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Episode review: Columbo A Stitch in Crime

Columbo stitch in crime opening titles

Columbo went where no man has gone before on 11 February, 1973 by casting Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy in the role of murderous medic Dr Barry Mayfield.

Casting Spock, err… Nimoy seemed an inspired choice on paper. Just think what he could bring to the table: a Vulcan’s cold logic; a Klingon-esque love of killing; a Romulan-infused ruthless ambition. That combo could never be bad, right?

But does A Stitch in Crime hit home with the force of a tire iron to the head, or does it instead bring on a morphine induced-style coma? And am I able to avoid making dozens of Star Trek puns throughout this review? Read on and find out…

Stitch in Crime cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Dr Barry Mayfield: Leonard Nimoy
Dr Edmund Heideman: Will Geer
Sharon Martin: Anne Francis
Harry Alexander: Jared Martin
Marcia Dalton: Nita Talbot
Written by: Shirl Hendryx
Directed by: Hy Averback
Score by: Billy Goldenberg

Episode synopsis: Columbo A Stitch in Crime

Brilliant young heart surgeon, Dr Barry Mayfield (Leonard Nimoy), is hungry for success. When his august colleague Dr Edmund Heideman (Will Geer) seeks a longer period of research before unleashing a revolutionary new heart drug, Mayfield’s patience runs out.

He wants recognition – and he wants it now, before someone else beats them to the punch. To do that, he’ll need sole ownership of the research – and that means getting the lovable Heideman out of his hair, permanently.

The opportunity presents itself swiftly, as the elderly surgeon’s heart is in a bad way and he needs a replacement valve, stat. Heideman has complete faith in his young protege, and trusts Mayfield with the job of patching up his dicky ticker. Little does the old boy realise the villainous scheme Mayfield has in mind.

Stitch doctors

Don’t worry Gramps – you’re in safe hands…

Mayfield, you see, has dyed some dissolving suture black, so that it passes for regular suture in the operating room. What does this mean? Well, when it dissolves in a few days, Dr Heideman’s replacement valve will fail and he’ll perish. It’ll look perfectly natural, but it will leave Mayfield in command of the research project.

Luckily for Heideman, he has a friend in nurse Sharon Martin (Anne Francis in her second Columbo outing). She doesn’t trust Mayfield one iota, and she’s watching the young surgeon like a hawk throughout the operation. And although all seems to go well in theatre, as Sharon cleans up afterwards she notices some leftover suture on the floor. Picking it up, we can immediately see something’s not right with her reaction as she rubs it between her fingers with a puzzled expression. Foul play is clearly in her mind.

She suggests as such to Mayfield as they meet in the lab shortly later. He challenges her to have the suture analysed to prove her suspicions, and she rises to his challenge by booking an appointment at the medical suppliers the following morning. It’s an appointment she’ll never make. As she heads to the hospital car park to head home after a stressful day, Mayfield steps out of the shadows and raises a tire iron. We never see the fatal strike, but it’s game over for Sharon.

Nimoy murder

I can’t condone murder, but when it’s THIS stylishly presented…

Mayfield doesn’t stop there, though. He’s much too clever for that. Instead he takes Sharon’s apartment keys and, waiting for her roomie Marcia to clear out, he breaks in and plants morphine under the kitchen sink before messing up the place to make it look like a drug-addled fiend has marauded through in pursuit of a fix.

Back to the hospital parking lot and a dishevelled Lieutenant Columbo is one of the officers in action. The sleepy detective isn’t at his best after a sleepless night, though, first sprinkling egg-shell over the crime scene, then using the murder weapon itself to crack the egg against. CSI this ain’t…

From here, Columbo heads off to find Dr Mayfield. He locates him in his office, on the phone, receiving the news of Sharon’s demise. Although his voice registers shock, Mayfield had the presence of mind to wind up his desk clock as he speaks.

When Columbo references the incident as an example of Mayfield’s great concentration, the Doctor tries to explain things away. “It was purely reflexive,” he says, but we know that Columbo is already onto his man. After all, he’s seen similar examples from killers in the past – just think of murderous Ken Franklin opening his mail as the corpse of his partner lay on his front lawn…

Nimoy 4

Mayfield’s clock-winding when receiving news of Sharon’s death is Columbo’s first major reason to suspect the dastardly doctor

Columbo’s next interview is with Marcia back at Sharon’s apartment. She’s a bit of a loon, and has nothing useful to tell the Lieutenant. His trip wasn’t wasted, though, as the hidden morphine is uncovered while he’s there – albeit suspiciously with no fingerprints, only glove smudges on the bottles. Why would Sharon wear gloves, Columbo wonders?

