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Five best moments from Columbo A Friend in Deed

Columbo A Friend in Deed
No, you just lost YOUR badge, my friend

Columbo episodes don’t come much better than A Friend in Deed, which features a mouth-watering confrontation between the Lieutenant and his own boss – Deputy Police Commissioner, Mark Halperin.

Yes folks, many folks have threatened to report Columbo to his superiors in previous episodes – but this time our favourite detective has got to outsmart his superior officer to solve a murder and prevent an innocent man from being framed.

Featuring the brilliant Richard Kiley as the menacing Halperin, A Friend in Deed has so many good moments that choosing just five is a tall order – but rest assured I’m man enough for the challenge, so here’s my take on the episode’s stand-out scenes.

Columbo episodes don’t come much better than A Friend in Deed!”

5. Margaret’s bath-time blues

Columbo A Friend in Deed
I love you more…

We already know that Mark Halperin is a rather naughty chap (not least because of his evil beard and the fact he wears his hat at a jaunty angle), but we find out just how ruthless he is when he erases his dear wife Margaret.

Sick of his her charitable giving, Halperin has figured out a way of getting his hands on Margaret’s millions – and his approach is brutal and uncompromising. Disturbing her bathing, Margaret asks Halperin 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 shoulders and pushing her under the water to commit the quickest death-by-drowning ever seen on TV.

If we were in any doubt before, we’re now certain that Halperin is absolutely hardcore and a very dangerous man to know – as neighbour Hugh Caldwell will swiftly find out when Halperin ropes him in to his diabolical scheme.

4. Action Man Halperin to the rescue!

An action sequence in Columbo is the rarest of beasts – and A Friend in Deed boasts two of them: the bar room bust late in the episode, and this rather epic example of stuntman heroics by Commissioner Halperin.

While ostensibly helping out on a chopper night patrol over the mansions of Beverly Hills, Halperin claims to spot someone lurking in the shadows round his own home. When the helicopter goes in for a closer look, Halperin spots his wife (whom he’d killed earlier in the day) in the arms of a masked man (wimpy co-conspirator Hugh Caldwell), who flings her into their back yard pool.

It’s now that things get really exciting as Halperin clambers out of the chopper cockpit and leaps into pool to drag his wife out and deliver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. For a show that was really all about the mental sparring between detective and killer, this is a highly accomplished and commendable action scene that helps set the episode apart.

3. Strange bedfellows?

Columbo Artie Jessup
In a deleted scene, Columbo 8-balled Artie, making the tubby jewel thief gallop round the table with his trousers down

Nothing shows off Columbo’s everyman charms quite as effectively as his handling of a pressure-cooker situation with combustible jewel thief Artie Jessup.

Seeking information from the man most of his colleagues thinks is guilty of double homicide, Columbo’s visit to the dive bar where Jessup hangs out gets off to a bad start when the furious burglar flips out at the sight of a police badge.

Not only does Columbo manage to calm Jessup down, he’s swiftly able to make an ally of him, and Jessup will play a key role in helping to wrap up the case. This scene is so good because it’s a great example of how the real Columbo is able to effortlessly build rapport with almost anyone he wants to – even those from the wrong side of the tracks.

2. Who’s just lost their badge?

A truly magnificent moment, and one of the very best Columbo gotchas, the take-down of the crooked Commissioner is so darn satisfying – time after time.

Halperin has fallen hook, line and sinker for Columbo’s ruse of leading him to search an apartment he believes to be Jessup’s – having already planted some stolen jewels there to incriminate the thief. And while Columbo warns his superior officer that he’s making a mistake, Halperin charges ahead in a bid to clear himself of any suspicion.

As the scene unfolds, Columbo calmly outlines why he believes the Commissioner killed his wife, leading to Halperin’s icy response: “You just lost your badge, my friend,” – easily one of the best-delivered lines of the entire series.

When the jewels show up under a mattress, Halperin thinks he’s home and dry, only for Columbo to deliver the ultimate table turn: this isn’t Jessup’s apartment at all – Columbo has rented it to complete the sting operation, and only the Commissioner saw the false address in Columbo’s files.

In the space of 90 glorious seconds, Halperin plummets from triumph to silent resignation. It’s simply great TV from a series firing on all cylinders. I’d wager this probably most fans’ episode highlight and it’s just a whisker away from being mine, too. Instead that honour goes to…

1. Good cop, bad cop?

Columbo A Friend in Deed Mark Halperin
Wait a minute – she’s not Mrs Halperin…

The episode’s greatest triumph is the portrayal of central antagonist – and our introduction to him is perfectly done.

