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Recap / Columbo S 10 E 04

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Episode: Season 10, Episode 4
Title:"Death Hits the Jackpot"
Directed by: Vincent Mc Eveety
Written by: Jeffrey Bloom
Air Date: December 15, 1991
Previous: Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star
Next: No Time to Die
Guest Starring: Rip Torn, Jamie Rose, Gary Kroeger
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"Death Hits the Jackpot" is a 1991 Columbo TV movie.

Freddy Brower (Gary Kroeger) is a photographer whose life isn't going particularly well at the moment. First, he's broke. Second, he's going through a nasty divorce and squabbling over money and debts with his wife Nancy (Jamie Rose). His life turns around in an instant, however, when he finds out that he has won the lottery, and will be getting thirty million dollars.

Does he split $30 million with his soon-to-be-ex-wife and enjoy being rich? No. Does he kill his wife, only to be caught by wily Lt. Columbo of the LAPD? No! Instead he tells his uncle Leon (Rip Torn). Freddy asks Leon how to avoid giving half the money to Nancy. Leon comes up with a suggestion: Leon will claim that he bought the ticket and thus he will receive the money. Then he'll give the money to Freddy, minus 10% for himself. Gullible Freddy agrees to this deal, not realizing that Leon is also broke, that Leon wants more than three million, and that Leon and Nancy are lovers.

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Leon strings Freddy along for a while, collecting the money as per their deal. Then, on Halloween night, Leon goes over to Freddy's apartment, hits him on the head, drowns him in the bathtub, and stages the scene to look like an accident. Unfortunately for him the investigating officer is Lt. Columbo, who notices that Freddy was wearing a watch as he prepared to take a bath, and wonders why a guy who was struggling to make rent was going to order a $175,000 sports car.


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Tropes:

  • The Alleged Car: Columbo's ancient Peugeot is backfiring louder than usual this episode, and at one point the door jams. The salesman at the fancy sports car dealership sneers in disgust when Columbo pulls up in his old jalopy.
  • Answer Cut: Freddy, pretending for the benefit of his friends that his uncle is the lottery winner, says "What would I do with all that money?" The camera then moves to show a brochure for a $175K sports car that Freddy is interested in.
  • Bath Kick: Nancy does one of these in the bathtub while she's calling Leon, after he's semi-dumped her, and demands her half of the money.
  • Batman Gambit: Columbo still has basically nothing on Nancy, so he calls her in to be present for Leon's arrest and makes sure to say "thank you for your cooperation" so Leon will think she ratted on him. Then he congratulates her on getting all the money, followed by Nancy squealing with joy, followed by an enraged Leon throwing her under the bus by telling her role in the murder to Columbo.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: A fatal one. Freddy, who was haggling with Nancy over debts he incurred before their marriage, wants to keep all thirty million to himself.
  • Eureka Moment: Columbo has one of these when he realizes that the winning lotto numbers match to the focal length settings on Freddy's camera.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: One of Freddy's goofball hippie neighbors has a pet chimp, and Freddy is babysitting the chimp at the time he is murdered. It's pretty obvious that the chimp is a Chekhov's Gun and, sure enough, the clincher in Columbo's case is the chimp's fingerprint, found on the medallion that Leon was wearing as part of his Halloween costume.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Freddy is parted with his money and his life, all because he tried to keep the whole thirty million to himself.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: A heavy grandfather clock starts tolling 9 pm right after Columbo tells Leon that the jig is up and Columbo has him.
  • Greed: Freddy tries to a scheme to keep all the money instead of settling for $15 million, and gets killed as a result.
  • Halloween Episode: Despite the fact that it actually aired in December 1991. Leon sneaks out of his own costume party on the night of October 31, wearing a cloak as if it were a costumer sneaks over to Freddy's apartment, and kills him. This turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun as Leon's claim that Freddy was coming to the party is undermined by the absence of a costume in Freddy's apartment.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Leon asks "Who else have you told about your windfall?" Freddy thinks he's concerned about keeping the secret from Nancy but of course Leon is already hatching a murder plot.
  • Idiot Ball: Why didn't Leon at least bring a Halloween costume to Freddy's place, to make the story about Freddy attending the party seem more credible?
  • Like a Son to Me: Leon lies and says that Freddy was "like a son to us" when he was orphaned in his teens after his parents died in a plane crash.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: A common Columbo trope. Leon hits his nephew over the head, drowns him in the bathtub, and stages the scene to make it look like Freddy slipped and fell.
  • The Mistress: Nancy is this for Leon, who is married. The film is vague but it seems most likely that they were lovers before the lottery business and that Nancy went to Freddy when she was suspicious about her husband.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Freddy's apartment building is filled with a lot of retro hippie kooks who do wacky stuff like play the guitar and recite poems at funerals, or sit around and sing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone", or keep chimps as pets.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Columbo and another detective, walking off after Leon and Nancy have been arrested, while Columbo muses about what to get his wife for their anniversary.
  • Phoney Call: The other part of Leon's alibi for the murder involves Nancy pretending to be Freddy and calling Leon's house, to establish that Leon died after 8 pm. Leon has a fake conversation on the phone for the benefit of his servant.
  • Plot Hole: It's not really clear why Nancy didn't just refuse to sign the divorce papers and thus collect $15 million, rather than conspire to murder her husband to get the same amount of money.
  • Roommate Com: Freddy has an endless supply of wacky neighbors who keep dropping in after his murder. One of them keeps a pet monkey.
  • Stopped Clock: Not the first time that a Columbo murderer breaks a timekeeping device in order to mislead the police about time of death. In this one, Leon smashes Freddy's watch in an effort to establish a time of death for later, when Leon was back at his party.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Inverted. When Columbo shows up at the Halloween party in his standard cheap suit and rumpled raincoat, the guests assume that he's dressed as an eccentric millionaire.
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