First broadcast: 1974
“This is a Columbo that never fails to delight“
Having just murdered his wife, Hugh Caldwell phones his friend Mark Halperin. Meeting Mark at the club where he is gambling, Mark tells Hugh to remain there and to phone his house at half ten. Meanwhile Mark goes to Hugh's house, cleans up and sets the scene up as a robbery, trying to make it look like it was related to a string of robberies in the are.
Returning to his own home across the street, Mark looks out of the window from his bedroom, and claims to see a man running from the Caldwell household. He phones the police using his direct line. In his role as Deputy Commissioner, he demands a car be sent over to investigate.
Whilst Columbo is investigating the murder of Mrs Caldwell, Halperin concocts a scheme to kill his own, millionaire, wife. Drowning her in her bathtub, he blackmails Caldwell into going over to the house later that evening, and dumping Mrs Halperin's body in the swimming pool whilst Mark Halperin is circling the house in the police helicopter - the chopper being part of a plan to catch the local burgler.
But Columbo knows things aren't right. He is sure that the murderer of both women is not a burglar at all, but finds he is being forced to investigate in that direction by his deputy commissioner. Being forced to find a burglar, he ends up finding his murderer.
Cleverness of the way Columbo catches out the murderer
There's so many little things that niggle away at Columbo in this one that it's unbelievable. First off he notices that Mrs Caldwell is wearing a nightdress from her closet yet the closet handle is mysteriously free of her finger prints.
But then Hugh Caldwell explains she kept her nightdress under the pillow. Columbo already knows this - he's seen it there...
Then she apparently answered the phone at 10:30 yet there's no fingerprints there either.
He correctly surmises that someone murdered her and dressed her, and answered the phone when Caldwell phones home to "establish" he was at the club at the time of the murder.
But despite this, his Deputy Commissioner insisting he look for a burglar, and keeps on doing so. Eventually he does - with the help of a colleague in Robbery, he finds Artie Jessop, the person who did the original robberies and persuades him to blackmail Caldwell.
Caldwell obviously calls in Halperin. Halperin riffles through the files to find the blackmailer, and storms off to arrest him, having first planted jewellery in Artie's flat.
As he goes off, search warrant in hand, Columbo tells him he's making a big mistake. And he has. The address is not Artie's flat at all. It was leased to Columbo. The flat is furnished with Columbo's clothes, his photos, his shirts. He'd faked Artie's file and only Halerpin had seen the revised address.
Clever? Hell yes. This is one amazing way to catch out a murderer. He's caught instantly. True there's some lose ends; the whole picture is not entirely known. But only one man could have planted the jewellery. And he's been caught in true style.
Convolutedness of the murder
Wow. We've got a double murder and not one but two murderers on our hands and lets face it, that's rare in Columbo-land.
The first murder scores very lowly on the Convolutedness scale. An argument between husband and wife leads to a fight which leads to a murder. Unplanned and not convoluted at all.
It's the second murder where the planning and effort comes in. Seeing his chance, Halperin goes for broke. He's already conspired to blame one murderer on someone else, now he tries to patch in a second two. It's a lot of planning and involves a helicopter, a fake murderer, and a lot of police cars. Oh and the real murderer is in the helicopter to boot. Man is this convoluted, and what's amazing is that he manages to come up with such a scheme in just a matter of hours - he kills his wife less than 24 hours after murder number one. It's almost like he's spent years trying to work out how he would kill his wife if only he could!
How annoyed does the murderer get with Columbo?
He's a Deputy Commissioner of the Police who is trying to pin a murder on a burglar, and his Lieutenant isn't playing ball. Frustrated just doesn't describe it!
The smug-richness factor
Caldwell isn't smug. He's just scared and naive. Halperin isn't smug - just conniving and cynical. So very conniving.. If this was a Conniving-ometer, he's be off the scale.
Quality of sub-plot
It's car related and that obviously gives it a lift. For much of the episode, Columbo's car seems to spend its time being broken down, or in need of repair.
There's more that they could have done to make it amusing - Columbo's lateness thanks to motor trouble doesn't really add that much to the overall plotline, but there is a fun bit where he's offered $80 if he trades it in for a new motor.
Mentions of Mrs Columbo
Errr... Hmmm... Well... None actually. Zip. Zilcho. El Nothingero. But then there probably never was going to be. I mean, is it possible to be a fan of the deputy commissioner of police? Well if it is, we'll never know.
What new-fangled thing does Columbo learn about this episode?
Nowt. It's all old fashioned detective work on this one.
Was anyone given sedatives?
Yes, and for once it's a man. Halperwell is given some pills after his wife was murdered. Whether he actually took them really isn't recorded. But then murderers as black hearted as him don't often need pills to get them to sleep.
Deviations from the norm and inconsistencies with other Columbo episodes
The biggy is that we've got two murderers and two murderers. But hey, that's what Columbo is all about isn't it? Well yes. How about the fact that we don't actually see the first murder being committed? Well that is unusual and if it wasn't for the fact that there was a second murderer, we'd be really upset.
Other than that, is there anything unusual about this Columbo? Not really. But then the above is probably just enough.
Appearances by the Regular Cast
Val Avery who plays Artie Jessop, stared in four Columbo episodes. And there's a roll for the ever flexible John Finnegan. In a previous episode he was a serpent - in this he's been promoted to Lieutenant. Give him a few episodes and he'll make Police Commissioner at this rate! Oh, what's that? He does? Oh. Right. Clearly it all got too much for him in the end as he starts running a chilli restaurant. Much better career if you ask me...
This is a Columbo that never fails to delight. The ending is a work of genius in itself. Columbo reveals himself to be the master of sleuths once again, and his dedication to the task goes to extent of leasing a grubby flat. Would Poirot do that? No. Would Miss Marple? No. Perhaps only
Precious Ramotswe of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency would go that far. But that's only a maybe...