I’m going to ask you to engage in a little activity before you read this post. Hold an image of Murder, She Wrote in your mind and think of all the words you associate with the show. Here are some of the ones that come up for me: Cozy, gently-paced, feels like the inside of a leather bound book, less violent than an Agatha Christie novel, usually involves a murder but I still somehow feel like I’m drink a warm cup of tea — okay you get the picture. This, my friends, is none of those things. (If you want to watch along, Murder She Wrote is free on Peacock.) Are you ready? Let’s go.
1988’s “Snow White, Blood Red” feels like an aspiring writer went to the video store, rented The Lost Boys, decided Murder, She Wrote needed the same treatment, did a line of coke, wrote something on spec, and somehow that script ended up in the production pile for season 5, purely by accident.
In this episode, Jess is enjoying a ski vacation at the Sable Mountain Lodge courtesy of her nephew. While she waits for his arrival, she witnesses a lovers spat involving the owner of the lodge, a phone call with her “boyfriend”(Gunnar), and a very aggressive other man who snatches the phone from her hands.
Cut to the lodge bar where we meet Pamela. Let me pause here and mention how much I love her whole aesthetic. Pam is pissed because she signed a ski pro (omg you guys this is Gunnar from the telephone) on to endorse her company’s ski gear. However, she has just heard that he’s planning on not competing in the World Cup. Also she’s also heard he’s some kind of playboy. Wait, wait? Gunnar is the playboy??? The earlier scene made me think that the lodge owner was the player. To use an 80’s term: who’s zoomin’ who?
So the big drama continues to be Gunnar’s potential retirement. His coach confronts him in the gym and they get into it. Things even get a little physical, but everyone emerges unscathed (thus far). Meanwhile, Pamela continues to shop around for a better pro to rep her brand. She has dinner with another pro, Larry, and tries to convince him to sign with her even though Gunnar is still under contract.
While Pam tries to negotiate a new deal, Jessica arrives for dinner and cannot find a table because it is so crowded. This is 100% my experience of every single restaurant on a mountain during ski season. Jess ends up sharing a table with Ed, who is a detective from New York, and his wife, Sylvia. Dinner goes well. Everyone has a good time.
Cut to some night skiing where Gunnar is murdered by a crossbow. Yes, you read that correctly. Murdered by a crossbow ON MURDER SHE WROTE.
Honestly, my chief complaint about this show is that it can be a little too dull, so I’m really enjoying this change of pace and I truly want to see what happens. OH and also. There is a blizzard. And everyone at the lodge is now snowed in. So if you were the murderer and your plan was to kill Gunnar with a crossbow and then get the heck out of Dodge, you would be in some seriously deep shit right now.
Meanwhile, no one from the outside can reach the mountain to attend to Gunnar’s corpse! (This seems a little odd to me…I don’t know enough about inclement weather travel logistics to dispute it but…there was a murder…and you’re telling me they all just have to hang out with the body for a while????)
That is, in fact, exactly what they do. The lodge owner (I promise to learn her name before the end of this post) and her husband — not boyfriend — (whose name I also need to learn, sorry, sorry) enlist Jessica to help them with the dead man and obvious crime scene. At first, she resists…and that’s saying a lot for a woman who loves to get involved with murder whenever possible. But she’s like, no seriously you guys I’m a book writer who sometimes does some Nancy Drew stuff on the side, but I’m definitely not someone who could examine a body.
Cut to Jessica examining the body:
She is conducting this post-mortem examination with a gynecologist by the way. Being the only doctor on the entire mountain, he has been roped into helping. Meanwhile, Ed from dinner (who everyone thought had gone home) returns because they “ran into a snow bank the size of the Chrysler building,” which is the first of many annoying at best and offensive at worst statements in reference to Ed’s life in New York City.
Upon seeing the dead body, this dude promptly says, “Oh, beautiful. Well, in the South Bronx we learn to live with stuff like this. But here? How does it figure?” which is a genuinely awful thing to say. It’s especially shitty coming from someone who was presumably on the force during a number of high profile murders that happened right in the heart of midtown Manhattan around the time this episode was filmed. Did we learn to live with those too, Ed? Or do the rules only apply to the South Bronx?
