Burke's Law

Season 2 Episode 16

Who Killed The Strangler?

Aired Friday 8:30 PM Jan 06, 1965 on ABC

Episode Recap

At the Olympic Auditorium, the posters promote a wrestling match featuring "The Strangler" vs. "The Count". We see portions of the match and the front row spectators: a frantically enthusiastic elderly woman, a young man in horn-rimmed glasses shaking his head and taking notes, an intense-looking, fashionably dressed socialite, a heavyset man either squinting or wincing, and a young girl calmly eating popcorn. During the match, "The Strangler" hits "The Count", but "The Strangler" falls over onto the canvas. "The Count" tells him to get up, because he knows he ("The Strangler") is "supposed to" win. When he gets no response, "The Count" tries to fake a move and pins "The Strangler". "The Count" is declared the winner of the match and stands; "The Strangler" remains lying on the canvas, unmoving.

Burke is seen informing someone that big business is no more or less than war, with no concessions and no compromises. He must demand all their railroad and railroad properties. We see that he is home with his girlfriend Teri playing Monopoly (among other things). Teri tells him he's mean, he's just taken away all her "assets". Burke looks at her and says she's still got plenty in the bank. Henry interrupts their "big business deal" with a call from Les. Teri says, there goes the end of a beautiful merger. Les tells Burke that The Strangler, Heavyweight Wrestling Champ, has been pinned for The Big Count.

At the arena, an outline of The Strangler has been drawn on the canvas. Les and McLeod are arguing. McLeod says The Strangler was killed with a poison dart; death was instantaneous. Les says that's impossible. No blow gun or other weapon has been found; the dart penetrated an inch into his back. From the angle of entry, the dart was fired from The Gold Row, the plush $5,000 per seat special front row; the match had been especially arranged for a charity affair. Burke just happens to know that there's a poison used by the Jibaro Indians, a tribe of headhunters, that kills in ten seconds. Burke wonders how anyone could have hidden a 6-foot blowgun. Burke says everyone knows of The Strangler, the greatest wrestling "villain" of them all; he was legendary. Burke and Les reminisce about the match where 25 fake police officers had to "subdue" the Strangler when he "lost" to the Green Hornet. Tim is amazed; Burke teases him on his naivete about wrestling. Tim tells Burke that a kinescope of the match was made for TV coverage of the charity, and awaits Burke at the station.

The film also has the closeup shots of The Gold Row. The bespectacled young man is Ralph Hirt, sports writer for "The Daily Banner". Tim says Hirt never had a kind word for The Strangler in his column; his seat had been a comp. Les comments that Hirt, like Tim, must still believe wrestling is real. Burke's comment:


Sgt. Ames enters as they continue to watch the kinescope. The young girl is Anna Najensky, The Strangler's sister; Burke is told she doesn't appear to be upset by his death at all. She's a professional dancer at the Whiskey a Go Go. Sgt. Ames tells Burke Anna only does that to pay for her ballet lesson; Sgt. Ames had met her at ballet class at the Tamrovia Dance Studio. Burke says he didn't know Sgt. Ames studied dance. She says that if he paid more attention, he'd notice how she walked. Burke says, carry on, Sergeant, and sends her out the door. Next on the screen is the elderly woman, Mrs. Thomas Barrett, who is reportedly worth "about 100 million". Mrs. Barrett has been arrested twice at the arena for assault and battery; she hates the villains and loves the good guys, and once jabbed a wrestler with a hat pin. The heavy man is wrestler "Rocky Mountain"; the kinescope shows him surreptitiously looking around at the audience before he dons a pair of coke-bottle glasses. "Rocky Mountain" is next in line for the title. Burke, of course, recognizes the beautiful woman: Lorraine Turner, ultra-society, very wealthy, very beautiful. Burke says her problem is men and more men. Tim and Les recognize what's going to happen next; Burke will see Lorraine and they get(they say this in unison) "the little old lady from Pasadena".

