Murder, She Wrote 4.5 “The Way to Dusty Death”

In this episode, Jessica is called to a board-members meeting for Barnett Industries since she is a shareholder in the company.  Apparently she was asked to be on the board of directors because, according to the chairman, “nothing intimidates you Jessica”, and her name looks good on the company letterhead.  Jessica seems to have mainly took the job to ensure the company-owned paper-mill near Cabot Cove remains open.

There is no explicit mention of where this episode takes place, but given some establishing shots that look like it could be the Manhattan skyline as seen from New Jersey, and mention of numbered streets (“townhouse on 63rd Street”), it may be safe to conclude that it takes place in New York City.

Just the facts ma’am:

Spoilers are in white font, so highlight the text below to reveal the answers.

  • The victim was… chairman of the board of Barnett Industries!
  • killed by… a wife of one of the board members!
  • in… his bathtub!
  • with… a TV set thrown into the tub to induce a heart attack!
  • because… he wouldn’t quit his position as chairman and her husband would soon be too old to take over the position!
  • vital clues: she claimed to have heard something she couldn’t have heard.

Big names:


My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston plays board member Q. L. Furbson.

  • Too Close for Comfort star Nancy Dussault (Left) plays Kate Dutton, a wife of one of the board members. 
  • Three’s Company star Jenilee Harrison (Right) plays Serena, a girlfriend of a man who wants to take over the company. (Jenilee Harrison joined the cast of Three’s Company when Suzanne Somers left the series.)

Given that my name is Joanna, I was excited to see that there was not just one but two Joanna’s in the cast. 

  • Joanna Barnes (Left), who starred as the dad’s new fiancee in The Parent Trap, plays the old chairman’s wife Lydia Barnett. 
  • Joanna Pettet (Right), who stared as a Bond-girl in the Casino Royale spoof with David Niven, plays the new chairman’s wife Virginia McCormack.

Repeat offenders:


Richard Beymer makes his second of six appearances on the show.  Here he plays board member and new chairman, Morgan McCormack.  His first appearance was in the Season 3 episode, The Days Dwindle Down.


Other repeat offenders include:

  • Lawrence Pressman (left) as board-member Tom Dutton in his second of three appearances;
  • Sandy McPeak (center) as businessman Spruce Osborne who wants to take over the company, also in his second of three appearances;
  • and Jay Robinson (right) as clairvoyant Paddock, in his first of two appearances on the show.

Knowing that Sandy McPeak appeared on MSW before made it so much more funnier to hear Jessica mention that they have met before when they were first introduced in this episode.

Honourable mentions:

Interestingly, two of the actors in this episode made their very last on screen appearance ever.

  • Cornel Wilde (left) played the victim Duncan Barnett;
  • and Lynn Carlin (right) played his secretary Nicole.

Final thoughts:

The title of the episode is a reference to a soliloquy from Macbeth, delivered by the titular character after learning of Lady Macbeth’s death.  It’s relevant since the episode is about men who wish to take over leadership of a company, and the women who stand behind them.

The episode was filmed at Fremont Mansion in Los Angeles. Among many other filming projects, the Mansion was also the setting of the 1991 Columbo movie “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star”.

We also learn a bit more about Jessica’s life before she was famous as she states that Frank’s job was a real estate agent.

And that’s it! That’s all she wrote!


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