Grand Deceptions

Episode 49 – Grand Deceptions

The forty seventh episode of Columbo was titled Grand Deceptions and was the final episode of the show’s eighth season. A Colonel working at a conservative think tank kills to hide his financial indiscretions. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the case in detail and review the first season of Columbo’s revival.

 

 

There’s a return to the military theme in this Episode, last visited in Season 4’s By Dawn’s Early Light. Colonel Frank Brailie (Robert Foxworth) is taking advantage of his position at the First Foundation for American Thought to partake in criminal activities and syphon money off for his own use. When Sergeant Major Lester Keegan (Andy Romano) discovers the illicit activity and seeks to strike a grubby deal, Brailie plots and executes his murder.

 

Stephen Elliott (in his second Columbo role after Season 4’s A Deadly State of Mind) and Janet Eilber as General Padget and his wife Jenny provide the episode with it’s emotional centre, with Elliott in particular putting in a strong performance. Columbo’s investigations are further assisted by Michael McManus‘ officer (and Keegan’s friend) Tanzer, albeit in a single-scene appearance.

 

Sam Wanamaker returned for a second directorial contribution (after the well-regarded Season 6 episode The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case) having helmed two Mrs. Columbo episodes in the interim, while writer Sy Salkowitz made his one and only contribution to the show in composing the story.

 

During the episode we asked whether any of our listeners could find where to buy a miniature Columbo figurine. If you have thoughts on that or any other aspect of Grand Deceptions, 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.

 

Grand Deceptions was released in 1989. 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 8 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.

 

As promised, an image of the leaves, revealing Columbo’s first name:

Frank Columbo - Grand Deceptions

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Largo

    I have only two words to say that describe just how I feel about Frank Brailie and here is an old childhood pal of mine that will share them with you —

    • Love Daffy.

      • Largo

        Even though Daffy can be a greedy little duck on occasion, I’d still rather hang out with him than Frank Brailie any day of the week, eh! 🙂

        • Good call. I agree, Daffy has his rough edges, but his heart’s in the right place. Mostly.

          • Largo

            Indeed! But something really weird starts to happen to him whenever he teams up with Bugs Bunny! 🙂

  • Red Hobbes

    A surprisingly solid episode.

    Brailie was an excellent foil: arrogant, cold, intelligent but not as intelligent as he thinks. Which is why the gotcha is quite acceptable to me. Sure, if he was more cunning he could argue the order the boxes arrived, but he isn’t. He outsmarted himself, and faced with the fact that the volume of the boxes don’t add up, he folds.

    I agree, Stephen Elliott really did good work in this episode. The scene with Janet Eilber was quite strong. As for why Jenny took up with Brailie, I think like you guys said, she had no idea as to what sort of man he was. All she was aware of, he was a friend of her husband, he was handsome, confident and strong, which I think and I could be reaching here, reminded her of the General. I think she took up with him mainly because she liked him on that basis, and he took up with her for his own base reasons: cruelty, information, and her attractiveness.

    I stick by my remark that there are very few diamonds during Columbo’s second run, since in season 8 we had 4 episodes. 2 were mediocre, 1 was just terrible, and we have this one. An industrial diamond, but a diamond nonetheless.

    Great podcast as always guys!

    • Thanks RH. Appreciate the support as always. Definitely agree re: Brailie’s motivations!

    • Cheers Red. I (Gerry) love your ‘industrial diamond’ terminology. A very accurate description IMO.

      • Red Hobbes

        Thanks Gerry, it seemed appropriate, lol. Looking forward to season 9, there’s one episode in particular that might fit this description as well.

    • Largo

      This episode is not one of my favorites and my overall response to it is one big, “Meh.” So I guess I’d label it as “cubic zirconium” (heh). Unlike last week’s episode (my favorite of the eighth season), there just wasn’t enough sex in this one! 😉

      So, Red — since this is one of your favorites, could you please explain to me just how that toy Columbo figurine wound up on that miniature battlefield at the end? So is our Lieutenant hero a magician or could he be a Time Lord perhaps? Maybe Columbo has become unstuck in time somehow like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim! The mind boggles! 😉

      • Red Hobbes

        Well… he did use that sleight of hand to nab Santini…

        Unless Rod Serling was lurking in the boat house?

