Death Hits the Jackpot

Episode 59 – Death Hits the Jackpot

The fifty seventh episode of Columbo was titled Death Hits the Jackpot and was the first episode of the show’s eleventh season. Greed oozes from every pore as a lottery winner is killed for his prize. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at an altogether unpleasant group of people.

 

 

In the midst of a divorce from his wife Nancy (Jamie Rose), Freddie Brower (Gary Kroeger) is thrilled to see his lottery numbers come up. With a $30m ticket in his possession, all his problems seem to be solved. Seeking to exclude his ex-wife from any part of the winnings, Brower contacts his uncle, Leon Lamarr (Rip Torn), who agrees to claim the prize on Freddie’s behalf and pass on the money once the divorce is resolved. In a shocking twist, Lamarr is engaged in an affair with Nancy Brower and the pair conspire to murder Freddie and keep the millions for themselves.

 

Betsy Palmer, as Leon’s wife Martha, Joe the Chimp (as himself) and Brit Lind (as Trish, a neighbour of Freddie’s) are the most prominent of a fairly sizeable supporting cast, while Warren Berlinger‘s Detective Stroller helps Columbo deliver the gotcha at the episode’s conclusion.

 

Vincent McEveety will be responsible for directing around half of the remaining Columbo episodes, including this – his second outing after Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo. Jeffrey Bloom receives his third and final writing credit on the show (after Agenda for Murder and Columbo Goes to College) with uncredited assistance from story editor Robert Van Scoyk, who penned Murder Under Glass and would return to the show one more time.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Death Hits the Jackpot, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.

 

Death Hits the Jackpot was released in 1991. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal (all remaining episodes are considered ‘Season 10’ in the DVD collection).

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    It’s a shame that Leon Lamarr didn’t quote part of Taylor’s famous line from Planet Of The Apes (1968) during this episode’s ‘Gotcha!’ scene. A true missed opportunity, right folks? 😉

    Speaking of the Planet Of The Apes film and that one musical based on it:

    “I hate every ape I see,
    From chimpan-A to chimpan-Zee.
    No, you’ll never make a monkey out of me!”

    Troy McClure

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlmzUEQxOvA

    • Red Hobbes

      I quote this musical whenever apes or monkeys are shown on tv or movies.

      • Largo

        That makes two of us, Hobbes! 🙂

    • CarlosMu

      why didn’t Troy McClure ever play a Columbo villain, he would have been fantastic!

      • Largo

        Indeed! 🙂

  • Largo

    Thanks for that great link to Britt Lind’s website! Britt is against ‘Big Pharma’ and she’s fluent in Norwegian. I’m swooning here, dudes! ?

    • Glad you enjoyed it. We do try!

      • Largo

        Indeed you do, eh! And we all love both of you for all of your efforts with your Columbo Podcast and this forum web page! 🙂

  • Roberto

    Very enjoyable episode — and I mean both the Columbo episode and the Columbo podcast!

    There are many things that are troubling about “Death Hits the Jackpot” including the sitcom-ish quality to several scenes and the alleged plot hole about the entire murder scheme. Not to mention the bizarre funeral scene, the sexing-up of Columbo (the show, not necessarily the Lieutenant), and the chimp.

    But there are many other aspects that make it a thoroughly enjoyable watch. Including the great Rip Torn, the overtly soap-opera quality of the acting and the script, the final gotcha, and the chimp!

    Like Gerry and Iain, I have been pleasantly surprised at the overall quality (nee enjoyability) of the later ABC Columbo episodes. Apart from one or two stinkers, thus far, they have been decent and several have even been quite fun to watch. (I am not going to say anything about what lies ahead!)

    Looking back on it, why the ABC series gets such a bad reputation among Columbo-philes, leaving aside stinker episodes, is hard to pin down. I think it fair to say that the overall quality of the ABC episodes was inferior to the earlier NBC series; the writing was not up to the same standards; the scripts and plots were inferior; the acting and the actors were inferior; the directing and direction were inferior; and Columbo himself was 20 years older and definitely showed it. Okay, maybe it is not so difficult to understand the bad reputation of the ABC shows!

