Murder, She Wrote 8.13 “Incident in Lot 7”

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This episode finds Jessica in Hollywood! — But specifically, she is at Universal Studios to meet with a producer who is set to adapt her latest novel, The Messengers of Midnight, into a movie. While there, she gets a personal tour of the studio lots — especially the Psycho House and the Bates Motel buildings used in the production of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Publicity shot of Angela Lansbury with the Psycho House in the background.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Darryl Heyward, the producer!
Click to reveal the killer It was Willy Montego, his agent!
Click to reveal the weapon It was “the nearest object at hand” used to strike the victim!
Click to reveal the location It was inside the living room of Psycho/Bates House!
Click to reveal the motive Darryl refused to renew his contract with Willy, which resulted in a fight between them!

Cast of characters:

The episode involves a number of people involved in the production of the movie adaptation:

  • Ron Leibman plays Darryl Heyward, the producer. This is Leibman’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “O’Malley’s Luck“.
  • Lar Park-Lincoln plays Caroline Pryce, Darryl’s personal assistant.
  • Jackie Gayle as Willy Montego, Darryl’s agent.
  • Daniel Bardol plays John Cabershaw, a writer who is hired to adapt J.B. Fletcher’s novel for the screen.
  • Stuart Whitman plays Ben Miller, the head of production with a long history with Universal Studios. This is Whitman’s fourth and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Trouble in Eden“.
  • Paula Prentiss plays Leonora Holt, an actress slated to star in the movie.

Additional roles include:

  • Michelle Johnson as Monica Chase, an actress who is having an affair with Darryl. This is Johnson’s first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Henry Gibson as Oliver Thissle, an obsessed fan of Leonora Holt’s. This is Gibson’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Who Threw the Barbitals in Mrs Fletcher’s Chowder?“.
  • Ron Glass as Lt. Hanrahan, in charge of the murder investigation.
  • Larry Carroll in a minor role as an Anchorman. This is Carroll’s first of two total appearances on MSW; he also plays a telecaster in his subsequent appearance.
  • Christina Rich is also credited as a policewoman — however, the character may have been cut out of the episode as I haven’t been able to identify her appearance.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

The most memorable thing about this episode is of course that it is very much an homage to Psycho and Alfred Hitchcock. The episode even begins with a “cameo” from an Alfred Hitchcock look-alike walking through Universal Studios. And in the second half of the episode, Jessica watches a scene from the movie Psycho, and then practically recreates that same scene when she later visits the Psycho House.

An Alfred Hitchcock look-alike crosses the street in this screenshot of a scene from the opening credits.

The other notable thing about this episode is the information we get about the J.B. Fletcher novel that is being adapted. We learn that the novel had just been published and is titled The Messengers of Midnight, which happens to be the same novel title mentioned in the episode “The List of Yuri Lermentov” earlier in this season. However, there are some inconsistencies between how the book is described in this episode versus the previous episode. First of all, the description of the story that we get here is that the killer is the victim’s own brother, and that it is based on a true story in which Jessica’s friend had asked her to help investigate the case. This suggests that the book is based on the events presented in “The Committee“, also in the same season. However, in “The List of Yuri Lermentov”, it is revealed that book involves a killer who is an ambassador and a major clue includes a salt shaker. Neither of these plot points are true of the story presented in “The Committee”.

Finally, I found it interesting that the episode incorporates a phone call to Jessica from Seth — particularly because Seth is only mentioned by name and does not actually make an appearance. For a series that sees Jessica in a different locale from week to week, I appreciate the effort that the producers went through in order to maintain a sense of stability in Jessica’s life.

Below is a slide show with some other images and memorabilia pertaining to this episode. This includes an ad for the episode, as well as some images of the first few pages of the original script which I found on an auction website.

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