Greetings and salutations Fletcherfans!
JB is California this week, staying in a fabulous hotel paid for by her publisher while she works on promotion for her new book, although her publisher is starting to think that her sideline solving mysteries is a bigger draw than her books (I can’t believe it took them that long).
A woman named Georgia Wilson overhears their conversation and later knocks on JB’s hotel room door begging for help. Her husband Sam has just come home from prison, where he’s spent the last 30 years in prison for a crime he supposedly didn’t commit. The crime…OF MURDER.
*DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNNNN*
Because JB is the Supreme Goddess of Kindness, Benevolence and Being A Boss, she goes with Georgia to talk to Sam about his story. In a stunning coincidence, his story coincides with a movie he was in in 1949 called Strange Bargain, which allows for some helpful and surprisingly accurate flashback sequences.
As she hasn’t seen the movie, Sam tells Jess the story. Back in the day, when he was a struggling actor assistant bookkeeper, he went to his boss Mr Jarvis for a raise. Instead, Jarvis fired him, saying that the firm couldn’t afford to keep him and he couldn’t afford to put more money into the firm – he had ten thousand dollars to his name. That night, they met for a drink and Jarvis told Sam his scheme to fix his financial situation. He was going to kill himself but in such a way as to make it seem like murder, so that his family could receive his life insurance payout.
That night, Jarvis called Sam and told him he was going through with it, and sooner than he’d planned. Sam drove over there to talk him out of it but he was too late. So, like anyone would do, Sam took the gun and envelope with the money and hightailed it out of there, only just remembering to fire the gun into the house to make it seem like murder.
I think we can all guess where this is heading.
The next morning when Sam and Georgia go to pay their respects to Mrs Jarvis, Lieutenant Richard Webb tells Sam that they pulled three slugs out of the wall. Unfortunately for Sam his gaze goes straight to the wall in question, a fact noticed by Lieutenant Webb.
In any case that look, coupled with Sam burning the letter from Mr Jarvis, meant that he was put away. Got all that?
Naturally, JB takes on the case because she is awesome. Sam and Georgia’s son Rod warns her that it’s a wild goose chase, but he has bigger problems. I’ll get to that later.
The next morning, after a raging night of reading through Rod’s case notes, JB kicks off her investigation with
tacos and tequila for everyone a trip to the scene of the crime. Mr Jarvis’s son Sydney still lives in the house, and while he didn’t think Sam killed his father, he is suspicious of the new interest in the case. JB asks him about him telling Sam about seeing Mr Jarvis’s business partner Mr Hearne at his house that night, but all Sydney says is that there might have been other suspects but Sam was the one convicted.
Sidenote: Sydney is being played by Richard Beymer, and that sound you just heard was my mind exploding with the realisation that Tony from West Side Story and Benjamin Horne are the same person.
Sydney bows to JB’s persuasive powers of persuasion and agrees to let them “snoop” around the house. Jess asks him if she could speak to his mother, but he tells her that she passed away. Clearly noone told the postman, judging by the letter on the desk.
JB’s next port of call is the offices of Jarvis & Hearne, now run by Hearne’s granddaughter Dorothy. Dorothy tells her that the reason why her grandfather was at the house was to arrange for the transfer of Mr Jarvis’s share of the company to him. JB tells her that Mrs Jarvis told police that the sale happened after Mr Jarvis’s death but Dorothy tells her that isn’t true.
Next on JB’s hitlist is Thelma Vantay, Mr Jarvis’s former secretary. JB is eager to talk about the case but Thelma is more interested in other things. Like her ex-husband who never worked a day in his life but who had many other excellent qualities.
When JB finally gets her onto the subject of Mr and Mrs Jarvis, Thelma is dismissive. Even though Edna Jarvis came home early from a weekend away to find her husband dead, Thelma is convinced she had nothing to do with his death – she simply didn’t have the guts. After JB drives off in her taxi-chariot Thelma gets on the phone to alert A Mystery Person that someone has an interest in their “problem”.
Anyway, remember when I said Sam and Georgia’s son Rod had bigger issues? Well his wife, it turns out, will make several future appearances on Murder She Wrote. As Grady’s wife.
Rod comes home to inform JB and his parents that Edna Jarvis is still alive, and JB decides to pay a call on her first thing in the morning.
That night, someone tries to shoot JB in the head but misses. The police roll in and pull a .38 bullet out of the chair, similar to the ones found in Mr Jarvis’s home. JB is convinced they came from the same gun but Rod’s boss is unconvinced. He agrees to compare them.
The next morning Georgia and JB pay a visit on Edna Jarvis, who has recovered nicely from being dead but is suffering from dementia. JB tries to question her about her husband but gets nowhere, and is soon interrupted by Sydney who angrily throws them out of the nursing home. JB asks him about Dorothy Hearne’s claims about the night of his father’s death but he tells her that Mr Hearne got control of the business way after Mr Jarvis’s death, and to question Dorothy about why she’s lying. JB informs him that Dorothy isn’t the only one misrepresenting the truth and storms off, taking his advice and going to see Dorothy who continues to denies her grandfather had anything to do with Mr Jarvis’s death.
Back at the hotel JB gets a mysterious call about the case, with orders to come alone. It turns out to be from the mysterious Lieutenant Webb who may seem familiar…
He tells JB that he never really thought Sam killed his boss, and gives her the original police report, complete with ballistics report on the bullet retrieved from JB’s hotel room. Despite the fact that Sam threw the gun in the water off Santa Monica pier as per his instructions, it was used again 30 years later. JB asks him about Mr Jarvis’s insurance policy and he agrees that he found it suspicious but he couldn’t do anything more. He tells JB he considered the possibility that someone else knew about the life insurance policy and expected to get money out of it but the only other person they found who knew about it was Themla Vantay but despite Webb’s suspicions Thelma wasn’t having an affair with her boss.
Jess and Rod go to confront Thelma about what she knew about the death of her boss. She is reluctant to talk but when JB tells her the statute of limitations has expired on blackmail she comes clean. Thelma put two and two together about her boss’s death and the insurance policy and blackmailed his family to keep her mouth closed about it. Sydney eventually cut her off, and even when she called him a few days earlier to tell him about JB’s questions about the case he still refused to give her money, saying he was broke. “Can you believe the nerve of that guy?” Says Thelma.
Rod is eager to go and tell his father that they can prove it was suicide but JB is unconvinced. There had to be a reason why someone fired her, and to cover up a 30 year old suicide just didn’t make sense. Rod points out that also seemed kind of dumb to use a 30 year old gun that can be traced back to the original case and this gives Jess a brainwave.
The trouble is, everyone assumed that Mr Jarvis killed himself or someone killed him. The truth was not quite so clearcut. The gun was retrieved from the water by Sydney, to remove fingerprints. Not from the handle, but from the barrel.
Mr Jarvis had the perfect plan, but he didn’t count on his wife coming home and trying to stop him. She tried to take the gun off him, it went off, and that was that. Everything that happened since, including Sydney firing at Jess, was done to protect Edna.
But lets not focus on the depressing. I’m giving massive points to the Murder She Wrote writers for this episode, it was pretty clever the way they used the original movie as flashbacks. And never let us forget: OUR HEROINE IS A BOSS.
Stay tuned for the season 3 finale next week!