I Spy: So Long, Patrick Henry

Original airdate: September 15, 1965 (Premier)

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” – Patrick Henry, US statesman 1736-1799

I watched this episode on YouTube back in 2008 just after finding “A Cup of Kindness.” Where I was hooked by “Kindess,” it was this episode that sufficiently reeled me in.

The episode opens with Scotty and Kelly watching film footage of Elroy Browne (Ivan Dixon), an American athlete and Olympian, who defected to China approximately a year earlier. The footage seems to indicate some disenchantment on the part of Browne and the US Government wants to open an invitation for Browne to return to the US. He’s not particularly wanted back but the gesture at least needs to be made.

Scotty spoke to Elroy the previous year, trying to persuade him not to defect but the message went nowhere. The incident left Scotty a little bitter, as Elroy said hardly anything during Scotty’s speechify and then departed saying, “So long, Patrick Henry.”

Although Scotty doesn’t care to have to go through it again, he accepts the assignment with Kelly.

In Hong Kong, Scotty and Kelly are waiting for Elroy, who is arriving to promote the African/Asian Games, a PR stunt dreamed up by the Red Chinese in order to further their influence on the African continent. Scotty hires a bellboy to keep an eye out for Elroy’s arrival. The kid – a big fan of James Bond – really gets into it, calling Kelly and Scotty “007” and offering to place a “small” tape recorder in the guest’s room. (Tape recorders were the size of a brick in 1965.) Kelly declines the offer and the spy-ese from the kid really irritates him. “I told him we’re spies,” Scotty explains casually. Before Kelly can really get upset Scotty adds, “…for the American Tennis Company.”

Down in the lobby of the hotel, Kelly and Scotty are waiting for Elroy to come in. When he does, Elroy recognizes Scotty. He even remembers their conversation, much to Scotty’s surprise. The fact he remembers the conversation is significant though, and the way he acts with his Chinese entourage seems to speak even further of his discontent. The only bright spot in Elroy’s life at the moment is the African Princess Amara (Cecile Tyson), whom he met in China where she’s attending the university in Peking, and has been traveling with him. They’re engaged to be married. Before parting, Elroy asks to meet with boys later, for drinks. He has a cocktail party to attend prior.

Later, they wait at the bar…but Elroy doesn’t show. The busboy reports that Elroy left the cocktail party an hour earlier and went to his room. A minute later, Elroy’s Chinese entourage arrives, en masse. The leader of the group offers apologies to Scotty and Kelly, explaining that Mr. Browne would not be able to join them. Scotty and Kelly realize, however, that the entourage doesn’t know where Elroy is either.

As Scotty and Kelly are about to leave the bar area, the busboy comes through again and hands a piece of paper to Scotty directing them to go out front and take a cab. When they get out there and hail a cab, they find Elroy and Amara in it and are invited to come along and paint the town.

From there, it’s a series of bar stops and various conversations. Elroy enjoys giving his “handlers” the slip. Eventually, they get to the crux of the whole thing and there’s a heated exchange between Elroy and Scotty. In the end though, it doesn’t seem like Elroy is disenchanted enough to want to return to the US. Afterall, he’s making a ton of money…

Despite his reluctance to return to the US, Elroy’s entourage figures that Kelly and Scotty are a bad influence and need to be neutralized. Although Kelly spots that they’re being bird dogged and he and Scotty try to make it appear as though the four have done nothing but traipse around Hong Kong and drink too much, it doesn’t help. Kelly and Scotty are nearly shot in a cab and they end up taking off on foot, being chased into the wee hours of the morning.

The chase ends up going across roof tops, with Kelly taking a spill at one point and being bodily picked up by Scotty. (In his commentaries on the DVD, Culp talks about being sick as a dog during the filming of some of the chase scenes and mentions how Cosby literally had to pick him up off the ground a couple of a times.)

From there, they end up in the shanty towns of the Hong Kong hillsides where the inhabitants watch the chase, having no idea what’s really going on. A group of them stand and stare openly at Scotty and Kelly as the two stop to take a breather. After Kelly grumbles about them being so obvious, Scotty turns it around and tells the folks that they’re filming a movie and that if they look around, they should see the bad guys coming. It works and gives Scotty and Kelly the advantage in knowing where the bad guys were coming in from and lets them get the drop on them.

Back at the hotel, Elroy is being held captive by his “handlers” and, unknown to Scotty and Kelly, he’s been injected with typhus. Amara, also sickened with typhus is being flown back to Peking. The announcement of the Afro-Asian Games will still be made, despite Elroy not delivering it. Elroy than finds out that the whole point of the games is for China to have greater influence in and over Africa. He’s been used for nothing more than a ploy.

Scotty and Kelly get a report from the busboy about Amara being taken away and about Elroy still being in his hotel room. With a little help from the busboy, Kelly and Scotty manage to overtake Elroy’s captors (with Kelly taking the window route – and nearly slipping off the ledge!)

