There’s been a looooong hiatus between full episodes being uploaded to the official Columbo YouTube channel, but they’re back with avengeance with crowd-pleasing Season 7 outing Try & Catch Me now available.
This is rightfully considered one of the series’ very finest hours, with mystery writing, diminutive killer grandma Abigail Mitchell (played by the sublime Ruth Gordon) bumping off her fresh-faced nephew Edmund after suspecting him, in turn, of killing her dear niece Phyllis. Her method of killing? Suffocation in a walk-in safe!
An episode that never fails to delight, this is sure to bring online viewing pleasure to tens of thousands, so ENJOY!
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and after having watched this episode so many times – it just hit me yesterday how BRILLANT Edward was in where to hide the clue so Abigail couldn’t possibly find it. Because of her small stature and her advanced age it’s highly unlikely that she would be the one exchanging the light bulb – so someone else with no motive to hide the paper would at one point find it and reveal the damning clue.
I think she’s probably innocent. I mean, I would need to have a look at the evidence of course to be sure, but she probably shut the safe door without knowing that her niece’s husband was inside. That’s what I think anyway. All this stuff with boxes and scratches doesn’t prove a thing to me.
Look again. Abigail watches Edmund walk into the safe, she comes to the door, looks at him inside, says, “Edmund, you murdered my Phyllis. Do you really think I didn’t know?” and slams the safe door closed. Come on.
It was a long time ago that I watched the episode, so I’ll try to watch again. You’re probably right. The Columbo episodes play all Sunday on… I think it’s 5USA. I like the older episodes best. I tend to watch all through the day, but obviously at times I’m drawn away and miss pieces of what’s happening. However, it’s always quite easy to come back in to each episode and know roughly what is going on. Ta for the reply!
He’s not probably right. He’s absolutely right!
She is guilty. She plays the recording inside the closed safe and asks her secretary if she hears a nightingale. That was to test if you could hear someone calling out from the closed safe.
I don’t understand, how the police the first thing did not take photos of everything in the safe? Why the metal boxes got disordered? Or did Veronica notice this arrow and reordered the boxes when she found the body? But that would make her immediately involved in the murder, would the police take the picture of the boxes and later find they were changed the order. Or did the nephew change the order, so it would make a little bit less obvious where did he hide the accusation?
just found this site. This is my favorite episode except for one unanswered question Was Edmund guilty or not????? They never said.
There’s no way this would have been proof enough to convict her. Nephew could have been portrayed as evil but stupid . l\: Locking himself in the safe and then trying to blame Aunt.
I guess what upsets me is the ending. When Abigail tells Columbo “If you investigated my niece’s accident, none of this need have happened.” Because Columbo would have caught the murdering nephew, who spent his wife’s money (the evidence being all the “hobbies” in his apartment). Instead, Abigail is the one who goes to jail and it’s like the nephew has the last laugh and gets away with everything.
Apart from that this is a great watch, and I hope to fingd more episodes.
But Edmund is still dead, and died a terrifying death in pitch blackness. He hardly gets away with everything, and will never know that he gets the ‘last laugh’.
CP, that’s because we, the viewers, are taken in by the kindly old grandma that comitted that horrible crime. It’s the same with Janet Leigh. I guess we’re supposed to feel sympathy for her and yet, she’s a cold-blooded killer that brutally took a life. Fortunately she had Columbo to save her from her just punishment. Whew!
I just watched Try and Catch Me last night, and then I read Columbophile’s excellent (as always) synopsis and commentary. I then read through about 2 years worth of comments on Columbophile. Something about this episode really bothered me, and then it finally hit me today. I’m a bit curious why no one else has mentioned it, and wonder if anyone else noticed this. In my opinion, NONE of these characters (except for the maid) in this episode are likeable, or deserving of sympathy!
With the exception of Columbophile and one or two commenters, Edmond is seen as guilty of killing his wife Phyllis. If true, he is a despicable human being and deserves no sympathy. And if he WAS innocent, then he would be the only sympathetic person in this story, and his murder would be tragic, and make this episode difficult to stomach.
