Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 1

Episode review: Columbo Dead Weight

Dead Weight title

Season 1 of Columbo left viewers knocked for six with its heady combo of lovable central character, wicked high society bad guys and sumptuous production values.

Murder by the Book and Death Lends a Hand are two of the best TV episodes ever made. But could the quality be maintained in the Season’s third instalment? We’re turning back the clock to 27 October 1971, when Dead Weight first aired. Does it sink or swim? Let’s find out!

Dead Weight blog

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Major General Martin Hollister: Eddie Albert
Helen Stewart: Suzanne Pleshette
Mrs Walters: Kate Reid
Burt: Timothy Carey
Officer Sanchez: Ron Castro
Colonel Dutton: John Kerr
Harry Barnes: Val Avery
Directed by: Jack Smight
Written by: John T Dugan
Score by: Gil Melle

Columbo Dead Weight – Episode synopsis

While boating with her overbearing mother, troubled divorcee Helen Stewart distantly witnesses Major General Martin Hollister gun down lily-livered Colonel Dutton in cold blood through the window of his dockside mansion.

Helen reports the crime to the police, and Lieutenant Columbo is sent to investigate. There’s a certain level of reluctance, though, because General Hollister is a bona fide war hero, whose exploits with his legendary pearl-handled Colt 45 in Korea helped make him a household name.

Columbo Dead Weight

Even the blind ran in fear from these eye-burning ensembles

Naturally, Hollister is guilty as sin, having dispatched the Colonel with that favourite weapon for fear of his shady business dealings being exposed. Before Columbo arrives on the scene, Dutton’s body has been hidden behind a secret revolving bookcase (yesssss!), and the Lieutenant finds the General doing nothing more sinister than directing the toils of some bungling cadets, who are packing a case with his war memorabilia for a new exhibition in his honour.

After a decent nosy around – where he finds out that the General’s legendary gun was supposedly stolen from him years before, leaving only a duplicate to donate to the exhibition – Columbo seems satisfied that nothing is amiss and leaves the General to prepare for a celebratory dinner.

Dead Weight 2

General Hollister easily talks his way out of a tight spot during his initial meeting with Columbo

Alone again, the General finds out the whereabouts of Mrs Stewart through the loose-lipped boat hire owner (Columbo regular Val Avery in his first appearance). He then shows up on her doorstep and invites her to watch the 11 o’clock news that evening in the hope that a report on his exhibition and war heroics will clear his name. So begins a sham romance where Hollister takes advantage of Helen’s low self-esteem to turn her to his way of thinking, and to forget about the crime she witnessed.

Although his plotting works on Helen, it has the opposite affect on Lieutenant Columbo. The detective, who had little reason to suspect Hollister initially, is wary of his motives in taking such an interest in the star witness. Columbo attempts to lead Helen back to her initial suspicions, but her lonely heart is leading her head.

Even the reappearance of the Colonel’s body off the LA coast (Hollister ditched the corpse off his boat after the celebratory dinner) doesn’t sway her. She’s now firmly on the General’s side, leaving Columbo unable to rely on his one key witness, even as he builds the rest of the case. His chances of securing a conviction seem all at sea.

Columbo Suzanne Pleshette

The lady loves a man in uniform – even one old enough to be her grampappy!

It’s a casual conversation with war veteran – and chilli purveyor – Burt, that gives Columbo the inspiration he needs. Burt just can’t get rid of his old war memorabilia. It’s too important to him. Columbo makes the jump to Hollister’s pearl-handled Colt 45. The General places great importance on his war mementoes. There’s no way he’d let anyone get hold of that gun. Ergo, the so-called duplicate must be the real thing!

Columbo arranges to meet Helen at the Hollister Exhibit, a party which the General predictably gatecrashes. The Lieutenant reveals that he’s already had the ‘duplicate’ gun run through ballistics, and it’s the same one used to shoot Colonel Dutton. The general’s attachment to his beloved gun has been his undoing. Most normal people would have thrown it away after the killing. The General couldn’t bring himself to part with it.

Bested in battle for the first time, Hollister apologies to Helen and submits to the long arm of the law. Columbo, meanwhile, takes Helen’s arm and leads her out of the exhibition to an uncertain future as credits roll…

Columbo Eddie Albert


Dead Weight‘s best moment: face-off at the jetty

A variation on the usual “we both know I did it, but you’ll never prove it, so CLEAR ORF” chit-chat so familiar to keen viewers, Dead Weight features a fine exchange between Hollister and Columbo on the jetty by the General’s house.

