A Bird in the Hand...

Episode 61 – A Bird in the Hand…

The fifty ninth episode of Columbo was titled A Bird in the Hand… and was the final episode of the show’s eleventh season. Columbo has a choice of killers as a family implodes. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at an episode with a critical and surprising twist.



Harold McCain (Greg Evigan) spends his time chasing gambling debts in Vegas and back home in California. When his wealthy uncle, Big Fred (Steve Forrest), refuses to help and Fred’s wife Dolores (Tyne Daly) cannot help he is left in a difficult spot. Determining that murder is the best solution he wires a pipe bomb to Fred’s car, only for Fred to be killed in a hit and run accident before it can be detonated.


As Harold looks for an opportunity to defuse the bomb, Columbo arrives to investigate Fred’s death, taking an unusual interest in the car. Fred’s gardner, Fernando (León Singer), tries to move the vehicle and is killed in the ensuing explosion. Assisting the Lieutenant is Lt Robertson (Frank McRae), who expresses some doubt in relation to Columbo’s methods on occasion, and Sgt. Nancy Duran (Joanna Sanchez).


Dolores comes under suspicion after Harold is later murdered and her lawyer, Bertie (Don S. Davis) offers little assistance in rebuffing the Lieutenant’s questions. Other key figures include Harold’s primary creditor, Mr Hacker (Michael Gregory) and his Casino Manager (Stephen Liska). Lenny Citrano makes a brief appearance as a barber offering crucial information to Columbo.


Vincent McEveety was back in the director’s chair following his work on Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo and Death Hits the Jackpot. This would be the third of his seven directorial roles on the show. He worked with Jackson Gillis‘ eleventh and final script for the show.


If you have thoughts on any aspect of A Bird in the Hand…, 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.


A Bird in the Hand… was released in 1992. 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

    Those boys from the SCTV “Farm Film Report” are back to root for their second favorite Columbo episode, A Bird In The Hand …, on this here discussion forum. So without further adieu, here are Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok with their review for this week’s Columbo Mystery Movie revival episode:

