There’s definitely a lot going on in this episode:
It starts in Washington, D.C. where a woman is in a dark office at night, downloading a file onto a computer disk. She manages to finish her task and get away just before a couple of men with guns show up.
The action then shifts to New York City, where Jessica Fletcher is doing research on a new book by interviewing a journalist friend at a sports bar. The next day, Jessica gets sucked into the intrigue involving the computer disk after she gets abducted as a result of being mistaken for the woman from Washington, D.C.
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimIt was Liz Foster, a woman who had planned to pass on information about Max Hagen to the feds!
Click to reveal the killerIt was Fred Chandler, the mole! While working for Max Hagen, he was feeding information to the feds.
Click to reveal the weaponThe victim was strangled with a strong cord (which later turns out to be a curtain cord from her hotel room).
Click to reveal the locationThe victim was found in the elevator of the Grand Palace Hotel (where she had been staying), however the actual murder took place in her hotel room.
Click to reveal the motiveThe killer wanted to be released from his job as a mole. After his request was refused, he concocted a plan to ensure he had enough money to quit and leave the country. This involved fooling the victim into believing he would run away with her, before ultimately killing her so that he could steal the cash she was given by the feds for himself, and also using the diskette to blackmail Max Hagen into giving him more money.
Click to reveal the major clueThe “mole” was the only one who would have known that the victim took the money from the feds but didn’t give them the actual disks.
Cast of characters:
I’m going to be honest and say that I found the characters in this episode a bit difficult to keep track of. This episode had an unusual number of characters who either were never credited, or whose role and/or name was unclear. Therefore, unlike in previous episode summaries where I’ve tried to group the characters thematically, I will present the characters below in general chronological order according to when they first appeared in the episode.
To begin with, there are a few characters we see in the scene in Washington D.C.:
- Siobhan E. McCafferty plays Liz Foster, an employee of Max Hagen who is about to pass on information about him to the feds.
- Robert Mangiardy plays “Cutter“, one of the thugs hired by Hagen to capture Liz Foster. (Note: The character is credited using the name “Cutter”, but in reality I never actually heard him referred to by name.)
- “Cutter” also has a partner that he appears with in each scene, but the partner never speaks and the actor is not credited.
Then, the action shifts to Jessica Fletcher in a New York City sports bar:
- Joseph Bologna plays Brynie Sullivan, a newspaper man whose brain Jessica is picking because she wants to model the protagonist of her new novel on him.
- Lonnie Burr plays a Customer at the bar who approaches Brynie and turns out to be one of his informants.
- John Allsopp plays Jason Herd, Brynie’s assistant managing editor. This is Allsopp’s first of two appearances on MSW.
After we hear Brynie tell Jessica about Max Hagen, the action shifts to Max’s apartment:
- Ken Howard plays Maxwell Hagen, a known philanthropist and owner of the Eagles basketball team. This is Howard’s fourth of five appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Murder at the Oasis”, “Mirror Mirror on the Wall“, and “Jack and Bill“.
- Melinda Culea plays Sara Lloyd, Max’s press secretary. This is Culea’s second and final appearance on MSW; she previously appeared in “Murder in F Sharp“.
- Francis Guinan plays Fred Chandler, Max’s personal attorney (appears to be responsible for writing up his contracts). This is Guinan’s first of two appearances on MSW.
- Raymond Lynch plays Baker Davis (referred to as Coach Davis by Brynie in the previous scene), the coach for the Eagles.
- Bruno Marcotulli plays Bob Wilman (referred to Robert by Max at one point), responsible for doing Max’s dirty work (i.e. runs his team of thugs).
- William Brick Karnes plays a Sportscaster on TV reporting on the Eagles’ latest loss.
The action then shifts around a bit as Jessica Fletcher gets abducted and introduced to a few more people:
- Lewis Smith plays Louis Paloma, a federal prosecutor trying to get information on Max Hagen from Liz Foster.
- Patty Toy plays the Airline Clerk for Trans-East Airlines.
- Herbert Edelman plays Lieutenant Artie Gelber, the cop that Jessica reports her abduction to. In this episode, he states that he’s retiring in 11 days after 20 years. This is Edelman’s fourth appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Murder in a Minor Key“. He will go on to make six more appearances on MSW as Artie Gelber.
- Ed Wasser is credited as playing “First Man”, which in more descriptive terms is the man that shows Jessica his ID and leads her into a car to take her to Paloma’s office.
- Lew Saunders plays the Plainclothes Policeman talking to Gelber at the Grand Palace Hotel. This is Saunders’ first of two appearances on MSW.
- G. F. Smith plays the Assistant Manager of the Grand Palace Hotel.
As I already mentioned, there are several characters in this episode who speak and yet are not credited. These include:
- a waitress named Toni who waits on Jessica and Brynie at the sports bar
- Paloma’s secretary Helen who is both seen in his office and heard over the phone (though it’s unclear if the same actress voiced the phone call)
- a bellhop at the Grand Palace Hotel
We additionally hear the voice of a a receptionist of the Grand Palace Hotel, and see closeups of additional characters (usually interacting with Max Hagen) that never speak.
Final thoughts and other trivia:
When watching this episode, I got the feeling that they were setting up Brynie to be a recurring character — a friend that could act as her sidekick and give some continuity to the New York City episodes (thus filling the role that Jessica’s doorman Ahmed had in Season 8). While I don’t know this for sure, it’s notable that his character was fairly fleshed out: we are introduced to members of his professional network as well as his particular set of quirks — such as having given up alcohol and thus celebrating his victories by having chocolate ice cream instead.
However, Brynie doesn’t make any further appearances on the show. Instead, Lt. Artie Gelber ends up being brought back several times throughout this and subsequent seasons (even though he does state that he’s just a few days away from retirement here).
And speaking of Artie Gelber, I was a bit tickled when I saw a map of Southern Ontario (where I live) on the wall of the police station. Although a part of upstate New York is also visible, the majority of the map is devoted to Ontario and I did wonder why it was so important for a New York City precinct to have a map of that area.
Finally, for those keeping track of books written by J.B. Fletcher, there is mention of one such title in this episode as Max Hagen states that he particularly enjoyed Jessica’s book Murder at the Ridge Top. We even get a hint as to the contents of the book when he goes on to say that it features a vivid and funny character named Jack Tremont.