The episode opens on a tragic note -- the funeral of the murdered
The Lieutenant's beloved wife is dead. We cut to Vivian Dimitri, a successful
realtor, who sets up a meeting with her long-time friend and boss, Charlton
Chambers, to discuss the commis-sion on a recent sale. She accuses Chambers of informing
on her husband Pete, who was extorting money from clients. The threat of osure drove Pete
to kill a client, and he was sent to San Quentin. Chambers tells Vivian it was a heart
attack, not jail, that killed Pete. Enraged, Vivian shoots him dead in cold blood. Lt.
Columbo surveys the murder scene and questions Vivian. She tells him that she was having
dinner with Leland St. John, a wealthy married man. Actually, she used St. John as her
At the same time, Vivian is setting up a man called Connally, who was also
threatening a lawsuit, by throwing the murder weapon onto the vacant lot
next to his home.
Columbo is at the scene of the murder looking for clues, and he is puzzled
by several things. And then there is the matter of several files missing
from Chambers office. Columbo finds out that they are records Chambers kept
regarding clients who were suing him over homes purchased in a new development. Columbo
tells Brady that Chambers collected $1,400 from his bookmaker earlier in the evening. Why
would he then go to an automatic teller for $200.00? Columbo assumes the killer was trying
to establish a phony time
of death. Also, the bank withdrawal was made in the same building and at
the same time Vivian was dining with St. John. Columbo also assumes that
it was Vivian checking on his whereabouts at the precinct by pretending
she was his dental assistant wanting to make an appointment. Columbo's
dentist recently moved to Florida! Columbo knows that his theory is sound,
but he has to find concrete evidence against Vivian. He leads
her to believe that Connally is their major suspect.
Lt. Columbo then flies to San Francisco to meet with Dr. Steadman, who
treated Vivian after Pete's death. Steadman remains non-com-mittal, but
he corroborates Columbo's research findings that the obsession of revenge
may not be focused on the person responsible but on the person's wife. A
woman exacting revenge would want her victim to know she was responsible
for the death of his wife, or there would not be any satisfaction. Columbo
tracks down Vivian at a house she is readying for sale. The meeting is
interrupted by Sgt. Brady, with word that Mrs. Columbo is in the hospital.
We cut to Mrs. Columbo's funeral and Vivian offering her condolences.
Columbo asks Vivian to accompany him home. They are stopped by a policeman who reports the
coroner has ordered an autopsy.
In his modest home, Columbo makes himself breakfast and eats a piece of
toast with lemon marmalade, a gift from Vivian. While Vivian talks about
the injustice in her husband Pete's trial, Columbo com-plains about feeling
warm. Columbo points out to her that the sentence was leniant due to Pete's
mental instability. When he receives a phone call that Mrs. Columbo was
poisoned, he is baffled. Vivian laughs about the fact she took great care
in finding a poison that was odorless, tasteless and virtually undetectable. She admits to
poisoning his wife for the same reason she killed Chambers:retribution -- a balancing of
the scales. She tells Columbo that he will receive another call that the poison was traced
to the marma-lade. However, he will not be alive to answer the phone, because he will be
lying dead on his kitchen floor.
Lt. Columbo corrects her. It isn't his house...it belongs to Brady. He
would have played out the charade in his own home, but Mrs. Columbo has
the flu and he did not want to disturb her. He tells Vivian he is sorry
about her husband's death and her grief. Vivian slaps Columbo hard across
the face before Brady leads her out of the room.