Stronger Than Steele
Original Airdate: Jan 15 1985
Transcribed from the Episode Written by:
Kerry Lenhart and John J. Sakmar
Restored Scenes in RED
Thanks, YS and Debra!

The episode opens on a black and white scene of a white coated man in a laboratory. He carefully opens a small refrigerated safe and removes a test tube. Carrying it over to a table, he places some of the contents into a beaker filled with smoking liquid. The beaker begins to shake, smoking even more. The scientist steps back as the beaker explodes violently.

An announcer says, "A laboratory experiment explodes, transforming everyday scientist Mark Slate into the Atomic Man!"

A graphic on the screen reads "Atomic Man", and then we cut to two bank robbers leaving a bank with a bag of money. The announcer continues. "A force with such power, the world has never known." Atomic man grasps the robbers guns, then shoots them with a ray.

Next, Atomic Man rushes to a wrecked, smoking car and pulls the driver's door off to carry a woman to safety. An elderly blind man is cross a street, not able to see the open manhole before him. Atomic Man appears, places his cape across the manhole. The blind man crosses safely as onlookers applaud.

Atomic Man smiles as the announcer says, "Mark uses his superhuman strength to rid the world of crime and injustice wherever he finds it." We see the American flag flying in the breeze, overlaid with the words, "Atomic Man", as the announcer finishes, "In an endless battle to bring peace to mankind."

We hear applause, and see a banner that reads, "Atomic Man, the Movie", as an enthusiastic young man named Steven Spooner appears on a stage. "What you've just seen is a clip from the original "Atomic Man" TV series. A series that, in spite of poor direction, simplistic writing, and- at best-adequate acting by the lead, is enjoying phenomenal success in syndication today. Why? Heroes. People wanted them then. People need them now. When I first saw "Atomic Man", I knew that I would one day make it into a big budget feature. But- only if I had the right actor." He smiles and motions to a blonde woman standing in the audience. "My associate, Jennifer Davenport," he says, and as she joins him, he gives her a kiss before continuing, "and I scoured the country, looking for the one man who could embody the virtues of the Atomic Man and yet still have the look of the 80's. We didn't want just another hunk. We wanted an actor with ability. An actor with depth. An actor with sincerity. Ladies and gentlemen, the star of "Atomic Man: The Movie", Brit Bostwick."

Bostwick, a blonde haired, good looking man, comes out, wearing the Atomic Man costume, flanked by two scantily clad young women.

A middle aged, balding man rushes through the crowd. "Wait a minute! Wait a minute!" he calls. "That man is an imposter!" he declares. "I'M Atomic Man!"

Jennifer moves away from Spooner as he says, "Everybody, a hand for my surprise guest, a fine actor who originally portrayed Atomic Man, Maxwell Donahue." Jennifer speaks to a security guard.

Max is angry. "You can't treat me this way. I gave the best years of my life to that character." He doesn't see the security guard approaching from behind. "I'm the only one that can play Atomic Man, and I'm the only one that will!" The guards grab him.

"I love that man! You're beautiful, Donahue!" Spooner says.

The guards start pulling Max out, but he's not finished. "Yeah, well, you're a treacherous snake, Spooner! I'll kill you before I let you destroy my creation!"


Later, in Spooner's office, Jennifer is rubbing his shoulders and head. "So, you really think it went well?" he asks her, eyes closed and smiling.

"They thought you were terrific," she assures him sadly.

"They did, didn't they? Ah, I love this business. You don't think that has-been Donahue brought things down, did you?"

"No. The press ate it up."

Spooner gets up. "Did you hear the reaction when they heard I landed Roger Forman to produce?" Jennifer looks disturbed. "The man's a legend. Hasn't made a picture in a decade, and he comes out of retirement to work with me. Is that beautiful?"

"Why didn't you tell me about Forman?" she asks. "We're partners. You direct, I produce. That's what you said when we signed the papers."

"Listen, baby, it's not me. We're talking a twenty five million dollar project. The studio wanted somebody with experience."

"Hell, this whole project was my idea!" Jennifer reminds him. "I got the studio interested! I got YOU involved! I went to the mat to wrestle away the rights!"

"And I'm gonna take care of you, baby!" He comes over to her. "I'm thinking of making you my assistant," he tells her, reaching out to touch her. "My executive assistant-"

She brushes him away. "So I can fetch your coffee and polish YOUR ego? No thanks."

"Okay. You don't want to be a part of this project," he says, sitting down again, "it's up to you."

"It's not only the project, is it, Steven? It's us. You're bored with me."

"I always did have a short attention span," Steven tells her nastily.

"You're not getting rid of me that easily," Jennifer warns him.

"Baby, you're gone," he tells her.

She leaves the room.


Cut to the Twin Buildings; we hear the music from the "Atomic Man" as Laura's at her desk, watching a portable TV.
The male narrator's voice saying, "Though many evil forces have tried, none have yet discovered the secret source of Atomic Man's great power."
The door opens, and Steele enters, unnoticed, as Laura is completely immersed in the show, smiling like a little girl. Steele leans over her shoulder, looks at the TV screen, astonished, with his mouth open, and says, "Atomic Man?"
Laura jumps, turns the TV off and says, "Ah! Uh. I was just waiting for the news. You know, quick look at the day's events. weather. stock-market quotations." as she folds the antenna and puts the TV set on her desk.

Steele tells Laura, "Our client, Mooney the Carpet King is waiting in my office. I hope you know your cut pile from your loop pile?"

Laura smiles up at him. "I'll just gather my notes," she tells him, reaching into a drawer.

