Hello! Today is the 29th anniversary of this episode. And I’m low-key obsessed with it. Why, you ask? Because our friend, Jessica Fletcher, has been turned into a controversial comic strip character. And she’s a fox (which of course we already knew) but a literal fox in this case. Oh and Harvey Fierstein is in this episode. What I’m trying to say is, it’s perfect.
The fox is accusing NYPD officers of doing corrupt shit — so actually this comic strip could be a public good — but unfortunately Jessica isn’t involved in the comic strip and can’t verify the information. Of course, everyone thinks she’s behind it — I guess because she’s a writer — but she’s genuinely not involved. She sincerely asks a lieutenant if he’s stealing drugs from evidence and he just straight up doesn’t answer — which feels like a YES to me — but it’s MSW so he’s probably falsely accused.
It looks like Jessica Fox is also exposing a Wall Street scandal. And Jessica Fletcher will now be sued for libel (which makes noooo sense) along with the artist and comic strip syndicator.
With actual money on the line now, Jessica tracks down the artist, Mr. Hatter. And that’s how we finally get to see Angela and Harvey on the screen together!
That’s when Mr. Hatter explains that he didn’t draw the comic strips that appeared in the newspaper. And his syndicator cannot figure out how the artwork got switched. He shows Jess his real comic strip which involves Jessica Fox solving innocent little barnyard animal mysteries. It’s all quite wholesome (aside from the murder).
Anyway, Mr. Hatter agrees to kill off the Jessica Fox character, which would seem like the end of all this. Except then the lieutenant comes back to see Jess and shows her a blackmail letter. Some of the letters in the note were cut out of the Cabot Cove Gazette.
Jess finds the letter perplexing, but she explains that she hasn’t been in Cabot Cove for three weeks. Even more importantly, she was in Italy on the date the newspaper shown in the letter cutout was published. So she goes back to Mr. Hatter and blames him for everything — saying he could have purchased the paper from a stand at Grand Central that carries one-week old issues of Cabot Cove Gazette — which like yeah, right I’m sure it does…
But Mr. Hatter shows her the strange comic strip in the day’s paper and points out explicit stylistic differences between the printed copy and the versions he showed her in his studio. His whole team backs him up, stating that the printed copy is most definitely a forgery.
The whole thing explodes into a very public argument between Mr. Hatter, Jess, and the people who want to sue them. So Jess decides they should all sit down and try to figure out who has motive to print all this stuff in this dirty laundry sort of way. And Mr. Hatter is kinda like well, I do have a lot of enemies.
The next morning, Mr. Hatter’s letterist (I’m not sure the correct term for someone who draws letters in comic strip so I am going with letterist) heads to work at 3:45 am (evidently, he likes to get an early start) and is hit over the head by an unknown assailant. Hopefully, he’s knocked out and not dead, but I’m not sure because we cut to Jess interviewing a potential suspect.
This guy, Mr. Whiting, says that Mr. Hatter used to be his assistant and stole the idea for the comic strip from him. And then all of his artwork disappeared in a mysterious fire. He says Mr. Hatter is just trying to get attention/money for his work and urges her to sue him. And she’s like no, I’m trying to avoid lawsuits, thanks. Plus she doesn’t think Mr. Hatter would make his characters look bad because they mean so much to him. Kind of a thin argument. But she says it’s exactly how she feels about the characters in her books.
Unfortunately, we do get confirmation that the letterist is dead. The detective on the scene doesn’t notice the damaged award (that was totally the murder weapon) until Jess points it out.
At this point, the detective openely accuses literally everyone around her of the crime — including Jess! (To be fair, I’ve frequently wondered about Jess’s proximity to all these murders myself…)
Meanwhile, it finally occurs to Jess that she should look for the source of the information in the comics. This leads her to a tabloid writer (who has been lurking around this whole time and for some reason she never checked up on him until now). She accuses him of being involved in blackmail and he claims that his files were stolen.
This leads Jess back to Mr. Whiting who says he was too busy having an affair to kill anyone. And then Jess is abruptly like okay, cool so if it’s not you then I know who it is. This leads us back to the studio in the middle of the night.