Returning from an early morning outing on his boat, The Iron Horseman, Hollister finds Columbo lying in wait for him. On paper he’s just having a jolly fishing jaunt. In reality he wants to unsettle the General with a series of questions. A grizzled war veteran isn’t likely to be spooked by such antics, and so it proves as Hollister dishes out some advice laced with double meaning. “Find a different spot, or use a different bait. Otherwise you’re not going to catch anything, Lieutenant.”

Dead Weight 3

“You know that I know you know I did it, but you’re never going to prove it…”

It’s a good example of the episode’s sharp script, and an exchange even the Lieutenant seems to enjoy. To put it in Sherlockian terms, the game is afoot!

My opinion on Dead Weight

In any season of a quality TV show, it’s inevitable that some episodes will stand the test of time less favourably than others. That’s the case with Dead Weight. It’s a perfectly good piece of television, but when compared to some of the other gems Columbo Season 1 threw at us, it struggles to stay afloat.

“Having a witness to the crime adds a delicious twist to proceedings.”

Its chief shortcomings are a comparatively uninteresting adversary (sorry, Eddie Albert fans) and a weak central clue that brings about his downfall. These off-set a fine script and some excellent performances by the supporting cast. Having a witness to the crime also adds a delicious twist to proceedings.

Interestingly, Dead Weight was filmed at the height of the tensions between Peter Falk and Universal. The actor felt the studio was trying to renege on an agreement to let him direct an episode and was in combative mood. Determined to win the power play, Falk stormed off set and even got a Doctor’s note to explain his absence. Universal threatened to sue Falk, who returned to the set to find that as much as possible had been filmed in his absence. Word on the street is that the crew even refused to re-shoot scenes with Falk that they had filmed with a stand-in during his absence.

Such a hard-line approach to negotiations paid off for Falk in the long-run, but his antics irked his fellow actors, as Suzanne Pleshette fascinatingly describes below.

The difficulties this scenario posed the cast and crew may be reflected – if only to the discerning viewer – in the lack of rapport between Columbo and the other leads in Dead Weight. For the first time the scenes between detective and suspect don’t sizzle. There’s some decent interplay between Columbo and Hollister, but the chemistry doesn’t match what we’ve seen before – very likely because of Falk’s studio feuding.

This tension infiltrates the Falk/Pleshette scenes, too. The two were great friends before filming the episode but she was not amused by his actions. As a result, they seem oddly at arm’s length from one another throughout. To an extent, that’s down to the Helen Stewart doubting character but the on-set frostiness must surely have contributed.

“What we don’t get here is a killer with the charisma of Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp.”

On the flipside, Falk’s antics seem to have had a positive impact on the chemistry between Albert and Pleshette. Their irritation at the lead man can’t have failed to give them a greater bond as actors. Resultantly, the relationship between their characters seems genuine. Some may disagree but I dare say Hollister, regardless of his initial selfish motives, was genuinely growing fond of Helen and was sorry to bring her pain at the episode’s climax.

Sadly, what we don’t get here is a killer with the charisma of Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp. Following on the heels of Murder by the Book and Death Lends a Hand was always going to be a tall order, but the Hollister portrayal is, well, a little dull. He never convinces as the gung-ho war leader, and the character traits that lead to his downfall – his alleged vanity and ego that prevent him from ridding himself of the murder weapon – rarely come across in his performance (giant portrait on his home wall notwithstanding).


The big question: where is this original portrait now, and can I have it?

Worse still, Hollister’s nowhere near cold enough. As a man used to maintaining his nerve in the heat of battle, he ought to be icy as the Arctic. We hardly see that. Perhaps Albert was too nice a guy in real life to convince as a stone-cold killer? I can’t help thinking that a really frosty baddie could have provided a more dangerous element and helped elevate the episode a notch or two.

Pleshette, though, is excellent and very much the beating heart of the episode. She puts in one of the series’ best supporting performances and succeeds in making Helen much more interesting than Hollister. Browbeaten and bullied by her gin-soaked mother (Kate Reid on fine form), she’s emotionally fragile and her self-esteem is in dire need of a pick-me-up.

All this makes her falling for the General’s charms, her desperation to be respected and loved, seem believable – even if she did believe she witnessed a killing. There’s no happy ending for Helen and we can only wonder what the future holds in store for her after she witnesses another man in her life let her down.

