In a series marked by twists and turns, Columbo Season 2 saved it’s biggest surprise till last, serving up an actual whodunnit with feuding identical twin brothers vying for contention as the Lieutenant’s number one suspect. A Double Shock indeed!
So let’s set our clocks back to March 25th 1973, grab a glass of milk and plate of health cookies and settle in for Double Shock – the season finale. Is it electrifying stuff, or just a shocker? Let’s find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Dexter and Norman Paris: Martin Landau
Lisa Chambers: Julie Newmar
Mrs Peck: Jeanette Nolan
Michael Hathaway: Tim O’Connor
Clifford Paris: Paul Stewart
Sergeant Murray: Dabney Coleman
Written by: Steven Bochco (from a story by Jackson Gillis, Richard Levinson and William Link)
Directed by: Robert Butler
Score by: Dick De Benedictis / Oliver Nelson
Episode synopsis: Columbo Double Shock
Aged fitness fanatic Clifford Paris is killed by his nephew, celebrity chef Dexter, on the eve of his wedding. The method? Electrocution through a food mixer being flung into the bath he’s relaxing in. That’s quite an eye-opener, eh Clifford?
Sandwiched around a gloved hand switching the house alarm on and off, the incident causes a brief power outage, disrupting fiery housekeeper Mrs Peck’s TV viewing – and her evening goes downhill even faster when Clifford’s youthful, high-energy fiancee, Lisa Chambers, swings excitedly by to pick up her soon-to-be betrothed.
Lisa races upstairs to surprise her true love, only to find the bathroom empty and seemingly unused. Then it twigs! Lisa’s just bought Clifford a new exercise bike for his home gym. He must be using it right now! Lisa doesn’t know how right she is. Racing downstairs, she finds a dead Clifford in a hideous attitude on the exercise bike, his leaden corpse rolling to and fro with the motion of the machine.
With Lisa screaming blue murder, it’s not long before the police are swarming around the scene, including Lieutenant Columbo, looking more dishevelled than ever having been forced out of bed to investigate. With it so obviously choreographed to look like a heart attack from a too-strenuous workout, Columbo wonders why he’s there at all.
Addled and not at his best, the Lieutenant’s first run in with Mrs Peck isn’t long in coming. While examining the gymnasium, he absent-mindedly dabs cigar ash on the carpet, cue an explosion of rage from the pint-sized crone. “You must belong in some pigsty,” she snarls – the first of many delicious altercations between the two throughout.
A shaken Columbo tries to make amends only to make matters worse, first rubbing the ash into the carpet before smashing a pitcher. It’s not long before Mrs Peck is braying in horror, and Columbo takes himself upstairs to the bathroom to throw some water in his face.
It’s there that the first signs of suspicion arise. Looking for something to dry his face, Columbo notes a towel astray from its rack, which he finds damp in the hamper. In a house run like clockwork by Mrs Peck, he wonders why. He checks the bath. Someone has certainly used it. But why would Clifford have a bath and then exercise? It doesn’t make sense…
Columbo takes these queries to Dexter and Mrs Peck – the latter instantly livid at any insinuations that her towel-tending skills weren’t up to scratch. Certainly things look odd to the detective – particularly when he learns that there was a brief power cut during the evening. Clifford died of a heart attack; he had used the bath; and there was a power outage. That could mean murder by electrocution.
When Columbo’s sidekick Murray (played by a magnificently moustached Dabney Coleman) reveals that a cast of a footprint outside suggests a flat-footed man has been on the scene that evening, Dexter becomes suspect number one. Columbo event attempts to compare his foot arch with Dexter, who admits that he does indeed have flat feet.
Looks like this case could be closed within minutes – until Dexter’s identical twin brother Norman also arrives at the home. He too, has flat feet. And all of a sudden we have a genuine whodunnit on our hands!
There’s no love lost between the brothers, both of whom point the finger at the other. Banker Norman describes Dexter as a ‘low life sponger’ who’s desperate to get his hands on their uncle’s pile of cash. Norman is wealthy in his own right, so has no motive.
We hear a different story from Dexter. After he snares Columbo to appear live on his daytime cookery show, Dexter whisks Columbo off to Las Vegas, where Norman heads every week. A little snooping unveils Norman has gambling debts of $37,000 in one casino alone. Now both brothers have motive.
The plot thickens further as Columbo visits Lisa Chambers in her apartment. A spiritual and spirited young woman, Lisa swiftly takes umbrage at Columbo’s line of questioning – even asking the Lieutenant to beat it. It’s suspicious behaviour, which Columbo raises with long-time family attorney Michael Hathaway. Could Lisa be in on it with the two brothers? Not likely, says Hathaway. He doesn’t think she even knows them, let alone be in league with them.
As he digests this information, the Lieutenant absently puts out his cigar in an antique silver platter he mistake for an ashtray – earning another rebuke from Mrs Peck. “BUM! You’re a BUM!” she shrieks, before rushing tearfully away. Columbo follows to both apologise and appeal to Mrs Peck’s good side, which leads to an unforgettable temporary truce over milk and health cookies. A truce that lasts as long as it takes for Columbo to break Mrs Peck’s precious TV set as he attempts to fix it…
Columbo’s questions about Lisa get Hathaway thinking. He stages meetings with Norman and Dexter to let them know that if they did kill Clifford it’s all for nothing, as the old boy willed everything to Lisa. However, there are only two copies of the will. Hathaway has one and Lisa the other. If Norman and Dexter will agree to keep him on as manager of the estate, Hathaway will get the will off Lisa, leaving the brothers free to inherit. The twins agree.