He picks up a tiny television set from her desk and turns it on. The sounds of Atomic Man fill the air. "Go ahead and shoot! You can't hurt me, I'm Atomic Man!" Laura smiles as she listens to the words. "I have a great power that radiates from inside me and cannot be extinguished!" Steele glances at Laura's expression as he listens as well.

"Wonderfully dreadful," Steele pronounces.

Laura grabs the TV from him, frowning. She turns it off and puts it away. "That show is timeless," she tells him.

"Fan, are you?"

"I used to watch it as a child. It purported all the values that- that my mother wanted me to adopt: Goodness, Truth, Justice."

"Chastity?" Steele adds.

Laura grimaces as she stands up. "As a matter of fact, it was those values that I had in mind when I created Remington Steele."

"Oh. Well, I'm not sure that I like that fact that my origins have come from a comic book television hero-"

"It was that television hero who in some part inspired me to choose this profession," Laura informs him.

"Oh. Well, lucky for Mr. Mooney he had," Steele says, rubbing his hands together. "Now, what say we join forces to, you know, do battle with the evil carpet thieves of the world, eh?" Laura, frowning, moves toward the door. Steele glances again at the TV on the desk.


Later that evening, at Center Hollywood Studios, Max, dressed as Atomic Man, is trying to get in. "I'm sorry, pal," the guard says. "Your name's not on the list."

"No, no, it has to be. Spooner's office called me no more than an hour ago. You check with them, you'll see."

"All right." he goes into he booth and picks up the phone as another guard asks, "Isn't that the loon they booted out of here earlier?"

Jennifer answers the telephone in her office. "Steven Spooner's office . . . Absolutely not. No, the man has been harassing Mr. Spooner for days . . . Thank you . . . Oh, and- be careful. He has a violent temper." She hangs up.

"Sorry, pal," the guard tells Max.

"This is ridiculous. I was told to get into my costume and come down here and see Spooner," Max says, putting on his mask, "And that's exactly what I'm gonna to do!"

He starts into the studios, but the guard grabs him and pulls him back. "Hey, hey, SID!" Sid comes out and they eject Max.


Back in Jennifer's office, she opens a cabinet revealing a TV and VCR. Putting a tape into the machine, she lets it start, pauses it, and then turns off the TV. Then she goes to the clock and moves the time from 10:47 to 10:59. Going to the door, she opens it. "Hazel?" she calls. A cleaning woman comes to the door. "Would you mind doing my office now? I have an important call to make. I don't want to be interrupted."

"Oh, sure thing, Miss Davenport," Hazel says.


Hazel goes out to get her vacuum cleaner and Jennifer hurries to grab the VCR remote, hiding it under a file on her desk as she sits down. When Hazel come back, Jennifer asks, "Hazel, can you see the time? My contacts are making everything blurry."

Hazel looks at the clock. "Eleven o'clock on the button."

"Oh. Just in time for Atomic Man. Would you turn the set on, please?"

"Oh, sure thing," Hazel says. While she's doing that, Jennifer turns the VCR on, then hides the remote again.

Later, Hazel and Jennifer are both watching the show. Hazel is rapt as Atomic Man beats up a bad guy. When the bad guy pulls a nasty looking gun, he says, "Go ahead, shoot! The power of the atom is only realized when it is split!" The bad guy fires, and Atomic Man feeds the beam back onto the other man, immobilizing him.

"Hazel, I have to make that call now," Jennifer tells her.

"Oh, sure thing, Miss Davenport." She gathers her things and leaves the office.

Jennifer turns off the TV, then takes her phone off the hook and locks the door. It's 11:11 on her clock. Jennifer opens the French doors that lead outside, then starts undressing.


Steven Spooner is reading in his office when someone hits him over the head with Atomic Man's "Atomic Scepter". He's stunned, but turns and finds someone in an Atomic Man costume, ready to strike again. "Jennifer? he asks, shocked and frightened.

She hits him again, knocking him to the ground. "And don't call me Baby!" she tells him, hitting him again. Going to the window, she tosses the murder weapon through it, breaking the glass and alerting the guards, who see someone dressed as Atomic Man climbing down the trellis outside Spooner's office.

"Hey! It's that kook we just tossed!" one of them says, and they take off.

Jennifer runs through the studio, back to the side door of her office, ducking inside as the guards go past. She pulls off her mask.


As the credits roll on the Atomic Man episode, Jennifer, out of the costume and in her street clothes, apologizes while Hazel cleans up coffee from the desk. "I'm so sorry I am so clumsy," she says.

"Oh, don't worry about it, Miss Davenport. I'm running ahead of schedule tonight, anyway."

Jennifer looks satisfied.


Next morning, Laura is at her loft, cleaning up the remains of her breakfast as a female voice on an unseen TV says, ".Returning to the local scene. All Hollywood is saddened by the tragic death of Steve Spooner, who was murdered last night in his Studio City office. The twenty-five-year-old director was preparing his latest film, "Atomic Man: the Movie".
Now the news gets Laura's attention; she stops and looks at the TV screen across the loft. The voice continues, "Ironically, Maxwell Donahue, the actor who portrayed the Atomic Man on television from 1961 to 1964, is being sought in connection with the crime." Laura gasps and leaves the kitchen to take closer look as the same voice goes on, "Homicide detective James Jarvis had this to say at the scene last night."
Laura is sitting down right in front of the TV, unable to take her eyes from the screen as Lt. James Jarvis tells a reporter, "Well, things are still kind of sketchy, but we do have several eye witnesses who claim they saw Mr. Donahue running from the scene of the crime, and of course, you know he did threaten to kill Mr. Spooner at a press conference earlier this week," Laura takes a pillow and hugs it for comfort as Jarvis continues, "So at the moment, he is our primary murder suspect and we will probably issue a murder arrest warrant." Distressed, Laura turns off the TV and sits down.