While the performances are all well and good, it’s the quality of the mystery that separates the great Columbos from the good and unfortunately Dead Weight is a bit of a let-down. The central clue regarding the General’s Colt 45 is poorly conceived and hopelessly executed, leading to a desperately disappointing (not to mention confusing) gotcha scene.

Columbo comments that the pearl-handled gun was not amongst the weapons he spotted in a crate of items at the General’s house bound for the exhibition at the military institute. Hollister spins some yarn about how he was robbed of the gun in the Korean War and that the institute had a duplicate made – but it’s a story that makes no sense at all.

If there was a duplicate made by the institute, why was it in the General’s possession at all? If it wasn’t in his possession, how did he manage to switch the duplicate with the murder weapon after the killing? More tellingly, why claim to have ever lost it in the first place? The only reason Hollister would logically have claimed to have lost the gun was if he knew he was going to use it for a murder at some point in the future and would therefore need a duplicate to be in existence to divert suspicion away from himself.

It’s bewildering stuff that suggests vague writing around an idea that was never fully fleshed out before filming began. The issue is exacerbated by the dodgy police work that goes hand in hand with this case. If there was any suspicion that Hollister might have been involved in a murder, it would have been simple to have every gun at the exhibition immediately tested to see if it had recently been fired. The Colt would have been impounded and as soon as Dutton’s body was found and the bullet matched to the gun, the case would have been over regardless of the nonsense surrounding the duplicate. Grrrrrr…

Columbo Dead Weight Helen Stewart

Both Columbo and Hollister attempt to win Helen around to their way of thinking – using very different methods

If it sounds like I hate Dead Weight, fear not! There is a gulf at its heart surrounding the central clue, but there’s still plenty to enjoy. The typical Columbo cat-and-mouse act between detective and quarry becomes a three-way game here as both men attempt to ‘woo’ Helen round to their way of thinking – quite literally in Hollister’s case. It’s a new element to the show and it keeps our interest especially when Helen, who was so adamant about what she saw, starts to backtrack as she warms to the General’s intentions.

I’ve alluded to the quality of the script on a couple of occasions already, and there are some real gems tucked away within it that raise a smile. As well as the ‘best moment’ outlined above, there’s a fun scene on board the General’s yacht, as Hollister takes delight in putting his boat through its paces – much to a seasick Columbo’s dismay.

“A man with the name of Columbo, shouldn’t he be more at home on a boat?” asks Hollister. “Must have been another branch of the family,” responds the green-gilled Lieutenant.

Dead Weight boat 2

Helen comforts a seasick Columbo after his jaunt out with General Hollister

Pleshette also delivers one of the best Columbo put-downs of all. Affronted by the Lieutenant disparaging the General’s vanity over the cut of his army uniforms, she hits back. “Some men, Lieutenant, do not want to look like an unmade bed.” How do you like those apples, Columbo?

We get a nice glimpse of Columbo bending the rules to gain a tactical advantage, too. When he’s first called in to investigate, Columbo asks uniformed officer Sanchez to check the General’s yacht for any sign of a body. “But Lieutenant, I don’t have a warrant,” Sanchez replies. “Well, I’ll ask the general for permission,” says Columbo slyly. “If he doesn’t give it, then I’ll get a warrant. In the meantime, check it out.”

It’s a lower-level incident than the evidence planting we saw in Death Lends a Hand but is another clear indicator of Columbo’s willingness to do what it takes to solve a case – even if it potentially leaves him on shaky moral ground. It’s a trait that will remain with him throughout his long TV career.

Elsewhere it’s good without being great. The directing is A-OK, but lacking any particularly memorable set pieces or innovation. There are some lovely highlights on the Gil Melle score (including the main theme, featuring waves and sea gull calls), but other elements were a straight lift from Death Lends a Hand. Like the whole episode, it’s a little hit and miss.

But even if Dead Weight is Columbo not firing on all cyclinders, it still delivers enough goods to keep its head above water. And that’s the power of 70s’ Columbo. Even the lesser episodes are still better than most TV ever made…

Did you know?

