arrived at the murder scene at 11.30. The first suspect, as often is her fiancé, but he has an iron clad alibi: he was on a train from London, and arrived only at 10.20, so he can’t have been the murderer. The verdict of the case is a murder by person(s) unknown.
The next scene introduces the main character: Mr Hercule Poirot, brilliant and smartly dressed detective. He appears elegant and clever. He is preparing for going to the opening of a restaurant belonging to his partner, Captain Hastings. With the help of his secretary Miss Lemon, who is also his personal advisor, he is checking his physical appearance. They are also talking about Poirot’s look: he’s overweight, and Miss Marple asks if he didn’t gain weight, as he can’t seem to fit in his tidy jacket anymore. Poirot, who’s a gourmey, greedy and jovial, denies this, even though he really looks fat. His stiff and shiny moustache, as well as his neat costume makes him look a little vain, or at least fassy, fastidious. He is concerned about his physical appearance. Yet at the same time, this personality train, along with his fat, stout, bald body makes him a funny character, ridiculous at first sight.
Once at the restaurant though, we soon find out that Poirot has a brilliant mind, and is attentive to details. This is something typical for the genre: the detective is intellectually superior, but physically inferior to the average persons. His English also is tainted with a strong French accent, although he is in fact Belgian. His accent take part in his comical aspects, and make him look somewhat naïve or simple minded. This is something that Poirot actually takes advantage of and overdoes, in order to gain people’s confidence (and confidences). He makes errors like say: I am not the invalid, instead of I am not invalid, or a mother chicken instead of saying a hen.
At the restaurant, another character is introduced: Arlena Stuart, who is the point of focus of all. She is a very beautiful woman, at first sight, dressed elegantly, eductive, glamourous, stunning all man surrounding her. Soon, she also shows her character: she’s obnoxious and unpleasant. Not only is she seductive but also troublesome. She is the archetype of a Jesabel. Whereas she came with her husband Kenneth Marshal to the restaurant, she spends the evening dancing with Nathan. Poirot overhears that she owes him money, but maybe he is extorting money from her. Being a famous actress, a pretty celebrity, she treats her husband like a servant, and has a completely disrespectful behaviour to him.
Poirot focuses on the nice food, what he eats proves definitely he is not ascetic, together with his corpulence. But something unexpected happens: in the middle of dinner, he suddenly feels unwell and faints. Hospitalized, the doctors tell him he is obese, and might have a problem with his heart, as he overindulges. After the suspense of his sudden fainting, the following comical scene relieves the ambiance. Poirot is sent to a health resort, on the behalf of his doctor. He is not looking forward to it, looking like a little boy that was punished. He really is an armchair detective and does not like the physical exercice he will have to do.