But I guess it was better for tourism if the writers established the New Yorkiness of a character by denigrating a low income neighborhood where — this episode would have you believe — people get used to murder.
Nevertheless, Jessica tries to get Ed to take over the investigation…which like fine…he has a badge or whatever…ughhhhhhhh. But he refuses. And just in case you didn’t hate Ed before, wait until you hear his reason for not wanting to help: “If this was some punk pusher getting knifed under the the Deegan expressway, fine. But bows and arrows? I mean this is a little out of my league.”
In other words, Ed is a piece of shit.
Once Ed has made it abundantly clear that he is not capable of investigating rich, white people at a ski lodge, he finally agrees to help out as long as Jessica runs point. And you know what, she really should be in charge. She’s got a square head on her shoulders and she isn’t an insane piece of shit who thinks one murder victim is less worthy than another.
The cop and the gynecologist leave Jess alone with the body while she goes through his personal effects. In his pocket she finds a key to room 301. Shortly thereafter, the lodge owner gives her an urgent message that had been left for Gunnar that morning. It’s from a woman named Vicki and she has a Nevada area code. Jess calls the number and the man who answers the phone identifies the number as that of the “Tartaglia residence.” Jess asks for Vicki, but the man says she isn’t there and he doesn’t now when she will be back. By the way, he’s super irritated.
Jess takes the key to room 301 and starts poking around the room. The lodge owner’s boyfriend shows up and starts snooping while Jess is lying in wait. She confronts him with a lighter that belongs to his girlfriend, Anne. (The lodge owner’s name is Anne!) It’s obviously that’s what he’s there to retrieve. When Jess doesn’t hand it over immediately, he gets a little threatening. Dude seems unhinged, frankly. So she puts the lighter down on the end table where he can take it back without getting closer to her. She then moves closer to the hall door.
The husband softens up a bit after this, allowing Jess to get some key information out of him. Anne and he were engaged when he had an accident. Even though they did get married, he never felt that he was enough for her. But he swears that she was in the room for an hour after Gunnar left because he was staring down the hall watching the door like a creepy, stalker. I get that they’re married and she’s stepping out on him and so I’m judging a little less on the door staring…but it also doesn’t feel like that can go anywhere good.
Now we jump to a scene with a little light acoustic guitar concert at a table with a pitcher of beer. This appears to be some sort of memorial service for Gunnar. During the memorial, Larry gets upset that everyone is having a little too much fun and leaves mid-celebration of life. In the meantime, Jess starts up a conversation in the cafe with Pam. She complains to Jess about the contract situation. She even says she “could have killed him,” but she’s just being metaphorical. Or so she says.
Cut to a spooky gloved hand with a crossbow. I mean we’re getting zoomed in shots of the arrow tip with spooky-ass horror music. What is happening on Murder, She Wrote right now???
We cut from the crossbow to Larry and Pam working out in the gym. Larry is still complaining about the memorial service not being somber enough. He then leaves Pam alone in the gym where Gunnar’s drunk coach accuses her of trying to force Gunnar out of his endorsement contract. He says she was embarrassed by Gunnar’s womanizing and set out to sabotage him. He also accuses her of having something to do with the murder. He wrenches her wrist and says that he’d kill her if she wasn’t a woman. GEEZE. So many terrible people in this episode!
Pam heads into the locker room and finds some bloody workout clothes that look suspiciously like Larry’s. She enters the showers to look for a presumably injured Larry and holy crap honestly I have never seen something so graphic on this show as what she finds in that shower. There is a lot of blood and he’s been strung up over the shower head. Watch at your own risk:
I know you’re all upset and I’m here to comfort you with another photo of Pamela’s excellent fashion sense:
As if the shower horror wasn’t enough, this episode raises the stakes yet again. The phones don’t work! They can still call within the lodge because of a generator, but Anne says they are “totally isolated from the civilized world.” Ed orders the entire lodge searched from top to bottom for the crossbow. And Jess is like Ed, you idiot we’re not just going to find it lying around somewhere.