Jess notices that a plant has been rotated and discovers that this was done to hide a bloody artist’s glove. So she calls every single person that the letterist worked for and found out that he wasn’t scheduled to be in the studio when he was — meaning the murder wasn’t premeditated. There’s also no evidence on the glove except for the letterist’s blood. So Jess replaces the glove and calls Mr. Hatter.
That night, she catches one of the artists going back to remove the evidence. He explains that the letterist caught him drawing the libelous comic strips, so he faked his suicide.
Jess then explains that she really had no evidence on him whatsoever, but luckily he took the “message for Mr. Hatter” as bait. And most importantly, I need to point out that the detective has been making the below face for like two solid minutes:
But you know what, maybe that is the correct reaction to whatever the hell just happened in this episode.
I got this adorable Murder, She Wrote zine on Etsy and I want to tell you all about it. The zine is a collection of thirteen freeze-frame endings from the show, hand drawn by artist Amy Talluto. The level of detail here is truly amazing.
I’m partial to the one from “Magnum on Ice.”
It’s only $5 (including shipping) on Etsy so snag yourself one here.
I participated in the December installment of #MurderSheDrank and it was a JOY. The 2021 series will feature episodes from Season 7, so little old me thought I would take a look ahead and see what’s in store. First of all, this season brings us into the 90’s, which I am quite excited about. Secondly, I think it may contain one of the most gloriously ridiculous plot descriptions I have ever seen with my own two eyes.
The official description on Peacock in innocuous enough: “A fan, posing as Jessica, is arrested and later murdered.” But if you’re wondering for what purpose this fan impersonated Jessica — it was to investigate a local dog show. After reading that, I immediately said to myself: “Oh I have to watch this as soon as humanly possible!”
Let me tell you, this episode did not disappoint. It features a Jess Fletcher fan club that meets around a giant framed photo of her and they all carry around little fake Jessica Fletcher ID Cards. Okay, I’m hearing how stalkery that sounds out of context. But they’re all old ladies! And they all live in a small town in Texas! And it’s 1990! Sadly, one of the fan club members does die in the process of investigating a crime as JB Fletcher. It’s one of the few times the show acknowledges that amateur sleuthing can be deadly.
But mostly it’s just super, super cute. Jess pretends to be a dog owner with a very bad fake Southern accent, which she then abruptly drops when she realizes she’s in-character with someone who has already met her as the real Jess Fletcher. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen her off her game. She’s also only able to solve the mystery with the help of her wannabe sleuth fan club. To be fair, the stress of having someone steal her identity and then die must have been a lot.
Jess also has to deal with the logistical nightmare of people thinking she’s dead. This involves a tense phone call with Seth back in Cabot Cove and a lot of canceled credit cards. And she has to use the author’s photo on the back of one of her mass-market paperback (purchased at a local drugstore) in order to prove her identity to the local authorities. And as an added bonus, Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies and Edna from Laverne & Shirley are in the guest cast!
I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see any ridiculous dog show antics. I super wanted to see that. But that’s my only complaint! Another high point of this episode was that a dog was at one time the prime suspect in this murder-by-gunshot case. So. Classic.
Once JB solves the case…for some reason I feel like not spoiling this one for you…the super sleuth crowd hangs a giant photo of the dead former club member right next to the giant photo of JB. Enshrined in sleuth memoriam. God bless.
For those of you who want to join: This month’s Murder She Drank is tomorrow (Friday, January 15th) and features the first two episodes of Season 7. This includes season 7 episode 2, “Deadly Misunderstanding,” which I covered back in 2015 when I attempted to take on the arduous task of proving how Jessica Fletcher serial killed hundreds of people. Needless to say, JB Fletcher outsmarted me and my “Murder She Did” series didn’t last very long.
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.)