When we first meet Halperin he’s cavorting with a scarlet-clad redhead, whom we already know is not his wife, while drinking, smoking and gambling in a vice den. There’s something of the devil in his looks and actions, and the clever use of mirror reflections is 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. I can’t praise this scene enough.

“The episode’s greatest triumph is the portrayal of central antagonist – and our introduction to him is perfectly done.”

Those are my top picks – I’d love to hear yours, so fire me a comment below. As I said earlier, this is an episode high on highlights so it’s entirely conceivable your favourite moments could be quite different to mine.

If you’re in the mood for more, you can read my full episode review here. If that ain’t enough for you, you can also view A Friend in Deed in full here. HUZZAH!

Until next time my friends, keep outta trouble – and whatever you do, keep away from middle-aged, bearded men wearing hats at a jaunty angle…


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Columbo A Friend in Deed
Love’s young dream is still going strong, right Thelma?
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56 thoughts on “Five best moments from Columbo A Friend in Deed

  1. My apologies – I accidentally first posted this comment with CP’s review of “A Friend in Deed”, instead of here, with CP’s top 5 moments from this episode.

    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. I’m in the camp that it’s also the best “gotcha” (by a nose over the one in “Negative Reaction”). The only thing that dampens it in my opinion is when Columbo goes out in the hall to get Artie Jessup. Does anybody know why he says, “You” instead of “Artie” or “Mr. Jessup”?
    Just seems so out of character for Columbo, who’s usually so polite.

  3. Your blog is interesting and amusing. Yes, Peter Falk will forever be enshrined in the crime lore hall of fame for the character he brought to life in the series. Have you seen “Elementary” on Hulu? It’s a modern day version of Sherlock Holmes with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in the lead roles. It’s one of the best TV series I’ve ever watched in any genre.

  4. Sorry, but since the gotcha moment is probably the best in the entire series (along with Negative Reaction, imho), then how could it not be the best scene of the episode?

    • I agree. And when he mentions the gotcha, it’s not Halpern’s “You just lost your badge, my friend” that comes to mind, but Jessup’s “Pfft, I don’t even live here!” that is the defining moment.

      • The exact exchange is:
        Columbo: The Commissioner says he found those jewels under your mattress.
        Jessup: Pfft -That’s crazy!
        Halpern: You’re a liar!
        Jessup: Hey, I don’t even live here!”

        My favorite part of the scene!

  5. My DVR taping of Sex and the Married Detective on the Hallmark Channel was accidentally cut off halfway through. Is there a way to watch or stream the rest of the episode for free?

  6. One of my all-time favorite scenes in the entire Columbo series is when Arty’s fence comes smuggle strolling into the bar an hour late. Just the strut and his Elvis side burns and glasses , then that mustered leather jacket just puts the entire scene over the top. This episode is my #1 all-time favorite episode. I have personally always thought seasons 3-5 were the pinnacle of the entire run in terms of quality. 9 or 10 of my top 20 episodes are during the season 3-5 time frame. Pure Columbo GOLD

  7. I grew my beard like that for a very long time. Richard Kiley is an amazing actor and added well to Peter Falk’s character. I think one of the all time best lines was at the end when Jessup yells,”Hey! I don’t even live here”! The look on Kiley’s face as he realizes he was tricked is priceless!

  8. Hi , for anyone who is inside tomorow on 5 USA heres the line up from 9
    Likes the nightlife
    Murder by the book
    Dead weight
    Murder smoke and shadows
    Grand deceptions
    Suibtable for framing ( top pick )

    Decent line up suibtable my fav of the list with playback 2nd and murder by the book 3rd , smoke and shadows grabs 4th .
    Dead weight my least fav ( might skip it ) grand deceptions mot fussed about , plenty to watch tomorow during lock down.

  9. Does anyone ever wonder what our Lieutenant’s reputation is down at HQ?

    ..i only ask because based on his track record of solving every single case in unorthodox manners….im sure he’d be somewhat of a star.

    If this were true I don’t think Halperin would assign Columbo to the case I which The Commissioner offs his own wife…lol

    • Several episodes have other cops mention that he’s “making quite a name for himself”, etc. I think Halperin was just so arrogant that he assumed that a) he’d covered his tracks well enough to fool even Columbo, and b) even if he hadn’t, no one on the force would ever dare to accuse him of murder.