    Big Jim McBob: “Howdy everyone! We all got a good one for you today — don’t we, Billy Sol?”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “We sure do, Jim! We have ourselves a real exciting show. Why don’t you go ahead and tell ’em about it, Jim.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Well, today we are discussing a Columbo revival episode called, A Bird in the Hand, and it’s a tension filled ABC Mystery Movie that has a whole lot of explosions in it!”
    Billy Sol Hurok: (giggling) “You got that right, Jim! There’s that big and shiny black Rolls-Royce car and …”
    Big Jim McBob: “Woooo Wheeee! It blowed up good!!!”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Yeah, real good!!!”
    Big Jim McBob: “And we all got to see that Rolls-Royce car blow up over and over like on one of them fancy instant replay things you see on football telecasts and such.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: (giggling) “Yeah, we got to watch that car blow up again and again on the video as that Lieutenant Columbo was a solving that there crime and all.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Well, shoot — there was a whole slew of crimes in this one, Billy.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Three dead bodies to be exact there, Jim.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Right. First there was that crime boss feller named Big Fred …”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Yeah, he got run over by the gardner’s truck that was driven by Big Fred’s two-timing wife, Delores.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Then there was the poor gardner who got blowed up good …”
    Billy Sol Hurok: (subdued) “Yeah, real good.”
    Big Jim McBob: “… by mistake ’cause of that pipe bomb made by that Harold feller that he planted in that there Rolls-Royce to murder Big Fred.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Speaking of that Harold fella’s pipe bomb, don’t forget that we first saw him do a test run on that junker in that quarry-like place.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Thanks, Billy! I plume near forgot about that test bomb explosion. That junker car blowed up good!!!”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Yeah, real good!!!”
    Big Jim McBob: “Now getting back to the final crime, Billy: there was a third dead body and it was that Harold feller himself.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Yeah and he got gut shot by that Delores gal.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Oh, that hurts just to hear you tell about it, Billy.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “It was a terrible way to die, Jim.”
    Big Jim McBob: “A terrible slow way to die fer sure. But that Lieutenant Columbo figured it all out and busted that Delores woman but good!”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “He sure did, Jim! That Columbo saw them dew drops on the hood of Delores’ car!”
    Big Jim McBob: “Billy, maybe you should clarify that bit for all of our British cousins in the audience.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Right! For all of you British folks out there, Columbo found them dew drops on the bonnet of Delores’ car.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Another clue that done her in was them hair clippings inside of Harold’s cowboy hat.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: (giggling) “And Harold’s wet, stinky socks.”
    Big Jim McBob: “And that $5000 in one of Harold’s cowboy boots.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “And all of them witnesses at the casino.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Billy, don’t forget that poker game invite that Lieutenant Columbo found on Harold’s night table.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “And then there was that overturned cat dish and the spilled milk, too.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Them items wasn’t any ol’ real clues, Billy. They was just part of that fake robbery setup manufactured by that lying and cheating Delores woman.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Right you are, Jim. But that overturned cat dish reminds me of something that really bugged me about this episode.”
    Big Jim McBob: “What was it that bothered you so much, Billy?”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Well, we sure heard a cat meowing whenever we was over at Harold’s place and all — but, Jim, we never saw any ol’ kitty cat on the TV screen!”
    Big Jim McBob: “Well, I reckon them Columbo producers couldn’t afford to hire a cat on account of all them expensive explosions.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: (dejected) “Really? Well, shoot — maybe they should’ve called this one Columbo and the Case of the Invisible Cat then.”
    Big Jim McBob: “The Columbo producers really needed all them explosions in this one so they could clear the stench from that last Columbo episode, No Time to Die.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “Piuuuu, that No Time to Die was sure a stinker! Nobody got blowed up at all! Even worse was that there poor skinny gal who got terrorized by a real psycho dude.”
    Big Jim McBob: “You’re so right, Billy — there was no fun in that awful No Time to Die thing. That episode needed more action and more explosions, but it absolutely did not need any gratuitous threats of violence against that poor scrawny woman, Melissa.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “This here A Bird in the Hand episode more than made up for last week’s dud! It had plenty of explosions and it also had way better clues, too.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Hey, there was about as many clues as there was explosions in this here Columbo episode.”
    Billy Sol Hurok: “You know, Jim — maybe we ought to make A Bird in the Hand our number one favorite Columbo episode.”
    Big Jim McBob: “Well, we’re outta time now but we can sure consider that on another show, Billy. So until our next ‘Farm Film Report,’ this is Big Jim McBob …”
    Billy Sol Hurok: And Billy Sol Hurok saying …”
    Big Jim & Billy Sol: (in unison) “May the Good Lord take a liking to ya and blow ya up real soon!”
    Explosion: (engulfing them) “KABLAAAAM!!!!”

    Well, that’s all for now folks! See ya next time! Ya all come back now, ya hear? 🙂

    • Well, that was an unexpected intervention!!

      • Largo

        Totally, dude! 🙂

    • Largo

      Just a short YouTube refresher clip for those who are not familiar with Second City (Toronto) Television’s “Farm Film Report” sketches starring Joe Flaherty (Big Jim McBob) and John Candy (Billy Sol Hurok) —


  • Roberto

    Great podcast. I can always tell it is a great podcast when both hosts laugh uproariously and I laugh along with them. I will respectfully not mention one of the hosts saying that he liked last week’s episode (“No Time to Die”) more than he liked “A Bird in the Hand”. Clearly I misheard. 🙂

    “A Bird in the Hand” was nothing if not a fun episode. It was not particularly well-written (even though Jackson Gilis was the writer). It was not particularly well-acted (even though Tyne Daly was the star — I discount Greg Evigan for obvious reasons). The plot got to be too complex so that it was fairly difficult to care much about what was happening (in a Columbo sort of way). There was a fair amount of inappropriate behavior (leaving aside murder).

