Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 4

Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind

Deadly State opening titles

Following five excellent episodes, Columbo‘s fourth season rounded out on 27 April 1975 in the suave form of A Deadly State of Mind.

Featuring heart-throb George Hamilton as unscrupulous psychiatrist Dr Mark Collier, a double homicide (including one of the most far-fetched in TV history) and the Lieutenant losing his rag, this Peter S. Fischer-penned outing certainly leaves an impression.

But is A Deadly State of Mind actually any good, or does it round out Season 4 like a wet lettuce? Or to put it another way, is it as steely-minded as Dr Mark Collier, or a helpless flounderer like Nadia Donner? Let’s take a look…

Dramatis personae

Columbo Deadly State of Mind cast

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Dr Mark Collier: George Hamilton
Nadia Donner: Lesley Ann Warren
Karl Donner: Stephen Elliott
Dr Anita Borden: Karen Machon
Mr Morris: Fred Draper
Chuck Whelan: Ryan Macdonald
Sergeant Kramer: Bruce Kirby
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Directed by: Harvey Hart
Score by: Bernardo Segáll

Episode synopsis: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind

A tearful Nadia Donner is recounting a ‘daddy’ moment from her youth, while her psychiatrist, Dr Mark Collier, prompts her with questions. It seems like he’s trying to uncover a traumatic event from Nadia’s past regarding her sister, but the info he’s after remains out of reach in Nadia’s mind. Disappointed, he brings her out of her hypnosis.

This ain’t no regular doctor/patient relationship, though folks. It’s quickly established that Nadia and Dr Collier are lovers, as she invites him to spend ‘quality time’ with her at her swanky beach house as her husband Karl is heading out of town. Collier agrees, and leaves Nadia to rest and recuperate.

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“Where the drugs at, bro?”

In the corridor he meets his subordinate, Dr Anita Borden. She has noticed that some hypnosis-inducing drugs have gone missing from the lab, and hints broadly that she believes Collier is using them on Nadia to deepen her hypnotic state so he can write another book about the secrets of the mind. Collier furiously denies the claim and sends Dr Borden scurrying away to do more testing on lab rats as part of his research project.

Cut to the aforementioned swanky beach house, which Collier screeches up to in his sweet Mercedes, very obviously driving through muddy gutter water in the process. If it’s sweet, sweet love on his mind he’s in for disappointment as Collier encounters not just Nadia, but her livid husband Karl in the sitting room.

Karl, as one might expect, isn’t best pleased to see Collier. He threatens to ruin him and let the world know about the drugs he’s using on Nadia, and the ‘carnal relations’ they’re indulging in on the side. Karl also lets Collier know that he’s not the first lover Nadia has taken, nor even the fifth! “I know my wife – and the trash she’s attracted to,” he says.

Collier, however, refuses to yield. In what seems to be an act of genuine affection, he appears to be willing to risk professional ruin by demanding Nadia leaves with him. It’s then that hell breaks loose. Karl grabs Nadia and delivers a colossal slap to her face. He’s about to repeat the act when Collier grabs a poker and clobbers Karl between the shoulder blades. It’s an act of defence, but Big Karl slumps down, dead as a doornail.

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Karl Donner: one of the series’ least-mourned victims

Nadia is in panic mode, but lighting a calming cigarette Collier maintains his presence of mind and concocts an explanation for Nadia to give the police. She and Karl were at home alone when two men forced their way in seeking jewellery and money. When Karl resisted, he was slain. While this seems pretty thin to me, Collier splits leaving the fragile Nadia to call in the crime to the police as he establishes his alibi back at the research lab.

Speeding up the driveway in his Merc, Collier is forced to veer into the gatepost when a blind man and his dog walk across the top of the drive. The blind man calls out, but Collier backs up and screeches around him to make good his escape. He creates his alibi in suitably charismatic fashion, cosying up to Dr Borden in the lab, apologising for his earlier shirtiness, and planting a smooch on her cherry lips. There’s clearly some history there, folks!

Back at the beach house, the police investigation is underway, with our man Lieutenant Columbo in the thick of it. He quickly begins questioning Nadia, who trots out the pre-arranged spiele, but struggles with the detail (note to murderous duos – perhaps spend more than 30 seconds concocting your tall tales, mmmmkay?). The men had guns, she says. When one of them went upstairs, Karl tried to bash the other with the poker, before he was dispossessed and slain himself.

The men then grabbed some jewellery, ran out of the door and drove away. Nadia heard the car drive away, but – as Columbo is immediately puzzled by – she didn’t hear the car arrive. Things aren’t adding up from the get-go, so Columbo sits down to have a think after Nadia is led away to rest by her doctor.

As he lights a cigar, his eye falls upon a microscopic object on the carpet. While he doesn’t immediately recognise what it is, he pockets it for further examination before joining Sergeant Kramer out on the driveway. The cops have spotted a dent in the gatepost at the top of the drive. Columbo, meanwhile, notices thinner European tire tracks on the drive. He recognises them, of course, because he drives a European car – something that the dim-witted Kramer doesn’t appear to have ever noticed.

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The sofa pattern was suspected of inducing strokes in the infirm

It’s at this time Collier arrives along with Dr Borden, who is evidently the designated driver. Columbo introduces himself and notices Collier lighting a cigarette with a match. This is a fact he squirrels away for later, as the good doctor heads inside to minister to his patient.

The next morning we’re with Collier and Nadia again, this time at her sumptuous apartment. They’re plotting further, but are interrupted by Columbo who is surprised to find Collier making a house call so early in the morning. He double checks some facts with Nadia, but gleans a real nugget when he asks to borrow Collier’s lighter for his cigar. The lighter, you see, has an engraved message from Collier’s sister, and the Dr claims to ‘treasure it’. This will be important later on.

Nadia stumbles her way through some gentle questioning – again highlighting the flaw in Collier’s plan to entrust her with keeping them out of jail. If the men had guns, why didn’t the killer just shoot Karl, the detective asks. Umming and ahhing, Nadia says he’d put the gun in his belt to rifle through some drawers. How come there were no fingerprints on the drawers then, Columbo enquires. There’s more uncertainty from Nadia before she ‘recalls’ the man used a handkerchief to wipe the prints off.

“Collier starts to realise what a fool he’s been to leave his life and freedom in Nadia’s shaking hands.”

Satisfied enough for now, Columbo beetles away leaving a panicky Nadia ready to confess all. Only Collier’s promises to help her through it can quell her rising terror, but we sense the Doctor is starting to realise what a fool he’s been to leave his life and freedom in her shaking hands…

Still, you can’t keep a good man down and Collier is soon back at the lab showing his publisher, Chuck Whelan, around. He freezes, though, when he looks from the window and notices Columbo visibly checking the tires of his Mercedes. We even get an ominous musical cue to highlight the significance of this act. Nice!

Once his car-related snooping is done, Columbo attempts to navigate the bowels of the university to find Collier – at one point even eliciting a ‘comedy female scream’ sound effect after inadvertently entering a wrong door. He eventually finds Dr Borden, who confirms she was with Collier the night before during the time he was informed of the Donner death.

