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"Murder, She Wrote" The List of Yuri Lermentov (1991)

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"Because Your Obelisk Is on the List of the Weapons from Life"

Author: WeatherViolet from United States
8 March 2010

"MSW" series Screenwriter Tom Sawyer pens scripts for 24 episodes throughout this series (he also becoming a Producer during Seasons Nine through Twelve). By comparison with several other "MSW" screenwriters, Tom Sawyer's contributions are often characterized more frequently than others by his overshadowing of gloom, helplessness and supernatural elements, along with international intrigue, as evidenced with this episode, "The List of Yuri Lermentov."

This setting follows activities in Washington, D.C., around the U.S.S.R. embassy (during the year of the nation's disbanding and the embassy's reverting to Russian solvency), as well as a U.S. House of Representatives office, and a hotel containing an international ballroom.

Sergei Onyegin (Nicholas Kadi) converses with Yuri Lermentov (Theodore Bikel), as they cross through the Soviet Embassy corridors, they discussing effects of an arms deal, as affected by changes in a U.S. Congressional trade proposal.

Representative Arthur Prouty (Mitch Ryan) arrives at his office to be briefed by his efficient Congressional Aide, Harry Neville (Brian McNamara), regarding Senatorial bargaining developments in the House legislation proposed by Representative Prouty. (Policial fiction requires Senatorial approval of House legislation.)

Enter Arthur's dear old friend Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), who visits the busy Congressman, and presents a copy of her latest book, "Messengers of Midnight," which Hartley Publishers has not yet released, but gives Jessica five advanced copies, which she carries to D.C.

"Messengers of Midnight" is based upon Jessica's actual experience in the most recent episode, "The Committee (#8.09)," from which she bases the Mystery and also the tentative Screenplay which she advises in the forthcoming "Incident in Lot 7 (#8.13)." In-between-whiles, she has completed her manuscript, which has gone to press, by the onset of "The List of Yuri Lermentov (#8.10)."

However, when somebody slips a note into Arthur Prouty's copy, its cover appears to change to read "Messengers of the Stream" in black lettering on red instead of the red on white of her other copies, and this book also reveals the different cover and title when Arthur returns it to Jessica's hotel room.

Anyway, much wheeling and dealing transpires in the meantime, with Constantin Kesmek's (Spiros Focás) barging into Arthur's office to debate the trade bill, and Constantin Kesmek's attorney, Charles Lawton Standish's (Richard Beymer), offering a price for Constantin's missile shipment, which would be affected by the trade bill, and Constantin's dealing with Yuri Lermentov along these same lines.

Michael Hagarty (Len Cariou) then appears on the scene, under the guise of a "Michael Preston," as he bargains with Yuri Lermentov for possession of a secret list, encoded from satellite surveillance, which may jeopardize the lives of five of his agent friends stationed in Libya, whom he is determined to protect at all costs, even if this means that he has to drag Jessica into his classified operation yet once again.

Bonnie Hartman (Janet Julian) serves as Hagarty's means into the International Ballroom for the reception honoring the trade agreement. Bonnie is described as an agent from the U.S. Department of Treasury, or at least for now, because Hagarty's details of his clandestine intelligence operations often vary from scene to scene.

Jessica attends the reception on the arm of busy Representative Arthur Prouty, who seems to have freed his schedule not only for this evening, but for the remainder of the episode, as he suddenly seems to have plenty of time to scrutinize Jessica's every move.

Charles Lawton Standish, Constantin Kesmek and Harry Neville also attend the festivities, as they, along with Bonnie Hartman and Hagarty witness Yuri Lermentov's cleverly slipping his top secret list into the book which Arthur returns to Jessica although neither Jessica nor Arthur notice this, or at least not until after the reception, when Jessica discovers it the instant which she returns into her hotel suite.

Arthur stands in the shadows, as Hagarty visits Jessica, who naturally insists that he explain everything from the beginning. These types of scenes often require ample episode time because when she doesn't believe him the first time, he must come up with something better until she finally does buy his story.

But that evening, when someone sneaks into Jessica's suite to attempt to retrieve "The List of Yuri Lermentov," another perpetrator bludgeons the first intruder with a marble statue representing the Washington Monument as the murder weapon.

Lieutenant Blaisdell (Louis Giambalvo) arrives by morning light to attempt to cause Jessica to explain the body which she discovers in her hotel suite, which has occurred while she remains fast asleep at 4:30 AM, when she does not witness the murder. He doesn't seem to buy alibis by various suspects and laughs them off as concoctions.

So, Jessica must investigate to clear both herself and Hagarty once again, this time setting a trap which seems to backfire when she and Arthur face the barrel of a pistol by the perpetrator who desperately wants "The List of Yuri Lermentov."

The cast is rounded out by Gwendolyn Shepherd as Franklin Messenger Sevice Female Dispatcher, Michael Fawcett as Headwaiter, and David Starwalt as Policeman.

This episode represents the first acting credit by Michael Fawcett, as well as the first of two "MSW" guest roles each for Janet Julian and Louis Giambalvo, the second of two for David Starwalt, the first of three for Brian McNamara, the third of four each for Theodore Bikel and Mitch Ryan, the third of six for Richard Beymer, and the sixth of seven "MSW's" for Len Cariou in his recurring role as British Agent Michael Hagarty.

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Slight correction to a previous review

Author: njmensah from England
28 March 2017

There are two different books featured in this episode. Jessica presents Arthur Prouty with an advanced copy of her book "The Messengers of Midnight", which has a black/red spine. He later presents her with a copy of a book he has written about fly-fishing called "Meditations in the Stream", white spine. The previous review was confused about the books. There was no production error.

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