Although Columbo’s first name is never revealed in the series, a close up of his name badge in this episode appears to suggest it’s Frank. See for yourself…

Name badge

In one of the draft scripts of an unnamed Season 1 episode, one writer had given Columbo a first name. Show creators Dick Levinson and Bill Link insisted it was cut out, but if Dead Weight was the episode, it could explain why the name on the badge is what it is. The same badge can be seen in A Matter of Honor in Season 5, and the name ‘Frank Columbo’ also shows up on an evidence bag in 1989’s Grand Deceptions, adding weight to the argument.

However, Falk, Levinson and Link always insisted that Columbo had no known first name, leaving the viewer – as with so many elements of the mysterious Lieutenant’s actual life – to make up their own mind.

How I rate ’em so far

Like a weighed-down corpse, Dead Weight plummets to the bottom of the current standings – more a statement of the stellar quality of all that has preceded it. Read previous reviews by clicking the links below.

  1. Murder by the Book
  2.  Death Lends a Hand
  3. Prescription: Murder
  4. Ransom for a Dead Man
  5. Dead Weight

Where does Dead Weight rank in your list of favourites? Vote for your number one episode in the Columbo best episode poll here.

I’ll be back with a review of Suitable for Framing in a few weeks’ time. Spoiler alert: it’s one of my ultimate favourite episodes!

Read my thoughts on the 5 best moments from Dead Weight here.

Contribute to this site’s upkeep from just $3

Dead Weight 3

It’s all smiles until we meet again…

How did you like this article?

110 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Dead Weight

  1. This episode is lame, and one of my least favorites. If you look at the murder, Albert is near the window, Kerr is near the door (well inside the room and far away from the window). Pleshette is on a boat on cloudy day and the 1-2 seconds they show the window exterior from her view — all you see are reflections from the sky and the windows are very dark. You can barely see the window curtains.
    1) Unless Pleshette has bionic vision, how does she see a murder through exterior reflections on some dark windows?
    2) Even if she could miraculously see Albert pull the trigger, how does she see Kerr get shot when he’s standing away from the window?
    3) Also, the gun is very small — how does she see a gun from that distance in his hands? How does she know it’s not a phone, TV remote or any other random item?
    4) Through this reflection dark window, she not only sees the gun and the shooting, she also somehow sees the shot man is wearing a military uniform.
    5) Albert just happens to keep a loaded gun in a crate he seems to be packing? Unlikely.

    With her x-ray vision and quick attention to details she needs to have a job working for the military herself. All these holes in the 10 minutes of the episode, set-up a bad episode viewing to me. Would have been better to have the shooting at night when it’s a lot easier to see into a window from a distance.t

    With that said, Pleshette was one incredibly gorgeous lady.

    • Also, when a person is fatally shot at close range, there is blood everywhere. I have been to such crime scenes. And blood stains and is very hard to clean. So why wasn’t there blood stains in the room, just moments after the shot? This is a recurring problem with Columbo episodes.

  2. Nice to see John Kerr, even for a short time. The brief exchange between him and Hollister was suspensful. So was the scene in museum. Loved the opening score, apparently like everyone else does! His South Pacific co-sign was in Murder-under Glass (France Nuyen). I enjoy the small-world aspect of this series’ casts.

  3. Pingback: Season 4: have we reached ‘peak Columbo’? | The Columbophile

  4. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind | The Columbophile

  5. i dont get any real enjoyment out of this episode, still better than last salute , matter of honor and dagger of the mind

    • One major beef I have with many of the Columbo episodes: there is never any blood after a shooting. I saw numerous shooting sites as a prosecutor, and there was always blood on the clothes and on the carpet and furniture. And blood NEVER comes out of a carpet! In both ‘Dead Weight’ and in ‘Suitable for framing’, for examples, the victim is shot but there was apparently no blood stains anywhere.
      In the real world the site of the shooting would be obvious.

        • Also in Lady In Waiting when she shoots him in the stomach and he falls face down, then she drags him to the sliding doors. In real life there would have been a trail of blood. Oh well that’s 70’s TV for ya…. still the best TV Detective series ever.

  6. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Playback | The Columbophile

  7. If you watch closely, in the interior scene in the Generals home, when Columbo is talking to the General and the witness, it is a body double acting for Columbo in all the shots which show Columbos reverse ( his back), and Alberts, and Pleshettes reactions. When you see Columbos face, you never see the others at the same time. There are several reverse shots of Columbo which aren’t Falk. During that aforementioned scene Falk is not present with Pleshette and Albert.