      • He was described as being an legend in the department’ in Greenhouse Jungle. I suspect Halperin knew of his reputation and had no real choice other than to ensure his ‘best man’ was on the case. Despite this, his arrogance allowed him to assume he was cleverer than the Lieutenant – sealing his downfall.

      • Future to this, Halperin says to Columbo ‘No one can be right all the time,’ and wishes the force had an hundred like him’, suggesting that he is aware of Columbo’s abilities.

      • Let’s not forget that Halperin asking specifically for Columbo may have been the initial clue that made Columbo suspect him: “From your bedroom window, when you called in, you asked for me. I was just trying to figure out how you knew the woman was already dead.” [In another writer’s hands, that line might have been moved to the very end. One of those great “when did you know?” moments, like with the feather in “Troubled Waters,” or the “damnedest example of good citizenship” in “Murder Under Glass.”]

        • Good points. … Or the “Oh no ma’am it wasn’t an accident” from Try and Catch Me.

    • There are also a few episodes where people mention having dinner with the commissioner (and there were different ones through the series) and they always “speak highly” of the Lt.
      Also, you know when the murderer tries to get Columbo off the case, they know he is hitting it hard and they let him keep going. I think they had a great respect and admiration for him and the job he did. Otherwise, they would have busted him on all the other infractions he did on a daily basis. Never carrying a gun, never getting his pistol qualification, expired driver’s license, illegal car to drive, etc.

    • As Halperin himself says at the beginning of the episode, “Sometimes a little boldness is exactly what’s called for.”

  10. In addition, I loved the very short scene where policemen are all over the crime scene and one interviews the (understandably nervous) ex-con who’d just love to get out of there. It’s only a few words of dialogue, but beautifully written.

  11. Of course that gotcha was so good that they reworked and reused it in “Columbo Goes to College!

  12. I think this episode is the one I have watched the most times, the people at the bar are such rich characters, makes me feel like going in there and hanging around and having a drink,much more than the Cheers bar.

  13. This is definitely one of my favorite episodes. Since we are talking about the “gotcha” moments I just wanted to address my disappointment with the ending of one of my favorite Columbos, and that is the first one Prescription For Murder. I have never understood or been satisfied with the way the killer just so casually lit a cigarette and acted so non nonchalant at the end. I think the director made a mistake there. Yes, he was very arrogant, but the viewer wants to finally see “just desserts.”So the ending just didn’t satisfy me.

  14. Well done Columbophile, thank-you!
    Definitely one of the best of all, up there in the top few best.
    …and the ending “gotcha” is a cracker!!!

  15. My favourite episode! I’m not a fan of the bathtub drowning scene, as I find it so implausible – it’s ridiculous that Margaret goes under so quickly and without a struggle. I can’t even see how Halperin could properly hold her down from that angle. However, I agree on all the other scenes.

    Some other bits I like: Hugh looking absurdly out-of-place in the dive bar. Columbo’s discussion with Lieutenant Duffy (the head of the Robbery department) – it’s nice to see him occasionally interact with other cops who aren’t completely incompetent. And I especially love the scenes where he discusses the case with Halperin, trying to progress his own theories without letting on that he suspects him. It’s a wonderful ‘cat-and-mouse’ game between them.

    • You’re right about the murder scene, he would have had to be superman to hold her down from that angle or choke her for that matter. Also it would have taken a lot longer. I think this was a sign of the time though, TV shows did not show a lot of graphics such as a violent struggle or blood etc. I think they let more to the imagination as opposed to today where they make a point to show that stuff.

    • Yes I agree The bath tub drowning could have been done a lot better, if you compare it to Freddie’s drowning in Death hits the jackpot which was much more lengthy plus Freddie regained consciousness momentarily before Mr lemmar re held him under the water and i know they dont compare technically as freddie was unconscious prior to being placed in the tub i find it more satisfying as janice Caldwells drowning was far too quick and struggle free , I also have the issue with how commissioner halperin could be certain she would be in the tub at that particular time despite the evening dinner , and also another issue i have is that the point was never raised that if you hear a low flying police helicopter with a beaming searchlight hovering why then run out of a house holding a dead body wearing a silly see through pair of tights on your head h wouldn’t you remain in the large house out of sight ?
      , Then also why did they give up the chase on the suspect and just let him flee there were cops on the ground who seemed to know Janice was already dead it seems they let the so called burglar just escape rather casually .
      Although A friend in deed is a very strong episode and is worshipped no end by most its not actually one of my true favourites and I dont quite admire it on the same great level as most , its deemed perfect and action packed by most but I have few beefs with it which i will highlight another time and there is a few elements which i find a tad unsatisfying I do like a friend in deed but I prefer Swan song , Negative reaction , A stitch in crime , Identity crisis , Try and catch me , Suitable for framing , By dawns early light , Make me a perfect murder , and Now you see him .