I’ve been cooking up a fun little end of the year celebration for this blog. In the midst of drafting one of my posts, I found this really great website called Murder, She Drank. They have printable bingo cards (fun whether or not you drink) and live tweet episodes twice a month. And it just so happened that I found them while drafting a post on one of their upcoming episodes “Snow White, Blood Red.” So if you want to have a little fun on Twitter this Friday, December 18th, here are the details:
Hi team! I was watching an episode of Murder, She Wrote that I opted not to include in this year’s Halloweek round-up. But there was this really gorgeous prop book cover for one of Jessica’s mysteries and I simply couldn’t get it out of my head.
Also quick shoutout to the title cards in this series! Here’s the one from the episode I was watching.
Anyway, a million years ago when I was in college, I was the props master for some of the theater productions. My favorite prop that I ever made was an art deco book cover. Suffice it to say I’m verrrrry jealous of the Murder, She Wrote props master.
In the opening shot of “Reflections of The Mind,” we see Jessica Fletcher’s friend asleep on her bed with an open copy of The Umbrella Murders. Can you imagine how much fun it would have been to design this?
Throughout the run of the series, we’re treated to quite a few fun book covers. This tripod page (remember those???) contains a whole catalogue of Jessica’s books that were either mentioned or depicted in the show.
Here are a couple:
If you can’t get enough of the Murder, She Wrote typeface, you can get our own journal with the look from MissKayleenMarie on Redbubble.
Remember when Simon Says made John McClane wear that sandwich board decorated with a racial slur in Harlem? His statistical chances of survival at that moment were greater than that of an unassuming resident of Cabot Cove on any given day. In fact, a 2012 study revealed that Cabot Cove would be the murder capital of the world, with a higher per capita murder rate than Honduras. If you thought Cabot Cove was charming and idyllic, might I suggest you purchase a fixer-upper in Detroit?
In the perilous town of Cabot Cove, it seems like the most dangerous place you could possible be is anywhere near Mrs. Fletcher. This is the case for the poor, unwitting typist who agrees to type Mrs. Fletcher’s latest manuscript when Jessica breaks her arm whilst bike riding. While she’s in Jessica’s employ, the typist’s husband is murdered. She finds him dead when she arrives home from some, erm, extracurricular writing activities with a cute dude from class.
Instead of calling the police and explaining what happened, the typist decides it’s a good idea to call the cute dude from class and have him help her move her husband’s body to the lumberyard where he works late shifts. She is worried that she’ll be the prime suspect, so she freaks out and totally incriminates herself. Has she learned nothing about murder crimes from typing Jessica’s manuscript??
The next day the sheriff questions her and she’s got this awful story about going straight home and taking sleeping pills. She says she was out cold all night, and concocts some story about people making threats against her husband. Things begin to fall apart when her writing teacher notices that the title of her story is “Dagger of Love,” which obviously means she’s a murderer because her husband was stabbed with scissors. Basic Detectivery 101. Then finally, after 7 seasons of this crap, someone finally decides to cursorily acknowledge the high crime rate in this tiny town. The writing teacher’s wife announces, “Cabot Cove is getting to be as bad as New York” before she heads off to the market.
While investigating some guy at a diner who seems to have hated the dead man, the town sheriff learns that the diner man is an eye-witness to the body dumping. Yep, that’s a sentence you can easily follow, right? The diner man recognizes the cute dude from the writing class as the body dumper. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of the paper is trying to get information about the typist from Jessica, when he learns that the cute dude (an employee of the paper) has been arrested. He and Jessica rush down to the precinct. And then Jessica (with like pretty much no details of the crime) says to the sheriff “Am I missing something or was the murder committed somewhere else and the body moved?” And the sheriff is in total agreement and not at all like how the hell did you know that?
But of course, she gets to tag along for the investigation. She heads over to the typist’s house with the sheriff and points out how the desk set in the living room matches the design of the scissors found in the cute dude’s trunk. When did she have access to that evidence?? Pretty much NEVER. Why is no one asking these questions??? But then everything gets overshadowed by the guilt that the body movers feel. They’re all like ugh okay we did it and we’re dumb. And Jessica Fletcher convinces the sheriff that the story is stranger-than-fiction, so they should definitely believe it. The typist admits that she made a pit stop on the way home, and the sheriff concludes that there was time for the cute dude to kill the husband by himself.
