• Craig Hunter

PT - Columbo - 002 - Death Lends a Hand

Updated: Jan 26


Season 1 of The Predictably Treacherous Podcast continues with the incomparable Columbo.

Episode Summary: Arthur Kennycut is a newspaper mogul. He is married to a much younger woman and suspects she is having an affair. Kennycut has hired the firm Bremner Associates to have his wife's activities investigated.

Bremner's firm finds that Mrs kennycut has been cheating but Bremner offers her a chance to pass information to his firm in exchange for their silence. She refuses the offer and turns the tables on Bremner by threatening to expose his deception to her powerful husband.






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Show Notes


Intro

Welcome, everybody, to "The Predictably Treacherous Podcast". Today's episode is "death lends a hand" starring Robert Culp and Ray Milland. This is episode two of season one.  This episode was directed by Bernard Kowalski and written by Richard Levinson and William Link.  The original air date was October 6th, 1971 and the run time was 73 minutes. Let's get right to the episode summary. Arthur Kennycut is a newspaper mogul. He is married to a much younger woman and suspects she is having an affair. Kennycut has hired the firm Bremner Associates to have his wife's activities investigated.


Bremner's firm finds that Mrs kennycut has been cheating but Bremner offers her a chance to pass information to his firm in exchange for their silence. She refuses the offer and turns the tables on Bremner by threatening to expose his deception to her powerful husband.


Murder

The opening scene has Bremner shooting a pistol at a target at an indoor gun range. He stops, and in a display of his pompus arrogance, holds the gun in the air and says, "this one is a crooked as a dog's hind leg." He puts down the gun and turns around to walk out of the room where a "yes" man is waiting to brief him on their progress on several cases. He walks hurriedly to his office where he waits a few moments for Arthur Kennycut, Ray Milland,  who is in turn briefed about an ongoing investigation into his wife's fidelity.


Bremner lies to Arthur Kennycut. Telling him that his firm has found no evidence that Lenore has been unfaithful. Kennycut is surprised and relieved. He leaves happy.  Bremner enters the room adjacent to his office where Lenore has been listening over the intercom. She is at first confused about why he did this until he explains that his firm lives on information and her husband owns 3 newspapers. He wants her to be an information funnel, "A good listener" is what he calls it. He doesn't imply that he will tell her husband the truth if she refuses but he asks her to think about his request and they can talk again later. She leaves a little stunned.


Bremner arrives at his beach house in the evening. I love this place...the deep pile shag rug, the grey wall-to-wall, the low furniture--look at that couch, it's 6 inches off the ground. And the art...he has a Joseph Alberts, "homage to the square", and he has a piece by the door that I think might be a kandinski.


Mrs. Kennycut is in the house. She let herself in. She and Arthur have a beach house 3 miles away so she just walked oer. She mixed herself a drink. She's a little bit brazen with Bremner, considering that he's trying to blackmail her. She's quite forward and assertive. Bremner seems a little annoyed.  He makes himself a drink and lights a cigarette while she speaks.  She asks him if there are many other rich man's wives that he has bribed and if they all capitulate easily.  Bremner looks impatient now, like he's expecting a refusal.  She tells him NO! She will not go along with his proposition. Bremner says he'll have to tell her husband the truth about her affairs.  Then she makes a big mistake. She tells Bremner that she is going to be honest with her husband about her affair and she is going to tell him about Bremner's business practices. Bremner freaks out. He grabs Mrs. Kennycut and shakes her. Then with a slow-motion backhand, he knocks her to the ground. On the way down she smashes her head on a glass table. Dead.


Next there is a weird montage scene where the camera looks into Bremner's eye glasses and freezes the shot. Then a series of scenes appear in his glasses showing him wiping fingerprints, cleaning the drinking glasses, removing her jewellery, and finally him driving to a construction site to dispose of the body in plain site.


Columbo Intro

In the next scene Columbo is driving in his beat up old Peugeot and gets pulled over by a cop on a motorcycle. His right turn signal is out. He says its the second time he's been pulled over today and he's on his way to a 187 PC. The patrolman realizes he's a cop and offers to give him an escort.


