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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

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

  1. Very enjoyable episode, Nimoy plays a great villain. Ending felt a little flat and I’m a bit concerned at what Columbo managed to pin on the doctor; at worst, it appears to be a single count of attempted murder on the old man. I don’t think Columbo found any evidence connecting the doctor to the nurse’s murder?

  2. I agree with other comments here about Nita Talbot. I think she’s terrific in this,and was pleased to discover that she’s still with us, aged 90. I also like Columbo’s remark about her character, Marcia : “I think she knows less than she’s saying.”

  3. When I was a boy in the 1970s, I used to watch every Columbo episode with my mom. My late aunt lived next store and watched religiously as well. We’d get together the next day and compare notes. This was her absolutely favorite episode because of the sheer villainy of Dr. Mayfield and the moment where Columbo slams down the water pitcher. She did not waver from her opinion until the day she died in2003. It is a marvelous episode and is my top 5. Out of curiosity, is Dr. Mayfield the only Columbo villain who killed two people while also attempting to kill a 3rd?

    • At least within the original run this is the only time. The next closest would be Dale Kingston, who premeditated two murders and attempted to frame a third person.

    • That’s a very cool story! It’s in my top 5 as well. That’s a good question about the number of murders. Didn’t Jack Cassidy take out a couple of people in one of his episodes? I don’t think he went for three, though.

      • As I see it, the first two dead bodies in “Undercover” killed each other and were not victims of Irving Krutch. He only killed Mo Weinberg and Geraldine Ferguson after that. But perhaps I never understood “Undercover” as it was intended by the author – then Irving Krutch would indeed take the golden medal “Most lethal Columbo culprit”. I am patiently waiting for your “Undercover” review, hoping to solve this mystery.

    • Also used to watch Columbo with my mom and brothers back then when it was part of the Sunday Night Mystery Movie series.. my mom’s favorite show was Star Trek so I guess for her this was the first return of Spock after Trek ended… In all his icy, brilliant glory!

      Agree that he was the perfect villain that we all loved to hate, and I’ve never forgotten the classic moment that Columbo pulls the dissolving sutures from the operating gown. It was just as fun to watch about 15 minutes ago as it was when I was 12. Maybe even more. Bravo Columbo!

  4. Something I have never been sure of, is does Columbo gets Harry Alexander killed by not believing that he killed Sharon? I know it might look that way, but . . .

    Just how far ahead has Barry Mayfield planned? Knowing that Sharon was not very fond of him, he may have allowed for the possibility of her noticing the doctored suture, and had her murder already planned, just in case. Whenever her murder was planned, did he also include the murder of Harry Alexander? After all, Harry would always deny Sharon’s murder and the only sure way to convince the cops that he had done it was if he died from a possibly suicidal overdose. (Does Mayfield also know that Harry does not have a cast iron alibi for the time of Sharon’s murder?).

    Mayfield takes the trouble to plant the drugs in Sharon’s apartment, suggesting a desperate addict had killed her, and then of course mentions Harry’s name to the nice but ditzy roommate. Was Mayfield intending just to frame Harry, but as Columbo didn’t buy it, he had to hastily improvise another murder? Or having a good idea of what Harry would most likely tell Columbo, he was going to kill Harry later anyway? Was Harry’s murder inevitable? Could Columbo have prevented it? Did he underestimate that a man ruthless enough to kill a nurse and to try to kill Grandpa Walton would not hesitate to kill someone else?

    Until recently, I was never sure if Harry was actually dead, as all Columbo says is that they found the drugs in the middle of his apartment, nothing about him either being dead, or recovering in hospital. I assume the idea was for Harry to be found dead from an overdose in his apartment, and the tumble down the stairs was just a bonus. And along with there being no other needle marks (and why would a left handed man inject himself in his left arm?) does Mayfield give himself away as a doctor by habitually swabbing Harry’s arm before he gives him the injection? Would an addict bother?

    In any event, I like this brief scene with Barry and Harry, as I fondly remember Jared Martin in the short lived 1970’s sci-fi series “Fantastic Journey” in which he played Varian, a man with strange powers from the 23rd century . . .

  5. Falk injects so many little “Columboisms” in this. Even if it had been mentioned in the script, I can’t help but feel he expanded on Columbo’s exhaustion (and frustrating hunt for a cup of coffee) in the first act, and then his making and eating the plate of food at Mayfield’s party, with impromptu bits, making those scenes really delightful to watch.

