It seems like ages since JB has been in the Cove, but she’s back at home this week although she’s got a children’s charity benefit to attend in New York. Nevertheless she makes plans to have dinner with her friends Vivian and Ralph Proctor when she gets back and Vivian returns from her business trip. Little does JB know that there’s something shifty going on in House Proctor. Vivian is receiving phone calls from shady character Eric Bowman who insists that she skip her stepson’s little league game to meet him at the Starlight Motel later that evening. The same Eric Bowman who has racked up a big gambling debt to another shady character Augie Specter and who is later caught by his ex-wife rifling through her desk. Judging by the gun she has pulled on him I’d say the divorce isn’t going well.
Later that evening, Ralph takes the kids to the Little League game, but Vivian begs off claiming a headache. As soon as they leave, however, she retrieves an envelope from her briefcase and drives over to the Starlight Motel, where Eric is waiting.
The next morning a screaming maid finds Eric’s body in his hotel room, and the Murder She Wrote writers would like you to know that the keys on the ground next to the body are Vivian’s, as established by an earlier key dropping scene. (This episode is incredibly key heavy, just FYI).
Cabot Cove’s finest arrive in the form of Sheriff Mort Metzger and Seth Hazlitt and a know-it-all competition begins. Metzger clearly knows everything because he was a cop from New York, but Seth knows everything because he’s Seth Hazlitt dammit. Mort shows Seth a note from Eric’s pocket, written on fancy notepaper, demanding to know what Eric wanted from them. Mort then postulates that Eric had something going with a lady, at which Seth snorts and says to the sheriff that because he’s new to the territory he might not be down on all the local gossip but old Amos kept his ear to the ground and his nose to the wind.
Mort is a little bit tired of hearing about Amos and demonstrates this by bursting into ‘Let It Go’ from the Frozen soundtrack.
Seth tells him that Eric played fast and loose with the ladies, before Deputy Floyd comes in to tell them that the keys they found next to the body don’t fit any car in the car park. Meanwhile, Vivian is saying goodbye to Ralph – apparently “something came up at work” and she has to go to Dallas for a few days.
Down at the Sheriff’s office JB finally gets hold of Seth to remind him that he’s supposed to be driving her to the airport. They are almost out the door when Floyd tells Mort that the licence plate number on the keys they found is for a car belonging to Vivian Proctor (side note why would you have your license plate number on your keys that just seems like Christmas for car thieves). Jess decides to get a later flight so she can stay and keep an eye on Mort.
At House Proctor Ralph tells Mort that a) Vivian left for Dallas an hour earlier and b) he had the keys the previous night and that he must have dropped them because he had to use the spare keys in the glovebox to get home from the game. Mort asks to have a look around and despite Jessica’s insistence that Ralph and Vivian are devoted to each other says that “maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be up here in Norman Rockwell land, but in the real world under every rock there’s a happily married woman with itchy feet and a roving eye.”
Jess would love to stay and debate this with Mort but she’s got a plane to catch. On the drive over Jess tells Seth he must agree that Ralph and Vivian have a special relationship and Seth calls it unnatural – the man staying home doing the cooking and cleaning while the wife brings home the majority of the money.
In New York the Children’s benefit is a raging success (naturally due to Jess), and at the afterparty the event’s chairman, Miles introduces Jess to his wife, who’d been unable to attend the benefit due to her crazy schedule.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was expecting this to be a “my job is a call girl” kind of deal, but it turns out nope. This turned into an episode of the Jerry Springer show very quickly.
Vivian rushes into the next room to compose herself, closely followed by JB and Miles the chairman. She assures Miles that she’s fine, and to go and check on the guests. She’s sure she and Mrs Fletcher have a lot to talk about.
The truth, dear reader, is that Vivian married Miles fifteen years earlier, discovered she couldn’t have kids, threw herself into her work, met Ralph on a business trip and fell in love. Apparently the whole divorce one man to marry another never entered into her head. Vivian tells Jessica five lives will be ruined if Jessica doesn’t keep her secret. Miles reappears to say he has sent all the guests home and told the servants to prepare a room for Jessica to stay the night. Vivian thinks it’s a marvellous idea, that way she and JB can have a good long talk over breakfast.
The next morning Jess vaguely agrees to keep her mouth closed about Vivian’s double life in exchange for information about Eric Bowman’s murder. Vivian had no idea about the murder, saying she only met Bowman one time on a plane when he hit on her and she rebuffed him. She has no answer for her keys being at the crime scene other than she has a tendency to lose them a lot, which is why she keeps her second set in the glovebox. Oh my god I just realised why the glovebox is called the glovebox – from the old days when you needed something to keep your driving gloves in! Amazing. Meanwhile, back in Cabot Cove Sheriff Metzger is having a little bit of difficulty locating Vivian in Dallas, and decides that any man who lets a woman be the breadwinner deserves to have her step out on him. URGH.
Jess and Vivian return to Cabot Cove and go straight to the Sheriff’s office, where he drills her about the night Eric died. She swears she didn’t see him, but caves when Mort informs her the bartender remembered her sitting next to Bowman. She tells them she went there to beg him to leave her alone. Jess gently suggests to Mort that he doesn’t have much of a case and that she’d hate to see him embarrassed. Mort decides to hold off on pressing charges but orders everyone not to leave town – except Jessica who I think he would like to see leave town more often.
Seth and Jess adjourn to Jess’s kitchen, and while Seth think’s she’s in a mood because it’s been revealed Vivian and Eric had something happening, Jess tells him it’s something else but she can’t tell him. She should but she mustn’t. Seth informs her he’s seen half of Cabot Cove naked and heard a great deal worse and to be out with it.
Jess goes to see the recently widowed soon to be ex Mrs Boorman, who tells Jess that she had had enough between the womanising and the gambling, that he was in debt and terrified to a bookie named Augie, and that the Starlight Motel was a gambling den. In the car Seth tells her noone at the hotel is going to give her the time of day.
Challenge accepted, Hazlitt.
In disguise JB hits up the Starlight Hotel, chats to the bartender Frankie about her elaborate gambling setup and weasels in on Augie, who gives her nothing and walks out. She is about to follow when Frankie calls her back to give her her glasses. Meanwhile at House Proctor Vivian assures her husband that everything is fine, but that she has to go out. Ralph is set to follow her but is stopped by the arrival of Mort and Deputy Floyd following a hot tip from an anonymous caller. They search his car and find the murder weapon.
Vivian, it turns out, had been on her way to see Jess to confess the truth – she was being blackmailed by Bowman who had found out about her double life. She had met him to give him the fifty grand cash and that was all she knew. Jess wonders at this, since there was no cash found later but is interrupted by a call from Seth to tell her that Ralph had been arrested. Mort is crowing over his victory and orders Deputy Floyd to lock him up while he goes home for lunch. Seeing Vivian rummage for her car keys gives Jess an idea and she returns incognito to the Starlight Motel. After a drink and a chat with Frankie to get Augie’s phone number the bartender she leaves a generous tip – and some car keys. She stops before leaving but Frankie doesn’t call after her. I assume this proves something?
Jess lures Augie over with the promise of information about Eric’s murder. He is surprised to learn that Eric had come up with the money, but says he didn’t kill him – he was at a card game watching the town water commissioner lose big time.
But it’s okay, because now Augie is wondering where the money went too. Except he knows just where to find it.
Case closed, Jess leaves Vivian to tell Ralph about the whole double life business, and pedals off into the sunset.
Happy International Women’s Day Fletcherfans!