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Ward Fowler plays detective Lt. Lucerne in a hit TV show. However, Fowler has some skeletons in his closet, and the show's producer, Clare Daley, is blackmailing him, so Fowler decides to murder her. He steals a gun from the TV props department, and a ski jacket and ski mask from the show's wardrobe. Knowing that Clare plans on dropping by a corner shop one evening he stages a holdup while she is there. After knocking out the shop's owner he shoots Clare in the back, hoping the police will think the murder was the result of the holdup man panicking when Clare tried to escape. Columbo discovers several clues that show that the murder was premeditated, with the holdup as a cover-up, so since Clare and her husband Sid were known to despise each other and had been separated for some time, Fowler plants some clues in an attempt to frame Sid for the murder.
Columbo: He didn't mean any harm. Forgive me for saying so. I sometimes have a silly effect on people, you know what I mean? Just being a police lieutenant, you know. At least I hope that's why.
Ward Fowler: ou think she was murdered, don't you?
Columbo: I, I beg your pardon, sir?
Ward Fowler: You heard me.
Columbo: Yes sir, I did. Uh, I mean, yes, I do think it was a premeditated killing, sir. I mean I think the robbery was staged to cover up the murder. Um, how did you know, sir?
Ward Fowler: Why else would you be here?
Columbo: It could be just a routine check, sir.
Ward Fowler: No, Lieutenant. They don't send a police detective stumbling around, asking silly, fake, innocent questions on a routine check. I know that from my show.
Columbo: Silly, fake, innocent questions, like what, sir?
Columbo: The parka and the ski mask, that's where they both came from.
Ward Fowler: And the gun?
Columbo: Oh, come on, sir. You're putting me on. You know that guns don't come from the wardrobe department.
Ward Fowler: Of course. How stupid of me.
Columbo: Nope, that's the props department, sir, not the wardrobe department. How does a smart man like Lt. Lucerne make a mistake like that?
Ward Fowler: Because you're not talking to Lt. Lucerne at the moment, are you, Lieutenant? You're talking to Ward Fowler.
Columbo: Well, what's the difference, sir?
Ward Fowler: The difference is Ward Fowler's under suspicion of murder. And a man under that kind of threat is apt to make mistakes, he's apt to get rattled.
Columbo: Well, whoever said anything about Ward Fowler being under suspicion of murder?
Ward Fowler: Lt. Lucerne did.
Columbo: He did?