• Craig Hunter

PT - Columbo - 003 - Dead Weight

Updated: Jan 26



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

Episode 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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Show Notes


Intro

Welcome everyone to The Predictably Treacherous podcast.  Today's episode is "Dead Weight" staring Eddie Albert and Suzanne Pleshette.  This is episode three of season one.  This episode was directed by Jack Smight and written by John T. Dugan.  The original air date was October 27th, 1971 and the runtime was 73 minutes.


Let's get right to the episode 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.


Murder

The opening scene shows a house from the water.  Then the camera slowly pans through the interior of the home.  We are shown a wooden crate addressed To: Memorial Hall Marine Military Institute. There are some military assult weapons leaning agianst it. Another crate is leaning against the wall.  Printed on it is From: Maj General Martin J Hollister USMC Ret.


The camera pans over to a painting of a highly decorated military man looking regal above the fireplace.


It must have been a sign of prestige in the 70s to have a picture of yourself displayed prominently in your home or office. Not you on vacation with the family, at a beach...or in a office group shot, but a picture of JUST you...maybe even just a headshot.


This seems to keep coming up throughout the series.


Hollister has a PAINTING of himself above the fireplace.  Not a photograph.  A PAINTING. This is REAL hubris.


A car pulls up to a parking space outside the house and a military man gets out and rings the doorbell.  Hollister is shaving with an electric razor.  He sashay's over to the door...that's right, sashay's...watch the scene.

He opens the door and seems surprised.  He knows the man, but was not expecting him.

The man is Colonel Dutton.  Dutton is concerned, he tells Hollister that the Investigator General is launching an investigation into arms contracts.  It seems Hollister owns a construction company and it has been engaged in some shady business deals with the army, through Dutton.


Hollister says its unfortunate but it was bound to happen, eventually, and that there should be nothing to worry about because Dutton has given the standard explanation for cost overruns--unforseen difficulties in developing the arms systems, etc.


Dutton is convinced that it won't matter what the reasons are.  He says that when the Investigator General sees the bargain basement bids that have been approved it will be obvious that Hollister's company was allowed to steal those contracts.  And with so much money involved, the IG will know that their was a conspiracy.


Dutton says he has taken 30 day leave and is fleeing to Geneva.  He suggests that Hollister do the same.  Hollister says that fleeing is an admission of guilt and he doesn't believe in a forced retreat.

Hollister questions Dutton as to what he will do if they catch him and Dutton says he will keep Hollister's involvement to himself. Hollister doesn't believe him.  He tells the Colonel, "you present me with a problem, you say that my name will never come into this...i'm afraid I can't take that risk."  Then he grabs his gun from a crate and shoots Dutton.


The scene switches to two women in a sailboat, Helen Stewart and her mother Mrs. Walters. Helen witnesses the murder.  She tells her mother and her mother says she's been out in the sun too long. Helen is defiant, she says, "we're going back to the dock".  They dock the boat and Helen runs to a phone booth and then waits. Her mother catches up to her a minute later.  Helen is sitting beside the booth not having made the call to the police yet.  Her mother says I knew you'd come to your sences.  This aggravates Helen and she gets in the booth and makes the call.


Officer Sanchez arrives to take Helen's statement. Helen likes Sanchez.  After she has given her statement, she shakes Sanchez' hand again and repeats her phone number to him.  Helen seems to be on "the lookout" for a man.


Sanchez goes back to his car and calls in his report but he requests someone with more clout to question Hollister.  They send Columbo.


Columbo Intro

When Columbo arrives he asks Sanchez to check Hollister's boat and pay attention to the engines.  He rings the doorbell. Hollister answers in a tux and Columbo introduces himself and shows his badge and what do you know, "Frank Columbo". I believe that this is the only scene in the series where you can clearly see Columbo's first name.


He tells Hollister about the report of the shooting. Hollister is agreeable and allows Columbo to come in and look around. There are two cadets packing a crate full of his memorabilia for an exhibition.  Columbo asks to look inside.  There are several guns in the crate but they all have their firing pins removed.  Columbo starts fawning over how beautiful the fireplace is and they begin a walkthrough of the rest of the house.


