Murder, She Wrote 6.5 “Jack and Bill”

In this “bookend” episode, Jessica Fletcher narrates a story about her friend, Bill Boyle–a former football player who currently works as a private investigator in California. Bill gets an unexpected visit from his old football friend Johnny Wheeler who leaves behind his poodle named Jack. Bill thinks he’ll only be watching Jack for a short time, but ends up stuck with the dog after Johnny disappears.

Just the facts ma’am:

Click on the headings below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Bill Boyle’s old teammate, Johnny Wheeler!
Click to reveal the killer He was killed by a band of assassins.
Click to reveal the weapon He got shot twice.
Click to reveal the location It’s unclear where he gets shot, but he later dies in the hospital.
Click to reveal the motive Johnny Wheeler was actually working for the CIA to prevent the assassination of a South American president.

Characters

At the centre of this episode is Bill Boyle, played by Ken Howard. (This is Howard’s third of five total appearances on MSW. Note: I count the two-parter “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall” as one appearance.)

Members of Bill Boyle’s social and professional circle include:

  • Ellen Travolta as Mona, Bill’s secretary.
  • Rosanna Huffman as Marge Brickman, Bill’s sister. (This is Huffman’s sixth of seven total appearances on MSW. She previously appeared in “The Sins of Castle Cove” and “Trouble in Eden“, among others.)
  • Pat Harrington Jr. as Lou Brickman, police lieutenant and Bill’s brother-in-law. (This is Harrington’s third of four total appearances on MSW.)

A major plot point here is trying to prevent the assassination of a South American president. Those involved in either perpetrating or preventing the assassination include:

  • Glynn Turman as FBI Agent Earl Browder. (This is Turman’s third and final appearance on MSW.)
  • Max Baer Jr. as Johnny Wheeler, Bill’s old football teammate. (This is Baer’s first of two total appearances on MSW.) Baer is most famous for playing Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies.
  • Rose Portillo plays Maria, a woman who pretends to be Johnny Wheeler’s wife and who tries to steal Jack the dog.

This episode has an unusually large cast, and some characters are quite minor. The most notable of the rest of the cast include:

  • Susan Anton as Celia James, Bill’s girlfriend who works as a real estate agent. (This is Anton’s second and final appearance on MSW.)
  • Whitney Rydbeck as Hastings, Bill’s accountant. (This is Rydbeck’s first of three total appearances on MSW.)
  • Warren Berlinger as Sugarman, a representative for Bill’s landlord. (This is Berlinger’s third and final appearance on MSW.)
  • Alexander Folk as Cricket, a bartender. This is Folk’s fourth of seven total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Something Borrowed, Someone Blue” and “Murder in a Minor Key“, among others.
  • Greg Lewis plays Shorty, a guard at the airport baggage claim department. (This is Lewis’s second of three total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Smooth Operators“.)
  • Paul Lyell plays a cop. (This is Lyell’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared as a party guest in “A Very Good Year for Murder“.)
  • Bob Roitblat plays a police sergeant. (This is Roitblat first of two total appearances on MSW.)
  • Miki Oikawa plays an uncredited journalist. (This is Oikawas first of two total appearances on MSW.)

Final thoughts and other trivia

Two of the episode’s cast appeared together in another Murder, She Wrote episode: “Corned Beef and Carnage” also had Susan Anton and Warren Berlinger.

Just like most of the “bookend” episodes in Season 6, this was meant to be a pilot for a spin-off series that never ended up getting picked up. Personally, I liked this one and would have enjoyed watching a series about a tough California detective being assisted by a poodle.

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