Columbo took a dark twist for its Season 3 finale, with A Friend in Deed taking viewers on a very different type of adventure by pitting the Lieutenant against his own superior officer, Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin.
With a cast boasting Richard Kiley, and Peter Falk’s great mate Ben Gazzara in the director’s chair, the omens looked good for a rip-roaring curtain-closer to a magnificent season of event television. But is A Friend in Deed a shining jewel in the Columbo crown, or just too dark for its own good? Let’s turn back the clocks to 5th May 1974 and find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin: Richard Kiley
Hugh Caldwell: Michael McGuire
Margaret Halperin: Rosemary Murphy
Artie Jessup: Val Avery
Lieutenant Duffy: John Finnegan
Wexler the Jeweller: Eric Christmas
Jeweller’s assistant: Arlene Martell
Directed by: Ben Gazzarra
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Score by: Dick De Benedictis & Billy Goldenberg
Episode synopsis: Columbo A Friend in Deed
Hugh Caldwell makes a phone call to his neighbour’s house. He looks seriously stressed out, and becomes more so when he learns that the man he’s trying to reach – Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Halperin – is out at ‘the club’. As Caldwell wanders back through his house we see why he’s agitated: his wife Janice lies dead on the living room floor.
Slinging on his jacket, Caldwell heads out and is soon bending Halperin’s ear about his woes. He didn’t mean to kill his wife. He’d grabbed her by the throat in a fit of pique and it was all over before he knew it. So what can he do?
Luckily for Hugh, Halperin is a man of action. Everyone knew that Hugh and Janice were having marital troubles, so Hugh mustn’t report the crime himself. Instead Halperin demands Hugh waits at the club and rings his own home from there at 10.30pm. Halperin will answer and tell him what to do. Until then, Hugh must stay in plain sight.
Cut to Halperin at the Caldwell residence, the rakish angle he’s sporting his hat at leaving the viewers in no doubt that he’s a very bad cop. He jimmies the garden gate lock and patio doors to gain entrance, then sneaks upstairs to get a night gown for Janice and to remove some family jewels.
Hugh rings right on schedule, and the two simulate a homely husband-and-wife chat as a jolly bartender looks on. Before he rings off, Halperin tells his twitchy partner to stay where he is until the police contact him. He then rings off, changes Janice’s clothes and heads for his own home right across the road, hiding the stolen jewels in his garage.
He races upstairs to his own wife, Margaret and implicates her in his scheme, calling her over to the bedroom window after claiming to see a man in dark clothing running from the Caldwell house. When a phone call to the house isn’t answered, Halperin summons his compadres at the LAPD – with one Lieutenant Columbo amongst the investigation team.
It looks like the ‘Bel Air Burglar’ has struck for the fourth time in 2 weeks, this time adding murder to his usual thievery. But Columbo, at least, is making no assumptions. He alone notices that Janice had left a night gown below her pillow, so requests a colleague to search for her fingerprints on the handles of her wardrobe. Little things are bothering him from the get-go.
“It looks for all the world like the ‘Bel Air Burglar’ has struck for the fourth time in 2 weeks.”
At a press conference the next day, Halperin plays into the hysteria surrounding the Bel Air Burglar, promising to double regular patrols and even get helicopter recon on the go to ensure the city’s wealthiest feel adequately protected.
He drops a clanger, though, when he references that his wife was with him when he saw the perp galloping from the Caldwell house. As a journo bellows “Does this mean your wife can identify the killer?”, a seemingly agitated Halperin bustles off stage.
Someone unimpressed with the press conference is the real Bel Air Burglar, Artie Jessup. He’s watching from his favourite slum bar and is far from pleased to have been incriminated in such amateurish work. We soon see why, as a fence comes to meet Jessup but refuses to take his wares because of the ‘heat’ now surrounding him. With even fellow low-lives suspecting him, Jessup is going to have his work cut out making ends.
Columbo’s investigations, meanwhile, have taken him to the Halperin household, where his unexpected arrival causes a gardening Mrs Halperin to tear her jacket on a rose thorn. She does tell the detective that she knew of Janice’s fling with a younger man, but confirms that she did not see the perp making his escape, despite what her husband said in the press conference.
Next stop for the Lieutenant is Caldwell’s home where Hugh is moping. Columbo has discovered that there were no fingerprints on the handles of Janice’s wardrobe. So how come she was in a night gown rather than the red dress Hugh last saw her in?
Hugh has the answer. Janice always kept her night gown under the pillow, so she’d have had no reason to open to wardrobe. This detail that only a husband would know appears to put Hugh in the clear, but Columbo knows the under-pillow night gown wasn’t touched. The lack of fingerprints on the phone trouble him, too. If Janice spoke to her husband at 10.30pm, her prints should be on it.
Things are falling into place for Halperin, though. He’s going to be airborne that night on helicopter patrol so has to ensure his evil scheme comes to fruition. Back at home he encounters a coy Margaret in the bath. She asks him to leave, but he coos some sweet nothings at her to keep her keen. “Have I told you recently darling that our marriage has been a constant joy to me?” he says before gripping her neck and pushing her under the water to commit the quickest death-by-drowning ever seen on TV.
It’s a shocking crime, but if the viewer thinks it was done in the heat of the moment we’re soon proved wrong. Halperin heads to the funeral parlour to see Hugh (and pay last respects to Janice). The simpering Hugh is full of thanks to Halperin for helping him clear up this little mess. “If there’s anything I can ever do for you…” he offers. “There is my friend… tonight,” is Halperin’s ashen-faced response.
He reveals all to the bewildered Hugh. Halperin just drowned his wife and wants to set it up so the world thinks the Bel Air Burglar did it. If Hugh doesn’t help, then Halperin will personally see to it that he goes down for life. That’s friendship, baby!
The fiendish scheme plays out from the air, as Halperin swoops above the Bel Air roof tops in the police chopper. As he passes over his own home, he claims to notice someone lurking by his wife’s car. The chopper loops around and trains its searchlight on the Halperin homestead – revealing the chilling sight of a man (i.e. Hugh Caldwell) in a stocking mask carrying a limp form in his arms, which he casually lobs into the swimming pool!
As the perp dashes away, Halperin adopts the role of all-action hero, leaping into the pool from the hovering chopper and delivering mouth-to-mouth in a desperate bid to resuscitate dear Margaret – a bid doomed to fail given that she’s been stone dead for hours!
Columbo is called in. He inspects the corpse and is stunned to find that Mrs Halperin is wearing the same torn jacket that she was wearing in the garden earlier. Why is this important? She was due out that evening to pick up an award in recognition of her charitable work. There’s no way she’d have worn a torn jacket to such an important occasion.
“Columbo is increasingly sure that Hugh and Halperin are in on it together but how can he prove it with his own boss breathing down his neck?”
Halperin, meanwhile, appears gripped with rage and sadness. He’s blaming his slip of the tongue at the press conference for Margaret’s death. For his part, Columbo is bewildered why the killer would return to the area so quickly. It’s another thing that doesn’t add up.
The subsequent coroner’s report gives Columbo more reason for suspicion. An autopsy reveals that Margaret has soap in her lungs. She wouldn’t have got that from drowning in the pool, but could have if she was drowned in the bath.
Columbo is increasingly sure that Hugh and Halperin are in on it together but how can he prove it with his own boss breathing down his neck? Halperin is siding with the robbery division’s version of events that the Bel Air Burglar has gone rogue and orders Columbo to follow up on that angle.
The dutiful Columbo does just that, visiting his opposite number Lieutenant Duffy in robbery. If it weren’t for the murders who would Duffy pin this on, Columbo asks? Easy, says Duffy. Artie Jessup every time. So Columbo sidles off to Jessup’s favourite dive bar to enlist his help.