At Lorraine's residence, the butler escorts Burke to the library. As he enters, he just misses getting hit by a dart hurled at the dartboard by the door. Lorraine grabs onto Burke; she clearly has taken a fancy to him. She tells him "come play with me". Burke says he's not interested in darts and Lorraine replies that it depends on your target, pointing out a man's picture on her dartboard. She explains her scoring system; the highest score is gotten by hitting the eyes. She tells him the man in the photo is the she currently hates most in the world. She wants to continue playing her favorite game but Burke wants to talk. They do both; Lorraine kisses Burke, saying she doesn't care why he's there. Burke tells her that The Strangler is dead; Lorraine says yes, and it's ruining her game. Lorraine tells Burke that if he thinks she's in morning, he should examine her target; Burke goes over and removes the darts from the board and sees that the picture is that of The Strangler. Just then, Lorraine hurls another dart, again just missing Burke. Burke remembers an item in the society columns linking Lorraine and The Strangler; he asks her if The Strangler ever had a chance with her or was just a fall guy. Lorraine says that he was muscle and he was available. She says the two of them fought to a draw. Burke comments that he understood The Strangler left Lorraine; Lorraine glares at him and says no one leaves her until she's ready. Burke asks if she was ready. Lorraine becomes upset and tells him that something went wrong; here was a clown with biceps and she really cared for him. Lorraine had been in charge of planning the entire charity affair; she insists she arranged for the match for charity and not just to see The Strangler again. Burke tells her that she's the #1 suspect. Lorraine insists she loved him, why would she kill him. As Burke leaves, he reminds her not to "dart" out of town. As the door closes on his back, a dart slams into it.

At Mrs. Thomas Barrett's mansion, Tim and Les interview what seems like a sweet little old lady at first. However, as soon as they mention that they've come about The Strangler, she becomes furious. She angrily tells them that if they think she had anything to do with that "dive" last night, they're crazy. Mrs. Barrett says what a chicken, The Strangler should have his title taken away. She goes on saying, imagine that phony, the heavyweight champ, throwing a match; she tells them "The Count" couldn't beat a tag team of little old ladies. And don't even mention "Rocky Mountain"; she hates that reptile (but not as much as she hated The Strangler, who was a combination of Hitler and Dillinger). Mrs. Barrett says she considered killing The Strangler many times herself, because no one could beat him. She admits to having stabbed The Boston Cobra with a hat pin, because he wouldn't let Mr. Wonderful out of his "Death Grip", even after the ref had declared the Cobra the winner. She refuses to believe that The Strangler is actually dead; why, The Count hardly touched him. She insists on always sitting ringside, regardless of the price; it's better than playing bridge with "the girls". When she realizes that Tim and Les consider her a murder suspect, Mrs. Barrett orders them out, saying they can go talk to her attorney. Besides, she says, if she had killed The Strangler, she would have done it very slowly, possibly boiling him in oil. Les says that if they need anything else, they'll get in touch with her. Mrs. Barrett tells them in no uncertain terms that, if they touch her, she'll break them in half with a Chinese Leg Roll.

At Madame Tamrovia's ballet school, the Madame mistakes Burke for a pupil, telling him not to be afraid on his first day. She says we are all beginners at one time, and orders tights brought out for the "new pupil". She wonders about his name; Burke - an Irish ballet dancer? He finally gets a chance to identify himself as a policeman; Madame Tamrovia huffs and points out Anna Najensky practicing at the barre. Anna continues her practice, curtly responding to Burke. She says she really hasn't given her brother's death any thought and isn't interested in helping to find his killer. She tells Burke she loathed "Alex" (The Strangler's real name was Alexandr Najensky); as much as she hated him, she says she could never bring herself to call him The Strangler. She considered killing him many times, but didn't; she tells her reasons for hating her brother are her business. Finally resting, Anna says she's exhausted, having been dancing for the past four hours. She says she hates having to dance at the Whiskey a Go Go; she's a serious ballet student. Anna finds it degrading to dance "that stupid Watusi" in front of 300 maniacs. "Alex" made over $200,000 per year, yet he wouldn't support her classes, so she had to work to pay her bills. The Strangler did pay for her Gold Row seat, however; she tells Burke that it looked good for his image. He even paid Anna $50 in cash to attend. Anna cozies up to Burke and says she doesn't want him to suspect her of murder. Burke asks if he can ask her a personal question, and she says, anything. Burke asks if she owns a blow gun; then tells Anna to keep on her toes, as he leaves.

