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Recap / Murder She Wrote S 3 E 9 Stage Struck

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Two of Jessica's old friends, Julian Lord and Maggie Tarrow, invite her back to the theatre where they all used to work for a revival of a play. However, more than the usual amount of trouble plagues the performance — first Maggie suffers a shock and faints mid-rehearsal, and then her understudy, Barbara, dies on-stage.

This episode includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Bitter Almonds: The attempts on the actors' lives involved cyanide.
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  • Blackmail Backfire: When Jessica confronts Julian backstage, it turns out that Barbara had tried to blackmail him into performing with her that night with the knowledge that he and Maggie had conceived and given up a child. Suspecting she would never quit, Julian poisoned her to protect Maggie from her attacks.
  • Hands-On Approach: Implied when Jessica has an audio flashback about her time in the theatre. She admits that perspective completely throws her off, and the younger Frank offers to guide her brush hand.
  • Inspector Lestrade: The chief of police asks Jessica for her help, but then proceeds to jump the gun multiple times and assume the guilt of one of the suspects, in multiple cases against the evidence. In the final case, he continues his accusation even when Jessica tries to stop him and shuts down her protests.
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  • Murder by Mistake: Jessica originally suggests that the killer intended to poison Maggie, not Barbara. However, then she discovers that Barbara never drank the poisoned wine, and realizes that, given how fast cyanide works, Barbara had to have been poisoned after taking over for Maggie.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Jessica says that she was the second-best set painter in the theatre thirty years ago. However, she then admits that the theatre only kept two set designers on staff.
  • Plot Allergy: Jessica reasons that Barbara was poisoned onstage, not by the wine in the dressing room, because she had an allergy to red wine and never drank it. The wine was poisoned afterward as a Red Herring.
  • Stigmatic Pregnancy Euphemism: Thirty years earlier, Maggie Tarrow unexpectedly left a show mid-performance, claiming she had a movie offer, years before her first film came out. She disappeared "abroad" for "almost a year". As Jessica quickly realizes, "nine months is almost a year".
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