Jessup is initially skeptical, of course. When Columbo flips the badge, the burly crook goes ape. But in a great example of his every man charm, Columbo defuses the situation and soon has an ally in his fight to take down Halperin and Hugh.
We soon find out what form of help this is as Hugh reports to Halperin that he’s been approached by Jessup, who is demanding money to keep his mouth shut about Hugh killing Janice. Halperin insists that Hugh finds out what Jessup knows, so dressed conspicuously in a sharp suit and huge 70s shades, Hugh scats off to the rendezvous – looking like the least believable dive bar patron of all time.
Jessup says that unless Hugh pays him $5000 he’ll admit to the first three burglaries, but will deny killing Janice. Jessup will be quite happy to return to jail, where he’s spent most of the last 20 years anyway, but the focus of the investigation will switch firmly to Hugh. Halperin orders a rattled Hugh to play along with the jewel thief’s demands.
Back at police HQ, Halperin finds Columbo looking through the files of his chief suspects – including Jessup. Feigning indifference, Halperin steals a peek at the address in Jessup’s file, then scarpers to take advantage of this new opportunity. Retrieving the stolen jewels form his garage, Halperin (hat all a-jaunty again) pays a visit to a grimy apartment block in one of LA’s less distinguished districts – the address in Jessup’s file. Using a credit card to force the lock, Halperin plants the jewels and beats a hasty retreat.
Cut back to Jessup’s watering hole. Hugh has returned with the cash and Jessup tells him it’ll do nicely as the first down payment. He’ll be in touch about the next one in due course. Then before you can say ‘by heck Hugh, you look out of place here‘, a gaggle of cops dash in and slap the darbies on Jessup.
Halperin, Columbo and Duffy are amongst the officers on scene, and it’s the Commissioner himself who whips out a warrant and tells Jessup they’re off to his apartment in search of evidence. Columbo gives the warrant a once over and tells the Commissioner he’s making a mistake, but Halperin won’t hear a word of it and the entourage troops off to the shabby apartment.
As officers start turning the place upside down, Columbo again tries to convince Halperin he’s making a mistake. But he then turns the screw, and references that he believes Mrs Halperin died in her bath tub, not in the pool. She likely died much earlier than initially though, too – around the time Halperin himself went home for supper that same day. “Commisioner, I believe you killed your wife, and I believe you either killed Janice Caldwell or you’re covering up for it,” he concludes.
Turning slowly to face him, Halperin’s response is his last play at staying in charge. “You just lost your badge, my friend,” he calmly retorts.
There’s a commotion behind the two men. Looks like some of Janice Caldwell’s missing jewels have been found! It’s the proof Halperin needs to have Jessup locked up. Or is it? Jessup snorts when told that the stolen jewels have been found in his apartment, and rocks the Commissioner when he snaps back: “Hey man, I don’t even live here!”
In the shocked silence that follows, it’s Columbo who speaks up. “That’s true, sir, I can attest to that. He doesn’t live here, I live here.”
Columbo, you see, had signed the lease on the place just that morning. He slipped the address into Jessup’s file. And who took a glimpse at that file? “Only one person besides myself knew this address,” Columbo says to his superior officer. “That was you, sir.”
Comprehensively outmanoeuvred, Halperin can only offer a silent nod of resignation as credits roll…
A Friend in Deed‘s best moment: good cop/bad cop?
The episode’s greatest triumph is the portrayal of central antagonist, Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin. When we first meet Halperin he’s cavorting with a scarlet-clad woman and gambling in a vice den. There’s something of the devil in his looks and actions and note the clever use of mirrors, suggestive of a man with dual identities and a shadowy alter ego.
Given that we know Columbo represents all that is good about policing, this magnificent introduction sets the stall out early that Commissioner Halperin is a man we can neither like nor trust. And so it proves in riveting fashion.
My opinion on A Friend in Deed
A dark and brooding tale of police corruption, cover-up and murder, A Friend In Deed is an episode apart in many ways – and is an entirely successful addition to the series.
I’ve often said that Columbo is at its best when it’s able to play on Falk’s natural warmth and comic timing to ally gripping mysteries with plenty of laughs. A Friend in Deed turns that ideology on its head, delivering a gritty, almost entirely humour-free police drama that the viewer cannot take their eyes off.
Richard Kiley’s portrayal of our chief antagonist is central to the success of the episode. His Commissioner Halperin is absolutely unscrupulous, selling out his supposed friend, his ideals and the badge he’s sworn to protect in order to secure his wife’s millions. We’ve not seen such single-minded villainy since Leonard Nimoy’s icy Dr Mayfield in A Stitch in Crime. Halperin plays for high stakes and is a very dangerous enemy – ingredients that make his ultimate downfall in one of the series’ best ever gotcha moments extra satisfying.
Halperin is an interesting study. It’s as if he’s become bored of being a good guy, so no longer bothers to try. He clearly doesn’t give a fig for anything other than his wife’s riches and scorns her charitable, philanthropic interests, at one point saying: “Darling, if you’re embarrassed by all your millions, why don’t you just sign them over to me? They wouldn’t embarrass me in the least.”
We can only wonder how long Halperin had been planning to do away with poor, unloved Margaret. Evidently some time given his wholehearted embrace of Hugh’s crisis moment and how swiftly he turned it to his advantage. He deserves credit for his speed of thought, if nothing else, in turning a neighbour’s misfortune into his own opportunity to trouser a $4.5 million fortune.
“Is it conceivable that a senior officer would be unaware of Columbo’s amazing track record?”
That said, despite being a smart operator and quick thinker, there must be some question marks over Halperin’s judgement. For one thing, is it conceivable that a senior officer would be unaware of Columbo’s amazing track record? After all, the Lieutenant was described as ‘fast becoming a legend in the department‘ only a year earlier. There are plenty of bungling homicide officers Halperin could have called in to investigate instead to maximise his chances of success. Selecting Columbo smacks of either indifference or uber-confidence.
Does he underestimate Columbo like so many others have done in the past? If so, that’s a desperately poor play. Maybe his arrogance is such that he didn’t consider anyone on the force his mental equal. He certainly seems to hold the LAPD in low esteem on the whole and was not expecting the thorough investigation and inquisitive mind Columbo brought to proceedings. Maybe he neglected to read up on the Hayward Case?
One might also question Halperin’s choice of partner in crime. Hugh is far too lily-livered to rely on. He’s the weak link and Halperin must have known it. Maybe his next step would have been to kill Hugh and make it look like a suicide? Given Halperin’s lack of scruples I wouldn’t be surprised, but alas we’ll never know. Certainly hapless Hugh will turn on Halperin to save his own skin. Oh to be a fly on the wall at their future courtroom encounter!
Kiley isn’t the only example of perfect casting. Step forward Val Avery as Artie Jessup. Avery made a living playing petty thugs on the small and large screen and he’s really wonderful in this, giving us menace, combustibility and a ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude that grounds the character in a grubby reality.
And that reality is a side of Columbo we seldom see. We’re so used to seeing the Lieutenant in high society circles that it’s almost more difficult to picture him mixing with the city’s underbelly – despite his scruffy appearance. But that’s what we get in A Friend in Deed, and it doesn’t hurt the episode one bit. In fact it’s fascinating to see how Columbo interacts with Jessup and the ease in which he wins the con’s trust and, ultimately, his complaisance.
Of all episodes, this is probably the one where we see the ‘real’ Lieutenant the most, as he eschews his veneer of bumbling and confusion to cut to the chase, showing a strength of character and a grittier aspect of his personality that is usually kept hidden. His take down of Halperin requires guts and self-assurance in equal measure, but he doesn’t blink when going eye-to-eye against his superior.
This thrilling confrontation helps keep the viewer transfixed for nigh on 100 minutes of spellbinding action. Regular readers will know that the thorny subject of Columbo episode running times is a theme I return to time and again. As a rule, I believe longer episodes (95+ minutes without ads) are inferior to the shorter, 75-minute episodes, due to merciless padding of scenes that can take the edge off an otherwise cracking yarn.