  16. My favorite moment is the gotcha, one of the series’ all time best – “This is my room. These are my socks. This is my brother-in-law.”

  17. I’ve watched Richard Kiley recently in a 1963 “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” episode entitled “Blood Bargain”, where he gives a great performance as a hitman who falls in love with a paraplegic woman, played by Anne Francis.

  18. A really solid episode, ranks in my top ten. The ending is one of the best and used again to a degree in Columbo Goes To College. Val Avery was at his best in this one.

  19. I enjoy the scene when columbo visits Hugh Caldwell the morning after his wife’s murder to find out why there were no fingerprints on the closet door. How did she get her nightgown on? Columbo clearly suspects the husband of having murdered his wife however Hugh calmly explains that she’d have no need to go to the closet because she keeps her gown under her pillow. I love the look on columbos face because it occurs to him right at that moment that the husband couldn’t of dressed his wife, he’d of known about the gown. Columbo, in his mind, immediately strikes Hugh off the suspect list. Little does he know….. Hugh is safe for now…..

    • Yes! That’s a nice catch, Nancy. It didn’t happen often, but it gave a touch of reality to the police procedure part of the show. It reminded me of the scene in ‘By Dawn’s Early Light’, where Columbo goes to question Cadet Springer for the first time, and he (Springer) identifies the cleaning rag right away. Coumbo was obviously expecting him to feign ignorance, so he does a sort of double take, stands there for a moment thinking, and then mentally scratches Springer off his list of suspects.

      • Yes, that’s another good scene. I enjoy those small moments when columbo thinks he’s heading in one direction then does a 180.

  20. Never quite got the feels for this episode that everybody else does. I know this is Columbo heresy, but it’s not a case of me disliking it, more a case of me loving about 20 other episodes more than most people do. I’d put this about mid-table for that reason. Before i get made to stand against a wall and face a firing squad, just remember how many very good Columbo episodes there are. IMDB has Murder by the Book down in 27th place currently! I wouldn’t argue against anybody having that as their absolute favourite episode, that’s how high the Columbo bar is set that an absolutely brilliant episode is currently rated as 27th. I think a lack of sparkle between Columbo and the killer dampens my enthusiasm a bit, not so much the actors but the script. There isn’t the mental sparring that goes on in most episodes, you take Columbo out and put another tv detective in and you’d barely notice it was supposed to be a Columbo film.

    But anyway, to the matter in hand. The gotcha moment is definitely a very good one, so that would be my favourite moment from the episode. I also really like all the bar scenes with Artie McFly. I used to frequent many a ‘spit n sawdust’ type pub in England in my youth, wasted away far too many evenings playing pool, staring into the bottom of a glass and ducking out of brawls and worse. Brings back great nostalgia, though heaven knows why i went in such places looking back! Different times that are now long gone. The fence who Artie shouts at is (probably unintentionally) hilarious. That would be my 2nd favourite scene.

    • Agree completely with your comment about the fence Artie shouts at, this would be my favourite scene in the whole episode. The funky music playing in the bar accompanying this super-cool guy’s entrance dressed in 70s splendour has to be the best (and funniest) moment. Artie is also one of the best Columbo characters ever, every scene with him is great.

    • i am of the same I like it A friend in deed just dont love it , I have about 15 – 20 episodes that I would place higher in my own rankings , same applies with any old port in a storm most people rate it very highly and I find it Average at best .

  21. I was surprised that you didn’t have the “gotcha” moment as #1, but your take on that scene in the club with the mirrors was very interesting. I’ve seen this episode countless times and I never picked up on the importance of the mirrors. Thanks for pointing it out!

    I think this is the best “gotcha” of the series. The tightrope Columbo has to walk because this guy could literally make him lose his badge (my friend) and how deftly he maneuvers Halperin into a corner is an awesome 5 minutes of television. The part where Halperin confusedly says, “What?” when he finds out it’s not Jessup’s crib is priceless.

