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Recap / Murder She Wrote S 3 E 20 The Days Dwindle Down

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While in town for a TV interview about her sleuthing exploits, Jessica receives a visit from one of the hotel staff, Mrs. Gloria Wilson. She asks Jessica to re-investigate an old murder case that robbed her husband Sam of thirty years of life and his peace of mind. Eventually, Jessica takes the case and begins to probe into the strange death of Sam's old employer Mr. Jarvis. However, the truth may turn out more complicated and more painful than Jessica anticipated.

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This episode includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: Much of the plot revolves around the failure of the firm Mr. Jarvis' firm (where Sam worked) and the men's fear for their families' welfare. The Wilsons already had cash problems when Sam got the bad news, and Mr. Jarvis offered Sam his remaining cash to help him fake his murder to provide for his family.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mrs. Jarvis and Sidney still lost their husband/father and Mr. Wilson still lost thirty years of his life. However, Mr. Wilson just feels happy to be vindicated and has had his spirit restored to live the rest of his life to the fullest. He also decides to forgive the Jarvises and forgo pressing charges.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mr. Jarvis decided to kill himself to give his family financial security. However, he knew his life insurance policy wouldn't pay his family if his death were declared suicide, so he asked Sam to mess up the library and remove the gun after the fact so that it would look like a burglar had murdered him.
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  • Forgiveness: Mrs. Wilson doesn't seem to believe it possible that her husband could forgive Sidney for letting him go to prison and stealing thirty years of his life, and she tells Sidney so. However, Mr. Wilson just seems relieved to have matters sorted out. He says he has no interest in pressing charges, as Mrs. Jarvis has suffered enough already and Sidney only stayed silent to protect his mother. Jessica seems to feel the same way.
  • Get Out!: Mrs. Davis screams at Jessica to leave her office when she begins asking questions about whether her grandfather, who had taken over Jarvis' firm, could have murdered him.
  • Gun Struggle: Mrs. Jarvis came back for an item she had left behind and caught her husband about to shoot himself. She tried to take the gun away from him and it went off by accident as they struggled.
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  • Heroic BSoD: Mrs. Wilson comes to Jessica because her husband, understandably, hasn't been recovering well since his release from prison. According to her, he spends a lot of time in his armchair as though waiting to die.
  • Inheritance Murder: Played with; Jessica investigates Mr. Jarvis' family, who received a quarter of a million dollars in a life insurance policy payout after he died. However, it turns out both of them are innocent.
  • Not So Different: When Rod, the Wilsons' son, begins talking about pressing charges, Sam answers that he doesn't want to. Sidney was only protecting his mother, just as Rod became a policeman to clear him.
  • Take a Third Option: Jessica spends a lot of time trying to figure out who might have killed Mr. Jarvis. However, near the end, she realizes she's been looking at the case as though suicide and murder were the only possibilities. She failed to consider the possibility of accidental death, which it turns out was what really happened.
  • Taking the Heat: When Jessica confronts Sidney Jarvis with evidence that he could only have known where Sam Wilson disposed of the gun if he had been following him, Sidney confesses to murdering his father. However, Jessica doesn't believe him — she's reasoned out that he's taking the fall for his aging mother. Sidney explains that she didn't kill him either; the death was an accident. However, he didn't think the police would believe it.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Even though Mr. Jarvis offered him his remaining $10,000 to help him dress up his suicide as a murder, Sam did his best to talk his employer down. When Mr. Jarvis called him to say he would kill himself that evening, Sam drove over to the house specifically to prevent him from doing it.
  • Stealth Sequel: The episode is actually a sequel to an obscure film noir film called Strange Bargain. The protagonist in the movie was released from prison, having served a sentence for a murder he was framed for, and in this episode Jessica tries to prove who the real killer was in order to give the man peace of mind.
  • Wrong Assumption: Jessica assumes for some time that whoever shot at her in her hotel room also killed Mr. Jarvis and fired the shot to warn her. Actually, it was intended to make her think that. The shooter was really trying to mislead her into believing Jarvis' killer had to be capable currently of climbing a balcony.
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