A Friend in Deed bucks that trend handsomely becoming the first episode since Ransom for a Dead Man that really justifies a longer running time. Its deep, complex plot just couldn’t be shoehorned into 75 minutes. My episode summary above actually misses out a number of salient plot points simply to keep it to a readable length.
“There was a lot of money spent on this episode, and it was money well spent.”
All credit, then, to director Ben Gazzara and writer Peter S. Fischer, who didn’t waste a minute of screen time. Gazzara in particular impresses because, being one of Falk’s best friends, it would have been easy to lapse into indulgence and lose the sharp edge of the drama. That never threatens to occur here. That he returned to direct Troubled Waters a year later – an episode full of fun, and a polar opposite to this – speaks volumes about his abilities.
Fischer, meanwhile, was establishing himself as the Columbo writer of the day. He was introduced to the series in the similarly excellent (and complex) Publish or Perish earlier in the season, and was swiftly into his stride. I nominally prefer Publish, but Fischer really aced the ending here in a way that eluded him in his previous outing.
I also enjoy that A Friend in Deed feels like a big deal. There’s a lot of location shooting and, wonder of wonders, some actual action sequences! Columbo‘s such a talkie show that it rarely relies on action set pieces, but here we have two to write home about in a single episode: the exciting police bust at Jessup’s bar and Halperin’s glorious ‘man-leaps-from-helicopter-into-swimming-pool’ stunt. There was a lot of money spent on this episode, and it was money well spent.
So are there any weaknesses? None to speak of, other than the aforementioned and hard-to-explain lapses in Halperin’s judgement. Some might find it a shade too dark to easily stomach, and there’s none of the levity that Falk is usually able to bring to proceedings. What humour there is is largely restricted to the Lieutenant’s trials and tribulations with his car, which is more unreliable than ever. That aside, it’s all played with a very straight face. This is what Columbo would be if it was a gritty police drama. And it works.
If every episode was as dark and humourless as this it’s unlikely that Columbo would have been such an enduringly popular show. But as a one-off, A Friend in Deed has great impact and easily rates as one of the series’ stand-out adventures.
Did you know?
A Friend in Deed was one of a series of Columbo episodes (along with Ransom for a Dead Man, Etude in Black and Dagger of the Mind) to be released theatrically in Italy in the late 1970s.
Un Amico Da Salvare opened in Italian cinemas on 12th December 1978 and was accompanied by the pictured, ultra-cool movie poster. The chessboard design means fans often mistake it for an Italian version of The Most Dangerous Match.
Various guises of the poster can be found relatively easily on eBay at not too high a price, so if there’s a gap on your living room wall, why not have a look?
How I rate ’em
With virtually no weaknesses, A Friend in Deed is brilliant television and rightly takes its place in the top echelons of the leaderboard, with very little to separate it from the episodes I currently rank above it.
Read any of my past episode reviews via the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Publish or Perish
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- A Friend in Deed
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Double Exposure
- Lady in Waiting
- Any Old Port in a Storm
- Prescription: Murder
- Swan Song
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- Candidate for Crime
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Lovely but Lethal
- Short Fuse
- Mind Over Mayhem
- Dagger of the Mind
How do you rate this dark departure from the Columbo norm? I’d love to know, so leave your comments below. And if you heart A Friend in Deed above all others, do consider voting for it in the Columbo fans’ favourite episode poll.
That’s a wrap for Season 3, so the next review will be Season 4 curtain-raiser An Exercise in Fatality, starring the beefcake-tastic Robert Conrad. See you there…
Columbo should tram up with the old lag burglar, jessop more often. A very convincing an effective crime busting team! 😉
Cracking breakdown/review, thanks for this. I’d add the following. For most any movie/TV show, there have to be plot supporting scenes that aren’t that interesting per se. These can kill a procedural drama. Not in this episode, such as the brief but telling interval where Columbo pays a routine visit Mrs. Caldwell’s groovy football player looking boytoy Charlie, a car salesman. Looks like some quality Caddies and Buicks on the lot, but the office may have acquired these shadily or perhaps some other dealership shenanigans going on, per Charlie. In any event, Chuckie digs and complements Lt. Colombo’s knock-kneed unicorn Peugeot which looks freshly washed and waxed for the first time ever, which is probably the first and only praise ever heaped onscreen for the entire series’ most iconic prop other than the dowdy overcoat (the Peugeot takes that prize in my opinion, but certainly up for debate). I digress. The questioning of Charlie is quick and to the point, and the answers which indicate a 930 pm phone call to Mrs. Caldwell are all the Lieutenant needs to proceed with his literally career-gambling investigation. The players now have their hands and it’s time to start the betting. It is a humble but critical hinge point of the episode, set amidst late-model Olds and Plymouths, dialogue is 100% on point and believable. What delivers this scene is Colombo’s hardened resolve, straightfaced just-the-facts-sir minus the Joe Friday connotations, and no need to check alibis. Now the pieces fit in his mind but there is no change of tempo or timbre. Because he doesn’t roll the dice with stogies and hotties like his boss at some gaudy private club, counting on luck and outright swagger; Colombo is the seasoned cardplayer who obtains facts to build a winning hand, out there on a used car lot talking to a bit player, he sees the bluff, doubles down and bets accordingly the rest of the show in order to win the hand. If you can see Falk’s expression change at this key development, you’re a better poker player than I. But it’s there.
Still is and always will be my favourite Columbo. And its by some distance from ‘Suitable for Framing’ and then ‘Make Me a Perfect Murder’
Probably one of the best written Columbo episodes and has a really clever ending. There are only a few i like more than this one.
Maybe someone can help…I can’t follow the plot line with the glass ring. Caldwell wasn’t supposed to know it was glass. Columbo couldn’t tell, but Halperin must have been able to because he didn’t take it. Jessup could tell, so presumably he wouldn’t have taken it either.
So why does Columbo spend so much time on it? Other than to establish that Mrs. Caldwell was selling her jewels for money?
FWIW, the side diamonds and the gold in the band would make it worth a little, but maybe not enough to interest Jessup, and it would be very easy to tell a 3.6 ct glass diamond from the real thing, at least if you knew what to look for. I wouldn’t expect it to fool even Caldwell because he would have seen it a 1000 times. None of the diamond substitutes available then were convincing.
Halperin wasn’t able to tell that it was glass—he didn’t take it because he wasn’t actually robbing the Caldwell house, he just raided Janice’s jewelry box to make it look like a robbery-gone-wrong. He forgot to take the ring because he wasn’t thinking about it when he was preparing the corpse.
The point of establishing that she was selling her jewels for money is to show that the “robbery” wasn’t committed by an actual experienced jewel thief like Jessup. *All* of her jewelry was fake, not just the ring, but Halperin took it anyways because he couldn’t tell, whereas if the crime were committed by a real jewel thief they probably wouldn’t have bothered to snatch all the jewelry because they’d be able to instantly tell that most of it was glass, they’d have just taken the ones that were real.
Weirdly enough, Columbo never actually brings this up to Halperin (he tries to, but he ends up not following through, and he never brings it up again) so it’s easy to miss, I think. But basically the point of that whole subplot was Columbo figuring out for sure that it wasn’t Jessup or any other real jewel thief, it was someone trying to pretend to be a jewel thief.
