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Recap / Columbo S 01 E 04

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The "gotcha" moment

Episode: Season 1, Episode 4
Title:"Suitable for Framing"
Directed by: Hy Averback
Written by: Jackson Gillis
Air Date: November 17, 1971
Previous: Dead Weight
Next: Lady in Waiting
Guest Starring: Ross Martin, Don Ameche, Kim Hunter, Rosanna Huffman

"Suitable for Framing" is the fourth episode of the first season of Columbo.

Art critic Dale Kingston (Ross Martin) comes home to his uncle Rudy's mansion one night and shoots Rudy dead as Rudy plays piano. Right after he does the doorbell rings—but it's his girlfriend Tracy (Rosanna Huffman), who is his partner in crime. Together they stage an elaborate cover-up, trashing Rudy's house, stealing some paintings from Rudy's art collection, and using an electric blanket to keep Rudy's corpse warm and thus deceive the cops about his time of death. With the warmth of the body to make police think Rudy was killed later than he really was, Dale goes to an art showing and makes sure he is seen. But of course Lt. Columbo is not fooled, not even when Dale tries to steer suspicion towards Edna (Kim Hunter), Rudy's ex-wife, who just inherited Rudy's obscenely valuable art collection.


Don Ameche has a supporting part as Edna's lawyer.


  • Amicable Exes: Rudy seemed to be on good terms with his ex-wife Edna until his death and rewrote his will, which leaves the entire art collection to her. Dale tries to frame her so that he will inherit the art collection instead.
  • And Starring: Hunter gets a "Special Guest Star" credit.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The episode initially seems to be building up to a reveal that Dale murdered his uncle to inherit his art collection... only for the will-reading to reveal that the collection is instead going to Edna, and that Dale knew this. Though it's played with, since it turns out that Dale is in fact intending to frame Edna for the murder so that he can inherit the paintings after all.
  • Bluff Worked Too Well: Played with. Dale spends a lot of time playing the sympathetic friend Edna trying to protect her from Columbo. Thus, he covers his tracks with plenty of false insistence that Edna couldn’t possibly be involved in his murder. He’s left completely stunned when Columbo seems to believe him.
Dale: Don’t you think you should [investigate Edna’s house]? I mean, for her protection. Then when you fail to find the paintings, you can cross her name off the list entirely.
Columbo: Well, it hardly seems worth the trouble. Neither of us think she’s guilty, why bother?
  • Chekhov's Gun: Columbo trying to take the paintings out of Dale's case. This is later how he nails Dale, as Columbo's fingerprints on the stolen paintings confirm that they were in Dale's possession.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ex-wife Edna is a little flighty and not quite aware of what is going on, which is what Dale tries to take advantage of.
  • Corpse Temperature Tampering: Art critic Dale Kingston comes home to his uncle Rudy's mansion one night and shoots Rudy dead as Rudy plays piano. Right after he does the doorbell rings, but it's his girlfriend Tracy, who is his partner in crime. Together they stage an elaborate cover-up, trashing Rudy's house, stealing some paintings from Rudy's art collection, and using an electric blanket to keep Rudy's corpse warm and thus deceive the cops about his time of death.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dale, being a famous art critic, knows how to apply the charm when he needs to, but it always comes off as insincere. Underneath it all he's a self-centred jerk motivated entirely by greed. He's also incredibly two-faced; he's all charm with the artists whose gallery opening he attends, but later reveals that he's dismissive of their work and shamelessly intending to trash it in his review, he's clearly stringing along Tracy in order to manipulate for her his own ends, only to bare-facedly rubbish her artwork and profess to have no knowledge of her when Columbo later confronts him about her, and he's planning to set up Edna for murder while putting on an act of being the concerned nephew looking out for her interests.
  • Frame-Up: Dale's plan all along is to frame Edna for the murder of her ex-husband.
  • Fresh Clue: Staged by Dale, as he puts an electric blanket over Rudy's body, to keep the corpse warm and fool the cops into thinking that Rudy was killed later than he really was. The episode never mentions that mottling would give the game away.
  • Hate Sink: Even moreso than most Columbo murderers, Dale has essentially no redeeming qualities - not even the dignity of being a Graceful Loser.
  • Jerkass: Dale Kingston is not one of the more likeable murderers to appear on Columbo; he's smarmy, condescending, two-faced, manipulative, ill-tempered and greedy.
  • Oh, Crap!: Two moments in the climax:
    • Dale's composure first starts to slip when the police captain who has been overseeing the search of Edna's home reveals that Columbo is still in charge of the case, despite Dale trying to manipulate events to go over his head.
      Frank: Do you intend to formally charge her, captain?
      Police Captain: It's up to Lt. Columbo. It's his case.
      Dale: [Startled] What do you mean, it's his case? I thought—
      Police Captain: [Coolly] We know what you thought, Mr. Kingston.
    • Then, it really falls apart when Columbo reveals that they're looking for Columbo's fingerprints on the paintings, not Dale's — and Columbo reminds him of their earlier encounter when he tried to see the paintings that Dale was bringing home.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: After bashing Tracy over the head with a rock, Dale attempts to make her death look like a car accident in which she drove off a mountain road.
  • Public Exposure: Columbo is uncomfortable when he goes to interview the art dealer and encounters a nude model posing for a painting.
  • Recycled Script: Tracy's role as a female accomplice to murder who has second thoughts is roughly similar to Joan's in "Prescription: Murder", down to both characters getting antsy and contacting their male partner too early. The difference is that Dale kills Tracy while Ray Flemming never gets around to that "little accident" he had planned for Joan.
  • Scenery Censor: The nude model posing for the artist has her naughty bits carefully hidden by the placement of the artist's canvas.
  • Silence Is Golden: The first five minutes, in which Dale kills his uncle and starts staging the scene, take place without any dialogue. (This is the only episode of Columbo in which the murder victim doesn't have any lines.)
  • Villainous Breakdown: The formerly unflappable Dale starts freaking out when Columbo drops the bomb about the fingerprints, screaming that it's all a setup and that Columbo planted the prints himself just now. Columbo then delivers the "gotcha" moment when he holds up his hands and shows that he's wearing gloves.
  • Wham Line: A panicking Dale sneers when Columbo says they're looking for fingerprints on the painting, saying that he'd handled that painting many times in Rudy's home. Columbo then says "Oh, we're not looking for your fingerprints." They're looking for Columbo's fingerprints, and when they find them, they prove that the paintings were in Rudy's possession after the murder. This in turn leads to...
  • Wham Shot: Dale, really losing it now, starts yelling about how Columbo is trying to set him up and has planted his prints on the paintings just now when everyone's attention was distracted. Columbo, by now clearly fed up with this guy, just silently removes his hands from his pockets where he's had them all throughout the scene... only to reveal he's been wearing gloves the whole time.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Dale bludgeons Tracy to death with a rock after collecting the paintings from her.

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In which Dale Kingston is tripped up for good by one of these.

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