The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo: The Mystery of the Mice that Roared

Let me preface this by saying, this show was the best. If you were a child of the 90’s who loved Nancy Drew Mysteries, then you were into The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo. In each episode, Shelby shows us one of her case files (on an old ass computer that was very innovative at the time). She also lives with her grandpa, Pat Morita, who I recently learned once had his own detective series!

This Christmas episode is kind of weird. The mystery starts at a restaurant where someone has swapped out an entree with um…live mice…

The very easy solution here is to not serve covered dishes at the table…but this restaurant is very into the room service aesthetic, so unfortunately live mice have been served up for dinner. Yikes.

When the health department closes the restaurant. Shelby not only tries to find the culprit because she loves a good mystery, but also because her friend’s parents own the place.

Clue #1: An empty strawberry basket filled with cheese is in the kitchen trash. (Both Shelby and the detective think it’s mouse-related because obviously this kitchen wouldn’t have cheese for any other reason. But to be fair, the cheese in the strawberry container is odd and does look just like the cheese on the mouse plate).

Back at the station, we’re introduced to a B-Plot: Secret Santa! (More on this later.)

Clue #2: The chef destroyed the original plate of food before the detectives arrived. (Okay, but seriously who sends a detective to respond to mice at a restaurant? Is this a thing?)

Oh also the C-plot is Pat Morita playing Santa for a bunch of underprivileged kids. He takes knowledge of Santa’s backstory very seriously and studies the lore extensively throughout the episode.

In the midst of all these happenings, the restaurant owners’ older daughter finds the time to help the younger daughter study fractions by using measuring cups and the restaurants supplies…but okay that also feels like another health department no-no. Anyway…

Clue #3: A very small attempt at arson in the restaurant’s kitchen with a type-written note that mentions going out of business. Bold move to leave a paper message in the midst of arson. (Also note, the couple’s younger daughter tries to throw the half-burned note away before Shelby can read what’s left of it.)

Clue #4: The chef buys cooking spices at the market. Buying his own ingredients is suspicious cause he’s trying to destroy the restaurant and take it back from the owners (according to Shelby) but…I dunno…I’m not buying it.

Later on at the restaurant, the food has been spiked with chilies!!!

Clue #5: One guest’s table doesn’t get any spiked food. Shelby also remembers that she saw this guest drive past the restaurant on the night of the fire.

And time for another C-Plot, Pat Morita appearance. This time, he’s testing the authenticity of his beard.

Clue #6: Shelby’s friend’s eyes hurt from the chilies but all she touched at the restaurant were the plates, not the food. She also touched the sugar dispenser.

This final clue helps Shelby solve the mystery…

Did you solve it as well?

Time to find out…

THE YOUNGER DAUGHTER IS THE CULPRIT!

She doesn’t see her parents anymore because they are sooooo busy. They’re even working on Christmas Eve!! And before you’re like woah woah woah but that arson was still psychotic — the fire was an accident. The note was the intention (the candle was presumably to call attention to it). The good news is they decided to keep the restaurant but just close for family time on Christmas Eve. And hopefully, that child decided to stop handling live mice for good.

And now back to the B-Plot: Shelby and her crush are each other’s secret santas and they each got one another thoughtful gifts and they are probably in looooooooveeeeee. Shelby made him a painting and he made her a mixtape. The 90’s awwwww.

And Pat Morita finally nails the Santa thing.

And in what we now know is workplace sexual harassment, Shelby’s boss makes her kiss her crush underneath the mistletoe.

Very Special Lesson(s): Really what I learned is that it’s important to STATE YOUR NEEDS and not BE RUINING EVERYONE’S LIVES because you’re being passive-aggressive. Yes, this culprit was a child and so I’m willing to grade on a cruve. Now that I know she’s not literally trying to burn down the place, she seems fine. However, I think we could have avoided this whole thing if she had simply left a note (without an open flame) saying she wanted to spend Christmas Eve at home as a family.

