Murder, She Wrote: Season 8, Episode 17

To the Last Will I Grapple with Thee (15 Mar. 1992)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy | Crime | Drama
7.2
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Jessica tackles the mystery of a man who apparently migrated from Ireland to New York for the sole purpose of taking revenge on an old friend of hers, but is killed himself.

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Title: To the Last Will I Grapple with Thee (15 Mar 1992)

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
...
Ian O'Connor
...
NYPD Lt. Jacoby
...
...
Patrick MacNair
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Michael O'Connor
Sharon Mahoney ...
Kathleen Cullane
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Finn Dawley
Michael O. Smith ...
Officer #1
Donald Nardini ...
Officer #2
Ken Gerson ...
Officer #3
Matthew Saks ...
Student #1
Melissa Samuels ...
Student #2
Dana Craig ...
Customer
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Storyline

Jessica's friend, retired Ulster cop Sean Cullane, started with her help teaching crime classes. Michael O'Connor, a serial Ulster criminal, who just migrated to New York, provokes him, promising 'revenge', and manages to get threatened in Patrick MacNair's Irish pub, so Sean is warned by the NYPD. Michael's even shadier nephew Ian O'Connor, who desires Sean's daughter Kathleen, is dangerously in debt with loan shark Finn Dawley, yet Michael refuses further financial help. Next Michael is found shot in the head, Sean the sole suspect. Jessica is determined to 'help' NYPD Lt. Jacoby dig deeper, examining the very accusing 'testament' tape Michael left. Written by KGF Vissers

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15 March 1992 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Loosely based on an old Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Problem of Thor Bridge. See more »

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"Three Surprises for the Irish"
17 December 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Before we launch into the action of this episode, let's examine the distinctive Irish theme conducive to quite a few "MSW" adventures. During this series' later seasons (Nine through Twelve), we shall notice five episodes set in Ireland, one each season plus one two-parter. During "MSW's" middle seasons (Five through Eight), we notice several characters of Irish descent, such as the Classic theatre actress, the Philadelphian reporter, and various New York City law enforcement officers, bearing the traits of determination and resolve, each descending from that "good Irish stock."

Most of these Irish-flavored episodes, however, have not debuted during the Saint Patrick's Day season, in mid-March, as a typical 20th-Century television series may release its theme episodes in season. However, "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee," did debut two days before Saint Patrick's Day, on March 15, in 1992.

Now, let's examine the title of "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee" which originates in author Herman Melville's 1851 literary Classic "Moby Dick," in which Captain Ahab embarks into a bitter feud with the whale who had maimed him on a previous whaling voyage, and emphasizing his oath of vengeance: "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee...."

If we make believe that this line appears in print upon a chalkboard, and we encircle the term "Will," then we notice that "will" may appear to function in ambivalent fashion, in noun or verb usage, depending upon our reading. If it were the noun "Will," then one might say, "To the (last will)...." If it were the verb "will," then one might read in inverse terminology, "I will grapple," or battle, thee until the last (ounce of stamina), bearing a similar meaning at either attempt. Here, Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) reads the line gently stressing the verb form, as in "To the Last, (Will I Grapple) With Thee."

One final prologue point: this episode may prove difficult to review without spoilers, but it's certainly worth an attempt, so the background information may help to even out the abbreviated highlights....

And now, onto the action.... Surprise #1: As Jessica instructs her Criminology course in her New York University classroom, her close friend and colleague Sean Cullane (George Hearn) motions for the students to remain quiet, as he wheels inside a cart supporting a candle-illuminated cake to mark the occasion of her birthday. Jessica graciously receives the gesture with an ounce of humiliation, and agrees to meet Sean for dinner at a local tavern.

Kathleen Cullane (Sharon Mahoney), the young adult daughter of the widowed Sean, waits tables at Kelly's Pub, operated by Patrick MacNair (John Karlen), who tends bar, and intervenes between Kathleen and the unwanted advances of Finn Dawley (Mark Rolston), who does not see eye-to-eye with her father anyhow.

Sean and Jessica's dinner is interrupted by the arrival of Michael O'Connor (Richard Lynch) and his nephew Ian O'Connor (Cameron Dye), who have recently arrived from Ireland, after Michael sells his property for a song and relocates to New York City in the hopes of confronting Sean Cullane, and making his life as miserable as Michael's has been, after the lady whom they courted had decided upon Sean, leading to a series of events which have caused other squabbles between the families in the process.

After Patrick evicts Michael from the premises, Ian befriends Finn, recruiting him to his uncle's side of poverty and disparity, while Kathleen objects to her father's request for her to avoid the lot of them.

Surprise #2 arrives in the form of Michael, who continues to hound Sean around every corner and crevice of town, he appearing on campus and at unexpected places, to threaten Sean, who begins to lose control of the escalating battle even with Jessica Fletcher on his side.

While Michael conducts carpentry to renovate his apartment with dry-wall and wood, he documents the effort as he videotapes himself, narrating a message to law authorities, implying that should anything happen to him, to consider Sean Cullane the primary suspect.

Michael then launches into an argument with Ian, with Finn at his side, regarding Ian's overspending their limited funds, slacking from assisting in the remodeling project, and not doing his part to destroy Sean's life. And so they aim their sights on Kathleen to attempt to cause a rift between a father and his only child.

NYPD Lieutenant Jacoby (Cliff Gorman) steps in after the video-cassette tape is discovered beside a body, and he has officers on hand to photograph the scene of the crime, which Jessica studies for inconsistencies between video imagery and photographs, to arrive at her suspicions on exactly where to locate the murder weapon, after telephoning Ireland, all leading to Surprise #3.

Richard Lynch, made up to appear very unhealthy and on his last leg here, has been continuing to act regularly in the career which he forged in 1973, and appears in several films in production as of this writing.

George Hearn, having performed one other character in a previous "MSW" episode, reprises the role of Sean Cullane in a future outing, as he travels with Jessica to Ireland.

The cast is rounded out by Dana Craig as Customer, Matthew Saks as Student #1, Melissa Samuels as Student #2, Michael O. Smith as Officer #1, Donald Nardini as Officer #2, and Ken Gerson as Officer #3.

This episode marks the most recent appearances to date for Donald Nardini and Michael O. Smith. Cliff Gorman, who began acting in film and on television in 1968, has unfortunately since passed.


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