Now at the apparent crime scene, a construction site, some detectives are talking about the body with the coroner. Columbo isn't listening. He's looking for a match. He asks a random cop...no luck. He asks the photographer...no luck. Then he asks some other cop and he has a match. The detectives mention that the body is mrs. arthur kennycut and that they had better handle this properly.  Columbo then checks the body and notices the bruise on the left cheek.


In the next scene, Columbo and kennycut are in the coroners office so that kennycut can identify the body. The sheet covering the body is removed. Columbo watches Kennycut and believes his reaction. He knows kennycut is not the murderer.  They leave the room and sit down in the hospital waiting area. Kennycut tells Columbo that he realizes that the spouse is the primary suspect in these type of cases. Kennycut says that at the time of the murder he was in san francisco and his secretary can confirm the flight and the hotel. kennycut tells columbo to clear him and then get down to the business of finding the real killer.


Columbo asks if she had any enemies. No.  Were there other men? Kennycut says she had a clean bill of health. Any hobbies? Tennis, skin diving. Kennycut tells columbo that he and lenore loved each other and that he does not intend to be patient.


Now its the next day at the Kennycut mansion. Columbo arrives at breakfast. Kennycut is in the giant backyard. It's like Versailles. Kennycut asks for an update. Any leads? No solid leads but Columbo thinks she knew her murderer. He explains that before the murder, she was at the beachhouse, she told the caretaker she had some thinking to do and she was going to take a walk. He thinks these are the actions of someone with something on her mind...a problem. If she did have a problem, it may indicate who the killer was. Kennycut is impatient that Columbo only has speculations and has no real leads yet.


They go inside and Columbo meets Bremner. Bremner says he has heard of Columbo from the commissioner who spoke very highly of him. Kennycut says he asked Bremner to help out on the case. Bremner makes it clear that he is there in an advisory capacity only. Kennycut mentions that Bremner called and offered his services on the case.  This may be the exact moment that Columbo begins to have suspicions about Bremner.  Columbo asks if they already knew each other.  He seems to be more concerned with why Bremner contacted Kennycut than what his role will be on the case.  Bremner mentions that his firm has done some personal work for Mr Kennycut in the past.

Columbo seems agreeable. In fact, he starts acting simple. Acting simple is usually the sign that Columbo has some suspicions that a person is involved with the murder. In any case, he seems to want to create some leverage by having Bremner underestimate him. He says that he is a superstitious guy, that he believes in palmistry and astrology. He reads kennycut's palm and tells him that his fate line breaks but then picks up again, and that's a good sign. Then he reads bremner's palm. He says Bremner's palm shows signs of a man who is destined for a particular type of distinction. This is some serious foreshadowing.


After reading their palms he attempts to leave the room but ends up opening a closet. Kennycut informs him that it's a closet and that a lot of people make that mistake. He sees some golf clubs. Are these ladies clubs. you didn't mention that she played golf. Bremner is starting to look concerned. Columbo asks why she doesn't leave them at the club? Kennycut tells him that those are an extra set that she uses for lessons. Then she doesn't take lessons at HER club? Kennycut asks if its important and Columbo says he just likes to get the details nailed down. Columbo turns to leave and hesitates and asks if this is the correct door.


Now at the country club where Lenore took her golf lessons. The golf pro is giving lessons to an attractive woman with serious socks. The lesson finishes and he goes back in the clubhouse and sees Columbo looking at his appointment book. Columbo introduces himself. The pro seems guarded. A little defensive, a little aloof and slightly irritated. He looks like a cross between John Mayor and Mark Sanchez.  Columbo asks him about lenore and he says he knew her, but not too well. Columbo points out that he gave her a lot of lessons. He asks if she was "on the lookout". The pro seems annoyed at this and says he doesn't get involved in the personal lives of club members.

Columbo changes tactics and asks the pro if he can give him a quick lesson. They walk outside to the driving range and columbo mentions that the first two lessons he gave lenore were in the morning and the next 13 were the last lessons of the day. The pro doesn't seem to have a well thought out answer for this and begins stammering. Columbo interrupts him and advises him to not say anything until he gets an attorney. He says that he knows something about his business and he can tell when someone is not telling him the truth. Then he hits a long straight drive and then he tells the pro that he'll be back to talk to him later and leaves.