Hathaway arranges to pick up the will from Lisa at her apartment. When he gets there, however, he finds that he’s been double crossed. Lisa is dead, having been pushed off her balcony to a grisly demise. Police are on the scene, apprehending the crooked lawyer as he tries to flee with the will.
“One person wouldn’t have been able to easily get Clifford’s wet and slippery corpse out of the bath.”
With Hathaway now screaming foul play, Columbo racks his brain to get a conviction and finally cracks it. Summoning both the brothers to Clifford’s home, he sets it out for them. He knows two people were in on it, because one person wouldn’t have been able to easily get Clifford’s wet and slippery corpse out of the bath, dried and down to the gym. Someone in the house also had to have switched the alarm on and off to allow the other to enter unnoticed.
Even more damning, a second person was needed to change the fuse after the power outage. Mrs Peck swears that the power was only out for about 15 seconds. At a trot, Columbo times the distance between the bathroom and basement fuse box to be nearer a minute. And if that stack of circumstantial evidence wasn’t enough, Columbo has more. The brothers claim not to have been on speaking terms for two years, yet phone records reveal they’d spoken 20 times in the past 10 days.
The stunned brothers reactions are poles apart. The more measured Norman comes clean. Dexter screams at him to shut up. As Detective Murray frogmarches the twins upstairs, Columbo hangs back with the distraught Mrs Peck. Taking her by the hand, the Lieutenant gently leads her away as credits roll…
Double Shock‘s best moment: live cookery at its finest
Ask just about any Columbo purist to name their top moments from the entire series and it’s a safe bet that the legendary cookery scene from Double Shock will be right up there.
Weighing in at a little under 8 minutes, the scene was almost entirely ad-libbed by Peter Falk and Martin Landau and it’s an absolute gem. Called up on stage to be a reluctant assistant to Dexter, Columbo is initially abashed and stunned, barely able to string a coherent sentence together – much to the delight of the live studio audience. Yet he warms to the task, making a few wisecracks and milking the audience applause.
“This is probably the single best non-gotcha Columbo moment of them all.”
The nature of the scene made it perfect for ad libbing, and Falk, in particular, absolutely nails it. He’s as warm and charming as we ever see him – just look at his face light up as he and Landau revel in playing off one another. This sense of fun is genuine and contagious. I, for one, find it impossible not to smile along. This is Columbo at his most adorable.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, and that’s exactly what this scene is. I’d even go as far as to say it’s probably the single best non-gotcha Columbo moment of them all.
My take on Double Shock
If Columbo‘s second season doesn’t quite match the overall brilliance of its first, the creative team at least did a great job in keeping the audience guessing. Despite the show’s established format being cemented in place over 9 episodes between 1968-1972, Season 2 still had the capacity to surprise.
In Greenhouse Jungle Columbo appears before the crime for the first time. In Requiem for a Falling Star we’re fooled into thinking the death of Jean was an accident. In The Most Dangerous Match the victim hangs on to life for more than half the episode, ramping up the pressure on the killer.
But Double Shock surpassed them all, delivering an excellent whodunnit in which we’re really not sure which of the Paris brothers committed the killing until the Lieutenant’s final reveal. It’s the biggest Columbo twist of the season, and the best of the bunch by far.
That’s part of what makes Double Shock such a successful addition to the series. But it’s by no means the only reason, or even the strongest reason, because this is 80 minutes of TV absolutely packed with highlights.
“Mrs Peck is undoubtedly Columbo’s most fearsome opponent.”
I’ve written before about how wonderful Peter Falk’s portrayal of Columbo had become by Season 2, but it’s worth repeating. In Season 1 he was still getting to grips with the character. By now he’s mastered every nuance. Falk now is Columbo. He’s not just playing a role. And Double Shock represents him at the zenith of his powers – arguably even more so than his terrific turn in Greenhouse Jungle.
Falk’s prowess is perhaps exemplified best in Columbo’s scenes with Mrs Peck. The Lieutenant is often pitted against genuinely menacing foes: the type that could cause him real trouble if they chose. Yet Columbo is never intimidated by them. With Mrs Peck, however, he’s really met his match. She is undoubtedly his most fearsome opponent.
Columbo has to really dig deep just to keep on speaking terms with her. Indeed, his apology to her for his untidiness and his appeal to her to treat him more fairly is probably the most challenging moment he has faced up to now. Talking down a gun-wielding Beth Chadwick in Lady in Waiting was child’s play by comparison!
Falk and Jeanette Nolan must have been having such a good time filming these scenes – not least when she offers him a truce over a glass of milk and a plate of health cookies. How Falk could ever say “Thank you. I’m extremely fond of health cookies” so earnestly while keeping a straight face is a testament to his acting abilities. All kudos to Nolan, too. I consider her to be one of the very best supporting guest stars of all.