Elroy offers Kelly the deal: Get Amara back and he would come back to the US. One better, he would go down to the conference and announce that whole thing was a total sham. Kelly takes off to stop the plane from leaving Hong Kong.

Kelly hurries to the airport and alerts the World Health Organization that a plane carrying typhus is attempting to take off. The radio tower attempts to order the plane to not take off but is ignored. Kelly runs out on to the runway, fights off a bad guy and then commandeers a baggage truck, which he drives directly into the path of the plane.

Kelly ends up with a broken arm for his efforts, but he gets Amara back and returns to the hotel as the Chinese agents are nabbed. At the conference, Kelly walks in to see Elroy at the podium telling everyone what was really going on. Scotty is in the broadcast booth, making sure the message is translated.

Their mission a success, the final scene shows Elroy and Amara speaking with the press as Scotty and Kelly look on. The busboy then comes up behind them and is ready to go. Kelly learns that Scotty promised to take the kid to a movie as reward. The movie?  “The Adventures of 007” (ie, Goldfinger. Cue up Shirley Bassey). Scotty adds that the film will be a great refresher course for Kelly.

Between this episode and the second, A Cup of Kindness, the tone of what would be I Spy is clearly set. The mix of drama and humor is well balanced and Culp’s script takes any ideas of campiness and tosses it immediately (the scene with the bellboy on the phone to Kelly offering to place his brick sized tape recorder in Browne’s room). The running joke through the episode, of course, is the bellboy’s infatuation with James Bond, but the episode itself makes it clear: This show is not James Bond.

The story itself borders on controversial (for the time). The basic concept of a man who sells out to the highest bidder and realizes that money doesn’t buy happiness isn’t new, but Culp’s twist puts a black man in that position. I Spy already had a strike against it when several NBC affiliates in the south refused to air the show because it featured a black man and a white man on equal footing. Culp’s script had to be even more insulting to those same affiliates.

Ivan Dixon plays Browne well and for having seen him only in Hogan’s Heroes, I found it refreshing to see him in a much more dramatic role.

Above all, the camaraderie between Scotty and Kelly is the greatest selling point of this show. If they had not been put on equal footing, 50/50, it never would have worked.

“So Long, Patrick Henry” is available on the first season DVD, available at Amazon.com.

TGAH: The Hit Car

Originally aired: March 25, 1981

In the early exploration of All Things Culp, I mined my way through YouTube. Back in 2008 there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff posted, a couple episodes of I Spy , one or two made for tv movies and various miscellaneous vids that I’ll cover in other posts. Amongst the miscellaneous stuff, however, was a vid that single handedly sold me on Bill Maxwell and The Greatest American Hero series. This vid is brilliant.

I was sold. I bought all three seasons in fairly short order.

I was especially sold on Culp’s Bill Maxwell, the calcified, old school Fed who freaked out and took off in the pilot after the visit with the “green guys” and the bequeathing of the suit to Ralph. He returned, however, out of a sense of duty and curious to see what the fuss was all about. By the end of the pilot, he was becoming quite comfortable with the idea of this supersuit and with this first regular season episode, he was ready to run the whole show, much to Ralph’s chagrin. Honestly, if the pilot for The Greatest American Hero didn’t sell you on watching this show, The Hit Car should have. This is by far my favorite episode.

So what’s the fuss all about? Read on…

Starlet Wilde has agreed to testify against Johnny “The Dancer” Diamante, the biggest “dope dealing slug” that FBI agent Bill Maxwell has been trying to nail for 15 years. After another Fed attempts to drive Starlet to LA from San Francisco and is shot in the process, Bill decides to go to San Francisco and bring her down himself – with help from Ralph and the suit.

Ralph, meanwhile, is trying to organize his class to do a Shakespeare play which will get them some credits for English Lit (which nobody seems to particularly care about). During the first meeting for the play, unfortunately, Bill shows up, tells Ralph they have a flight to San Francisco at 7 o’clock and it was go time.

Ralph, indignant, protests, saying he can’t just up and leave not without having to tend to some stuff first, like finding a babysitter for his son, Kevin. Bill solves that problem quick and asks for the next one. Pam tries to slip out but Bill doesn’t let her, telling her plainly, “You’re in this.” He then explains to both Ralph and Pam about his 15 years trying to nail Johnny Diamante and makes it clear. “We’re gonna get this guy, Ralph. Finally.”

Pam doesn’t care to be a “third string utility man” and Ralph’s not happy about Bill just barging in and taking things over. “Bill, you cannot going around changing people’s lives to suit yourself!” he says. “Sure I can,” Bill replies.

Despite neither of them liking the situation, there’s a grudging agreement to go along with Bill. Ralph asks Pam to take over the rehearsals for the play and Ralph and Bill head out…where Bill finds his hubcaps in the front seat of his car courtesy of Ralph’s students.

