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Columbo full episode: A Friend in Deed

Evil much, Commissioner?

Columbo’s career was on the line when he went head-to-head with fiendish police commissioner Mark Halperin in A Friend in Deed, but SPOILER ALERT: our man comes out on top.

Despite its dark themes and serious presentation, A Friend in Deed is easily one of Columbo‘s finest outings, and Richard Kiley is perfectly cast as the dangerously seductive Halperin.

It’s a belter of an episode, so fill yer boots below, courtesy of the official Columbo YouTube channel…

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Friend 16
Please lock me up Lieutenant! I can’t stand to go to the Roller Derby again!
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28 thoughts on “Columbo full episode: A Friend in Deed

  1. There is no doubt that the 5 moments listed on this CP site are classic moments from this top-notch episode. I’d like to suggest 3 more memorable moments which, IMO, are worthy of mention in this, my all-time favorite Columbo case:

    A. At around 10:30 into the episode, Hugh Caldwell phones Mark Halperin from the bar, while Halperin is setting up the appearance of bungled burglary which ended up with Caldwell’s wife being murdered. Caldwell pretends to be speaking to his wife, and then he momentarily freezes. Halperin coaches Caldwell, by telling him to say “Get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you in the morning”, and Caldwell hesitates. And then Halperin orders him, in a menacing half-threat, half-hiss, “SAY IT!” It really gives a viewer an idea of the threatening temper and dark, angry, and dangerous side of Halperin’s personality.

    B. At around 1 hr and 21 min into the episode, Caldwell and Halperin are strategizing on what to do after Jessup has phoned Caldwell and has threatened to turn him in for killing his own wife unless he pays Jessup money. Halperin finally decides that Caldwell should meet with Jessup in the bar. Caldwell reluctantly agrees, and tells Halperin, “Alright, but no violence!”. The camera then shows Halperin pause, then slowly turn and look at Caldwell with a cocky grin, and matter-of-factly replies “Why Hugh, I’m no more violent than you are!”

    C. At around 59:00 into the episode there is an extremely powerful scene when Columbo is trying to convince Halperin that Caldwell’s wife’s killer is someone who wants to make her death look like the unfortunate result of a bungled burglary. You can see the exasperation and stress in Halperin’s face as Columbo theorizes exactly what, in fact, took place. Finally, Halperin cuts him off, and momentarily loses his composure. He leans forward and starts angrily telling Columbo, “Alright, now listen, lieutenant. You’re wasting your time, and my time, and the department’s time, and it’s gonna stop”, before he catches himself, and pauses. The camera work is fantastic. Suddenly the angle of the camera goes to Columbo’s and Halperin’s chest level, onto the table top, where they are staring across at one another. The phenomenal acting ability of Peter Falk is brilliantly on display here, as his face displays confirmation that he knows that Halperin is a part of Caldwell’s wife’s death’s cover-up. Halperin then suddenly switches gears to a more conciliatory tone, while dismissing Columbo’s factual concerns with the case. Columbo attempts one more time to have Halperin reconsider, by saying “You don’t think that I have anything here..?” Halperin shakes his head, and replies, “Lieutenant, nobody can be right all the time”. What a tremendously well-acted and powerful scene!!!

  2. this episode has more plot flaws than you can imagine:
    1)time line of the `1st murder: it was 10PM when he left the bar yet Halpern was able to get to the Caldwell house do what he had to do: return to his house and have a conversation with his wife and then “see” the burglar leave the Caldwell house by 11PM.

    2) Press meeting: how could Halpern’s wife identify the burglar if Halpern couldn’t due to darkness

    3) Why would the “burglar” return to the scene when he knew there was heavy surveillance

    4) why were there no squad cars around the neighbourhood when the “burglar” threw her into the pool and why would he throw her into the pool alive and why wasn’t she kicking and screaming while being carried.

    5) how did Columbo know to check out the car salesman. there was absolutely no evidence who she was seeing

    6) Halpern raised suspicion for himself by ignoring Columbo’s theories. Halpern could have agreed and let Columbo deal with his theory and remove suspicion from himself.