Now at the Bremner Associates office. Bremner is leading a meeting with his staff explaining that they will concentrate their efforts on Bremner's throry that lenore was walking along the pacific coast highway, forced into a car--the motive was robbery--she fought back and was killed. The killer drove around in a panic and dumped the body.


He knows

Columbo arrives and the meeting disburses. He brought a copy of the lenore kennycut file for Bremner to review. Bremner asks him for a rundown. Columbo says no leads but then he brings up the autopsy report. It shows that lenore had a bruise and a weird cut on her left cheek. What causes that kind of cut. Could be a ring. If a man is going to strike a woman, he likely strikes her with an open-hand, either front-hand or back-hand. But to leave that cut--from a ring--it must have been a back-hand. Bremner completes the thought, "And because it is on the left side of her face, the killer must have been left-handed", and he motions a back-hand smack to columbo's face that causes him to recoil slightly.


As Bremner motions the back-hand to Columbo's face if you watch Columbo's eyes you can see him giving the "he knows" look...a long look after Bremner turns to his desk and his back is turned, Columbo holds the long look.  This all happens quickly but if you look closely it's there.


Columbo then composes himself, "yes, I would say we have a left-handed killer and an un-premeditated crime". Bremner seems surprised at this suggestion. Columbo goes on to explain that "a man doesn't kill with his hands unless he's angry" and that "maybe he didn't mean to do it. Maybe it was an accident." Columbo even suggests that the murderer has a terrible temper.

Nailed it.


He then comes up with some phoney excuse to have Bremner write on paper so that he can confirm that Bremner is left-handed. He says let's make up a receipt for the case file that he is leaving with Bremner. Of course Bremner writes out the receipt with his left-hand. Columbo points out this fact and Bremner finishes writing the cheque with his right-hand demonstrating that he is ambidextrous.


The Fool

Bremner tells Columbo that he would like some time to digest the case file and Columbo gets up to leave but before he goes he asks Bremner if he likes living at the beach.  Let's listen to the clip, (40:00)  "Oh listen...this case is just full of them." (41:04) A few things happened there.  Columbo let Bremner know that he is being investigated through the beach house comment.  He also hints that Bremner had geographically close access to the Kennycut beach home.  When Columbo leaves, Bremner's smile fades quickly. He's pissed because he knows Columbo is on to him.


Now it's night, the golf pro is packing up his stuff at the clubhouse, intending to leave town. He gets into his car and Columbo is waiting in the passenger seat. They take a walk. In a parked car nearby, one of Bremner's surveillance henchmen is watching them.  The golf pro admits that he had an affair with Lenore. He says that Lenore got guilty and "one day she just called it off, and when you showed up I got scared". Columbo believes him because he doesn't wear a ring and there is no ring tan line on his finger so he knows that he didn't just take off a ring.  Columbo asks if lenore would have come to him if she was concerned about anything. He says no, but he WAS concerned because there was a man following them.  He gives a description of the man who followed them...crew cut, military type.


Meanwhile, the surveillance guy calls Bremner to inform him that the golf pro and Columbo are talking. Bremner calls Leo who fits the description that the golf pro gave, and sends him away, thinking that Columbo will try to speak with him and be able to confirm that Bremner's firm knew about the affair.


The next day at the Bremner associates building, an employee is giving Columbo a tour of the cutting edge technology. Reel to reel computer, company cars with telephones of sorts, and metal detectors.


The hapless tour guide starts blabbing about an incident involving a client.  Bremner comes out of his office and overhears the employee.  In front of everybody, he blows up at the guy about keeping confidentiality, showing Columbo that he has a temper. Then he calmly asks Columbo to join him in his office.


In his office, bremner asks Columbo to join him for lunch, he's having canelle of sol. Columbo says, "if that's fish then yes!" they sit to eat and Columbo tells Bremner that Mrs kennycut was having an affair with a golf pro and that they were being watched. Then he suggests a theory for the crime that is exactly what happened. Let's listen to the clip. (49:18) I especially like how Columbo uses the exact phrase "a clean bill of health" that Kennycut used with Columbo earlier about Lenore.

Bremner does the right thing in not trying to dissuade Columbo of the theory and he tells him to stick with it if you believe in it.  Then he swings for the fences by offering Columbo a job at Bremner associates in order to get him off of the case. Columbo says he needs to think it over, and asks if he would remain on the Kennycut case. Bremner says there are other matters that are more important that he would get put on right away.