Because it addresses this very point, let me repost here a comment I made three months ago under the “Five best moment” in AFID article:
There’s one very subtle moment I’ve never seen discussed. It’s not even in Peter S. Fischer’s script (dated Jan. 3, 1974, shortly before shooting began). At the end of the Halperin-Columbo scene at Halperin’s house (right before Columbo gets the radio call about the soap in Margaret Halperin’s lungs), as Halperin and Columbo are standing at the door, Columbo starts to tell Halperin about his meeting with jeweler Bruno Wexler (“Sir, in that connection, I spoke to a Mr. Wexler today —“), stops abruptly, says: “Well, you’re tired. It’s not important. Good night, sir,” and leaves. [In Fischer’s script, there is an entirely different exchange at the door. Columbo tells Halperin, “I certainly admire your courage, sir.” “Courage?” “Yes, sir. Because if I’m right — if it is somebody you know — you’re in a lot of danger yourself.” “Yes, I suppose I would be — if you were right,” Halperin responds.]
Why did Columbo stop? Was that the moment that he conceived of the plan to lure Halperin into planting Janice Caldwell’s jewelry to incriminate the “burglar”? That if he told Halperin “in that connection” (with Halperin’s burglary theory) that all the Caldwell jewelry was fake and thus not something a professional burglar would steal, Halperin might never plant it on a well-known thief?
We know from his lecture in “Columbo Goes to College” that Columbo believes: “Don’t talk too much. … Sometimes when you know something, it’s better to keep it to yourself. You don’t have to blab everything right away. Wait. Who knows what will happen?” Perhaps he was remembering that moment at the Deputy Commissioner’s front door.
Although things looked bad for the Commissioner at the end of this story, he had a very good lawyer: Hugh Creighton, a high-priced murder defense lawyer who famously never lost a case. At the Commissioner’s trial, Creighton suggested that Columbo himself planted the jewels to attempt to falsely incriminate the Commissioner since Columbo was the person who actually changed Artie Jesup’s address. Creighton made a big deal about Columbo creating false police records and suggested that Columbo was just trying to advance his career by falsely incriminating the Commissioner, who Creighton described as an honest, decent, and hardworking public official and an excellent backgammon player. Apparently, this was sufficient to raise reasonable doubt, and the jury returned a not guilty verdict. Afterward, the Commissioner went on to have a hugely successful career performing in musicals, as shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J4WtKSokvs.
Why didnt the police helicopter continue to chase the masked intruder AFTER richard kiley jumped about 3 feet into a swimming pool of about 90cm hardl j ames bond wouldnt the choper have continued to chase the maked intruder after hslperin jumped off yet this is never an issue how can you drown somebody in less than a minute in a bath tub mostly full of suds that as always botherd me and being a top police dog leave so many clues fliating
espeically as the area was so rich and suburban in what was supposedly west los angeles i think a friend in deed is an overated 70s episode please prove me otherwise
It alsobothers me how quickly how columbo could have set up the sting operation putting in his own furniture and personal items including his underwear in timeband then halperin being able to acsess the flat whith a plastic card of some type all in a very convineient time slot it seems to fit the episode e very nicely nut cp says it has no weakneeses i will take his word for it
It was a furnished room, like most grubby apartments in 1977, and the lock opened with a credit card. Most 1977 locks still did.
As for the underwear, maybe Mrs. Columbo dropped it off.
So in the 1970s, anyone could just break into anyone else’s home simply by using a credit card?
Yes, at least according to decades of TV and movies. IIRC on another 1970s detective show they called it “loiding” (from “celluloid”), a term I’d never heard before I saw that episode of that show, but which a Google search reveals is in fact a real word.
I once lived in an apartment that I could break into using a credit card. The trick doesn’t work on deadbolts so it’s not like every door in the 70s/80s was vulnerable. I assume most houses and businesses used proper or multiple locking mechanisms. However, it’s slightly believable for TV purposes that even a fancy estate may have one loosely protected side door somewhere.
Opinions, the last time I checked, require no proof. Asking Columbo fans to prove why they love an episode is pointless. You certainly have your opinion. There’s no need for any “proving” when it comes to loving or hating an episode.
A fabulous episode. Yes there are flaws, but there isn’t a TV show out there that is flawless. As Columbophile points out Kiley has a bit of the devil in him. Rather like Robert DeNiro in Angel Heart. And the ending is one of the very best. Certainly in my top 10, and probably top 5.
I think its worth noting the scene where police are milling around Mrs Halperin’s bedroom. A young black man comes to pick her up for the charity event, and two detectives intermediately start to hassle him about the murder. Columbo sternly puts a stop to this and orders a patrolmen to drive the man back. Columbo as a series is rightly critiqued for being short on social justice awareness, but this scene is great insight to Columbo the character who won’t tolerate police misbehavior on his watch.
Indeed. And likewise, without the racial component, was his rescuing of and compassion toward Dolan “the wino” from the impatient patrolman. The detective whom you allude to is my least-favorite character in all the “Columbo” episodes, remarkable given his limited screen time. But literally everything that comes out of his mouth has some repellent quality, beginning with “Good looking broad except for the marks around her neck” to even his aggressive “Yeah! Yeah!” when being called away. He was a young-looking detective in the early ’70s, so it’s fair to imagine he was a patrolman chasing down and beating on hippies and minorities in the sixties.
Good point about protecting Vito scotti too! Sure were a boatload of shifty cops in that episode including the deputy commissioner!!
It’s a good episode, but hardly in my top 10 – mainly because it’s so unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, there’re clever bits and pieces throughout the whole story, but right from the start it’s a stretch that Halperin would cover his friend in a murder, show himself at the crime scene, remove evidence etc. For what? Only so that he could later ask the favor back? Don Vito Corleone wouldn’t do that, let alone the police commissioner!
I think the episode would work better with only one murder – that of Halperin’s wife from the start. The second thing that slightly bothered me is Halperin’s unrealistic rude attitude toward Columbo’s theories right when the investigation starts. Instead of saying something like: Yeah, Columbo, check that also, but focus on Cat Burglar, he’s our main suspect, he puts Lt. down by saying “Do you have more of those fancy guesses?”. I know it’s a complex relationship, with Columbo investigating the murder, and one of the suspects is his superior – but acting like this, Halpering only doomed himself from the start by rising suspicion in Columbo’s eyes.
Plus, wouldn’t he know Columbo’s reputation?
Well, the power must have gotten to his head. Many people lose it in real life, once in positions of power, they think nothing can get to them. Not saying I think it’s 100% possible, just “Myth plausible”, maybe with some tweaks. Don’t you know cases like this in real life, people doing stupid things in exalted emotional states, in positions that separate them from reality? Also the guy likes gambling and risk. He must’ve spotted the opportunity for an alibi for himself, with the possibility of killing off his friend if needed.
What I was shocked when I first saw the ep was how Columbo kept delaying his report, which gave him an excuse to keep pestering the commissioner. I would have assumed he could hurry him to put down whatever limited conclusions he had and lead the investigation to his desired end.
While I love this episode, I always chuckle at the quickest drowning in television history.
Disagree totally. With the exception of calling Columbo in to investigate the crime even before it was a homicide and the fact that Columbo was the sharpest detective on the force, the rest is not only quite believable but scary to think what corrupt people in high places can get away with. Also, this may be the single strongest ending in all of Columbo
Nor do I find the fact that Halperin called Columbo before he knew it was indeed a homicide a mistake. Because Halperin would have called Caldwell’s house and no one answered. If he claimed to have seen a suspect coming out of the house, and soon after, when he called, no one answered, he might suspect that the woman was dead.
I suggest you read my previous comments from last year. There are a number of other goofs and unrealistic aspects of the plot and of Haplerin’s actions besides just him calling for Columbo.
Probably my favorite gotcha in the whole series. Kiley was just incredible, and what a voice! (Spared no expense…get it?)
Still, I wonder about the logic of dumping the body in the pool. Why bother? Would it not be plausible that the Beverly Hills burglar/murderer simply drowned Margaret in the tub? It might not make a ton of sense (why not use a gun, knife, or club?) but it certainly doesn’t make any less sense than dumping the body in the pool, running a very high risk of getting caught (police were already canvassing the area). Yes, that gave Halperin an opportunity to establish an alibi and to look awesome jumping out of a chopper, but from the perspective of the supposed burglar, either he killed Margaret elsewhere and tossed her in the pool…why? Or she was still alive and rather than dispatch her right where she was, he tosses her in the pool. Neither scenario makes sense. Either way it is not going to look like an accident: she wasn’t drunk or struck over the head, or even in a bathing suit.