Uncovering the drugs, however, gives Columbo reason to pay a house call to Mayfield – and he finds the doctor hosting a lavish pool party, complete with guests galore and enough booze to sate a shipload of thirsty pirates.

During a short interview, Mayfield reveals that Sharon did have access to drugs in the lab. He can’t help Columbo with his next query though. The police found a note in Sharon’s handwriting seeming to set up a meeting with a mystery man called ‘Mac’ the morning after she was killed. Mayfield’s never heard of a ‘Mac’, but knowing he needs to provide the detective with a lead to follow, sets the next part of his plan into action.

Once Columbo has shambled out, Mayfield is straight on the phone to Marcia. The two take a stroll, and the medical man heavy-handedly tries to make the rather slow Marcia remember something, anything, about Sharon’s love life, but she’s too wrapped up in herself to take the bait.He eventually manages to crowbar the name ‘Harry Alexander’ into the conversation and convince Marcia that she was the one who remembered it. The police must be informed, he tells her, because Harry could be an important lead. So he bundles her into her car and takes her straight back to her apartment.

Guess who’s there? You got it… Columbo! He wonders why the doctor was in touch with Marcia, and his suspicions increase when she explains that it was Mayfield who remembered Harry Alexander by name. His case is coming together nicely, although he’s got some way to go to prove anything.

A visit to see Harry sheds some interesting light on proceedings. Harry is a Vietnam vet who seems to have struggled with PTSD, and then drugs. He met Sharon some time ago, and she helped him overcome his drug dependency. A romance blossomed, but she called it off for fear he was becoming too dependent on her. He tells Columbo he hasn’t seen her in 6 months, and the Lieutenant seems to take this at face value.

He reports as much to Mayfield on a return visit to the hospital to try to dig up more info on the mysterious ‘Mac’. Mayfield is sceptical of Columbo so easily dismissing Harry as a suspect and yet again ups his game to focus attention on the reformed drug addict.

This time Mayfield stoops even lower than his murder of Sharon Martin. He breaks into Harry’s apartment and waits behind a door for him to return. He then chloroforms Harry and delivers a massive morphine hit to the unconscious man’s arm. Harry literally didn’t know what hit him. He briefly awakes in a psychedelic haze, but can only plummet down his apartment stairs to what must rank as the cruellest, most unnecessary Columbo killing of all.

Stitch syringe

Oh, Mayfield, you’re just too bad!

For all intents and purposes, Columbo has got it wrong about Harry. Looks like he was Sharon’s killer after all, at least that’s what Mayfield says. But Columbo isn’t convinced. He noticed that Harry was left-handed when he met him. But his fatal dose of morphine was delivered into his left arm. How could a lefty have done that?

“Someone’s going to a lot of trouble to convince me Harry Alexander was the guy,” says Columbo pointedly – a fact not missed by Mayfield. “Lieutenant, what possible reason could I have for killing him?” he asks. “You ask tough questions, doc,” Columbo admits. “So does a jury,” smirks Mayfield in the most blatant admission of guilt since another doctor – Ray Flemming – held a hypothetical conversation about murder with Columbo in 1968’s Prescription: Murder.

It’s not all bad news for Columbo, though. On a visit to the bed-bound Dr Heideman, he cracks the ‘Mac’ mystery. It’s not a man’s name at all – it’s in fact an abbreviation for Marcus and Carlson, the medical supplies company the hospital gets it suture from – both regular and dissolving.

Stitch Heideman

Smoking in a hospital? Times have certainly changed since 1973…

With some hard evidence at last Columbo confronts Mayfield, but the doctor simply laughs in his face. For once, Columbo doesn’t play the fool. Slamming down a pitcher on Mayfield’s desk, he lays down the law. You better hope Heideman doesn’t die, he tells the now straight-faced medic, or there’ll need to be an autopsy and that’ll prove whether dissolving suture was used.

“For once, Columbo doesn’t play the fool. Slamming down a pitcher on Mayfield’s desk, he lays down the law.”

Once again, circumstances are stinging Mayfield into action. And once again he seems to have all the answers. He diddles Heideman’s medicine dosage to bring on an adverse reaction and make it look like the heart valve is failing. He then orders an emergency surgery to repair the valve – and replace the incriminating dissolving suture.

Part-way through the operation and Mayfield is surprised to see an interested observer watching proceedings from the observation deck. It’s Lieutenant Columbo. The usually squeamish detective has put aside his usual misgivings to keep his good eye on the action.