Also Pat Morita is the perfect Santa. I mean. Wow. I didn’t know I needed to see Pat Morita as Santa, but my heart knew. You know? And it was awesome.

I also do have some questions about how long they left that food unattended in the kitchen long enough that the kid could swap out a plate of food for a plate of mice but oh well it’s Christmas so I’ll overlook it!

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Very Special Readers! See you in 2022 for more very special episodes!

Murder, She Wrote: A Christmas Secret

This episode opens with a Christmas party in which the host introduces his future son-in-law, a NEW Cabot Cove Resident. Has this man seen the violent crime rate in the otherwise sleepy town? RUN!! Get out while you still can! There’s something toxic in the water! This town should be a case study for the lead-crime hypothesis!

But no, it’s just so charming here in Cabot Cove. This guy is going to stick around, work for his father-in-law, and be a tax accountant. Ugh have I ever written a more depressing sentence? Well, maybe it’s not depressing for people who love math (not me).

Anyway, Jess has a heart to heart with the bride-to-be, Beth, who cannot understand why her fiancee, Charlie, seems a little bummed out after the Gulf War. Jess explains how post traumatic stress works and we cut to Mort inviting Charlie to go shooting. Charlie’s like cool, my gun is at the hotel. Ugh. This feels like a real Chekov’s gun moment. Why can’t we have anything nice in Cabot Cove?

Before things get too heavy, we move on to Jess and Seth arguing over whether or not they will have a white Christmas. Ah the yin and yang of Cabot Cove. One moment, you’re worried that your friends and acquaintances might not survive the week because every one of your neighbors could be a cold blooded killer. The next moment you’re overwhelmed by the hygge.

As the party wraps up, Charlie heads to his car and finds a mysterious, wrapped gift on the passengers seat. He unwraps what appears to be a Willie Nelson cassette tape. But when he pops it into the player, he discovers that it’s really a mysterious message from “a friend” asking him to meet at Sally’s Landing for some holiday blackmail.

And before you’re like “oh my! how dark!” can I interest you in a Christmas store front?

Or a great shot of Mrs. Fletcher buying some holiday wrapping?

I mean this town goes ALL out. They even decorate the life preserver. Oh and before I forget to mention this crucial plot point, Charlie recognizes the woman waiting for him as Wanda, from the Christmas party, and he proceeds to drive away from the landing without even speaking to her.

In the next scene, we see Wanda helping with decorations at the community center. Everyone is incredibly hostile to her because she’s apparently screwing everyone’s husband. A fact we learn from Beth while she and Jess make cute little paper chains.

Jess, now decked out in tinsel herself, seems to be the only one who can be cordial to Wanda. She requests four red balloons from Wanda and Wanda is like cool but can you bring me my lunch? Um, she’s not your maid, Wanda!

Anyway, Jess is like I think I see it in that locker behind you. And Wanda abruptly shuts the locker and is like no, that’s not my lunch.

She then tries to hand Jess four green balloons, which is how we learn that Wanda is colorblind. Something tells me this fact will be important later.

Anyway, Beth heads over to Charlie’s hotel because she’s not buying the whole stressed from the war thing and she thinks something else is up. He isn’t in his room, but she plays the mysterious tape and finds an appointment in his planner for a meeting at the Light House Motel. Beth books it over there and finds Charlie greeting another woman with a kiss.

Now at this point, we’ve been seeing a lot of heavy kissing from Beth and Charlie. This looks way more like a friendly greeting to me. My hunch is that this woman is Charlie’s sister, but of course Beth does not see it that way. Hold on a second. You’re not getting sad in this Christmas episode are you? Here’s a glimpse of a happy couple with a Christmas package just behind Beth’s car as she tearfully drives away.

As Beth cries upstairs at her parents’ house, her mother tells Charlie that Beth is feeling sick. She seems to genuinely believe Beth’s fake food poisoning and begs Charlie to still attend the party at the community center with Beth’s father and her.

At the community center, Jess and Seth watch Mort lead a chorus of carolers. Too bad Adele can’t be there. She’s busy delivering baskets of food to the poor in another town. She’s missing Seth play Santa!