Abigail tries to pass herself off as a cute old lady, but I found her to be cunning, ruthless, and often extremely annoying. In particular, after Columbo escorts her off the cruise ship, she should have known that the jig was up and Columbo was about to drop the boom on her. Yet, she persisted in playing her annoying “cute” and innocent” game when Columbo was flipping the safety deposit boxes into the shapes of “A”, “V”, downward arrow, etc. I found her ridiculous, sarcastic responses that maybe these could mean “Victoria”, “Victory”, etc. to be so annoying that I was hoping that Columbo might rebuke her and tell her to “get real!” I found her “cutesy” act grating and annoying, and was glad to see the smile fade from her face when she read the proof of her guilt on the hidden manuscript segment.
Victoria initially seemed to be innocent and honest as Abigail’s PA, but then turned out to be a dishonest opportunistic who knew her boss has committed murder, and was fine with that as long as she could use this info to blackmail Abigail into more perks, money and a cruise (for starters). She had absolutely no ethics or conscience.
Martin the lawyer knew (in his heart, even if he couldn’t prove it) that Abigail had killed Edmond, but so long as she retained his legal services he had no desire to turn her in. He is the stereotypical dishonest lawyer who will look the other way if it benefits him.
All and all I was left with an empty feeling that there simply were no good, sympathetic characters in this episode, and that makes it a somewhat hollow viewing experience. I always feel satisfaction at the end of each Columbo case when the guilty party is exposed and realizes that he/she is going to prison for a long time. In this episode, however, Abigail’s “life in prison” – if that’s her punishment – likely won’t be very long due to her age. And then, with no heirs, what will become of her estate? Will she re-write her will and give portions of it to two of her three closet companions, Victoria and Martin? That would be a bitter conclusion.
I realize most that viewers will probably disagree, but that is my personal take. The only positive outcome for me is that Columbo lets Abigail know that he is not going to overlook her murder of Edmond, and she is going to pay a price for her heartless act based on her unproven assumption that Edmond had murdered Phyllis.
The only weak point in this episode, is when miss Mitchell almost locks Edmund in the safe, but in that moment, her lawyer arrives in the room. But why would she do that, before the will from Edmund was signed ?
She almost locked him in the safe at that moment because she was angry and was losing her mind over her loss of her niece.
I dont understeand the beginning when on the beach they talk and she look at him and says “I Know everything you did” and he looks at her and we know that they both know what shes talking about – murder… and then they continue as if everything goes well and even he believes that Abigail is giving him everything…
I dont understeand that part. Someone explane please?
This is how I understand it.
The talk goes like this:
Edmund: “Coastguard tried” (to find her body).
Abigail: “And you tried. I know what you did, everything you did.” (It could mean either efforts to find his wife or the murder.)
And then she sees in his eyes the uncertainty and fear that shows he’s not sure what she means. This convinces her that he’s guilty and makes her decide to accomplish the plan.
Then, to make him less vigilant, she pretends she’s not aware of the murder and gives him very clear signs of gratefulness.
Additionally, always thought the racing both hoofbeats to be an audible reflection of their heartbeats, each heart racing for a totally different reason: Edmund in fear versus Abigail in her assumed “righteous” vindication.
One of the very best Columbo episodes. Peter Falk gives one of his best ever Columbo performances. He is seriously at the top of his game in this episode and is absolutely terrific. The interaction between Peter and Ruth Gordon is the stuff that a director dreams off. One of Peter Falk’s best performances by an absolute mile. Class, class, class!!
On the subject of the keys, they ALWAYS had to be found to ensure that the police knew Edmund was there!!
If Abi had thrown them away on the way to the airport and they were later found, that makes her SUSPECT NUMBER 1!
Also if she had thrown them into a river or sea somewhere and the keys were NEVER FOUND, that also shows that EDMUND WAS MURDERED , as the murderer had disposed of the keys.
If she had thrown them in the garden, it’s possible her prints would be on them.
She HAD TO HIDE THEM and VERY VERY VERY QUICKLY.
The only opportunity was to hide them deep in the sand. Fatal error but watch the episode again and you realise that Abi saw it as a viable opportunity and panicked in that split second of “do I or don’t I?”
I must admit that sudden decision about what to do with the keys is really riveting television and one of my favourite scenes in the episode.
She has a split second to decide what to do and it’s utterly compelling in its direction. Superb!!
The lawyer sounds like Droopy!