After looking in the bedrooms, Columbo asks Hollister if he owns a gun. He says no at first, then remembers that he owns a target pistol. He starts to remember that he had it out earlier that day. He was thinking about donating it to the exhibition. As he was holding the gun, he stumbled over one of the crates. That must be what the witness saw. The general offers Columbo the gun to have checked out with ballistics. Columbo refuses and says he thinks he's on a wild goose chase.


Then Hollister begins fishing for information, he says, "one more thing liuetenant, who reported this "murder". I never said it was a murder. Well..."shooting".  Oh, I can't tell you that sir.


He continues fishing, Whoever it was it had to be some guy out here on a boat. General I never said it was a man. Woman? I never said it was a woman. Doesn't matter, mistakes have no gender.


Columbo leaves.  He checks with Sanchez and confirms that the engines were cold.  He asks if Mrs. Stewart looked like she had been drinking.  Sanchez doesn't know.


Shortly afterwards, Hollister leaves his home and checks with mr barnes the boat rental guy, again fishing for more information. He tells Barnes, "Earlier on today someone waived to me from the water, I think it might have been an old friend. i think it was someone renting one of your boats. Do you know who it was?" You must mean Mrs. Stewart...Yes, Mrs Stewart. Do you have her address? Barnes gives it to him.


Columbo calls on mrs stewart. She lives with her mother in an apartment complex where there are young people drinking by a pool and there is a drinking cart. Inside their apartment, Helen and her mother are having before dinner cocktails but it's dark out and I think it's summer so what time is it like 9pm...when's dinner? Helen comes across as a bit of a space cadet...lacking confidence in one moment and then sure of herself in the next.  She works with children and animals at some kind of petting zoo and for personal therapy at home she works with clay pots and sculptures.

Columbo tells her what happened at the generals house.


He tells her he couldn't find any evidence of a shooting.  He gives her the generals explanation "he said that at one point he was in a uniform and he was holding a starter pistol.  Does that sound like a reasonable explanation?"


Helen says it sounds perfectly reasonable, but it's not what happened.


Columbo seems to have convinced himself that she was mistaken...maybe because the general is well respected and there is no evidence, and Helen has come accross as scattered. He suggests some alternative explanations.

have you ever worn glasses? No

were you doing a little drinking?


She gets upset.  She again seems sure of herself and reiterates what she saw.  Then Helen asks Columbo if he believes her and columbo tells her a murder charge is about as serious as you can get and Helen rightfully tells him, i didn't ask if its a serious charge I asked if you believe me.


In the next scene, we see Hollister get into Dutton's car and drive off. Then in a super-creepy move, he knocks on Helen's door and tells her to watch the 11 o'clock news.  He tells her "I need a character reference.  you don't recognize me.  you said that you saw me shoot somebody today. you have nothing to fear from me. watch the news, i'm sure you'll agree you've miscast me."

He leaves and we see him park Dutton's car in a dodgy neighbourhood.


He knows

In the next scene we have Columbo in a diner.  On the tv is the 11 o'clock news and they are doing a story on Hollister and his heroics. The diner owner (a veteran) is impressed. During the newscast, the newscaster mentions the pearl handled pistol for the 2nd time and Columbo realizes that this is hollister's signature but it was not in the crates for the exhibition and Hollister didn't show it to him when he asked if there were any guns in the house. Where is it? He takes his cigar out of his mouth and comes to full attention.  The story ends and the diner owner asks columbo if he wants to play pool. columbo says he's gotta go, "i'm getting up early to "go fishing" tomorrow". going fishing...he's on to hollister now.


Now we are now shown Helen and her mom watching the 11 o'clock news. mom says how could you think a man like that could shoot anybody for no reason. I find this to be a common falacy that people fall into. they assume that someone who has acheived great things wouldn't do something so risky. When in fact, people who achieve great things often do engage in risky activity. you just don't know it because those bold moves worked out well. You will never know the person who makes bold moves that all fail because they never acheive great things.


The next scene, hollister gets dropped off by some drunk dudes in a car at 4am. In his house he gets changed into boat clothes and has a quick drink. Then he presses some button on the bar and a wall spins around slowly--very super villain. When the general's wall spins around there is a hanging body wrapped in clear plastic.


