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"Murder, She Wrote" Roadkill (1994)

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"Gotta Make a Move from a Town That's Wrong for Them"

7/10
Author: WeatherViolet from United States
21 April 2010

This opens in current day Houston, Texas, inside a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) office, with archive footage of the July 20, 1969, moon landing of Apollo 11 lunar module (LM) "Eagle," engendering the quotation, "One small step for man, One Giant Leap For Mankind."

NASA Agent Juan Ramez (Reni Santoni) meets with the visiting Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) to roll the tape, as she researches her latest manuscript, "Endangered, The Launch Pad Murders," and requests as many details as Juan Ramez may provide. (Although the episode doesn't site J.B.'s current title-in-the making, "Endangered" and "The Launch Pad Murders" are sometimes listed as separate J.B. Fletcher books.)

During the meeting, Juan receives a telephone call from Sam Mercer (Gary Lockwood), informing Juan to expect his shipment of Mercer LG computers via semi-rig delivery soon.

At any rate, while she researches in Houston, the Platte family welcomes dear old friend Jessica into their residence, in nearby San Dimas, Texas, one year after the passing of matriarch Lynne Platte.

Newly widowed Wayne Platte (Earl Holliman) operates Platte Trucking Company with his efficient Receptionist/Secretary/Bookkeeper/Dispatcher Meg Thomas (Beth Grant), who conducts most of the office responsibilities and informs Wayne of its distressful financial straits.

Wayne Platte also drives for his delivery company, and today hauls the shipment of Mercer LG computers to deliver to NASA, when three highway robbers stop his 18-wheeler to overcome Wayne and to hijack his truck. Doctor (Ron Leath) tends to Wayne's injuries, while Wayne and Meg worry about the truck and its shipment of merchandise, both stolen by the notorious team of San Dimas highway bandits.

Across San Dimas, Willie Greenwood (Joanna Cassidy) operates Willie's Roadhouse, a honky tonk bar providing live Country music performances, at which Wayne's son, Rob Platte (Patrick Cassidy), performs, as Jessica arrives in town to hear his performance, she also attired in Country-flavored garments to suit the local color.

Rob exhibits plenty of promise with his healthy appearance, caring personality, smooth voice and ability to carry a song, and so he plans to leave San Dimas and his father's trucking company to try his hand for potential recording success in Nashville, Tennessee.

Waitress Cindy Warrick (Melora Hardin) encourages Rob Platte to follow his dreams, against his father's wishes on both parts, because Rob's dreams also include marrying Cindy, who has a love-'em-and-leave-'em reputation for dumping her ex-husbands, instead of dealing with domestic problems.

Bartender Randy Jinks (Whip Hubley) had been Cindy's first husband, and now Cindy, Randy and Rob all have to work together at Willie's Roadhouse, where Willie certainly doesn't stand for their recurring altercations. During one fight between Randy and Rob over Cindy, Willie douses them all with water and then demands that the three dry off and get back to work.

So, Jessica has her hands full, trying to research "The Launch Pad Murders" while learning of Wayne's brutal attack, while having to champion young love if only for the sake of Baby Sammi Sue, the lovable infant daughter of Cindy and her second ex-husband.

Sheriff Jim Monday (Dirk Blocker) and Deputy Sutton (Heath Kizzier) investigate the highway robbery and suspect that Willie Greenwood and Randy Jinks are in it over their heads although authorities have not been able to locate the secret warehouse, at which Willie allegedly stores the stolen merchandise even though Willie and Randy walk freely from the stockroom to the warehouse behind her Roadhouse in a moment's time. However, the officers manage to locate the empty semi-rig and return it to Platte Trucking Company.

TV repair shop Owner (Brett Porter) has been fencing the stolen merchandise, which he deems as inferior quality, and not suitable for NASA purposes, causing some to blame Sam Mercer for pulling a fast one even though the thieves and fencers have no legal recourse to confront Sam. Nor can they alert NASA without casting suspicion upon themselves.

But Willie has other means of obtaining illegal funds, such as by blackmailing Meg Thomas for embezzling from Platte Trucking, and having to borrow from Willie to repay the funds at very high interest. While she confronts Meg on the sidewalk, Lance Taggart (Robert O'Reilly) arrives by bus to blackmail Willie for setting him up for conviction. Now that he has been paroled, Lance seeks to return to Willie's hijacking fold, and into her arms again for some reason or other.

While Jessica observes Wayne's inspecting his recovered truck, while trying to convince him that Cindy and Rob may be good for each other, a small explosion injures Wayne's arm, after pinning him beneath a falling wheel. Doctor (Ron Leath) once again treats Wayne's injuries and advises him not to drive for a while.

Rob volunteers to drive for Wayne, to try to salvage the company from the verge of bankruptcy, even if that means saying "Good-bye" to his dreams as a Country singer. But there are Cindy and Baby Sammi Sue to consider, and Jessica sees what she can do to fix them back up with Rob after Wayne tries to buy off Cindy, to leave his only child alone.

And then there's a murder. This time around, an 18-wheel rig serves as the murder weapon for a victim who stands along the highway to await an appointment. Why the victim doesn't step from the road isn't explained, possibly from that frozen feeling of disbelief, realizing the double-cross, but now Deputy Sutton and Jessica must investigate a case of "Roadkill."

This episode represents the first of two "MSW" appearances for Whip Hubley, the second of two each for Earl Holliman, Robert O'Reilly and Reni Santoni, and the fourth of four for Gary Lockwood.

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