        • Largo

          Very true — and both are very good points, eh! And one should never underestimate that mysterious Rod Serling and all of his TZ buddies! 🙂

    • Heh. Industrial diamond. That’s a great way to differentiate between the old and new series. Top tier original episode: diamond. Top tier revival episode: industrial diamond.

  • Haven’t gotten to the podcast yet, but watched this episode with the missus last night. We both actually enjoyed it! This is definitely a top tier revival episode for me and, not surprisingly, it feels more like an original NBC offering. Columbo is less of a caricature of his old self here, which goes a long way. In addition, many of the actors put in strong performances, particularly Peter Falk, Stephen Elliott and Janet Eilber. Robert Foxworth also puts in a fine performance (I’ve seen him in a million things, but my mind always goes back to 1974s The Questor Tapes).

    Here are a few thoughts that jumped out at me while watching:

    Laughed out loud as Brailie told the mercenary group “You’ve spent 2 weeks of your life and hard earned money to learn to fight and kill like professionals!” 2 weeks? I can only hope the real professionals have trained more than two weeks. And Columbo agreed with me, later in the episode as he asked a recruit what he was doing there: “Training to be a mercenary, sir!” Columbo, with a wry expression: “In two weeks…?”

    I thought the toy soldier (I mean, “military miniature”) falling over at the moment of Keegan’s death was a nice slightly fanciful touch, that didn’t go into the realm of synchronized water fountains and ringmasters. I guess it wasn’t actually Keegan’s death, since he was stabbed in the heart an hour before, but the explosion rightly marked the culmination of Brailie’s deed.

    Foxworth was the first revival killer I felt had the same gravitas as most of the original series killers. With the revival, gone is the idea of getting slightly past their prime big name film stars to do the roles. Seems they just took whoever was available and would do the job for what they were paying. But Foxworth definitely had the classic Columbo killer vibe.

    I liked how Columbo misled Brailie during the initial search for the flashlight: “Just routine, not looking for anything special” then, just as Brailie’s leaving, the big hullabaloo as they find it and Brailie realizes Columbo hasn’t been quite forthright with him. His first indication of who he’s dealing with.

    I liked the fact that Columbo was back to being a bit more disheveled in this episode. The hair was a bit messier, the raincoat a bit more rumpled. Not overdone to the point of caricature, but more in line with the character than the glossy feel he’s had in the revival so far.

    More thoughts to come, but time for breakfast! A fellow can’t Columbo-obsess on an empty stomach.

    • Largo

      “Robert Foxworth also puts in a fine performance (I’ve seen him in a million things, but my mind always goes back to 1974s The Questor Tapes)”

      It’s exactly the same with me, Salty! The Questor Tapes (1974) was a great unsold pilot / TV movie and I have very fond memories watching this one. But don’t place too much credit on ol’ Gene Roddenberry for it — much like with Star Trek, Gene L. Coon should be recognized for his outstanding and crucial contributions that made Questor equally excellent! 🙂

      • Largo

        Oops! I forgot to post the pictures for Questor, eh!

        • I’ve got a copy of this, somewhere. Might be time to pull it out for a watch….

  • Largo

    Wasn’t it so terribly convenient that the store that shipped both the books and the miniature soldiers, had those two respective shipment boxes marked just the opposite of what they actually contained? For that matter, why didn’t this store have every shipment box marked the same, i.e, “Military Books & Miniatures,” since this is what they appeared to specialize in, eh? Wasn’t it so terribly convenient that the pool boy guy didn’t handle that parcel marked “miniatures” (thus, raising some suspicions) that was in reality a huge box full of heavy books? Columbo could have easily ascertained what this same store actually sent and when they shipped it simply by requesting duplicate invoices and checking possible tracking numbers. These are plot contrivances that I just can’t give a pass to — and so, in summation, I feel that Sy Salkowitz’s script is rather sloppy with these particular details.