But once again, the killers always over-think their crimes.
My only other nitpick was Hugh’s wife’s habit of putting a nightgown under her pillow. Maybe I am way off, but who does that? Why wouldn’t one just hang it up in the closet which is just as easy or easier than folding it up and placing it under the pillow? Any nightgown wearers want to chime in? Maybe it is (or was) a common thing but outside this episode I’ve never heard of such a thing.
I do it sometimes. Put my nightclothes under the pillow.
As a kid, my mother told me to fold my nightgown and put it under my pillow. I think this was fairly common but it was a long time ago.
I still place my night clothes under my pillow. Lol
To me, this is an episode in which it feels as if the title (A Friend In Deed) came first, and then the show was written around that title. The episode would have been fine without the first murder and would have given Kiley’s character a more credible excuse for the murder of his own wife, her millions for his gambling debts or to indulge a mistress. That first murder makes it seem as if Halperin commits the deed against his own wife just so he can give his FRIEND a cover for the murder of HIS wife. It’s rather circular. It’s also hard to believe a police commissioner would be wacky enough to alibi a friend’s heinous act, murder his own wife in a soapy bathtub, and not be aware that soap in the lungs would show up during an autopsy. Having said that, I did like Kiley’s performance as the maniacal villain. And, I don’t know if anyone else said this, although Halperin didn’t kill his friend’s wife, I really wanted him to say to Caldwell at the funeral home “I did yours; now you do mine. Criss-cross.” But I had to settle for ‘quid pro quo.’
My thought is that this episode was a take on Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” Not exactly the same, but a similar concept.
Am I the only one who noticed he actually said “quid quo pro”?
(I haven’t read all the comments yet, so I’m going to say yes.)
Yes, I watched this today and noticed the “quid quo pro” also.
Loved it & Kikey’s performance.
A question: what did Hugh do for a living? Did they ever mention it?
I haven’t read all the comments, but did anyone notice that in the funeral parlor Halperin says “quid quo pro” instead of “quid pro quo”?
I haven’t time to read through all 157 comments, so maybe someone else pointed this out. When Columbo arrives at Halperin’s house to talk to his wife, we see him come down the street, turn at the intersection without even slowing down, and pull into the driveway. But he totally blew through the stop sign. Later when he visits the jewelers, he parks on the street in a long no-parking zone (red curb), then jay-walks across the street, even though he’s already nearly at the corner.
However, I still enjoyed the episode. It was very well-written with a great ending.
I did notice the stop sign blow through. What I found a little distracting was how the helicopter kept changing in the famous pool scene.
Neither detail really matters, though, in a great episode. Continuity errors are just a side game.
Yes noticed the chopper myself. It was a little distracting to me anyway.
This is one of my favourite episodes, if not THE favourite episode, and it’s in large part thanks to Richard Kiley. He’s just fantastic as the outwardly respectable, but quietly tough and just evil, evil man. He’s composed, confident and very attractive* while being despicably cynical (“don’t lecture me on ex cons”) and horribly scheming. Calling a whole press conference just so you can then explain away a burglar killing his wife? Brr.
The trap Columbo springs on Halperin in the end is just so quintessentially Columbo-ish, with the dingy apartment and the “MY brother in law” line. It’s exactly the kind of thing the commissioner would have never thought about. Hell, he probably doesn’t even know how do you rent a place like that. So I’m willing to forgive the fact that, as someone has mentioned above, it doesn’t actually prove that Halperin killed his wife at all – at most it proves some kind of involvement in the Janice Caldwell case.
I also have to wonder, what was the public supposed to think about the “burlgar” throwing Margaret into the pool. We know it was to cover up her earlier drowning in the bath, but were people supposed to think the guy just grabbed a woman and threw her into the pool, hoping she’d drown? Was that the best he had? She was all limp in his arms, so is the public to assume she just fainted at the sight of him? That part is a bit weird. It would have worked much better if Halperin had whacked his wife on the head first. Then the burglar would be assumed to have hit her and then, unsure if she’s really dead, used the pool to make sure. But the bath scene is better without any whacking, so there’s that.
As for the commissioner assigning Columbo to the case, I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again – it’s precisely because he knows Columbo is the best that he has to assign him. He can’t risk people asking why doesn’t he want the absolute best man tracking the murderer of his own wife, for gods’ sakes.
[*which is important, in a visual medium – one of my other favourites, “Candidate for Crime” suffers quite a bit, in my opinion, from giving us a comical, misshapen person with the face like an old walnut, and trying to present him as the target of immense passion of two beautiful, driven women.]
An excellent analysis, and thank you for pointing out that the female audience deserves a little eye candy as well. We don’t get nearly enough in this show in comparison to all the nubile young women that our male members love to salivate over. I suppose you can count Robert Conrad, though he doesn’t do much for me. I prefer, for example, the Patricks, O’Neal and McGoohan, who are sophisticated, smooth, urbane, and handsome. Also Robert Vaughn and Louis Jourdan. Any other women here have nominations for favorite Columbo male to look at?
Definitely Robert Vaughn. From the second series, handsomest murderer nominees are Patrick Bauchau, Ian Buchanan, Andrew Stevens, George Hamilton, Greg Evigan, and David Rasche.
Andrew Stevens started in more than a few soft-core porns (think Shannon Tweed) in the 90s. Despite now being in my 40s, I’d still choose to sit through any of those trash flicks over Murder in Malibu.
You forgot to mention Louis Jourdan. He too seemed to have been an archetypical ladies’ man type.
True! Louis Jourdan was charismatic in his episode of “Columbo.”
Robert Conrad deserves a mention for the objectively impressive physique, but the plot, in a strange way, sort of undermines that. I don’t really know how to phrase it very well. It’s just so focused on his fitness-coach career that it’s kind of trying too hard.
Robert Vaughn doesn’t do much for me, but Louis Jourdain definitely does (in fact, “Murder Under Glass” is also among my favourites, and I disagree with CP on it in many points, but that’s irrelevant now). And so does George Hamilton in his nicely-suggestive turtleneck, despite his dated haircut and overall unfashionable features (because there’s trends in men’s looks same as in everything else). I’m very partial to McGoohan’s Nelson Brenner, whom I find hypnotising in a weird way (“You have. The wrong room.”) but to be completely frank, there’s something about Kiley’s Halperin that just gets right under my skin. Maybe it’s the evil goatee (I’m partial to facial hair) or the disdainful smirk, or the way he kisses women’s hands twice in the episode, which is quite risque for Columbo. It’s certainly the confidence, and possibly (and alarmingly) the way he rolls up his sleeves in the bathroom scene. You know, right before he gets to murderin’.
“Gets under my skin” in a good way, I mean.
Sorry, English is not my first language and I sometimes trip over idioms like this (even though I consider myself to be pretty damn proficient).
I was actually surprised when I read in the blog post the claim that Halperin “selected” Columbo for the case. I wasn’t previously aware that he had done that. I assumed Columbo was always the default investigator for such cases; nobody had to ‘select’ him. But upon reflection, I realized that Halperin had said he had called for Columbo first thing as soon as he could. However, I should point out that that doesn’t necessarily mean that Halperin had any choice in “selecting” Columbo. It’s possible that Columbo was the only person to call by default. Besides, it seems rather evident that Halperin really had no choice in the matter because if he had then he would have gotten rid of Columbo by assigning him to a different case since he was so desperate for him to stop pursuing the line of investigation he was pursuing.