Their scenes arguably overshadow those between Landau and Falk (the joyous cookery show apart), but the episode doesn’t suffer because of it. Landau tackles the challenge of convincingly playing identical twins with panache. His Norman and Dexter feel suitably different: the dour Norman being an excellent counterweight to the colourful Dexter.
The downside of having twins is that Columbo’s time with his key suspects is effectively halved, and his interactions with them leave some unanswered questions. We never really get to know Norman and Dexter the way we get to know a Ken Franklin, Dale Kingston or Barry Mayfield. We’re not witnesses to their scheming, and we never get to find out why they’re such sworn enemies. It means their motive boils down to money: the lowest common denominator.
“Lisa died a terrifying death at the hands of men she hardly knew to keep her from claiming an inheritance that she never wanted in the first place.”
I have a hunch that Dexter might hate his family because they all seem so down on him. His brother describes him as a ‘low-life’, while the family lawyer claims him to be ‘useless’. This all seems a bit harsh to me. After all, Dexter is a bona fide celebrity TV chef, who drives a Ferrari. Given his niche line of work, he seems to have done pretty well for himself compared to his tedious banker brother, yet he takes all the flack. Families eh? You can’t live with ’em, etc, etc…
Whatever their motivation, both Dexter and Norman are clearly absolute b*stards. The killing of their uncle is bad enough, but the murder of Lisa Chambers really shows how low they can go. Because Lisa’s death takes place off screen, it lacks the emotional punch it would otherwise have had. But make no mistake: Lisa died a terrifying death at the hands of men she hardly knew to keep her from claiming an inheritance she never wanted in the first place.
Although she only has a few minutes’ screen time, Julie Newmar’s Lisa wins viewers’ hearts – even if she does give Columbo the cold shoulder. Despite that, she’s inherently good and clearly in love with old Clifford. It makes her death one of the most shocking Columbo murders of all.
Through the killing of Lisa, the brothers also make an enemy in family lawyer Hathaway. I actually quite like this character, who’s nicely portrayed by Tim O’Connor in his first of two Columbo outings. He’s unashamedly corrupt and doesn’t pretend he’s been devastated by Clifford’s demise. He’s done well out of the estate for years and wishes to continue to make money from it through helping the brothers.
His incorrigible nature and knowledge of the law makes him the sort of person you’d think the brothers would keep on side. Sure, throwing Lisa off the balcony to make it look like the lawyer was in cahoots with her all along might deflect some suspicion off them, but framing a lawyer is a high-risk strategy, and one that borders on being far-fetched. He certainly won’t be defending them in court now, will he?
Still, the weaknesses of Double Shock are few and far between. Set against its strengths of a finely-crafted mystery (Steven Bochco wrote the teleplay from a story by Jackson Gillis, William Link and Richard Levinson – a heavyweight quartet indeed); magnificent script; bags of humour and a sprinkling of the finest Columbo scenes ever filmed, and you have a recipe for success.
And best of all? A performance to marvel at from Peter Falk. As such Double Shock is an episode that gets better with every viewing, as we uncover more elements of Falk’s performance to treasure. After 17 episodes, he was more at home in the crumpled mac than ever, but his performances are as fresh as a daisy and he actually seems to be stepping up his game: something that augurs well for the rigours of a third season.
Did you know?
Dabney Coleman (pictured centre as Sergeant Murray) is only one of two actors to play both a police officer and a murderer in Columbo. As well as his turn here, Coleman returned as the chief protagonist Hugh Creighton in 1991’s Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star. The only other actor to double up in this way was Ed Begley Jr, who appeared as a cop in 1978’s How to Dial a Murder and a killer in Undercover in 1994.
How I rate ’em
I consider Murder by the Book the benchmark to compare all other Columbo episodes against because it was so perfect in so many ways. It’s apparent from the above review that I rate Double Shock highly, but can I justify placing it ahead of Murder by the Book? Well yes, I can – by a whisker.
Landau x 2 still ain’t Jack Cassidy, but so much of Double Shock delights me and I fall for its charms every time. It’s not as important a piece of television as Murder, but for sheer enjoyment it just has the edge for me. Only Suitable for Framing‘s superior gotcha places it higher at this early stage of proceedings.
Here’s my full list so far. Read my other reviews by clicking on the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Lady in Waiting
- Prescription: Murder
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Short Fuse
- Dagger of the Mind
As always, I’d welcome your comments on this review and this episode as a whole. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back with our first foray into Season 3 – Lovely but Lethal – in a few weeks!
You can read my take on the top 5 scenes of Double Shock right here.
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This article is dedicated in memory of Martin Landau, who died on 16 July 2017, aged 89.
I had written an earlier comment about the episode but it did not get posted. So, a second attempt. This is a great site with the author clearly enjoying and knowing Columbo–much applause to you.
First, a minor correction in the review (apology for the minor quibble)–there are three, not two, copies of the will. Hathaway, as the attorney, has one; Lisa has one; and Clifford Paris has the third, which Hathaway has removed from the house.
Wanted to mention two scenes (one I enjoyed and not noted in the review and the other with some major editing problems). The scene between Columbo and Lisa Chambers, where Columbo shows up at her apartment and Chambers/Newmar is wearing her Catwoman outfit on the patio while doing yoga, is quite humorous. She is on her head feeding her brain. There always seems to be a scene in an episode with Columbo being embarrassed or a bit shy. Here, he actually dismisses those two traits with the following interaction:
Chambers: I hope you don’t mind waiting.