Collier then reappears, and wants to know why Columbo was looking at his tires. The Lieutenant says he simply wanted a good look at the tread – not because he thought Collier’s car was ever at the crime scene. It’s at this point Collier delivers one of the series’ best ever analyses of Columbo. “You know Lieutenant, you’re a marvelously deceptive man. You know, the way you get to the point, without really ever getting to the point. I really believe you think there’s something cock-eyed about Karl Donner’s death.”

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Dr Collier was unimpressed by Columbo’s ‘made you look!’ prank

Coming clean, Columbo admits that he’s having problems with the inconsistencies in Nadia’s story. If the car was right outside the house, why didn’t she see its lights as it drove down? The men allegedly claimed that their car was broken down on the highway. Why would they use that excuse if their car was right outside the front door?

Collier suggests Nadia be submitted to a lie detector test, just to assuage Columbo’s doubts so that he can go about trying to find the actual killers. “Do you think she’ll pass such a test?” Columbo asks. “I’d stake my reputation on it,” Collier cockily replies.

When this suggestion is put to Nadia, however, she’s predictably aghast but Collier calms her nerves. Through hypnosis, he can prep her to breeze through the lie detector test. So drugging her up, he begins the process, but the subject matter he’ll be covering is stunningly different to what he discussed with his patient.

Instead of cementing the particulars of the crime into her subconscious, Collier instead preys on the weaknesses and recollections of her past. She has spoken to him about her love of swimming and diving as a girl, and how it so impressed her daddy. So Collier uses this info to program her to take her own life. How? He’ll call her apartment at 10pm and utter the name ‘Charles Whelan’. Upon hearing this, Nadia will become so hot that the only thing she’ll be able to do is to leap off her balcony into the apartment pool – five storeys below! Yes readers, if audacity has a name it must be Dr Mark Collier

“Columbo admits that he’s having problems with the inconsistencies in Nadia’s story.”

The audacity goes a step further in that Collier makes the crucial call to Nadia in the presence of Columbo, who drops round to his house that night to ask some questions as the doctor throws a jolly shindig with pals. As Collier fixes him a drink, Columbo fields questions from the party guests. His latest problem he needs to answer is who the smoker at the house that night was. Neither Karl nor Nadia smoked, and the ‘intruders’ were wearing stocking masks, so it can’t have been them.

But how does he know there was a smoker there at all, someone asks. It’s then that Columbo reveals the tiny item he took from the floor of the Donner house on the night of the crime. He’s figured out that it’s the nub of a flint from a lighter that has popped out. And it can’t have been there before because the fatal night was the first time the house was used since Thanksgiving, and the place was professionally cleaned right after that.

Columbo has deduced that whoever was there is now having to light cigarettes with matches, or has a new flint in the lighter. And guess what – when he looks at Collier’s lighter he spots a brand new flint in it. The smug Doctor laughs it off, of course, and as Columbo continues to chat with guests Collier calls Nadia, drops the code word and pretends he’s dialled a wrong number before going on to make an actual call to Chuck Whelan to arrange a meeting the next day. Clever boy!

Nadia, meanwhile, does exactly what the doctor ordered. She’s overcome with a sensation of heat, so throwing off every stitch of clothing she takes a leap off the balcony in a failed attempt to hit the refreshing, cool water below. Yowch!

Columbo Nadia Donner death

Is it a bird? Is it a plane…?

Columbo and Co. are now investigating another death, and this one is also causing the Lieutenant some confusion. Nadia’s apartment door was bolted from the inside, so no one threw her over the balcony. She must have jumped. But why did she take off all her clothes first? And why did she place her valuables in the toe of her shoe, as if she was going swimming? And her phone receiver been found on the coffee table – had she got up in the middle of a conversation and flung herself to a grisly demise?

It’s a puzzle alright, but not an impossible one to crack for a mind as sharp as Columbo’s. He’s read up on Collier’s books on hypnosis techniques and knows the doctor has the skillz required to plant suggestions in the minds of his patients. But could someone be convinced to commit suicide? That he ain’t clear on.

So Columbo lies in wait for Dr Borden in the research facility car park after a sleepless night. He’s dishevelled, impatient and wants answers, so he takes the direct route. “Is it possible to hypnotise Mrs. Donner so that with the use of suggestion you could make her jump over that balcony to her death?” he asks. No, she replies. A person won’t do anything in a hypnotic state that they wouldn’t do normally.

He outlines his case that she appears to have believed she was going swimming, but it’s all too uncertain for Dr Borden to be able to give much help. But what is certain is that amobarbitol and zilothin were found in Nadia’s blood, and they can be used to break down somebody’s will. It’s starting to look a lot like foul play – could Collier have prescribed these drugs for Nadia?

Borden fails to recognise the urgency behind Columbo’s request for details. “You’re just going to have to ask Dr Collier,” she breezes back, but it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. “No, I’m asking you!” the Lieutenant snaps. “I’m asking you about a murder!

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Columbo’s patience wears thin with Dr Borden in thrilling fashion

Whether he gleans any more info out of the shocked doctor is unclear as we next cut to the LA docks, where Collier has just returned from an enjoyable morning with Chuck Whelan on his yacht. Columbo greets him on his return, but the atmosphere soon turns icier as the Lieutenant informs Collier of Nadia’s death and essentially accuses him of killing Karl.

Columbo has good reason to believe Collier was in on it with Nadia, because a police doctor has suggested that the killing of Karl could have happened much earlier that the 7pm time-slot suggested by Nadia – and in that case Collier’s alibi is decidedly dodgy.

“Am I to presume that I’m currently your chief suspect?” Collier asks casually. “I’m not sure that suspect is a strong enough word,” Columbo replies, but it doesn’t shake Collier a jot. “In that case, I should be locked up. Course, I’m not. Therefore, I presume that you have no proof,” he taunts before exiting stage left.

Columbo doesn’t have to wait long for that elusive proof, however. Sergeant Kramer is in touch to inform him that there’s a witness who can attest that a car left the Donner place in a hurry at 5.30pm. The witness can’t ID the car and driver, though, because he’s BLIND, but the wily Lieutenant finds a way to make it count nonetheless.

Summoning Collier to the Donner beach house, Columbo lays it all out. He believes Collier programmed Nadia to take her own life, but he knows he’ll never be able to prove it. He can, however, prove that Collier killed Karl Donner – because he has an eyewitness.

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If his Columbo experience taught Mr Morris anything it was to always pack a bulky sweater and heavy underwear when visiting the mountains in spring

At a signal from Columbo, Mr Morris, the eyewitness, is summoned from the hallway beyond. Morris, wearing sunglasses indoors, treads carefully down some steps, sits on the coach and offers Columbo some matches to light a cigar. Columbo asks him if he’s ever seen anyone in the room before, and Morris answers in the affirmative. He saw a driver screech out of the Donner driveway at 5.30pm on the day of the killing – and the man behind the wheel was Dr Collier.