She's sitting there, hugging a throw pillow, when Steele enters. "Ah, good morning!" he says brightly. "Yes! Ready to take a magic carpet ride into the fascinating world of- floor covering?" he asks. Laura doesn't seem to notice he's there. "Persian, Chinese, Turkish? Ha?" He looks at her. "Perhaps your interest lies in domestic cuts. What would you say to a nice little American shag? 'Hello, nice little American shag,'" he says in a high pitched voice, then laughs. Laura looks at him as if she's lost her best friend. "What's wrong, Laura?" he asks.

"Atomic Man is wanted for murder."

"Really? I didn't realize the penalty for bad acting was that stiff in this country," he says, smiling.

"No, a real murder. The police are after him. He's innocent, and he's being hunted down like an animal!"

Steele sits back. "How do you know he's innocent?"

She looks at him. "Atomic Man could never hurt anyone," she insists sincerely.

"Laura, I realize how important Atomic Man was to you in your formative years, but you must remember one thing."

"What's that?" she asks, sounding lost.

"He's just an actor in a silly suit," Steele tells her, which earns him a look of consternation from Laura. He glances at his watch. "YOU promised Mooney that we'd meet him there before ten so it wouldn't interfere with those live television commercials he does, remember?"

Laura's eyes widen as an idea strikes, "You're RIGHT," she declares, jumping out of the chair and going to a cedar chest to lift the lid.

"I am?" Steele questions.

"Poor man needs help," Laura declares. "He's alone. Frightened." She tosses some things out of the chest, and digs through it. "He can't get to us, we'll have to get to him." She finds a ring in the bottom of the chest. It has an Atomic Man logo on it. She grabs her purse and heads for the door.

Steele rises to follow her. "Are we still talking about the carpet king? Huh?" he asks as she closes the door behind them.


At Mooney's store, Laura follows Steele past a row of carpets, then takes off when she sees something. Mooney approaches Steele. "Steele. Glad to see you."

"Oh, good morning."

"Where's Miss Holt?" Mooney asks.

Steele looks behind him. "Well, she was right behind me. No doubt she's working on your security system."

"The sooner we install it the better," Mooney tells him. "Last week, I had enough indoor-outdoor stolen from this store alone to blanket the Astrodome. And I've got 19 outlets. Oh, excuse me," he says, glancing at his watch. "I have one of my commercials to do."

"Go ahead," Steele says, joining Laura near the TV equipment. She seems a little nervous and interested in what's going on.

Mooney take the microphone he's given, and when he gets the signal, reads from the cue cards. "Theodore Mooney, of Mooney's Carpets, where we've had happy customers since 1964. We have a large selection of brand names in stock. Lifkin, schlot, grob." He pauses, frowning at the cue cards. The holder looks at them as well. Laura smiles as the holder reveals the next card. "Phlift, melmin, glim," Mooney reads, with no idea of what he's reading.

Steele glares at Laura.

At the office, he says, "Really, Laura! You've not only reverted to childhood, you've practically returned to the womb!"

She's sitting on a table against the wall as Mildred looks on. "I had to let Max know I wanted to help," she insists. "Television seemed the best medium for the message."

"' Lifkin, schlot, grob' is a message?"

"With the Atomic Man decoder ring, yes," she says, holding the ring up for him to see.

Steele groans as the phone rings. Mildred answers it. "Remington Steele-" she manages before Laura grabs the phone.

"Remington Steele Investigations . . . Mildred? No, she's not here," Laura tells the caller and hangs up.

"Laura, what makes you so sure this man's gonna call?" Steele wants to know. "I mean, the chances of him having seen this-"

The phone rings again, and Mildred grabs it, only to have Steele grab the receiver from her hand. "Allow me."

Mildred shrugs. "I guess I could try some filing," she decides.

"Steele here," he says, then frowns. "Zipf, glimp, blurg, blurg-" he holds out the phone. "It's for you," he tells Laura.

She grabs the phone. "Mr. Donahue? . . . Yes, I'm Laura Holt. I believe in your innocence and I want to help." Steele and Mildred look on, amazed. "Is there a place that we can meet?"

"Mildred," Steele says in a quiet voice, "I'm worried."

"About Miss Holt?"

"Hm hmm. Usually she's the logical one. I mean, everything by the book, allowing precious little time for emotions to creep in and cloud her perceptions. Now look at her! Trading blinks and blurgs with a homicidal actor!"

Laura hangs up the phone and grabs her purse. "Laura, where are you going?"

"To meet Max," she tells him.

"Laura, the man is dangerous! He's already wanted by the police for murder!"

Laura looks away. "The Fugitive," she says.

"Yes, the fugitive, Maxwell Donahue."

"No. The Fugitive. David Janssen, A Quinn Martin Production, 1963 to 1967."

Steele backs off, then glances at Mildred. "Mildred, you're an American, what's she talking about?"

Mildred smiles as she explains. "It's an old television series."

"David Janssen played a man running from the police for a murder he didn't commit," Laura tells him. "He'd been framed!"

"And THAT'S what you're basing his innocence on? A television show?"

Laura crosses her arms over her chest. "How many times have I followed you blindly just because one of our cases bore a faint resemblance to the plot of some silly movie?" she asks.

Mildred grins at Laura's jab as Steele sighs. "Press on, Miss Holt." He opens the door as Laura smiles at Mildred. "I'm with you every step of the way. Just one moment- where does one find an Atomic Man?"