Ed says there’s something a little off about the Coach in his opinion. This is is the first thing Ed and I have agreed upon all night. While he investigates this theory, Jess and Anne’s husband borrow a CB radio in a guest’s car. They manage to make contact with the sheriff just long enough to report the two murders, but then the radio loses the signal.
Back at the lodge, Jess asks Mike (that’s Anne’s husband’s name!) why he and Anne invited all of their friends to the lodge that week…you know…cause now they’re all dying…He tells her they were hoping to drum up some business and nothing more. She notes two out of the four previous World Cup team members are now dead. Just then, Johnny (the only remaining living team member aside from Mike) stumbles into the room. He’s been shot by an arrow, but he cannot identify the culprit.
Jessica theorizes the killer is left handed based on the way Johnny was injured. However, she also posits that his wound might have been self-inflicted. She thinks he could be picking off other team member in order to secure his spot on the next World Cup team.
That night Jess is awakened by a phone call from Ed’s wife. She says that Ed received a mysterious phone call and left their room with his gun! So now Jess has to trudge down this giant staircase in the blizzard to look for him.
As she tries the doors of the ski shop, Ed almost shoots her. He’s there waiting to meet a man who called him and said he had information. While Ed and Jessica discuss that this situation could very easily be a trap, the killer set them in the sites of his crossbow. Luckily, he misses.
They see a man on a skimobile headed towards them. Ed shoots the person one the skimobile and he falls to the ground. With the unidentified assailant now down, Ed and Jess rush over to find out who the killer is. It turns out it’s…drum roll please…the coach!
But Jess isn’t so sure. She’s enlisted the gyno to extract the bullets from the coach’s body. She then meets Sylvia in the restaurant and inquires as to why Ed is in such a hurry to leave when he was part of the investigation. What hot shot cop wouldn’t want to brag to other cops? Ed’s wife said he just doesn’t want to fill out the paperwork…uh…okay.
When Ed walks in and says they have to wait for their fuel line to be repaired– I assume that’s Jess’s doing — she confronts him with the coach’s winter coat. Jess shows him that the coat only shows a bloodstain from one shot — meaning that the coach was already dead when the second bullet hit him. Jess thinks that Vicki’s husband sent Ed to kill Gunnar. Then Ed killed again to cover up his original crime by making it look like Gunnar was targeted for being on the World Cup team. She also thinks he’s pretending to be a cop…which would make sense with all the really on the nose stereotypes and the fact that he didn’t want to help investigate at all.
Jess then accuses Sylvia of helping Ed. After all, she was the one who lured Jess out of her room. And someone had to shoot the crossbow and start the skimobile. Also they were the only two people who even tried to leave the lodge before the roads were closed. Plus, when Jessica was double checking the crime scene, she noticed an internal phone next to sleigh bells in the car barn where the skimobiles are. And come to think of it, she is sure she heard sleigh bells in the background while speaking to Sylvia.
Very Special Bizzaro Lesson: If you’re an arrogant jackass, who tries to flee a crime scene, a lovely mystery author will ensnare you in a trap you never see coming. Is this my favorite episode of Murder, She Wrote ever??? I’m really liking the Murder, She Wrote bizzaro world. I liked the thriller/suspense vibe in terms of holding my attention. I also very much love that this dude who was so flagrantly a jackass right from the beginning gets knocked down a peg by Jessica when he thought he was pulling one over on her. Annnnnd in a bizzaro world, it’s not even bizarre that murder follows Jessica literally everywhere she goes.
If you’re still reading this (probably my longest post ever) thanks for sticking around! And also please check out Murder She Drank as they live tweet this episode on Friday, December 18th!
Finally, quick shout out to Joanna at Murder, She Watched. That photo of Ed & Jess talking about motive came from her post on the episode. She also has a beautiful cast of characters for your reference! (Way better than me forgetting everyone’s names.)