This episode is a total nod to Angela Lansbury's extensive theater background, if nothing else. And we're treated to a little auditory flashback of the moment wherein Jessica met her late husband Frank Fletcher while painting some scenery...if ya know what I mean!
Jessica returns to the town where she and Frank met on the set of a summer stage production to meet up with old friends now starring in a new play. These once-married stars are frequently hounded by "the tabloids" due to their long and turbulent romantic history. When the leading lady suffers a breakdown, her understudy Barbara Bennington is more than willing to step in. Barbara only makes to the intermission of the first performance, struck down by a fatal dose of cyanide. Can Jessica ensure that the show will go on by solving this murder mystery?
Maggie Tarrow -- leading lady and assumed to be the intended poison victim. Did she have a secret murderous grudge against her much younger understudy?
Julian Lord -- Maggie's ex-husband and current co-star, they were known as the dueling Lords for their constant fighting. The (ex) husband is always prime suspect in my book! "Justice Files" anyone?
Larry Matthews -- plays Maggie's husband in current stage production and linked romantically with her in a May-December type situation. Did he want to end the affair in a more permanent manner?
Alexander Preston -- producer, lost big money when Lords ditched a stage production 30 years prior. Did he decide it was time to get his revenge by killing Maggie?
Pru Mattson -- stage manager, did her liaison with Larry Matthews drive her into a jealous rage towards Maggie?
T.J. Holt -- pretending to be Barbara Bennington's fiancee while secretly working on a biography of the Lords. He has red hair just like Maggie. Hmmm. I have yet to see a redheaded man who was actually attractive. You?
Well, one stood out right off the bat. I couldn't be a child of the 80's without fondly remembering Edward Mulhare (Julian Lord) as Devon Miles from "Knight Rider". And, of course, there's Donald Most (T.J. Holt)...Ralph Malph from "Happy Days".
I googled a few other folks who looked familiar. Turns out we're in some high caliber acting company here! Dan O’Herlihy (Alexander Preston) and Eleanor Parker (Maggie Tarrow) were both Academy Award nominees. I'm sure you're as thrilled about this as I am.
Pretty much everything that Barbara Bennington wore was 80's-tastic, from her permed hair to her shoulder-padded jumpsuits. Otherwise...read on.
A serious ending? Say it ain't so, Jessica! Nary a joke and freeze-frame laugh to end this episode. Turns out that Maggie and Julian had an illegitimate child 30 years prior. Despire his red hair, it wasn't T.J. Holt. We never discover the identity of this mysterious love child, but we do find out that Barbara was blackmailing Julian about it. Julian decided to kill her to keep the press from finding out about their big secret. Nowadays they'd just go on Oprah and get a cover shot on US Weekly, but I guess they came up with the "any publicity is good publicity" saying after the 80's.