In this episode, Jessica Fletcher called to the town of Dry Wells. (The town appears to be somewhere off the California Interstate 40, near Barstow, in San Bernardino County, California.) An old friend of hers who grew up in the town (and whom she helped prove innocent in the murder of her husband back in Boston) is now running the Desert Rose Cafe there. There have been multiple deaths due to arsenic poisoning in the town, and Jessica’s friend is now the number one suspect!
(Note: The events in Boston involving Ellen Wicker that this episode references don’t actually correspond to any previous episode. It’s also unclear how Jessica knows Ellen in the first place.)
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimIt was Ross Corman, nurse Laura Corman’s husband and Ellen Wicker’s ex-boyfriend! (There were other deaths in town but those were ultimately deemed accidents due to a polluted water supply.)
Click to reveal the killerIt was Laura Corman, the local nurse and Ross Corman’s wife!
Click to reveal the weaponIt was poison: wine laced with arsenic!
Click to reveal the locationIt was in his living room!
Click to reveal the motiveLaura was tired of Ross wasting all her hard-earned money!
Cast of characters:
The main mystery revolves around Jessica Fletcher’s friend being suspected of having something to do with recent deaths in the town.
- Dee Wallace (credited as Dee Wallace Stone) plays Ellen Wicker, local café owner and friend of Jessica Fletcher who is accused of murdering Jake Gerringer. This is Wallace’s second and final appearance on MSW. She previously appeared in “Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble“.
- Sam Freed plays Herb Apple, Ellen Wicker’s attorney.
- Jack Kruschen plays Doctor John Logan who wrote the death certificates for the victims.
- Mary Crosby plays Laura Corman, Doctor Logan’s nurse who first noticed similarities between multiple deaths in the town. This is Crosby’s first of two total appearances on MSW. Her next appearance is in “The Witch’s Curse”.
Additional important characters in the action include Ellen Wicker’s old friends as well as relatives of the recently deceased.
- Marshall Colt plays Ross Corman, nurse Laura Corman’s husband who had previously been trying to rekindle a romance with Ellen Wicker. Fans of detective shows may be interested to know that Colt starred in the short-lived 80s detective show ‘McClain’s Law‘.
- Laurie Prange plays Doris Gerringer, the daughter of Jake Gerringer who stands to inherit after his death.
- Nina Foch plays Katie Emhardt, whose recently deceased husband was the owner of the Dry Wells Tannery. This is Foch’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
- Don Swayze plays Edge Potter, a local motorcyclist who has been personally attacking Ellen after she is accused of murder. Swayze is the brother of the late actor Patrick Swayze. This is his first of two total appearances on MSW.
There is also a complete cast of law enforcement members in this episode.
- Gary Lockwood plays Sheriff Deloy Hays. This is Lockwood’s third of four total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “Indian Giver“.
- Javi Mulero plays Deputy Ray Gomez.
- Karen Hensel plays Deputy Mary Jo Rush. This is Hensel’s second of three total appearances on MSW. She previously appeared in “A Fashionable Way to Die“.
Minor cast members include Peter Gregory as a Young Man digging at the tannery.
Final thoughts and other trivia:
There were a couple of things I found interesting about this episode. One is that both Dee Wallace (who plays Ellen Wicker here) and Mary Crosby (who plays Laura Corman here) had made separate appearances in witch-themed episodes of Murder, She Wrote. Dee Wallace played the descendant of a supposed witch in “Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble“, while Mary Crosby plays a suspected witch in “The Witch’s Curse”.
One thing that didn’t occur to me until recently was the double-meaning of the episode titled. Of course, “Tainted Lady” refers to Ellen Wicker having been once accused of murder and therefore her reputation being thus “tainted”. But at the same time, we can attribute the word “tainted” to the town’s poisoned water supply.
Finally, as usually, I like to keep an eye out for filming locations. This particular episode was once again filmed on the Universal Studios backlot, in the same place that was used to stand in for a different town just a few episodes earlier in “Who killed J.B. Fletcher?“