Murder, She Wrote 7.17 “The Prodigal Father”

Jessica Fletcher is in Cabot Cove for this episode. The latest local scandal involves the return of Ned Jenks, a man who had robbed a bank 20 years ago and was subsequently presumed to have drowned in a river while trying to escape from the police .

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Ned Jenks, the bank robber who had disappeared 20 years ago!
Click to reveal the killer It was Elton Summers, the bank manager!
Click to reveal the weapon The victim was strangled with a piece of electrical wire!
Click to reveal the location He was found on the floor of his room at the Lighthouse Motel!
Click to reveal the motive The killer wanted to stop the victim from exposing the killer’s involvement with the bank robbery!

Cast of characters:

As this is a Cabot Cove episode, we get a few Cabot Cove regulars:

  • Ron Masak plays Sheriff Mort Metzger.
  • Will Nye plays Deputy Floyd.
  • Richard Paul plays Mayor Sam Booth. This is Richard Paul’s seventh and final appearance on the show. He played Mayor Sam Booth every time. He previously appeared in “Moving Violation“.

The mystery revolves around Ned Jenks and the family he left behind in Cabot Cove.

  • Donnelly Rhodes plays Ned Jenks, the man who returned to Cabot Cove after 20 years. This is Rhodes’ second of three total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs. Fletcher’s Chowder?
  • Claudia Christian plays Bonnie Jenks Hastings, Ned’s daughter.
  • Mindy Ann Martin plays Sally Hastings, Bonnie’s daughter and Ned’s granddaughter.
  • Larry Wilcox plays Dave Hastings, Bonnie’s husband and a local electrician. This is Wilcox’s third of four total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Showdown in Saskatchewan“. Wilcox is known for his role as Officer Jon Baker on ‘CHiPs‘.

A major plot point involves the bank robbery that Ned Jenks had been a part of twenty years prior:

  • Don Galloway plays Elton Summers, the current president of the bank who had been working on the day of the robbery. (He got his promotion to bank manager after the old bank manager got fired after not being there on the day of the robbery.) This is Galloway’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “Trevor Hudson’s Legacy“. Fans of detective shows might recognize him for his co-starring role as Det. Sgt. Ed Brown on ‘Ironside‘.
  • Andrew Prine plays Gil Blocker, the bank’s former security guard at the time of the robbery who currently works as a short order cook at the local diner. This is Prine’s fourth and final appearance on MSW, each time playing different characters. He previously appeared in “Truck Stop“.
  • Kathleen Nolan plays Maxine Malloy, who was a bank teller at the time of the robbery and who currently runs an antique shop. Nolan is known for having starred in sit-coms such as ‘The Real McCoys‘ and ‘Broadside’.
  • Robert Lansing plays Herb Walsh, a bank customer who was shot in the leg during the bank robbery. This is Lansing’s first of two total appearances on MSW. Lansing co-starred in the short lived detective series ‘Automan‘.

Additional Cabot Cove locals include:

  • Robin Gordon plays Linda, a waitress at the local diner. This is Gordon’s second of three total appearances on MSW. She previously had a minor role in “The Error of Her Ways“.
  • Abe Vigoda plays George, the desk clerk at the Lighthouse Motel. Vigoda is known for portraying Det. Phil Fish on ‘Barney Miller‘ and its spin-off ‘Fish‘.
  • Mark Roberts plays Doctor Lyle Rush, a local pathologist. This is Roberts’ first of two total appearances on MSW. Fans of detective shows might recognize Roberts from his recurring role as Spence on the short-lived series ‘Dan August’ (1970-1971), or for starring in the short-lived series ‘The Brothers Brannagan’ (1960-1961).

The cast also includes a couple of “city folk” credited simply as “woman” and “man”, played by Sarah Simmons and Gary Hollis, respectively. (Gary Hollis makes a second appearance on MSW in the episode “Sugar & Spice, Malice & Vice”.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

There are a couple of continuity-related details that I have noticed in this episode. For one, there’s mention that Jessica’s neighbors live on Candlewood Lane, which has previously been established as the name of the street that Jessica lives on.

The episode also ties back to the Season 6 episode “Seal of the Confessional“. One of the suspects in this episode has an alibi for the murder because they were playing bingo with Sheriff Metzger’s wife Adele and Father Barnes. Father Barnes was a character introduced in “Seal of the Confessional”, and there’s a moment in that episode where Sheriff Metzger asks him on behalf of Adele whether he will continue to host bingo in his church hall.

Notably, Seth Hazlitt is absent from this Cabot Cove episode. (As I’ve mentioned in previous Season 7 Cabot Cove episode trivia summaries, William Windom had left Murder, She Wrote in Season 7 in order to co-star in a sit-com called ‘Parenthood’.) Instead, Mayor Sam Booth appears to fill the role of Jessica’s sounding board for this episode somewhat.

I’m also always on the lookout to identify the different filming locations used to stand in for Cabot Cove.

Once again, the “Jaws Lake” area at Universal Studios was used to stand in for Cabot Cove. Above, you can see three neighboring establishments: a toy store, a coffee shop, and Marla’s Antiques. Earlier this season, the Coffee Shop was instead a gym (in “A Body to Die For“) and the Cabot Cove Gazette office (in “Deadly Misunderstanding“).
Across the street from the cafe is Rick’s Anchor Pub and the Cabot Cove Bank.

Additionally, as I rewatch the series for the umpteenth time, I’ve begun to notice all the different hotels and lodgings mentioned in the series. In this episode, a lot of the action centers around the Lighthouse Motel.

If you’re a fan of the Cabot Cove episodes featuring Mayor Sam Booth, you may be interested in one of the products with my “Sam Booth for Mayor” design. This design is directly inspired by the election signs seen in the episode “Town Father”. Available on TeePublic:

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