In San Francisco they arrive at the dumpy hotel room where Starlet is hiding. Starlet is pleasantly surprised to see Ralph – which annoys Bill.

Once inside her room, she tells Bill that she refuses to fly, citing some astro chart mumbo jumbo. There’s some lively discussion about driving versus flying, killers being on their tail and the stars predicting the future. Starlet also turns the charm on Ralph, which did I mention really annoys Bill? “Okay, boys and girls, over here please. Let’s put a dimmer on the goo goo eyes and try n’ hold a thought. We have killers after us in the immediate vicinity.”

Well Startlet doesn’t think there’s anybody outside the hotel room and she goes over and pulls back the curtain which suddenly shatters in gunfire. Bill pushes Starlet down to the floor and out of the line of fire and then hollers for Ralph to get out there and stop the gunmen.

Ralph sputters and mutters but does his thing, jumping through the bathroom window and flying across the way, only to crash into the penthouse across the street from the hotel. He manages to make his way out the suite, down the stairs and through the lobby all the while people are staring and snickering at him. He commandeers a trench coat on his way out.

Back at Starlet’s hotel room, Ralph knocks at the door. He gives Bill the bad news about not getting the hit guys and proceeds to confuse poor Ms. Starlet, who can’t figure out how Ralph ended up outside, when the last she knew, he was in the bathroom. Neither Ralph, nor Bill make any attempt to explain and Bill quickly changes the subject, they need to rethink their scenario as it’s obvious the hit guys are on to them.

Starlet still refuses to fly. In fact, so does Ralph.

Bill, sick of them both, gives in to having to drive back to LA.

During the drive, Starlet is impressed by Ralph’s intellect as he’s sitting there reading Shakespeare. Bill, in turn, is simply amazed by her lack thereof…

Having driven for a while, and hearing enough of Starlet prattle on confusing The Taming of the Shrew with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? Bill decides they’re going to stop at an FBI safe house in Salinas for the night. Only Starlet refuses, telling him they can’t stop until Santa Barbara – her astro chart and all. She can’t sleep except by the water.

Bill’s livid. Not wanting to hear the arguing, Ralph makes a suggestion to Bill that Pam’s boss has a beach house in Santa Barbara. If Pam can borrow it, they can stop there. Starlet thinks it sounds wonderful. Bill’s irritated as all hell by this point but they stop and phone Pam.

Somehow, Pam manages to get use of the beach house (would have been interesting to have scene showing her trying to explain this to her boss) and is there waiting for the trio when they arrive. Bill praises her on getting the beach house but laments that there’s no food. There’s then some added animosity from Pam toward Starlet. A great cap off to an already wonderful evening.

The next morning they prepare to head out. Bill, starving by this point, is making due with stale dog biscuits that would “float in a tub of spit forever.” There’s a nice scene here between Bill and Pam where he at least acknowledges that Starlet’s been putting the moves on Ralph and tells Pam that she’s more than welcome to set the show girl straight, with what we today call a good bitch slapping. It’s hard to tell tho’ if Pam appreciates the gesture since it was presented in such a Neanderthal way.

While this is going on, Ralph’s in the bathroom, putting on his red jammies. He sees a holograph in the mirror of the two hit men outside the beach house. At the same time, Starlet’s pounding on the door to use the facilities. She eventually busts in, makes a little pass at Ralph who deflects it and heads out to tell Bill what he’s seen.

Bill gathers the troops and lays out the plan rapid fire. He takes no grief from either Pam or Ralph and tells them to do what he says. Pam sees that Starlet is down and away from the windows while Ralph does his thing with the suit. Bill, meanwhile, goes right out the front door – John Wayne style. He catches the attention of the hit guys and exchanges fire with them, taking a wound to his hand. Ralph gets the drop on the two hit men and tosses one head over heels in Bill’s direction. While Bill places that one under arrest, Ralph chases after the second hit man who tries to make his escape in another vehicle. Ralph catches him and Bill follows up to pick up the guy. By this point there’s sirens in the air and the heat is on. Bill tells Ralph to disappear, won’t let him take the car and can’t let him take the van. Ralph indignant once again, issues a warning to Bill that his patience is running pretty thin with this “partnership.” He then takes to the air and tries to fly, only to go dive bombing right into the ocean. The two hit men are completely stupefied by what they’ve witnessed. Bill advises them to forget what they saw but after their arrest they babble on and end up in a mental ward somewhere.

They make it to the courthouse in LA, but not without a new hit squad trying to nail Starlet. Bill takes a shot to the leg this time but Starlet is spared and is ushered inside where the grand jury is waiting. Bill calls the entire mission a success….until he finds out later from the District Attorney that Starlet took the 5th and refused to testify.

