I am watching Birds of a Feather – an episode from season one of Murder, She Wrote. In order to make it feel like I’m doing something productive (and also because once upon a time I actually did TV recaps as part of my job) here is what happened. I watched it so you didn’t have to, essentially.
SCENE 1 TAKES PLACE NEAR WATER:
Howard, a man in a white suit who has clearly watched too much Saturday Night Fever joins Martin Landau for a jog. Martin Landau is incredibly fashion forward in his velour tracksuit which neatly anticipates JLo’s iconic Juicy Couture look by about twenty years. Unfortunately at some point in the intervening decades the velour tracksuit connection between form and function was lost, meaning Landau’s jogging seems hopelessly dated.
Martin Landau is unimpressed by Howard’s pleas to stop making him do something degrading. Howard will therefore be murder suspect number one and the degrading thing will turn out to be, like, taking the bins out or something.
SCENE 2 IS IN THE (OR INDEED “A”) CHURCH:
Vicky (Jessica Fletcher’s niece) is chatting to a vicar about her wedding. Her suggestion that it be an “intimate” occasion elicits an odd reaction which has nothing to do with the plot. The actor has clearly decided that vicars are not on board with intimacy. He later fails to wince at some blasphemy so I have put a cross next to “accuracy” on my Murder, She Wrote scorecard.
Clearly out of his depth, the vicar suggests making the whole tedious thing “festive” by adding flowers. The way he says “festive” reminds me of the way my grandmother delivered all her finest backhanded compliments. “Don’t you look nice when you don’t have your hair the way you usually do?” Thanks, granny vicar!
Howard finally appears. He is the groom. Really Vicky? You didn’t think you could do better? “I do have the little tots waiting in the rehearsal hall,” complains the vicar. He is talking about how the wedding rehearsal is interfering with choir practice but modern ecclesiastical scandal has rather affected my ability to read that kind of line without it being a wry aside. It’s like when your mum tells you she’s off for a facial and you deeply regret knowing so much about porn.
Howard and his fiance have a row in the middle of the aisle and he offers her a lipstick-covered hanky which inflames the situation further. Howard is a moron. Why would he put a hanky covered in pink grease in the pocket of a pristine white suit?
SCENE 4 IS IN SOME RESTAURANT:
Jessica is being a jerk about the local restaurant’s lobster options. “Are you sure these are Maine lobsters?” she asks. “Maybe they have jet lag.”
Shut up and stop being so one-percenty, Jessica.
“We’ll take the first two that move.”
Now THAT is a line which crosses generational and situational divides, equally appropriate when being a dick about ordering lobster and when on the pull in a sleazy nightclub on student night. Or so I’ve heard.
But while Jessica is capable of infinite lobster snobbery (snobster? lobbery? lobstobbery?) she is also an old lush. “Glass of white wine” is as specific as she manages and doesn’t even bother to sample it first. As someone who recently had a glass of white wine which I suspect was equal parts ham and Ronseal I’d say that was foolhardy at best.
While Jessica is eying the wine, Vicky is doing Backstory.
Howard is an actor turned insurance salesman. Vicky confesses that she knows Howard has lost his job but that he hasn’t told her and keeps missing their evening dates before turning up covered in perfume and lipstick. He has also festooned his apartment with matchboxes from a particular club. Howard is either an arsonist or a plot device moron trying to keep a secret.
“If I love him how can I justify spying on him?” wails Vicky.
“For your own piece of mind I think you have to,” answers Jessica Fletcher, moral spirograph, who has sensed that this club may contain more wine.
SCENE 5 IS IN MARTIN LANDAU’S NIGHTCLUB
Some guy called Freddie wants to leave, or get more money or something. I am not really paying attention because it’s not about Jessica and no-one’s dead yet.
Jessica and Vicky arrive without a reservation but some really hamfisted namedropping gets the pair a seat. Martin Landau’s wife arrives during a comedy set by someone who makes a joke Jessica doesn’t approve of. The comedian will now turn out to be the murderer.
Felix (who the hell is Felix?) is sent to warn Martin Landau that his wife is hanging about but bumps into a woman in a monumentally unflattering belted dress which makes me think of Kate Middleton and her endless wardrobe of dresses in NO EXCITING COLOURS WHATSOEVER. Kate Middleton tells Felix that she will tell Martin Landau about the wife situation. Good old Kate Middleton, she really is so kind.
The club suddenly (I say suddenly as if you hadn’t been expecting this but, seriously, it’s kind of been building since the lipstick hanky) turns out to be a drag bar and a woman wearing the remains of a flocked velvet tablecloth crashes through the room and onto Jessica’s table pursued by Kate Middleton. It turns out to be Howard The Moron who has been moonlighting at the club (the explanation given later is, like, “that’s showbiz” or something). He is instantly arrested and confined to his dressing room.
Sidenote: The main impact of this drag club setting appears to be that the actors keep removing their wigs for dramatic effect. I am on board with this as a direction.
A policeman guarding the dressing room lets Vicky in because he is shit at his job.
Vicky is not repulsed by Howard’s dreadful taste in dresses – maybe she has decided that they fall into the category of “festive” – and the pair start getting it on. Obviously hilarity ensues when the police are unsure which one to charge. They go for “the tall one”.
I CAN’T REMEMBER WHICH SCENE THIS IS NUMERICALLY BUT IT IS THE MURDER SCENE
Kate Middleton witnessed the aftermath of the murder and is chatting on about it while the police are all “What, this gun here?”
Squawking from the corner alerts everyone to the fact that Jessica is harassing a cockatiel. She is asked to leave.
THE POLICE STATION
Jessica blackmails the police into letting her help with the investigation. They then leave her alone with Howard The Moron because they too are shit at their jobs.
Jessica instantly believes Howard’s version of events (that he was shouting at the back of a chair which happened to contain a dead man while waving a gun about). This is probably because Howard is too deeply stupid to have made anything as convoluted as that up.
Martin Landau’s wife is banging some dude who isn’t/wasn’t Martin Landau and fires Kate Middleton for knowing about it. Kate Middleton immediately tells Jessica everything about it and calls Martin Landau’s wife “Lucrezia Borgia in furs”. This comparison bothers me far more than it should because I’m pretty sure Lucrezia Borgia would have had far more furs than Martin Landau’s wife. Hell, the woman could probably have passed for a gigantic stoat in wintertime, loaded up with a ton of ermine. For God’s sake Kate Middleton, work on your historical comparisons.
MISC OTHER PLACES
Event chunter along at not enough of a pace so I am not going scene by scene. Martin Landau’s wife and the dude she is banging have a villainous encounter on the waterfront. There is lacklustre kissing and they both suspect each other. Jessica pops in to discuss Alcatraz with the comedian who is clearly the murderer, because FORESHADOWING. Then the comedian tries to make himself look innocent by staging an attempt on his own life, so that was a nice diversion.
Eventually Jessica goes for a lie down in her noisy hotel room and holds a pillow over her ears. She is probably massively hungover from all the wine.
This is the EUREKA moment we have been waiting for. She was harrassing the cockatiel earlier because of a feather she found. And where there are feathers there are either birds or – far more likely – pillows being used as impromptu gun silencers before being replaced by ones from the murderer’s dressing room which have been sun bleached because of the window with the view of Alcatraz.
On that basis the comedian goes to prison, Vicky marries Howard The Moron and Howard The Moron gets a job two days a week on a daytime soap opera. I decide that Vicky’s story is the great tragedy of the piece and try to remember if she turns up in later series to update us on what is clearly going to be a disastrous union.
Jessica just laughs.