    Iain and Gerry have often noted the quality of actors Columbo got to appear even early on in the NBC show’s run. Off the top of my head I can think of (in no particular order) Jack Cassidy, Robert Culp, Martin Landau, Patrick O’Neal, Patrick McGoohan, Anne Baxter, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Vera Miles, Robert Vaughn, Louis Jourdan, Ted Bikel, John Cassavetes, Ray Milland, Janet Leigh, Jose Ferrer, Laurence Harvey, Ricardo Montalban, Richard Kiley, Nicol Williamson, and Ruth Gordon.

    Inevitably, the quality of actors and acting in the ABC series pales in comparison to the early Columbo episodes. And, regrettably, Peter Falk is subject to the same criticism.

    To end on a positive note, “Death Hits the Jackpot” was fun to watch and I sure that the following episode will be too!

  • Red Hobbes

    This episode isn’t bad. It just seems like the screenwriter wrote the scenes out of order and didn’t bother to reorganize them. Rip Torn plays smarmy so well.

    I do have an observation about Columbo’s behavior at funerals. It seems like a throwback to other detective stories, I must confess I am not sure which ones, where it’s one of the best places to observe the suspects with their guard down. They’re grieving or pretending to and if you’re a student of human behavior like Columbo is, you start to notice when things aren’t quite right. And if there’s nothing happening to his satisfaction, he engages in antics to provoke a reaction. Yes, it’s inappropriate, but Columbo isn’t always appropriate as we all know, lol. If anyone else has noted this, then disregard this paragraph. 🙂

    I kinda liked the gotcha, with the chimp’s fingerprint. It was a clever twist.

    Keep up the great work guys!

    • nivipa

      A very valid observation, and one that hadn’t occurred to me!

  • CarlosMu

    We recently had a discussion about the least sympathetic victim, Freddy has to rank pretty high in MOST sympathetic. Who would want to kill Freddy? Interestingly, this is at least the third nepoticide in Columbo. There have also been a surprising number of avunculicides.

    I really enjoyed the large cast of characters and the unnecessary detail. We know the first and last name of the large Irish character, Meyer McGinty, and we know that he took his vacation in Cancun. Why so much detail, who knows but I enjoyed it.

    I have a theory, who’s with me, that they planned to spin these characters off into a sitcom called “Freddy’s Friends”. I would have watched for sure.

    • Largo

      Well — as long as the producers of “Freddy’s Friends” kept Trish (Britt Lind) the neighbor as a prominent role and lost that damn, dirty ape, I sure would’ve watched this one, Carlos! 🙂

    • Sympathetic? He only dies because he wants to fiddle his ex-wife out of her share of the money! If he’d not been so greedy he’d maybe realise that $15m isn’t so bad.

      • Largo

        True — but Nancy and Uncle Leo are two really awful slimeballs who deserve not only each other, but all of the bad stuff that Columbo heaps upon their respective noggins. Compared to this gruesome twosome, Freddie is a saint! 🙂

      • CarlosMu

        yes that was a bad move on his part. I still can’t help but feel for the poor guy, partly because he reminds me of an old friend.

      • Ian Baxter

        Agree, not sympathetic… painfully gullible!

  • Largo

    This is my favorite scene in this particular episode and it provides one of the very best laugh out loud moments in the series for me. Leon’s line of dialogue here fulfills one of my ‘wishes’ for a murderer and their accomplice to berate one or the other about attempting to pull a fast one on Columbo during the actual homicide inverstigation. This is a very bad idea (in this case Nancy’s weepy-bye lies) — our Lieutenant hero is far too clever for this type of tomfoolery! 🙂

    • Completely agree. Sadly he seems oblivious to his own act being similarly transparent!!