At this point, Ralph figures out there was a different scenario going on the whole time and he explains it to Bill. They weren’t trying to kill Starlet, they were trying to kill Bill. Bill doesn’t buy it at first until he thinks about for a minute and it makes sense.

As they drive away from the courthouse, Bill and Ralph both lament about their day of which neither one has much sympathy for the other. Bill then makes an excuse about stopping for some cigars and he pulls up to a little Italian restaurant where, inside, Johnny Diamante is complaining about his day too. “The only thing that’s worked out in the last 24 hours is this tuxedo,” Johnny says to his henchman, Mike, “and if I didn’t look so good in this thing I’d smack you right in the mouth!” If Johnny thought his day was going bad it got worse, when Bill comes walking in with a cheerful rendition of “The Gang’s All Here” and walks (limps) up to Johnny’s booth, pulling a gun.

A tense moment passes before Bill takes hold of Johnny’s plate of spaghetti and dumps in right on Johnny’s lap. He not only just dumps it, he pushes the plate right into Johnny’s gut and then lets it slide down to the floor.

Bill doesn’t stop there. He then takes Johnny’s glass of wine and carefully pours that into his lap too all the while seeing out of the corner of his eye as Mike tries to move for a gun and Bill simply tells him to freeze.

In parting, Bill asks for Johnny to say hello to all the pretty people at the Grammy’s…

Knowing full well he’s angered Johnny, Bill returns to the car and asks Ralph to drive. Johnny and Mike follow in a truck that has the Hit Car in it. Once again, the conversation between Ralph and Bill is a bit one sided with Ralph prattling on about how they need to communicate better if this partnership is going to work. All Bill is concerned with is that Johnny is following them.

They arrive at the school, which Bill figures will work good for his scenario – the place is supposed to be empty. Only it’s not. Ralph has a dress rehearsal scheduled which sends Bill into code red mode and he tells everyone to get down just as Johnny opens fire through the doorway from the Hit Car.

The shootout underway, Bill faces down the Hit Car (and runs from it) while Ralph struggles with the change of outfits. Finally, Ralph gets his act together and flies in under the Hit Car. He tips the Hit Car on its side effectively trapping Johnny and Mike.

Upon seeing Ralph, Johnny realizes his hit guys weren’t kidding when they said a “supah guy” broke up the hit. Bill gives Johnny the same advice he gave the hit men: You didn’t see any of this. It didn’t happen. Johnny has no problem with that.

For all his bluster about Ralph’s students and sometimes Ralph, Bill shows up at the opening night of the kids play. He tells Ralph that he wasn’t there as any show of support, however. He just likes Shakespeare….

…and to listen to the baseball game on his transistor radio.

Great interactions between the characters (and conflict), great plot twist and nice use of a 1966 Dodge Charger (I’m a car nut). The scene where Bill dumps the pasta on Johnny’s lap is classic. In fact, I loved this episode so much I played around with the footage and created a couple of “trailers” for the ep (kinda like a movie trailer). Here’s one of them…

The Greatest American Hero – Season One is available at Amazon.com, either as a download or you can purchase the DVD set.  You can also download the Hit Car episode itself through Amazon for about the price of a cup of coffee!


I Spy: A Cup of Kindness

Originally aired: September 22, 1965

No sooner had I been introduced to Robert Culp through the Columbo: Death Lends a Hand episode, I set out to find anything and everything I could of his work and material. Roaming through YouTube one day I discovered there were a couple of episodes of I Spy that had been posted (this was before the more official posting of the episodes that now run in their entirety and are uncut on both YouTube and formerly on Hulu). The first episode I found was this one, “A Cup of Kindness.”

We all know the expression, “You had me at hello?” Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened here. I loved this episode at first viewing and thoroughly enjoyed viewing it again when I went back to do my caps for this post. I won’t say how many total screen caps I ended up doing because…um…well, it was a lot.

But suffice it to say, not long after viewing this episode (along with the very first episode of I Spy, “So Long Patrick Henry” also posted at YouTube at the time) I bought all three seasons of I Spy. In one shot. Wham, bam, thank ya sir.

So here we go, the episode that introduced me to Kelly Robinson, Alexander Scott, tennis, Hong Kong and ascot ties!

Kelly and Scotty return to their hotel room only to realize from the shadow showing in the door vent that somebody is sneaking around within. They dismiss their busboy and, always being prepared, remove weapons from their sports bags. They then enter the room, which appears to be empty. They both notice two feet showing from behind the floor length curtain by the window. They get the drop, only to find it’s just a pair of shoes. They immediately turn to the closet next to them but their visitor is actually across the room, watching them from behind a book shelf. He announces himself, with gun drawn.

The intruder turns out, is not really an intruder at all. His name is Russ Conley and he’s Kelly’s former instructor from spy school. The intrusion turns to a nice reunion and Kelly introduces Scotty to Russ. Russ, turns out, did have a reason for seeing the boys, as he had a message to deliver to them from “the department.”