Stitch operating theatre

Coo-eeeee! Up here!

As soon as the operation’s over, Columbo and his cohorts (in surgical scrubs) bust into the theatre – much to Mayfield’s disgust, who pushes Columbo aside as he attempts to exit. But the Lieutenant won’t be denied. The place will be thoroughly searched – as will Mayfield – for any sign of dissolving suture.

Alas for Columbo, the search brings up nothing but regular suture. Mayfield’s in the clear. With a begrudging shake of Mayfield’s hand, Columbo says his farewell. “It goes to show, maybe I’ve been at this job too long. Well doc, now you’re finally rid of me.”

Alone in his office, Mayfield breathes a huge sigh of relief – but it’s short lived as Columbo bursts excitedly back in. He’s finally figured it out, and Mayfield’s flash of temper in the operating theatre was what did it.

Recalling the uncharacteristic shove from the usually ice-cool doctor, Columbo gathers up the scrubs he was wearing earlier. Reaching into the pocket, Columbo draws out a tangle of dissolving suture. “The only thing we didn’t search was me,” he says, a smile of satisfaction on his face, as credits roll…

Columbo suture

Gotcha Bazza!

Stitch in Crime’s best moment

Columbo’s genuine anger at Dr Mayfield’s callous arrogance is not only the highlight of this episode. It’s one of the best, most important, Columbo scenes of all. Why? Because it’s such a rare sight to see the Lieutenant drop the veneer and show us what he really thinks about another character’s actions and personality.

As Mayfield laughs in his face during a showdown in the Doctor’s office, Columbo stuns his adversary by slamming a water pitcher down on his desk – wiping the smirk briefly off Mayfield’s own face in the process.

Genuine displays of rage from the Lieutenant are few and far between, which makes them all the more significant. It marks that the game has changed. From here on out, Columbo is out to get the doc, and he’ll take no small amount of pleasure from besting a foe he so clearly loathes.

View it yourself below. The quality of the clip’s not great, but the drama is undeniable.

My opinion on A Stitch in Crime

As you may have gathered from recent episode reviews, I’ve struggled to shake a niggling feeling that Season 2 hasn’t quite lived up to the hype generated by the unbelievably high standards of Season 1.

Episodes have been perfectly enjoyable with many delicious moments, but there’s not been a new rival to match Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp, or a scream-with-delight denouement such as we saw in Suitable for Framing.


Leonard Nimoy made for a sensational Columbo killer

Thankfully those wrongs were righted here in epic fashion. As well as a gripping mystery, we are given the most heartless baddie the series ever sees. Casting Leonard Nimoy as the ambitious Dr Barry Mayfield was a masterstroke. The lack of emotion he was renowned for as Spock is a huge strength here as he delivers a truly chilling performance that redefines just how low a Columbo murderer can go.

“Casting Leonard Nimoy as the ambitious Dr Barry Mayfield was a masterstroke. He’s the most heartless baddie the series ever sees.”

Nimoy is easily one of the best 4-5 Columbo killers of all. Corrupted by ambition, his Dr Mayfield is completely ruthless and remorseless. Remember that his killing of Sharon Martin wasn’t premeditated – it was driven by necessity, yet he dispatches her with the cold indifference of a hired hitman. There’s something of the Hannibal Lecter about his sense of calm when committing unspeakable acts, and I can imagine his heart race never getting above 85 bpm even when delivering the fatal blow.

It helps that the supporting cast that acted as foils for his dastardliness were just as well cast. Will Geer is better known as Grandpa Walton, and a more lovable counterweight to Mayfield is hard to imagine. It sends a very clear message to the viewer: if this guy’s willing to kill Grandpa Walton, just what will he stop at?

Harry Alexander 2

The killing of Harry Alexander wrenches at the heartstrings

The braining of Sharon proves he doesn’t, but it’s the killing of Jared Martin’s troubled Harry Alexander that elicits an even bigger sympathetic audience response.

Here’s a guy that’s a reformed drug addict and troubled Vietnam veteran who has struggled to get his life back together and now works in a child’s petting zoo. He had a fling with Sharon, which ended in case he became too dependent on her. This bummed him out, but he was at least dealing with it as best he could. His cruel and senseless murder is, in my opinion, the single saddest Columbo killing of all (more about that here).