A banner is strung across the entrance to a building. It reads, "20th Annual Atomic Man Convention". Inside, there are lots of people in costume as Laura tells Steele, "They call themselves Tommies."

"Oh, really?"

"They're all fans of the show. A few times a year, they get together-" she gasps as a man wearing a costume stops her.

"Laura. No costume this year?" he asks.

They move off as Steele teases, "I'm sure you look positively fetching in your little cape and booties, eh?"

"Never mind. We've gotta find Max."

"Oh yeah? And how do you propose we do that in this sea of duplicates?" he asks.

Laura's attention is caught, and she flashes her ring. "We won't have to. He just found us."

Max, in costume, is flashing his ring at Laura. They go over to him. "Miss Holt?" he asks. Laura and Max put their forefingers and thumbs together, spreading them in greeting. She laughs, delighted to meet her childhood hero in person.

"This is my boss, Remington Steele," she introduces.

"Hello," Steele says, shaking Max's hand.

"He's a very famous private detective and he wants to help you very much."

"Yes," Steele agrees. "Miss Holt as convinced me that you're the David Janssen of your time."

Laura frowns at that, but Max doesn't notice. "Thank you both, really, for believing in me."

"Are you sure you weren't followed here?" Steele asks.

"Well, uh, a coupla cops chased me, but I shook em off. I'm still pretty fast on my feet. I do a little jogging and work out, you know this damn costume, it shows every bulge and ripple." He laughs.

Steele looks across the room. "Yes, well, apparently you weren't fast enough. Have a look, Laura."

She looks as well. "Jarvis," she whispers, seeing the detective entering.

"You two slip out the front, I'll occupy the Huckleberry Finn of homicide, okay?"

Jarvis starts toward them. Laura and Max duck behind a display as Steele goes to the policeman. "Ah, Detective Jarvis! Good to see you! Remember me?"

Jarvis looks at him. "Mr. Steele. Mr. Steele!"


"Hey, I haven't seen you since-"

"Since you hounded me for a murder I didn't commit, remember that?" Steele says. He moves close, lowering his voice. "Tell me, are you a Tommie, too?"

Jarvis looks confused, then realizes what he's talking about. "Oh, no. No. Actually, I'm working on a case."

"Oh, I see," Steele says. "Fascinating. Tell me all about it, detective please do."

Jarvis sees Laura and Max trying to duck out. "Say, isn't that Miss Holt?" Jarvis asks.

"Hmm? No, no," Steele assures him, glancing around and noticing a banner that reads, "Meet Atomic Man's sidekick, Jimmy Jones."

"It is," Jarvis says. "And I think she has something I'm after."

Steele blocks his way, and calls out, "Hey look, everybody, it's Jimmy Jones! Jimmy Jones, right here!" A crowd gathers around Jarvis, allowing Steele to follow Laura and Max.


Someone is banging on Laura's door. "Coming!" she calls. "Coming!" She opens it, and Jarvis rushes into the loft. "Detective Jarvis, what a surprise."

"I want Maxwell Donahue."

"He's innocent," Laura informs him.

"He threatened to kill Steven Spooner, he was spotted leaving the scene of the crime," Jarvis points out.

"Circumstantial," Laura tells him.

"His fingerprints were on the murder weapon," Jarvis tells her. That stops Laura for a moment. "Now, I suggest you get him to the nearest police station. As quickly as possible. Otherwise, you'll be looking at a few charges yourself."

"Such as?"

"Obstructing justice. Aiding and abetting a fugitive. Accessory after the fact. How does that sound so far?"


"Very nice place you've got here. Light and airy. And a hell of a lot more spacious than a jail cell." Laura takes a deep breath.


At Steele's he asks Max, "Is there no way you can prove Spooner wanted to see you, in costume, at precisely ten thirty last night?"

"No. I already told you," Max insists, as Mildred listens in, "his secretary called me about nine thirty."

"She says she went home at six," Mildred tells him. "And her timecard backs her up."

"Somebody called me," Max says.

"It doesn't look good, Max," Steele notes.

"If you think that looks bad," Max tells them, "wait till you hear this. The murder weapon?"

"What about it?" Mildred asks.

"Well, it, -just may have my fingerprints on it."

"Well, how can that be?" Steele asks.

"It was a prop in the show. And when I read that Spooner was gonna do the movie version, I sent it to him. My way of reminding him that *I* was Atomic Man."

"Good heavens, Max. The more you explain, the worse it sounds," Steele sighs. He and Mildred sit down.

"Mr. Steele, please. Believe me. I'm not a murderer. I'm just an actor who wants to act." Mildred looks at Steele. "Atomic Man was probably the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me. As a struggling actor, it was great. The money was good, put food on the table, sent a couple of nieces through college. But then-"

"The series got cancelled?" Mildred asks.

"Yeah. And I couldn't get arrested. I mean, it didn't seem to matter to anybody that I'd played Hamlet, I'd played Tartuffe- won rave notices from the San Francisco Theatre Guild- No, I was Atomic Man, and they didn't think I could play anything else. But, you know, in the long run, it really didn't seem to matter, because- everywhere I went, people still thought of me as a hero. I like that."

"Yes, well, it can be addicting, can't it?" Steele comments, understanding.

"Mr. Steele, don't you see? If I kill someone, I lose the only thing I have left from my career. My reputation. You understand that, you're a hero. The amazing sleuth who's never been stumped."

Steele's almost speechless. "Yes, well, that's me all right, isn't it?" he manages.

"Of course, the only difference between us is that you really ARE Remington Steele. And I'm just an actor playing a part."

"Well, we're all actors, Max, at one time or another," Steele tells him. "Some of us just have better roles."