He gives the envelope to Kelly who goes to check it out. The message is in code, so Kelly retrieves their codex (hidden with the number six of their room number on the door) and deciphers the message. The decoded message is short and grim. The man delivering the message, Russ, was a double agent and had to be killed. Kelly is clearly shocked by the news of his old teacher and the assignment that’s now been placed within his and Scotty’s hands.

Kelly shoves aside his feelings about the assignment and maintains a cool detachment as he rejoins Russ and Scotty for a drink. Kelly hands the decoded message to Scotty, folded and says nothing to Russ, other than confirming that it’s a new assignment. While Scotty reads the message, Kelly pours a beer for Russ and toasts him. Kelly then proceeds to tip Russ’s glass too far, spilling some beer on him. The tactic serves one obvious purpose – to get Russ out of the room for a few moments while Kelly and Scotty absorb their new assignment. Then I got to thinking about it, the gesture also serves another purpose, a way for Kelly to say “Damn you!” without having to speak it.

Considering the warm and friendly introduction Scotty had witnessed just a few minutes earlier, he asks Kelly the blunt and obvious question. What are you going to do? Kelly’s reply is equally as blunt. Kill him.

Without letting on that their assignment had to do with him, Kelly and Scotty go about showing Russ the sights of Hong Kong. They go up to Victoria Peak (the bluff that overlooks Hong Kong and the harbor) and have a somewhat coded conversation about becoming corrupt. By the end of it, it becomes clear. Russ knows of what was in the coded message and that he’s been branded a traitor by the government. As he and Kelly stand near the edge of the bluff, Russ asks if Kelly’s going to push him off. Kelly is unable to do the task.

They ride on the ferry and talk. Russ tells his story of what happened, how he’d been captured and tortured. He couldn’t bring himself to swallow the cyanide tablet. Whether or not Kelly and Scotty are sympathetic it’s hard to tell. Maybe Russ wasn’t a double agent, but he had still sold out to the other side and there’s a slight issue with trust at this point. Russ pleads, however, for their help to prove that he wasn’t a double agent. He had a non-functioning duplicate of the component he had traded his life for. He knew where the real one was located. All they had to do was switch the real component for the fake one.

Russ knows where the component is located and offers to show them. Walking through a crowded market area, Russ gives Kelly and Scotty the slip. They find him in short order and he explains that he was only showing that he could’ve walked away and disappeared if he wanted to, if he were truly guilty. Kelly and Scotty don’t seem to be any more assured by this demonstration. Russ then shows them where the component is located, an import/export business. There’s still some skepticism from Kelly and Scotty, about how Russ could even know where this small device is located. He insists, however, that it’s there.

They decide to try to prove it and Kelly sets up a beautiful little shuck and jive. He goes in with a box of firecrackers and a couple of his tennis rackets. He immediately turns on the charm to the girl working behind the counter, even interrupting her with another customer. When she basically tells him to heel, he bides his time, lighting a cigarette. (Note that more than one cigarette is already coming out of the pack when Culp goes to tap it on his finger. Whether that was intentional or a slight goof, Culp grins a little but carries on flawlessly.)

When the clerk finishes with her customer and turns her attention to Kelly, he’s all charm. His request is very simple. He wants to ship out a package of firecrackers and his tennis rackets. The girl attempts to explain to him that theirs is not that type of business and that he would need to go elsewhere. Kelly refuses to accept that and asks to see the manager. The manager/owner basically tells Kelly the same thing. As they’re talking though, Kelly has strategically placed his lit cigarette near the exposed fuse of the box of firecrackers. When it goes off, chaos ensues and gives Kelly enough time to watch the manager dash to the back office and check the safe.

Before the firecrackers die down and the manager returns to the front office, Kelly dashes back and jumps behind a display. He feigns surprise for what happened and attempts to apologize. The manager wants to hear nothing of it and he removes Kelly, bodily, from the office.

Outside, Kelly reports to Russ and Scotty. It’s there. All they have to do now is make the switch. Back at the hotel, they make their plan but afterward, Kelly still seems bothered by something.

The next day, they set up. Scotty and Russ will break in from the alley while Kelly pulls another diversion again using the same firecracker trick. The clerk behind the counter is less than enthusiastic to see Kelly again.

In fact, she’s essentially non-responsive to any of his charming antics. Kelly, naturally, picks up on her offense and apologizes for his foolishness from the day before. As he’s talking to her, however, the lit cigarette is once again strategically placed near the exposed fuse of the firecrackers.

When the firecrackers suddenly start popping, it starts the clock ticking. Scotty and Russ blow the metal covering off the back window of the office and proceed to cut the gate while Kelly carries on with his ruse out in the front office, which turns into a free-for-all once the firecrackers die down. The manager gets a little rough with Kelly, Kelly gets rough back (although his karate chop attempt against the manager hurts himself more than it does the big manager) and Kelly ends up in a battle royal with all the exporter dudes henchmen (before which he’s plunked on the counter like a rag doll and sent flying down the length of it!)

