Murder, She Wrote 8.17 “To The Last Will I Grapple With Thee”

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Following the adventures of the previous episode, Jessica is still in New York City, dutifully performing her teaching duties. When a fellow colleague takes her out to Fenian’s Chase Irish Pub for her birthday, they get wrapped up in a mystery involving her colleague’s nemesis who has just arrived from Ireland.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Michael O’Connor — who recently arrived from Ireland!
Click to reveal the killer It was Michael O’Connor — in other words, it was death by suicide!
Click to reveal the weapon It was a gun rigged up to an extremely heavy weight that would pull it into a wall after it was discharged!
Click to reveal the location It was in a house that the O’Connor reconstruction company was renovating!
Click to reveal the motive Michael O’Connor was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and given 6 months to live. He wanted to use his time remaining to frame his nemesis (Sean Cullane) for his murder!

Cast of characters:

The main cast includes Jessica Fletcher’s friend/colleague and those close to him:

  • George Hearn plays Sean Cullane, a fellow professor at Manhattan University. The character’s backstory is that he is a former police officer from Dublin who came to the USA on a police exchange. This is Hearn’s second of three total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Trials and Tribulations” as a different character, but he went on to reprise his role as Sean in “The Wind Around the Tower”.
  • Sharon Mahoney plays Kathleen Cullane, Sean’s daughter.
  • John Karlen plays Patrick MacNair, the proprietor of the Fenian’s Chase pub and Sean’s friend from Ireland. This is Karlen’s second of three appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Grand Old Lady”, and will go on to appear in the two-parter “Nan’s Ghost”.

We further meet an unsavory person from Sean’s past along with his business associates:

  • Richard Lynch plays Michael O’Connor, a man who has just arrived from Ireland and bears a grudge against Sean. This is Lynch’s first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Cameron Dye plays Ian O’Connor, Michael’s nephew who runs the reconstruction business with him. This is Dye’s first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Mark Rolston plays Finn Dawley, a loan shark who has helped fund the O’Connor’s reconstruction business and is there to collect. This is Rolston’s first of four appearances on MSW; all the episodes he appears in are Irish-themed.

Additionally, there are quite a few members of law enforcement depicted in this episode:

  • Michael O. Smith is credited as “Officer #1“, but his nametag on the show indicates his name is “Page”. He is the officer who first questions Sean Cullane at the university. Smith had a recurring role in the detective show B.L. Stryker with Burt Reynolds.
  • Cliff Gorman plays NYPD Lt. Parnell, the main investigator on the case. This is Gorman’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “If the Frame Fits”.
  • Lt. Parnell is assisted by two uniformed officers who discover the body: Donald Nardini plays “Officer #2” and Ken Gerson plays “Officer #3“. Gerson previously appeared in “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall“.

Finally, as there are some scenes filmed in the classroom, we also have several students:

  • Matthew Saks plays “Student #1“, a student in Jessica’s class. This is Saks’ first of two appearances on MSW.
  • Melissa Samuels plays “Student #2“, a student in Sean’s class.

The closing credits also list Dana Craig in the role of “Customer”, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint who this character is meant to be and I wonder if their scene ultimately got cut.

On the topic of cast and characters, I found it interesting that Jessica’s doorman Ahmed was mentioned but not seen in this episode.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

It is explicitly mentioned in the episode that the title is an allusion to a quote uttered by Captain Ahab in Moby Dick by Herman Melville. However, what I found particularly interesting is learning that elements of the plot are based on a puzzle presented in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Problem of Thor Bridge”.

Another notable aspect of this episode is that it gives us a clue regarding the date of Jessica Fletcher’s birthday. Given that this is an Irish-themed episode that first aired on Sunday March 15th 1992, it is possible that Jessica’s birthday may actually be on St. Patrick’s day. This is supported by the fact that Patrick MacNair brings Jessica and Sean their meal, he announces that it is a Tuesday special — and March 17th 1992 was a Tuesday. However, since nobody actually mentions that it is St. Patrick’s day during the episode, it’s possible that Jessica’s birthday was earlier in the month.

Jessica Fletcher’s birthday cake

Finally, while researching this episode, I ran across an interesting short article written by Dennis Doyle, who was one of the Irish musicians in this episode. The article outlines his experiences filming the episode. You can read it on the Glendale College website, where he is a professor:

Dennis Doyle is seen in this picture playing the harp.

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