    • Good point about the mirrors–credit to director Ben Gazzara for setting the scene like this. About Columbo putting his badge in jeopardy–Halperin was just a deputy commissioner. There’s the question of his own higher-up, the commissioner–will he accept Columbo’s arrest of Halperin? Given all the comments on here about police coverups of their own wrongdoing, might not Halperin’s own superior have lowered the boom on Columbo for fingering Halperin? Since he came back in the following season, we know that didn’t happen, but it might have.

    • Also a slick observation by CP regarding the temptress’ red hair and cocktail dress. Its obvious Gazzara wanted Halperin to ooze a devilish nature from the jump, and hellbound hedonism couldn’t be more on display in that shot’s framing.

  22. Far and wide one of the most witty and best “gotchas”, as well as one of the top 4 or so episodes. Catching the criminal in this manner was so ingenious!

  23. This is definitely one of my favourite gotchas, and probably my favourite one. It’s really satisfying and (unlike some of the others) one that you can’t see any escape from.

    The relationship with Jessop is nice too. Jessop is played by Val Avery, who also plays the private detective in Most Crucial Game, who Columbo has a similarly fun relationship with.

    All in all, a quality episode this.

    • It’s an excellent gotcha in an excellent episode. A gotcha of the same level as the clock in The Most Crucial Game, the blind Man in A Deadly State of Mind, or the Pager in Columbo Cries Wolf (this one is a less good episode but has a strong end). And maybe one or two other gotchas.
      A gotcha which surprises the public as lot as the murderer, and which allows the episode to close quickly. The best gotchas don’t need long explanations afterwards.

      However, Dave, I think Halperin can escape, and even that it can become very dangerous for Columbo. Halperin can argue that Columbo knew Jessop, that Jessop had the jewels and gave them to Columbo, to betray his chief. The two had commun interest against him. Columbo will have to proove Halperin committed the murder (soap in the lungs, etc.).

      • The thing about the jewels is that it is fake. Mrs Caldwell had sold the original for money as she was cut off financially by her husband. No self respecting jewel thief like arty Jessop would keep the fake jewels. Don’t forget that Mr Caldwell would probably give a confession regarding the whole thing.

        • I think we agree, Silky Chan, that Columbo has a lot of amunitions against Halperin. Hugh Caldwell as weak link being the most important of them (he didn’t plan to kill his wife and didn’t plan the conspiration with Halperin, so will be inclined to confess, as you say).
          And that we agree that the gotcha is a VERY strong one, stunning Halperin and the audience.
          But I don’t think that the gotcha alone is “one you can’t see any escape”. Sure, Jessop wouldn’t have kept the fake jewels, after having stolen them. But Halperin could pretend Jessop gave the fake jewels to Colombo, both of them having interest to stuck him.

    • This is one of my faves…the premise alone …Columbo after his superior …the big one at that is a good one
      ..the interplay between them as Columbo slowly digs away at him ..awesome.
      This is prolly my favorite gotcha …only bcz i did not see it coming at all…..

      And i agree the “you just lost ur badge my friend” line was brilliantly delivered by Kiley

  24. I enjoy the moment where Columbo shows Jessup the fake ring, Jessup scans it and tosses it back with contempt: “If I lifted that, they’d laugh me off the cell block!” or words to that effect. Jessup may be a dead loss as a burglar (spending most of his time in the nick), but he has his pride.

    • A scene that I’ve always found intriguing is the one in the aftermath of Margaret’s body being discovered and when the guy from the award ceremony she was due to attend is being questioned.

      Now Columbo is very much of its age and is beautifully evocative of the period in its look and feel. But in other senses it often feels apart from what was a very tumultuous time politically for the country. And although it sometimes has what could be seen as oblique references to the concerns of the day – for example Case of Immunity or By Dawn’s Early Night – as a rule it steers clear of entering any cultural and political minefields.

      But here we see a black man feeling clearly uncomfortable in an affluent white area. And no wonder he feels uncomfortable considering the atmosphere and attitude of the police questioning him. When he suggests that he’d like to get out of there, the officer’s reply of something like “ yeah I bet you do…” is delivered with a real air of malice and suspicion.

      And in that moment I feel we see a hint of the social tensions that somewhere like LA in particular was experiencing. And indeed continued to experience with often very disastrous consequences.

      Of course as always the redeeming moment comes from the lieutenant who cuts through this suspicion and to the obvious surprise of the other officers tells them to let him go. Our man knows a wrong ‘un when he sees one and it’s not this guy. And no prejudice will ever cloud that judgement!


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