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Recap / Columbo S 10 E 02

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Wade Anders will soon be a villain on his own show!

Episode: Season 10, Episode 2
Title:"Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health"
Directed by: Daryl Duke
Written by: Sonia Wolf, Patricia Ford, and April Raynell
Air Date: February 20, 1991
Previous: Columbo Goes to College
Next: Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star
Guest Starring: George Hamilton

"Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health" is the second episode of the tenth season of Columbo.

Wade Anders (George Hamilton) is the host of Crime Alert!, a true-crime TV series that re-enacts crimes, shows pictures of wanted criminals, and sometimes actually covers the arrests of bad guys. Wade is handsome and successful, and he's got a super tan. Life is good.

Life is good except for one little problem, in the person of Bud Clarke (Wade Haskell), a newscaster and rival of Wade's at the network. Bud was thought to be the first choice for Crime Alert! and he wanted the job very badly, but Wade spread a lot of stories about Bud's drinking habit and aced him out of the job. A bitter Bud has found a really good piece of dirt on Wade: a pornographic film that a young Wade starred in years ago, with an underaged female co-star.


Bud demands Wade quit Crime Alert!, or Bud will make the tape public and Wade will lose his job in a scandal. Wade has a different idea. Bud is a chain smoker, so Wade takes a pack of Bud's brand of cigarettes and laces them with concentrated nicotine sulfate, a very deadly poison. While the two of them are having a secret meeting to arrange the terms of Wade's departure, the poison takes effect and kills Bud. Wade switches out the tainted cigarettes for some untainted ones, erases the incriminating story on Bud's computer, and leaves unseen.

But of course he didn't know about Lt. Columbo of the LAPD, who wonders why there are no nicotine stains on the filters of the cigarettes in the ashtray, or why there are no fingerprints on the back side of the paper Bud supposedly printed out.



  • Accidental Pervert: Columbo is embarrassed when he goes to the porno store to get a copy of Wade's movie, and is greeted by some pervy dude in an identical wrinkled raincoat who assumes that the lieutenant is a customer too.
  • Alliterative Name: Barbara Baylor, the woman depicted in the Crime Alert reenactment at the beginning of the episode.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Actually subverted in this episode. The fatal dose of nicotine sulfate, administered by Wade Anders to Budd Clarke by inserting a few drops into one of his Victory King cigarettes, probably would kill a man as fast as was shown in the episode. Wade may have added a little more poison than necessary in order to guarantee that it would work.
  • Asshole Victim: Inverted in the sense that while Bud is rightfully salty over being defamed by Wade and resorts to blackmail, his situation can be sympathized with. Wade is a somewhat of a narcissist himself and was willing to smear Bud to secure his career with Crime Alert! This helps viewers cheer on Columbo's efforts to bring him to justice.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Wade Anders — a crime show host — will probably become a huge story on Crime Alert! after Columbo connects them to the murder of Bud Clarke.
  • Blackmail Backfire: Bud attempts to use Wade's old porno as blackmail material. Wade just feigns agreeing to meet Bud so he can plant poisoned cigarettes for Bud to smoke right away.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Crime Alert! is obviously based on America's Most Wanted.
    • The porno Wade appeared in long ago, Holly Does Houston, is a goof on famous 1978 porno Debbie Does Dallas.
  • Bleached Underpants: In-Universe, Wade Anders has a secret past in porn. When Budd Clarke tries to blackmail him with this info, Wade kills him.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The guy trimming the hedges at Wade's office. The trimmed hedges destroy Wade's alibi tape.
    • The dog at Bud's house that jumped up onto Columbo's car door. He did the same thing on Wade's car door, scratching it in the same manner—and the dog is missing one claw on its left paw.
  • Complexity Addiction: Wade really goes overboard with his murder plot. He goes to a lot of trouble crafting a fake video recording for an alibi, when he could have just exited his office by a rear window. And he does his whole thing with the fake cigarettes, when he could have just flushed the tainted ones down the toilet and called 911 after he was sure Bud was dead.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Columbo's confused driving makes a return in this episode when he has a head-on parking lot collision with Wade's car due to both having Played for Laughs confusion over right-of-way. This one seems so completely avoidable that it seems like Columbo is gripping the Idiot Ball tightly here.
  • GPS Evidence: Columbo's car is scratched by Budd Clarke's dog when he arrives at the scene for the first time. He proves Wade Anders is lying when he says he has never been to the house upon discovering identical claw marks on Anders' car.
  • In Love with the Mark: More like "in love with the intended murder victim". Barbara Baylor falls in love with Duke DiMarco, the man she was originally going to help her husband kill.
  • Overly-Long Gag: While Columbo and Wade arrive at his office at the same time, Columbo spends several minutes misunderstanding or not hearing Wade's instructions on who parks where, causing both of them to accelerate at the same time and almost hit each other several times until they finally crash into each other. Whether this is a case of Columbo's Cloud Cuckoo Lander tendencies being exaggerated so that he ends up witnessing the overly friendly dog's claw marks on Wade's car by accident or if he's doing it on purpose so that he has an excuse to check out Wade's car without raising his suspicions is unknown.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: A perimortem one liner. As Bud is choking out due to the poison, Wade snarks, "I told you those things were gonna kill you."
  • Post-Mortem One-Liner:...which is followed by one of these. As Wade is wrapping up and leaves, he mockingly says "News at 11" to Wade's corpse.
  • Proscenium Reveal: The opening scene has a hot young babe and her studly lover murdering her husband for the insurance money. A shot of a TV monitor then reveals that this is a reenactment on Crime Alert!.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: One of many episodes of Columbo where the lieutenant is rewinding and replaying a tape in order to break an alibi. This time he finally notices that the supposed alibi tape from Wade's office shows that the well-trimmed hedges from the morning suddenly became un-trimmed in the afternoon. (Wade spliced in a recording from a different day.)
  • Second-Face Smoke
    • Bud starts to light up a cigarette in Wade's dressing room. Wade the non-smoker says "Bud, I would rather you not smoke in here." Bud proceeds to light up and blow the smoke in Wade's face.
    • Columbo is more subtle about it, but he does light up his cigar in Wade's office, after Wade is arrested.
  • Tainted Tobacco: Anders uses Clark's addiction to cigarettes to poison him by adding concentrated nicotine sulfate drops, which kill almost instantly, to his cigarettes.
  • Take a Third Option: Bud gives Wade two choices: quit Crime Alert! quietly, or be forced out through a scandal. Wade goes with murder instead.
  • Villain of Another Story: The opening of the episode tells of a woman named Barbara Baylor, who planned to murder a man with her doctor husband, use that man's corpse to fake the doctor's death, then meet together in Europe when Barbara collects on her husband's life insurance. The plan drastically changes when Barbara falls in love with the man and kills her husband with his help. The two are caught after a tip to Crime Alert!, which the show films.