PT – Columbo – 005 – Lady in Waiting
Updated: Jan 26
Season 1 of The Predictably Treacherous Podcast continues with the incomparable Columbo.
Bryce Chadwick is the head of family owned advertising company Ellison Chadwick. Bryce has been running more than just the company, he has been running his sister Beth's life. He disapproves of Beth's relationship to company man Peter Hamilton. To get out from under Byrce's thumb, Beth murders Bryce and frames the murder as an accident.
Welcome everyone to The Predictably Treacherous podcast. Today's epsiode is "Lady in Waiting" staring Susan Clark and Leslie Nielsen. This is episode five of season one. This episode was directed by Norman Lloyd. The teleplay was by Steven Bochco and the story was by Barney Slater. The original air date was December 15th, 1971 and the runtime was 73 minutes. Let's get right to the episode summary Bryce Chadwick is the head of family owned advertising company Ellison Chadwick. Bryce has been running more than just the company, he has been running his sister Beth's life. He disapproves of Beth's relationship to company man Peter Hamilton. To get out from under Byrce's thumb, Beth murders Bryce and frames the murder as an accident.
We open this episode outside of a large house at night. The camera moves inside and Bryce Chadwick is sleeping in his bed. Beth Chadwick, his sister, sneaks into his room as he sleeps and removes a key from his keyring, then sneaks out without waking Bryce. The next morning Beth is having breakfast at a table in the garden. The butler, Charles, is serving her. Bryce approaches and Beth ignores him. He points out that she is sulking and that "the matter" has been settled. Beth says he has no right to control her life. They're talking about Beth's relationship to Peter Hamilton and its implied that they had a previous argument. Bryce thinks that Peter is a gold-digger--despite being a successful lawyer and presumably well off enough. Bryce says that he has taken appropriate measures to resolve the issue. Then Bryce gets up from the table and walks off and Beth follows. Bryce says he has sent Peter a letter to inform him that he is to end his relationship with Beth or he will be fired. Beth is incessant and claims that Peter won't care about losing his job. Bryce says that if Beth wasn't so wealthy, Peter wouldn't be interested in her. Beth says that Bryce is trying to run her life just like their father used to. Bryce says this isn't the time and leaves the scene. After Bryce leaves, Beth confirms with Charles that he has tomorrow off and is leaving tonight as she fondles the stolen key meniacally. In the next scene, Peter phones Beth. He's in Altanta but will be returning tonight and plans on dropping by to see Beth. Beth hesitates. This may be the first time peter has used a telephone. He gives her 1.5 seconds to answer and when she doesn't he yells, "hello! hello!" She is thinking about her plan for later that night. She tells Peter it'll be late and to just come by in the morning. When they hang up Beth places the key in her bedside table drawer and takes out a revolver. She looks at it contemplatively--so the audience gets a good look at it--and puts it back in the drawer. Later that night Beth replaces a bulb in the front porch light with a burnt out bulb. She then goes into her room and turns on the security alarm. She starts to get undressed and the camera pans over to the night stand with the security alarm button. She places a glass of water and some sleeping pills on the bedside table. She gets the revolver out from the drawer and puts it on the table. She gets into bed sitting up with the revolver in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other, presumably to keep her awake after taking the pills. Beth starts to imagine the murder as she has planned it and the screen blurs into the following daydream sequence.- Bryce arrives in his car.- He goes to the front door and can't find his key on the keyring. He looks up at the outside light that is not working, to draw our attention to it.- He can't get into the house so he rings the doorbell but there is no answer.- He walks around to Beth's bedroom and taps on the window calling out her name. She answers him and he asks for her to open the front door. She says she's in bed and for him to come in through her french doors. He reminds her to turn off the alarm and she says it's off and to come in.- He enters the unlocked doors and the alarm sounds and, before he can finish asking her why she didn't turn off the alarm, she shoots him.- She quickly puts his key back on the keyring and then takes his briefcase and smashes a pane of glass by the handle of the french doors from the outside. She then calmly walks through the house to the front door and drops the keys in the bushes by the front porch.- Then we hear the voice of a detective asking Beth if a keyring that they found in the bushes belonged to her brother. Another detective says he must have lost his keys and walked around to her french doors and knocked and when she didn't answer, he broke the glass and entered.- Then Beth says she heard the glass break and thought it was a burglar and started shooting. I thought it was a burglar clip. Where did she get that accent.