Columbo leaves the office and runs into the hapless tourguide, Denning, from earlier. Columbo apologizes for getting him into trouble. Denning says that he's used to it.  Mistake number two.  That Bremner is in control most of the time but when he loses control "watch out". Columbo tells Denning that he was offered a job and uses that leverage to find out who the top agent at Bremner associates is, Leo.  Crew cut, ex-marine type.  Columbo asks Denning how he can get in touch with Leo and Denning gets him Leo's home address.  Mistake number three.


The next scene Columbo is pushing Leo's kid on a swing at the park. The kid's mother comes back from getting an ice cream and is like wtf, or at least she should be. Columbo explains that he's from the police and looking for Leo. The wife says she doesn't know where he is and that he left on a case and took his passport.


Now at the DMV to renew his license. The patrolman who pulled him over in the beginning mentioned that his license was about to expire. There is a lady ahead of Columbo reading from the eyechart. She gets them all right and mentions that she has a new prescription. She turns around to leave and gives Columbo an unimpressed look. Columbo suddenly remembers that Lenore had glasses on in the picture in kennycut's home but there were no glasses on the body. He runs out of the DMV.


Now at kennycut's home, Kennycut and Columbo are in mid conversation and Kennycut explains that Lenore wore contacts. Columbo goes through her personal effects and finds a lens case but no contacts. Columbo wants to exhume the body and Kennycut gives him the OK.


Now at the cemetery, Columbo and kennycut are there.  A surveillance henchman who has been following Columbo calls Bremner and tells him that Columbo and Kennycut are at Lenore's grave with an order to exhume the body. Bremner hangs up, calls down for his car and leaves his office.

In the garage, the maintenance guy can't start Bremner's car. Bremner demands another one as he is in a hurry. He says he wants his car repaired by tomorrow.


Bremner arrives at the cemetery and gets in Kennycut's limo. He expresses his disappointment at the futility of what they are doing. Columbo comes over to the car window and says that the coroner confirms that a contact is missing.  Bremner says it could be anywhere, she could have lost it before she was killed.


Now this is the setup.  Columbo says that he wishes that the killer knew about this development.  Before he leaves Columbo makes it clear that if he can find that contact they will find the real crime scene and possibly the killer.  Bremner is listening closely.


Now at Bremner's beach house that night, Bremner is on his hands and knees with a flashlight, he has the shag rug folded over so that he can systematically search the shag rug for the contact lens.  The doorbell rings and it's Columbo. He's there to annoy Bremner and to inform him that he is declining the job offer.  He wants to see the case through.  As Columbo is leaving Bremner says " you'll let me know if anything breaks on the case" and Columbo tells him, "you'll be the first to know". Columbo leaves and Bremner's face shows his worry. Columbo's little visit helped to reinforce in Bremner that he is the prime suspect and that he had better find the contact lens before Columbo gets a serarch warrant and finds it himself.


Recap

And we're back. Let's recap what's happened thus far.


Arthur Kennycut, a newspaper mogul, has hired Bremner Associates to investigate his wife's activities, as Kennycut suspects she is having an affair. Bremner's firm discovers that Lenore IS having an affair but Bremner lies about it to Kennycut and tries to blackmail Lenore into being an information source for his firm.


Lenore refuses Bremner's offer and threatens to expose his business practices. Bremner strikes Lenore in an angry outburst and she is accidentally killed.


Kennycut hires Bremner's firm to assist Columbo in the investigation into Lenore's murder. Bremner tries to lead Columbo away from the truth but Columbo slowly gathers circumstantial evidence that points to Bremner as the murderer.


The Get

Picking up where we left off, Columbo had just left Bremners' beachhouse.  Bremner calls the maintenance guy from the underground parking at Bremner Associates and confirms that his car is being serviced at the mechanics. He drives to the mechanics garage and "jimmies" the backdoor lock to gain entrance.


It's dark inside, he unlocks the truck of his car and gets in with the flashlight. He searches the trunk and finds a lens. He gets out of the trunk and closes it and the lights in the garage turn on and there are several cops including Columbo and Kennycut there.