And I mean battle royal! Every possible fight technique you can think of is utilized in this sequence and it’s one of my favorite fight scenes with Culp. He’s not only throwing punches, he’s jumping on the counters, scaling walls, swinging from the overhead pipes, giving a boot to the head here n’ there, coming down to the floor long enough to stuff one guy into a desk and then swinging on a hanging overhead lamp. Oh, and the hammer toss! I can’t forget the hammer toss!

Despite Kelly’s gallant efforts, he still gets beat by the bad guys and Scotty and Russ are caught too. The exporter manager tosses everyone in a supply room. No problem, Kelly figures. After all, Russ was the expert on this stuff, being in locked rooms and all. So Kelly asks, “what do we do, Teach?”

Russ, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of an answer, which doesn’t sit well with Scotty. He starts to go around the supply room, trying to find something that might give them an advantage to bust out of the place. Meantime, the exporter manager returns and gives them 15 minutes to decide if they’re going to tell him who they are and what they’re up to. And with 15 minutes until their fate, Scotty wasn’t interested in having to wait for a spark of genius to come from Russ. He starts to gather some stuff together with Kelly helping, although Kelly has no idea what his partner is up to. One thing Scotty needs is for one of the crates of codfish to be opened. Kelly tries to pry it open bare handed, but can’t do it. Scotty asks Russ for the component to use to pry open the crate. Russ hesitates, out of fear of damaging the component, but is overruled by Kelly and Scotty. He hands it over and they pry the box open.

Kelly watches as Scotty puts the ingredients together in an old shoe box; chemical fertilizer, dry ice and a flammable liquid. Scotty explains that the concoction won’t blow the door off the place but would create enough smoke and chaos to give them the upper hand. The only thing left needed was a fuse, and the only thing they had was cigarettes. After determining how far a cigarette burns in five minutes, Scotty clipped another cigarette to the same length and lit it. He set it in the box and everyone took cover within the room. They had just about five minutes until their hosts returned.

No sooner do the bad guys open the door when Scotty’s homemade bomb goes off. Chaos erupts and the boys have a momentary advantage over the bad guys. There’s a fight and gunfire and a close call for Kelly who’s nearly shot by one of the bad guys. Russ saves Kelly and they make their escape. The three jump into a cab and it’s here that Kelly and Scotty find their suspicions confirmed. Russ points a gun at them while instructing the driver to go to Victoria Peak.

At Victoria Peak, the truth about Russ comes to light. He has, in fact, gone corrupt. With the component back with him, he can now sell it to an even higher bidder. The only thing left was to dispose of Kelly and Scotty. Kelly belittles Russ for setting it up to shoot them in the back.

Scotty, however, isn’t going to stand and take a bullet in the back and he turns suddenly and charges at Russ. Russ shoots, hitting Scotty in the leg as Kelly also charges at Russ and there’s a struggle and scuffle. Kelly knocks the gun from Russ’s hand and during the course of the struggle, Kelly drops down to the ground on his back, pulling Russ with him. He flips him over and sends him tumbling off the edge of the cliff.

Although this had been the mission all along, Kelly is horrified. After all, Russ had been his teacher and somebody he had respected at one time. The deed done all the same, Kelly picks up the component (Russ had made Scotty put it down on the ground earlier) and turns his attention to his wounded partner. Kelly apologizes for what’s happened but Scotty shakes it off. Kelly didn’t have to apologize for anything.

With their assignment complete and Scotty on the mend, Kelly’s kinda bummed by what happened with Russ. But not for too long. The girl who worked as a clerk at the import/export place comes knocking on the boys’ hotel room door. Kelly’s surprised to see her.  She carries with her a box of firecrackers, like what Kelly used with his ruses. She tells the boys that she was cleared of any wrongdoing, since she had been working at the place for only a few days and had no idea what was going on. She then lights the fuse on the box of firecrackers, sending Kelly and Scotty both diving under their beds.

But the box doesn’t go off….at first. She was told it wouldn’t but had wanted to see how they would react. Then all of a sudden, it does go off and she winds up under the bed with Kelly.

Yeah… Yeah, I would have too.






The first season DVD for “I Spy” is available at Amazon.com.

Columbo: The Most Crucial Game

Originally aired: November 5, 1972

Two things to note here…

1. The moustache. It was real and it threw me for a loop. He looked so different with it! Outside of a game show appearance from the same year and a photo of Culp from a documentary on race relations from around the same time period (’71?), I was used to seeing Culp pretty much sans facial hair. (The Grizzly Adams beard in Hannie Caulder is a different story).

