Murder, mayhem & a mango tonic with a kiwi twist

This is way more skepticism than is warranted for a mango tonic with a kiwi twist.

Woo hoo! It’s the murder mystery episode! What would an early-90s sitcom be without one?

The gang gathers at a swanky mansion for a murder-mystery weekend. All the usual suspects are there. The butler. The maid. The piano player. The host in the smoking jacket with the ability to summon a roll of thunder whenever he says something dramatic. Upon arrival, Lisa orders a mango tonic with a kiwi twist, which prompts Kelly to say, “Are you actually going to drink that?!” You know, mangoes happen to be one of my favorite fruits, so this doesn’t sound that bad to me. It’s not like she ordered a seaweed tonic with a shot of horseradish. At any rate, Lisa’s not going to drink it, she just ordered it because it matched her neon-colored early-90s outfit.

Jessie gets all cozy with the piano player, but her bliss is short-lived because zee French maid with zee really bad fake accent dumps her drink on Jessie’s lap. Jessie threatens to beat on the French maid’s ass, but fortunately Mr. Jameson saves the day just in time by offering the piano player his drink. However, once the piano player takes a sip, he drops dead right on the piano. Now, wouldn’t you immediately suspect Mr. Jameson as the killer at this point? I would. But we’ve still got 20 minutes to go, so no one says anything. Actually, Zack says, “Finally! Someone’s dead!” which is just really stupid because they’ve been there for all of five minutes.

Uh…so I guess the butler didn’t do it. Awkward.

At dinner, Screech has changed into a full Sherlock Holmes getup, and the group discusses who the possible suspect could be. After they all piece the clues together, Zack gets up and tries to claim the prize money all for himself by declaring that he’s solved the mystery. Wonder if he was planning on sharing the 500 bucks with his buddies. It doesn’t matter, because just as Zack declares that the butler did it, said butler staggers in with a knife in his back.

Things are getting serious now, so zee French maid brings in an inspector from “the Yard.” I assume that’s supposed to be as in “Scotland,” not as in “back.” Which is funny, because I didn’t realize they had the Scotland Yard in southern California. The inspector is just about to tell us whodunit when the lights go out and he gets several arrows in the back. OK, now I’m starting to suspect that David Copperfield is the killer because I can’t figure out how in the hell the inspector supposedly got these arrows in his back when he’s standing so close to the wall that there’s not even room for anyone to stand behind him, much less draw back an arrow and fire it into his back. But let’s not analyze it too much.

Beware of wayward battle axes!

So during the two seconds that lights are out, not only is the inspector killed, but the random old woman extra’s diamond necklace is stolen right off her neck, apparently also by David Copperfield. Jameson starts freaking out and saying this is not in the script. Then he almost gets hit by a wayward battle axe. See people, this is why you should not leave your battle axes propped up against the wall! Lisa saves him and brushes it off as no big deal until her friends go on and on about how she was almost killed. Then suddenly, she starts freaking out. Jameson abruptly calls off the game and tells everyone to start packing. However, he promises Lisa and Zack free vouchers if they come by his office.

Upstairs, Zack is packing way more brighly colored clothes than were absolutely necessary for one weekend into his suitcase. Lisa thinks she sees someone at their second-floor window and freaks out, flinging all of Zack’s clothes on the floor. Her friends, totally unsympathetic, start bitching at her for delaying them. She tells them to go on down to the car, and she’ll help Zack finish packing. If Lisa’s so scared to be in the house, shouldn’t she be the one hightailing it to the car? Once the others leave, Zack remembers that he has to get the free vouchers from Jameson, so Lisa tells him she’ll stay and pack while he goes down to Jameson’s office. Because I know the first thing I do when I think I see a murderer is tell all my friends to go away so I can be alone with him.

Downstairs, Jameson gets the vouchers out of the wall safe hidden behind a large oil painting (naturally), and then the lights go out and David Copperfield abducts Jameson. Seriously. Because there is no freaking way he could have gotten all the way from behind his desk into the secret passage across the room in such a short amount of time and without Zack noticing. At any rate, because everyone knows by this time that when the lights go out, it means someone’s getting killed, they all rush into the office and find Zack holding not vouchers, but the prize money. Gasp!

Dorothy Zbornak, is that you??

The French maid calls “the real police,” one of whom looks suspiciously like Mr. Jameson in drag. And also a little like Bea Arthur. Bea Arthur Jameson and her cohort try to sweat a confession out of Zack by interrogating him and his friends (who totally sell him up the river), but he remembers just in time that Lisa can vouch for him. They go upstairs, but Lisa is missing. Naturally, the rest of the gang assumes that Zack did away with her, especially when BAJ’s cohort finds Lisa’s watch in Zack’s pocket and the old woman’s necklace in his suitcase. Strangely, the necklace is now pearl, although I swear to God she said it was diamond when it got stolen. Must be that wily David Copperfield again!

For some reason, BAJ and her cohort decide to leave Zack in his room with Slater and Screech, because it’s always a good idea to leave a murder and robbery suspect unguarded. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they weren’t real detectives! Anyway, the boys find the secret passage leading to Jameson’s office, where they spy a half-drunk mango tonic with a kiwi twist. Hmm, I wonder whose that could be? It can’t be Lisa’s–she already said that she doesn’t drink them, but instead just carries them around to match her outfit.

Zack calls everyone into the parlor, where he announces that he’s figured out the mystery. It was Jameson! He killed the butler and the piano player and the inspector! Then kidnapped Lisa and dressed up as Bea Arthur to throw us off his trail! Oh, and he also had a little help from the butler. Not to mention David Copperfield.

Quote of the episode:
Bea Arthur Jameson: “Zack, the game is over.”
Zack: “I think we have time for one more game.”
Screech: “Great! Can we play Monopoly?”

Grade: A
This episode is such a classic that I once referenced it in a movie review of Gosford Park. Plus, the plethora of twists and turns inherent in any murder-mystery episode ensures that there will be gaping holes in the plot that are just to humorous to ignore.

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