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10 July 2011

Journey Through Spain III - Los Misterios de Laura, and Truth Versus Non-Fiction

We had two Mondays in Spain and I got hooked on a late-night program, "Los Misterios de Laura," which is the foreign daughter-in-spirit of "Columbo."

Laura wears a trenchcoat everywhere (even to attend a champagne-filled awards dinner, but not thankfully, to afternoon weddings).  She's clumsy; she's persistent; she's totally oblivious or maybe not caring of committing social faux pas.  She picks up on tiny little nuances and inconsistencies.  And, then, in the end, she puts it all together and the handcuffs are put on the true criminal, usually by current boss and now ex-husband Jacobo, who smiles bemusedly as she does that presentation to the gathering of suspects which seems to be a staple of the formula television detective stories if not real-life ones.

Peter Falk can rest in peace with such an able offspring as Maria Pujalte as Laura.

My Spanish is still extremely rusty and I still haven't figured out what happened to cause the rift and ultimate divorce of Laura and Jacobo while they maintain a very good working professional relationship (he clearly respects her intuitive way of investigating crime, even while he believes the same woman Laura is trying to help is dangerous and crazy).  I'm sure there are not a few of us still rooting for Jacobo and Laura to get back together and be that model professional family with those adorable but patience-trying twins Carlos & Javi and equally exasperating mother/mother-in-law Mirabel.

What is rather puzzling (a mystery!) on the dates of the programs -- I was in Spain on Monday, 25 April and Monday, 2 May.  On the program's website, they have all these episodes listed by date order.  And, while I recall seeing the one said to be from 2 May on 25 April, the one I saw on 2 May is nowhere to be found.  A repeat (or what did they call them? --  a re-broadcast)?   This is problematic, because I was going to describe the episode in detail (and link to the episode) to illustrate the difference between truth and belief.  If a person truly believes something, is it true?  And, because I can't find the episode, did I really see it?  Can I still describe it in this blog?

An old man dies after drinking some sangria offered at his neighbors' backyard grilling party. The suspicions all focus on those neighbors -- three professional, upper middle class couples.  Uncomfortable with the scrutiny, they came en masse into the police station and insisted upon taking lie detector tests.  All six were ultimately asked, "Did you kill _______ ?"  Each said, no, and at no time did the machine detect a lie.  That is because each one person could truly believe he or she did not do it, did not strike the fatal blow that killed the man.  It turns out they all did it -- first doing a six-glass monty on the poisoned wine, so no one knew who held the fatal glass.  Then, they all poured their glasses of wine into the pitcher of sangria and no one drank from it but the unfortunate old neighbor.  With this all-for-one and one-for-all commitment, each could kid himself into truly believing he was not the culprit.  I never could figure out why his neighbors believed he had to die.
The writers of the television show put some irony into it, showing that it works the other way, also.  If one feels something may be technically true and really is a matter for interpretation, the subsequent guilt can wreck the detector.  Laura's estranged husband wanting to reconcile but is found with a fairly incriminating gift from a woman (a buttoned-down shirt no less) insists she ask him questions while strapped to a lie detector test.  I couldn't figure out what she was asking, but however she worded it, the needle on the machine went berserk.  He felt guilty, and so the machine picked up on that through his pulse rate, his sweat rate and whatever else a "lie detecting" machine uses, even when he truly felt true to her.  That was that; he couldn't prove it.  By the end of the episode, he had granted her a divorce.
Quite interestingly, I now have the title for a book I can use to illustrate that same phenomenon, from the other side.  Instead of calling it sincerity in the face of truth, Carol Tavris would call it denial, justification or even hypocrisy.  But, is it truth?

As a P.S., I found the episode I described, which was a re-broadcast.  I also discovered that no one knows why Jacobo and Laura separated.  The only backstory is that the marriage wore out.  Is that an acceptable reason for divorce?
Here's another mystery (to me). The website announces, here's the last 54 episodes of the show, but a) there are not 54 full episodes (unless they're counting the fragments and the one-minute trailers, and b) what happened to 2010?  There are 2009 episodes (which I have figured out was the first year) and 2011, but none in 2010.  Are they part of the missing or was there a lapse in production (lack of sponsors, what have you)?

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