I love that in this episode the ‘just one more thing’ line is used by the other characters. Both the maid and Abigail use it with my favourite line the one used by Abigail against Columbo himself!
Absolutely ridiculous the dancing scene.Ludicrous.
Watching this excellent episode this morning, I realized that the actor playing “nephew” Edmund, Charles Frank, has to be the brother of actor Gary Frank who played the brooding son of (actors) Sada Thompson and James Broderick in the fine American series “Family”. Both Wikipedia articles cite them as being born in Washington state within three years of each other; but neither mentions a sibling actor. Must rectify this!
agree. it’s chilling when martin says “call me anytime you find a body in your safe”
I’ve always wondered why the line “Well, that’s what it was made for four-hundred years ago,” (when Lieutenant Columbo goes to sit down on the antique chair), was so obviously truncated mid-sentence. Perhaps they cut out “give-or-take a decade” or something like that. It’s a good editing move, I suppose, and one that preserves an entertaining, character-building line that would have otherwise have been left on the proverbial “cutting-room floor.”
One thing bothers me! Could Edmund have suffocated in the safe having been entrapped therein only over night?
Thanks, Gregory, I wondered about that myself. I’ve been checking that very question on internet hoping to hear from someone who would have a good answer to this.
write with burned out match?
Could have also cut or scratched it into his skin.
seen the art exhibit in Kensal rise women of Colombo and shows Abigail Mitchell standing over Colombo as he ties the lead on to the dogs collar was sold for 300 pound but what a memorable moment from columbo how good would that look in a sitting room money well spent.
“Try and Catch Me” is an unusual Columbo episode because all of the key characters know that Abigail murdered Edmund. Abigail’s assistant Veronica learns of the fact early and is the first to recover Edmund’s keys. And, although it’s unspoken, Veronica likely knows the motive as well. Veronica protects Abigail and leverages that knowledge for career advancement and perks. Abigail’s attorney Martin Hammond also knows that Abigail murdered Edmund and he subtly conveys that knowledge to Abigail in his final words to her near the end of the episode.
I also believe that the writers intended to convey early in the episode that Edmund knew that Abigail knew that he murdered Abigail’s daughter. This is the scene on the beach where Abigail faces off with Edmund as horses and their riders race along the sand perpendicular to them, behind each of them. Just before this happens, Abigail tells Edmund, “I know what you did. Everything you did.” Edmund understood the subtext of Abigail’s words and “everything” he did, as he continued to show no emotion or remorse over the death of Abigail’s daughter.
Abigail would also show this same blank, emotionless response when Martin’s expression changes from jovial to serious as he tells her just before leaving, “Well, take care, love. And call me any time you find a body in your safe.”
I’ve never figured out why Abigail moved those keys from where Edmund left them. Leaving them on the corner of the desk would be 100% consistent with the picture Abigail sought to create. She clearly was highly conscious of that picture when she closed the sliding door over the alarm switch, leaving the switch off. Martin was rushing her out, and never a threat to spot them. No one else was apt to come in the room at that hour, and with Abigail away.
It doesn’t change the fact that the police conducted a rather slipshod search of the safe initially, but might have changed the episode dramatically. Columbo is best when his adversary commits only unavoidable mistakes, not careless ones.
How about this possibility – Abigail had to cover all traces that Edmund had returned to the house BEFORE they all left for the airport. He had driven away waving to everyone just minutes earlier.
Perhaps she couldn’t take any chance that Martin would recall that he saw car keys on the desk or that Martin would pick up the keys thinking they were hers. I think she was trying to conceal any evidence that Edmund was there before they left for the airport.
In addition to not wanting anyone to notice the keys & deduce he had returned to the house prior to her departure, I assumed that she didn’t want someone (the maid? Veronica?) to find and release him.
I personally didn’t understand why she didn’t kick the keys under the desk, which is why I included the maid among her concerns of premature discovery.
Columbo sends Abigail for a loop in the beginning, from which she never recovers, when he rejects her contrived claim that it was an accident. The interaction between the two is entertaining, but the jig is up early. Coulda been even earlier if one of the cops changed the light bulb, ey?
“The jig is up early” indeed.
Not long after Columbo meets the author (she hasn’t even taken off her coat or put down her bag yet):
Abigail: “I can’t imagine…I’m….I’m so confused.”
