5 best moments from Columbo Double Exposure

Columbo Chuck McGann
SPOILER: Roger White’s open shirt is NOT an episode highlight

Few episodes in TV history are as entertaining as Double Exposure, which features some of the greatest cat-and-mouse interchanges between hero and villain ever written.

Bobby Culp’s 70s’ Columbo farewell (he would return in a small role in 1990’s Columbo Goes to College) is so good that it makes choosing only 5 episode highlights a blockbuster challenge. But after extensive consideration (and some subliminal messaging), I’ve given it my best shot – just like Mr Dr Keppell slaying damp lump Vic Norris.

So for your reading pleasure, here are my 5 best moments from Double Exposure. Yours may be quite different, so do let me know your thoughts on the episode’s greatest hits in the comments section below!

“Few episodes in TV history are as entertaining as Double Exposure.”

5. The supermarket style icon

Columbo Double Exposure Robert Culp yellow jacket
Sitting in pumpkins never seemed so SEXY!

I’ve never seen anyone in a supermarket who looks as effortlessly cool as Dr Bart Keppell does in Double Exposure. The motivational research specialist is testing some cameras out to examine shopper habits when Columbo comes to visit. While there are some great exchanges between the two, it’s Keppell’s rocking wardrobe that steals the scene.

The dark blue flared jeans and light blue collared shirt are rad enough in their own right, but throw in a sensational yellow jacket and you have a look that turns heads and stops hearts. Culp looks HOT as Hell in the smouldering item, which is believed to be an item from his own wardrobe that he also sported on-screen at other times – including on game show What’s My Line? in 1972, when he appeared as a Keppell / Hanlon / Brimmer hybrid!

Not convinced? Then how do you explain the picture below, hmmmmmm?

Robert Culp what's my line
It’s three Columbo killers in one!

4. A stunning realisation

Columbo Double Exposure

Right after Columbo catches Keppell red-handedly removing a calibrator converter from his office lamp, the detective starts explaining himself to the shell-shocked villain.

Admitting his admiration for the cleverness of using a converter, and for the method of hiding it, Columbo says: “Doc I would have sworn you had a gun hidden in here, and I was trying to smoke you out – but I never figured on this.” It’s then that the awful realisation dawns on Keppell. “Subliminal cut! You used a subliminal cut!” he gasps as he finally computes what drove him to his actions.

The sudden shock and awe is perfectly performed by Culp, while the viewer can revel in one of the biggest table-turns in the show’s proud history. Epic!

3. Who’s playing whom?

I’ve already mentioned how I heart the cat-and-mouse interplay between the leads, and it’s especially enjoyable because both are at it! That’s never better exemplified than in the scenes following Roger White’s killing, when Columbo tries to smoke out the dastardly Doc by asking him to accompany him to the scene of the crime.

We know and Keppel knows that Columbo is trying to catch him out. “Alright Lieutenant, I’ll play,” he says with a smirk a mile wide. More fun follows. Columbo doesn’t tell Keppel where the murder took place. So when the Doctor agrees to drive them both to the crime scene, he sits waiting at the foot of the car park ramp.

“Right or left? ” he asks, like butter wouldn’t melt! “You didn’t tell me where the murder was committed, Lieutenant, so I couldn’t possibly know how to get there, could I?” When Columbo indicates right, Keppel says: “Nice try, though,” to which a wry Columbo responds: “Can’t win ’em all.”

This is a battle of wits that both are taking pleasure from. It’s so enjoyable to watch. In fact it’s the best example of ‘we both know I did it but you’ll never prove it’ interplay since Prescription: Murder. View it yourself below!

2. The ice-cold killing

While a caviar-stuffed Vic Norris is a sweaty mess in the boiling cinema screening, Keppell is keeping his cool. He’s already slipped out of the theatre, leaving a TAPE RECORDER to narrate the motivational film in his lieu, and is watching monitors in his office with interest to see when thirsty Vic will gallop out for a cool drink.

He doesn’t have long to wait. As tubby Vic quenches his thirst Keppell enters stage left, guns his foe down and sweeps out of the lobby without losing a beat. Remind yourself of the excellence of the scene below.

Culp looks movie-star cool when pulling the trigger! It’s excellent work from director Richard Quine, who’s helming his third Columbo episode here after previously heading up Requiem for a Falling Star and Dagger of the Mind. This is his finest Columbo hour by a distance.

1. A good walk spoiled?

As can be seen, there’s a lot of competition in this episode but my personal highlight plays out on the fairways of the golf club, where Columbo repeatedly puts Keppell off his game with a series of revelations.

Columbo doesn’t just annoy Keppell – he properly rattles him for the first time when he tells him that none of Norris’s entourage can positively confirm that Keppell was plainly visible at the front of the auditorium when Norris was slain.

As he chops the ball all over the course, Keppel shows his true colours by openly cheating, flinging his ball out from beside a tree to play it more easily. Anyone who plays golf will know that those who break the game’s moral code absolutely cannot be trusted. For all his sense of superiority, Keppell is amongst the lowest of the low.

Recovering from his shock, Keppell finally hits a good one up to the green. “For a while there I thought I was going to spoil your game,” says Columbo. “Not a chance Lieutenant,” the now-chipper Keppell clucks as he turns his heel on the detective.

It’s been a high-stakes game between Columbo and Keppel all the way and despite a wobble here it looks like Keppell firmly has the upper hand once again. His downfall, when it comes, will be extra sweet because of it.

As an aside, Culp’s rather jerky swing suggests he’s not much of a golfer in real life, although compared to John Cassavetes’ robotic conducting skillz in Etude in Black, he’s friggin’ Tiger Woods.

“Anyone who plays golf will know that those who break the moral code of the game absolutely cannot be trusted.”

What, no gotcha?

Some readers actually wept when I didn’t include Double Exposure‘s gotcha in my list of top 10 Columbo gotchas, but it’s a decision I stand by.

How Columbo outsmarts Keppell is masterful, using his subliminal cuts technique to outfox his foe. But the actual reveal, with the police photographer snapping the guilty Keppell with calibrator converter in hand, has always bothered me.

My beef is that they’e so poorly hidden, beside rather than behind a potted plant. Keppell is on high alert, so there’s no way he wouldn’t have seen or sensed Columbo and his buddy when he blew into his office.

Worst. Hiding place. Everrrrrr…

So it’s not a massive bugbear, but enough to dock an otherwise superb ending a few points!

I’d love to hear your hot takes on the episode highlights, so bust me a comment below. You can also discuss this episode (and any other) on the new Columbo forum on this site.

And finally, if you want to dissect this episode in greater depth, visit my full episode review right here!

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Columbo Roger White
Roger White’s hair is also NOT an episode highlight…
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