At the station, Sgt. Ames is practicing ballet exercises and nearly kicks Burke as he enters the office. No murder weapon has been found yet; Les suggests a collapsible blowgun. Burke, in playing around, finally realizes that the weapon could have simply been a rolled up program. People are always booing and cheering through their programs at the matches, so no one would have noticed. Burke gives orders to check The Strangler's bank account, and goes to see if Ralph Hirt traded in his poison pen for a poison dart.

At the newspaper, the receptionist tells Burke that torture wouldn't make her tell him Ralph Hirt's office number. Burke shows her his ID; she stands and towers over Burke. When they knock on Hirt's door, he calls out, asking how many times does he have to tell the lousy copy boy not to bother him while he's trying to make a deadline. As they enter his office, they find Hirt sparring, alone. He shadow boxes around Burke and tells them that he's a "Method" sports writer. He has be imagining himself a boxer for an article he's writing; when Burke asks how hid did, Hirt tells him he won by a KO in the 5th round. He assures them that "The Method" is a new trend in journalism and they shouldn't make fun. The old way of writing is square. He shows them how he'll work on his tennis story on the Davis Cup, "playing" a set, leaping around the room, volleying and finally leaping over "the net" to congratulate his imaginary opponent. When Burke asks about wrestling, Hirt starts an article "Whatever Happened to Wrestling?"; then says, oh, Burke means "the dearly departed champeen - a real tragedy". He says he hated The Strangler and all he stood for. Hirt's ticket to the match had been free; The Strangler had called Hirt's editor and "requested" that Hirt cover it for the paper. Hirt says he had to go or lose his job. Then The Strangler came into the newsroom and threatened to break Hirt's neck, embarrassing him in front of the whole office. Hirt says he could have killed him, but murder is not his sport. He assures Burke that he gets sick if someone steps on a bug. Burke tells him not to leave town; Hirt insists he has to cover a horse race tomorrow because the regular reporter is sick. He gets into jockey gear and is "off to the races", riding an imaginary horse. Les wants to stay and watch; Burke bets against Les on the "race", with his "horse" Purple Passion beating Les's "Blue Fountain".


Tim reports that The Strangler had $10,000 in his checking account, $25,000 in savings, and stocks and bonds worth $60,000. All of it goes to Anna, as his sole heir.

In a hotel room, two hogs, with bows on their necks, sit in a pen. A "country gal" named Sally Lou, dressed in a skimpy outfit much like Daisy Mae Yokum, tells Burke that the hogs are called Cornbread and Buttermilk, named after "Rocky Mountain"'s favorite dish. She offers some to Burke, telling him Rocky Mountain has had the hogs since they wuz born. Sally Lou is sorry, but she cain't let Burke in; "Cousin Ezekiel" is rehearsing. A sign over the door to the inner room says Do Not Enter When Red Light Is Blinking. Burke tells Sally Lou that he's from the Po-lice, and she takes him in. In the main living area, "Rocky Mountain" is in a regulation ring, clad in union suit and coveralls, practicing the exact timing of every pre-set move for his next match. Three other hillbilly gals, scantily clad in outfits similar to Sally Lou's, watch as he uses his "famous Chicken Squeeze" and wins the "match". The gals applaud wildly. He kisses them one and all. He stops, though, upset, when he notices that Burke has entered the room. He has to fish around for his spectacles to read Burke's ID. Rocky Mountain warns Burke not to tell anyone about his spectacles, because it would be bad for his image. He introduces the giggling gals as "country cousins", and they take a shine to Burke; Rocky Mountain shoos them out to fix him some supper. As Rocky Mountain eats a huge meal, Burke asks if the girls are really his cousins; Rocky Mountain replies that Burke is sure gullible for a city boy. The girls, meanwhile, keep "bashfully" ogling Burke. Rocky Mountain mourns "poor, poor Strang" and tells Burke that it was all arranged, papers signed and all, for him to become the next champ in five years. So, he says, he had no reason to kill him. Rocky Mountain says he'll drink on it, and takes a pull from a jug of whiskey, offering it to Burke. He tells Burke that his real name is Ezekiel Kindworth and says it don't sound very mean, does it? He says "Strang" and him was good friends; "Strang" gave him a free ticket to the Gold Row since they were such old friends. Rocky guesses that "Strang" probably was killed by kinfolk. He says "Strang" (he used to call him "Strang") told him his sister had a "powerful hate" for him. She was always wanting money. Having finished his food, Rocky Mountain tells Burke that now he's going to have supper. He assures Burke he ain't going noplace; once hill folk put down roots, they don't move. He tells his gals to say "bye".

