Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
4 user 1 critic

Sudden Death 

Jessica uncovers the ugly side of sportsmanship when she inherits part-ownership of a football team.


Edward M. Abroms


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 3 more credits »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
John Beck ... Web McCord
Warren Berlinger ... Coach Pat Patillo
Dick Butkus ... Tank Mason
David Doyle ... Brad Lockwood
Caitlyn Jenner ... Zak Farrell (as Bruce Jenner)
Gary Lockwood ... Harris Talmadge
James McEachin ... Grover Dillon
Allan Miller ... Phil Kreuger
Jan Smithers ... Kathy Farrell
Tim Thomerson ... Lt. Clyde Pitts
Elizabeth Savage Elizabeth Savage ... Mavis Kreuger
Arnold F. Turner Arnold F. Turner ... Security Guard (as Arnold Turner)
Marcianne Warman Marcianne Warman ... Jill Farrell
Albert Lord Albert Lord ... Baxter


Jessica inherits from uncle Cyrus a holding company, the only asset being the crucial 4% in the Leopards professional American football team which two groups control at 48% each, and executive lawyer Brad Lockwood fails to make her sign proxy powers for it before she checks it out herself. She meets player Zak Farrell, his wife Kathy and adopted mute daughter Jill. Businessman Phil Kreuger is dead-eager to buy Jessica out for one share-holders group and move the franchise to a bigger city, coach Pat Patillo bids against him for the other group which wants to keep the team home. After a party with nearly everyone, Krueger is found drowned in the club's stadium, Zak arrested as he was seen storming in and out around the time of the murder, Jessica rather then police Lt. Clyde Pitts finds out -at peril- who else had motive and opportunity till she can set a trap... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

3 March 1985 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Caitlyn Jenner was known and appeared as Bruce Jenner at the time of this performance. See more »


When Jessica is interpreting her discussion with Zach's daughter, she incorrectly uses the word 'love' when the word that is signed is 'like'. See more »


[first lines]
Brad Lockwood: Mrs. Fletcher. Hello. I'm Bradford Lockwood. Please let me express my condolences. Your Uncle Cyrus spoke of you so very often.
See more »


Rock of Ages
Written by Thomas Hastings and Augustus Montague Toplady
Background at funeral
See more »

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User Reviews

"Those Team Stockholders Run this Town. By Night They Vote the Goal Post Down. We Will Have These Murders to Remember."
1 March 2010 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

Happy Valley lies in an unidentified U.S. state (but it contains a nightclub with a sunken hot tub, which rules out quite a few state possibilities) and is home to the Leopards Professional Football Team (which probably rules out a few other states).

When her dear Uncle Cyrus passes, Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) attends his memorial services, at which she encounters Attorney Brad Lockwood (David Doyle), who represents his estate, for which Uncle Cyrus has appointed Jessica Executor and sole beneficiary of his holdings in Jackdown Corporation.

Jackdown Corporation serves as the holding company for the Leopards Football Team, of which Shareholder Phil Kreuger (Allan Miller) controls 48% of its stock, and a conglomerate of investors another 48%, whereas Uncle Cyrus leaves Jessica the remaining four percent, for which either side bargains, but she intends to remain in Happy Valley to decide for herself how to handle matters.

Phil Kreuger's Assistant, Web McCord (John Beck), joins in with negotiations with Phil and Attorney Lockwood, Leopards' Coach Pat Patillo (Warren Berlinger) and Trainer Grover Dillon (James McEachin), when Jessica arrives to scrutinize the playing field.

While Phil Kreuger attempts to purchase Jessica's shares, in order to gain majority control, to relocate the team into a larger city, Coach Patillo also attempts to bargain for her shares, in order to retain control, for the team to remain in Happy Valley.

As she crosses through the bleachers to watch the team in practice on the field below, Jessica steps across its jogging track, upon which young Jill Farrell (Marcianne Warman) operates an automated giant football helmet, which nearly collides with Jessica.

Jill and her father, injured football player Zak Farrell (Bruce Jenner), emerge from the helmet, as Jill's mother, Kathy Farrell (Jan Smithers) suddenly approaches from the sidelines to determine whether or not Jessica has been injured.

When Kathy and Zak explain that the hearing-impaired Jill communicates with Sign Language, Jessica anxiously invites Jill to teach her a few terms, and they become fast friends, while an anonymous someone is blackmailing Kathy and Zak because Jill's adoption didn't go through the standard courtroom channels, but was handled by Attorney Brad Lockwood on the sly.

Leopards' Defensive Captain Tank Mason (Dick Butkus) also befriends Jessica, while Football Commissioner Harris Talmadge (Gary Lockwood) also tries to offer Jessica a large sum to purchase Uncle Cyrus' holdings. So Phil Kreuger, attempting to win the corporate game, invites Jessica to a reception for the team at a posh nightclub, to help to sway her course of action.

Mavis Kreuger (Elizabeth Savage), Phil's estranged wife, has been vacationing in Las Vegas, but other team owners and staff members and players step into and from the nightclub that evening, when an altercation erupts with Zak's accusation as to who's been making those threatening calls to Kathy regarding the legitimacy of Jill's adoption.

But in the team's locker room later that night, Trainer Grover Dillon stumbles across a body in another hot tub there.

Lieutenant Clyde Pitts (Tim Thomerson) arrives to investigate, telling Jessica to avoid police business and places like the locker room, for which she answers that she's a part owner now, but that doesn't help very much when a perpetrator locks her into a steam room and increases the magnitude of its heated vapors.

After Grover Dillon rescues Jessica from the one trap, she notices photographs from the evening of the reception, causing her to realize the identity of the perpetrator of the drowning, but after she devises a plan to trap her suspect, she is faced again before yet another bathtub, at the scene of the original murder, with the threat of "Sudden Death."

(The storyline doesn't make it clear for certain exactly which suspect has been making those blackmail threats, but the denouement seems to indicate that Jill may remain with Kathy and Zak in Happy Valley, without the need to explain to her what has been going on with the loving family behind the scenes.)

The cast is rounded out by Albert Lord as Baxter, Ralph Clift as Clerk, and Arnold F. Turner as Security Guard.

This episode represents the first of two "MSW" guest roles each for John Beck, Ralph Clift and Tim Thomerson, the first of three for Warren Berlinger, the first of four for Gary Lockwood, and the first of five "MSW's" for Allan Miller.

David Doyle, acting in film and on television since 1959, has unfortunately since passed.

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