Mayfield is such a bastard. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say he’s the hardest-hearted Columbo killer of all – amidst some stiff competition! And that makes his clashes with Columbo utterly compelling. It’s right up there with the Lieutenant’s showdowns with Ken Franklin, Dale Kingston and Investigator Brimmer – but perhaps is most similar to his head-to-head with Dr Ray Flemming in Prescription: Murder. Both are medical men. Both are coolly detached, while making it abundantly clear they think they’re smart enough to get away with murder. And Columbo has no love for either one of them.

The script allows the two leads to make the most of the confrontation. They get a lot of screen-time together and Columbo doesn’t have a whole lot of dead ends to chase. He’s onto his man from the get-go, which allows for sumptuous exchanges between them – none better than the ‘rage’ scene discussed above, which includes Mayfield’s memorable taunt: “Lieutenant Columbo, you’re remarkable. You have intelligence. You have perception. You have great tenacity. You’ve got everything except proof.”

Nimoy 5

Feel the burn, Columbo!

Columbo rage

Right back atcha, doc!

It all adds up to an immense feeling of satisfaction when Columbo finally gets his man. The gotcha moment isn’t as good as, say, Suitable for Framing, but it’s good enough to deliver at least a small injection of euphoria.

Like Nimoy, Falk’s performance is a sensation. As referenced in my review of Greenhouse Jungle, he’d really perfected the role by Season 2 and he’s at his most enjoyable to watch. The script allows for Falk to display his great comic abilities (notably using the murder weapon to crack his boiled egg on), but also enables Falk to show off the Lieutenant’s steelier qualities, too.

For an actor, being able to show off a variety of facets of the character must have been most appealing. Falk appears to have enjoyed every second, and I rate this up there with Greenhouse and Double Shock as one of his greatest ever Columbo performances.

All props, then, to writer Shirl Hendryx and director Hy Averback for such a gripping piece of TV. This was Hendryx’s only writing credit for the show, which seems a pity given how strong the script and story was.

“I rate this up there with Greenhouse Jungle and Double Shock as one of Falk’s greatest ever Columbo performances.”

Averback, meanwhile, delivers some extremely stylish visuals – none more so than the killing of Sharon Martin. Mayfield silently stepping out from the shadows is a glorious moment. Averback had been behind the camera for another of the series’ very best episodes – Suitable for Framing in Season 1 – and certainly seemed to have a knack of getting the best out of his cast.

As if that’s not enough, Billy Goldenberg supplied another cracking score. Every element that matters works in this episode. No wonder it’s so strong. The clip below shows the episode’s two murders set against Goldenberg’s chilling musical arrangements. I insist you take a look…

So much of A Stitch in Crime is so good. But is there anything that doesn’t work? Sort of… For one thing, I don’t really buy into the confusion surrounding the ‘Mac’ note. It was written in block capitals and in a sector so rife with acronyms it would be more natural to assume it’s initials than a man’s name, in this humble correspondent’s opinion at least.

There’s also the ending itself, and how Mayfield manages to hide the suture on Columbo in that heat-of-the-moment shove. To me, it’s not quite as amazing a way out as I’d like – although I have to admit I can’t come up with a better way myself. Mayfield is so cerebral that I almost feel he should come up with a more intelligent mechanism than a push-and-plant act of desperation. Of course, one could argue that it was a stroke of genius to come up with that escape attempt under so much pressure, so maybe it’s just me?

That aside this is a near faultless addition to the series and far-and-away the standout episode of Season 2 up to now. May it live long and prosper in our hearts.

Nimoy 8

The clash between the two leads elevates Stitch in Crime to the highest levels

How I rate ’em

Season 2 has been a slow burner up to now, but Stitch in Crime represents Columbo cooking with gas. Nimoy’s utter fiendishness helps elevate this episode to near stratospheric levels. It’s the highlight of Season 2 so far by a mile, and proudly sits shoulder to shoulder with the heavyweights from Season 1.

Read my other reviews by clicking on the links below.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Murder by the Book
  3. Death Lends a Hand
  4. A Stitch in Crime
  5. Lady in Waiting
  6. Prescription: Murder
  7. The Most Crucial Game
  8. Etude in Black
  9. Greenhouse Jungle
  10. Requiem for a Falling Star
  11. Blueprint for Murder
  12. Ransom for a Dead Man
  13. Dead Weight
  14. Short Fuse
  15. Dagger of the Mind

As ever, do let me know your thoughts on this one. And, as always, thanks so much for reading. It’s very much appreciated – and always shall be.

Tune in again soon for Season 2’s penultimate episode – the chess-licious Most Dangerous Match, starring the easily-enraged Laurence Harvey.