    The only thing that could have made it any better would have been in Columbo looked at the spread of sumptuous food at Mayfield’s table and then asked, “Do you have any chili?” 🙂

  6. What Columbo should have done is have Mayfield arrested on suspicion after the stormy interview. Then Mayfield would know the game was up as Heideman would soon die and all would be revealed. Then Columbo would have two tracks to work –

    (1) Get Mayfield to ‘fess up, to try and limit the charge to attempted murder or,

    (2) Even if Mayfield dug his heals in, Columbo coud try to persuade people that Heideman be opening up by another surgeon to see what damage Mayfield had done. Then he would have the evidence to hand, with an impeccable trail as to where it came from. I did wonder if Columbo could get a search warrant for Heideman’s insides, but that is probably far-fetched.

      • You misunderstand me. I am saying that Columbo should use all his power and influence to get someone to operate on Heideman (while he is still alive, obviously) to correct Mayfield’s defective work. As it is, he is relying on Mayfield to do something himself – give that Mayfiled is clearly a psychopath, not something he should be doing.

        • Oh, I see. Sorry. But how should anyone except Dr. Mayfield convince Dr. Heideman to accept another operation because his life is in danger? Dr. Heideman was always fond of his colleague, wasn’t even listening to Sharon Martin’s warnings. I can’t see why he would believe Columbo one word, if he said “I think, Dr. Mayfield tried to kill you, Sir, please let us have a second look inside your heart.”

          • Heideman is highly intelligent, he may look like someone’s cuddly uncle, but to have got as far as he has, he must be capable of rational analysis. He knows Mayfield is ambitious and cold, but puts up with him because he is good at his job. Tell Heideman that Mayfield has been arrested and Columbo will have free reign to make him (Heideman) see reason – I am sure Heideman doesn’t want to die and what has he to lose by submitting to another op?

            In any case, there is my point 1 – Mayfield’s rational course of action is to confess quickly, make sure Heidemand is saved and avoid the murder charge. His chances of getting off free would be zero once he was in custody.

            • When Sharon talks critically about Mayfield (“I’m sure, he read your telegram”), Heideman reacts upset: How can Sharon dare to call the great Mayfield a selfish opportunist? Imagine his reaction if Sharon (or even anyone less familiar to Mayfield like Columbo) had told Heideman: “I’m sure, he wanted to kill you!”
              So unlike you, I don’t think that Heideman knows enough about the real character of Mayfield.

              No operation is without danger. Heideman himself says, he would only let a highly qualified surgeon like Dr. Mayfield open him, so Heideman doesn’t take interventions to his heart as easy as you suggest.

              Still, if Mayfield confessed to the attempted murder in order to reduce his punishment, then how would he cover up the completed killings of Sharon Martin and Harry Alexander, which are obviously connected to his murder attempt?

              • Such a solid episode, a top ten Columbo for sure and that says a lot. Nimoy and Falk were great together and the other actors were superb as well. One of the gold standard type episodes.

    • I’m very glad to see this has been brought up. My intent to visit this episode’s thread was to comment about the egg and the tire iron.

  7. This episode blew me away when I first saw it, for Nimoy’s coolly smug performance and its deeply sympathetic secondary characters*, but most of all for the plot: A time delayed murder which the hero not only averts, but does so by pointing out the flaw in the plan to the murderer, forcing him to undo his actions!

    I think that’s why the thread reveal at the end feels weak, because the real gotcha moment comes earlier when Columbo points out to Mayfield that the absence of any thread will prove his theory. Mayfield’s self-erasing evidence will condemn him by its absence rather than its presence.

    Which brings me to another thing I love about this episode. We know that Columbo’s goofy affability is to some degree a front that he puts forth because it provokes the responses he wants from suspects, so when he seems to lose his temper with the unflappable Mayfield are we seeing the real man, or just another mask – the mask that the situation requires. When he seems to lose his cool and ‘inadvertently’ reveal that he has a plan to prove Mayfield guilty he provokes Mayfield into the course of action that leas to his downfall, with Columbo waiting to swoop in. I have to wonder if Columbo was all set to arrange that operating room warrant the moment Mayfield takes Heideman back into surgery.

  8. Altough I always feel sick when I’m in a hospital, this is a very pretty episode. There’s plenty of small humour in it. The cleaning-woman, the medical supply manager, a.s.o. But the “roomie” Marcia Dalton is the very best. Almost every word she says and every movement she makes is a grain of humour. See the way she has a quick look in the mirror when she follows Columbo to the bathroom. Nita Talbot is a great actress.