Columbo: “Oh, I really can’t imagine you confused, Miss Mitchell. Not someone who can plan a murder like you.”
🙂 🙂 Classic line. Such good timing.
Actually, I think lines like those are put in the episodes for comedic flavour, but it really does hit the nail on the head.
try and catch me is my favourite episode I find it has more charm than most episodes and I just love the ending and the scene by the harbour also the speech at the lady’s club always an enjoyable watch as I think most columbo fans would agree.
An interesting thing about the DVD packaging for this episode, in the Season 6/7 box: the “preview” photo on the back is actually Ruth Gordon talking to the director, James Frawley– who looks a little like Peter Falk,but is definitely the guy who played “The Professional” in Make Me a Perfect Murder (which he also directed).
I always wondered who that was! Thanks for for the intel.
Obviously a matter of personal opinion but I don’t see the hype for this episode, much less the cries for sympathy for Abigail. While the start is promising, it is an often boring narrative that is almost entirely filmed at one location, a single room on a ground floor;; a contrived solution that should’ve been found from the beginning; and a nasty and unsympathetic antagonist.
Ruth Gordon’s performance is supposed to be the highlight, or saving grace of the story and I’d dexcribe it as “adequate”. Yet we have seen Columbo actors able to convey more charming villains displaying a wider range of believable emotions.
The best part really is the idea of Abigail; this elderly woman who murders a nephew-in-law he doesn’t like after becoming obsessed with the idea that he is to blame for the deah of her much more beloved niece; it feels very realistic that petty dislike would drive such a character to such lengths.
Yet the character is completely irredeemable, despite the better part of the episode is suddenly spent trying to endear her to us. Even Columbo ultimately seems to thinks so.
Abigail never had any concrete evidence nor was interested in things like getting a confession out of her suspect; her imagined reality and imagined justice satisfied her. Her victim was cooperative and tried to be friends with her, despite her clear bias; he goes to such lengths to please her that we have to accept at least some of this as genuine. Whether he was or wasn’t the niece’s killer is left to the viewer. Yet the point is that Abigail had the same nonconclusive evidence as the viewer.
Her “senile sweet old lady” act is so full of holes, showing her glee, anger and frustration at every turn. Columbo talking about killers having likeable traits is clearly not to this mask; but rather to the real Abigail’s intelligence and dedication.
All in all, we have an unrepentant murderer who killed a close relative based on baseless suspicion and personal dislike in a tortorous way. A more evil character than many of the ones we’ve seen who at least felt some remorse for their deed or admitted it was a self-centered act, or executed their victims with merciful speed.
Columbo becomes friends with her, as he always does; he definitely sees the viewpoint of the REAL Abigail; but it’s clear that he doesn’t forgive her for this either, and that is how it should be.
Well said. I agree.
Excellent episode. Abigail seems to put on a slightly silly act as a harmless little old granny…takes one to know one when it comes to an act.
And to paraphrase’ I’ve never understood people who say they don’t submit to force; I can think of nothing else to submit to’ to her assistant (clever girl!)
This is one of the best episodes in my book. However, I have difficulty with Columbo’s lack of sympathy for Abigail Mitchell. He showed sympathy in Swan Song which I believe was not deserved, yet didn’t do the same for Abigail. “Don’t count on it” is my least liked comment.
Columbo is very firm about the taking of another human life and this I like. Abigail summed it up nicely when saying that Columbo should have been assigned to her niece’s case.
Grace Wheeler was going to die in 4-6 weeks. It was easy to show sympathy for a terminally ill suspect who had no idea what she did. Not so with Abigail Mitchell that we’re aware of. Mitchell was Edmund’s judge, jury, and executioner. Cute old lady or not, that does not make her sympathetic.
TT, I think that Columbo did express sympathy for Abigail. That was evident in his brief speech before the Women’s Club, and the subtext was that he was speaking to Abigail in particular:
Lt. Columbo: I like my job. Oh, I like it a lot. And I’m not depressed by it. And I don’t think the world is full of criminals and full of murderers. Because it isn’t. It’s full of nice people just like you. And if it wasn’t for my job, I wouldn’t be getting to meet you like this. And I’ll tell you something else. Even with some of the murderers that I meet, I even like them, too. Sometimes. Like them and even respect them. Not for what they did, certainly not for that. But for that part of them which is intelligent or funny or just nice. Because there’s niceness in everyone, a little bit, anyhow.
