Murder, She Wrote 8.8 “A Killing in Vegas”

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The episode starts in New York City, with Jessica in her apartment getting ready to fly to Las Vegas to attend a book fair (which she is not looking forward to because of all the schmoozing she’s expected to do).

Before she leaves, she is given two tasks: (1) her publisher, Ted Hartley, wants her to check in on his daughter while she is in Las Vegas; and (2) her doorman, Ahmed, wants her to place a bet for him on number 14 on the roulette wheel.

The trip to Las Vegas turns out to be more than Jessica bargained for when a murder occurs at McSorley’s Hotel, where Jessica is staying.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Jerry Pappas! Later we also find that Frank Stinson was murdered, too.
Click to reveal the killer It was Wes McSorley, the hotel owner!
Click to reveal the weapon Pappas was thrown off the top floor of the hotel. It is never explicitly stated how Stinson was killed; in the close up of the body it looked like maybe he had a bullet hole or a deep wound in his forehead.
Click to reveal the location Jerry Pappas was found at the base of the hotel building. Frank Stinson was found in his car in the hotel parking garage.
Click to reveal the motive Pappas was a secret majority owner of the hotel (hiding behind a corporation) and he wouldn’t let Wes McSorley get out of their business arrangement! Because Stinson was McSorley’s accomplice in setting up the murder, McSorley killed Stinson because he wasn’t sure if he could trust him to not rat him out.

Cast of characters:

Since the episode begins in New York City, we see some of Jessica’s NYC acquaintances:

  • Bruce Gray plays Ted Hartley, Jessica’s publisher. This is Gray’s third of five total appearances on the show; he previously appeared in “Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble“, However, this is the first of three times that Gray plays the character of Ted Hartley.
  • Andrew Brye plays Ahmed Shankar, Jessica’s doorman. This is his third of four total appearances as the character; he previously appeared in “Bite the Big Apple” and “Unauthorized Obituary“.

The main mystery involves the people managing the hotel that Jessica is staying at:

  • David Soul plays Wes McSorley, the owner of the hotel. This is Soul’s first of two appearances on MSW. David Soul is known for playing “Hutch” on Starsky and Hutch.
  • Shelley Smith plays Katherine McSorley, Wes’s wife. This is Smith’s second and final appearance; she previously appeared in “When Thieves Fall Out“. This is also her last on-screen appearance ever.
  • Howard Keel plays Larry Thorson, the hotel’s chief of security.
  • Andreas Katsulas plays Jerry Pappas, the hotel manager.

There are also several other employees of the hotel that Jessica comes into contact with:

  • Joan McMurtrey plays Alice Baxter, Jessica’s liaison to the hotel. (Her second and final appearance; previously in “The Grand Old Lady“.)
  • Amy O’Neill plays Susan Hartley, Jessica’s publisher’s daughter who works as a cocktail waitress at the hotel while studying at a local college.
  • Jeff Kaake plays Eddie Wheaton, Susan’s boyfriend who works as a dealer at the hotel (and who is suspected by hotel security of cheating).
  • Stephen Macht plays Frank Stinson, Eddie’s supervisor at the hotel/casino. (His third of five appearances; previously in “Moving Violation“.)

The investigation of the case is headed by local police enforcement (although their involvement in this episode is exceptionally minor):

  • Richard Portnow plays Lt. Walt Murphy of the Las Vegas Police Department. (His first of two appearances.) Portnow had a recurring role in a short-lived detective series called EZ Streets.

There are also several minor and several uncredited roles in this episode:

  • There are two people who talk to Jessica during the book convention; a book seller named Vance and a woman at Jessica’s booth named Betty.
  • Jared Snyder as a man dressed like a wolf at the booksellers convention.
  • Connie Sawyer plays an Elderly Lady who tells Jessica to watch her slot machine while she goes to the bathroom. (Her second and final appearance.)
  • Two waitresses were credited: Wendy Hoffman (her second of four appearances; previously in “Double Exposure“) and Lisa Melilli (her second of three appearances; previously in “Good-Bye Charlie“). Both had minor roles every time.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

I found it interesting that, although the main story takes place in Las Vegas, the showrunners chose to bookend this with scenes in Jessica’s apartment in New York. To me, this was reminiscent of the early episodes in the series where they would often start in Cabot Cove and then have Jessica jet off somewhere after receiving a phone call.

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