    • I agree, Largo. I’m okay with one or maybe two such contrivances in an episode, as long as they’re not too plot-centric, but this episode was chock full of ’em.

    • We make this exact point in the podcast. It is a dicey part of the story.

  • Other moments I loved:

    Columbo’s line: “Well, it looks like a human head all shrunken.” Great delivery.

    Columbo patting Brailie on the belly as he’s leaving his office.

    Columbo’s conversation with Dog: “Okay, I’m gonna put you in charge. You take care of the car. You’re a responsible dog. When I get back, if the car’s okay, I’ll give you another cookie. If the car’s gone, I give you another cookie anyway, ’cause I love you.” This is priceless!

    Brailie opens the door of his Dunstan apartment, expecting the general’s wife, to find Columbo standing there. What a letdown!

    Columbo, on his way out, pushes the door back open and saying: “I know exactly what you’re thinking, sir. You’re wondering why I came looking for Mr. Dunstan in the first place. Just too polite to ask.”

    Columbo giving excuse after excuse to not leave the apartment, knowing the lady will be there any minute.

    Columbo: “Don’t make me stop you, ma’am.” Always fun to see him get his ire up and be a bit more forceful when he needs to. I suppose the toothbrush would be inadmissible, since he stole it, though….

    Columbo: “Well, sir, it’s a policeman’s question. We expect to get our answers.”

    The scene between the general and his wife as she confesses her infidelity. Great scene.

    Columbo: “Can you tell me?” Tanzer: “Can’t.” Columbo: “The police. I’m the police. You can tell the police.”

    Columbo stealing the original Special Projects report from Brailie’s secretary. Sly old devil! Alas, that would also be illegally obtained evidence.

    Columbo: “You know, Colonel, the way we always agree with one another, that’s amazing, considering the fact that we really don’t like one another. Would you agree with me on that?”

    Columbo: “This carton marked ‘Military Miniatures’, that’d be toy soldiers, sir.” Brailie: Don’t patronize me, Lieutenant!”

    • Largo

      Columbo’s conversation with Dog: “Okay, I’m gonna put you in charge. You
      take care of the car. You’re a responsible dog. When I get back, if the
      car’s okay, I’ll give you another cookie. If the car’s gone, I give you
      another cookie anyway, ’cause I love you.” This is priceless!

      Overall, I’m not a big fan of “Dog,” but this is, without a doubt, one of the very best ‘Columbo & Dog’ moments of the entire series (both NBC and ABC). Yes, I’m definitely a cat person, but I’m not anti-dog either. However, if your heart doesn’t melt a little bit during this particular moment, I don’t know what to tell you, eh!

  • Moments I didn’t love:

    The weird slow motion when Columbo is at Keegan’s desk with the miniature he found behind the bookend. I hate it when filmmakers assume their audience is too dumb to notice the significance of something and bring attention to it in such a manufactured way.

    The whole seat changing between Tanzer and Columbo at the funeral started out as cute but got tedious as it went on.

    AWFULLY convenient the secretary was shredding those reports just as Columbo was sitting on the patio. And AWFULLY convenient when wandered out with them in her hand, noticed Columbo was reading one and brought up the fact that there were two reports, which she just happened to have right in her very hands. Yeesh!

    The Columbo miniature. While I’d love to own one, I hate the fanciful crap these revival episodes seemed so intent on introducing. If I want fantasy, I’ll watch Ladyhawke. If I want detective and killer matching wits with police procedural realism, I’ll watch Columbo. Or, at least, I would in the 1970s.

    That said, this episode had the least amount of fantasy, and the least overpowering, of the revivals we’ve seen so far. And niggles aside, it was quite an enjoyable show.

    Now, on to listen to the podcast!

  • Roberto

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode — of the podcast! Iain and Gerry are fantastic in discussing “Grand Deceptions”. Unfortunately, I cannot be so enthusiastic about the Columbo episode (movie) itself. It was okay, but nothing special.