Rather than alarm the doctor, Collier is emboldened. He thinks he’s got the measure of Columbo alright. “Beautiful, Lieutenant, it’s a gallant effort,” he says, the Smug-O-Meter reading off the scale. “That man couldn’t see me or my car. He didn’t see anything. He’s blind.”

Columbo wonders why Collier would assume Morris was blind, and the smug doctor can’t resist taking the bait. His medical training allows him to spot a blind man a mile off, he says, and he’ll prove it through a little experiment of his own.

Collier steps forward and hands Morris a magazine, inviting him to read a few pages aloud. He then stands back, an avalanche of SMUGNESS, to watch Morris blow his lines. Only he doesn’t. Instead Morris reads an article about the warm clothes required for a trip to the mountains as easily as drawing breath.

Now flustered, Collier snatches the mag back, flips a few pages and demands Morris reads again. Same result. “The man is blind! He’s blind!” crows a now-desperate Collier. Columbo then calls out “Mr Morris!” and an identikit gentleman appears from the hallway, this time being led by a large Alsatian guide dog. And this, Columbo informs Collier, is the man he saw when he left Donner HQ in such a hurry on the night of the killing.

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Could he be any more smug in this scene?

“There is no way in the world that you could have assumed that this man was blind unless you had seen this man that day,” Columbo concludes. “I have an eyewitness, Dr Collier, an eyewitness that will place you at the head of the Donner driveway at 5.30 Monday afternoon. But the eyewitness is not Mr Morris. The eyewitness is you.”

A thoroughly outsmarted Collier can only wilt under Columbo’s steely gaze as credits roll…

Best moment –  the double bluff

The take-down of Dr Collier is easily one of the greatest hits of the entire Columbo opus. Like some of the other very best gotcha moments, notably Suitable for Framing, A Friend in Deed and Candidate for Crime, it’s so good because the reveal is such a stunning revelation to Collier, who until that moment has believed himself to be in total control.

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The killer’s emotional descent from mild irritation and complete self-satisfaction through to panic and despair is wonderfully portrayed by Hamilton, and it’s a scene that just leaves the viewer wanting to jump to their feet and roar their approval. It’s one of the top 5 Columbo gotchas, ergo one of the greatest TV scenes ever recorded!

My take on A Deadly State of Mind

A Deadly State of Mind is one of the first Columbo episodes I ever remember watching, doubtless sometime in the late 80s / early 90s. And I don’t mind admitting I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

While far-fetched, the hypnosis murder has always been one of the most memorable Columbo killings, and George Hamilton is a supremely good baddie – vital ingredients that help this episode stand out from the crowd. But under closer cross-examination, does it still cut the mustard? Well, spoiler alert, yes it does!

“Gorgeous George Hamilton is everything I want in a Columbo killer.”

Fan polls of favourite Columbo episodes are quite unflattering to Deadly State. A poll on the Ultimate Columbo website places it amongst the lowest polling of all episodes – less popular than Strange Bedfellows and A Bird in the Hand, for Pete’s sake! Similarly, at time of writing, the episode ranks only 55th out of 69 in the fans’ favourite episode poll on this very site!

That is damning it with faint praise indeed, because Deadly State has some huge plus points, not least the excellent George Hamilton. Gorgeous George is everything I want in a Columbo killer. Handsome, smooth, charismatic, assured, intelligent and arrogant, he ticks every box there is and I rate him in the top tier of villains.

George Hamilton Columbo

Phwooooar! Gorgeous George Hamilton is an A Grade Columbo villain

Admittedly Oskar Werner – our chief antagonist last time out in Playback – can out-act Hamilton any day of the week, but he’s not nearly as charismatic, and therefore not nearly as memorable a Columbo killer. Indeed, Hamilton is so watchable that a second 70s’ outing would have been welcome, as he was arguably past his prime when he returned in 1991’s Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.

That said, Hamilton’s excellence can’t disguise a huge gulf in the heart of Peter S. Fischer’s otherwise splendid mystery – that of Collier’s outrageous faith in the bag of nerves that was Nadia Donner. By his own admission, Collier knows everything about Nadia through their hypnotherapy sessions. Yet he didn’t seem to know her well enough to realise that asking her to spin a cock-and-bull yarn to police officers, while under extreme pressure, was a bad idea.

Put simply, Nadia is far too emotionally fragile to be relied on at the best of times – let alone at a time of crisis. No wonder Columbo saw through her story in a heartbeat. Even a first-day rookie wouldn’t have swallowed the tosh Nadia was ladling out, so it doesn’t say much for Collier’s judgement that he would entrust her with such a weight of responsibility knowing that any wrong move could spell disaster for them both.

We can only assume that Collier’s decision to appoint Nadia as the mouth piece for his half-baked explanation for Karl’s death was due to that old Columbo chestnut of people making strange decisions while under duress. It’s not a flaw fatal enough to scupper the entire episode, but Collier’s credibility is certainly diminished through it.

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I wouldn’t trust Nadia Donner to open a packet of crisps without bungling it, so why does Collier entrust her with his freedom?

He evidently suffers from another Columbo killer foible – pride in his own reputation. Collier has a book he wants to publish, but it’s not going well. He cares about how he is perceived in the field of psychiatric research and this ruthlessly ambitious streak is what ultimately leads him to making the bad decisions that will bring about his downfall. We’ve seen it before (Barry Mayfield) and we’ll see it again (Kay Freestone). Won’t these arrogant killers ever learn?

Collier’s decisions exacerbate a bad situation. If he and Nadia had come clean about the killing of Karl, it’s likely that they could have avoided jail time. Collier’s book deal would be gone, though, and being romantically linked to his patient would jeopardise his professional future. I can see why he’d want to protect that, but boy he made a mess of the cover-up plan.

Careful scrutiny of the episode reveals further plot holes that tighter storytelling could have addressed, too. Namely the standards of police procedural work, with even the good Lieutenant falling short of his usual standards on some occasions.

“Careful scrutiny of the episode reveals further plot holes that tighter storytelling could have addressed.”

Consider: the police have noticed the dent on the gatepost at the head of the Donner driveway. They’ve also noticed the thin tire treads of a European car on the driveway. Yet when Columbo later examines Collier’s tires, he fails to take the obvious step of also checking the fender, which must have been marked in some way due to the gatepost collision. The case could have effectively been closed right there!

And how about the failure to trace Collier’s phone call from his home to Nadia Donner’s prior to her balcony plunge? Phone records are inconsistently used in Columbo, but surely a man with Columbo’s pedigree would have checked to see whether Collier had actually rung Nadia’s home rather than merely surmising it.

Of course I get it, tying up the case in those ways would have been far less satisfying for the viewer. But my point is more that these plot holes could have been addressed easily and succinctly in the script without bogging the episode down in minutiae.

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Check the fender while you’re there, Lieutenant!