  8. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Troubled Waters | The Columbophile

  9. if I were to rate the poorest Colombo s of the 70s run it would look a bit like this

    1) a matter of honour (simply the worst of the 70s run full stop)
    2)dagger of the mind (silly nonsense )
    3)murder under glass ( pathetic, unfunny )
    4) last salute to the commodore ( dogs dinner)
    5)requiem for a falling star ( boring episode )
    6) dead weight ( dreary episode poor central clue )
    7) greenhouse jungle ( pile of crap )
    8) old fashioned murder ( watchable at best few good spells but still poor)
    9) The conspirators ( decent at the end but on the whole crap)
    10) short fuse (poor episode but good end scene)

  10. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo By Dawn’s Early Light | The Columbophile

  11. At minute 6 and 38 seconds music starts that sounds just like the opening theme for Murder By The Book, minus the typewriter keys sounds.

  12. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Negative Reaction | The Columbophile

  13. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo An Exercise in Fatality | The columbophile

  14. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Friend in Deed | The columbophile

  15. Always like Suzanne Pleshette and Eddie Albert, so I like this episode. I have a favorite throw away line of Suzanne’s character, “Mom’s the eternal optimist, always hoping for the worst.” Also just the time capsule nature of the early 70s – the fashions, dial pay phone and phone booth, red carpeting – it’s all so memorable.

    • That line reminds me of the time I told my therapist that the people who bullied me all through school had probably gone on to have successful, happy lives while I didn’t. And he said “Well, you don’t know that. Maybe they’ve been struck by tragedy.” And I said, “That’s true; there’s always hope.” 🙂

  16. I’ve just noticed some of the Mrs Mellville books from Murder by the Book on the General’s bookcase. They’re visible during the scene when Columbo inspects the crate on his first visit to the house.

  17. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Swan Song | The columbophile

  18. I am working through a DVD box set and am finding this blog invaluable. Anyway, like the reviewer, I was puzzled by the ending. Eddie Albert claims his gun was stolen years ago and he had a duplicate made, when in fact it was the same gun. Well…so what? Whether it was his actual gun from the Korean War, or a different gun, what is the significance of that? He could have shot the colonel with either gun, right? Puzzling.

    • Perhaps it is this:

      The Colonel could barely bring himself to part with his prized pistol. However, since he had used it in a crime he couldn’t run the risk of the weapon being found in his possession, so he parted with it for the exhibition.

      Since he kept his prized lighter, the question he may have to answer, is how could he part with a pistol that was like a trophy and was part of his character? He could now explain it away that it wasn’t the real trophy (as the real gun was ‘stolen’) and that’s why he could part with it, and hold onto a lesser treasure (the lighter).

  19. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Mind Over Mayhem | The columbophile

  20. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Publish or Perish | The columbophile

  21. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Double Exposure | The columbophile

  22. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Candidate for Crime | The columbophile

  23. im a big fan of Colombo , but i do not rate this episode in fact if i tell the truth i hate it its just watchable at best its boring ,slow and the ending is just pathetic and it comes well outside my top 20 , when i talk of classic episodes i mean like negative reaction,try and catch me ,swansong ,suitable for framing ,,these are all examples but dead weight just isnt one of them

    • I would have agreed until last week. By the time, I watched every episode at least twice. ‘Dead Weigth’ ran last week as daily series movie in Germany whereby I let myself always surprise about the particular episode until it starts (I never sneak). First, I was disappointed when ‘this house’ showing up.. I tought, ok, this rather boring episode again (I saw it the 4th time) but remembered the scene I love so, when Columbo is overwhelmingly reports unwanted about his own former cheap fireplace in front of the polidely and paitently grinning General Hollister. Great! But then – something happend that raised my attention somehow whilst Columbo drove to Hollisters house by car the first time: It had me with the music! The soundtrack, this swing/jazz/big band – alike theme in the back!! We all know, there was never a true common soundtrack or theme for the Columbo series, right? I state, this would had has the potential to be THE ONE: Gil Melle’s remarkable audio contribution!! It fits so good to the 70th in general and particularly to the scenes where it occures in variations (the machine testing boot trip beginning and the credits too). There are many moments in episodes I found it again (In Short Fuse, when Columbo walked over the Stanford plant site before being picked up by the opponent. Or when Columbo lost the digging bet on the construction site for Bo Williamson and again under credits – but only in full lenght in the original US episode). Surprisingly, there is always an engine starter sound or a car door flapping. I think, it tells something, it transmittes a hidden message (Columbo is on the right way of his thoughts or so..).