    7) how does wearing gloves preclude the “burglar” from using the phone. He could simply use a pencil or something to engage dial/key pad

    8) how would Jessup admitting to the 1st 3 robberies absolve him from being involved with the last 2 events(robbery and murder)

    9) Duffy proudly exclaims the that the MO was exactly the same as the previous robberies in the area but in fact it wasn’t as there was a murder victim in this case

    10) how did Halpern know those were Caldwells jewells under his Jessups matress unless Halpern had put them there. they could have been from other robberies

    • A couple of my thoughts:
      #5. I assumed the jeweler had the car salesman’s contact information because he either shopped with Janice for the watch or had it sized there.
      #7 This threw me at first too but I think what Columbo is saying is that the burglar had to have been wearing gloves so that there was no need for him to wipe down the phone. Not that he couldn’t have used the phone
      #8. If Jesup admits to the first three, Duffy said he has an alibi for the two nights the murders happened. So Jessup saying he is the burglar casts suspicion elsewhere for the murders.

    • It’s fiction mate. If it were made to real police standards it would be pretty boring. I have no idea what the homicides department clear up rate is in real life is in LA. But I imagine they don’t mess about 🙂

    • Agree with Jennifer and adding my thoughts as follows:

      #4. There were squad cars nearby, since there were policemen on the scene almost immediately and pulled Halperin out of the water. Only Halperin and the helicopter pilot did see someone carry Mrs Halperin and throw her into the pool. The pilot would have been busy flying for the most part: in the dark and at tree top level no less! So any detailed description of what had “happened” would only have come from Halperin himself.
      #7. Columbo isn’t referring to the absence of the burglar’s fingerprints, but to the absence of Mrs Caldwell’s. The burglar wouldn’t have wiped the phone – or the cupboard door knobs, for that matter – since he would have been wearing gloves and doing so could have smudged Mrs Caldwell’s fingerprints but would not have obliterated them entirely. No pencil would have been used to press any buttons as no one had made a phone call from the Caldwell house.
      #9. Duffy was referring to the time of the burglary, the mode of entry and the absence of fingerprints etc.
      #10. Caldwell would have had to describe his wife’s missing, stolen jewelry when giving a statement to the police and for insurance purposes. And Halperin and Caldwell were neighbors and friends and Halperin might have seen Mrs Caldwell wearing them.

  3. I own the entire collection and the final revelation of this episode is my favorite of all. I was stunned when I first saw it! The collusion between Columbo and Artie was so beautifully played and the dingy apartment building really was such great misdirection! “He doesn’t live here…. I live here. These are my shirts, this is my underwear. This is my niece, my nephew. There are only two people who know this address…. you and me!”

  4. Not sure why this one is unavailable, in the United States, but I have watched the first four without a problem.

    • The idiotic channel has taken the episode down. No idea why. They did the same to Stitch in Crime as well. I guess they don’t really want fans to have access to too many episodes.

      • Yeah, it is super annoying they keep uploading episodes and then pull others down. Really dumb.

        I just noticed ‘Suitable for Framing’ was already removed when ‘Swan Song’ went up after just being uploaded 6 weeks ago??? What gives?!?!!?!?!!??

        My theory is that maybe the channel can only have a maximum of 6 episodes available at any given time? But why not remove the episodes they posted a year ago first if they must? ‘A Friend in Deed’ was only up for about 3 months as well.


  5. This is my favourite episode as well, at least of the ones I’ve seen so far. Apart from the sheer badassery of Columbo taking down his own boss, there are so many things to love: Halperin is deliciously evil, the ‘gotcha’ at the end is one of the best ever, and Columbo’s courteous, respectful treatment of Artie Jessup shows what a genuinely nice guy he is. I like the scenes of Columbo interacting with the other cops down at headquarters; he often comes across more like a private detective than a police officer, but not here. I also like the fact that he can’t rely on his usual ‘bumbling’ persona, and has to be a bit more subtle in his pursuit of Halperin.