Max nods.

"What now, Chief?" Mildred asks. "When Jarvis comes up empty at Miss Holt's, he's sure to look for him here."

Steele studies Max. "Well, Mildred, what Max needs is-" he lifts an eyebrow and smiles. "A new costume."


Mooney asks Mildred, "THIS is my security system?"

She's standing with Max, who's now wearing a security guard uniform. "Simply a provisional measure," Mildred assures him. "Until Mr. Steele can install the electronic surveillance and protection hardware."

"But I have 19 stores!" he reminds her.

"Oh, and we will take care of each and every one of them," Mildred says. "I assure you. Now, officer Kimball here is merely here to provide uninterrupted service in the interim."

"ONE officer?"

"He's the best in the business," Mildred says. Max stands straighter, looks professional. "And we're prepared to provide 'round the clock protection- if you have a place for him to stay."

"There's a storeroom in the back," Mooney tells them. "Follow me. What'd you say your name was?" he asks Max. "You look very familiar."

Max is blank, and Mildred rushes to say, "Kimball." She taps Max's arm.

"Kimball," he says, belatedly.


Laura enters Spooner's office, coming to an abrupt halt as she realizes that Jennifer is there. Embarrassed, she says, "Oh, oh, I'm sorry. I didn't expect to find anyone in here." She comes over and shakes Jennifer's hand. "I'm Laura Holt."

"Jennifer Davenport. Can I help you?"

"Yes, I'm a private investigator, working on the Steven Spooner murder case?"

"I thought the police had their man," Jennifer points out.

"Well, there are a few things that don't- quite add up," Laura says.

"Such as?"

"Uh, you and Steven Spooner were partners, yes?"

"Steven and I were united- in every sense of the word."

They hear a noise outside the window, and Jennifer looks in that direction as Laura tries to keep her attention. "Well, I'm surprised that after a loss like that, you wouldn't- close down for awhile."

"Well, rather than suffer depression, I choose to bury myself in work. Steven would have wanted it that way."


"I'm dedicating the picture to him, of course." The sound comes again, and this time Jennifer gets up and goes to the window. Laura's right beside her.

Steele is trying to climb up the trellis, but it keep breaking under his weight. "Ladies," he says, barely hanging on. "Lovely day, isn't it?" The trellis gives way again, and they pull him in. "Thank you, thank you very much. Mind your hand, Miss holt," he admonishes. He falls onto the floor.

"Remington Steele," Laura tells Jennifer.

He comes to his knees. "Hello," he says, shaking her hand. "Odd."

"To say the least," Jennifer says.

"That trellis couldn't support me," he tells Laura, rising to look out at it as he straightens his clothing, "yet it supposedly held up fine under Maxwell Donahue, who has me by pounds."

"Another thing that doesn't QUITE add up," Laura notes.

"You keep saying that, Miss Holt," Jennifer points out. "Now, what exactly troubles you about Max's guilt? Besides the fact that you're obviously working for him."

"Well, for one, why throw the murder weapon, with your fingerprints on it, through a window and alert witnesses to your presence at the scene?" Steele is out of breath, still trying to right his clothing.

"The man panicked," Jennifer suggests.

"Ah, that doesn't explain why he wore his Atomic Man costume to commit a crime," Steele points out. "I mean, hardly an ideal way to conceal his identity, is it?"

"Or why he showed up at the main gate instead of simply climbing over a wall?" Laura adds.

"You have a great many questions. Do you have answers to go with them?" Jennifer asks.

"No, not yet," Steele admits. "But the most important thing is that we know that Max didn't kill Spooner."

"Now all we have to do is figure out who did," Laura tells her.

"Well, you have to do one more thing," Jennifer notes.

"Oh?" Steele asks.

"Really? What's that?" Laura questions.

"You have to prove it."


At the office, Laura tells Steele and Mildred, "She did it. I KNOW she did it."

"But what's the motive?" Mildred asks. "I thought she and Spooner were-cozy under the covers as well as business partners."

"It's there, Mildred," Laura insists. "All we have to do it dig it up."

"Laura, I hate to be a wet blanket, but Miss Davenport has an airtight alibi," Steele points out. "The cleaning lady puts her in her office at eleven o'clock- precisely the time the studio guards saw the killer climbing down the trellis."

"Pick, pick," Laura says. "Is that all you can do? If there are holes in this case, we'll PLUG em!"

"Laura, you're going off half cocked, letting your emotions cloud your judgment-now, I say, we sit down, look at this calmly, logically-" he puts a hand to his face. "Good Lord, I'm beginning to sound like you and you're beginning to sound like me."

Laura smiles. "Nice change of pace, isn't it? You establish that Jennifer called Max while I punch some holes in her alibi." She turns toward her office.

"Television, Mildred," Steele comments with a frown. "Deadens the mind, corrupts the soul."


Fred delivers Steele to Mooney's store. He stands before a display of window blinds. The blinds are pulled. "Max?" he says.

"Yeah," Max answers, then realizes what he's done. "Uh, Kimball here, may I help you?"

"It's Steele."

The blinds open. "You can't be too careful."

"Max, would you recognize the voice that told you to come to the studio the night of the murder?"

"Oh, gee, I don't know."

"Say yes, Max," Steele advises. "We're desperate."

Max looks worried.

Jennifer is on the phone. "What is it now, Mr. Steele?" she asks.

Max is listening in on Steele's end. "Oh, I just thought I'd give you a call to see how you're fairing up."

"How do you THINK I'm fairing with the man I love brutally murdered?"

Max covers the mouthpiece. "Mozart," he tells Steele. "When the woman called, there was music playing in the background just like that." He listens again.