At the Whiskey a Go Go, Anna is in a cage suspended over the dance floor, dancing the Watusi with two other girls, all in tight fringed outfits. Les watches and says those moves would put him in the hospital for a month. Burke asks to speak to Anna and shows his ID, the floor man says that's a good one. He tells Burke that every guy in town has tried to pick those three girls up; they all pretend to be something big, but he's never had three "cops" before. During a break, the girls come down. Burke passes the other two off to Tim and Les; the girls drag them off to the dance floor. Anna says she told the other two to leave Burke for her, and flings her arms around his neck. Burke says he'd hoped she'd remember him. Anna seems a whole different person than the serious ballet student we saw before. She tells Burke she dreams of him all the time, calls him Sir Lancelot, kisses him and says she's ready for his orders. When he reminds her about their meeting at the ballet school, she says only squares dig the toe-shoe scene. Anna is acting wilder and wilder. Burke confronts her and she says she ahs a split personality. She insists she didn't believe her brother when he told her that she was his sole heir, or she might have killed him; but, she swears, she didn't, "sincerely". Burke believes her and tells her to go back to ballet. He rescues Les and Tim and they leave.

Les still thinks Anna is the killer: Burke is sure there is a vital clue that he's missed, something as plain as the nose on his face. Henry says he keeps telling Burke that he needs glasses. Burke decides to examine the Gold Row kinescope one last time.

Back at Rocky Mountain's hotel room, Sally Lou says that Cousin Ezekiel regrets he can't see them, but he's eating right now and can they come back tomorrow. Burke tells Les to stay with Sally Lou and goes in anyway, accompanied by Tim. He watches as Rocky Mountain is fed by the other three gals, as country music plays, and comments that he makes the pigs look good. Rocky Mountain sees Burke and says he's just going to have to tan Sally Lou's hide for letting Burke in. Burke tells the three gals to go out to Les. Rocky Mountain, upset, tells him that they're his kinfolk, not Burke's. He offers Burke some vittles, but Burke says he's here to arrest him for murder. Burke says he watched Rocky Mountain putting on his spectacles during the match; he would never have done that in public, in front of all his fans, unless it was really important, like helping him to aim. Burke asks if Rocky Mountain has ever heard of "lip prints"; they're just like fingerprints. Tests were taken of all the programs and that his were found on the program used to blow the poison dart. Rocky Mountain sighs and tells Burke his "pappy" always told him his big mouth would get him in trouble. He says his contract with The Strangler had five more years to go and he couldn't wait that long to be champ, he wanted it NOW. As a kid, he was the pea-shooter champion back home and once killed a fly at 50 feet. He says he read about the poison darts in a magazine and sent away for them for 50 cents. Burke shakes his head.


Rocky Mountain asks Burke for one last request - a swig of whiskey from his jug. He clobbers Tim with the jug, then grabs Burke in a hammerlock. They fight, ultimately ending in the wrestling ring, doing all sorts of classic pro wrestler moves, airplane spins, drop kicks, ear boxes. Burke finally floors him with a judo chop; Rocky Mountain calls foul, saying Burke's not supposed to hit with a "closed fist". he demands to know where the ref is. Burke tells him he's just traded the ref for a judge. Tim says he never heard of lip prints before; Burke says neither has he. As they leave, they find Les in the outer room, being fed by all four gals. Les takes one last bite of vittles before escorting Rocky Mountain to the station.

Burke returns to Teri and the Monopoly game. Teri loses again and complains that Burke has taken all her goodies. Not all, he says. She asks what would happen if someone ran away with her assets; Burke says they'll face that problem when they get to it. They kiss and Teri says all she's got is her bank. Burke says, well, he's the bank examiner. Teri gets out the champagne so they can play their next game - "spin the bottle". They kiss, Burke says he was never a bottle baby, and they kiss again.