The first clue that Columbo finds at the crime scene is also a bit of a dud, in this correspondent’s opinion at least. Echoing the feather-in-the-hospital find in Troubled Waters, the Lieutenant somehow hones in on a microscopic lighter flint nub on the carpet and that leads his thought process (eventually) to concluding that there was definitely a third party in the house aside from the Donners and the supposed felons – and that that person was Dr Collier.

A dozen or more officers have tramped through the place, so for Columbo to first see the nub and then deduce it must be pivotal to the case is a bit of a stretch. As was the case in Troubled Waters this clue’s a bit too convenient for my liking, but at least the script doesn’t make the mistake of making more of this find than is necessary and having it as the single most damning piece of evidence that puts Columbo on to his man.

For Columbo’s investigations in A Deadly State of Mind really do present him with a smorgasbord of reasons to suspect the dastardly doc, well beyond the lighter flint. Detractors of this episode (my own dear dad amongst them) bleat on about the ludicrousness of Columbo ever reasoning that Nadia was hypnotised to kill herself, but it’s really not a big leap when you examine the evidence.

“Columbo raging at Dr Borden is secretly one of the best scenes of the entire 70s’ run.”

Columbo has read up on Collier’s books about hypnosis. He has found drugs in Nadia’s bloodstream known to be able to break a subject’s will, and the way she removed and folded her clothes, and hid valuables in the toe of her shoe all point to someone who believed they were going swimming. It’s a natural step, then, to deduce that Collier had been able to plant just such a suggestion in her mind.

The concept of the second killing itself is massively far-fetched, though, and one that requires a heavy suspension of disbelief to accept. Those that simply accept it for what it is – an audacious act of mental manipulation by a master in his field – are likely to gain the most pleasure from this episode. I liken it to the subliminal cuts killing in Double Exposure – a preposterous crime that made for brilliant viewing!

Speaking of brilliant viewing, how good was the flash of Columbo rage we saw when the weary Lieutenant cut through the crap to scold Dr Borden for her casual attitude to his questions? As with all examples of Columbo unleashing his fury, I love this scene! It’s only very brief, but it has great power because it shows us a hint of the real Columbo – the one that is usually hidden behind a veil of obsequiousness and absent-mindedness.

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This version of Columbo is not to be trifled with…

Here, after investigating the gruesome Nadia Donner killing and going a night without sleep, Columbo is in absolutely no mood to be trifled with and when Dr Borden treats him like an office junior she gets the roasting she deserves. I rate this scene second only to the gotcha in the whole episode. It’s the Columbo rage moment that most fans forget, but to me is secretly one of the best scenes of the entire 70s’ run.

As is typical with 70s’ Columbo outings, everyone in the cast does a good job. Falk lives up to the usual standards we expect of him, Hamilton is ace as discussed earlier, and the female foils don’t put a foot wrong. Lesley Ann Warren, in particular, convincingly portrays the nervous fragility of Nadia Donner. Nadia is actually rather an annoying character (frankly I was pleased when she was bumped off), but one can’t blame Warren for that, as she delivers the character the script puts forward.

As an aside, am I the only viewer that would love to know more about Nadia’s backstory? She appears to have daddy issues and a great jealousy of her sister. I wonder if she actually caused the death of her sister in her early years, has locked the memories away and it is those dark secrets that Collier is so desperate to uncover. Certainly it’s an intriguing mystery within the mystery.

Deadly State gives us a barnstorming finale to what has been a staggeringly good season of television.”

I also wonder if anyone has noticed that Columbo really doesn’t seem to like rogue medical men? He hated Dr Mayfield in Stitch in Crime and took a grim pleasure in bringing down Dr Flemming in Prescription: Murder. The same goes for Dr Collier here. Columbo gains a good deal of pleasure in ‘taking out the trash’ at episode’s end, and he seems to reserve a special dislike for those who fall from their duties of preserving life.

As a final observation, much as I enjoy Deadly State, there’s little overt humour in it, and regular readers will know that I do like my Columbo episodes to mix lashings of comedic action in amongst the unfolding drama. Negative Reaction, Double Shock and Publish or Perish are perhaps the best examples of this.

There’s not much mirth in this outing compared to those, although Chuck Whelan’s robust response of “Sorry, I don’t have a Willie!” while referencing the name of one of Dr Borden’s lab rats raises unintentional titters – for the low-brow British viewers at least! Despite that, Deadly State works well because I never feel it takes itself too seriously, with Hamilton especially smirking his way throughout and clearly enjoying the opportunity to playfully taunt Columbo as he goes.

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Collier clearly enjoyed taunting Columbo as their relationship soured

Director Harvey Hart has a strong Columbo pedigree, with By Dawn’s Early Light, Forgotten Lady and Now You See Him also under his belt, so if you’re one of those who haven’t previously held Deadly State of Mind in the highest regard, perhaps now’s the time to give it a second chance.

In my opinion, this episode gives us a barnstorming finale to what has been a staggeringly good season of television. There’s not one weak episode in the Season 4 line-up and Deadly State holds its own against any of the others that have come before it. I enjoy it a great deal and suspect I always shall, although I feel its conclusion marks something of a high water mark for the series.

After four stellar seasons, can the sky-high standards be maintained so consistently in future, or have we hit ‘peak Columbo‘? From my perspective, I rather believe it’s the latter. Columbo was never this good again on a series-by-series basis.

That’s why A Deadly State of Mind remains an episode to be treasured as an indication of the series’ refusal to lower its standards, while remaining as fresh as ever – more than 7 years after Falk first pulled on the fabled raincoat.

Did you know?

Deadly novel

A Deadly State of Mind was one of several 70s’ episodes to be novelised in the 1970s, along with Murder by the Book, Any Old Port in a Storm and By Dawn’s Early Light.

Penned by Lee Hays, the tie-in novels represent excellent reading for nostalgic fans and provide a richer narrative and additional scenes not televised. As such, they’re well worth digging up. Check out Amazon and eBay for the best options, although be warned, they don’t always come cheap.

Still, for the fan who eats, breathes and sleeps Columbo, these books are a sound investment that help take classic outings to a whole new level.

How I rate ’em

A thoroughly enjoyable romp, I have no hesitation in recommending A Deadly State of Mind. It’s not quite top, top tier Columbo but is very close and an episode I can watch time and again and still find plenty to enjoy.

Missed any of my other episode reviews? Then view them via the links below.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Publish or Perish
  3. Double Shock
  4. Murder by the Book
  5. Negative Reaction
  6. A Friend in Deed
  7. Death Lends a Hand
  8. A Stitch in Crime
  9. Double Exposure
  10. Lady in Waiting
  11. Troubled Waters
  12. Any Old Port in a Storm
  13. Prescription: Murder ——– A-List ends here—
  14. A Deadly State of Mind
  15. An Exercise in Fatality
  16. Swan Song
  17. The Most Crucial Game
  18. Etude in Black
  19. By Dawn’s Early Light
  20. Candidate for Crime
  21. Greenhouse Jungle
  22. Playback
  23. Requiem for a Falling Star
  24. Blueprint for Murder
  25. Ransom for a Dead Man —– B-List ends here—
  26. Dead Weight
  27. The Most Dangerous Match
  28. Lovely but Lethal ———— C-List ends here—-
  29. Short Fuse
  30. Mind Over Mayhem
  31. Dagger of the Mind

That concludes our journey through Columbo‘s epic fourth season. Our next episode review will be Forgotten Lady, the tear-jerking Janet Leigh vehicle that Peter Falk himself rated as one of his very favourite episodes. Don’t miss it!