You can take a cop’s word for it. Thank you, ladies.
Lt. Columbo expressed a similar sentiment in the earlier “Swan Song” episode: “Any man that can sing like that can’t be all bad.”
Also, see this Columbophile article on the subject:
I take your point about Columbo expressing sympathy in his speech, didn’t think of that.
I can’t watch this episode. It’s too painful.
See, I want Abigail Mitchell to get away with the murder. She’s offing a louse who was lucky enough NOT to be investigated by Lieutenant Columbo. It’s unfair!
That line about “Don’t count on it” is indeed one of the best in the series, showing some of Columbo’s iron determination and hunter spirit. He has genuine sympathy and liking for many of his suspects, which helps make him a better detective; but he won’t let pity so far control him that he lets the murderer go free.
The one exception to the above really bothered me. Columbo SHOULD have taken Janet Leigh’s case to his superiors in “Forgotten Lady”–her doctors would have had no trouble protecting her from trial and imprisonment given her state of mind, and instead her partner suffers on her behalf.
Actually, Columbo followed correct procedures in “Forgotten Lady.” Ned Diamond confessed. Columbo couldn’t ignore the confession. He couldn’t simply proceed with his circumstantial case against Grace when he now had direct evidence against Ned. If he doubted Ned’s credibility, as he did, he would have to establish the falsity of his confession with evidence, even if it “might take a couple of months.” If Grace posed a danger to others (or a risk of flight) in the interim, other steps may have been necessary — but she didn’t.
I have very mixed feelings about this episode. Falk is terrific. Ruth Gordon is outstanding. The backstory — Abigail Mitchell’s motive for killing Edmund — is compelling, and gives the episode’s murderer that added element of sympathy common to many of Columbo’s greatest cases (e.g., “Any Old Port in a Storm”; “Swan Song”: “By Dawn’s Early Light”). The episode has some great dialogue (“Shall we compare poverty stories, Lieutenant?” “Not in a Rolls-Royce, ma’am.”), and Columbo’s speech to the women’s club is a highlight of the entire series.
As my affinity for Columbo is matched by my reverence for Agatha Christie, I also enjoy the tribute this episode pays to Dame Agatha (who died the year before), with Abigail not only a famous mystery writer, but also the author of a mystery play (“Murder of the Year”) that is closing after 19 years, with all rights having been given to her five-year-old niece (much as Christie gave all rights to “The Mousetrap” to her grandson, Mathew Prichard).
This said, the mystery itself and its solution is entirely out of character with the great Columbos. It’s so hokey, so cartoonish. Were that the tone of the series, then okay, but it’s not. It reminds me more of the stylized mysteries in another Link and Levinson series, the excellent, one-season “Ellery Queen.” Perhaps the reason for this is that, two years before “Try and Catch Me,” its writer, Gene Thompson, wrote an episode for “Ellery Queen”: “The Adventure of the Chinese Dog” (also involving a dying clue, a hallmark of the entire Queen canon). But as a Columbo, a Queen-like story is like shoving a square peg into a round hole.
Besides, LAPD crime scene investigators in 1977 would have found all the vital clues in Abigail Mitchell’s safe within hours of finding Edmund.
I am sure you are right and Abby was supposed to be Agatha Christie! This is my favorite episode because I absolutely love Ruth Gordon’s acting in it. I also loved the secretary Veronica, and the lawyer Martin. The music is wonderful and i wish i could buy the score just for this episode. The best is that it is never made clear if Edmund murdered Phyllis or not. It seems likely Abby killed an innocent man.
My only slight complaint with this awesome episode is it isn’t one of the longer ones – still better to have not quite enough than a little too much!
“Don’t count on that ma’am”-One of the best lines ever.
It really is!
