Murder, She Wrote 7.19 “Thursday’s Child”

Jessica Fletcher hopping all over the country on a book tour when she hears from a woman who claims to have known Jessica’s late husband Frank when he served in the Korean War—and that Frank is the father of her child!

As far as the setting is concerned: at the beginning of the episode, Jessica mentions that she will be in town for two days before moving on to Atlanta for the next stop on her tour. She also makes a brief trip to Seattle to visit her friend Clint Phelps during the course of the episode. But the show is a bit vague about precisely where the action takes place. (Often I look for any written mention of the town name at the police station but in this case the police badges just have a very vague “Metro Police” label.) However, there are nonetheless a couple of details that suggest the action takes place in Portland, Oregon.

The taxi that pulls up to the victim’s house has Oregon license plates; and the police station appears to have a map of Portland hanging on the wall.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Ben Olston, a contractor building a local school!
Click to reveal the killer It was Cynthia Olston, the victim’s wife!
Click to reveal the weapon It was a gunshot!
Click to reveal the location He was found at home in his study!
Click to reveal the motive They got into an argument after she found proof that he was cheating on her!

Cast of characters:

Jessica is dragged into this mystery by a woman who Jessica’s late husband Frank during the Korean War:

  • Vera Miles plays Nancy Landon, who served as an army nurse in the Korean War. This is Miles’ third and final appearance on MSW, each time playing different roles. She previously appeared in “See You in Court, Baby” earlier this season.
  • Richard Gilliland plays Steve Landon, Nancy’s son who works as an architect. This is Gilliland’s first of two total appearances on MSW. Gilliland also had a recurring role as Sgt. Steve DiMaggio in the last season of ‘McMillan & Wife‘.
  • Martin Milner reprises his role as Clint Phelps, Frank’s war-time buddy. This is Milner’s third out of five total appearances on MSW; and it is his second and final time playing Clint Phelps. He previously played this character in “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel“. Milner is best known for his starring role in the detective series ‘Adam-12‘.

At the heart of the murder mystery is a plot that revolves around the explosion at a building site for a local school that has been designed by Steve Landon:

  • John Beck plays Ben Olston, the owner of the Olston Construction Company which won the City Council bid to build the school. This is Beck’s second and final appearance on MSW.
  • Jennifer Warren plays Cynthia Olston, Ben Olston’s wife. This is Warren’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
  • Jim Boeke plays Ralph Crocket, the construction supervisor.
  • Steven Novak plays Roy Temple, a contract arsonist.

The building of the school is also causing some political scandal:

  • Alan Fudge plays City Councilman Axelrod. This is Fudge’s first of five total appearances on MSW. He additionally had a role in the MSW TV movie ‘A Story to Die For’. He played different characters each time.
  • Lindsay Frost plays Dawn Bickford, the Councilman’s administrative assistant who is in love with Ben Olston. Frost had a co-starring role in the short-lived detective show ‘Mancuso, FBI’.

To help with the investigation and legal ramifications of everything, Jessica fletcher works with:

  • John Anderson plays Andrew Dixon, Jessica’s locally-based lawyer. Fans of 80s action mysteries might recognize Anderson for his recurring guest role as Harry Jackson in MacGyver.
  • Paul Gleason plays Lieutenant Barney Claymore. This is Gleason’s second of three total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Error of Her Ways“. Gleason is probably best known for his role as Principal Vernon in ‘The Breakfast Club‘, but fans of mystery shows might be interested to know that he had a co-starring role in the short-lived 1990s show ‘One West Waikiki’.

Minor roles include:

  • Prolific voiceover actor S. Scott Bullock plays a taxi driver.
  • Frederic Cook plays Aaronson. (I’m not entirely sure who this character was supposed to be as I didn’t hear this name being used.)
  • Elven Havard plays a duty patrolman. This is Havard’s second and final appearance on MSW. He played a guard of some sort both times.
  • Miki Oikawa plays an uncredited secretary. She previously had an uncredited role as a journalist in “Jack and Bill“.

Final thoughts:

Although most Murder, She Wrote episodes tend to be stand-alone and don’t have any particularly strong connections to one another, that isn’t really true for this particular episode. There are many references to “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel” in this one—not just because it references Frank Fletcher’s time in the Korean War (specifically in ’51-’52), but because it explicitly makes reference to Clint Phelps (who actually makes an appearance), his wife Bonnie, and Lee Goddard, as well as the Dixie Damsel itself.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that Jessica is shown to be having a phone conversation with Seth Hazlitt during this episode. As I’ve mentioned in other Season 7 episode summaries, William Windom had left at the beginning of Season 7 in order to co-star in a sitcom, which is why his only appearance in this season was in “Family Doctor“.

Angela Lansbury has perfected how to shed a single tear for this episode.

3 comments

  1. I never watch this episode because I hated how Vera Miles’s character lies about Frank fathering her son. She puts Jessica through hell emotionally for no reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they do a good job explaining that she would do anything to help her son. Lying to Jessica that Frank was her son’s father convinced Jessica to listen and help her.

      Like

      1. I wouldn’t want to help her if she told me something like that. She hurt Jessica, and I didn’t like that.

        Like

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