"What about the voice?" Steele asks.

"Mr. Steele? Are you still there?"

"I'd stake my life on it," Max tells him.

"You are," Steele says. "Miss-" he bats Max's hand away. "Miss Davenport, rest assured, we're closing in on this murderer even as we speak. Yes. Good day." He hangs up.

Jennifer hangs up, worried.

Steele looks at Max. "Good work, Max. Now, back to your rolled ends and remnants. Go on, mate."


Laura tells Jennifer, "Fact. Steven Spooner was going to have you replaced as producer of the Atomic Man movie."

"I'm a great admirer of Roger Forman," Jennifer says coolly. "I think he'll add a lot to the production."

"Fact. Your contract with Steven Spooner for the Atomic Man rights carried a survivorship clause. Which means now that he's dead, you own it all."

"HIS lawyer insisted on that clause," Jennifer explains.

"FACT- Maxwell Donahue recognized YOUR voice as the one who called him to the studio the night of the murder!"

"A desperate man will say anything! Under the circumstances, which one of us do you think the police will believe?"

"You KILLED Steven Spooner!" Laura accuses.

"I was watching Atomic Man WITH Hazel at the exact moment Maxwell Donahue dispatched my beloved to that great sound stage in the sky."


At Steele's apartment, he tells Laura, "Well, she has you there."

"Only for the moment. There's GOT to be a way to nail her for Spooner's murder," Laura insists, pacing.

"So long as Hazel swears she was watching television with her, we're gonna have a hell of time proving she's guilty," Steele points out.

"That's it," Laura says. "The time! She changed the time!"

Steele shakes his head. "Nice try, Laura, but the station broadcast Atomic Man at eleven o'clock."

Laura smiles. "Columbo, Peter Falk, Universal Studios, 1975. In an episode entitled 'Playback', Oscar Werner kills his mother in law. He seems to have the perfect alibi. Until Columbo discovers he used a video tape to alter the apparent time of the murder."

Steele looks at her. "Are you suggesting Spooner wasn't killed at eleven o'clock?"

"No. I'm saying Hazel wasn't with Jennifer at eleven. She only THOUGHT she was because Atomic Man was on."

"But she was actually watching a tape," Steele muses.

"Now, all we have to do is find that tape. If Columbo can do it, so can we."

Later that night, Laura and Remington scale the brick wall outside the television studieo. They are both in black, with Laura wearing a low-cut, silver zippered black jumpsuit, her hair in a single braid. After reaching the top, they jump to the ground, Remington tripping.
"'The Fugitive'... 'Columbo'... Really, Laura," Remington admonishes. "I'm learning more about television that I *care* to!"
"Shhh!" Laura tells him.

Laura picks the lock on the French doors that lead to Jennifer's office to get inside. Steele searches around the desk and Laura finds the TV and VCR. "Have a look. She had the means." She opens another cabinet. "And the tape," she says, finding a stash of Atomic Man episodes.

Steele goes to the door, hears the vacuum cleaner shut off. "I suggest we watch this one at home," he tells her. "Come on. Let's go."

Laura grabs the tape and they make their escape just before Hazel comes in and turns on the lights.


At Mooney's, Laura enters the building. "Max?" she calls softly. "Max?"

From behind some rolled carpet, Max calls out, "I warn you, I'm armed! And dangerous!

"It's Laura Holt," she tells him.

Max comes up from his hiding place and she waves at him. "Oh, Miss Holt. What are you doing here?"

"I thought it was time you finally heard some good news," she tells him. "We're this close to clearing you."

"Oh, that's wonderful," Max said with a sigh of relief.

"Atomic Man triumphs again."

"Oh, no, no, no, no. I'm afraid Atomic Man had very little to do with this triumph."

"Well, he gave me the inspiration to press on with the case," Laura says.

"Well, now, you know, it's fans like you that have kept me going all these years," Max tells her.

"I was um- I was four when the show first came on," Laura confides. "I couldn't even pronounce it. It came out- Tom Mix Man," she says with a laugh. "And that's what my father always called it." She sits on some carpet. "I used to- I used to climb up on his lap and we'd sit there, the two of us, entranced by your exploits. And I'd always cry when the show was over. I wanted more."

"Yeah, so did I," Max tells her.

"After the first season, my father wasn't around very much- he and my mother-that's how marriages go after awhile, you know. I guess he found more and more excuses to stay away from the house. So I'd have to climb up into his chair and watch you by myself. But I always made believe I was sitting in my Daddy's lap, with his arms around me, the smell of his aftershave in my nostrils, and we were both watching," she tells him, her eyes wet with unshed tears. "You gave me a lot of happiness, Max. And a lot of memories I could call on, after my father finally- left for good."

They hear a noise in the store and investigate. The roll up door is open, and three men are coming in. Max starts to turn away. "Where are you going?" Laura asks.

"To call the police," he tells her.

"Max, you're a fugitive. Lie low. Hide." She pushes him to safety, then turns back to stalk the would be robbers. She causes rolls of carpet to fall on one of them, taking him out of the action. Then she starts looking for the other two, but finds herself trapped between them. One of the men has a pry bar that he's slapping into his hand, threateningly.

Suddenly Max calls out, "Laura! Duck!" and she drops to the floor as he drives a forklift carrying a roll of carpet into the men, pinning them against a stack of more carpet.

laura looks up at him. "My hero," she sighs. Max smiles at her.


The police take the robbers into custody as Mooney praises Max. "First rate, Kimball."

"Thank you, sir."

Someone begins to applaud. Laura and Max turn to find Jarvis there. "Congratulations," he says. "You're both under arrest."


