It's entirely possible for Murder, She Wrote to deliver a well-produced, professional, solid episode and for that same episode to leave me kind of flat. Such is the case with episode 4 of the third season, "One White Rose for Death," which suffers from being thematically similar to season 1's "Death Takes a Curtain Call." To be fair, in "real life," almost two years separated the two installments, while in "me watching the show on streaming today" time, it was way less.
"White Rose," like "Curtain Call," features a practitioner of the fine arts involved in Cold War/Communist Bloc intrigue and possible defection. Yet this episode lacks one key element of the earlier story: William Conrad! The former Cannon (and many other wonderful things) is one of the best guest stars of season 1 and is not approached by anyone in this season 3 show. Oh, "White Rose" has plenty of fine actors such as Bernard Fox, but it doesn't have a guest as fun as Conrad.
It's an interesting setup this time out. Jessica is attending a concert in Washington D.C. by a famed East German violinist (Jenny Agutter) and suddenly gets entangled in a situation with her old pal British agent Michael Hagerty (palpable sexual tension between Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury, folks); they hole up in the British Embassy, where a murder is committed! The Embassy itself is a pretty cool set and the kind of thing you just don't see in Cabot Cove, yet by this point in season 3 I am anxious to get a Cove episode again.
There isn't anything wrong with this one--the art direction and the performances are impressive, and the mystery is fine--but it lacked something for me. I really do think it felt a bit too familiar overall after having seen the Conrad episode, which was more entertaining. This one is a reminder to me that I am not really watching MSW for quality television and airtight mysteries. I'm watching it for the entertainment value of the guest stars, and the ridiculousness Jessica finds herself in each time out. So while I admire the international intrigue and geopolitics of this episode, it falls short of top tier for me despite being probably the best-acted one I can remember seeing in some time.