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Recap / Murder She Wrote S 2 E 9 Jessica Behind Bars

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Jessica agrees to substitute when a teacher for a class in a women's prison takes an unexpected trip to the hospital. However, she finds her time more occupied with investigation than instruction when the prison locks down and the staff doctor turns up dead in her office. Jessica finds herself the middleman between the desperate inmates and the law, and struggles to find the truth before the already uneasy situation disintegrates into mayhem.


This episode includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Always Murder: Played with; Dr. Matthews was a Guilt-Ridden Accomplice who actually committed suicide, but Mrs. Mimms was in fact killed because she was a loose thread that may have revealed why the first victim took her life.
  • Anti-Villain: Many of the inmates are this, in that the riot and eventual hostage situation are caused mainly to stop the police from pinning the crime on fellow prisoner Mary and because of the substandard conditions they've had to endure. Well, one half, led by hotheaded Kat, want to blast their way out to freedom, while the others want Jessica to find out who really killed Dr. Matthews. Inmate Bertha even mentions that "If any of us had any brains we wouldn't be in this joint," a self-deprecating comment about their criminal pasts.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Mary claims she had been sneaking medication to give to the prisoners in the infirmary, who were always in pain, and says she didn't know enough about medicines to dilute the morphine Dr. Matthews was poisoned with. It turns out the staff of the prison were selling the supplies they were supposed to use for the inmates.
  • Chromosome Casting: The episode took place in a prison on lockdown, and everybody - the prisoners, the staff, the warden, and even the lieutenant governor they speak to on the phone - are all played by women.
  • Killing in Self-Defense: Mary hid out from her husband, a Domestic Abuser, upon getting a warning from a friend that he was coming home angry and drunk. She called the police but ultimately wound up shooting him with his .22 before they could arrive. She still got convicted of murder because she was armed and he wasn't.
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  • Prison Episode: While it's set in a jail, Jessica is only there because of a writing program that involves a former student. She ends up caught in the middle of a riot and spends her time trying to find the truth and keep the inmates from killing themselves and maybe other people with a poorly-considered escape attempt.
  • Red Is Heroic: Mary, the most consistently reasonable and good-natured inmate, has red hair.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: While Jessica spends much of the episode trying to figure out who killed Dr. Matthews, she eventually concludes that Matthews committed suicide, which wasn't realized because her fingerprints on file were forged and therefore, the police could not identify her real fingerprints on the morphine.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Played with; the warden gets antagonistic towards Mary and the prisoners are pretty sure she had something to do with the murders. However, she's innocent of the killings and was legitimately trying to improve the prison, only to be hampered by her corrupt staff, including the assistant warden.
  • Write What You Know: Jessica says she doesn't necessarily agree that authors should only write concerning things about which they are knowledgeable. However, this does come up in the story; at least one of the prisoners had the criminal in her story caught the same way she was.

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