Hello everybody. I hope you are ready to take another quick trip back to Cabot Cove because I would like to write about another Murder She Wrote episode. Season 2, episode 10 is called Sticks and Stones, and it stands out to me in the series for a few reasons, notably who the killer ends up being. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Sticks and Stones opens with a woman watching tv while taking a bath. We see a shadowy figure messing with something in what appears to be a basement, turning off the tv. When the woman goes to turn it on, the figure flips a switch and bam electrocuted, in a bathroom, entirely alone. Thus we have a “Locked Room Mystery,” something that Murder She Wrote has done before and will address again. We then cut to Sheriff Tupper, explaining that it must be an accident to Cabot Cove regular Harry Pierce, also seen in a Sheriff’s uniform. Wait, what? That’s right, a key plot point in this episode is that Sheriff Tupper is retiring and the greedy and not always on the side of the people, but still likable, Harry is taking over for him.
Meanwhile, Jessica is greeted by an unexpected guest, a fellow author from her publishing company. He travels around the country writing about small towns, which always ends up driving up tourism, something that Jessica is actually not thrilled about. She is her usual self, in being kind but still making it clear she’s not too thrilled to be participating in this. While showing him around the town, you see in the background people getting letters and becoming angry with each other. Eventually, Jessica is confronted by an old friend about an affair she is supposedly having with the woman’s husband. Jessica is shocked, denies it, and goes to dig further.
So a lot is happening in this episode. Jessica’s guest, the seemingly impossible murder, and a town filled with letters accusing everybody of random things they have done or said about neighbors in town. Most people go straight into denial, and Harry is overwhelmed by the amount of reports he is getting. Tupper and Jessica agree to help him a little while also getting curious about the mystery themselves.
When a local woman nearly confesses to having sent one, but only one, of the letters, the mystery starts to unfold a little more. Jessica goes to visit her, only to find her hanging from her tree and a suicide note taking credit for all the sent letters. Jessica being herself, doesn’t buy it and begins to talk to Tupper more. She realizes that Tupper’s letter was addressed to him when he was still Sheriff and sent from a different location.
Now there is a lot more to the mystery, including a land deal, and Jessica’s guest goes on a little fact-finding mission for her; covering up being drunk in what sounds like one of the worst ways possible (he keeps eating butter as he’s drinking to counter the alcohol and gag), but I think the episode is worth watching to find out what is happening all for yourself.
What I will mildly spoil is that the killer is rather shocking. To my knowledge, it is the only Cabot Cove episode that features a regular as the killer. Not only is it surprising, but it is also a bit sad, especially with how quickly and easily the killer in question seems willing to turn on Jessica to keep his secret. I have discussed this before, it is the double-edged sword of the Cabot Cove episodes. I enjoy them because I like the regulars and the more in humor that is often found. However, they usually go to great lengths to establish that Jessica had a relationship with the person when the killer is local, and so it’s sad to see them turn on Jessica and the hurt it would cause her. This one is especially troubling, and I rather liked the actor too. Still, it is unexpected and lands pretty well because of that reason.
So overall thoughts on the episode? I rather enjoy it. Seeing Cabot Cove shaken up over the letters makes for some interesting moments. As with most episodes where Cabot Cove risks being put on the map, there is a heavy theme of trying to keep their small community what it is, but the realities of the modern world are always right outside and wanting to come in.
Harry and Tupper’s interplay isn’t bad either. Harry is clearly in over his head as Sheriff, and people actually start to miss Tupper, as much as him being ineffectual was always a plotline. Harry’s struggles with the job and Tupper’s mixed feelings about his retirement are present.
The mystery itself is a little shaky. Sometimes I feel like Murder She Wrote doesn’t give the audience any information; this time, I felt like we got a little too much too quickly. While I wasn’t entirely sure who the killer was, I worked out fairly quickly that the letters were a red herring and the reasoning behind both murders. I liked feeling like I had a grasp on where the episode was going, but in comparison to what I am used to from the show, it still felt a bit odd.
However, what I like about Cabot Cove episodes remained. I love the regulars and having Jessica in her hometown. The feel of these episodes always have a little something that makes them a bit more special. It is also one of the better episodes at playing with the audience’s emotions. Jessica’s true regret in solving the mystery is present, and you almost sort of feel it with her.
So bottom line, it is not the most amusing of the Cabot Cove episodes, nor does it have the best mystery. However, it is a decent episode and entertaining from start to finish. There are a few amusing moments, and it does seem some effort was put in to not just have Jessica magically find one clue and sort it out but allow the audience to work with her, even if again it didn’t work perfectly. As I go through the Cabot Cove episodes, this is not my favorite, but it is far from my least, and I do like the novelty of who the killer ends up being. It is worth the watch but just be prepared for a mixture of emotions at the end.
I do like that it ends with Jessica’s guest proudly declaring that all the notes he took while visiting have been thrown away and that he has no intention of ever being part of Cabot Cove changing.