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  10. The doc was stupid not to think of a way to dispose of the *blood-soaked* dissolving sutures. He would not have needed to be a sleight-of-hand artist to have simply hidden the sutures under a nearby organ, where they would have harmlessly dissolved away! But, you say, wasn’t he being closely watched by another surgeon? To which I say: Then how did he secrete the stitches away in the first place? Why wouldn’t the observing doctor have insisted on taking the old sutures as soon as they were removed?

    But let’s go with the gambit the show employed: Nimoy palmed the stitches out and they were in his hand, unbeknownst to everyone. What to do at that point? A smart doc would have anticipated that and put them into his pocket, which had a slit so he could insert them directly into his underpants, where they would have been discreetly hidden…amongst his pubes!

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  12. Hi, just found your site, it’s excellent, and very funny. It occurred to me that when Nimoy put his hands behind his head while stretching after the second operation, it was to conceal the suture, especially as he makes the same gesture after the first operation. Coincidence or red herring?

      • Yes, it was a red herring. He was trying, I think, to throw Columbo off the scent by making the focus on him hiding them somewhere. Perhaps in that lush rug he was sporting…

  13. Just now watching this episode on dailymotion.com and I had never before realized how great Nita Talbot (Nurse Marcia Dalton) was in this one. The way she explains to Columbo how Nurse Martin (Francis) became a nurse due to her humanitarian/philanthropic ways, but she (Dalton) she chose her profession since she was attracted to “middle to upper middle class people” (an unapologetic golddigger), but she could only find older men, since she worked for a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. She had a refreshingly honest attitude.

    Her few minutes in this episode I put close to some of Vito Scotty’s parts. Wonderful. I believe Ms. Talbot is still alive, and at one time was married to Don Gordon, poor Al(vin) Deshler from Negative Reaction. (6 degrees of Columbo separation). She was very sexy in the 60’s and ’70’s, and also had roles on Hogan’s Heroes and Batman, among many others, and lit up the screen during her appearances.

    By the way, Dailymotion.com has every Columbo episode, usually split in 2, filmed backwards, and occasionally runs local commercials or these weird silent screenshots for the Globalist UNESCO organization. I’ve also found all 3 seasons of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery on dailymotion.com. Cheers, and thanks again for the great website.

    • I’m glad you mention Nita Talbot here, a very fine comic actress – and a good looker which doesn’t hurt (can you still say that nowadays?). I think her appearance here stands alongside Mary Wickes in ‘Suitable for Framing’. The only thing that nags me about this episode is the ‘MAC’ business – surely you would write ‘M & C’ or something, not use an ‘a’ for ‘and’?

      • Just watched it again today on COSI.
        Thoroughly enjoyed Nita Talbot!
        Also, I don’t think anyone has mentioned the appearance of instantly recognizable (to me at, least) Aneta “Helen Crump” Corsaut as the nurse caring for Will Geer.
        I had a little “fanboy crush” on her back in the day (along with Miss Talbot, of course!).

  14. Columbo had already figured it out when he get angry!

    In fact, his only chance to save Dr. Heideman was to tell Mayfield his suspicions and put him on guard. In the scene in the elevator, Columbo had said, with his heart condition, if he died, people would assume it was just a heart attack.

    In the office, Mayfield does his pretend laughing. Columbo goes with his anger. He slams the water pitcher and says, “I believe you killed Sharon Martin. And I believe you’re trying to kill Dr. Heideman.”

    Mayfield says, “Lt. Columbo, you’re remarkable. . . . You’ve got everything except proof.”

    Columbo ignores the specific content of what Mayfield just said, and instead says, “I want you to take good care of Dr. Heideman, because if he dies, we’re going to have to have an autopsy, aren’t we? I mean, we’re going to have to know whether a heart attack killed him, or whether it was just dissolving suture.”

    And angry or not angry, Columbo pretty much has to say something like this to have any kind of reasonable chance of saving Dr. Heideman.

  15. I wonder how casting hit upon Nimoy to play the diabolical medical man?

    Could it be they recalled the most demonic of all nonhuman TOS villains, Henoch from Return to Tomorrow?

    Henoch manipulating a nurse into furthering his dastardly scheme…

    Henoch futzing with medical potions…

    Henoch eliminating foes…

    Sweating, medically distressed Heineman…. homage to sweating, medically distressed Sargon?

    The derisive laugh that Columbo is not having… homage to Henoch’s habit of showing scornful amusement?

    • I put in a bunch of links to images, but they don’t show and without them the comment makes no sense! Columbophile I suggest you delete this comment while I figure out how to make my point without images.

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