2. The Los Angeles Coliseum. If I’ve got the timeline right in my mind, about the time Culp filmed his first appearance on Columbo in 1971, he either just completed or was just about to start on filming for Hickey & Boggs. By the time this episode aired in November of 1972, Hickey & Boggs had been out in the theatres for about a month. So you could watch Culp on the big screen running around the Coliseum and then come home and watch him in the same place on the small screen!

Culp plays Paul Hanlon, general manager for a pro football team owned by Eric Wagner. Eric inherited the sports empire from his father but would rather spend his days partying and playing. Paul, however, sees a better and brighter future for himself – if he can get Eric out of the way.

Paul arrives at the Coliseum and makes his way up to the owners box. He dismisses the busboy for the afternoon, explaining that it would only be him in the box and no guests. After the busboy leaves, Paul gets on the phone to Eric, rustling him out of bed (it’s already afternoon) and telling him to do some laps in the pool and be ready to be picked up as soon as the game was over. They had a flight to catch to Montreal for a business meeting regarding the purchase of another sports team.

Eric grudgingly says he’ll be ready but honestly couldn’t care less about buying another sports team. As soon as Paul is off the phone with Eric he phones down to the team locker room and talks to the head coach giving him a hard time about the team’s performance and what plays to do (and the game hasn’t even started yet). While doing this, Paul puts the phone on speaker phone and carries on the conversation while beginning to change his clothes.

Yeah, we’re not five minutes into this thing and Culp’s taking his shirt off.

What he changes into is the uniform of a concession man. Complete with paper hat and popcorn box. (I couldn’t help but laugh when he grins at his reflection after he puts the hat on.) The get up allows him to leave the stadium unnoticed.

With a commandeered “Ding-a-Ling” ice cream truck, Paul drives out to Eric’s house. He carries a transistor radio with him to keep tabs on the game. Just before getting to Eric’s house, he stops at a payphone and calls Eric to make sure he was out of bed and in the pool, as requested earlier.

At first, Paul can’t get through because Eric is on the phone ordering food or booze or something. Paul waits a minute or so and then dials again. Eric answers and is right where Paul wants him to be.

Paul gets back in the ice cream truck and drives away from the payphone…just as a little girl is calling after him for ice cream down the road. He arrives at Eric’s house and selects his weapon of choice from the back of the ice cream truck, a big chunk of ice. (No, no Death By Drumstrick). Chunk of ice in hand, Paul sneaks onto the property and does his dastardly deed, killing Eric at the pool.

Before he leaves, however, Paul has to cover his tracks. Literally. His wet shoes leave footprints behind on the deck, so he removes his shoes and hoses down the deck.

Then he’s back in the ice cream truck, racing down the highway back to the football game. Ah but he takes a moment to have fudgesicle on the way. And if I’m sounding smarmy by this point it’s because I couldn’t take any of the rest of this episode seriously. The changing of shirts, his grinning after putting the hat on and then the fudgesicle. The fudgesicle did me in.

Back at the stadium, Paul returns by the halftime – in time to meet with the head coach (and thus further substantiate his alibi). Paul smoothes over whatever issues he had at the start of the game and tells the coach that he’s doing a fine job. As he says, he has bigger fish to fry now…

When Lieutenant Columbo arrives at Eric’s house he suspects a little too quickly that Mr. Wagner’s death was no accident. When Columbo goes to the stadium to report of Eric’s death to Paul, Paul reacts appropriately enough.

And the most crucial game begins as Columbo investigates and spends the rest of the episode dogging Paul Hanlon. The scenes between Falk and Culp are worth watching the episode for because Columbo really just annoys the hell out of Paul. He shows up at Eric’s house to ask questions and poke around.

He follows Paul to the airport, which irritates Paul to no end. And Paul can’t shake the Lieutenant loose for the life of him until Mrs. Wagner’s plane arrives.

Yes, Mrs. Wagner. Eric had a wife. And Mr. Hanlon had his sights set on more than just Eric’s fortune. Columbo casually remarks how she’ll inherit everything now and continues his pestering of Paul until she arrives.

Columbo, respectfully, leaves Mrs. Wagner alone. He remains zeroed in on Paul Hanlon, showing up at a media event for the basketball team and informing him that his office phone and the phone at the Wagner house had been bugged, turns out, by the family lawyer. Columbo has everyone (including Mrs. Wagner) gather at the house to listen to some choice cuts of phone conversations, particularly Paul’s phone calls to Eric just before Eric was killed.

The recorded phone conversations seem to further reinforce Paul’s alibi, but Columbo’s bothered by something with the calls. Eventually, he does figure it out. There’s one minor innocent sound that’s missing from Paul’s phone calls to Eric and when Columbo shows up at the stadium on another day he casually blows Paul’s alibi all to pieces.