- Then the detective says it was obviously a mistake, a terrible mistake, mistake, mistake, mistake... The dream comes to an end and Beth is sitting up in bed smiling as she imagines her perfect plan unfolding. The next scene shows a plane landing at the airport and Peter Hamilton enters his penthouse apartment. He quickly flips through his mail and opens a letter. He reads it and says "well that does it". It's obviously the letter from Bryce. Just then Bryce arrives at home for real. He approaches the front door and he can't find his key on the keyring. The porch light is out and he looks up at it just like in the dream. Bryce rings the doorbell. Beth gets out from under the covers and braces herself against the poster of the bed and aims her gun at the window. Meanwhile, Peter arrives at the house outside of the front gate. He's come to confront Bryce. The gate is locked. Back in her room, Beth waits for Bryce, but he doesn't come. Suddenly Bryce enters Beth's room by the bedroom door. He says he lost his key and that he got in with a spare key and Beth shoots him anyway. Why did Bryce come into Beth's room at all. Why didn't he just head for the living room, fix himself a drink, and start watching Johnny Carson. I don't know. Peter hears the shots and jumps the front gate and runs to the house. Beth hits the alarm button and then frantically replaces Bryce's house key on the keyring and pockets his spare key. She drags the body to the window and walks to the front door to retrieve Bryce's briefcase. She returns to her room and breaks the pane of glass with the briefcase as planned and then the doorbell rings several times. Beth is shocked and doesn't know what to do. Panicked, she looks for a place to stash the spare key and places it behind a statue by the front door. She opens the door and tells Peter that she shot Bryce. Peter runs to her bedroom and checks the body. Meanwhile, Beth takes Bryce's keys and drops them in the bushes. She picks up the spare key from behind the statue and Peter returns and tells Beth that Bryce is dead.
The next scene, the cops are at the home and an ambulance is taking the body away. Inside, there are several detectives milling around and Columbo is reading a newspaper. A couple of the detectives are questioning Beth. She confirms that there is an alarm and that entering the house by the front door with a key will shut off the alarm. She says that she didn't feel very well yesterday so she didn't go out all day and she went to bed at 9:30. Columbo is hovering behind her and listening. Columbo confirms with her that she didn't go out at all. Peter tells the detectives that he was at the front gate when he heard the shots. He explains that he and Beth are in a relationship and Bryce disapproved and he came over to confront Bryce. Columbo asks if the newspaper belongs to him. He says no. An officer says that they found the keys in the bushes by the front door and that the front porch light is burnt out. A detective asks Beth to go over what happened one more time. Beth retells her story up to the point where Bryce is shot, confirming what the detectives already suspect to be true, that Bryce's shooting was a terrible accident. Peter interrupts at that point and says that Beth is exhausted and will be available for questioning in the morning.
As the detectives start to leave Columbo asks Beth if she and her brother are the only ones who live in the house, lets listen to the clip, (25:00) "are you and your brother..."As Columbo walks away Beth gives him a long, serious look of concern. She know he knows. This was the best scene in the episode. The next day, a yellow cab pulls into the driveway of the house and an old woman and a yappy dog get out. Columbo is on a ladder inspecting the burnt out bulb. The old woman retrieves her dog and tells Columbo to get her luggage and pay the cab. Columbo gets the luggage while the cabbie watches. He pays the cabbie 11$ and hauls the luggage into the house. What's with the cabbie? What are you looking at fella? The old woman is Beth's mother. Inside the house Columbo introduces himself and is quick to tell Mrs Chadwick that the cab fare was 11$. There is a great headshot picture of Bryce on a table in the background behind Columbo. Bryce is in a suit looking stern and sort of leaning into the shot from the left side. This must be a 70's thing. I like it. I may have to get a picture of myself in a suit and display it in my office. Beth enters the room. The mother makes a disapproving face. Would be a great t-shirt. It occured to me here that the actress playing Beth's mother could be the same actress who plays aunt Edna in the first Vacation (fruit cake clip here) movie...where they go to Wallyworld and she dies but they don't know that she's dead...anyways, I checked and she's not the same actress. While we're on a tangent, Susan Clark who plays Beth Chadwick, kind of looks like Denise Crosby around the eyes. As far as I know they are not related. Right, so Beth has entered the room, Mrs Chadwick makes a face and walks over to Beth and slaps her. She says that's for killing her brother. Beth apologizes to Columbo for the embarrassment. Columbo wants to have a word with Mrs Chadwick and so he asks Beth if he can have some coffee and she leaves to get it. Mrs Chadwick tells Columbo that Bryce ran the business, and the family, since her husband passed