Murder, She Wrote 9.13 “Dead Eye”

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This episode finds Jessica in Miami, Florida, delivering a mystery seminar at the South Florida Writers’ Conference. While there, she gets drawn into a case involving a detective who was murdered in 1963 and whose remains were recently found in Coral City, Florida (a few miles north of Miami). (This appears to be a fictional place, although a place called Carol City does exist.)

This is quite a wide-reaching story line that also involves the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswalt, who in turn was arrested for assassinating president John F. Kennedy. Some of the action depicted in the episode also takes place in Chicago (where Jessica’s newest private investigator friend, Charlie Garrett, resides); Hopkins Bay, Florida (another apparently fictional place); as well as the office of the district attorney in Denver, Colorado.

Just the facts:

In addition to the murder of the private detective (Bernie Callan) that took place in 1963, the following outlines the crimes that took place in present day:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Frank Hemet, the man who committed the murder back in 1963!
Click to reveal the killer It was Laura, the daughter of Bernie Callan!
Click to reveal the weapon It was a gunshot to the heart!
Click to reveal the location It happened in the victim’s car, which was parked in a remote area near the Coral City waterfront!
Click to reveal the motive The killer wanted revenge for the murder of her father!
Click to reveal the major clue The killer had a smudge on her jacket putting her at the scene of the crime.

Cast of characters:

The mystery revolves around the 1963 murder of Bernie Callan, and so the cast of characters includes the people who had known him.

  • Wayne Rogers plays Charlie Garrett, a private investigator from Chicago who had some dealings with Bernie. (Garrett had an agreement that Bernie would give him some of the money from a sale of photo negatives just before he disappeared.) This marks Rogers’ first appearance as Charlie Garrett. He went on to make four more appearances as the same character.
  • Linda Purl plays Laura Callan, Bernie Callan’s daughter who now works at the Denver prosecutor’s office. This is her third and final appearance on MSW; she previously appeared in “Murder at the Oasis” and “Mourning Among the Wisterias“. She is well known to fans of detective shows for playing Matlock‘s daughter Charlene.
  • Al Ruscio plays Santo Angelini, a mobster who hired Bernie Callan’s assassination because he appeared in the pictures that Bernie had the negatives of.

The rest of the cast includes both law enforcement as well as shady characters:

  • Lonny Chapman plays Frank Hemet, the man who killed Bernie Callan in 1963. This is Chapman’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Dead Heat” and “Indian Giver“.
  • Ben Masters plays Police Chief Thurman Gillis, who is based in Miami and in charge of the investigation into Bernie Callan’s found body. This is Masters’ second of three appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Trials and Tribulations“.
  • Julian Christopher plays FBI Agent Whitman, who was called in after it was realized that Bernie Callan’s death might be connected to the JFK assassination.
  • Stewart Moss plays Dr. Abner Farrow, who teachers modern history at the university and is interested in the case since he is about to publish a book about the JFK assassination.

Additional minor characters include:

  • John Petlock as Michael, an associate of Santo Angelini. This is Petlock’s fourth of five appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Deadly Lady”, “The Search for Peter Kerry“, and “Murder on Madison Avenue“.
  • Martin Goslins as the Houseman at Angelini’s estate.
  • Webster Williams as Hal Fredericks, Laura Callan’s co-worker (and perhaps romantic partner) at the Denver district attorney’s office.
  • Jason Stuart as the Motel Manager of the Pink Motel (at one point referred to by name as Terry Portman?).
  • Tom Alan Robbins as the Assistant Manager at Jessica’s hotel (at one point referred to by name as Mr. McCaffrey?).
  • Dennis Paladino as the Bartender in the flashback scene from 1963.
  • and finally: Kevin Quigley as Bernie Callan in the flashback scenes from 1963.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

With the incorporation of the assassination of JFK as well as Lee Harvey Oswalt, it is clear that this was meant to be a very special episode. (Although, personally, I found the episode a bit convoluted.)

The episode also marks the first appearance of Jessica’s new P.I. friend Charlie Garrett. It is notable that the introduction of Charlie Garrett’s character happened when it did. At this point in the series (the episode aired in February 1993, in the second half of season 9), it had been more than a year and a half since the last appearance of Jessica’s previous P.I. companion, Harry McGraw (who last appeared in the season 7 finale). Besides that, Jerry Orbach (who had played Harry McGraw) had just started his new role as Detective Lennie Briscoe on Law & Order just a few months prior. So it was unlikely that they would be able to bring him back for any more episodes.

If you’re interested in reading more about this time in the show’s history, you can check out the memoir of Tom Sawyer, the writer of this episode as well as the showrunner from 1993-1996. The memoir is title The Adventures of the Real Tom Sawyer.

Besides that, a couple of usual bits of trivia include the filming locations as well as some of the prop newspapers:

A major location used in the episode is The Pink Motel & Cadillac Jack’s Diner, which is located in Sun Valley, California.
As was common during this season, the actual text in the prop newspapers was taken from articles found in the Los Angeles Times, which had nothing to do with the displayed article headings. In this case, the Chicago Globe article purported to be about Bernie Callan shown in the above photo actually contains text from an LA Times article about smog.

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