A big thanks, as always, for your visit to the site. Hit me up with your thoughts on A Deadly State of Mind in the comments section below.

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Dr Collier took the secret of his beautifully manicured hair and hands to the grave

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201 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind

  1. It could be me getting old. What difference does it make about the ‘gotcha’ moment. He is a Dr, it would have been apparent the ‘witness’ was blind or pretending to be blind regardless of whether he saw a blind man walking his dog after the murder or not. How this places the Dr as the eye witness to himself totally escapes me. I’m willing to be put right.

    • Hi Tristan. Only the murderer would know that there was a blind man outside the house, i.e., it is the murderer who is the eye witness. George Hamilton sees a man that looks like the blind man, assumes that it is him, and that the man cannot identify him.

      An innocent man would not know who was outside the house, or even if there was anybody there at all. As there was a blind man, Hamilton is expecting to see a blind man, and gives himself away by behaving in an arrogant manner when he thinks he is being tricked, thereby revealing knowledge he would only have if he had fled the scene of the crime.

      • Thanks for the reply. I understand all that you say. My point is that the sighted brother was obviously pretending to be blind ( at first ) even to a layman let alone a Doctor. So take away what the Dr saw after the murder ie the blind man and his dog, most people , let alone a Dr, could see that the sighted brother was acting like a blind person. I’ll give this some more thought as I appreciate I’m not explaining my doubts very well.

        • You’re welcome Tristan. I don’t totally agree with you, but I understand your point that the sighted brother is “obviously pretending to be blind”.

          But the Dr is expecting to see a blind man, and that’s how he perceives the scene, as a blind man pretending to be sighted. Remember, he doesn’t know anything about the blind man living with his sighted brother.

          In any event, I have always like the way that this case is solved by a character that we don’t know anything about until the end of the story, because we think it’s another character we saw at the start.

  2. I enjoy this one, in part because the beady-eyed Hamilton appears to be the hair and clothing model for James Bond in Goldeneye. But while I appreciated the sentiment of the gotcha in the climax, I don’t understand why the smug doctor would cave. He explains to Columbo that he thought the brother could not see because of his body language and such. When it’s revealed the blind brother is the actual witness, why doesn’t Hamilton just say, oh, I guess I was mistaken? That leaves the police with a witness who can’t possibly identify the killer.

    • I guess it’s the old power of suggestion ploy at work. Fred Draper’s character is a sighted man, who does what a sighted man would do, but in such a manner as to perhaps suggest that he is a blind man pretending to be able to see.

      Columbo is gambling on the fact that George Hamilton saw an actual blind man when he fled the scene of the crime, and is expecting to see one now, especially as there is a resemblance between the brothers.

      An innocent man, even one with “a little medical training” would have either not noticed the shenanigans at all, or said something like “Why is that man pretending to be blind?”.

      As Columbo says, “The eye witness is you”, as only the killer would know that there was a blind man outside the house.

      • I do think that’s how we’re supposed to take it. It just seems odd that such a cool-under-fire narcissist like Hamilton would fall for it so easily. It might have worked better had Hamilton not literally explained why he thought the sighted brother was blind based on his movements and such, though perhaps I misheard that part? It seemed like the writer was stacking the deck further for him to be hoisted by his own petard when instead it just created a weaker moment for the character’s consistency.

  3. Not enough humor? You must have missed the one that made me split my sides. While the doctor spots Columbo examining his car through the window, his assistant is explaining an experiment they’ve been performing training a rat to follow a red line through a maze. In the very next scene, Columbo steps into the office to see the Doctor, and is directed to “follow the blue line”, and we see that the entire office is built like a rat maze with a confusing mess of colored lines in the carpet.

  4. In like flint?

    This episode is very watchable, touching base
    with some Columbo tropes, – a cool, clever villain,
    an unforeseen howcatchem – with some very big

    The terrifying dive death (looking like 10 stories,
    but supposedly only 5). One helluva Gotcha,
    with a lesson from the Lieutenant on how to turn a
    blind man into an eyewitness! (If he has a twin).

    Missing however is a planned murder from the
    get go, which usually drives the plot of unravelling
    the murderer’s alibi. Instead, here the cover-up
    killing is the planned one, and so well executed,
    although debatable, even Columbo is unable to
    prove it.

    The plot also hangs too much on unlikely clues,
    spotting a flint in a shaggy carpet, when a burned
    match would have done, for instance. Though I
    understand why the villain relied on his patient’s
    alibi, preferring to stay out of the first crime scene.
    A very short-sighted remedy!

    Through it all, somehow lacking the inspiration
    that would merit a higher rating.

    Rating: 8/10

  5. Not a fan of this one at all. The initial death is a more-or-less justified act of defence, making the subsequent lazy and uninspired coverup unnecessary. It makes the entire set-up both boring and unbelievable. An astoundingly difficult combo to achieve! This also means so much time is spent (the entire first half) having Columbo find and investigate dull clues.

    An obvious pleasure of the show is having these elaborate and ingenious murders delicately unravelled by equally ingenious observations. The first death denies that pleasure and while the second murder is far more fulfilling (despite its implausibility) it leaves no time to savour Columbo’s efforts. Instead he immediately spots the (clever) inconsistencies and divines the wild truth in time to confront people with it in the next scene.

    Finally the gotcha. It makes for good television, but having Columbo pull a look-a-like sibling out of his arse for the big reveal is just too contrived for me. And as others have pointed out, Dr.Collier, having realised it were an obvious trap, just needed to keep his mouth shut. Why say the man is blind? Even if you can use the excuse of your medical expertise, that’s a needlessly risky piece of information to admit to knowing. I swear Columbo villains all reach a point where they stop pretending they didn’t do it and instead fall back on just smugly asking Columbo for his proof. I don’t mind that from a character development perspective but if that attitude in and of itself causes the villain to incriminate themselves I can’t help but roll my eyes at their stupidity.

    However, I’m surprised in the review there isn’t much talk of my favourite scene, the dinner party. Collier forces Columbo to join his tipsy friends to stall him from his official business. As, while Columbo now surely intends to become more frank with his questioning, he still wouldn’t want to cause the upset of breaking up the party. However, by deploying even more of his signature tact than usual, Columbo still manages to deliver report of his evidence and suggestive accusations by proxy through the oblivious guests. All the while Collier is required to find a way to finish what he started by pulling the trigger on a most devious and callous murder, as Columbo is in the very same room. Showing his true colours, I think it’s the villain’s defining moment.