away, and she doesn't know who is going to run the business now. Beth returns just then and says she intends to run the company. Mrs Chadwick is incredulous. She doesn't take Beth seriously at this point. Columbo asks Beth who brought the newspaper in last night. Beth suggests that it was simply delivered but Columbo says it was the late edition. Instead of just saying "Then I don't know", Beth suggests that it may have been Bryce's newspaper and she may have brought it from her bedroom to the front door in her confusion and shock after she shot him. Columbo doesn't think this is consistent with leaving the brief case in her bedroom. Mrs Chadwick says that Columbo is cross-examining Beth and he says that he is just trying to get it straight in his mind. Columbo is about to leave and he asks Mrs Chadwick for the 11$. She says she'll mail him a cheque but he isn't having that so she forks over the $11. The next scene is in the LA county courthouse at a hearing to determine whether Bryce's shooting was an accident or not. The jury finds that the death was an accident. Beth is extatic. She tells Peter that she is going to make some changes and break some patterns. She asks Peter to call a meeting of the department heads for tomorrow to discuss a company re-organization. Columbo had been listening from the gallery. He invites Peter to lunch and he accepts. They go to a 50's style drive-in diner. The waitress is pretty fresh with Columbo. When the food arrives Peter opens the hamburger to look at the contents and puts it down. He drinks his coffee. With a mouthful of burger Columbo asks Peter why he drove over to Beth's home so late on the night of the murder. Peter explains about getting the letter and rushing over in anger to have it out with Bryce. He asks Columbo if he thinks they conspired to kill Bryce and Columbo says no. Then Peter tells Columbo that he's not a fortune hunter and he was prepared to quit the company. Let's listen to the clip, (41:28) "as a matter of fact, i was quite prepared to quit the company...best thing that ever happened to her" That really got Peter thinking. He is silent and gives a long look after this conversation. The next scene, Columbo is snooping around at the Chadwicks. Beth just got a blue Camaro delivered. Charles and the maid approach Columbo and ask what he's doing. He ignores the question and asks Charles about the Camaro and where Beth is. They tell him its new and was just delivered and that Beth is at Eugene's beauty parlor. Columbo tries to shake Charles but Charles is not having it and follows Columbo around until he leaves. Columbo drives to Eugenes to question Beth. I liked the receptionist. She makes him leave his cigar at reception before he enters the room where Beth is getting her hair done. This room is nauseating, there is a bright red carpet, pink painted walls, huge glass chandeliers, and dreamy melodramatic background music. Beth is in a chair getting her hair and nails done while two employees attend to her. She sees Columbo and asks what he's doing there and he compliments her on the car, points out that it is a big change and says it's only natural to want to make changes when there is a death in the family. He asks if she had to order the car in advance and she admits that she ordered it a couple of weeks ago. Columbo is confused because how did Beth know in advance of her brother's death that she was going to change her style. Beth sort of ignores the question. They finish doing her hair and she stands up to model it and Columbo says, "You look sensational. I'd say you were a new woman" That was not about her hair. They leave. Columbo follows Beth to her house. He shows her the path that her brother likely took around the side of the house on the night of his murder...a Thursday. The gardner cuts the grass on Thursdays. Columbo says that Bryce must have gotten grass particles on his shoes but the autopsy pictures don't show any grass on his shoes. Beth says the grass must have come off on the carpet and the carpets have been cleaned since then. They go around to the front of the house. Columbo gets on a step ladder and brings down a potted plant. There is an imprint in the soil of a key. Columbo says it must have been a spare key. Beth says it was hers, but she removed it recently. She tells Columbo she is tired of him bothering her. There was a hearing and the death was declared an accident and she doesn't want to see him again. She enters the house and says goodbye to Columbo. The next scene Peter and Beth are in a posh clothing store. Beth is shopping for a new wardrobe to match her new flashy car and image. Inexplicably, there is a pool table and a bar in the store. Peter is playing pool and drinking a scotch while Beth is whirlwinning around trying on sexy outfits. Peter says that maybe its too soon for the meeting with the department heads...maybe they should wait a week. Beth disagrees. She says it must be today. Beth tries on an outfit that is midriff bearing and definately not suitable for a corporate environment and Peter says its wild and out of her style. Beth says she doesn't think so. Peter says he's going back to the office and Beth tells him to stay. Peter says he doesn't know what's gotten into her but he doesn't like it. He leaves. Now at the meeting with the department