Meanwhile, Charlie follows Wanda into the women’s locker room to a soundtrack of a very ominous riff on Good King Wenceslas. We hear a shot (that makes Seth flinch outside of the locker room but of course he doesn’t check it out even though this is Cabot Cove). Charlie passes another Santa in the locker room and (presuming its Seth), he asks what the shot was. The Santa (not Seth, obvious) dashes away without responding. And just as Charlie happens upon Wanda’s motionless body, J.Fletch appears — presumably to check out the noise but if this arrival isn’t an easy win for the “she killed them all” camp then I don’t know what is.

Luckily, she is wearing an excellent Christmas tree broach.

The real Seth examines Wanda, and declaring her close to death, accompanies her to the hospital. Jess and Mort then seem to imply that Seth has been such a Scrooge that they fear even Christmas is not safe from toxic negativity — toxic enough for MURDER. I’m not even kidding: Mort says “doc stacked the deck against us.” Although, given that this is the ONE Christmas episode in the show’s run he might have a point. Perhaps even a town full of nosey people with poor impulse control decides not to go murdering on a day meant for peace and goodwill.

Beth then chooses this very moment to confront Charlie. He’s like do you know what just happened? And she’s like yeah but I still want to talk about you and that strange woman from earlier at right this very moment. I know cheating is bad but the dude literally just found a nearly lifeless woman’s body. Can Beth please show him a little grace? We can talk about cheating tomorrow.

Luckily, the next morning we learn that Wanda will live because, according to Seth’s medical description, the bullet “was deflected in some sort of flukey fashion” and for this reason didn’t do any major damage that couldn’t be corrected with emergency surgery.

Beth then shows up at Jessica’s house to say that Charlie’s gun was used to shoot Wanda. The cops found Wanda’s blackmail tape and Charlie confessed to going to the landing. He’s been arrested for murder and Beth wants Jess’s help. Wow, that’s stressful isn’t it! Good thing we get a great glimpse at Jess’s awesome Christmas decorations.

Jess gives Seth the signal to get lost so that Beth will open up to her. As soon as Seth is out the door, Beth says she’s worried that Charlie got the money for her ring in nefarious ways. She also confesses that she’s worried he’s cheating.

Jess goes to see Mort and asks if Wanda had any time to go to California within the past year and he’s like no way. You want to know why? One time when Jess was away, a group of delegates from Cabot Cove went to Tokyo because they wanted to build trade relations. Mort then makes a joke about opening a chain of CABOT BURGERS in Japan. What is this Cabot Burgers? I haven’t heard of it. I need an establishing shot stat!

Floyd Bigelow went on the trip so Wanda handled the books. When Floyd returned, the pension accounts and short-term CD accounts were a freaking mess. And he thinks that Wanda was behind it and that she was embezzling funds! Oh by the way, here’s Floyd Bigelow. We also met him at the Christmas party earlier:

With absolutely no connection between Wanda and Charlie, Jess and Mort start to wonder if maybe the tape was left in Charlie’s car by mistake. And then they’re like hey, Beth had access to that room too. But Jess doesn’t think Beth is a murderer — which is weird because like everyone in that town is a murderer. Maybe Jess has rose colored glasses and that’s the whole reason she’s able to even live there. Maybe it’s genuinely shocking to her that people die on the regular in that town.

Anyway, Jess goes to the Light House Motel to see what’s up with that strange woman and it turns out that she is his sister! But also…he has a toddler..he’s a dad! He was afraid to tell Beth that he had a child out of wedlock. I mean. It really seems like this is something that you would mention before proposing…but…Jess can’t figure out why this would be grounds for blackmail since Charlie was going to have to mention the kid at some point anyway.

And that’s when Jess remembers that Wanda is colorblind. She calls down to the hardware store that Floyd owns and asks him to bring the master keys for the community center, so that they can access Wanda’s locker. Floyd heads to the community center with a revolver.

