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"Snakes and Ladders" is the second episode of the second season of the Murdoch Mysteries and the fifteenth episode of the series. It first aired on February 10, 2009.


While working on his portable UV light box invention, Murdoch is given tickets to the up-coming Dinosaur Ball by Brackenreid who thinks the Detective needs a distraction. Before Murdoch can decline, they are called to a murder scene.

At the crime scene, a gutted Alberta Moffat and a blood-written taunt, "Try to stop me" and are found. Scotland Yard Detective Edward Scanlon arrives on scene, convinced that the murderer responsible is Harlan Orgill, a serial killer he has been tracking across the British Empire, whom he believes to be none other than Jack the Ripper. Scanlon berates the constables for playing checkers during work as well as Dr. Ogden for obstruction and indifference, the latter outburst causing Murdoch to insist that Scanlon apologize for his behavior.

That evening, Murdoch begins ballroom dancing lessons. Next day, another murdered woman, Gloria Abercrombie, is discovered. At the morgue, the Detective asks the Doctor what would motivate such a dreadful act. Dr. Ogden knows of a forward thinking young alienist, Dr. Roberts, who might help to answer that question. William musters the courage to ask Julia to the Dinosaur Ball and she replies, “...that would be delightful.

The carriage used in the murders is recovered and checked for evidence using his daylight–in-the-box invention. Murdoch explains the new Ultra-Violet light source to Crabtree and Scanlon. Back at Station 4, Scanlon gives the constables the game Snakes and Ladders as an apology for his earlier behavior.

According to alienist Dr. Roberts, the killer has a deep anger towards women; so deep and powerful, he is compelled to kill them. The anger is well hidden, Dr. Roberts concludes, by wearing a 'mask of sanity', mentioning the work by Phillippe Pinel and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Suffering a childhood trauma made the killer create two worlds and when he reached sexual maturity, he had difficulty with women. There is a loose but common thread – all the women worked and by killing them he bolsters his self-esteem - "the more powerful the woman, the greater the effect." Murdoch suggests that the message the killer leaves is a plea for help rather than a taunt, wanting the Mr. Hyde side to be stopped. Dr. Roberts concurs.

In the evening, the Detective returns to the dance studio only to discover that his new partner is Dr. Ogden. After a blunder of a step causing an indiscreet grab, they silently continue the waltz, until William inquires if he might ask her a question. Perhaps a tad disappointed that it is about the case, Julia shares her ideas how the killer might find his victims.

The station arrests a peeping Tom, Mr. Bailey, who seems to fit the profile of the killer, but who denies involvement. Bailey takes Constable Higgins hostage and demands to be released from police custody, but Scanlon shoots Bailey.

While Scotland Yard and the Toronto Constabulary believe the case closed, Murdoch is concerned with the loose ends, especially the lack of a connection between the women. As he makes to return to England, Scanlon points out that all the victims were from out of town. Murdoch finds that all the women stayed at the YWCA.

Scanlon visits Dr. Julia Ogden and, by way of an apology, asks her to dinner. Citing that the offer would be delightful, she explains that she has too much work to finish and graciously declines the invitation.

Murdoch learns that one of "his officers" has been to the YWCA to look at their files, which prompts him to re-examine the carriage. Murdoch finds a fingerprint and compares it to one on the Snakes and Ladders board that Scanlon had given to the department earlier. Murdoch and Brackenreid realize that Scanlon had been using his badge to lure women into his carriage in order to kill them. They learn from Scotland Yard that the real Scanlon had been killed by Orgill some months earlier in Cairo, and Orgill had been impersonating Scanlon ever since.

Crabtree informs them that Scanlon has left his hotel and may be sick because he mentioned visiting a doctor. Murdoch realizes that would be Dr. Ogden - as a powerful and educated woman, she would be his next intended victim.  Scanlon sneaks up on Julia at the morgue, who realizes that Scanlon is the killer. She then runs as Scanlon chases her with a knife, although she spots a pair of scissors in front of her. When Crabtree, Brackenreid, and Murdoch arrive at the morgue, they find Julia in shock and Orgill stabbed in the heart with scissors, his last words being "Tell Dr. Ogden, thank you." Julia tries to explain her actions but Murdoch tells her that he understands that it was merely self-defense and nothing more.

After seeing Julia safely home, William returns to the dance studio thinking Julia will not be attending, but to his surprise she does. She tells him that tonight, of all nights, she would very much like to be held; they begin to waltz, moving ever closer to each other.

Character Revelations

  • William Murdoch is not a good dancer as he is a detective.
  • Julia Ogden kills another human being for the first time, albeit in self-defense.


Historical References

  • This episode takes place in Toronto 1896 – the Victorian Era (1837-1901) when Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Empress of India, rules the British Empire.
  • Similarities to Jack the Ripper's murders in the Whitechapel district in London (1888) are referenced several times. Murdoch mentions the Whitechapel murders happened  "7 years ago".
  • One reference was that Jack was the Royal Surgeon Dr. William Gull , who was supposedly 'cleaning up' after the romantic liaisons of Queen Victoria's grandson and heir to the throne, Prince Albert Victor (better known as Eddy or the Duke of Clarence). Albert Edward died in 1894 but not before being linked to a number of scandals
  • Another reference was to Dr. Thomas Cream who killed several people by poison, and made a final confession of being the Ripper (although he was incarcerated at the time of the Ripper murders).
  • Murdoch uses a UV light source to illuminate the interior of a carriage and mentions asking a researcher at MIT, Richard Wood, who has several patents related to ultraviolet and infrared photography.
  • Philippe Pinel is a French Alienist and has been described by some as "the father of modern psychiatry".
  • Snakes and Ladders , known originally as Moksha Patam, is an ancient Indian board game regarded today as a worldwide classic.
  • "The Blue Danube" is the English title of "An der schönen, blauen Donau", Op. 314 a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II and it is Austria’s second national anthem which concludes each New Year’s Day concert in Vienna. J Strauss II conducted The Blue Danube for the World Peace Jubilee in Boston on June 17, 1872, marking his American debut.


  • Bisson's middle daughter appears as one of the victims.
  • The UV Day Light In A Box (used to find blood residue) voted #3 of 5 Favourite Murdoch Inventions by The Arts Guide 8/20/15 Adnan M.

Notable Quote

Julia to William: "...I just thought tonight, more than any night, I would very much like to be held.."


Main Cast

Yannick Bisson as William Murdoch
Hélène Joy as Julia Ogden
Thomas Craig as Thomas Brackenreid
Jonny Harris as George Crabtree

Recurring Cast

Lachlan Murdoch as Henry Higgins
Paul Amos as Dr. Roberts

Guest Starring

Alistair Mackenzie as Inspector Edward Scanlon
Wendy Lyon as Melva Moffat
Conrad Dunn as Professor Ontranto
Paul Haddad as Morris Bailey
Molly Shanahan as Alberta Moffat
Dominique Bisson as Gloria Abercrombie


Murdoch Mysteries Season 2
Mild Mild WestSnakes and LaddersDinosaur FeverHoudini WhodunitThe Green MuseShades of GreyBig Murderer on CampusI, MurdochConvalescenceMurdoch.comLet Us Ask the MaidenWerewolvesAnything You Can Do...
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