  6. I enjoyed this episode. But I have trouble with the scream Nadia let’s out when she dives off the balcony. I never screamed diving into the pool & if she’s really hypnotized she wouldn’t scream. I don’t see her all of a sudden realizing she’s diving off a balcony.

    The flint is troubling, too. An army of house cleaners could have missed something that tiny that while vacuuming.

    And, of course, there would have been blue paint where Collier’s car hit as he was leaving the house. Unless he’d had his car painted a different color in the interim, that could have helped place him at the house.

  7. “There’s not much mirth in this outing compared to those, although Chuck Whelan’s robust response of “Sorry, I don’t have a Willie!” while referencing the name of one of Dr Borden’s lab rats raises unintentional titters – for the low-brow British viewers at least!” Not sure I would call myself completely lowbrow, but I am a British viewer who did laugh a lot at that line. There have been references before about Carry On films and the fact that there are some shared actors. Maybe this was a shout out to them, in the era when Carry On was quite popular in the UK

  8. I absolutely adore Lesley Ann Warren… when she’s doing comedy. She was fantastic in Clue and Will & Grace, and her scene-stealing role in Victor/Victoria is one for the ages. She gets to be playful and vulnerable, and you just want to hug her and tell her how wonderful she is.

    Whenever I’ve seen her in a dramatic role, though, she’s always seems so over the top. There’s no nuance. It’s all whining and mewling and pouting, and she usually comes across as orgasmic rather than full of anguish and desperation. That’s the read I got from her in this episode, too.

    • Incidentally, she was billed
      here as “Lesley Warren”,
      and in with the pack of supporting players,
      not as a special guest star, showing that
      she was not yet a brand name.

  9. Pingback: Five best moments in A Deadly State of Mind | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  10. This is the worse type of episode endings IMO… And I guess – for any realistically thinking person. I get when Columbo is playing stupid, and on the edge of legality to prove something. But this is intentionally forcing a citizen to lie, and play a show. No respectable law officer would do that.

    And with what purpose exactly? First, it proves close to nothing. Collier could say – I have not seen this guy before, he even looked to have sight issues to me. It was just a guess of mine. And Columbo must testify in the court, that this was really just staged and he instructed a person to lie in particular way in order to fool Collier… Well Collier was really fooled, but was this in a way that proves anything?…

    But here is the deal, the even bigger problem – Collier doesn’t need to say anything! He knew the guy is blind, so this will not even enter the court. Columbo will never start a case with such obvious fakery. Even if we suppose this guy is ready to lie in court… how exactly he will reach it :)… If he was really blind, this will become immediately obvious.

    Ok, suppose now the guy could really see – this would be again a reason to shut up and talk to your lawyer. In this case Collier should assume Columbo has real evidence, and anything that he says, can only discriminate him. Collier is a doctor, so supposedly – not a total idiot.

    So, to ask again why would a detective with half a brain stage this shady show in the first place? It was really a lazy work.

    • It would stand up.
      Collier has identified
      a man as being blind, when he has
      no reason to believe so. Thus putting
      himself as the eyewitness to the blind
      man at the scene of the crime.

  11. Overall I enjoyed the episode, except for the annoying Nadia. Is it my imagination or was there an intentional irony in having Columbo follow the blue line in the hospital to find Dr Collier right after scene where Collier is showing his publisher how he trains rats to follow a coloured route?

  12. “There is no way in the world that you could have assumed that this man was blind unless you had seen this man that day,”

    Except the man was clearly coached to act as if he were blind, complete with slow, delibrate walking, and unfixing gaze, and sitting down as if he were counting the steps to the sofa. Any random person who saw that scene probably would have assumed he was blind too. This gotcha was an unfortunate dud that spoiled an otherwise entertaining episode for me.

    • Except that we are not
      a random person. We’ve
      seen him blind, so everything he does now,
      like fetching the matches from the ashtray,
      looks to us like he was coached. It’s all about
      what we expect, not what we actually see.

  13. Just realised that Nadia is a “daddy’s girl”, which explains why Karl is a lot older than her. She wants a father figure, rather than a husband, hence the string of young lovers. Only taken me best part of 50 years to work that out!

  14. If Dr. Collier hadn’t been blinded by his lust for Nadia, he would’ve very quickly deduced that Nadia could not be expected to be a convincing witness to an imaginary crime, and that she would have to be disposed of at some point. His willingness to sacrifice her life to protect his reputation is clearly shown later in the story, when he does murder her, with planning and intent. I would suggest that Dr. Collier should have killed her immediately at the crime scene, and attempted to make it look like domestic violence escalating to murder. After all, Nadia is a serial cheat, and every man has his breaking point. Perhaps Nadia’s current lover (which Dr. Collier would claim was someone else, as he would never be involved with a patient) was also involved in this love triangle turned violent. Perhaps Nadia reacted badly to her psychoactive drugs and had a fit of rage; perhaps her mental illness (vaguely defined) produced a psychotic break; perhaps she was triggered by something her lover or husband said or did and lashed out. I would have enjoyed watching Colombo having to sort through a myriad of possibilities and multiple suspects before finally settling on Dr. Collier.

    This would have avoided the highly implausible “death by hypnosis” scenario, which took me out of the fantasy, and made me say, “That couldn’t happen.” Unfortunately, from my point of view, it would have left the blind and sighted twins gotcha at the end. I know that one divides fans, but I never like the episodes where Colombo is dishonest, and tricks the murderer into revealing himself. I would have preferred matching the paint on the car to the paint on the post. Prosaic, I know. But honest, and real, physical evidence that would hold up in court.

    Altogether, this episode as it was produced is one of my least favorites in the lexicon. It also featured Colombo losing his cool in a very unprofessional way with Dr. Borden, when he was essentially asking her to violate her professional ethics and obligations. Sometimes Colombo goes too far in his crusade for justice. The ends do not always justify the means, although he often acts as if they do.

  15. This one’s on the less enjoyable side for me.

    For one thing, I’m conflicted about the villain. I like George Hamilton, and the initial murder was unintentional, so part of me is rooting for Dr. Collier to wriggle out of Columbo’s snares. On the other hand he’s unethical in his work and mean to Dr. Borden, and his murder of Nadia is brutal and totally merciless…so I hate Collier after all.

    In theory that’s good because it means I should enjoy it when he gets caught. But in practice Nadia’s death stays with me. Notice that even though she’s been hypnotised into believing she’s diving into water, she still screams before she hits the ground. That means she must have snapped out of it on the way down. She wasn’t even given the advantage of not knowing what was about to hit her.

    For another thing, as noted by Columbophile in the article and by the other commenters above, Nadia is an annoying character. That’s not Lesley Ann Warren’s fault; she’s lovely. I loved her as Miss Scarlet in “Clue” (1985). But Nadia is just so high-strung that it becomes stressful to watch the episode. Even the way she says the word “poker” bothers me! When I’m lying in bed listening to this episode, I sometimes hit the “skip forward thirty seconds” button a few times on my PVR remote as the fight between Dr. Collier and Karl Donner starts, because Nadia’s wailing is too nerve-wracking.