The next scene is on Hollister's boat.  There is a bag in the shape of a body tied to the deck as he pulls the boat out of port. Presumably he dumps the body in the ocean but we don't see this.


The Fool

Now later in the morning, but still early, hollister is pulling his boat back into dock. columbo is fishing on the dock / pier. columbo attempts some friendly chit-chat but hollister rebuffs him so columbo launches right into his question, "The other day, you showed me your souvenirs, and you showed me your target pistol...what happened to your pearl handle pistol?" Hollister claims that it was stolen while he was in the hospital in Korea and says that MMI is having a duplicate made for the exhibit.


Hollister doesn't really give Columbo a chance to play the fool.  He condenses the nonsense.  Then hollister is quite brazen with columbo and if columbo had any doubts they would have disappeared. Let's listen to the clip, "Just a piece of advice..." (40:55)


Later that day, Hollister shows up at Helen's place of employment. He asks her if she watched television last night and she confirms that she did and asks how he knew where she worked. He says that he had a chat with her mother. Thanks mom! He asks her out for a drink and she is incredulous at first...then he compliments her and she gets all coy and accepts.


At a bizarre pastel blue restaurant with live piano music. Hollister brings up the eye witness account again and asks her to consider the possibility that she made a mistake. That after a long day on the water your eyes can play tricks on you. She says its possible. He says that she was really good with the children at her work and asks if she has any of her own. She says she doesn't...that her ex-husband didn't want kids. Hollister says that with his military career and then his construction business he didn't have time to get married and have kids. And for the most part, he doesn't regret it. But there are exceptions, like last night when the door opened and he saw her.


Hollister is laying it on a bit thick.  He asks her out for dinner.


Next scene, Columbo is with Mrs. Walters (mom) chatting. Helen comes in. She tells them that she just had dinner with hollister and he asked her to go out on his boat. mom is thrilled and encourages it. Columbo points out that Hollister went to a lot of trouble to find her. he says he didn't tell hollister her name or address.


columbo tells Helen that he's had second thoughts about the shooting. The police found some youth joy riding in a car. Turns out that the car belongs to a Roger Dutton who is a marine Colonel. He could have been the man that you saw in Hollister's house. Colonel Dutton booked a plane to Switzerland at 8pm but he never showed.  Colonel Dutton had a lot of dealings with Hollister's company.


Columbo shows Helen a picture of colonel Dutton but she isn't sure if he's the one that she saw in the house. Columbo tells her to hang onto the picture and then rushes out. I think he wants to make her keep the picture so that she has a reminder of what hollister did and is not charmed by him. As he's leaving, Columbo reminds Helen that she WAS very sure of herself but now, after one date with Hollister, she has begun to doubt her senses.


The next scene is on Hollister's boat.  Helen is sleeping on the deck.  Hollister wakes her up and points to his house "What do you see?" Helen says all she can see is reflection.  Hollister reminds her that the other day she said she saw a shooting there.  Looks like Helen is starting to be convinced that she may have been wrong.


The relationship is progressing and in the next scene, Helen and Hollister are having dinner in Hollister's home.  They begin dancing and then kiss.


Now, presumably a day or so later, some fishing boats are in the water.  A woman on one of the boats begins screaming and we see a body floating on the surface.

Now Hollister is on his boat listening to the radio.


His boat's name reads "The Iron Horseman".  This, it seems, was the motto of a US Army unit "The 706th Transportation Group".  They had something to do with railroads.  Their motto was "the iron horse men".


It's also the name of a motorcycle club founded in the 60's in Cincinatti, "The Iron Horsemen."  Their motto is "ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if it weren't for the iron horsemen, the highways would rust."


The radio is reporting about the body that surfaced this morning being identified as colonel Dutton.  Hollister is taken aback.  I don't think he expected this twist.  Ahoy says Columbo.  He wants to ask some questions so Hollister invites him into the boat while he tests out the engines. Columbo gets on board.