    • In addition to everything you said, the gotcha is the best ever not only because it is an original and brilliant idea by Columbo that allows him to prove his case without evidence, but also because it gives you a triple feeling of satisfaction: a) because a premeditated cold-blooded murderer is caught; b) Columbo gets to nail the evil boss whom he despises because he is a senior cop who has used his position of power to not only cover up for premeditated murder but also to frame an innocent man; c) a small-time burglar who has spent a life time in prison helps set up the man who is trying to frame him and whom he too despises because he is “giving us guys a bad name.” In addition, there are no obvious clues left behind by the killer; Columbo must come up with a long list of clues that no one else would have noticed, and then make his case while his hands are handcuffed behind his back by his corrupt and evil boss.

  6. Strange thing about Columbo’s “desperate gamble”– all the other cops in the room seem to be in on it. Not once during the final confrontation does Halperin appeal to any of the the other officers searching the place, and when it’s over, they usher him out without a word. Sergeant Randall has been standing in the corridor with Jessup the whole time, even though Halperin said he should be taken in and booked. I keep trying to imagine the conference Columbo held with his fellow officers and his superiors before setting up the trap. Great episode, and darker than usual.

    • Great point Joe. Great shows make you wonder what was happening in the background. Columbo manages to convince all these people that the deputy commissioner is a murderer. What must it have been to be in that conversation? Part of that had to be that Columbo was “fast becoming a legend” in the department and enormously respected that allowed them to go along with the setup, and NOT squeal. Also, think of Columbo; he was putting his entire career on the line that Halperin would take the bait. All fits on this being one of the best.

  7. How did trihydric alcohol glycerol and palmitic acid turn up in Margaret Halperin’s lungs? Will Columbo decide to trade-in his Volvo for an $80 credit? How did Columbo’s underwear supposedly end up in Artie Jussup’s flat? Columbo answers these and many other questions in this classic Columbo episode.

  8. My # 1 favorite Columbo episode. Kiley perfect casting, and comes through in a big way. The ending in my opinion is the best out of all gotcha endings. Plus ya got Val Avery in it! Love this underrated character actor, who was in a few episodes. I could go on and on…but you get my drift.

    • The gotcha ending is indeed No. 1, not only because of the brilliant idea itself, but also because of the triple satisfaction it yields – for Columbo, because of the desperate gamble he took and his job being on the line; against Halperin, because of his smug arrogance and cold blooded murderer heart; and for Jessup, because of the unjust advantage they sought to take of this small timer. The overall duel between Columbo and Halperin throughout is also superb, and McGuire and (especially) Avery are superb secondary actors. I pretty much agree with everything in the Columbophile review. I also would probably list it about No. 5 overall (though with a few changes in the first 4), but I could not argue strongly against anyone who picks this as No. 1.

      • Great points Leo, you nailed my feelings exactly. THIS is my all-time number 1 favorite episode. Columbo was in its third season, the Lieutenant was a fully-formed rich character, and this was his greatest challenge; he had to arrest his boss. Everything was great. Richard Kiley was one of the best evil people ever; there was no circumstances or kindness in him that would make him sympathetic. The writing was some of the best with a brilliant double-twist. And the final gotcha was one for the ages. Finally, we got to see the REAL Columbo, not the one he showed to his potential collars; the consummate professional practicing his trade.

        It was also the story of two men “owned” by their wives, one with enormous power and one with none. Columbo’s scene with Artie Jessup is one of my all-time favorites because this was the straight-up detective asking for help by treating Jessup with respect. For an American, (and a self-confessed grammar Nazi), when he says “may I”, he is asking Jessup for permission first before he sits down. It’s a great subtle point that shows Columbo is speaking to him as an equal. My credits to Val Avery for making Artie Jessup a sympathetic character, lost to the winds of fate. Giving Jessup a chance to help take the commissioner down was a great touch.

        I’ve watched this one many times and it never disappoints. Very few weak points and lots of the best of Columbo.

        • There’s always been only 1 Jessup in my mind….and it ain’t Colonel Jessup….some people just can’t handle the truth….

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