Columbo asks Bremner to explain his actions. let's listen to the clip.


The Wrap-Up

And there we have it. A good episode.


I don't like to get too bogged down in the believability of some of the logical leaps...I mean that, when watching the episode you should apply a heaping spoonful of suspension of disbelief in order to allow yourself to enjoy the experience.


For example, I don't question why Mrs kennycut died after being back-handed and falling on a glass table. She could have had a pre-existing condition that we aren't privy to that would make a blow to the head fatal. It's not important. What is important is that an accidental murder took place.


That being said, it's somewhat distracting when there are sloppy plot points.


After Bremner admits to the crime and is taken away, Columbo tells kennycut that there was no missing contact on the body. Kennycut rightfully asks, "who's contact was in the trunk?" Columbo says "who knows?" What?


I bet if you searched 1000 random car trunks you would find 0 missing contact lenses.

Why not just write that the contact lens WAS missing from the body, and that Bremner found the ACTUAL contact lens in the trunk? Highly improbably, but not impossible.


Or, if you want to maintain the story line that Columbo lied to set up capturing Bremner, don't make him find a lens in the trunk. Just turn on the lights in the garage and catch him in the act of searching the trunk and have him confess.


I think maybe the writers wanted Columbo to seem devious by lying about the lens and trapping Bremner but they felt that Bremner needed to find what he thought was the lens to be compelled to confess to the murder. In my opinion, it's a stretch.


It's a common occurrence in Columbo to have him lie to set up a trap that catches the murderer either covering up his crime or self-incriminating. So it's believable to me that the writers wanted to accomplish this outcome and were a little over zealous.


Enough said.


Robert Culp

- born in 1930 and died in 2010 of a heart attack.  Found by a jogger on a walking path.  That's actually a pretty good way to go--doing something that you enjoy.  Better than while commuting to work or sitting on the can.

- he was married five times.

- Had 4 children with Nancy Asch (Joseph, Joshua, Jason, and Rachel) Somebody sure loves their old testament.

- Had one child, Samantha Culp, from his marriage to Candace Faulkner.

- acting career spanned from 1953 to his death in 2010

- other acting credits

     - recurring character on Trackdown (late 50's), Greatest American Hero (80's), Everybody Loves Raymond (unfortunately) of the late 90's and 2000's

     - best known for I Spy in the 60's where he co-starred with Bill Cosby

     - in a slew of other middling tv shows, tv movies, and movies, throughout his career.

- columbo episodes

     - this one

     - season 2 The Most Crucial Game

     - season 3 Double Exposure (top 5 episode)

     - my 2nd ranked Columbo villain

Culp is a great villain.  I rank him 2nd of all the Columbo villains.  Plays a great high functioning guy who is pompus and arrogant.


Pat Crowley

- born in 1933 and still alive and kicking.

- married twice

- had two children in first marriage to ed hookstratten (good name) an entertainment lawyer

- been married to the much younger Andy Friendly (another good name)--who is largely a producer--since 1986.

- was commonly confused throughout her career with Kathleen Crowley, a contemporary, who appeared in many of the same series, although they never appeared together.  They were not related.

This sounds like it could have been a good movie.  Pat and Kathleen could have each been cast as themselves and made up to look more alike.  They could have been rivals like in the Poe short story William Wilson.  And the audience could be left wondering weather both characters actually exist or whether one only exists in the other's mind.  Alright, we're off the rails...

- she was active as an actor between 1950 and 2012

- other acting credits

- recurring character on Please don't eat the daisies (60's), Joe Forrester (70's), Dynasty (80's).

- a slew of other tv shows, tv movies, and movies throughout her career.


This was her only Columbo appearance.  She did a good job.  She was foolish--as any victim should be.  Showing up at the home of your blackmailer--alone, and at night--and threatening him.

I rank this episode 22nd of 43 from the original 70's run.


Next Week Teaser:

Next week on The Predictably Treacherous Podcast, "Dead Weight" with Eddie Albert and Suzanne Pleshette.


Here's a brief summary.  


A retired military general resorts to killing his business associate in order to sever ties to an ongoing investigation into shady business practices.  When a witness surfaces, the general meets her on the battlefield of love. Meanwhile, Columbo must convince her that the general is not what he appears to be.

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