    As I have attempted to describe previously, I have a two-dimensional way of evaluating Columbo episodes. I have a “quality” scale (how good the episode was in terms of script, plot, acting, the murder, crime detection, etc.). And I have a “fun” scale (how much fun it was to watch and enjoy).

    My quality and fun scores on the vast majority of Columbo episodes move together (both are high, medium, or low). However, there are a few episodes which I consider good but not fun. And a few episodes I consider fun but not good.

    I consider “A Bird in the Hand” fun but not good!

    • Thanks Roberto. Glad you’re still enjoying the podcasts. Can’t argue with you on the fun factor!

      • Ian Baxter

        I’m afraid I found myself laughing at this episode rather than with it.

        • Largo

          Indeed! I found myself chuckling and smirking in derision at this episode’s various script contrivances. For instance, all Harold had to do was quickly grab and pull the pipe bomb wire attached to the Rolls’ ignition, while mumbling something about possible trouble with the car’s starter. Harold could have feigned preoccupation with moving the car, said a quick “Excuse me ma’am” to the policewoman, hopped into the Rolls, started it up with a feigned expression of surprise, and then moved the Rolls into the garage (and thus, safely locked away from the prying eyes of the mysteriously prescient Columbo!)

          And then there’s the bit with Fernando’s spare key to the Rolls. What a stupefyingly contrived piece of utter nonsense! Since when does a simple gardener have car washing duties for an extremely expensive, ultra-luxury automobile!??! Where’s the stinking chauffeur, eh!??! That would be his job to wash the car, not the gardener!!! This can mean only one thing: the Columbo producers are prejudiced against gardeners and all things that go with the peaceful practice of gardening. So said producers just had poor Fernando blown up – those cold-hearted bastards!!! ?????

          • But tell me you like Evigan as B.J. McKay…

          • Largo

            Kieran, Kieran, Kieran …..
            Dude, you haven’t been listening, have you? Now please sing along with me:

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

  • Watched this last night but haven’t gotten to the podcast yet. This was a fun episode, overall. I enjoyed Tyne Daly’s performance as a calculating lush. She was over the top without being TOO over the top (just barely), but since I’ve seen her in other things and know her to be a talented actress, I’m happy to give this one to her.

  • Ian Baxter

    One of the best summary lines of the podcast: “…the Gardener, Fernando, is unfortunately destroyed when he tries to move the car…”!

    Sorry, but I’m not a big fan of this episode. In yet another failed move away from the formula Columbo isn’t given enough good screen time. We get too much waffle between the two killers and when Columbo finally appears he isn’t engaging the suspects, getting under their skin, entering their world… he just goes on and on about the car (and don’t get me started on the show room nonsense with the applauding onlookers!). At one point someone asks “where’s the Lt.? How the hell should I know, should’a been here half an hour ago”, absolutely!

    • I just about managed to get that line out without corpsing! Close run thing.

      • Largo

        There’s nothing funny about people blowing up in a fiery explosion, Iain! (But it sure is awful darn cool, ain’t it?) I also wanted to let you know that there were absolutely NO gardeners harmed in the making of this Columbo moving picture show. 😉

      • Ian Baxter

        You can just hear the moment you nearly lost it 🙂

    • Largo

      What’s the matter, Ian — don’t ya like things that blow up real good? There were plenty of explosions in this here Columbo movie! There were all kinds of excitin’ things like that and … and … well, yeah — there was Tyne Daly and that gambler dude makin’ goo goo eyes at one another and … YECCH!!! 😉

      • Ian Baxter

        The who relationship between the two killers is just full on creepy! YECCH indeed!! 🙂

        • Largo

          “The who relationship …” [sic]

          What does Doctor Who have to with this, Ian? 😉

          • Ian Baxter

            You didn’t see the Doctor appear just as the two kissed? Watch it again a dozen times then again in slow motion, you can just make out the TARDIS coming in and out of shot, in the blink of an eye 😉

