Murder, She Wrote 8.5 “Lines of Excellence”

Jessica continues her teaching stint in New York City when one of her students gets taken out of the class by the administration for hacking into his academic records. Jessica offers to help the student back in the class in exchange for helping her learn some computer skills so that she can trade in her typewriter for a word processor. He suggests that Jessica signs up for some basic computer classes at a company that he works at (which caters to some elite business leaders). Jessica investigates when her student becomes a suspect in a murder that occurred at the company.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Alan Miller, the co-owner of the computer company!
Click to reveal the killer It was Derek St. James, his business partner!
Click to reveal the weapon He was strangled by a computer cable!
Click to reveal the location He was found in the computer classroom at the company offices!
Click to reveal the motive When the victim learned that the killer was using information gleaned from their clients’ computers to blackmail them, he threatened to expose him!

Cast of characters:

As the episode starts at the college Jessica works at, it features some students and staff:

  • Alan Oppenheimer plays Doctor Raymond Auerbach, a college administrator. This is Oppenheimer’s second and final appearance on the show; he previously appeared in “Night Fears“. He played the same character both times.
  • David Ciminello plays Michael Rossari, Jessica’s student who helps her with her computer knowledge. This is Rossari’s second and final appearance on the show. He played different characters each time and previously appeared in “Family Doctor“.
  • Mary Broussard has a minor role as Student #1.
  • George MacMinn is also credited as Student #2 at the end of the episode. However, I wasn’t actually able to identify who he was since there didn’t appear to be any other speaking parts.

Jessica’s student, Michael Rossari, is the one that ties the cast of this episode together. His family and personal connections include:

  • Carmine Caridi as Dominic Rossari, his dad.
  • Karen Kondazian as Rosalee Rossari, his mom.
  • Corinne Kason as Teresa, his neighbor who drops in during his family dinner with Jessica.
  • Ivan Kane as Nero, a neighborhood connection who deals with stolen/counterfeit computers.

The company that Michael Rossari works for includes the following personnel:

  • Charles Frank as Alan Miller, a co-owner who specializes in programming software. This is Frank’s second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “A Lady in the Lake”.
  • Tricia O’Neil as Linda Truitt, an employee who is helping develop a game for the company and is also carrying on an affair with Alan. This is O’Neil’s fifth and final appearance on MSW. She previously appeared in “From the Horse’s Mouth” and “Trouble in Eden“.
  • Alan Fudge as Derek St. James, a co-owner who specializes in hardware and computer installation. This is Fudge’s second of five total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Thursday’s Child“. He additionally appeared in the movie sequel “A Story to Die For”.

Students at the computer class include:

  • David Groh as Henry Waverly, a current student who is experiencing some problems at the company he works for. This is Groh’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Murder Digs Deep” and “How to Make a Killing Without Really Trying“.
  • Conrad Janis as Jason O’Connell, a disgruntled former student. This is Janis’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Death Casts a Spell” and “A Little Night Work“.

Local police enforcement on the case include:

  • Charles Cyphers as NYPD Lieutenant Timothy Chance.
  • Randee Heller as NYPD Lieutenant Cynthia Devereaux.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

This episode marks another significant turning point in Jessica’s life and on the show since from now, whenever there are scenes of Jessica working on a book, she is no longer seen working on a typewriter but rather on her personal computer. However, the show’s intro montage isn’t updated to reflect this change until Season 10. (Watch my MSW intro montage comparison video on YouTube.)

Additionally, one thing that I noticed during the episode is that even though Jessica’s doorman Ahmed isn’t seen in this episode (he first appears in “Bite the Big Apple“), she does mention him by name as someone who notified her that she had a guest on the way up to her apartment.

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