Columbo asks hollister if he heard about Dutton.  He says that Dutton was shot and weighted down but the sharks chewed through the weights.  I"m not sure why but Columbo says he's there to protect Hollister.  He says the other detectives think they have a case against him.  Hollister pshaws him.  Columbo explains that Hollister's company got a LOT of business through Dutton.  And it turns out Dutton was being investigated by the IG and if Dutton is dead then there is no way to prove a conspiracy between he and Hollister to defraud the government.  Hollister rebuffs him...maybe there is no conspiracy.  Columbo continues to suggest that the morning after Dutton disappeared, Hollister went out on his yaught and the body was discovered at Morocco cove, and a body dumped off of the marina could have been taken by the currents to Morocco Cove.  Hollister says it's speculation.  There is still no proof that he and Dutton actually met on that day.  Columbo says he saw a car like his across from Hollister's house on the day he disappeared.  Hollister asks him if he checked the registration.  Columbo says no.  Hollister says that's unfortunate.


At this point, Columbo has been growing increasingly quesy with sea sickness and asks Hollister to take him back to shore.


Back at the dock, Columbo exits the boat and Helen gets on.  He tells her that they found a body of colonel Dutton and that somebody dumped him in the ocean.  He asks her what she saw and she says she didn't see anything and can he leave her alone.  She obviously wants to turn a blind eye so that she can continue her relationship with Hollister.


Now back at the diner.  The diner owner, Bert, gets Columbo a bowl of chili.  Bert has all of his WWII memorobilia out.  He said that his wife told him it had to go but he couldn't get rid of it because it means so much to him so he brought it to the diner.  Columbo gets an idea. He calls Helen and invites her to the memorial.


Recap

Hollister is a retired military general running a construction company.  He resorts to killing his business associate in order to sever ties to an ongoing investigation into shady business practices.

Helen is a witness to the crime.  The general meets her on the battlefield of love in an attempt to silence her. Meanwhile, Columbo must convince her that the general is not what he appears to be.


The Get

Columbo is at the war memorial and Helen arrives.  He says he won't ask any questions he just wanted her to see the exhibit.  He tells her that in order to understand the man you have to understand his past.  they browse the items.


Columbo tells the story about how Hollister was shot by a sniper but the military manual in his pocket saved his life and he "never batted an eye".  A normal man would faint or at least take time to recover.  Columbo theorizes that Hollister has an enormous amount of courage.  A man who can be cool under enormous pressure.  They look at the pearl handled revolver on exhibit.  Hollister arrives.  He asks what all this is about.


Columbo explains that he finds it hard to believe that with all of the memorabilia that Hollister saved that he allowed his gun to get taken.  The most important piece of memorabilia.  Let's listen to the clip (1:07:38) to (1:10:16)


Having been discovered, Hollister concedes to the murder.  Two plain clothes officers walk over to arrest Hollister.


The Wrap-Up

And there we have it.  Not my favourite episode.


Hollister tries to woo Helen to keep her quiet.  He could have just offed her.  The guy's a cold hearted professional killer, not a giggilo.  There's nothing in his background that would suggest that he would try to romance her rather than kill her.  You could argue that he read the situation and took advantage of an opportunity, but it's a stretch.


Eddie Albert:

  • born died

  • only Columbo appearance

  • other acting credits

Hollister gets a 2 out of 5 on the villain scale.  He was arrogant and sure of himself but lacked flair and appeal.  He didn't put up with Columbo's nonsense...there was none of the banter that you get with a Cassidy or a Robert Culp.


 Suzanne Pleshette:

  • born died

  • only Columbo appearance

  • other acting credits

Helen, while not a traditional "victim", was the main focus of the episode and gets a 3 out of 5 on the villain scale.  She was foolish and allowed herself to be manipulated but she was boring and inconsistent.


I rank this episode 42nd best of 43 episodes.  Second last, but fortunately, a sub-par Columbo episode is still better tv than most of the crap out there.


Next Week Teaser:

Next week on the Predictably Treacherous podcast, another Columbo episode, "Suitable for Framing" starring Ross Martin as art critic and International Man of Mystery Dale Kingston and Rosanna Huffman as hapless art student Tracey O'Connell.


Here's a brief summary


Art critic Dale Kingston employs a middling art student to be his accomplice in the killing of his wealthy uncle.  He then attempts to frame his uncle's ex-wife for the murder so that his uncle's vast art collection will fall to him.



The Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Horsemen

706th Transportation Group - http://www.worldcat.org/title/us-army-heraldic-crests-a-complete-illustrated-history-of-authorized-distinctive-unit-insignia/oclc/243774589

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