When Floyd starts to open the locker (early and without Jess), his eavesdropping assistant Amy confronts him and tells him that she framed Charlie. And that she’s the only one who knows the truth and she looooves him. THAT IS NOT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Anyway, Mort and Jess show up right at this moment. And in a true Murder, She Wrote anomaly, NO ONE DIES. And that, for Cabot Cove, is a Christmas miracle.

Very Special Holiday Lesson: If you’re colorblind and you’re going to leave a wrapped gift in someone’ s car — make sure to note the correct license plate.

P.S. In a very sweet moment, Jess gives Seth the toy train he always wanted as a child because they are in loooove.

And WAIT is that blond woman caroling with Mort ADELE???

Remington Steele: Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Steele

Hello! We’re still a couple of days out from A Very Special Holiday Season, but I’ve got an early edition (addition, actually) for you! I am participating in You Knew My Name: The Bond Not Bond Blogathon with Remington Steele‘s Christmas episode, “Dance, Prancer, Donner and Steele.” The rules of the blogathon are that you pick an actor that played Bond but write about a non-Bond entry on his resume. So I picked Pierce Brosnan, of course.

Full disclosure: I have never in my life seen an episode of Remington Steele, but I must have seen it on I Love the 80’s or something because I do know the premise. For the unfamiliar, here’s a brief summary: a female private investigator, Laura, has her own agency but no one trusts her competency because misogyny. She invents a fake boss named Remington Steele and a former con artist, played by Pierce Brosnan, assumes his identity. Mystery-solving and flirtation ensues. For what it’s worth, Remington has a lot of low key Bond energy. (The show even prevented Brosnan from assuming the role as planned in The Living Daylights.)

In this episode, the agency is having an “open house” holiday party, but Pierce/Remington is moping in his office instead of partying because it’s 97 degrees on Christmas Eve. I assume we’re in like LA or something where maybe that’s normal? IDK I’m an east coaster, but 97 degrees on Christmas is my climate change nightmare, so I do understand the need to mope.

Anyway, the open house party is basically just like random office tenants and the vibe is awkward. There’s a podiatrist, an advertising agent, some man in a suit, and a plant lady — who can’t stay long. Also there’s no booze. There is, however, a scheduled Santa appearance…which is an odd choice for a party full of random business neighbors.

Unfortunately, Santa is two hours late. And…he also has a gun and is part of an entire series of Santa psychos named Dancer, Prancer, and Donner. This episode is like if The Taking of Pelham 123 and Die Hard had a sparsely-decorated, mid-rise office building baby. All these Santas are waiting for a fourth Santa named Blitzen. He’s the ringleader and also has the exit plan. Seems like you’d want to make sure the guy with the exit plan was there before you started the heist…but I’ve never heisted before so what do I know?

Remington Steele" Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Steele (TV Episode 1985) -  IMDb

The Santas insist that Remington hand over the “hardware.” And Laura’s like sure I’ll go get you “the agency gun.” What??? I’m not pro-gun, but shouldn’t an agency of private investigators have more than one gun? Like if you’re going to have a gun, then why not have a 1:1 gun/investigator ratio. How are you sharing the agency gun in the field?? That’s a dangerous relay-race that I don’t even want to imagine. I can only hope she’s lying to hide the fact that there is more than one gun.

Luckily, agency employee Mildred (Doris Roberts) has a secret gun. She briefly looks like she’ll get control of the situation, but the Santas overpower her. Remington jumps through the throng of Santas and recovers the gun. Unfortunately, he can’t actually use it because he knows it is unloaded since he found the bullets in his office. OH MY GOD THERE GENUINELY IS ONLY ONE AGENCY GUN.

Remington Steele" Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Steele (TV Episode 1985) -  IMDb

With this in mind, I would only recommend hiring Remington Steele if you need help with asset tracing or getting a telephoto lens shot of your cheating lover. For everything else, you’re probably going to want to go with Magnum, P.I. or Charlie’s Angels because all of those ladies know martial arts and would probably have already overpowered the Santas.

remington steele christmas

Okay, I might have sold these Santa’s short on the ruthlessness — they’re not exactly Hans Gruber — but they are planning on blowing up the building unless the owner pays a ransom. Suffice it to say the stakes of this are a lot higher than I originally thought.