      • Largo

        Nah — this is Rip Torn we’re talking about here! I’m totally buying what he’s selling, eh! 😉

    • CarlosMu

      i totally agree, and also the scene where she does her act for Columbo. He seems to enjoy the performance, at one point when she starts in, he lights his cigar and you can imagine him thinking “this is going to be good…”

      • Largo

        Jamie Rose’s Nancy Brower is so painfully lacking in self-awareness that it is hysterically funny to behold. Her self-congratulatory bubble bath interlude (complete with her holding a glass of champagne) while on the phone with Leon, etc., complements this entire jest beautifully. I fully admit that every time I see this sequence of events, I’m laughing so hard that I have tears in my eyes. “Bowl of mush,” indeed! 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    Thanks for another good podcast, I’m looking forward to next week for all the wrong reasons… ?
    However this was a good fun episode, one of my favourites from the newer run. Certainly no sympathy for any of the cast in this one, they all deserve what they got. Columbo does indeed reach a new low with his funeral behaviour!

    • Largo

      “… I’m looking forward to next week for all the wrong reasons… ?”

      The only good thing about next week’s episode is that it features the very lovely Joanna Going.

      • Ian Baxter

        Was ‘going’ to watch it tonight… but enjoying The Purple Room now 🙂

        • Largo

          Joanna is not that amused, Ian. So when are you ‘going’ to watch Joanna vs. Psycho-Dude (with a special appearance by Peter Falk)? 😉

          • Ian Baxter

            I’ll watch it soon… but I’d rather watch Columbo! 😉

          • Largo

            Understood loud and clear, Ian. In the meantime, Joanna is going back in time with me for a brief visit to the Old West. Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Well, I agree in theory with everybody on the story’s holes, the quality of performances, and this being a fun (ish) episode in spite of its flaws.

    Sadly, Rip Torn’s performances have always bugged the crap out of me. I’ve never been able to enjoy anything, regardless of it’s quality, with him in it. As far as I’m concerned, the man gives the same performance/delivery in every role he plays. He’s a one note performer, and I really detest his note.

    Obviously, I’ve never met the man and have nothing against him as a person, and I’m quite sure his actual persona has very little to do with the public/character persona he uses in his acting performances. But I absolutely cannot abide the man when he’s onscreen.

    That, and a strong personal stand against anthropomorphizing animals for entertainment (or any other reason), keeps me from getting any enjoyment out of this particular show. If it weren’t for these issues (personal to me, to be sure), I’d rate this Columbo as on the very low (VERY low) end of par. But as it is, I have to go with sub par.

    • Largo

      That’s too bad that you don’t like Rip Torn, Salty. But have you seen his performance in the Thriller (1960-62) episode, “The Purple Room?” I feel that he plays a different note in this one.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmUdkko91PY

      • Thanks largo. I just watched this with the missus. Looks like Mr. Torn was an actor before he settled into his one note of later years. That was fun. Even more fun was seeing Richard Anderson in it–I always get a kick out of seeing Oscar Goldman in something new. But my very favorite part of the show was the first few minutes–I loved seeing the incomparable Mr. Karloff do his thing.

        • Largo

          Indeed! You might also want to take a look at another Thriller episode, on that same YouTube channel, that is entitled, “Pigeons From Hell” — which is based on the Robert E. Howard short story of the same name.

          • Just added it to my Watch Later list on YouTube. Thanks for the recommendation, Largo.

  • Johnny

    Just popping on to vote for a return to Murder by the Book for the final podcast. Ken Franklin deserves a second shot!

  • I agree that it’s weird to take photos at a funeral, but it’s something I’ve experienced. I can’t remember now if it was our mother’s or maternal grandfather’s funeral, but I do remember my dad making us pose for family photos afterward. I’m pretty sure his rationale was that it was rare to see my siblings and me together and all dressed up, but it always struck me as being in questionable taste.

    You guys did a good job pointing out the plot holes in this episode, including a few I overlooked. Nancy is awful, so I can’t blame Freddy for not wanting her to benefit from his good fortune, though I can empathize with her not wanting to help pay off the debt he incurred. I guess I’m just having a hard time grasping the fairness of that.

    I can’t help wondering what happened to the lottery money in the end.