          • Largo

            Last night I had a bad dream: everyone here on the forum had taken a vote and had decided to place Ian Baxter in “a home.” I was the lone dissenting voice and I vehemently spoke out against this plan. But the ‘Forum Folk’ were adamant: they had grown most weary of Ian Baxter’s “crazy talk” and nothing I could say or do would alter their decision. Needless to say, I went into a rage and then the tide suddenly turned against both Ian and myself. Then everything went black and I woke up in a cold sweat. Now I wander over here to the forum and what greets my hazy eyes this morning — this bizarre forum post by Ian Baxter! This is most disturbing to say the least and now there’s a very cold feeling in the pit of my stomach …. 😉

          • Ian Baxter

            Ha ha! Very good, but I think you’re confusing me with the other Iain (the one with the extra ‘i’)… he’s the one with the crazy talk rating ‘No Time To Die’!! 🙂

          • Largo

            Nope! Iain’s positive opinion of “No Time To Die” goes way beyond just crazy talk, Ian! It goes far, far beyond just crazy eight bonkers, too! 😉

        • Roberto

          I was going to say how well do pete townshend and roger daltrey get along have any thing to do with this?? great cultural reference if you ask me.

  • Quite an entertaining episode with nice turns from Tyne Daly and B.J. McKay.

    Now to the podcast and what can only be described as an absolute travesty. I refer, of course, to the omission of that great actor, Don. S. Davis. Guys – what were you thinking of? Davis is a legend, not only for his brilliant portrayal of Major Garland Briggs in Twin Peaks, but also as General George S. Hammond in Stargate SG1. Quite unbelievable! To flippantly gloss over this omission just adds insult to injury. By way of penance, I would suggest that your new podcast features the first two seasons of Twin Peaks. If not, I will despatch the wee dancing man who talks backwards in your direction…

    • Ian Baxter

      Found a nice wee bit of trivia…. Don S. Davis was the stunt double for Dana Elcar in ‘MacGyver’. Dana Elcar played Falcon, one of the wine tasting friends of Adrian Carsini, in ‘Any Old Port in a Storm’!

    • I know! I did include a Stargate themed tribute to Davis in the show notes though.

    • Largo

      “[Don] Davis is a legend … for his brilliant portrayal of Major Garland Briggs in Twin Peaks …”

      I was patiently waiting for you to say these very words, Kieran. Thank you so much for bringing this important fact to the forefront for all of us here on the Columbo Podcast discussion forum. I was aghast as well by this serious omission by Gerry during one of the ‘actor trivia’ portions of this week’s podcast. Major Garland Briggs is one of my favorite characters from the Twin Peaks series. I feel that, had this show been renewed for a third season, Major Briggs would have gone into the Black lodge to rescue Dale Cooper. Major Briggs is the only righteous soul in the town of Twin Peaks that could have accomplished an amazing feat such as this, eh! 🙂

      • I totally agree with the sentiment, Largo, and one of my all time favourite secenes in TP was when the good Major knocked the cigarette out of Bobby’s mouth, only for it to land in his good lady’s dinner.

    • Largo

      “Quite an entertaining episode with nice turns from … B.J. McKay.”

      Hey there, Kieran! You probably had this toy when you were a kid, eh? 🙂

      • Absolutely not – although I enjoyed the series, I was more into the Bionic Man in reality. I had that toy – you may remember it. 🙂

        • Hey Kieran.

          I’m right in the middle of a 10 post series on Six Million Dollar Man (mostly the toys) over at my blog, Dead Man’s Brain. Have a look if you’re so inclined.


          • Largo

            Neato, Salty! I was never into this show and I was too old for those toy tie-ins, but great work on your web pages dedicated to these nifty $6MM collectibles, eh! 🙂

          • Thanks Largo. I must admit they’re a labor of love….

          • Fabulously nostalgic, Salty. I have left a comment.

            Incidentally, I had the Steve Austin with the bionic grip. Mind you, for Iain and Gerry’s benefit, I believe the wee dancing man has a pretty good grip, as you’ll both find out at midnight tonight!

          • Great toy, that was. Glad you enjoyed the read, Kieran.