Then a mistress turns up. The dead man and the mistress had a fight and hit each other in the face. The mistress has a bruise and is like I didn’t kill him. I knew he slept around and we were just having a fight. He went home and his wife probably killed him. And then they find the typist’s story! And they’re like omg she totally did it! But then they notice that she’s in love with her writing teacher in the story. And it just so happens that she shows up at the precinct with the writing teacher’s umbrella mere moments later. And this is totally incriminating evidence. She also says she found the umbrella by her husband’s body. So they’re thinking it’s the writing teacher, but then they head over to his house and Jessica totally accuses the writing teacher’s wife.
The writing teacher was home sick, so she took his car (and umbrella) and murdered her ex-lover. (He hooked up with a lot of ladies, remember?) And the hard evidence that Jessica has is the fact that the writing teacher’s wife knew that the dead guy had dirty hands from changing a tire on his way home. She says that she doesn’t remember grabbing the scissors (obviously because she did not) but she confesses anyway (because she’s a guilty cheater). And everyone is like, “Well, she must have done it because she knew he had dirty hands.” And no one cares that Jessica Fletcher knew literally everything supposedly confidential about this case.
Here’s what really happened: This one baffles me. Jessica should have gotten caught here. I mean those idiots moving the body must have been the only thing that saved her. She knew the body had been moved without anyone releasing that information. She recognized the desk set as having the same design as the murder scissors, which she theoretically had never seen. I feel like at this point, she’s spent like seven years killing people and getting away with it so she wants to see just how obvious she can be without getting caught. It seems to me that the ex-lover stopped by the house wanting to confront the dead guy (who at that point was still alive). She saw his dirty hands and questioned how she could ever have threatened her marriage for such a loser, and then she rushes home and is so blinded by her guilt that she doesn’t even remember much of her interaction with her ex-lover. I mean, she CLEARLY says she doesn’t remember the scissors. Obviously, there was some severe evidence tampering, but like this doesn’t change the fact that everything she knows about this case makes Mrs. Fletcher either a psychic or a psychotic.
We first meet Jessica Fletcher as an ordinary widow/substitute teacher whose nephew has stolen her manuscript and published it. She’s suddenly an unwitting celebrity and she seems pretty harmless. It is impossible to tell at this point if her innocence is genuine, or if this was all part of her elaborate plot to gain the trust of millions.
Her publisher rudely brushes her off at first, but then asks her to come to a costume party and spend the weekend at his country house to make up for his rude behavior. Nothing really happens until her nephew, Grady, catches someone snooping in his guest-room. It turns out to be a really classy private investigator. The PI tells Jessica, “You have a rare gift for murder. Continued success.”
Jessica runs a lot. It makes me feel bad because I am decades younger and exercise way less. I worry my fitness age is actually like 76. But I guess being an old lady serial killer/mystery writer must require peak physical fitness.
Anyway, after all of this exposition and running, something finally happens! A seafood magnate named Caleb McCallen is found dead in the pool. He has been shot in the face with a shotgun. Yuck. Caleb’s supposed lover, Ms. Donovan, found him at 6 am but he was probably killed during the party the previous night.
JB Fletcher pokes around outside (probably contaminating evidence). She says that Caleb isn’t the one in the pool, based on the shoes (shotgun to the face makes it a little hard to recognize him) Meanwhile, Caleb’s wife blacked out the night before and is now worried she murdered her husband and can’t remember doing it.
I didn’t expect Angela Lansbury to create something so freaking dark. I’m not sure I’d ever seen the pilot episode until now, but let’s review briefly: In a Sid & Nancy scenario, someone’s face has been blown off at an otherwise innocuous party, and this is rated TV-PG.
Anyway, as it turns out Jessica is correct. Caleb shows up alive and well, having spent the night in a motel with a lady friend. He left his costume in the hall closet before leaving the country house, where anyone could have taken it. It also turns out that Caleb hired the PI because someone was leaking confidential information about his business. Then Grady gets arrested! They think he’s a thief and that he tried to kill his boss (Caleb). At 11:15 pm (the time of the murder) the other chief suspect was upstairs “half-naked” while Jessica washed out a stain from her dress.