But let’s, for a moment, go with the assumption that it was Halperin’s choice whether Columbo got on the case or not. If so, you are correct in saying that calling for the best man for the job seems like the natural thing for him to do since to not do that would have raised suspicions. However, I am still inclined to agree with Columbophile that it would have been better for him to assign someone else instead. Given that the crime was an apparent and obvious robbery and that everyone (except Columbo) took for granted that the burglar had committed the crime, Halperin could simply say that it would be a waste of Columbo’s time to assign him to such a trivial and petty case; one involving mere burglary. Therefore it makes sense for him to simply assign a more regular detective and let Columbo work on more serious cases. That takes care of it! And even if there is a risk of Columbo’s suspicions being raised, it would be FAR LESS than the risk of having a notoriously sharp and dangerous detective like Columbo actually being on the case, especially since he wanted to commit another murder on top of it. That would have been much worse, as indeed we saw. Besides, without evidence, no one could prove anything; and if Columbo wasn’t on the case, he would not have been able to get the evidence required that enabled him to prove what actually happened.
Nevertheless, there are other, even more serious and absurd, decisions and lapses of judgment on Halperin’s part that Columbophile failed to mention. I was also surprised at some of the important elements of the episode that he left out: Like the fact that the commissioner (Halperin) was trying the whole time to manipulate and pressure Columbo into going the direction of investigation that HE wanted, and AWAY from the other (uncomfortable) direction that Columbo was going. As well as the comic-ness and hilarity of the whole thing. I found it very surprising that the article made no mention whatsoever of this interesting interplay between the two men.
That whole thing about Caldwell throwing Margaret’s limp body into the pool (as the helicopter was approaching) made no sense, as you so rightly pointed out. There wasn’t even any movement of the woman’s body at all when she was face-down in the pool, which hardly makes sense if she was drowning. Of course, I realize it is just a tv movie and they have to contrive the plot so as to get the outcome that they want. If it were real life, however, it would have made far more sense, and would have been far more effective, if Halperin had simply left Margaret’s body in the bathtub and told his friend to lurk around the yard or pool area until the helicopter comes and make sure he is seen by the helicopter before he runs away. That way, it would have looked like the burglar killed Margaret in the bathroom while scouring the house and then went out to the yard before been made to flee by the copter. That would have canceled out all that stuff about the torn jacket sleeve and the incongruity of soap being in her lungs even though she allegedly dies in a pool. Speaking of which, shouldn’t Halperin have known that an autopsy of his wife’s body would have shown that she drowned of soap water?? That’s another rather nonsensical aspect of the plot, and one of the most glaring.
Also, I find the whole thing about the lack of fingerprints on the Caldwells’ phone and the door handle of her wardrobe due to the fact that the maid had cleaned every single thing in the entire house a little too ridiculously convenient. I mean, how many maids actually clean houses in such a thorough and spotless manner, wiping every single inch? What is the point of wiping the door handle of a bedroom closet? And don’t get me started on that stuff about Columbo conveniently discovering the nightgown when he looks under the pillow despite him having no reason whatsoever to do that. How the hell does he know that anything would be under that pillow? And what if Janice Caldwell hadn’t had such an odd practice of placing her nightgown there hours before she actually uses it? And what is the point of her even doing that when she can just take it from the closet when she actually wants to wear it? Like i said, I understand that it’s TV fiction and that the writers have to contrive things so as to meet a certain objective. But sometimes the conveniences and coincidences are just a little too eye-rolling for me.
By the way, has anyone else noticed that the burglar’s supposed ‘motive’ for killing Margaret – because he thought she saw him the night before running from the Caldwell house – does not make any sense whatsoever! Even if he kills her, what about her husband, Halperin, who ALSO saw him?? And how on earth could they even identify him when he was a long distance away in the dark and obviously wearing a face mask and dark clothes? How could they possibly ‘identify’ him? Why would a burglar go to a police commissioner’s house to murder his wife for such a flimsy and pointless reason? And what a HUGE risk to take for virtually no reason at all! Any police officer with half a brain should have smelled a rat. It shouldn’t take a Columbo to suspect that something fishy is going on here. Then again, it has always been a necessity in detective fiction to make the regular police officers surrounding the hero to be utter dunces with few brain cells.
Well, this is why suspension-of-disbelief is necessary in order to enjoy films. And it helps a great deal when the acting and casting is superb, as was certainly the case here.
Are my posts too complex for most people?
I agree with your points here. I enjoyed the episode as a whole, but I don’t count it as one of my favorites as many fans do.
As mentioned by others many times before: “there are so many great episodes”… “A Candidate for Crime” starring Jackie Cooper… “Double Exposure” starring Robert Culp… “Now You See Him” starring Jack Cassidy… “Negative Reaction ” with Dick Van Dyke… “Swan Song” with Johnny Cash are all stand-outs just to name a few. But for me “A Friend In Deed” rises to the top and is my #1 choice. I’ve seen this episode many times and it never gets old. Fantastic episode and a brilliant ending..
It is my wife’s favorite as well . For me, it ranks a VERY close second to “Now You See Him” starring the greatest Columbo killer of them all- Jack Cassidy!
I still never can never understand how he didn’t make it big. I thought he was quite a good actor.
This is my go to episode – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it. I just love Val Avery in this and the gotcha. Can I just say, howevever, what a sexist, racist pig Detective Doyle is. On looking down at a dead body, his comment is, “Good looking broad ‘cept for the marks on her neck.” She was strangled, you arsehole! I’m glad we didn’t see him again – I like to think his fellow detectives took him out the back and made him see the error of his ways.
Almost as bad is when the jeweller says “Mrs. Caldwell was beautiful and charming for a woman of 36.”
Racist? How so?
I immediately thought wow is he sexist.
Haaaa! You are the first person I’ve seen to call out Doyle, my least-favorite character, big or small, in any of the ’70s “Columbo” episodes. Every line delivery is off-putting, right down to his inexplicably impatient “Yeah! Yeah!” when the writers used the device of a cop informing Columbo of something before being called away off-camera to depart the scene. Along with the “good-looking broad” line, he also implied “she had to be a hero” by her simply investigating a noise downstairs. While nothing in the scene is racist, his hard-headed style with the black man from Holcomb House suggests Doyle is probably bigoted along with being sexist. His seeming disappointment with “Oh, I bet you can” when the man says he can prove his alibi suggests that. Regardless, he’s a wholly repellent character.
The vulgar contrarian in me approached this viewing skeptically, merely because so many on this site have sung its praises. But dammitall, what a fantastic episode. And the gotcha is just the exclamation point needed to make all those scenes we had to endure of Columbo tiptoeing around his jackass boss beautifully worthwhile.
Definitely a “serious” Columbo that falls a notch below the similarly dark Death Lends a Hand IMO, though well above A Stitch in Time. Having now finished 39 episodes, A Friend in Deed currently ranks just outside my top 5.
A great review of a great episode. My favorite bit of humor is Columbo looking for his cigar he dropped in the commissioner’s car. With an entrance like that, it is easy to see how someone could underestimate the good detective. Just notice the smiles and smirks on the faces of the police officers as Columbo frantically searches for his cigar and then says that he grabbed it by the lit end. I’ve think this scene encapsulates what most in the department think of Columbo.
The murder of Margaret Halperin was one of the saddest and most inexcusable of the entire series. She was a good woman who cared about doing good in the world–a “generous” person, as Mark purrs to her just before he kills her. He did it for money, pure and simple–there wasn’t even a sweet-young-thing waiting on the side like other killers had. Rosemary Murphy was an accomplished and experienced actress, but the makeup and wardrobe departments didn’t do her any favors in this episode. That awful hair (a wig?) and hideous clothes and glasses as big as her face. It makes me wonder if they deliberately made her as unattractive as they could to maybe soften the blow of her murder just a wee bit?
So people are more okay with plain looking women being murdered than when it is pretty ones. I guess this is an example of why the world (and American society in particular) is such a sick place.