        • Largo

          Actually, I don’t remember that toy. But I know someone who does: Mister Salty here on the forum! Be sure to check out his website link below and then prepare yourself for a stroll down memory lane, eh! 🙂

  • Gummo Marx

    Two things to call out in this pod, from someone who listens every week.

    1. “B.J. and the Bear? Disgusting!” – funniest line in any episode.

    2. Punting on third down made me do a double take too..it’s possible it wasn’t a joke…it wasn’t unheard of to do a quick-kick back then on third down with poor field position and down and distance..no one does it any more tho..

    • Largo

      “B.J. and the Bear? Disgusting!”

      Very true, indeed! They ARE disgusting!!!

      • [shudder]

        • Largo

          Next Saturday night, on “Monster Chiller Horror Theater,” we have a very frightening movie for you: B.J. and the Bear! Oooooo! Really scary, kids. Count Floyd here guarantees that this one will send shivers and shudders down your spine! This movie is almost as scary as Blood Sucking Monkeys From West Mifflin, PA! I’m not joking, kids! So join us next Saturday night on “Monster Chiller Horror Theater!” Ahrwoooooooooooo!


  • Largo


    “I will despatch the wee dancing man who talks backwards in your direction…”

    Kieran isn’t messing around here, Iain! He means business and so does that mysterious ‘Man From Another Place.’ Look out, dude!

    • The lack of response from both culprits means they’re likely both in hiding. Does this mean no podcast this Thursday?!!!

  • Red Hobbes

    This one was, after the debacle of last week, a bit better. But that’s like saying when a bird messes on your car, that at least it wasn’t an elephant.

    But in all seriousness, I had no problems with Columbo’s investigation of Right Big Fred’s car, before I listened to the podcast. Now I wonder what the heck motivated him to look at it. It was a hit and run of a frequent jogger. I do understand his initial suspicions, after all when a wealthy person dies unexpectedly, a veteran homicide cop would immediately look at the heirs, so unless he was following a hunch he had no real reason to investigate Fred’s car.

    I was waiting for a Stargate mention as well, lol. Loved Don S Davis on that show, he played the General with such style and swagger that it almost overshadowed Richard Dean Anderson. It was odd to see him playing such a spineless person however. The man had serious range.

    Just one more observation, but the Stallions vs Elks game that Fred, Bertie and Harold were watching was actually a game from the CFL or Canadian Football League. The Stallions were played by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Elks were the Edmonton Eskimos. It’s a fun league with slightly different rules than NFL, CFL has only 3 downs to the NFL’s 4 and the field is much larger. I live in Calgary, so I’m quite familiar with both teams as they are rivals of the Calgary team. As for what a roughrider is… it could be a hard riding cowboy, but that lends itself to too many jokes.

    Great podcast as always guys, looking forward to next week’s episode. I watched it last night and was very taken with it.

    • So it’s possible that third down punt was just CFL commentary? That would be disappointing!

      • Red Hobbes

        Quite possible, but CFL is very much unknown in the States, so the joke would still work.

  • Oh dear. My lack of deeptrekspacewarsgate 5 knowledge seems to be getting me into a spot of bother this week.

    • Largo

      Well, no more than usual — eh, Gerry? Fortunately, there are a few of us here that are more than up to the task of paying tribute to the great Don S. Davis on this forum! 🙂

  • Have to admit it took a google search for me to have any idea who this wee dancing man was. Afraid I never watched Twin Peaks. Think that may be some kind of crime, round these parts…. O___O

    • Largo

      Twin Peaks is definitely worth a look, Salty! It’s fascinating, enthralling, humorous, quirky, cute, creepy, high-melodrama, parody, disturbing and an eerie mystery. But it can be, at times, very frustrating, meandering, unfocused, too cute for its own good, outrageous and just plain stupid, too. But I was still overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised to receive the Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery (And The Missing Pieces) blu-ray box set for my birthday last year. Hokey smokes — what an incredible DVD box set, dude!!!! 🙂