Houston hosts a charity benefit at his 100 Century Plaza South penthouse office to fund a clinic to be run by a renowned heart surgeon
Dr.Walter Belkamp (William Windom) and his partner Dr.Owen Denny
Belkamp is shot to death in front of everyone by Tom Chapman, a waiter hired for the event there. Houston gives chase but the shooter gets to the elevator first and the intrepid sleuth must take the stairs to continue pursuit. Having chased him on foot through his parking garage Houston can only watch as the assassin gets hit by a car on the road in the street behind the building.
The killer and the victim have both checked out leaving the most obvious choices for interrogating about the shooting absent. Chapman, a former employee of the clinic, it is discovered was beneficiary of an unexplained winfall of $100,000.
Belkamp's partner Dr.Denny (Gary Lockwood) inherits stewardship of the project and confesses that he and Belkamp had clashed in the months leading up to his death. In a good mystery things are never that straightforward. Another doctor (Gayle Hunnicut), a lab technician (Cameron Mitchell) and countless others might have motive.
Houston, literally at home here, has a natural place in this mystery instead of being brought in like a P.I. out of the yellow pages, the type of introduction to a case that was not understandable or logical but nevertheless was his point of entry to a number of mysteries His hosting of a high society philanthropic function also ties in with the benevolence of the character as well his affluence.
Houston introduces himself to a witness as an "interested party" rather than a private investigator. I always found the character to be more believable when presented as a skilled amateur who happens to be wealthy rather than a rich dude/private detective. His other rope into this mystery is the character of Cattle Annie (Jeanette Nolan), beneficiary of the clinic, whom he owes a large favour.
A lot of the time we see Houston get to his penthouse via helicopter. While we see him get into an elevator to leave and arrive we seldom actually see him go into the parking garage to drive out or step outside the building. For all we know, if we haven't watched episodes like this one where we actually see Houston in other parts of his building like the parking garage he could have a secret exit like Batman or the Green Hornet had.
The penthouse set itself may as well be Mount Olympus or the Fortress of Solitude given how disconnected it appears to anyone but regular cast members in a lot episodes. Actually seeing people enter and leave the building erases a gap between the penthouse set and others we may see later. To me it is helpful to see connections like this as the penthouse is so immaculate compared with everything else shown I wonder if it is even diagetic.
The scene with Houston strapped to a runaway gurney is comic genius as is the one where Houston impersonates a pest control guy leaning back on his down home charm and "slowin' it" to be convincing. Lee Horsley's effortless charm and comedic timing were never better used than here in an episode which generally strikes a more serious tone.
This happens to be one of several episodes which portrayed doctors in an unfavourable light. Season 1, Episode 11 - "The Rock and the Hard Place", Season 1, Episode 20 - "Fear For Tomorrow", Season 2, Episode 1
"Heritage" all feature doctor characters who are greedy quacks.
Season 2, Episode 7 - "The Ghost of Carter Gault" would show a dedicated young doctor who stands by her Hippocratic oath even under the most extreme of circumstances. But this episode would be an exception to a series that not only had unscrupulous doctors as a recurring theme but depicted hospitals as unsafe places where people could easily get whacked.
Lee Horsley, Jeanette Nolan and series regulars Paul Brinegar and Dennis Fimple appeared in Matt Houston supervising producer E.Duke Vincent's 1982 TV movie The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch. E.Duke Vincent was series star Pam Hensley's husband.
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