Columbo: No, not at all, I enjoy watching.
Chambers: Well, why don’t you come out here, I can hear you a little better.
Columbo: Oh, fine (and walks over).
The second scene is the television food sequence with Columbo and Dexter. There are two fishes and loaves occurrences and an appearance by Rollin Hand with the magical self-starting blender.
Dexter mentions there are four eggs, salt, pepper, some butter, and lemon juice for Columbo to work with on the table. Well, at least eight egg yolks are taken from the table that went into the blender (Dexter cracked one and Columbo at least seven). Also, thelemon juice first appears with perhaps a 1/4 of a cup of liquid in the Pyrex measuring cup, but later in the scene after the eight eggs have been put into the blender, there is now 3/4 to a cup of juice in the Pyrex (for which Columbo put about 3/4 of a cup into the blender). What he appears to be making is hollandaise sauce, which requires about a tablespoon of lemon juice and the final product heated a bit, not simply poured over the dish after being mixed as Dexter did (OK, enough about food). Except one last comment–what about the blender turning on by itself? Either magic or someone under the table operating it. Good fun overall.
Did I miss something?, was it known to us how Julie Newmar’s character was killed?. Did she kill herself?, did one of the brothers kill her?. I thought it was hard to believe that the lawyer convinced her to meet with him for her to give him her copy of the will. Him saying to her that she is the prime suspect and that they will be arresting her soon I thought did not make sense she she knew she didn’t kill him. She seemed like a bright capable lady.
It’s implied that one or both of the brothers did it to frame the lawyer.
I originally thought she jumped off the balcony also until i watched it twice in full a few months back but it seems The brothers or one of the twins planned and executed her murder in a way that the laweyr would be caught leaving her flat with the will in his possession which would have made him a prime suspect in Lisa chambers murder and possibly the uncles murder also diverting suspicion from them but of course columbos on hand to get to the bottom of it ,
its really well written stuff .
I believe one of the brothers threw her off the balcony, knowing the lawyer was on his way to her place so the he could take the blame.
The twins killed him.
….pushed him off of his balcony to frame the lawyer.
The part that feels completely wrong to me is Columbo’s surprise at seeing Norman in the casino, having been whisked off to Las Vegas with the phrase “so my brother told you he was going to San Francisco did he ?” ringing in his ears. What else was he expecting ? What did he and Dexter chat about during the flight ?! I think the Mrs Peck scenes are great, but personally never really enjoy the ‘me ? aw,shucks !’ scenes that occasionally crop up, such as the cooking one here.
Look at that rascal, Dabney Coleman, using that old scene-stealing acting trick of chewing gum, to try and draw the attention of the viewers away from the star. As a veteran scene stealer himself, Falk appears amused by this. He’s not worried…he knows that viewers are tuned in to watch him, and that Dabney could be doing cartwheels and people would still be riveted on Columbo.
If, Heaven forbid, Columbo should ever be found murdered someday, I hope he would have had the presence of mind beforehand to tuck a note into his wallet for the police to find, which says “Mrs. Peck did it.” Because she would be my Number One Suspect.
Martin Landau was terrific in this. He masterfully plays two entirely different characters right down to the body language. It’s enough to make you wish that this episode was expanded to a full two hours, so that both Dexter and Norman could have more interactions with Columbo.
And playing the young doctor on the TV program which Mrs. Peck is watching when the murder occurs is Marc “Beastmaster” Singer, in his first television role. I presume that over-earnest medical drama was taking a gentle poke at MARCUS WELBY, M.D., which aired over on rival network ABC.
This isn’t technically the first “Columbo” I ever saw (that would be “Columbo Cries Wolf”). But it does hold the distinction of the being the first episode I saw from the 1960s-1970s episodes and the episode that got me interested in watching more of the series. So it’s sort of my *honorary* first episode.
I saw it while watching TV in a hotel room, which is a situation where you’re already willing to compromise and check out shows you wouldn’t normally. And then of course it’s “Columbo,” so it was a high quality show at a time when I was already going to be more open-minded. No wonder it impressed me!
One little thing I don’t quite get: there’s a scene where Dexter takes his mixer out of the cupboard on the set of his TV show and thunks it down on the counter defiantly, as if proving to Columbo that he couldn’t have murdered his uncle with a mixer, because here’s his mixer right here. Couldn’t he have just owned more than one? Maybe I need to rewatch this episode more closely.
Columbo mentioned that he’d found out from Dexter’s assistant that he’d recently ordered two new mixers. Dexter whipped them out there and then to prove he had them. It’s not exactly indicative of his guilt, but he was at least able to fend off the question. Columbo never asked why he needed the news ones, or what happened to the old one/s.
I wonder does columbophile know why does columbo call Mr (Norman Paris ) Paris Mr Parks when walking away from the Bank vault ? I have picked up on this a few times especially after watching it in full a few Weeks back .
As for felicity’s question ~Dexter Paris didnt have anything to hide at this stage by producing the mixers as he wasn’t even a true suspect at this point , they had only established that it wasn’t heart failure that killed their uncle and also it could be any plug in electrical appliance that was used as columbo states at the demonstration near the end .