Read my thoughts on Stitch in Crime‘s top 5 moments rightio hereio.

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Nimoy 7

Bottoms up until we meet again

How did you like this article?

132 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo A Stitch in Crime

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  4. a much better episode than the previous few and quite rightly shots to the upper levels good on you Mr colombophile

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  7. I don’t quite get the ending. After all Dr Mayfield could simply claim that Columbo put the strings into Columbo’s own pocket in order to fake a proof.
    What do you think?

    • I did write an article considering the fate of the Columbo killers in court, which included Dr Mayfield. I conclude that there won’t be enough evidence to convict him for the two actual killings, so he’ll face an attempted murder charge. The decision of the jury will rest on who they believe in the dock, as Mayfield would surely claim the evidence was planted. The article itself is here: http://bit.ly/2r5ob6i

      • Harry Alexander receives such short shrift as a victim in “Stitch in Crime.” There’s no mention of his murder after we see it.

      • I completely agree that in this, as in many of the other “gotcha” endings, it’s not tough to see the killer figuring out a defense in court. However, I think that kind of misses the point. The point at the end is that both Columbo and the killer understand he has put together the “mosaic”, as Hector Elizando said in his episode. The outcome in court is secondary to our enjoyment, though I admit I’ve thought about it too.

        • Indeed, the outcome in court certainly is secondary in Columbo episodes. But I do find it hilarious that Columbo pulls suture out of his pocket to claim it was planted by Dr. Mayfield. Given that Columbo often plants evidence himself to entrap his suspect (for example the contact lens in “Death Lends a Hand”, the dynamite box in “Short Fuse”, the pearl in the umbrella in “Dagger of the Mind”), I deduce from that behavioral pattern that Columbo indeed just put some (perhaps bloody) dissolving, colored suture in his pocket, should he not been able to get his hands on the actual suture used in the victim’s body. Dr. Mayfield might just laugh at such naiveté, but after all he cannot just come out with the real suture and its hideaway, could he? Or the writers could have used that as a final twist: Dr. Mayfield, dismayed at Columbo’s outrageous cheek, comes up with the real suture and Columbo gets his suspect after all.

  8. One of the best episodes. Mayfield is scary because he came so close(literally up to the very last scene)to getting away with his crimes. I also think he genuinely ruffled Columbo for two reasons. Firstly Columbo had a sense it was him behind the murders, but Mayfield was very clever and there was no solid evidence, and Columbo and Mayfield both knew it.

    Secondly Mayfield was so cold and arrogant and Columbo found he couldn’t mess with his head the way he can with other suspects. Columbo losing his cool could have been done by him to see if Mayfield would startle, but I really think it was a genuine loss of temper because Columbo was so disgusted by him. I also think there was a bit of anger in Columbo directed at himself out of frustration with the case.

  9. I love this episode – and as an interesting aside, Nimoy and Falk were real life friends, and co-starred in another production ten years earlier. Check out The Balcony, 1963.

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  12. Great commentary! “Stitch” remains one of my very favorite episodes. Nimoy’s Dr. Mayfield is a wonderfully evil villain worthy of Columbo’s pursuit!

    Arrogance, sympathy, pride, and anger all punctuate this brilliant episode.

  13. When home on Saturday, I always check your blog before COZI TV runs two Columbos starting at the early hour of 6 pm. Even though I’ve seen them before, (usually while doing something in the kitchen), when I read a review like this one for “A Stitch in Crime” I try to set the time aside to relax and enjoy. But having missed more than half of Stitch already, I’m going to hope that “The Most Dangerous Match” will prove as compelling. Going to check your review now! Many thanks for your entertaining writing.

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  15. Is anyone else mildly troubled by how Columbo gets almost nauseous when spectating at the operation when he’s talking to the other surgeon about sutures, but is perfectly fine while intently viewing Dr. Mayfield’s final operation? The lieutenant’s queasiness is a fun running gag through all the seasons, but here are we to assume the excitement of the moment was to the exclusion of all other reactions?

    Like everyone else I love the confrontational water pitcher scene. It has an exact opposite, I think, in “A Deadly State of Mind” when the George Hamilton character says to Columbo, “I assume I’m your number one suspect,” and Columbo responds, “Frankly, sir, I don’t think suspect is a strong enough word.”

    • The lack of nausea during the closing scenes doesn’t trouble me at all. I think it shows that when Columbo is closing in on his quarry, nothing is going to distract him from getting the job done.

