Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Powder Keg 

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The justice system is tested when a group of angry rednecks form a lynch party and plan to hang a murder suspect.


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 4 more credits »


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Pat Corley ... Frank Kelso
Mariclare Costello ... Cassie Latham Burns
Cindy Fisher ... Linda Bonner
Brian Lane Green ... Matthew Burns (as Brian L. Green)
Jackie Earle Haley ... Billy Willetts
Dorian Harewood ... Sheriff Claudell Cox
John Dennis Johnston ... Peter Fargo
Bill McKinney ... Charlie Demsey
Jeff Osterhage ... Ed Bonner (as Jeffrey Osterhage)
Craig Stevens ... Prof. Ames Caulfield
Stuart Whitman ... Mr. Bonner
Larry Wilcox ... Andy Crane
W.K. Stratton W.K. Stratton ... Deputy Morgan (as W. K. Stratton)
John Alvin ... Dr. Frazier


When her friend Professor Ames Caulfield takes Jessica along to recover in the country after a literary conference, his car breaks down in southern Roper County, they'll have to stay a few days in the inn of Cassie Latham Burns, to his amazement a former student of his, whose charming adolescent son Matthew performs Country in Frank Kelso's saloon. Ames witnesses how the kid is publicly humiliated by slutty waitress Linda Bonner's brother Ed and his goons, including service station employees Andy Crane and Billy Willetts, all storm out furious and shouting threats. After Ed is found dead with stab wounds behind the rectory, his dad farmer Bonner uses his considerable clout to weigh on Sheriff Claudell Cox, who assures Jessica Matt is safest in jail, while after pulling a knife on Kelso the lynching-minded rabble assembles outside till Bonner breaks them up; the sheriff admits taking the bloody knife all the way to his home across town where it was found without dumping it in the river... Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

9 February 1986 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Jessica ( Angela Lansbury )and Prof. Ames Caulfield ( Craig Stevens ) are checking into the hotel, the clerk tells them that she has two adjoining rooms in a private wing. Then, when Jessica and Ames are in Jessica's room, Ames tells Jessica that after she's freshened up to knock on his door and that he's right across the hall. Rooms that are on opposite sides of the hall can't be adjoining. See more »


[first lines]
Jessica Fletcher: Oh, Ames, I'm so grateful to you for inviting me to loll around your estate for a few days. You know, that writer's conference really wore me out.
Prof. Ames Caulfield: Nonsense. You loved it. And they loved you, he admitted enviously.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Less than explosive
25 July 2017 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

After the outstanding previous two episodes "Trial By Error" and "Keep the Home Fries Burning", both season and show highlights, "Powder Keg" was a major disappointment. Not a bad episode, but a long way from great, for early 'Murder She Wrote' it's somewhat mediocre and one of the season's weakest along with (as far as previous episodes go) "Joshua Peabody Died Here...Possibly" and "Dead Heat".

Too much of the story is riddled with clichés and descends too far into ridiculousness and with a few odd turns. This is including, and actually especially, a badly out of place plot point involving Caulfield and Matthew. Other than a decent final solution, some suspenseful tension between the characters, and how the crime is investigated and solved a lot of it doesn't engage enough, and some of the dialogue is uncharacteristically (for the early seasons that is) overripe.

Some of the guest turns are seriously amateur hour too, usually the acting on 'Murder She Wrote' wasn't this amateurish early on (with a few exceptions like with Lauren Tewes, Priscilla Barnes and Michael Horton), especially Brian Lane Green and the almost the whole lynch mob (with the one exception being Jackie Earle Haley, and even he has been better since).

However, despite how all this sounds, "Powder Keg" does have a lot of merits. Production values are high in quality as to be expected, with slick photography and attractive scenery. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

Enough of the dialogue has some thought-provoking and amiable moments like the interplay between Jessica and the sheriff.

Angela Lansbury is terrific as always, and there are some good guest star performances. Dorian Harewood and Stuart Whitman do rise above the material and Cindy Fisher is appealing enough, but the best performance comes from Pat Corley who is magnificently gruff and the role is crucial enough for it to elevate the episode significantly even when so problematic in other areas.

In conclusion, some good elements, some bad. 6/10 Bethany Cox

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