And Mr. Steve 🙂
Thanks, Columbophile! 🙂
(looking and reading again, another comment)
If we agree that a whodunit is a book, a movie, an episode or whatever story in which the audience (reader, spectator…) does not know who committed the murder and has to discover it, helped by the detective or even together with him, I think we can’t consider “Double Shock” as a whodunit.
In fact, we know it was Dexter who murdered his uncle. We saw it, we believed it, and the arrival of his brother Norman will not change our mind. First because we believed it was Dexter, and second because Norman, if he had committed the murder, would not have had any reason to disguise himself in Dexter and to behave as Dexter. On the contrary, he would have had great pleasure that his uncle knew (even in a very short final moment) it was him, and not his brother. (A lot of murderers in the Columbo-series like their victims to know who they are murdered by, and take great pleasure in it.)
So, the question for the audience is not “who did it”, but how Columbo will know and prove who did it.
At the end, we are surprised they did it together. Dexter was not alone. He had a complice, and it was Norman. But that is not enough (and to late) to transform a howcatchem in a whodunit.
However, and last, not least, it will be very difficult for a jury to condemn one of the brothers for murder. Only for complicity. An extra episode could have been written in which Columbo proves who actually committed each of the two (!) murders.
and a question for not so young Americans:
Was taking a plane that easy in the USA in the 70’s?
There are several episodes in which the people “jump” in a plane. In this one, Norman has still 43 (or 47?) minutes to take his plane, and Dexter asks Columbo if he has 2 hours to take a plane to Las Vegas, go to the casino and come back. I should think one needs 2 hours before the plane takes off.
I’d like to know.
Speaking as a Los Angeles native who happens to live near the LAX, this episode was aired decades before 9-11, long before increased airport security made a two-hour minimum before flight time, the norm. Besides, I chalk up unrealistic travel times to the escapism of the television universe. It’s like the protagonist answering his phone, telling the caller that he’ll “be there in 10 minutes” even though this means he will have to take the elevator down from a hotel floor high enough to give him nosebleeds, walk to the proper level his car is stashed,acc in the underground parking structure, and then fight his way through L.A. rush hour traffic. Ahh… The magic of television…
Thank you, Nola, it’s very kind of you.
So, it’s true, but not so true. 🙂
If you want your mind blown, watch a 1974 Warren Beatty movie called “The Parallax View”. There’s a scene where he goes to the airport, walks out onto the tarmac, boards a plane, takes a seat, and a stewardess comes up to him to sell him a ticket! Definitely a far different world that this one.
Or like when someone says “Great! I’ll pick you up at eight” and they haven’t said where they live yet!
And there’s always a parking space right out front of wherever the character is going. 🙂
You,re right, Felicity. Those parking spaces always surprised me. Even in the episodes of the seventies.
I’m sixty-four and yes, it was easy. As long as there was a seat open. There was no security at the airport like there is now, so the only hold up would be standing in line at the ticket counter.
Another thing about the “magic of television”….ever notice that there is always ice stored in he ice bucket on the home bar? Even before the characters plan for a drink! This happens a lot in Columbo. Surely, the ice would melt into water.
And whiskey in the decanter! In the office no less! I guess everyone in TV land is a raging alcoholic.
The plot of this episode is one of the strongest of the whole series. The intrigue with the lawyer and the killing of the fiancee is very good. In my opinion, the scene when the lawyer is at the balcony, discovers the fiancee has been killed, sees the police and tries to escape is the best moment of the episode. Tim O’Connor does a very good job.
Just one small “beauty flaw”: the doppelganger of Dexter in the short scene when Columbo and the brothers etc. go to the bathroom doesn’t have the right stature. He’s to small and to to fat (and doesn’t even have Dexter’s hair). I don’t understand how this can have been done.
And a very good point: the way the fencing is filmed: the camera moves as if it were the eyes of the fencer.
Taking a cue from Martin Landau’s Mission: Impossible, they should have filmed an alternate version of this episode, identical in every way but with Leonard Nimoy as Dexter and Norman Paris. They could have called it…DOUBLE SPOCK
(omg. I just realized he played Paris in M:I)
A fun and charming episode that I have mixed feelings about. The best things about the episode have little to do with the mystery (the cooking show and Mrs. Peck’s television woes) so that the actual development of the mystery is given short shrift. So for those reasons I can’t rate it that highly.
It’s to the series credit that they did not go much further down this path of making Columbo a comic figure who drops cigar ash at a crime scene or uses a murder weapon to crack open a hard boiled egg. Columbo, while unconventional in his appearance and his approach, should never be a clown that disrespects his profession with such actions.
To quote Ken Franklin in “Murder by the Book”: “ y? I had the whole thing figured out by the end of the first act.
You did? I was completely fooled.
You must have a devious mind.
No dear, it’s because you’re young.
Always remember one thing, my love.
The moment a man mentions a long-lost twin, you can inevitably know that it’s going to be some impersonation.
It’s an old plot trick.
Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=columbo-1971&episode=s01e03
This posted prematurely. It was supposed to read:
To quote Ken Franklin in “Murder by the Book”: “I had the whole thing figured out by the end of the first act. … Always remember one thing, my love. The moment a man mentions a long-lost twin, you can inevitably know that it’s going to be some impersonation. It’s an old plot trick.”
