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Episode: Season 1, Episode 2
Title:"Death Lends a Hand"
Directed by: Bernard Kowalski
Written by: Richard Levinson and William Link
Air Date: October 6, 1971
Previous: Murder by the Book
Next: Dead Weight
Guest Starring: Robert Culp, Ray Milland, Patricia Crowley
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"Death Lends a Hand" is the second episode of the first season of Columbo.

Arthur Kennicutt (Ray Milland) thinks his much younger wife Lenore (Patricia Crowley) is cheating on him. He hires delux private investigator Brimmer (Robert Culp) to find out. Brimmer reports back to Arthur that Lenore is innocent. The thing is, though, that he's lying; Lenore has been having an affair with the golf pro at the country club.

Brimmer's motivations soon become clear: he wants to use Lenore as a spy on her husband, who is a newspaper magnate with a lot of enemies. Lenore refuses, says she'll confess her infidelity, and also says that she'll tell Kennicutt that Brimmer lied to him and is running a blackmail racket. Brimmer panics, punches her in the face due to rage, and she falls down and dies from head trauma. Brimmer dumps her body in the middle of nowhere after cleaning up the crime scene.

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He thinks he's in the clear, but he forgets about one thing: Lt. Columbo of the LAPD. Columbo notices that Lenore has a wound on her face from being punched suggesting a killer with a bad temper and that the killer was wearing something on their hand. Columbo zeros in on Brimmer especially after noticing that he's prone to angry outbursts.

First of three Columbo episodes in which Robert Culp played the murderer (he played the father of one of the murders in another appearance). First of two appearances for Ray Milland, who would play the murderer in Season Two's "The Greenhouse Jungle".


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Tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Brimmer didn't mean to do it. He hit Lenore after losing his temper, and she fell down and hit her head.
  • And Starring: Ray Milland, who was an A-list movie star back in the day (he won an Oscar for The Lost Weekend!), gets a "Special Guest Star" credit.
  • The Big Board: Brimmer has a big board of the Los Angeles neighborhood where Lenore's body was found. He uses it when pretending to direct his investigators on how to handle the case.
  • Blackmail: Brimmer attempts this with Lenore, demanding that she spy on her husband. It backfires spectacularly and she even says she'll admit the affair to Arthur herself.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Columbo reveals that one of Lenore's contact lenses was missing. When Brimmer breaks into the auto mechanic's shop to ransack his car, looking for the contact lens, Columbo has him. Afterwards Columbo tells Arthur that actually, both of Lenore's lenses were still on her eyes when they found her.
  • Death by Falling Over: How Lenore dies when Brimmer knocks her into his shelf.
  • The Exit Is That Way: One scene where Columbo is quizzing Brimmer and Kennicutt ends with the lieutenant attempting to leave and realizing he is walking into a closet.
  • Graceful Loser: When Brimmer falls for Columbo's bluff about Lenore's missing contact lens and springs the trap, he tries to walk away but is searched and caught with the contact lens. Brimmer surrenders and apologizes to Arthur with a hint of sadness.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Brimmer has this big time, as it ultimately resulted in him accidentally killing Lenore. This shows up again later on when Brimmer loudly chews out one of his employees for revealing some confidential client information to Columbo, something Columbo takes note of.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Sort of. The LAPD has the case but Brimmer's private detective agency is assisting.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: The fact that Lenore had a bruise and a cut on the left side of her face leads Columbo to conclude that she was backhanded by a left-handed person wearing a ring. He starts to zero in on Brimmer as a suspect after noting that Brimmer is left-handed and wears a ring.
  • No Name Given: Brimmer's first name is never given; he's only "Investigator Brimmer." (Of course this is also true of Lt. Whatever Columbo.)
  • Riddle for the Ages: The key to catching Brimmer is set up when his car conks out and has to be taken to the mechanic's. Columbo casually comments to Kennicutt that when he was a boy, he and his buddies used to cause car failures by stuffing potatoes up car exhaust pipes. At the end, Kennicutt nearly looks at the exhaust pipe of Brimmer's car, before turning to follow Columbo.
  • Sherlock Scan: Brimmer gets the measure of Columbo around the time that Columbo deduces that Brimmer lives by the beach from looking at Brimmer's car. Columbo notes corrosion of the chrome on Brimmer's car that is cased by salty sea air.
  • Split Screen: A rather inventive use of this trope. The camera zooms in on Brimmer, and his glasses, right after he kills Lenore. A freeze-frame on a close-up of his face leads to a split screen effect with his glasses, in which each lens is replaced with different images of Brimmer getting rid of the body.
  • Your Cheating Heart: It turns out that Lenore was cheating on Arthur, with a golf pro at the country club.
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