Also turns out the Pelham 123 reference is meant to be explicit. Remington explains the whole plot of the movie to the other hostages and describes how the Santas are riffing on it.

Remington’s big plan is to get the podiatrist to fake going to the bathroom while actually setting a fire in there. Meanwhile, he tries to get one Santa, who has been expressing doubts about the hostage situation, to break. In the midst of this, the landlord and the cops show up.

The Santas allow Remington to speak with the authorities privately in the hall just outside the office’s glass door main entrance–wait seriously? NO WAY would they actually do that…but okay…Remington tells the cops to allow Blitzen through when he arrives. He’s too worried the other Santas will get spastic without him. And he’s right to worry, because while he tries to negotiate with the landlord for the hostage money, a whole kerfuffle happens in the office. Shots are fired. But thankfully no is hurt.

When Blitzen finally shows, the Santas are super relieved to see him. And in a plot twist I truly did not see coming — it isn’t really Blitzen. It’s the SANTA THE AGENCY HIRED and he is TRASHED. He is truly drunk as a skunk. That does explain the whole lateness thing.

Per Blitzen’s instructions, they pick the seemingly most unhinged hostage to transport the money: The Plant Lady. But she doesn’t come back with the money…so they go through her bag and find a recording device with Blitzen’s voice giving the instructions. It turns out SHE’S BLITZEN. Okay, that’s kinda cool and unexpected. It does feel like a bit of a plot hole that she was able to sneak off and play this tape into a 1980s satellite phone or whatever — without anyone noticing — but idk maybe she also employed the bathroom fake-out trick.

Remington Steele" Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Steele (TV Episode 1985) -  IMDb

Plant Lady/Blitzen tries to make off with the money. She heads into a store room and changes into a cop costume (once again, undetected). But now the Santas are obviously pissed at being double crossed. Luckily, Doris Roberts saves the day with a hot pot of coffee to the face and a gun that presumably has ammunition.

Remington and Laura rush downstairs where they just announce their identities to the cops, who let them through what is supposed to be a sealed-off building. They hop on an unattended police motorcycle and chase Plant Lady–who is fleeing on another police motorcycle. Laura jumps off the back of their bike and onto the Plant Lady’s bike, causing her to crash into a Christmas Tree lot. Their fall is cushioned by all the fake snow and then Laura overpowers her to recover the cash.

Would i seek out more Remington Steele episodes? Probably not. But Pierce was dreamyyyy and I love Doris Roberts. I also like that the lady who supplied the office with plants was also a plant. Who doesn’t love a deep pun? All in all, not a bad watch.

To view the other blogathon participants and their entries, please click the image below:

Hope to see you on Sunday for the start of A Very Special Holiday Season!

Murder, She Wrote: The Dead File

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.

Fictional Book Covers: Mapleworth Murders

I now have a multi-part series on fictional book covers. I honestly didn’t see that coming. But I really like them! And actually this one is sort of like an off-shoot of my previous two. Mapleworth Murders is a parody of Murder, She Wrote (which you can watch for free on Roku) and features a lead character who imagines herself as the protagonist sleuth she writes about in her novellas — not unlike Tom Selleck’s character in Her Alibi.

Peppered throughout the series are book covers featuring the Mrs. Mapleworth mysteries.

Anytime our lead, Abigail (played by Paula Pell), finds herself in a jam, she imagines what Mrs. Mapleworth would do to get out of a bad situation. The fantasy never matches up with the reality and the results are hilarious.

There are also a lot of great guest stars from the greater NBC family, including multiple SNL alums, Terry Crewes, Jack McBrayer, and Paul Lieberstein.

Honestly, I think I need to figure out how to be a book cover designer. I think I’ve uncovered deep passion here.