      Call me crazy, I made phone ringtones out of it and whilst checking for more informations, I found this nice honorous website. A great place!

  24. I know I’m coming in late but I just read the review and under the ”did you know” section should also be noted that that house that Helen is looking at from the boat and where she witnesses the shooting was Peter falks real home at the time the episode was made.

    • YOU’RE coming in late HA–I couldn’t help but chirp in after reading your comment. Maybe in part because Eddie Albert and Suzanne Pleshette are both so great, and because it seemed so plausible to me that the hapless General would have to appeal to Ms. Pleshette on a personal level, (perhaps convincing her she really IS crazy); at least for the first hour, this is a very strong and enjoyable episode. The only thing that bothered me was the slightly cheesy motel-like house (and I’m one for giving great allowance for styles of the time) that was the home of the General. I had no idea it was the real-life home of Peter Falk. Thank you for clearing this up!!

      • The General was crazy to have contacted the woman witness at all. And why was there no blood on the General’s floor and carpet? He shot a man to death at point blank range. There would be bloodstains everywhere.

      • Before I receive some unkind comments, maybe cheesy motel is not exactly correct. It still didn’t seem right to me for an honored U.S,General, but a closer look reveals that it’s clearly an upscale marina home. You can’t build a Georgetowntown mansion on the water I guess. Disregard.

        • The inside of the house was probably a set and not really what the house looked like. Since that was Peter falks house, I don’t think the inside wouldn’t looked like that.

          • Yes, thank you. And in all honesty, I’d gladly take the house. I can almost smell the salt water, and hear the boat motors.

      • If that was Peter Falk’s house, it must have been difficult for him to stay home and not be at work for this episode! 🙂

  25. Pingback: 5 best moments in Dead Weight | The columbophile

  26. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm | The columbophile

  27. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Lovely but Lethal | The columbophile

  28. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Double Shock | The columbophile

  29. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo The Most Dangerous Match | The columbophile

  30. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Stitch in Crime | The columbophile

  31. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Requiem for a Falling Star | The columbophile

  32. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Dagger of the Mind | The columbophile

  33. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo The Most Crucial Game | The columbophile

  34. As far as Dutton’s body re-appearing, the explanation from Columbo is that sharks must have chewed the ropes holding him down (or something to that effect). Do you suppose that Columbo ‘helped’ the body re-appear, much like he ‘helped’ the car not start in the previous episode?

  35. For me, its the tension between Falk and Eddie Albert that makes this episode so appealing and interesting. Whilst the ending is weak, I never watched Columbo for the gotcher as many episodes have quite unsatisfactory arrest scenes, with the killer deciding to admit all before it goes to court. I rate this as great first series episode alongside many others. Its got a fine sub plot and great supporting cast with Albert wonderfully portraying a very sympathy murderer. I particular enjoy the scenes on the boat and think given Falk’s on set pettiness re. his contract issues, he deserved any sea sickness he got. Plus it has great atmosphere and setting. Though for me Death Lends a hand is the finest first series episode, if not one best Colombo’s ever made.

    • Although I might not put this one of the best, I absolutely agree with you on Falk and Albert. The mother gets a little on my nerves after a while, and the final reveal might not be as strong as other episodes, but I believe the interaction between Falk and Albert practically crackles. You can almost hear the wheels turning inside of Albert’s character saying “if I had you in my Army…..”. The that just-barely-below-the-surface menace in Albert’s character makes a great mano-a-mano with Columbo. It’s worth the watch to see two great actors in their prime put their best effort out there. Good choice.

      • The mother comes across as overly irritating partly because Pleshette is so adorable and we feel for her. But I at least found it amusing that mom is always wrong — no one got shot, you should have stayed with adulterous ex, you better cozy up to this fine general/murderer, etc.

        If Helen ever learns to do the opposite of everything her mother says, she’ll be on easy street. hahaha

    • I don’t see Albert as sympathetic as he slays the Colonel to protect his own business interests and reputation. It’s not a heroic act, and for a war hero it might’ve been more interesting if he’d had a really heroic reason to murder, to leave the audience torn. I really like the Albert/PPleshette sub-plot, though. Something different for the series and probably the most interesting aspect of the episode for me.

