Murder, She Wrote: Season 7, Episode 7

The Return of Preston Giles (18 Nov. 1990)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Crime | Drama
8.2
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Out on parole, Jessica's former publisher tries to woo her back into the fold.

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Title: The Return of Preston Giles (18 Nov 1990)

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
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Millie Bingham Stafford
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Martin Bergman
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Gloria Winslow
Arthur Hill ...
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Ross McKay
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Det. Sgt. Jack Slocum
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Linette McKay
...
Kendall Stafford
Regina Leeds ...
Dorothy
Kriss Turner ...
Secretary
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Cabby (as Michael Eugene Fairman)
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Assistant Manager
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This unusual episode brings back the very first murderer Jessica put away in the same role. Preston Giles, who published Jassica's first book, was subsequently sent up on her evidence after he admitted to killing a business rival who had ruined him and set him up on bogus theft charges (he also killed another suspect as a red herring). Double life sentence for murder? You'd think so, but Preston Giles gets a Get Out of Jail Free card after only six years behind bars. The circumstances are such that even Giles himself is looking over his shoulder to see who might have pulled strings to get his convictions overturned (nobody will admit to it). Giles goes back to his old job at the publishing house (again for reasons not clear to anybody) and starts editing Jessica's work again. But before he committed the murders, Giles had feuded with another editor, who is still at the firm -- but not for long, as he is swiftly slain. Either Giles committed murder number three or is the patsy in an ... Written by Peter Harris

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18 November 1990 (USA)  »

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The final screen appearance of Arthur Hill. See more »

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User Reviews

 
"And that Brings Us Back to Dough"
12 December 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This episode marks the final appearance by Arthur Hill, who has been acting in film and on television since 1949, and has unfortunately since passed.

Several very familiar performers are cast against type in this highly-rated "MSW" episode, including Arthur Hill, Arlene Golonka, Michael McKean, Todd Susman and Gordon Thomson, well, if he's ever cast against type, that is. In fact, from the time a couple of years back in which IMDb has instituted its User Ratings for television program episodes until this day, near the end of 2009, "The Return of Preston Giles" towers over all "MSW" episodes at #1. After all statistics are tabulated, one, therefore, might consider this as the top rated "MSW" episode of this first decade of the 2000's.

"The Return of Preston Giles" comes with a built-in back-story, serving as a sequel, of sorts, to this series' 1984 two-hour (minus commercial time) Pilot episode, "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes." The Pilot, while setting the tone for the series, chronicles Grady's discovering in the Fletchers' Cabot Cove attic a Mystery manuscript which his retired schoolteacher Aunt Jessica had produced to fill the extra time during the immediate aftermath of her widowhood. To Jessica's surprise and better wishes, Grady secretly submits the manuscript to Coventry House Publishing Company, which markets "The Corpse Danced At Midnight" into a best-seller, under the direction of Publisher Preston Giles (Arthur Hill).

Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) attempts to adjust to her new-found celebrity as an internationally-famous author, by maintaining her innocence as "a schoolteacher from Maine," while resisting romantic advances from the distinguished and urbane Preston Giles, thus setting a tone for her individualism, which carries throughout the series and permits her to travel beyond her hometown without establishing any fixed sort of companionship. Jessica, by the way, also manages to bypass a steady relationship with Preston, by piecing together evidence to lead to his conviction of a crime or two and his subsequent incarceration, before moving on to different publishing firms.

And now, some six years later, the now fledgling Coventry House Publishing Company is operated by Ross McKay (Michael McKean) and Kendall Stafford (Gordon Thomson), who disagree about any direction which the firm should attempt in order to sustain itself financially. Ross is married to the independent Linette McKay (Brynn Thayer), who shares a secret passion with Kendall, behind the backs of Ross and Kendall's wife, Millie Bingham Stafford (Lois Chiles), who cautiously invests financially into the publishing company with funds inherited from her wealthy family.

Comptroller Martin Bergman (George Coe) handles the publishers' accounting department, while the capable and efficient Gloria Winslow (Arlene Golonka) serves as its Adminstrative Assistant.

So, while the others have plans of their own to harbor, Ross McKay devises a double-edged plan of his own: why not court now best-selling Mystery Author J.B. Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) back into the fold? After all, Coventry House introduced her to the world of publishing. And, while they're at it, why not lobby for the parole of Preston Giles, to recruit him into a resident advisory capacity?

Jessica expresses mixed feelings about the notion especially after she learns of "The Return of Preston Giles," whom she decides that she firmly intends to avoid, after deliberating over their past, as shown with an extensive series of tearful flashbacks.

But she does decide to appear for what becomes an awkward reception, as Ross and Kendall embark into a heated discussion aside from the others, including Linette and Millie, who scrutinize the executives while bearing different motives.

Awkwardness escalates upon Jessica's arrival to the office suite of her old publishing firm, as she faces the mild-mannered and understanding Preston, who hands her an envelope, bidding, "At least take your royalty check." But, unbeknownst to either Jessica or Preston, the envelope, which Jessica slides into her purse, contains incriminating information, which someone is willing to ransack her hotel room to retrieve (one season before Jessica leases her NYC apartment for the duration of the series).

Jessica, later returning to her hotel room, and discovering her belongings scattered, surprises the perpetrator, who overtakes her balance, knocking her to the floor between the couch and coffee table, while attempting to anesthetize her with Chloroform. In the process, she manages to scrape the back of the right hand of her attacker, who steals from the premises without Jessica's ability to identify the perpetrator nor realize the motive for the attempted burglary.

NYPD Detective Sergeant Jack Slocum (Todd Susman) steps on board to handle Jessica's report of the break-in, while back across town at Coventry House that evening, Gloria Winslow cautiously remains, deliberating herself as to whether or not to flee from her position, while copying pages for Preston, who shares some of her notions, while trying to convince her of his sincerity and harmlessness, which he seems to manage--or at least until Gloria discovers Preston's standing over a body in a back office and screams louder than the average extra who happens to stumble across a body anywhere else across this "MSW" series.

Upon reviewing with Sergeant Slocum photographs which the police have taken at the murder scene, Jessica uncovers evidence to link the burglary with the murder, which would, therefore, clear Preston of suspicion, but she and Jack must hurry back across town because "There's going to be another murder!" she decides, as the perpetrator is after the money in the aftermath of "The Return of Preston Giles."

The cast is rounded out by Regina Leeds as Dorothy, Kriss Turner as Secretary, and Steven Connor as Assistant Manager. Michael Eugene Fairman ought to be credited as Cabbie, this not cited as of yet.

P.S. It is very nice to see these two other fine and informative reviews thus far, which provide a beneficial understanding of this episode.


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