    The story was quite good, the plot details and acting were also good. The crime and its detection were also fine and dandy. The General was the star of the episode, for sure. His scenes with Columbo were delightful. The one scene with his wife regarding her infidelity was the highlight of the show. (By the way, I am convinced that the General knew who his wife was seeing all along. But it would cause a serious rift if she told him since then she would know that he knew.)

    The killer was okay but he and Columbo had little chemistry between them. Of course, Foxworth’s acting was above reproach. But something was definitely missing. I suppose he wasn’t arrogant enough if you know what I mean.

    What frosts my cork (I am endeavoring to start my own collection of American idioms) are all the forced clues and plot-devices. They are too many to mention so I will simply start with the ridiculous scene where Brailie’s secretary, on her way to shredding the incriminating evidence contained in the twin special projects reports, shows them to Columbo (which he then makes off with)! I don’t know what to say so I’ll borrow a line from Gerry. Utter rubbish.

    Equally strained is the whole business about the two boxes. The more I think about this the more it hurts my head. Are we really supposed to believe that the store sent out the two shipments in boxes incorrectly labeled? Shipping and labeling its boxes is part and parcel (see what I did there) of that store’s business so I imagine that it can do it properly. To hinge the entire episode on this is quite ridiculous. (And, with the two empty boxes still in the room, anyone would have remembered the white box was delivered in the morning and the brown box that evening, and it would have taken one second for Columbo to contact the store and find out which box contained what contents.) None of it makes sense.

    Instead, I would rather believe that the items were shipped and labeled properly (let’s make both boxes look similar please). But the crafty Frank Brailie saw the boxes as a way to set up his alibi. That I can believe, support, and get behind. How could he do so? Suppose both boxes arrive at the same time or at least with sufficient time to execute his plan. After they arrive Brailie unpacks the items and switches boxes! Then, he repacks the box labeled “miniatures” and has it re-delivered at the proper time for his alibi. He can even pack an amount of books inside to make the box weigh the correct amount of the miniatures box to solidify his alibi if the differential box weight issue arises. That would be clever, original, and worthy of a Columbo killer (and worthy of Columbo if he could somehow figure it out).

    Anyway, this is a decent episode, especially, I hate to say it, for the revival series. It is enjoyable at a certain level and surely the best of Season Eight.

    Looking forward to reading what others have to say.

    • “Brailie unpacks the items and switches boxes! Then, he repacks the box
      labeled “miniatures” and has it re-delivered at the proper time for his
      alibi.”

      I agree. I was actually assuming that WAS what he did.

      • Roberto

        OMG I am an idiot?!? Is that what Brailie did and that was how Columbo caught him?? Because the original book box was smaller than the original miniatures box (or do I have it backwards)??? I completely did not pick up on that at all. I guess I’ll have to elevate this episode/movie in my rankings.

        Please forgive me Brailie, please forgive me Columbo, please forgive me writer, and please forgive me Columbo Podcast universe for my obtuseness!

        • Well, like I said, I’m assuming that’s what he did. I’d have to go back for a closer watch to be sure. But I can’t imagine the writer of the episode having his character’s murder plan hinge on completely coincidental mixed up deliveries. That would mean the whole thing had all been chance with no planning.

          Anyone else have any ideas on this?

          • Largo

            What in the Sam Hill are you two talking about!??! Columbo orders the EXACT SAME books and the store ships them in the EXACT SAME size box (like Brailie’s original order) which also has “Miniatures” PRINTED (not ‘marked’) on the sides. Yes, this episode is THAT STUPID. Braille didn’t switch boxes and re-ship anything here: each box actually held the opposite of what was print-labeled on the sides of each respective shipping box. ‘Nuff said! 🙂

        • Roberto

          There is some discussion on this issue over at the Ultimate Lieutenant Columbo website forums.