Did anyone see T’Pring at the jewelry store ($25.00 just for the band?)
In the garden scene, she looked just like Tootsie.
Another winning episode and another great review. I was bothered by a couple of things, though. What woman would place their nightgown under their pillow?! Wouldn’t it get all wrinkled? Hard to believe such a well-to-do woman with plenty of room for her wardrobe would be accustomed to doing that. Also, why would any burglar go to the trouble of carrying a woman (dead or unconscious) outside and dump her in the swimming pool when he could obviously hear the helicopters overhead. I’m surprised Columbo didn’t have a comment about that. Otherwise, a very entertaining episode
Kiley was a fine actor
For those in the States this superb episode is on ME TV Sunday evening.
Was Columbo really gonna live there, with the wife? Didn’t look very homey.
Doubt it. I imagine it was purely rented for the sting operation. The Columbos would have a nicer place that that.
Do we see his house in one of the episodes?
No, his real house and wife are always off screen. We’re led to believe we see his house in ‘Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo’, but it was really the home of the young detective he was working with.
Ah yes! That’s the one I was thinking of.
Wow – just watched ‘A Friend In Deed’, and this is the best Columbo episode I’ve seen yet (To date I’ve seen about 20 episodes). The dark subject matter (two men killing their wives, with the police commissioner’s action much more disturbing as it 100% premeditated) was chilling, disturbing, and riveting at the same time, Richard Kiley’s performance was fantastic- his physical appearance, mannerisms, and double-life as “good cop, bad cop” make him one of the most fascinating but despicable murderers that I’ve seen in a Columbo case. I couldn’t turn away from the screen – the story was extremely well written, and Columbo seemed like he’d never be able to find any hard proof of anything. The fact that he suspected his boss, the commissioner of police (!) and had to be very careful about revealing TOO MUCH to Halperin before he could lower the boom and prove that Halperin was guilty, was a brilliant stroke of script writing. I could watch this one over and over again.
This is one of my favorite episodes. However, it has one of the worst continuity errors I’ve seen in any movie or TV show.
Take a good look at the helicopters that Halperin flies in. Yes, I mean “helicopters”. He climbs into one helicopter that has a red front section and a shorter fuselage. They show that helicopter take off and fly around a bit. Then they have some shots of a completely different helicopter, with a much longer fuselage and a lot more white coloring. The close-up shots all have the red helicopter.
I cannot remember where this was pointed out to me. Didn’t notice it the first time I watched this episode. Now I cannot help but see it. Looks like they decided they needed more helicopter footage for some reason, so they just spliced in footage of a completely different helicopter.
Anyway, great episode on the whole. Kiley is brilliant and I love the ending.
Fully agree, we are shown a Hughes 500/369 in red with white sides and a Bell 206 Jet Ranger in top half red and bottom half white, different registrations and all. Moreover, the pilot sits in the left seat here, which is only normal for Airplanes, but not for Helicopters, where the pilot seat is the right one.
I did find humor in a couple moment of this episode. Artie’s woman haranguing him to go out to roller derby and the slick car salesman who immediately implicates his employer in unknown shadiness when Columbo identifies himself. Also found his matter-of-fact backup choice going out with the “little bookeeper” when stood up by his sugar mama (not her fault) amusing as on point with the 70s.
I also chuckle at the interaction between Columbo and Artie Jessop in the bar. Paraphrasing from memory here: Columbo: Sit down. Jessop: I don’t wanna sit down. Columbo: Mind if I sit down?
This reminds me. The blog post says that this episode was devoid of humor unlike typical Columbo episodes. But that actually isn’t true, though I guess the overall serious nature of the episode tends to make the humor hard to remember. There is the scene where Columbo goes to the jewelry store; this was a funny scene that was clearly intended to be the ‘funny bit’ of this particular episode of Columbo. Both Columbo’s interaction with that sales lady as well as his interaction with the jewelry man were chuckle-inducing in classic Colmbosque ways.
The lady at the jewelry store looks just like T’Pring from star trek.
That’s because she WAS. Arlene Martel was a bit player on TV, but she made a really good living at Star Trek conventions talking about playing T’Pring.
The lovely Ms. Martel was also in another episode of Columbo in which she was supposed to be Robert Culp’s mistress but unfortunately her scenes were cut.
One mark of a good story is that the reader WANTS to believe it and will seek an explanation for the “holes.” That said, the Commissioner in this case is just so arrogant that it is believable he would assign the most competent detective to the murder HE committed – just to show he can beat the best. Some of the other holes can be explained by the fact that murderers actually do do foolish things, from any of several reasons (personalities which inherently want to flaunt the rules – Clyde Barrow used to run red lights when he should have been inconspicuous; the high tension at the moment a murder is committed; a subconscious guilt and therefore desire to be caught). In real life, the discrepancies common in Columbo episodes almost always are simply outliers of reality and have a benign explanation. Real metropolitan homicide detectives are objects of awe. Never try to lie to one; they’ll see right through you (former medical examiner here).
I’ve always thought this was exactly the point – we’re talking about the murder of the commissioner’s own wife, one he pretends to love and cherish. Of course he’s going to assign the best man to the case. He can’t possibly assign anyone else! If he’d put anyone but the very best on the case, all the cops would be talking about it the next morning and news would have spread like wildfire. That would have possibly been an even more dangerous mistake.
Not only does the deputy commissioner call Columbo in on the case, but he does do before it’s known that there was a murder. That’s really hard to swallow.
And I wasn’t at all satisfied with the script’s explanation for that. It would seem completely unnecessary — and even harmful — to Halperin’s plan to get a “jump” on the ensuing murder investigation.
Could chalk it up to just a mistake on the Commish’s part, but suuuuch an unlikely one.
I’ll willingly pretend Halperin didn’t intentionally choose Columbo but rather asked for the detective on call and was stuck contacting Columbo.
Enjoyable episode but not one of the best because of the many holes in the plot and inconsistencies. Why does Caldwell ask for help to his neighbor, a Deputy Commissioner? What’s their relationship to ask his neighbor to do something about a killing. As this premise doesn’t make sense you have to accept the implausible plot all way through, with the final Halperin planting himself stolen goods in a flat of a dodgy L.A. area, in his smart suit and luxurious car while being suspected. Columbo could have followed him and catch him in the act as he knew he read the address to get there. He didn’t even need to rent a flat for that , the real address of Artie Jessup and some cops hidden somewhere would have worked the same.
As usual the filming and playing are a pleasure to watch, but as way too often in Columbo the plot is terrible.
As is the case with most fiction there needs to be a degree of exaggeration in order to provide the entertainment. Catching the killer planting evidence at Jessups flat would be more realistic but simply not as good. Also regarding Caldwell/Commissioner – whatever history they have doesn’t really matter, all we know (or need to know) is that it’s enough for Caldwell to confide in his neighbour. I try not to overthink it 🙂
Tough to overlook failure to link nutty neighbor to a higher-up in PD re admitting to murder. That link would have to be titanium-like! And it’s not even touched on. Problem.
Fingerprint obsession another misfire. To attribute to low-paid house keeper to remove all fingerprints from every door knob, phone with a mere duster is not realistic. It’s also possible, maybe even likely, that people don’t shut tight every closet door in the house every time they use it.
You seem to have forgotten that the title of the episode is “A friend in deed”. Is it not obvious that both men were friends??
Oh, and while I’m thinking about it…The gotcha is great, but you know, it really doesn’t prove Halperin committed murder. It proves only that he was so intent on seeing Artie Jessup convicted that he was willing to plant evidence. Now, we could ask how he got his hands on the jewels in the first place, but Caldwell could have had some extras lying around.