At the beginning of Part 2 of the pilot, Jessica goes to see Caleb in Bay Shore and he is all like your nephew is the culprit! So Jessica makes Grady help her break into Caleb’s office to find out who bought/sold some overpriced properties. Once in the office, Jessica and Grady split-up (a.k.a. Jessica needs some alone time to plant evidence). Then the other suspect (the one with the alibi) comes into the office. Jessica spies on her from a coat closet.
The suspect takes a phone call and says, “I want no part of murder. They may be following me. I can’t be sure.” Why would you talk about murder if you were maybe being followed? Only a totally innocent person would do that! She leaves shortly thereafter and Jessica watches her get on a bus. Jessica catches another bus going the same way, but she doesn’t have exact change. The Fratelli mom from The Goonies gives her 3 quarters for a dollar and she takes the bus to 3rd Ave and E 17th where some dudes try to rob her.
Some guy who followed her off the bus and saves her from certain death. He tells her he’s a big fan of her book and says, “You want some advice? I’d stay out of this neighborhood, Mrs. Fletcher.” I know this is the 80’s but this is Gramercy! Geez!
Jessica calls the cops and says she now thinks the PI was the intended victim and that they must find a connection between off-B’way producer Peter Brill (form the party) and Ashley Vickers (the lady with the alibi). Like what? I’ve been watching this whole time and follow literally none of her logic. I’m sure she’s just trying to confuse everything to hide her own guilt.
Anyway, Jessica goes to the theater and Ashley Vickers shows up and is all like Give it up, Peter!!!! And Peter is all like, I also have an alibi since I played the piano all night in front of everyone. So they’re thieves but obviously not murderers, and this leads Jessica Fletcher to find a new scapegoat to frame for her crimes.
Shortly, thereafter the cops find Caleb dead on his boat. For some reason, Jessica goes back to the country house and tries to break into a shed by the pool. Her publisher shows up, and she tries to claim that she can see him perfectly at the same distance that the killer must have been at from the PI. Thus, there’s no way the PI could have been mistaken for Caleb. She accuses her publisher of being the killer and he confesses that he was in a “blind rage.” He says he was scapegoated in a “business venture” where the building collapsed, even though he had nothing to do with construction. He went to jail for fifteen years and everyone else got off scott-free. After two years, he escaped and the police figured he was dead. And the PI recognized him. This all seems pretty damning, but I’m sure Jessica is responsible.
Here’s what really happened: The publisher has PTSD from the trauma he’s experienced with both jail and his dangerous escape. This PTSD must have been triggered by the automatic lights near the pool, sending him into a “blind rage” but not a murderous one. Jessica Fletcher witnessed all of this from the upstairs bathroom where she was washing the dress. She scaled down the trellis (fit from all that running), and seized the moment to create a new mystery for herself. Then she manipulated this poor man into thinking he was a murderer all because she needed to be the hero. Becoming a published mystery author was just too thrilling for this small-town retiree, and now there’s nothing that can satiate her need for crime. But why this poor, unwitting PI? Well, he was the only one who astutely observed her true character and properly foreshadowed her “rare gift for murder.”
Okay, team. All 12 seasons of Murder, She Wrote are on Netflix. For many years, I have been convinced that Jessica Fletcher is either the angel of death or a serial killer. Either way, I just know that she set about framing all of those innocent people over her years as an “amateur detective” (a.k.a. evil incarnate). I know I’m not alone in this belief, but it’s not enough to just wildly through around accusations. Thus, I have decided to dedicate myself to a close viewing of each and every murder she wrote episode to prove how Jessica really committed those murders in Cabot Cove (a.k.a. “murder capital of the world”) and elsewhere. It won’t be an easy task, and I have no idea how long it will take me to do it (after all, we’ll still need very special lessons to counteract the dark soul that lurks about pretending to be Sheriff Tom Bosley’s best friend). What do you say, will you join me on this mystery?