A policewoman shows Laura into Jarvis' office, where Steele is waiting. "Ah, Miss Holt," Jarvis says. "Mr. Steele has made your bail. Would you please get Miss Holt's personal effects?" he asks the policewoman.

Steele comes over to the desk. "Really, Miss Holt. I'm absolutely astounded by your behaviour. I'm seriously going to have to consider your position within this agency. I mean, after all, I have my reputation to maintain," he tells her, smiling slightly.

Laura isn't amused. "You've got the wrong man, Jarvis," she tells him.

"That's not what the evidence says," Jarvis tells her.

"Max was framed by Jennifer Davenport. I'll PROVE it!" she declares, hitting the desk for emphasis.

Jarvis gasps dramatically. "Are you going to bully a confession out of her? Gee, I don't know if there's enough room on this sheet for harassment."

Steele steps in. "I assure you, detective, Miss Holt will not break any laws from now on. I promise you of that. A good doctor, the proper drugs, a little shock therapy, and she'll be as good as new, I promise you."

Laura puts her hands to her head as the policewoman returns with the envelope. "Thank you," Jarvis tells her and she leaves again. "Okay," he says, turning a clip board toward Laura before dumping the envelope onto the desk. "Check em and sign for em."

She picks up her purse, and Jarvis picks up the video tape. "What's this?" he asks.

"That's something I bought at the Atomic Man Convention," she tries to tell him, reaching for it.

But Jarvis pulls it away to look at it. "You know, you really oughta have them take off the studio property sticker next time," he says, indicating the CHS sticker on the tape. "Kinda makes it look stolen-" he looks at her. "We are NOT looking at a breaking and entering charge here, are we, Miss Holt?" he asks, standing up. "I think I'm gonna hang onto it- just until the morning," he tells them, putting it into a drawer. "I just wanna make sure Miss Davenport's collection is complete."

"Perhaps we could see the prisoner now," Steele asks. "Hmm?"


Max looks at them from his cell as Steele tells him, "Things couldn't look better, Max."

"You oughta see it from this side," Max tells him.

"We know who killed Spooner," Laura says.

"That's great."

"And with your help, we're going to prove it."

"How can I help?"

"By giving the performance of your life, mate," Steele says.


Jarvis brings a cup of coffee into his office where Max and a stenographer are sitting. "Okay," he says. "Mr. Donahue, since it is your confession," he says, sitting down, "Please, start wherever you like."

"It all started at a five thousand watt radio station-" Max says, but Jarvis sighs.

"Mr. Donahue, I meant the night of the murder."

"Oh. Oh. Well, um, after the guards tossed me off the lot, I, um- I doubled back and I jumped the fence. I landed in a clump of hydrangea," he laughs. "I looked around, to make sure no one was watching," Max tells them, beginning to act out his movements of that night. He goes to Jarvis. "I slipped into the production building. I crept down the hall- One step at a time- planning, plotting, knowing what I had to do." He gets to the door that leads to the duty room. "Knowing what I'd been driven to do. I arrived at Steven Spooner's office, and I flung open the door!" he says, opening the door and going out. Jarvis jumps out of his chair. "There!" Jarvis declares, pointing.

"Make sure you get all of this!" Jarvis instructs the stenographer. When Max moves farther out, Jarvis grabs the steno machine and carries it for her.

"There sat Steven Spooner, the man who told ME I was too old to be a super hero!" Max says, going to an empty desk as everyone in the duty room is paying attention to him.

In fact, no one sees Laura and Steele slid Jarvis' office window open and enter the room to try and retrieve the video tape.

"Then I saw it," he says, pointing to a night stick laying on a desk. "May I?" he asks the officer that it belongs to. He picks it up as Jarvis puts the steno machine down. Jarvis jumps, nervous as Max lifts the club. "My atomic scepter." He pauses, studies the club. "Actually, this looks more like my proton wand," he comments. "Anyway, I took the scepter in my hand,- And it felt good," he tells Jarvis, "and I crept up on Spooner and I hit him!" he declares, slamming the nightstick into the empty chair repeatedly.

Steele realizes that the drawer is locked. "It's locked," he tells Laura.

"Do something!" she urges still outside the window. Steele pulls out his lock pick. "Max is going into this big finish! Come on!"

Max turns to look at them, sees that Steele and Laura are still in the office. "But I missed," he says. "This made Spooner angry." He looks again, and both Steele and Laura are instructing him to stretch the scene. So he turns back to the chair. "So, um," he says, tossing the nightstick aside and going to his knees before the chair, "we fought!" He looks again, they're still not finished. "I struggled, and he struggled-!" He looks at the office. Steele holds up the video tape, and gives Max the 'thumbs up', before making a motion to 'cut' the scene. "And I - choked him!" Max declares, pretending to choke Spooner.

Jarvis, caught up, nods. "YES!-I mean- No," he says. "He died from a blow to the head," he says.

Max sits back as Steele and Laura make their escape. "Then obviously I'm not the murderer."

"What are you talking about?" Jarvis asks, confused.

"Well, I say I choked him, and you say I hit him. One of us better get our story straight."

The crowd disperses with a loud groan as Jarvis looks embarrassed.


In Steele's apartment, he relaxes on the sofa as she puts the video tape into the VCR. "Oh, Max was nothing short of brilliant tonight," he says with a laugh.

"You see," Laura says, joining him, "maybe television isn't the vast wasteland you think it is."

"Mmm. Perhaps I misjudged the medium," he admits, hands behind his head. Laura turns on the tape. Steele looks at it, and sighs. "Then again-" Laura watches the episode. "I don't want to dampen your spirits, Lt. Columbo, but the fact that Jennifer has a tape of Atomic Man doesn't prove that she played it the night of the murder, you know."

