I'm going to lump parts 1 & 2 of "Death Stalks the Big Top" together into one, happy, dysfunctional review. Just like a circus! Oh, and FYI Netflix, you have epis 1 and 2 switched on your "instant steam". Jessica would not approve.
Ok, so the short and nasty of this story is Jessica's deceased hubby, Frank, had a brother. This brother supposedly died in a "boating accident". Well it was NO boating accident, because she gets a tip that he's working at a circus under the name of Carl. So the circus is going under, accidents are happening left and right, and the resident circus bully, Hank Sutter, turns up dead. What does this story need? Why, J.B. Fletcher, of course!
Neil Fletcher-- Jessica's brother in law has faked his own death and traveled with the circus under an assumed name. It's not looking good.
Preston Bartholomew-- Did the writers think up these names after an all night Zima n' jolly rancher bender? Preston is a circus hand with an South African accent. Sigh.
Brad Noname-- The local elephant wrangler was on-duty when Hank was found. Worse, Hank's injuries are consistent with trampling, something Brad could have easily set up. Brad was trying to escape the long arm of the law, did Hank find out and try and blackmail him?
We have quite the smorgasbord. Courtney Cox, looking strangely as she appears today. Florence Henderson, looking, hmm, that's odd, strangely as she does today. Ha. Imagine that. We also have a dark horse, Gregg Henry, beloved in that 1999 classic, Payback. I'm pleased to say that his face does register human emotion.
In MSW world, suspicion always falls on the person closest to Jessica. So Jessica's brother-in-law Neil confesses to Hanks' murder and is promptly locked up. Apparently, Hank had been making passes at the tight-rope-walking cutie (Katie), who's 11 year old son tried to defend his mother unsuccessfully with a baseball bat. As Hank was found beaten to death with that bat, Neil had to confess in order to defend his little buddy.
Stating the obvious, Jessica knows an 11 year old boy is hardly capable of inflicting enough damage to murder a strapping 30 year old with a bat. She convinces Neil of this, who promptly recants his confession. Mayor McCoffeemug decides it's merely a story, refusing to let him loose. But when another murder is committed, it's obvious another suspect is the culprit. That culprit sets a fire in Jessica's hotel room after rendering her unconscious! She escapes in classic Fletcher style, handbag in hand.
Brad can't handle the pressure, and admits to merely punching Hank, but claimes he left him alive. Jessica believes him, because she knows the murderer is not Brad, but Preston Bartholomew! Preston was being paid to sabotage the circus so the owners could sell it off. When he got greedy, he killed his associate, Hank, along with the owner, Kingman. Jessica stands her ground as Preston attempts to open the TIGER CAGE on her. We don't have a counter for that, and no, I'm not making one.