Murder, She Wrote

Season 1 Episode 2

Deadly Lady

Aired Sunday 8:00 PM Oct 07, 1984 on CBS

Episode Recap

This episode begins with a hurricane that takes out the electricity in Jessica's house. The next morning, she arrives home from her morning jog to find a man pruning shrubs in her front yard. He introduces himself as Ralph and claims to have been "hoboing" for many years. Jessica agrees to feed him in exchange for his work around the house.

Once inside, Ralph notices a copy of Jessica's new book on the counter and says that he read it. Upon turning it over and seeing her picture, he says, "Mrs. Fletcher, you astound me." She responds by declaring he is "full of clam dip". She tells him that the book has not been released yet, his clothes are much too nice to be those of a bum, and his wrist still has an impression where his watch was. He admits that he has recently lost his job, but Mrs. Fletcher forgives his lie and lets him stay on.

As Ralph and Jessica finish breakfast, Sheriff Tupper calls to say that a boat has been towed to shore after being caught in the storm the previous night. He asks Jessica to come down to the dock because he suspects the four sisters on board have committed murder.

Upon arrival at the dock, Grace, one of the sisters explains that during the storm, the four of them huddled under the deck but suddenly realized that their father was not with them. She claims that one sister, Lisa, ran up to get him and Grace followed. Just then a huge wave hit the boat and their father was washed overboard.

The girls go on to tell Amos and Jessica that they all have an equal share of their father's estate, which is worth around $100 million. They then retrieve their suitcases from the boat and Grace confides in Jessica, saying, "I don't think there's a one of us that's sorry to see him dead."

Upon arriving home, Jessica sees Ralph admiring a pipe that once belonged to her deceased husband Frank. She becomes emotional and tells him that she wants him to keep it. Later, he tells her about his own dead wife. As he leaves, Jessica moves to the sink to wash dishes and notices the whirlpool of water swirling down the drain. She runs to see her friend Ethan, and together they realize that if the girls' story was true, they would have been right in the eye of the hurricane. The sea would have been calm.

Ethan, Jessica, and Amos confront the girls, and when they realize they have been caught in a lie, and another sister, Maggie, confesses to having shot their father during a fight the night before the storm.

As usual, however, Jessica is not phased by the confession. Something about it just doesn't sit right with Jessica. (Just a side note: doesn't it seem that if J.B. was suspicious of you, the best thing to do would be to confess? It always seems to deter her suspicion.) Amos arrests Maggie and her brother-in-law promises to get her the best lawyer he can find.

Jessica and Ethan go to talk to the local newspaper editor, and Jessica catches sight of a picture of the girls' father, Stephen Earl, in the paper. Although the picture is twenty years old, she recognizes him as Ralph, the man who has been helping around her house. She takes Ethan home to find him, but Ralph is gone. Ethan tells her she's "dotty" and that she "spins around more in a circle than a Roman candle on the Fourth of July", but Jessica is determined to prove she is right.

The next morning, some kids playing on the beach discover the body of Ralph/Stephen Earl, which has just washed up on shore. Lisa and Nan go to identify the body and leave in tears. Jessica meets them outside and witnesses Nan's ex-fiance from a year ago drive up and embrace her. Lisa comments that it's quite an interesting time for him to show up.

When Jessica and Sheriff Tupper tell Maggie that her father's body was found, Maggie admits that her confession was not true, and that her father left the boat voluntarily on a raft. It was part of a scheme to make Nan's ex-fiance, Terry, return to try to get in on Nan's share of the inheritance.

Jessica then tracks down Terry, who swears he is in love with Nan and doesn't care about the money. He said that when he got into Portland the night before, Nan was waiting for him because Maggie had told her about their father's plan.

After an anonymous tip, Tupper finds a pair of pink shoes with a broken heel on the beach near where Stephen Earl was killed. Jessica finds the missing heel and says she is certain they belong to Nan. Upon seeing them, Nan says they are hers, but Jessica insists she try them on.

Tupper wants to arrest Nan, but Jessica tells him that Nan is innocent. After considering for a moment, however, Jessica tells Tupper to take Nan in, but for both of them to keep quiet about the shoes.

At the station, Terry comes in looking for Nan, but when Tupper offers to let him see her, he says he is busy and leaves. Nan hears the whole conversation and recognizes Terry for the fraud that he is.

When the other sisters arrive back at their hotel, Jessica tells them that they found the heel, but not the shoes. Jessica asks if she can search their rooms, and Grace and Maggie agree. Maggie adds, however, that she and Nan wear different sizes and she does not wear pink. As Jessica leaves the hotel, she tells Maggie that she is planning to sleep in the next day and asks her to give a bag to Sheriff Tupper in the morning. We later find out that the bag contains the heel of the shoe.

Later that night, Maggie breaks into Jessica's house and finds Jessica waiting for her. Jessica tells her that she knew Maggie was guilty because she knew the shoes were pink and no one but the one who wore them could have known. Maggie admits that she killed her father because he never loved her, and she framed Nan because Nan was the one who always got all her father's attention. Maggie then tells Jessica that she is going to kill her and make it look like a burglary, and Jessica smiles and says, in her motherly way, that there are no burglars in Cabot Cove, and besides, Sheriff Tupper has been listening to the entire conversation.

The episode ends with Ethan and Jessica driving off to spend some quality time fishing together.