Just watched it again on Peacock, and I was struck once more by the takedown. Does it bother anyone else that none of the other cops questions Columbo’s accusations against Halperin? No one says, “Hey, whoa, Columbo, that’s the police commissioner!” No one’s face expression the slightest amount of shock– not even surprise. I keep thinking they must have known what was coming, even though you never see Columbo explaining anything to them in advance. Sgt. Randall, who brings in Artie Jessup, must have suspected something was up, at least. He was told to “take this man down and book him,” and yet brings him to the apartment building — certainly on Columbo’s orders. And that uniform cop at the very end just hustles Halperin out of the room without a word. I wonder what he was thinking.
Anyway, a shout out to Lt. Duffy, one of the few fellow officers assigned to assist Columbo who is actually competent.
Every episode seems to end with Columbo having a few cops around who are in on his ruses. Maybe he told them what was going on this time, too (though since the criminal is the commissioner, it seems a little less likely they would go with it).
It had to have been cleared at some point with somebody at the top of the food chain.
??? In what way was Duffy ‘competent’? Duffy was the archetypical police buffoon for this episode.
Anyway, since you mention it, it is worth pointing out that the problem with the ‘gotcha’, as presented, is that the commissioner could simply deny putting the jewelry there and claim that Columbo and Jessie are actually working together to set him up. Incidentally, another (much weaker) gotcha in a different episode where the killer (or his lawyer) could have easily claimed a similar thing is in ‘Suitable for framing’ where the killer (or his lawyer) could have simply claimed that Columbo had been bribed by the widow to implicate him by placing his (Columbo’s) fingerprints on the painting before they both hid it in her house. The problem in this case (‘Friend in deed’) is that there is already very strong circumstantial evidence against Halperin, as well as motive. Furthermore, like Columbo said, his weak friend, Caldwell, is bound to talk once the situation has been revealed to him.
Halperin says “quid quo pro.” It should have been “quid pro quo” (“something for something”).
In my opinion a top 5 episode. The story is multi layered but never confusing, the characters are well drawn, the acting is spot on and the gotcha itself one of the very best. Although it is a serious episode there are some scenes which make me laugh – what with Columbo dropping his cigar in the back of the car and especially enquiring about a watchband at the jewellers – $25… I only want the band. Columbo’s interrogation of the various characters is great to watch and the plot moves along logically and becomes riveting as the tension mounts. I also agree that although it has a longer running time not a minute is wasted. All in all excellent.
Great ending. Also could this be the only Columbo episode where we never see the (first) victim alive ?? Can’t think of another off the top of my head.
Me, I see Janice Caldwell alive: Her eyelid is moving. The actress didn’t really play her easy and very small part well.
i saw this too, but struck it up to watching on modern screens.
it’s likely that the take was good enough then, on a small CRT.
“Last Salute to the Commodore” also starts with the (first) victim dead. It’s actually very important to that plot that we don’t see the first murder.
Definitely agree on Dustin Hoffman taking his inspiration from Mrs. Halperin in the garden (“Tootsie” was 1982, not 1984).
Haha! That’s what I thought when I saw that garden scene! Tootsie!
I have to say, even though this site is brilliant and so well-written, Columbo really isn’t all that. If you compare it to the best of Morse, or even Foyle’s War, it’s lacking real body. Yes, the ‘best’ five or so Columbos are watchable enough, and Peter Falk is decent enough, but I generally feel a bit cheated once the end credits start to roll, regardless of the episode. The ‘gotchas’ are usually pretty naff and you never really get to see any of the murderers explaining themselves or fleshing out the plot. As stated by others on here, it’s also very unlikely that many of the murderers would have actually been convicted in a court of law either.
Columbo is of course formulaic, but also very patchy. The very best scenes, such as the Artie Jessup bar scene, are admittedly excellent, but the overall quality over 69 episodes (even if you disregard the dreadful ‘revival’ shows) is average. God only knows how Robert Culp got four (!) murderer gigs; he was a rather journeyman actor/killer. The Frank Worthington of Columbo if you will… Shatner is a thudding joke in his outing, and Spock isn’t a lot better. Spock’s gotcha is especially unbelievable as well.
So, as someone who has the Columbo boxset, I say watch some Foyle’s War instead. The supporting actors are better and there are fewer gaping plot holes. The only real reason to watch Columbo is to laugh at the fashion choices, the enormous cars and the outrageous interiors! And you can stick the ‘Dog’ filler scenes… “Oh look, how funny, his dog looks like a tramp too.” Well that’s hilarious…nat!
Give it 50 years and see if people are still watching.
And with Foyle, you get the edification of WWII Britain and Honeysuckle Weeks in her raging youthful nubileness!! I just wish they hadn’t interrupted the series and lost a season or two of WWII-themed episodes (later made up in the still quite good, immediate post-war, Cold War backdrop).
Somebody seems to not understand the purpose of a website called “Columbophile”.
It’s about the artistry, and the time.
Falk is a wholly unique actor whose own quirks are on display throughout. You see his great acting on display with many A-list actors of the day guest starring, and he brings out terrific chemistry with most of them. The dialogue and cinematography is top-notch.
Columbo is a disheveled, likeable everyman who plays with his cards hidden when every other crime show was people in suits with the cadence of a soap opera.
…..but why is it about ranking or preference, anyways? Must things be superlative? Do I have to pick only one crime procedural to watch in my lifetime and be unwavering?
Enjoy your 2000’s show for what it is, and enjoy Columbo as a product of the 70’s. Doesn’t take much to guess that with 30 years between them, the rougher edges might have been patched up. But none of the episodes will have Peter Falk starring with Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau, or Vincent Price in 1975.
You may enjoy Foyle’s war, but it’s also from an era where TV had been more perfected. Even if it is a cut above in your mind, it is far less ahead of its contemporaries than Columbo was. A 9/10 in a sea of 7s is less remarkable than an 8/10 amongst 3s.
Good episode, with a clever ending. When I first saw it I was slightly bothered by the fact that the commissioner had a goatee. On the one hand, it was the seventies, a comparatively hairy decade. On the other hand, it just didn’t seem like something an authority figure in the police brass would have. Maybe they should have said he used to be in the navy, not the army! 🙂
Mind you, in the last year or so, American Republicans have broken the unspoken rule of the last hundred years that Republicans never have beards. I attribute this to Generation-X Republicans reaching middle age and wanting to add definition to their now-fuller facial features.
It is in my top five, all-time. Richard Kiley was wonderful and, one of my favourite lines, from all incarnations of the series,(after Columbo says, “I think ya killed your wife, sir”) will, ever, be, “you, just, lost your badge, my friend.”
While I did like this episode’s ”Gotcha”, when you come to watch Columbo episode by episode, the notion that this, patently single man’s apartment, is where Columbo lives sits uncomfortably alongside his oft referred to but never seen family home life.
Just finished watching this one – a great episode, Columbo’s thought process and deductions are impeccable!
I believe the apartment at the end wasn’t Columbo’s ‘real’ home but a place he’d rented for the sting, he says the apartment was vacant for 3 weeks and he’d just signed the lease. He obviously put a bit of his stuff around the place to make it looked ‘lived in’ – and of course to cement the wonderful ‘gotcha’ at the end 😄
What left me wondering though is how in the world Columbo could have afforded a second place, being it’s no secret he lives on a very moderate salary. Unless the department funded the venture or he was reimbursed after solving the case, etc.
I imagine the department has a budget to fund temporary accommodation for long term undercover operations/stings etc so that’s maybe what Columbo took advantage of.
Or, given the very seedy nature of the place and the neighborhood, a very short term lease – one month or even less – is not out of the question.
Nah, I think that was a scam. He just signed lease, I thought. I think he did it just to make it airtight that it wasn’t Artie Jessup’s apt.
It was all part of the ruse to entrap Halperin.
Brilliant.This is vintage Columbo.It does’nt get much better than this.That ending has never been bettered,the fake address.
Yes brilliant ending – so good it was reheated in “Columbo Goes To College” with ‘fake car’ 😊