    • I love how Columbo acts during Mayfield’s operation. For once in this episode we see how perfectly able to master a situation this seemingly clumsy guy really is. After he had dropped the mask for Mayfield, we see a different character there: the real Columbo.
      By the way: I also love the German dubbing in the water pitcher scene even more than the original lines. In the German translation, Mayfield laughs “You don’t really believe this nonsense, do you?”, and Columbo replies “I believe this nonsense!” 🙂

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  17. Killing Harry Alexander had a very specific purpose. It would show that Harry indeed was a junkie and give weight to the theory that the nurse was killed over drugs. Also, with Harry being dead, there would be no way to disprove that theory. It was certainly a very cruel killing and I believe it made the doctor the only triple-murderer on the series. Nonetheless, I would have to disagree with you in that the murder of Harry was unnecessary.

      • Another thing that makes this episode so special: Mayfield only wanted to murder Heideman. He went over two other dead bodies to achieve his aim – but failed.
        Nonetheless we do have a triple-murderer on “Columbo”: Irving Krutch in “Undercover” killed Mo Weinberg, Geraldine Ferguson and Bramley Kahn. And we also have a triple-murderess: Ruth Lytton in “Old Fashioned Murder” killed her niece’s father (years earlier), her brother and the guardian. And it’s possible that Roger Stanford in “Short Fuse” not only killed his uncle and the driver but also his parents years ago.

  18. I am really enjoying reading your reviews, they are really good! Leonard Nimoy did a good job here. I agree this is one of the better episodes, and I feel it has worn well with time. In the sub category of Almost Got Away With It, I consider it one of the top notch episodes.

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  21. I came upon this review last night…brilliantly done. This one is a gem, first off, Nimoy circa 1972 is in his prime, fresh off his MI stint, pre-Baffled and pre-In Search Of where he starts to look aged, and lands a role as the Columbo villain of the week, still looking like a slightly matured but still youthful looking 3rd season Spock. As a huge LN and Columbo fan, Dr. Barry Mayfield ranks right up there with Jack Cassidy (Murder By The Book), Ray Milland (Greenhouse Jungle), Robert Culp (Most Crucial Game and Nicol Williamson (How To Dial a Murder), in that the villain is 100% contemptible and unsympathetic (Murder By The Book is obviously the superior episode). It’s a treat to watch Spock behave like a cold, emotionless, calculating and completely remorseless murderer (although murder is highly illogical!!), and out of Nimoy’s repertoire, it is truly one of his most masterful works. It is also fun watching him play cat and mouse with our favorite Lieutenant (“You ask tough questions doc.” “Hehe, so does a jury.”). Love the scene where Mayfield laughs at him and (SLAM!!!) Columbo yells at Mayfield telling him he believes he is the murderer (and trying to kill Dr. Heidemann), you can see Nimoy’s facial expression change, you can literally see the wheels rotating in Spock’s brain, calculating a Plan B to throw off the good Lieutenant. And this is a rare (maybe the only one?) where he almost does (Columbo apologizes, shakes his hand, leaves for a few moments and runs back in…drowning Spock’s joy with human pain). It may not be Ransom for a Dead Man or Murder By the Book, but Stitch is ranked very high on my list.

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  23. This is a great write up, and I have found your analysis of these episodes to be excellent. One thing I’ve noticed, sometimes the editing of the episodes is different. For example, in the version I watched of “Stitch in time” (Hallmark – 65 mins) you don’t see the crowbar Leonard Nimoy had nor his removal of the suture from the nurse’s handbag. Similarly, there’s no psychedelic sequence of Harry falling down the stairs. Not sure if these were edited for length or for taste.

  24. This is a very good episode. I totally agree with you that Leonard Nimoy is just excellent in this. It was a great casting decision. He is just great as the cold calculating killer and totally believable. He’s also a first class adversary for Columbo.

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  32. What a blast! I’ve watched Season 1 and I’m now close to finishing Season 2, and this one is a good rival for my thus-far favorite “Prescription: Murder”. To me, this has been the coldest and cruellest episode (and killer) thus far, to the extent that I felt uneasy while going to bed after watching it. It was more scary than Jack Cassidy’s greedy Ken and Robert Culp’s enraged guys because they all did have certain emotions anyway. Mayfield’s coldness is more terrifying. And there is something in the fact that medical crime stories are this scary – maybe because doctors are supposed to help save lives, but here they (Fleming and Mayfield) use their knowledge, skills and even equipment to take lives because they know that as eminent specialists, they have advantage over others in their field, including police (they are simply unlucky to receive Columbo as the investigator). Thanks as always for the review!

