So this is sort of an interesting Murder, She Wrote episode in that it both is and isn’t a Cabot Cove one. Technically the episode takes place outside of Cabot Cove, with Jessica staying at a rather nice hotel to get away and write for a while. However, it is close to Cabot Cove, so Sheriff Tupper is still our main law enforcement person, Sam is heavily featured, and Harry, the Realtor we’ve seen in a few Cabot Cove episodes, is also here. So really, it is a Cabot Cove episode, but it sort of counts as my first time leaving Cabot Cove for a Murder She Wrote Impressions (lol).
As I said, the episode takes place in an Inn that Jessica decides to stay at to help write her latest book. Harry pushes this as he is the one trying to sell the Inn (currently being leased) and hopes that the famous JB Fletcher writing a book there will have the potential to drive up tourism, thus land him the sell.
While settling in, Jessica meets a rather interesting cast of characters, including William Christopher as Burton Hollis. I was excited to see Christopher as I am a huge MASH fan and rather enjoyed Father Mulcahy. It’s also interesting, although mildly unsurprising, how many MASH people (regulars and guests) make an appearance. MASH was a guest star heavy show, as is Murder She Wrote, so some crossover is to be expected, but still a nice surprise. There is also a woman named Carolyn (played by someone who guest-starred on MASH as well), her rude and abrasive husband Howard, and several other people. Jessica instantly makes friends with Burton and agrees to go bird watching with him the next day.
While on their walk, Burton fills Jessica in about the guests a little more before they end up by the lake, where Jessica seemingly witnesses Howard killing Carolyn by drowning her while they are on a boat on the lake. This is an interesting setup for our mystery because we have the mystery solver seeing the case play out, so the assumption, that even Tupper reinforces, is that it is pretty open and shut. This is further emphasized by how brutish Howard was and Carolyn having said she wanted a divorce in a rather large fight that other guests overheard. But that certainty is what makes Jessica so doubtful. She didn’t actually see the murder, just what appeared to be one. She is also a bit thrown by Joanna, another guest, reaction to the event. She is supposed to be a stranger but seems more affected by the murder than anybody.
So basically, Tupper thinks they have a solved case, and Jessica starts to snoop. This mystery is a bit convoluted but has a lot of interesting aspects to it. Howard, it turns out, was having an affair with Joanna, who is only pretending to be a stranger. She booked herself her own room at the inn to keep an eye on Howard, although it doesn’t seem to have worked and only upset him more. The inn’s owner hired her younger brother, Jack, who is on the run from the law. Another couple staying there (and once again another MASH guest star) are having marriage issues, and Jack is pulled in because he is likely sleeping with the wife. All of this is going on but doesn’t actually really help to solve who the killer is, only that these seemingly nice people all have a lot of dirty laundry.
Then when Carolyn’s body finally turns up, it makes the details of the case even hinkier. See, Jessica thought she saw Howard pushing his wife under from the boat they are on the lake. However, her body washes up far away and with wounds that couldn’t have been caused by what Jessica witnessed. They also discover that for all his bluster, Howard has a lot of pent-up fears, including water, making it unlikely he could have held it together to drown someone.
So who is it? Whelp… It’s oddly the shy bird watching Burton. He has business ties to Howard, and while Howard ended up wealthy, Burton got nothing. He began to sleep with Carolyn, who was looking for shy and kind after spending so many years with the verbally abusive and emotionally neglectful Howard. Nobody suspected that Burton, of all people, would be the one that Carolyn would seek comfort outside her marriage with.
The plan was for Carolyn to “fall” off the boat while Burton is walking with Jessica near the lake. Jessica sees what looks like Howard killing her when really he was trying to get his wife out of the water. She takes some scuba gear and swims away. They are hoping to have Howard take the fall for her murder, and then Burton and Carolyn can escape together. Only Carolyn trusted a bad man again, and instead of greeting her with open arms after her faked death, Burton finishes the job.
This episode definitely follows the whole Jessica noticing something that even the audience doesn’t as far as solving this mystery; there are also more than a few red herrings. However, when it all unfolds, it’s a rather interesting story and attempt at murder. Burton was able to easily fade into the background and is the most unlikely of the people, which helped him almost get away with it.
In the end, this is a rather enjoyable episode, if not the easiest one to follow the mystery of. I liked all the MASH guest stars, and I thought it was cool to have Jessica basically be the witness for the fake murder. If you are doing some Murder, She Wrote viewings, this one is absolutely worth including in your watch list.