Murder, She Wrote 5.12 “Smooth Operators”

Jessica Fletcher is in New York to meet with her publisher and decides to make a quick visit with her old pal Lt. Timothy Hanratty. Always interested in what Jessica has to say, Hanratty takes her with him to examine a crime scene — the shooting death of an apparently homeless man with a missing shoe.

Hanratty sure knows how to take Jess out on a date.

Investigations into the death soon lead them to discover that fishy things might be going on at a local private hospital.

Cue undercover Jess!

Just the facts ma’am:

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

  • The victim was… an ex-alcoholic accountant for a private hospital!
  • killed by… one of the hospital’s doctors!
  • in… the hospital but then dumped in an alley!
  • with… alcohol poisoning (through a tube down his throat)!
  • because… he figured out the hospital was committing insurance fraud by doing unnecessary surgery!
  • vital clues: the killer knew something they shouldn’t have.

Cast of characters:

  • Barney Martin reprises his role as Lt. Timothy Hanratty. This is his second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “No Accounting for Murder“.
  • Shirley Knight plays the victim’s neighbour, Grace Fenton. This is Knight’s first of two total appearances on MSW.

The main action revolves around the Old York private hospital, the staff of which includes:

  • Nicolas Coster as Dr. Craig Zachary.
  • Dirk Benedict as Dr. David Latimer. This is Bendict’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
  • Dennis Patrick as Dr. Robert Markle. This is Patrick’s second and final appearance on MSW; his first appearance was in the MSW pilot episode, in which he played the victim.
  • Michael McGrady plays orderly Leon Schnable. This is his second of four total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Death Takes a Dive“.
  • Lise Hilboldt plays nurse Stephanie Holtz. This is her first of three total appearances on MSW.

Lt. Hanratty’s investigation is either helped or hindered by some witnesses and law enforcement personel.

  • Ed Winter plays Capt. Everett Larson. This is Winter’s first of three total appearances on MSW. Winter is well known for playing Col. Flagg on M*A*S*H.
  • Peter Van Norden plays the coroner, Dr. Sid Lantz. This is Van Norden’s first of three total appearances on MSW.
  • Greg Lewis plays journalist, Phil Cashman. This is Lewis’s first of three total appearances on MSW.
  • Mario Roccuzzo plays a wino.
  • Orlando Bonner plays uniformed cop Charlie.
  • Stewart J. Zully plays uniformed cop Ray Donatelli.
  • Rudy Challenger plays Dr. Lowell Wheatley, who vouches for Jessica’s fake identity.

According to IMDb, other cast members include the following (however, no lines were spoken by them):

  • Brenneman Carroll plays a young guy
  • Bob Harks is uncredited for playing Coroner’s Assistant. Harks is a prolific stand-in who apparently appeared in 11 episodes of MSW.

Final thoughts:

I’m quite heartbroken that Jess’s relationship with Hanratty doesn’t end up going anywhere. They were cute and flirty at the end of “No Accounting for Murder”, and although Jess plays it cool and smiles at the end of this episode, I can’t help but feel that she was a bit heartbroken to find that Hanratty is taking the victim’s neighbour, Grace, to go meet his family. (After he had tried to make excuses earlier in the episode for not taking Jess to meet them.)

Jess doesn’t want to take part in autopsy snack time.

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