Laura waves him quiet. "One thing at a time," she says. "What's gotten into you, anyway? You used to have such flair, such style. Always ready to take a chance, play a hunch."

"Hmm. Well, one of us has to keep our feet on the ground, Laura," Steele tells her.

"You're really enjoying this role reversal, aren't you? Punching holes in my theories, threatening me with shock therapy."

He turns toward her. "Merely trying to keep you from going off the deep end," he assures her, moving closer. "Unless, of course, you'd like company."

"Shut up and watch," Laura tells him, nodding toward the TV.

Steele reluctantly turns toward the screen as we see the scene from the episode that Hazel and Jennifer watched just before Hazel left the office the first time.

The next morning, the tape is playing again. Steele is sleeping on the sofa, and Laura is sitting against the sofa on the floor, her eyes glazed over. When the doorbell rings, they both jump.

Steele, hearing the TV, groans. "Oh dear God. It's still the same," he says, sitting up. "I keep hoping I'll wait up and I'll be watching 'Gone With the Wind'. Or even 'Heaven's Gate'."

Laura manages to turn it off, and stiffly gets up, stretching as she goes to the door. Mildred comes in. "I'm sorry, Miss Holt, but it took me awhile to find anybody working at the station this early." She pulls a video from her purse. "Now, here's the broadcast tape of the Atomic Man show."

"Great." Laura smiles and takes it to the VCR, replacing the first one with this new one.

Steele groans, and gets up slowly. "I'm gonna have a shower, Mildred," he tells her, going into the bedroom.

Mildred sits down. Laura picks up the control and sits beside her. Mildred mimics Laura's actions in watching, sitting forward, then back. "What are we looking for?"

"I'll let you know when we find it," Laura tells her, eyes glued to the TV.

Mildred nods. "That's fair."

The scene ends, and Laura's eyes widen as she stands up. "Aha!"

"Aha?" Mildred asks, standing as well. "Aha what?"

"Hahaha. Throw a towel on Mr. Steele, Mildred. We're going to make mincemeat out of a murderess."


In Jennifer's office, Jarvis watches as Laura tells Jennifer, "You almost got away with it. You had EVERYTHING figured," she says, pointing to the tape. Jarvis frowns. "Everything except this tape."

"I hope this dreadfully boring woman has a point to all this, Detective Jarvis," Jennifer says.

Jarvis tells her, "I gave up a racquetball game to be here today. The least we can do is hear her out. BEFORE I bust her for stealing police property," he tells Laura as she goes to the VCR/TV cabinet.

"We simply BORROWED it, detective," Laura tells him. She puts the tape into the machine. "Steven Spooner dumped you," she says to Jennifer. "You knew eliminating him would save your career. Having seen Max at the press conference, you knew you had the perfect scapegoat. So you proceeded with the perfect crime. You used a prop you knew Max had handled, and then threw it out the window to attract attention. When the guards saw you in your borrowed costume, they naturally assumed you were Max."

"How many ways can I say it? I was right here, in this office, watching TV with Hazel."

"Ah, yes. The perfect alibi. And it WAS perfect. Almost."

Steele tells her, "Like they say in Hollywood, Miss Holt, cut to the chase, eh?"

"It was easy to figure out that you set the clock in your office ahead," Laura says, pointing to the clock as she goes to the door, "and playing a tape of Atomic Man for Hazel was brilliant." She opens the door. "Hazel?" Hazel comes in, as Laura picks up the remote. "Handy gadgets, these remote controls." She pushes the "play" button. The fight scene replays again. "Watch very carefully," Laura says. At the point where Atomic Man tells the bad guy to shoot, Laura asks, "Hazel, do you remember seeing THIS scene?"

"Sure do," Hazel says.

"Miss Davenport?"

"Of course, I was right here with Hazel," Jennifer reminds her.

"Is all this leading somewhere?" Jarvis asks.

Laura turns off the tape. "Really, detective," Steele insists, "forgetting Miss Holt's criminal tendencies, she's still a brilliant investigator. Brilliant." He leans toward Laura. "Laura, is all this leading somewhere?" She shakes the second tape. "Good."

She puts the second tape into the machine. The scene begins, but is cut in the middle, and "PLACE COMMERCIAL HERE" comes onto the screen. "Here's how the show aired that night," Laura tells them.

Jennifer is nervous. "That's impossible."

"No, Miss Davenport, that's syndication," Laura informs her. "When a program is broadcast for a local station, it's length is edited to allow for more commercials. The scene you both claim you saw was unceremoniously cut, in the middle."

"You and your Atomic Man," Jennifer sneers.

Steele laughs. "The killer caught by a lousy television show and a rotten commercial. There's something poetic about that. Although, for the life of me, I can't think what," he says with a yawn.


In Steele's office, Max tells the trio, "I-I just don't know how to thank you. You never lost faith in me."

"Well, after all, you are the Atomic Man, eh?" Steele says.

"Oh, no," Max corrects him. "Not anymore."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear they killed the movie project," Mildred says.

"Don't be," he tells her. "My agent just called. And he's got me the title role in a new TV series. 'Laser Man'."

"Hey, Max," Steele says, getting up to stand beside Laura as the ladies congratulate him too. "Well done!" They shake hands. "I must say, Max, since I've known you, I've developed a deeper satisfaction and gratification for the small screen."

Max looks at Steele. "Yeah? You're not such a bad lookin' guy yourself. You ever consider an acting career?"

Laura laughs as Steele looks at her.

The End