    • Glad you enjoyed. I totally agree about Nimoy’s coldness and cruelty. He tops my ‘most horrid killers’ blog as well. It’s interesting that Columbo faces a number of medical men / doctors of some description (Flemming, Mayfield, Collier, Mason) and he doesn’t like any of them. He seems to find their lack of compassion and caring particularly affronting.

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  34. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo The Most Dangerous Match | The columbophile

  35. Just finished watching this episode off the back of your great review. I hadn’t seen this episode in quite sometime and I forgot how great Nimoy was as calculated killer. Format of the episode broke away from what we normally seen previously. Nimony was he’ll bent on covering his tracks and stopped at nothing in getting done instead playing to Columbo hands and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t if this is a well known or been picked up on before? But I did notice a goof whole watching. Sharon puts Dr Heideman’s glasses on upside down on his head when attempt to read the telegram at the start of the episode.

    • I see nothing in Dr. Barry Mayfield that deviates from the Columbo formula. As with many (and usually the best) Columbo villains, he thinks he is exponentially smarter than everyone else. Link and Levinson established this prototype with Dr. Ray Flemming in “Prescription: Murder.” And Mayfield isn’t just a doctor, he’s a surgeon. We readily accept a surgeon who considers himself omnipotent. Remember the surgeon Alec Baldwin played in the 1993 film “Malice,” who famously said: “You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God”?

    • Glad you enjoyed the review! Although I tend to agree with Richard that this episode seems to be in keeping with the usual formula, except for Mayfield’s perfect murder attempt being foiled. I didn’t notice the goof, though, so will keep an eye for it next time I view.

      • An excellent point that I had overlooked. Where else (at least in the original series) does the villain fail to kill his initial target? In fact, the closest we come (as best as I can recall) to this circumstance are the episodes bracketing “Stitch in Crime.” In “Requiem for a Falling Star,” Nora Chandler MAY have failed to kill one of her initial targets (if you believe she wanted to immolate both Jean Davis and Jerry Parks). And in “The Most Dangerous Match,” Emmett Clayton fails initially to kill Tomlin Dudek. Are there any others? If not, then J.Carter is quite correct that “Stitch in Crime” deviates from the ordinary Columbo in that the original target is not the murder victim.

        Interestingly, the final episode of Season 2 (“Double Shock”) will also deviate from the Columbo formula. Arguably, therefore, that is four episodes in a row. I wonder if these were intentional breaks from the usual pattern, or an indication of how truly difficult it was for the creators and writers to continue to fit within the usual pattern.

  36. It is always a pleasure getting an e-mail in the inbox saying you have posted a new passionate Columbo review. I have been reading your website for months now and it is always a joy. Funny thing about A Stitch In Crime – I did not like it when I was a child as my young mind thought Columbo being always civil with the perpetrators was the series’s main interest. Now of course I love the contrast in his behaviour created by what you so aptly call the murderer’s “Pure Evil”. Nimoy said playing Spock was not an exercise in playing no emotion as it was playing a character hiding his emotions. He was right and did so masterfully. In that respect, Barry Mayfield is colder than his famous Trek counterpart will ever be. The episode is tense, well paced and your review spot on. Thank you for the pleasure I get in reading them all.

  37. Yes, a good strong episode and an enjoyable review, thank you Columbophile. Dr. Mayfield is one of the most cold-blooded killers, and a multiple killer, but Paul Galesko, Dale Kingston, and Riley Greenleaf are still worse in my book because they planned multiple murders from the start, rather than needing to kill witnesses or blackmailers a la Ken Franklin, Vivica Scott, Nicholas and Lillian, and Dr. Kepple.

    • Paul Galesko, Dale Kingston and Riley Greenleaf are indeed good examples for the most cold blooded and downright evil of all Columbo killers. I could sympathise with Paul to a point, Francis did seem unbearable, but than he killed that poor guy who was just trying to get his life back in order after s spell in prison.

      Riley probably did the world a favour by ridding it of that unhinged, creepy bomb guy though 😉

  38. this is one of the best episodes of Columbo. i always liked the ones where the killer winds up killing again, like in Murder by the Book and the Frame/Portrait one. the one thing that tripped me out in this episode is how quick Heidelman forgets his “daughter” was murdered. two seconds after hearing the news from Mayfield, he’s got a smile on his face. anyhow, either way, this is a great episode.

    • That’s always resonated with me as well. I’ve tried to rationalize it by thinking that perhaps it’s because Heideman is a doctor/scientist with an inherent disposition to being clinical about death. But still….

