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Tommy Brown

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Tommy Brown is the main antagonist of the Columbo episode "Swan Song"

He was played by real life Country and Western legend Johnny Cash.


Tommy was very popular and succesful Country and Western singer and musician, however he was secretly a quite miserable man, trapped in a loveless marriage. His wife Edna, had forced him into marrying her in exchange for helping him get parol from prison. Not carring for him she intended to use his talent for her causes. Due to this, at one point Tommy had had an affair with a young girl, however as it turned out she was underage at the time.

Edna used this to blackmail and extort Tommy, forcing him to give every single penny he made through his music towards her plans of building a great tembernacle, which was going to cost five million dollars (of which he had only just made the first million). Leaving Tommy with not enough money to buy himself a car or even stay in a decent motel while on tour. He constantly had to deal with his overzelous, arrogant and hypocritical wife. As such he formulated a plan to get rid of her and set himself free.

One night after a concert, before being forced to fly off to Los Angeles, Tommy confronted her about it, stating he was willing to carry on her project but merely asked that he be allowed to keep half, or at least some of the money he was making, but his wife refused declaring every single penny went towards the tembernacle. She then threatened to expose what he had done, which as it was in violation of the Man Act would lead to him going to prison. She then denouced him as a lecerous sinner who it was only through her mercy she was letting be free. Tommy shot back by calling her out her hypocrisy, but she casually ignored him claiming she was acting in the lords name. Leaving him with next to no choice, Tommy then lied that due to the weather they couldn't leave for a few hours, while knowing a storm was coming.

He also had Enda's brother take his guitar on the bus, rather than on the plane. At the airfield, he left the rented car in the hands of the worker who had being working on the planes, offering that he could take it for a drive for a while as it was still rented for several hours, however Edna angrily told the man to do no such thing. Tommy tipped him before getting on. While in mid flight, Tommy turned off the heater, so Edna and her assistant (the girl he had an affair with, who Edna kept arround to keep control over him) got cold. Tommy lied that the heater was busted and offered them some drugged coffee. Once they passed out, he unbuckled himself and took the parachute he kept hidden where the charts should be out, putting it on he jumped out of the plane, leaving it to crash killing both his wife and the girl he had the affair with.

Due to it being a makeshift parachute, he landed badly and broke his leg. He hid the parachute in a log and then threw himself down the hill so he would end up near the wreckage and look like he had been thrown out on impact. Later in the hospital, now free of his wife's influence he finally managed to get his hands on his money, and using it bought himself a nice big house.

However Edna's brother Luke was convinced Tommy had killed Edna, as he knew how much he hated her and that she was blackmailing him, and thus contacted the police, bringing Columbo on the case. First he went to the crime scene, and picked up a few interesting details, such as the lack of ashes in the box supposed to contain the charts, and the fact Tommy's seatbelt was open when the plane crashed. Later he met up with Luke and despite Columbo's warnings, Luke went with him to see Tommy.

Tommy at the time was throwing a party, Luke bursted in and accused of him of murder, and actually assulted the injured man, before Tommy fired him and had him thrown out. Columbo went over to appologise, and while starting off angry, and annoyed at Homicide coming to visit, he quickly agreed to answer Columbo's supposedly routine questions. He was initally somewhat hostile, believing Columbo would take his big house and party as a bad sign, but Columbo declared he wasn't interested in his personal life. Tommy was able to give Columbo several resonable answers to Columbo's questions about the papers and the seat belt. And his guitar, the two parted on more friendy terms.

Later Tommy was giving his new singer, Tina some instructions. Tina was somewhat unwilling about his advances as it was so soon after his wife, Tommy reasured her that he and Edna had never actually loved each other. They were interupted by Columbo coming, Tommy however didn't mind and happily offered the detective a drink. Columbo politely turned him down and claimed that due to Tommy's status, he was under pressure to tie up all the loose ends. Tommy is happy to inprovise and the two actually have a cheerful converstation, Tommy lets it slip he crashed out of the air unit during the Korean war. Columbo goes to leave, and Tommy gets a phone call confirmine his plans to stop the building of the tembernacle for a while at least a while.

Columbo comes back in however, having forgetten to mention about the flask he took up. Which has gone missing (due to Tommy throwing it out of the window while in flight) he jokes about it, before suggesting that like him it could have been thrown who knows so far. As such he and Columbo part on cheerful terms, but Tommy is a bit worried.

Later Columbo comes to visit him in the middle of a recording sucession listening to the play back, Tommy welcomes him in and asks him about the autoposy he had performed on both the victims, Columbo covers it saying its standard to help identify the reason of the crash. Tommy however counters with the fact he was flying. Columbo then reveals that there was some drugs found in them which while not unusal themselves, due to there religious beliefs shouldn't be there. Tommy tries to explain it away, claiming its just air sickness pills they took. But Columbo reveals theywere sleeping pills. Tommy claims they can be used for the same purpose. Columbo then politiely asks if he could have an advanced recording of the new version of Tommy's song. Tommy agrees.

Later playing the two versions to him, Columbo enquires about the difference, Tommy compliments him for his good ear with music (which Columbo states is purely cause he's italian) and states its due to the different singers, he then follows that Columbo is going to ask him how he knew he needed a new recording, which he explains away by claiming he always intended it cause he liked the other singer better. Columbo excepts this, but then claims he's putting Tommy under police protection as he believes someone might be after them. As the sleeping pill dosage was near leathal, and he believes it was smuggled in through the coffee. Columbo claims he believes some lunatic is after Tommy simply cause he's famous, and he had organised mass searches to begin he next day to track down the missing flask, which still contained the drugged Coffee to prove it to his superiors.

Worried by this knowing they would find both the flask and his parachute, Tommy claims he's going away on tour to day so can't be under protection. Suspicious of this Columbo follows him to the airport, Tommy spots him and warmly askes him over, Columbo claims he's simply making sure Tommy safely leaves. And sure enough he seems to, after being asked back to deposite his metal items before getting on the plane. However he takes another plane back and drives up that night to find the Parachute he suceeds and makes it back to his car.

Only to find Columbo waiting there, realising the game is up, Tommy surrenders. Columbo offers to drive him back down the hill. He reveals he did know at first, then didn't and Tommy almost fooled him by pretending to leave, until he saw he was taking his keys with him, despite the car he was driving being a rental. Upset but somewhat relieved, Tommy acknowledges this and gets in with Columbo. He admits he was going to probably confess eventually anyway, as the guilt was starting to get to him. He then asks if Columbo really should be up a mountain alone with a killer. Columbo replies by putting the tape, Tommy gave him on and telling him any man who sings like that can't be to bad a guy.

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