I’ve always found this episode flawed. As soon as the uncle died, Lisa inherited his entire estate. As soon as the lawyer was arrested, the police had the will. Therefor, the entire estate goes to Lisa and then to whoever might be HER next of kin, not the nephews. What made anyone think that killing Lisa meant that the nephews got anything?
No, it makes perfect sense. The twins’ plan was to make it look like Lisa conspired with the lawyer to kill Clifford Paris. If it had worked, Lisa or whoever was to inherit her estate couldn’t have kept the wealth. It would have gone back to Clifford and his next family members in line.
Lisa could not have been convicted; neither was there any evidence showing she was involved in the murder. I think her inheritance would stand.
What I didn’t understadn was the lawyer’s supposed motive for killing Lisa or indeed Clifford. If he was just acting for a share Lisa’s wealth, why would throwing her off the balcony be such a good idea? Indeed, why did twins throw her off the balcony? The ‘pinch the will’ plan seemed OK to me. She posed no threat.
Dexter and Norman (or only one of them) threw Lisa off the balcony at the time the lawyer had a meeting with her, so obviously the motive was to blame the lawyer and to make it look as if he and Lisa had killed Clifford to share the inheritance. Columbo can prove, one killer alone couldn’t have finished the job in fifteen seconds, so the killing of Lisa would suggest that she was conspiring with someone, and that this person would have a good reason to silence her. There you got the lawyer’s supposed motive.
So Lisa was no threat to the twins, but they had to kill her to be able to use her as a scapegoat.
Columbo is at his most endearing in this episode. He’s so badly misunderstood by the irascible Mrs. Peck. That’s a crime worse than offing Uncle Clifford! Jk, murder = bad. I love that he keeps trying o get in her good graces. He really wants her to like him, or to, at least, stop yelling at him. I love him for that. Julie Newmar’s character, while lovely and, um, transcendental, reads Columbo all wrong. I like this episode a lot. Clever plot, good pace, nice distractions (cooking scene), and an extra rumpled Columbo.
Double Shock Good episode but not one of my very favorite episodes , here is How i rate season 2
1) A stitch in crime
2) Double shock
3) Etude in Black
4) The most crucial Game
5) The most dangerous match
6) The greenhouse jungle
7) Requiem for a falling star
8) Dagger of the Mind
In summary a strong season with A stitch in crime comfortably the best episode with Double shock and Etude in black close behind but also two duds in there being requiem for a falling star and dagger of the mind .
Ms. Peck grates my nerve. I just can’t stand the way she speaks to Columbo. Almost blasphemous. 😉
Made for some good comedic value though.
Just made me cringe 😁
I like Double shock but I am not overly keen on the Mrs peck scenes , they add a little comedy to the episode but it comes across a little annoying and repetitive , However I love the cooking scene and Martin Landau was excellent inj a double role and Lisa chambers was nice looking , The final Gotcha is not of the very best and all in all double shock falls short of my top 10 , more in my top 15 -25 bracket .
im not a massive fan of the mrs peck scenes either there ok but i dont find them very funny and a little bit tedious .
She prevents me liking this episode higher and I usually skip her scenes. She’s an employee, not the queen bee. I’d like to give her a good slap across the face and remind her to know her hired place.
Disclaimer: this site does not advocate violence against women.
But against men is fine, I guess.
I have to admit that I’ve been disappointed by this episode.
The fact that the columbophile ranks it number 4 of his all time
favourites let me expect something as brilliant as “Suitable for
Framing” or -my favourite so far- “Death Lends a Hand”, but in
my opinion it was not. Maybe as for “Sky High IQ” the nostalgia
factor plays an important part in the ranking, something that I
First, as mentionned in another comment, the episode is half
‘whodunit’ half ‘howcatchem’, a hybrid format that feels a bit
weak and confused, lacking the strongest qualities of both : We
can’t see the meticulous plot nor feel the increasing pressure on
the murderer, but we know it’s at least one of the twins.
Speaking of twins, Jack Cassidy’s character in the very first
episode of columbo warns us that (I dont have the original english
quote as I watch them in french) “when there are twins or a
disfigured body involved, you can be sure there will be some
swapping taking place”, which gives us a huge clue right away.
Then, I find the deductions rather flimsy :
It would have been possible that one of the twins had another partner in crime than the other twin, and this accomplice could have help getting the body out of the bath and replace the fuse.
We then just have the many phone calls.
Finally, while I get the fun part of the ad-libbed cooking part, I don’t see how it helps evolving the plot. In “Now You See Him”, Columbo getting on stage is a funny scene as well, but it has a purpose (proving that Cassidy’s character is an expert in lock picking)
Still I liked some elements, like the indeed very disturbing position and motion of the body when discovered, or the funny interactions between the clumsy detective and Mrs Peck, but I expected too much from this episode to be satisfied by this.
I still have some episodes to watch from columbophile’s top 10, and this difference in taste will not impact the pleasure I’ll have to watch them before reading the -always very well written- reviews offered on this website. Thanks again !
Jack Cassidy in “Murder by the Book” spoke about, if twins are involved, the final gimmick would be that one impersonated the other. And that’s what the audience is supposed to expect here. But that both of them are guilty, this comes as a surprise, considering how little the brothers cherish each other.