heads. Beth is wearing some crazy outfit. It's kind of a purple paisly three-quarter length coat with shoulder flaps. Underneath there is a pink accent turtleneck and she has a matching pink oversize poorboy cap. Looks like something Cam Newton would wear to a press conference. She calls the meeting to order and immediately announces that she is taking over the presidency of the company, Peter is being elevated to Executive VP in charge of accounts, and the company philosophy is changing. She gets some flack from an executive but shuts him down immediately. She then announces that she and Peter are engaged and the meeting abruptly ends. Mrs Chadwick tells Beth she must be out of her mind and reminds her that she is the majority stakeholder. Beth says she is willing to go to court to fight for power if she doesn't get co-operation and her mother is incredulous but concedes.Peter watches silently. He sees how Beth has changed. Columbo arrives. Beth is smug. He brings out the light bulb from the front porch. He shows her how clean it is and remarks that bulbs that have been in use for long enough to burn out are usually dirty. Beth says that servents cleaned it. They work during the day time so how would they know its burnt out? She then tells Columbo that she doesn't want to ever see him again. She doesn't have time to indulge his suspicions and if he thinks he has a case against her, he should go to the district attorney.He gives her back the bulb and leaves. She throws the bulb against the wall and screams at Peter. She says you're a lawyer do something. Peter tells her to calm down. He asks what's gotten into her? We never argued like this before.Beth feels this. She loves Peter and asks what's bothering him. Peter tells her the arbitrary promotion "smacks of high-level nepetism" and announcing their engagement without consulting him was insulting. He says she's changed so much that he's not sure she is the same woman he fell in love with. She says maybe Bryce was right and Peter is not the right man for her. Then she leaves.
And we're back. Let's recap what's happened thus far. In an attempt to get out from under her brother's thumb, Beth Chadwick murders her brother and frames it as an accident. After Bryce's death, Beth makes such profound changes in her life that it starts to drive a wedge between her and boyfriend Peter Hamilton. Now Columbo needs to convince Peter that Bryce's death was not an accident so that peter can provide the proof necessary to make an arrest.
In the next scene, Peter is in a bar drinking. He's upset about his fight with Beth. Columbo is there drinking coffee. Peter approaches him. Columbo is reading the transcript from the coroner's jury trial. He tells Columbo that he is a devious man, that he keeps hanging around. He asks Columbo why he is hounding Beth. He asks Columbo if he really thinks that Beth killed her brother? Columbo says he does. Columbo tells Peter that he found the answer in the transcript and that he can help. Peter agrees to help. Next scene, Beth is in bed just like on the night of the murder. Although, this time she is drinking and smoking in bed. Someone makes some noise outside of her window. At first she thinks its a burglar but then quickly realizes that its probably Columbo. She points the gun at the window and invites Columbo in for a drink. She goes to the window and pulls back the curtain, then Columbo enters the room through the door the way Bryce did, lets listen to the clip, (1:08:20) " this is the way you're brother..." (1:10:30)
And there you have it. Great episode.
Leslie Nielsen - Regina Sasketchewan- born in 1926 and died in 2010- Serious acting roles at beginning of career and more of a Comedic actor towards the end of his career.- active from 1950 to 2010 death- Police Squad, Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Cannon, Kung-Fu and two Columbo episodes. Both as the victim...of sorts.- the naked gun, police story, airplaneLeslie Nielsen was great in this role. I often really enjoy comedians, or what i think of as comedic actors, in straight roles. Think of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting. Say what you will about that movie but Robin Williams was great...or better yet, robin williams in Dead Poets Society. Jim Carey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another. I didn't see the Will Farrell film Stranger than Fiction but i hear Ferrel was magnificent. I think he plays an auditor. You can't get more straight man than an auditor.
Susan Clark - Sarnia Ontario- born in 1940 and still alive and kicking- acting career from 1963 to 1999. Known for Porky's Webster Susan Clark was an excellent villian...confident, demanding, sure of herself, temper tantrums. I give her a 4 out of 5 on the villain scale. Great to see a female villain. Beth had a good plan but in life, things don't always go as planned. You need to plan for contingencies. Bryce was the victim and we didn't get to know him very well. The mistake Bryce made was that you can't run someone else's life.
Next week on The Predictably Treacherous podcast, "Short Fuse" starring Roddy McDowall and James Gregory. Here is a brief summary To prevent the merger of the family chemical company Roger Stanford murders ceo / uncle Clarence Buckner with a bomb in a cigar box. Tune in next week.