    Like all “Columbo” episodes there’s still something to enjoy. As a rule, any time when Columbo is around is generally fun. And Columbo’s crusty old Peugeot actually saves the day for once because it gives him the clue about the tires! The cut from Columbo struggling to follow the colour-coded lines on the floor to the rats navigating the maze is a cute touch. One of Collier’s party guests is played by Danny Wells, best-known to children of the 1980s like me as live-action Luigi from “The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!” (1989).

    I also love Collier’s peanut-butter brown leather coat! (See Columbophile’s “Phwooooar!” screen capture above.) 🙂

    Inspired by the discussion in this comments section, I asked my father, who used to work for the phone company, if they would have logged the numbers for local calls in the 1970s. He said they would not have. The only possible reason is if there were different calling areas in the same metro region. For example, in Greater Vancouver, in the 1970s, calling from Richmond (a suburb immediately south of Vancouver) to North Vancouver would have been charged as long-distance and in that case the number would have been logged.

    That being the case, I wonder why Collier bothered to actually call Charles Whelan. If he thought Columbo would have access to phone records, it would make sense—then he could prove that his call to Nadia was a “wrong number” by showing that he called the “right number” immediately afterwards. However, since there are no phone records, and Columbo was distracted by talking to Collier’s guests and wouldn’t have overheard either call, Collier could have saved himself the trouble and just called Nadia to give her the code word.

    Nadia’s back-story, as hinted at in the opening hypnosis session, reminds me of parts of “Single White Female” (1992), including jealousy about the dog and the accidental (?) drowning of a sister. Thankfully Nadia doesn’t have borderline personality disorder to add to her problems!

    We also have that meaning of “Willie” over her in North America! When I hear the line “Sorry, I don’t have a Willie,” I imagine Dr. Peter Venkman saying “Yes, it’s true…this man has no willy.” 🙂

    • I don’t think Collier actually calls Chuck after the “wrong number,” he just pretends to in order to justify the first call in front of Columbo. If you get a wrong number, generally you don’t give up on trying to reach the intended party. (In fact, with Nadia’s phone off the hook, I’m not sure Collier could even make another call. I seem to recall in the old landline days that when someone failed to hang up the phone properly, it clogged the line.)

      I liked that scene because it showed Collier thoroughness in avoiding a suspicious act at his “killing” moment. He even asks for Mr. Charles Whelan with the wrong number, then switches to “Chuck” when faking the follow-up call.

      I could be wrong, but think the Whelan boat outing was prearranged and that’s why he picked that name to trigger Nadia.

      • It may have been true at one time that a person could tie up your line by failing to hang up. But by the mid-70s the line would automatically disconnect if one party hangs up.

  16. The reason for me that this episode rates so low is because there was no need for the coverup to begin with. All George Hamilton’s character had to do was say he came over, found Karl beating his wife, and was forced to strike him, accidentally killing him. She corroborates the story, has bruises, and bang, case closed. The whole story is unnecessarily convoluted after that.

    • Certainly was a foolish decision. In his defence, Collier was focussed on his research book and knew that killing Karl would scupper that. His supreme ego forced him into a terrible decision.

    • True, by today’s standards that falls under self defense. But I guess 70s husbands were prone to striking their wives without serious threat of retaliation.

      • Collier might have gotten away with killing Carl, because he really was trying to save Nadia from a beating and did not intend to kill Carl.

        That could conceivably have aroused public sympathy, and even helped sales of the book.

        But, Columbo might have asked just what caused the beating, and if it had come out that Collier was having an affair with Nadia, surely he would have been struck off the medical register, thus ending his career?

        We know that he likes being a doctor, if only because of the lighter he treasures, given to him by his sister when he qualified.

  17. This killer walks, no doubt. Episode ending has a big flaw. It’s one of the least credible and most flawed Columbo episodes for me.

  18. Just watched this one on MeTV. It is a pretty good episode overall, and the gotcha was indeed fabulous. A couple of thoughts…
    (1) Dr. Collier didn’t really have a choice to use Nadia in his cover-up, uh, she was there! The only alternative, and he wasn’t thinking fast enough for it to occur to him, would be to hustle her out of there and have her claim Carl went to the beach house alone, dealt with the intruders alone, was killed alone…
    (2) I know CP likes the Columbo-goes-off-on-someone scenes, but I myself get uncomfortable when he asks people to violate their professional ethics to help his investigation. Like the Val Avery PI character in “The Most Crucial Game”, and Dr. Borden here. She shouldn’t and CAN’T discuss a patient’s medication, especially someone else’s patient. Would you want your doctor blabbing about your medical history, even as part of a murder investigation? Come on, Lieutenant, you have rules you have to work within, just like everyone else.

  19. Columbo is NEVER inconsistent about phone call records. At that time, non-toll local calling in the US produced no logging and therefore no record of any call. Toll calls required logging for billing purposes because the telco has to know whom to charge. Columbo knows it. The viewers in 1974 knew it. In this episode, the officer who hung up the receiver in Lesley Warren’s apartment told Columbo that it was making “that sound”, which means the call was already disconnected, and therefore untraceable as a live call. So no, no one mishandled evidence around the phone call. Whenever Columbo is able to access a relevant phone call record, it is always contextually clear from the story that the two endpoints of the call were a long distance away, and therefore likely a toll call. Beginning in the early 80s, electromechanical switches began to be widely replaced by digital switches, and as that change occurred, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, county by county, in the US it became possible to log every local call. By 1990 or so, that transition was complete.

  20. To met the ending felt unimpressive. What can Columbo actually prove beyond reasonable doubt? That Collier was at the house only, not that he did it. He can’t even prove that Colier was at the house at the time of the crime, Collier could claim the Donners had a fight after he left, and that is when Mr Donner got killed, or that Nadia’s hired hitman arrived then.

    Don’t know, how the initial killing would be viewed legally at the time, but certainly I think Collier covering things up is understandable. He knows he is not supposed to have an affair with a patient (a married patient at that) and that his medical treatment of Nadia is improper anyway. His career would not survive an investigation into that, even disregarding what the courts say about him escalating a fight to kill a man.

    • All Columbo has to do is prove motive, method and opportunity, and he completely succeeds in doing so. It’s up to the lawyers to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. I’d say there’s a good chance Collier would be convicted.

      • Except, and maybe I missed this, does Columbo actually ever learn Collier’s motive? The only people who know about his affair with Nadia are dead. Or are we to assume Dr. Borden was aware and spilled the beans?

    • Columbo is brilliant and he pieces together the clues like no one else. But by modern standards the forensic evidence in all his cases are weak. At best they are enough for a warrant to detain the suspect and search their home. Rarely does he have physical evidence that places the murderer at the scene of the crime. More often it’s just a tiny piece of information is revealed that only the killer would know. That type testimony is probably not going to hold up in court. But that’s not what Columbo is about. It would be interested to see the court cases in a part 2 episode but through 4 seasons I haven’t seen that yet.

