The passing of the torch from Sheriff Tupper to his successor Harry Pierce does not run smoothly as first a local woman dies of electrocution in her bathroom (an incident that Jessica finds suspicious) and then an anonymous writer floods Cabot Cove with accusatory letters.
This episode includes examples of the following tropes:
- 10-Minute Retirement:
- Sheriff Tupper attempts to retire. He enjoys the freedom at first but gradually gets restless and resumes his sheriff duties under the excuse of helping the new sheriff. However, he reclaims his job after his successor Harry Pierce proves to be utterly incompetent. The fact that Pierce turns out to be the Villain of the Week didn't help.
- Sheriff Pierce also storms out midway through the investigation, flinging his badge at Jessica and Sheriff Tupper. When he walks in on Jessica in the basement, he claims he resumed his duties after calming down and came to investigate the light as a cover for trying to get rid of his accuser and any evidence.
- Chekhov's Gun: Sheriff Tupper notes that the letter addressed to him was marked "Sheriff Tupper." Jessica uses this to figure out that it was the original letter the killer was trying to conceal.
- Complete-the-Quote Title: The title refers to the old expression "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" and concerns quite a lot of havoc resulting because of the poison-pen letters.
- Electrified Bathtub: The killer murders Beverly by fraying her cord, turning the power off to get her to pull out and reinsert the plug, and then turning it back on while she was holding it.
- Evil All Along: Harry Pierce, a real estate agent, is a recurring character for the first half of season two, until his third appearance where he murders a woman to get his hands on all the money they got from a scheme they were involved in. Lest you think he's new to villainy, he also burned a building down a year prior.
- Handbag of Hurt: Edna whacks Jessica over the head with her handbag after receiving a letter implying she's been making moves on her husband. Jessica is bewildered. However, once Edna cools down and thinks about it, she apologizes, acknowledging that the accusation was ridiculous. Jessica forgives her.
- Keet: Michael, the travel writer, is very enthusiastic and talkative.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Beverly's murder was cleverly set up to look like an electrical accident.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: The killer sent out the accusatory letters to distract attention from the letter Beverly informed him would be sent in response to her death. With so many letters, many of which were pure nonsense, law enforcement would overlook the real letter. He didn't reckon with Jessica Fletcher.
- Playing Drunk: Michael pretends to be intoxicated to throw off suspicion while trying to get information out of the Condo Three. He tells Jessica that he ate quite a lot of butter to keep from really getting drunk.