Ah, a true classic. My number 1 favorite Columbo of the whole 35 year run. This was a special one because it was the strongest repore between Columbo and the killer ever done and it was also the sweetest episode in many ways. I thought the way they developed the character of Abby Mitchell was sublime and Ruth Gordan was so perfect for it. Also Peter Falk imo was at his best here. You have often mentioned that you felt that Peter was feeling his way around the character the first year a little but by season two he owned the character completely with every nuance and quirk perfected. Well Try and Catch Me to me was Peter at the top of his game. Every line he spoke was filled with nuance and quirky hand movements, gestures and speech patterns that would take six years of an actor playing a character to master. This was also a fabulous episode because the crime was so perfectly fit for a Columbo type of crime a murder so perfect that it’d be impossible for any cop to solve but Columbo, it had to be him or else she really would’ve gotten away with it. I believe that Abby was the true Moriarty to Columbo’s Sherlock Holmes. A perfect match for him but also there was a sweet friendship that blossomed as well. let’s not get started on the rest of the casting from Mariette Hartley to G.D. Spradlin was exceptional. All and all a perfect Columbo episode in my humble opinion
Wow ! Thank you so much to Columbophile and Mr. Feldman too for his comments and clips Ruth Gordon was sublime as you say and Peter Falk is dearer to my heart with each viewing TYG
“Try and Catch Me.” Wow, such an engaging, entertaining episode. I’ve not seen it in years.
It’s not one without weaknesses though. One of the most glaring hits early during the obligatory mens rea scenes just prior to the actus rea. For a murder mystery writer about to actually commit her first murder, bringing in her attorney so she could sign a sudden revision of her will and so her victim can sign his first will was a dumb idea to include in her plan. Even non-writer murder mystery “writer” Ken Franklin wouldn’t have made such a red flag part of his plan. Yet, despite all this, the timing of these new wills doesn’t even raise an eyebrow from Columbo.
But none of the weaknesses really matter because the show’s the thing. And the show is terrific, especially the characterizations and dialogue in the screenplay, and the acting, direction, music and cinematography.
I’d like to point out two great things in this episode in particular that some may not have noticed. The music in this episode is exceptional and remarkably sophisticated. The composer was Patrick Williams, who passed away this summer at his home in Santa Monica, CA. To give you an idea of how good Pat Williams was, Frank Sinatra chose him to collaborate on Frank’s final studio recordings. And if you’re also a Sinatraphile as I am, than you already known that Frank has always worked with the best musicians and composers in the world.
Another great thing about this episode is the subtle but great performance by the actor that plays Abigail Mitchell’s attorney, Martin Hammond. There’s a special moment in particular toward the very end where Martin is about to say farewell to Abigail. Martin at first seems to be all smiles, but as they exchange their final words together, Martin says “Well, take care, love. And call me any time you find a body in your safe.” But Martin is no longer smiling, and, in fact, he gives Abigail a look that lets her–and us–know that he knows Abigail murdered Edmund.
The actor playing this relatively small role was so good that I knew that I must have seen him in some other roles. As I reflected further, it immediately occurred to me where else I’ve seen this fine actor. He played Senator Pat Geary in “The Godfather: Part 2.” And for this, Columbophile should add G.D. Spradlin (along with John Ashton, whom I’ve previously recommended) to his “41 megastars you never knew graced Columbo.”
Here’s a clip of G.D. Spradlin from “The Godfather: Part 2,” where he easily holds his own with Al Pacino and Robert Duvall, two of the best movie actors of our generation.
I’ll sign off with a delightful home movie from Roddy McDowell’s estate featuring several people with connections to Peter Falk (and to Columbo). This clip includes two Columbo “murderers,” Roddy McDowell and Ruth Gordon; Garson Kanin, Ruth’s husband and co-writer with Ruth of the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn comedy “Adam’s Rib (among other films), and Hope Lange, who co-starred with Peter Falk in Frank Capra’s “A Pocketful of Miracles.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBInvGajCkc
I should have spelled Roddy’s name McDowall, with an “a” as the Scots do, rather than with an “e.” Sorry.
At ease, soldier, all’s forgiven!
I’m sorry if I missed it, have you ever done a breakdown of the evidence that we have that Edmund may have been innocent or guilty?
Not a breakdown, exactly. The only ‘evidence’ against Edmund is Abi’s belief in his guilt, the vaguely suspicious conditions surrounding Phyllis’s disappearance (rather like Natalie Wood’s) and Columbo’s observation that Edmund and Phyllis must have had a ‘poor marriage’ based on there being no photos of them on display at their home.