          Headache2112 says “This is probably one of those instances where script editing edited out some necessary information. What is on screen doesn’t make sense, no. One has to imagine that the murderer ordered the books and soldiers way in advance. They arrived in their proper boxes. Perhaps they were delivered to the condo Brailie had “hidden” for his rendezvous’ with the General’s wife. (The doorman would have signed for them, right? And no one would ever have any reason to ever question the doorman about silly boxes, right?)
          Brailie unloaded the boxes, then put the books into the boxes marked “military miniatures”. He would have had a few books left over which he simply carried into the pool house at some unknown time. The soldiers would have fit into the boxes marked “war books” with no problem. He then took the boxes to a shipping company and had them delivered again. This time to the General’s house.”

          I guess we may never know unless there is an original script lying around somewhere.

          • This is what the missus and I decided, too, Roberto. We bet there was a script at some point that explained this, and it got revised out, before filming. Had to be. It’s just too glaring a mistake, otherwise.

          • Largo

            But it actually is just a glaring mistake in the script. The bottom line is Columbo purchased the exact same books as Brailie did and the bookstore shipped them in an identical box which was print-labeled in an identical way: as “Miniatures.” You guys can overthink this one all you want, but I’m going to stick with what Columbo actually sets out before us during his ‘solution to the crime’ sequence (as idiotic as it all is) at the episode’s conclusion. Be seeing you! 🙂

          • Largo

            Mr. Scott – please try inverse phasing. ???

  • Show Notes:

    Janet Eilber — wow, she’s aged so beautifully. Interesting. Not a huge list of acting credits. I wonder if she’s been more involved in dance and stage…?

    Sam Wannamaker — very interesting. I’m always fascinated and appalled by the witch hunts. So many people were affected by them in such big ways.

    Sy Salkowitz — No wonder this was an above average episode. Quite an illustrious list of writing credits.

    • Apologies for the abundance of Wikipedia links this week. Some tough ones to find anything for!

  • The missus and I just went through the podcast. Seems Gerry, Iain and I were thinking along the same lines, for the most part. Well done, again, you two. 🙂

    As for Columbo figurines, I didn’t come across anything mass produced, but there are several do-it-yourself-ers out there who look to have created their own:

    • Thanks salty

      • I also found a few dolls/action figures people had modified into Columbo. I was hoping there was an affordable, mass produced Columbo figure out there somewhere. I’d love to add Columbo to my collection. Didn’t see anything, though.

        • Ian Baxter

          Here’s a cute make your own option…

          • Ian Baxter

            …and not forgetting Dog

          • They’re undeniably cute, but I was hoping more for a 70s Mego-style doll. Surely if Kojak warranted an action figure, Columbo should have been similarly graced?

            .

          • Ian Baxter

            If they did have a Columbo action figure it would come with cigar, removable coat, note pad (but no pencil) and authentic glass eye 🙂

          • Heh. No pencil!

            I have an Oscar Goldman figure with a briefcase full of files, and a Bionic Woman figure with a purse full of things.

            So I think the Columbo figure could also come with various bits of crumpled up papers you could pull out of his trouser pockets while muttering “Let’s see, I had it right here…”

          • Ian Baxter

            Indeed, a brown paper bag!

  • And apparently the actual miniature used in the episode was on sale for… $2000??? Yikes.

    http://pub10.bravenet.com/forum/static/show.php?usernum=806565873&frmid=6&msgid=1144062&cmd=show

  • And one last set of images. There may not be any action figures, but here are a few interesting collectibles…

    iPhone Case, Badge Replica, Board Game

    .

  • Ian Baxter

    My favourite of season 8, if you’re not going to have a sympathetic killer you may as well have an all out cold hearted one. Thanks again for an enjoyable podcast, I’ve not heard anyone called a doughball in a long time! 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    Is there a screen shot of the ‘Frank’?

    • There is, but I’ve nipped off for a wee holiday in Glencoe without putting it up. Will try to remember on Monday!

      • Largo

        The famous rotund, LA private detective (and former cop) concurs with The Columbo Podcast Team: “Frank” is Cannon! 😉

  • Ian Baxter

    Just one more thing regarding this weeks podcast… it’s brief, but the General does actually introduce Jenny as his wife in his opening speech.

  • Al McBain

    All those soldiers would never in a million years have fitted in either box…