True, this is a good idea, but the fact that they accuse each other is not realistic, considering that they really hate each other, they must know that if one of them is incriminated he will not hesitate to reveal the involvement of the other one.
Exept for cheaply misleading the audience, I dont really get it. Maybe I am missing something ?
The way I see it, they both feel as if they were safe, after having worked together successfully. They think, Columbo cannot prove a thing, so the twins don’t need each other anymore and are allowed to fall back into their usual habits to hate each other. Wait, while thinking about it, I now get another idea: Incriminating each other might be just one more clever strategy of playing with Columbo, because this way he would never figure out that they worked together.
Yeah I think your second thought might be the way the writers saw it, it makes sense.
Yes I agree Double shock is overrated , Also no great architect would design a house fitting electrical sockets in a bathroom right next to the bath tub In the UK most bathrooms dont have standardized electric sockets for safety reasons unless the states is different , and I dont find the Mrs peck thing all that amusing.
I’m about to go down a nice rabbit hole of when GFCI outlets (basically outlets that come with their own circuit breaker) were introduced, and whether bathroom outlets were a thing at all before that. In the meantime, I’ve got a funny mental image of Dexter dragging an extension cord into the bathroom and then dragging it away.
What really got my attention was finding out that home security systems were around way earlier than I’d thought.
I always enjoy double shock great episode might slip in to my top 10 , as for fade in to murder which hasn’t been reviewed yet it s a bit of a dud William Shatners character as lieutenant Lucerne gets on my nerves but its still better than butterfly in shades of grey which was typical dross from the new batch
yes I agree I would actually put it ahead of vsuibtable for framing but they are both very good episodes.
I laughed a lot about how delightful Peter Falk personifies his role. From an entertaining point of view, this could be a highlight episode, but from a mystery writer’s point of view there should have been done more. It’s not very clever from the twins to blame each other (because regarding how much they hate each other, if one got arrested, the other one wouldn’t protect the accomplice) and then to blame the second killing of Lisa Chambers on the innocent attorney who naturally wouldn’t remain silent about the fact that the twins knew where he wanted to go that afternoon.
And the idea to nail the suspects by simply calling the telephone company (a routine procedure that has been done before without being used as the final proof) is hardly satisfying. The script could allow itself this weak gotcha because it had its effect in something else: The gag is that a curve has been thrown into the classical mystery trick (which Ken Franklin mentioned in “Murder by the Book”) of two twins that got confused: Instead of one being mistaken as the other, they did it together.
Nonetheless let’s commemorate Martin Landau who passed away one year ago today.
I enjoy this episode very much gets better as it goes along , the whole mrs peck thing gets a bit tedious , on the whole a good episode easily make my top 20 but not my top 10
Ventricular fibrillation (the word Columbo couldn’t pronounce) is not a postmortem diagnosis – it could be confirmed by ECG when the patient is alive, not by (even forensic) autopsy. Furthermore, electric shock causes a cardiac arrest (neither causing pathological changes).
I’ve watched all of the second series now and while I found this episode fun and interesting it was not one of my favourites from the series.
I understand that the makers of Columbo faced a dilemma in that on the one hand they had created a truly great formula for an entertaining detective show, by inverting the whole thing, letting us know who the killer is, then watch as Columbo gradually exposes them. However the other hand of the dilemma for the makers is that they couldn’t do that same thing every single episode. There has to be some variety.
This episode is a brave attempt to do something a bit different but although it contains much that is good, without the core entertainment of Columbo bringing down the, usually arrogant, murderer it is not one of the best episodes for me.
This episode does contain great things. I think the Columbo v Mrs Peck is very entertaining. I think Martin Landau is really great as Dexter and Norman Paris and the direction and editing to create the impression of identical twins is first class. I also thought Peter Falk was very good in that scene in the TV cookery show, although I am usually not that keen on making the Columbo character’s unique style the central subject of the drama in that way.
This Columbo doesn’t really know if it wants to be a full on “whodunnit” or not. That is the core of the problem.
I guessed the outcome of this quite early on in the episode, with a normal Columbo that isn’t a problem of course, but with an actual “whodunnit” that is a problem. Guessing the outcome is easy here because given what we know there are really only three possibilities.
I don’t think that Columbo’s exposure at the end was convincing enough. I just don’t think he actually nailed the murderer really.
Thanks for the recap and review. I just found your site and devoured all of them. The Mrs Peck exchanges have Always delighted me since I saw this one first run. Health cookies! Brilliant.
Also, (as you pointed out in A Stich in Crime) how jarring is it to see Columbo (and others) lighting up a stogie in businesses and people’s homes? Different times.
Not a massive fan of this episode. None of the characters are likeable or terribly interesting. Mrs Beck’s constant berating of Columbo was particularly grating. I did enjoy the improvised cookery scene, highlights the lieutenants inherent charm
“Because Lisa’s death takes place off screen, it lacks the emotional punch it would otherwise have had.” Yes and no. Because we don’t see it we have to imagine it ourselves. That means imagining the horror she went through in her final moments. That’s scary enough. The only detail about her death that bothers me (if I may use a Columbo phrase) is that she fell several stories on to cement and there was no blood from her body.
In Columboland, there is no such thing as blood.