  39. What I never could understand was why Mayfield removed the dissolving suture at all. Replace it with permanent suture — but leave the dissolving suture to dissolve inside Heideman! Isn’t that a better hiding place than Columbo’s pocket? (And I’m no surgeon, but doesn’t that clump of suture that Columbo finds look like a lot more suture, in much longer strands, than what Mayfield would have removed from a heart valve?)

    • I think it can only be that he was being so closely scrutinised that he couldn’t risk leaving the suture in there. I’m no medic, but I presume there’d be some best practice guidelines about removing the old sutures? But agree about the clump of suture Columbo whips out. Looks like enough suture there for 5 heart ops.

  40. “A Stitch in Crime” was terrific. A lot of villains think of Columbo as bumbling and inept. This guy recognizes from the start that Columbo is sharp and spends the entire episode trying to cover his tracks. Leonard Nimoy was among the best ever killers on the show, Anne Francis in one of the victims most worthy of sympathy. Terrific script, ending, and music score. Rest in peace Jared Martin who recently passed away. I do not believe there are many “Columbo” fans who dislike this episode.

  41. Gosh, do I love this website and I’m always thrilled to find a head’s up email in my in-box from CP.

    Wonderful review of “Stitch,” ‘though I would put it at the top of all the eps up to this point in the series. I think what gets me is the Lieutenant’s bringing down that pot on top of Mayfield’s desk! Is that the one moment in the series where Columbo truly reveals his hatred of the murderer?

    Keep up the wonderful work and website!

    • Columbo also told off Robert Conrad’s smarmy self serving killer publicly in a hospital in “An Exercise in Fatality.” Those are the first, if not only, genuine outbursts we enjoyed from our favorite police lieutenant.

      • Those are two of the best scenes in Columbo history: Blowing up at Leonard Nimoy and Robert Conrad, although Robert Conrad’s Milo Janus was not quite as ruthless and cold as Dr. Mayfield. Mayfield was just pure evil. Nobody laughs in Columbo’s face like that!

    • Thanks ever so much for your lovely comments! I note that another reader has already highlighted that Columbo also rages (even more furiously) at Milo Janus in Exercise in Fatality. He also snaps at Dr Anita Borden in Deadly State of Mind when she treats him with casual disdain. A smaller scene, but still a powerful one.

      • I had almost forgotten about Columbo snapping at Dr. Borden in A Deadly State Of Mind when she tried to avoid answering some of his questions somewhat nonchalantly. That look on Columbo’s face right after Mayfield laughed at him was priceless though. Pure contempt.

        • I think his rage against Mayfield is the best ever Columbo rage. It was the first genuine flash of anger, it was wholly unexpected and it was a game-changer in terms of resolving the case. One of the best Columbo scenes of them all.

      • I’ve just discovered this site and I’m hugely pleased that I have. This episode was always my favourite precisely because of the anger scene – I was also going to mention the two outbursts in the other episodes highlighted above. These little flashes of Columbo’s genuine character are always huge highlights for me.

        Anyway, I have no idea how many episodes you’ve actually reviewed so far, but these are a great read. Love the little insights as well – I had no idea Barbara Colby had been murdered in such a senseless way. Really sad.

        Cheers for putting this all together.

        • Thank YOU for those kind comments, and I’m very pleased you’re enjoying the site. So far I’ve reviewed 23 episodes (most recently Mind Over Mayhem) and I’m working through them in chronological order.

    • And, of course, he bawls at Joan Hudson in Prescription: Murder. However, many viewers, myself included, see this as a calculated act rather than genuine anger.

  42. Reading your reviews is as enjoyable as watching Columbo is. I have to admit that this episode is one of my least favourite. I found the plot to be shaky and for me Nimoy came across rather wooden. I do like the fact that this is one of the rare occasions that we see Columbo get angry.

  43. My father and I watched the full run of Columbo in 2013 after viewing some of ME-TV’s broadcasts the year before, and I know he’d enjoy these reviews as much as I do.

  44. I love that Columbo gets angry in this episode and that Mayfield is such a repellent murderer – I think at least one episode per season we need a murderer like that, to counter balance the charmers like Cassidy and MacGoohan and the downright likable Nora Chandlers of this world!

  45. Your reviews are such a JOY to me! I love the passion you have for Columbo, whether at his best or slightly sub-par. This was my own personal intro to Nimoy, & he was a truly chilling & daunting villain. Still awash on sadness over poor Harry Alexander…


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