My favorite exchange of dialogue in this scene is Paul – thoroughly annoyed with Lt. Columbo – says, “Columbo, I’m going toss you out of here on your ear!” to which Columbo calmly replies, “I wouldn’t do that sir. Because then you’re gonna miss the best part…”

Compared to the first Columbo episode, this one wasn’t as good. The performances were all great and the episode has its moments, but the storyline itself was lacking somewhat.  I didn’t really full grasp Hanlon’s motive for murder and didn’t pick up on much malice forethought on the first viewing of the episode. The second viewing, when I capped it, I at least picked up on the motive but still found it vague.

Would I watch it again? It’s Culp, of course I would!

“The Most Crucial Game” is available on the second season Columbo DVD set available at Amazon.com.

Columbo: Death Lends a Hand

Originally aired: October 6, 1971

Here we go! The episode that started it all for me in being a Fan of All Things Culp.

Culp plays Brimmer, a former police officer turned private investigator who runs a very sophisticated investigative operation (indeed, he was not Jim Rockford. This firm had several operatives, a fleet of vehicles, electronic gizmos, high rise office space and support staff ). Brimmer’s latest case involved investigating the allegations of infidelity on the part of the young wife of Arthur Kennicut, a prominent LA newspaper publisher. Brimmer reports to Mr. Kennicut that his wife had a “clean bill of health” and was not having any affairs. Mr. Kennicut accepts this finding with relief but we find out after he leaves Brimmer’s office that the report from Brimmer was a total lie. Brimmer then attempts to blackmail Mrs. Kennicut, saying he would keep the proof of her affair quiet if she would provide him with inside information of the powerful people in LA that Mr. Kennicut had connections to.

Right. Mrs. Kennicut throws Brimmer’s blackmail attempt right back in his face, saying she would come clean to her husband first and admit her infidelity – and then expose Brimmer’s blackmail attempt, turning those same powerful connections Brimmer wanted information on into a serious source of trouble, not to mention totally ruining his reputation and his business.

Brimmer, a short tempered kinda guy to begin with, becomes furious with Mrs. Kennicut and accidentally kills her.

Of course, he didn’t intend to kill. And once he realizes what he’s done, he knows the murder of this woman is worse than being exposed for the blackmail attempt.  Thus he does his damnedest to cover it up, cleaning up all evidence of anything she touched from his beach house and then transporting her body across LA to leave her in an industrial area.

It should’ve worked. Once her body is discovered the next morning, it looks like a mugging. Tragic and unfortunate, but she was killed for her money. Brimmer, in a further attempt to keep any suspicion possible away from himself shows up at Mr. Kennicut’s home to offer condolences and offer the services of his firm to find Mrs. Kennicut’s killer.

Yup, the whole cover up should’ve worked. Accept for this pesky, cigar chomping police lieutenant named Columbo…

Despite all the charm Brimmer can put forth, he knows right off the bat that Columbo is going to be a challenge.

Scratch that. Not a challenge. A full fledged pain in the posterior.

The rest of the episode is Brimmer trying to outwit Columbo and throw the Lieutenant off the trail. But it doesn’t work. After one particular conversation where the seemingly scatterbrained Lieutenant reveals a couple of innocent facts and makes a couple of innocent statements, Brimmer realizes the heat is on…

Brimmer only digs himself even deeper when he tries to woo Columbo into leaving the police force and joining the detective agency with the promise of more money and complimenting him on his detective skills.

Columbo says he’ll think it over, talk to the wife. Brimmer thinks he might have a chance.  Then two strange things happen. Brimmer’s car won’t work and he sends it off to the garage to be fixed. Then he gets a call from Mr. Kennicut; Columbo has requested that Mrs. Kennicut’s body be exhumed for some reason.

Now this is where I have to apologize for not remembering exactly how Columbo set this up (were they looking for the contact lens in the casket? Were they looking to see if she had both lens still, or didn’t? Or…gah. Sorry!). What I do know, is the “missing” contact lens sets Brimmer on a search through his beach house, where Columbo shows up, “innocently” enough, says something to further unsettle Brimmer and Brimmer searches a little more once Columbo leaves. Then Brimmer decides he has to search his car – which is still in the shop.

Brimmer breaks into the repair shop and finds his car. He searches the trunk and does indeed find a contact lens…

…and the Lieutenant is waiting for him. Brimmer, indignant, storms away from Columbo and reaches for his cigarettes in his pocket. He then attempts to throw the empty cigarette package away when Columbo stops him, grabbing his hand before the contents are ejected into the wastebasket.

The contact lens in Brimmer’s hand is evidence enough. Caught “red handed” Brimmer accepts being busted, admits his guilt and apologizes quietly to Mr. Kennicut, who was also present during this.

I enjoyed watching this episode and for it being over 2 years since I saw it, the fact I can still remember the plot well enough speaks to how good it is. I capped it pretty much right after I watched it. Definitely a worthwhile introduction to Robert Culp!

“Death Lends a Hand” is available on the Season One DVD of Columbo available at Amazon.com.