      • ” I really like the Albert/PPleshette sub-plot, though. Something different for the series and probably the most interesting aspect of the episode for me.”

        I’ll second that. It’s surely the main reason I enjoy this episode. I also think the locations and soundtrack make for good viewing.

  36. I love, love, love Lt. Colombo. I’ve been watching him on and off since the 70’s when I was a very small child. It never once occurred to me that he must have had a first name! I feel as dumb as Bertie Wooster when after 40 plus years he learned Jeeves had a first name. It had never occurred to him either!

  37. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Greenhouse Jungle | The columbophile

  38. Do you know the type or name of sailboat Suzanne plechette sailed at the beginning of the show “dead weight” ?.

  39. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Etude in Black | The columbophile

  40. I am a 21 year army vet so far so I really pay attention to shows/movies that involve military members. I always look for the mistakes that are made. Here is a good one, check out the uniforms hanging in hollisters closet when Colombo is looking thru his house. The jacket shown where Colombo remarks about the “salad” does not have a huge rack of ribbons, it has 2 identical racks placed above one another to make it appear that hollister has a lot of medals. Look at the ribbons as they repeat after the 3rd of 4th row. Just something fun to point out. 🙂

  41. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Blueprint for Murder | The columbophile

  42. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Short Fuse | The columbophile

  43. Really enjoying reading your reviews. Never noticed the ‘Frank’ before but like yourself I am happier to be left in the dark regarding Columbo’s first name. What I find really fascinating here is the troubles going on behind the scenes, the interview with Suzanne Pleshette was a real eye opener and I had no idea of these problems with Falk. It must have created a strained atmosphere on set. Still there is lots to admire about this episode. I am determined to re-watch all the Columbo episodes myself but as usual with me it takes an age to get going.

  44. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Lady in Waiting | The columbophile

  45. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Suitable for Framing | The columbophile

  46. Pingback: The very best Columbo supporting star appearances | The columbophile

  47. Love the insight into the “First Name” issue as I thought it was officially and unofficially never know. Nonetheless, it seems that it was put out once by accident if William Link is correct (see Rich’s comment above) and then again in the 1989 episode, so it probably was his intended real first name. I am from an Italian family and had family members that were of Columbo’s age. In that era most Franks were officially named Francis but went by Frank. Even though it was on official badge, as it was not his Social Security Card or Driver’s License I imagine that he would have been allowed to use the first name that he went by, in this case Frank. So in reality (funny to say that about a fictitious character) Columbo’s birth certificate first name would likely have been Francis. Remember Saint Francis of Assisi, a very revered Catholic Saint.

    • Thanks for the comment. I believe Universal themselves have referred to Columbo as ‘Frank’ in official circles so they must consider it canon. I’m happier not knowing, personally!

  48. After three Columbos with carefully planned “perfect crimes,” “Dead Weight” is the second in a row with a spontaneous killing. It is also the first where neither a clue nor intuition puts Columbo on the trail of the killer. It starts with a complaint (as later occurs in “Blueprint for Murder” and “Any Old Port in a Storm”).

    There is a lot to like about this episode. Eddie Albert’s General Hollister may be the most “cool under fire” Columbo adversary. Nothing rattles him. And we learn that Columbo is no better at sea than he was in the air (“Ransom for a Dead Man”) — although what he was doing fishing in his suit, I’ll never know.

    But “Dead Weight” may have the worst ending of all the NBC Columbos. Off hand, I can’t think of another as bad. Why wasn’t this case solved in the first half hour? With an eyewitness, why weren’t all of Hollister’s guns gathered and examined immediately? There was nothing clever about the solution.

    And does anyone really buy the witness falling for the killer?

    I rewatched this episode recently to see if I’d missed something interesting about the “gotcha.” I hadn’t.

    Two final notes: William Link blames a prop man with too much initiative for giving Columbo’s ID card a first name. No one in authority permitted this.

    Second, I understood your “knocked for six” reference, but I doubt most other Americans would. (Think “cricket,” fellow countrymen.)

  49. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Death Lends a Hand | The columbophile

  50. Can’t help it. I watch this episode all the time. It’s special to me. Maybe because of Helen’s self esteem issues. Maybe because it sounds nice to me when I need to nap or calm down. I love the red carpet and indoor atrium. Takes me home to being a kid. The house is off Balboa Island on Collins Island – there is one very expensive rental there but I’d love to go. ❤️


Leave a Reply