I re-watched “Double Shock” the other night and was struck by how evil the brothers (and to a certain extent the lawyer) were. This episode is quite dark, given that every decent or good character either dies or is left bereft. The ability to convey evil is the benchmark by which excellence should be judged in a cosy mystery. I see Mrs. Peck as highly sympathetic and greatly respect the restraint Columbo accords her. Her world is coming apart around her, she is trying to lose herself in a faulty television and can be easily forgiven for some cranky remarks. Personally, I wouldn’t put this episode past “Murder by the Book” which is my personal high water mark but it is a terrific example of Columbo at his best.
Im in two minds about this episiode its very good not one of my favourites , yes mrs peck and columbo gets a bit unnecessary dont like the charachters much and the cookerery scene is overrated
The cooking scene is a huge self-indulgent bore and could easily have gone bye-bye. and I hate Mrs Peck, To men, she might seem a little annoying, but I have met women like her and don’t like them at all.
I like double shock a lot and enjoy it every time i watch it but dont rate it nearly as highly as columbophile does .
Mainly A because its not a genuine who dun it like a lot of people claim it to be because we know its one of the twins and they technically they both did it ,B I cant get my head around installing electrical sockets in bathrooms let alone near hot tubs not that everyone is homicidal someone a child , clumsy person could accidentally drop a live electrical item into a bath and electrocute someone or one self C the cooking scene is memorable but a tad overrated in my opinion D the Mrs peck scenes are a nice touch but after repetitive viewing her character becomes a bit annoying and D i only picked up on this recently and so did another blog that the switch is on the wrong position than it should be when Mrs peck comes to move it, ill have to watch it again closely to be sure but if this is true its a blooper how the producers could have missed this
however i love Lisa chambers character and role Julie newmar was excellent ,but i think overall Double shock is in my top 20 no way top my 10 .
After watching the original airing that Sunday many years ago I was dissapointed that it was missing the cat and mouse element which is what we love. Remember it wasn’t a weekly show but an event every month or so to look forward to. Now however I view it quite differently and think of it as one of the Lieutenants greatest solves. Great article like always.
I have very mixed feelings about this episode. Yes, it is was the first major deviation from Columbo’s inverted mystery formula; the first Columbo to morph into a whodunnit. But changing Columbo into a whodunnit has its drawbacks. You observe: “We never really get to know Norman and Dexter the way we get to know a Ken Franklin, Dale Kingston or Barry Mayfield. We’re not witnesses to their scheming, and we never get to find out why they’re such sworn enemies.” You attribute this omission to the “downside of having twins” in that “Columbo’s time with his key suspects is effectively halved.” I disagree. This is the downside, not of twins, but of a whodunnit. We will always learn more about the villain when he (or she) is identified as the villain from the initial “fade in.” When the creators decide to keep us in the dark about who the real villain is, of course we will learn less about how the villain ticks.
But there is also a certain betrayal of the viewer manifested in “Double Shock.” As a whodunnit, it’s a fairly lousy one. Twins? Who both stand to gain from the death of their uncle (particularly when coupled with the death of his named heir)? And feigning hatred of one another (a mystery drama gambit dating back to the 1920’s with the A.A. Milne play “The Fourth Wall” [U.S. title: “The Perfect Alibi”])? If presented as a straight whodunnit, the Paris brothers would have fooled no one.
What fools us is our faith in the certainty that Columbo is not a whodunnit, and thus that the person we saw electrocute Uncle Clifford is the murderer. That’s the only reason we don’t suspect Norman from his first appearance. In other words, we are fooled by our reliance on a Columbo being a Columbo. That faith is betrayed.
This being the case, I regard “Double Shock” as, in a very important sense, a non-Columbo. It is more of a Columbo curiosity. And while I respect off-beat Columbos (see my review of “Dagger of the Mind”), I could never rank them among the upper echelon of Columbo episodes. Those spots should be reserved for pure Columbos.
Great review as always. I love to come here to relax from the day and enjoy the insights on my favorite detective and am never dissapointed. Of course, great sadness in losing one of the great actors, Martin Landau. I wish they could have found another script for him and his brilliant co-actor and partner, Barbara Bain.
Always thought that Columbo tried so hard to appease Ms. Peck was both because she was an enormous source of information about the comings and goings of the house, but because he knew he was about to destroy her world. She had run that house for who knows how long, and he was about to accuse her favorite boys of killing their uncle. But by the time he had finished however, he seemed to have made some dent in Ms. Peck; the brutal honesty in which he revealed the killers was only challenged by her by saying “these boys wouldn’t kill their uncle!”
Finally once Columbo got to know her, I’m sure that he respected her as well. She was just as much a perfectionist as he was, it just came in the way she ran the house rather than being a great detective.
Vibrant, wonderful review! So much fun to relive this quirky episode through your delighted eyes. I was more taken with Lisa’s idiosyncratic vulnerability than Mrs. Peck’s fearsomeness, but it was a fresh & funky installment. The cooking scene was one for the ages. Thank you!
Thank you so much! I’m delighted you enjoyed it.
I don’t know if you remember talking to me, but I told you why Double Shock was my favorite episode and explained why. I just wanted to say thank you for doing a review on it, It is still my favorite, I even have a plaid liesure suit like Dexter wore, shame about Landau.