I was recently rereading some old Impressions and realized I referred to Seth as Sam in this Impressions and have no clue why. I fixed it, but that is just odd of me, and I apologize. The actor’s name isn’t even Sam, so I don’t know where Sam came from.
As I mentioned in my last look at a Murder She Wrote episode, I have recently been re-watching this quite a bit. The Cabot Cove episodes have been getting the biggest workout, and this is one of my favorites. While the mystery itself has a bit of a sad conclusion, the entire episode is rather delightful. There are many tidbits for fans of the series, such as Seth and Sheriff Tupper fighting over Joshua Peabody (a reoccurring joke until Tupper left the show). Sheriff Tupper is in fine form and less severe than the last episode I reviewed. And there is a decent amount of humor spread throughout. Also, not for nothing but a character is actually named Ebenezer, which is just… fantastic.
Keep the Home Fries Burning starts with Jessica, Seth, and Sheriff Tupper going to get breakfast at the fairly new- Joshua Peabody Inn. The Inn is packed with many people, Jessica noting that many of them appear to be tourists passing through. We are introduced to several characters and their conflicts or stories. A couple that is vacationing, and the husband is constantly rushing them. The cook of the diner who is apparently trying to get fired. Two councilmen fighting. Various stories that range from amusing to showing a lot of conflict happening in the town. Everything is interrupted when someone rushes in, asking for a doctor. Seth goes outside to see several diner customers collapsed and one dead.
Really the appeal of this episode is the characters and how they work with the situation. Anne Francis guest stars as Margo Perry, someone sent from the health department to find out what happened. She is immediately taken aback by the trust Seth and Tupper put in Jessica and her being allowed to help with the case. She accuses Jessica of being a “crisis hound” and spends the better part of the episode on the opposite side of Jessica, who almost instantly suspects murder. This should be annoying and is a touch, but more than anything, Ms. Perry is just amusing. She is straight-laced, abrupt, serious, and rather rude. However, it is played in such a way that it plays more for laughs. I am endlessly amused by her take-charge no holds barred attitude, which then is immediately followed up by her demanding that Sheriff Tupper opens the door for her, don’t ask I can’t explain it. The juxtaposition between her and Jessica could have easily felt… well, sexist? But it doesn’t. It flirts with it a little but doesn’t cross the line.
What really gets me throughout the episode is Sheriff Tupper, though. He spends the episode trying not to call attention to his fears about having also been poisoned while simultaneously being noticeably scared that he might have been poisoned. He is also worried that he might have been the target of the attack because he has such great influence in Cabot Cove and drove everyone to the Inn. Both him claiming this and Jessica and Seth’s baffled and amused reactions are fantastic. There are episodes where Tupper has to be a bit more serious, and Tom Bosley always gives a stellar performance regardless of which way he plays it, but the more goofy Tupper is my favorite.
The mystery is pretty solid, although it doesn’t feel as well developed. At times it felt like they had put in so many possible suspects without fully fleshing out the details. There is a lot to work through from proving it was poison vs. bad food, then who was the target and the killer. There are a LOT of suspects in this episode; hell, the episode calls that very fact out. Some of it is sort of left on the table. However, overall it is a well-done plot, and there are a few hints to help the audience work out who it was. I was able to, but more the way they set up the local vs. outside characters. One thing I have to say about the series, though, is for the number of guest actors they bring in each episode, this show has some of the most consistently solid acting. Many suspects mean a lot of guests who have a chance to really blow it, and not a single one did. They fit their roles and reasons for being suspects well and manage to keep things moving. So while some of the plotlines are rushed, the characters themselves still shine.
Bottom line for me is it is really it is the humor, characters, and exchanges that make this one of the best, in my opinion. There are just a lot of great quips and exchanges, and it is one of the episodes I find myself laughing at the most. If you are also revisiting this show, I would highly recommend this episode. If you are new to the series, I would actually say start with the earlier Cabot Cove episodes from this very season. It will help you with some of the “inside jokes,” which help sell the humor more.