  21. Actually a terrific episode and one that in the outset would seem impossible to prove. In effect: to prove the motivation for a suicide victim. So many classic details in this episode. Clever acting. And Columbo gets mad again. “I’m asking you about a Murder!” Oh. Best part of the episode is EASILY GH’s Murder suit.

  22. I must ask my fellow Columbophiles a question that may sound stupid so let me explain.

    During the diving sequence, in which poor Nadia Donner is done in, the audience only sees things through her POV — plus the fact that on TV all the old episodes of old shows have been re-edited/trimmed to within the literal inch of their proverbial lives — I wonder how Dr. Collier knew the dive would be fatal. Nadia’s luxury apartment was only five floors up and apparently directly above the pool. Was the pool full (as the audience sees through Nadia’s seriously distorted and drugged POV) or was it empty.

    I know L.A. is warm year-round but this takes place in the dead of winter (established in the beginning of the episode as the reason for Collier and Nadia for selecting the beach property which is largely abandoned that time of the year for their ill-fated tryst) and maybe it had been emptied. The pool is never seen before her fatal dive nor much after, and I know for a fact that these episodes have been re-edited and a lot of filler removed, at least on COZI TV. If the pool had been full she might have landed in it and survived as it seemed to be directly below her balcony (as I pointed out) and the splash would likely have immediately brought her out of her trance.

    Anyway — anybody have any ideas. Sorry for this drawn out and likely silly question.

    • I’m pretty sure there’s water in the pool.

      I’m guessing the reason Collier thought she wouldn’t land in the pool is the same reason she didn’t land in the pool, namely that her balcony wasn’t directly above the pool. Based on the position of the body on the ground, she was at least ten feet away.

    • The only one I can recall landing in a pool from a balcony was Plenty O’Toole (when she was thrown off) in Diamonds are Forever.

      “I didn’t know there was a pool down there.”

    • No one in California empties their pool in the “winter”. Point being in winter the weather still gets into the 80s during the day. That being said a fall from a 5 story balcony into a pool would still be fatal for anyone in a hypnotic state.

  23. Karl Donner, who evidently specialized in playing dislikable characters, was played by Stephen Elliott, the same actor who played Burt Johnson, the borderline psychotic self-made tycoon and wannabe future father-in-law of Arthur Bach (Dudley Moore) in the film “Arthur”. Johnson is last seen seriously menacing stars Arthur and his true love (the waitress played by Liza Minnelli) until the always luminous Geraldine Fitzgerald, who played Arthur’s affectionate but domineering and iron-willed grandmother, slaps some sense into him.

  24. I like A deadly state of mind but its not near my top 10, its very middle of the road For me ,
    I Actually prefer Hamilton’s new episode caution ! Murderer can be hazardous to your health over this ( along with a good few other columbo fans )

    • Well my local TV outlet just ran two episodes in a row; so I had the chance to compare “Playback” with “A Deadly State of Mind”. I have to acknowledge that I never cared all that much for George Hamilton, main squeeze of our former president Lyndon Johnson’s daughter Lynda Byrd for a period, (although Columbophile has found a particularly fetching photo of Mr.Hamilton) he’s harmless enough to me. Perhaps partially because he doesn’t “do much” for me, I definitely found “Playback” more entertaining. For the first time, I would part ways with Columbophile and reverse the order in his listing of these two episodes.

      • I d prefer playback to A deadly state of mind , Neither episode were among the very best but They both had great gotchas but ive never liked A deadly state of mind that much the first murder was manslaughter , Nadia Donner was extremely annoying compared with Elizabeth Von wicks character which was much more enjoyable , The second murder in A deadly state was unconvincing and I find playback ticks along better and has more satisfying clues .
        I also along with other prefer Hamilton s new episode Caution murder can be hazardous to your health than a Deadly State

  25. How do you not have a photo the hospital receptionist who tells him to follow the ‘Blue’ line? She was stunningly and flawlessly beautiful!!!! Found her on IMDB, her name is Kathy Speirs – a former model and actress.

    Also, why are all (or most) of the women who work in the hospital blondes? Interesting. And why are the hallways mostly empty except for anyone he interacts with? Interesting, part 2.

    Anyway, a great episode, but I agree — it is interesting and foolish he puts his freedom in the hands of someone with psych problems. But again, that is how people who perceive themselves a genius to be. Think they’re smarter than everyone else and can manipulate and exploit others to their advantage. Ego is a powerful thing.

  26. I love the Columbo tv series, but this ending is very flawed. The supposed witness acted like a blind man pretending that he could see, and purposely not doing a very good job at it. Anyone would have assumed that the man was blind, like I did when I first saw this episode years ago. The only thing that the suspect was guilty of was assuming that if something looks and acts like a duck, then it’s a duck.

    • I respectfully disagree. While certainly flawed, the irony of a reverse witness is classic Columbo. I get even more enjoyment from it when I think back to GH fleeing the scene, but hitting the post while averting the blind man (had he instead hit and killed him, GH would have been the first triple-murderer on the show!) and ruining that beautiful car. “Oh damn, a witness! Oh wait! He’s blind! It’s my lucky day (despite it also being a day on which I became a murderer.)”

    • Actually, I thought the ”acting like a blind man” business, while a little heavy-handed, was OK. Remember, if the suspect had indeed been innocent, the notion that the witness was blind would have been a bit of a wild leap of supposition.
      No, what bothers me is why we needed the improbable McGuffin of the blind witness having what amounted to a sighted twin brother.
      Gosh, that was lucky, wasn’t it?
      Surely, Columbo could have got the same result using anybody of the witness’s general description, without us being subjected to the contrivance of convenient twin.
      That said, on first viewing, I probably jumped out of my seat and shouted ”Yes”, along with everyone else.

    • If the sighted brother was called as a wtiness. I thnl he wuld have been obliged to admit that he had been coached to act as if he was his blind brother. That would have knocked a hole in the case – but, Columbo has the flint, the tyre track (and, if he wants it, the dent in the car where it hit the gatepost). I think he has enough.

    • Thing is – we all know the actual witness is blind. But, really, is there enough there for a casual observer to conclude that the brother is blind?

      If you meet a random witness, are you going to say “That’s a blind man pretending to have vision!” I mean, it’s kind of a ludicrous thing to think. No actual trial could depend on the testimony of a blind man. And, in spite of the unnatural path the brother took to the chair, he did offer a match to Columbo and was capable of seeing everybody.

      It’s enough to disrupt Collier’s arrogance, and that’s the real key. How is Collier going to explain to a jury that he thought a sighted man was actually blind?

      Put together with the evidence from the lighter and the tire tracks, as well as the other circumstantial evidence, it’s a pretty strong case.

  27. >> He didn’t seem to know her well enough to realise that asking her to spin a cock-and-bull yarn to police officers, while under extreme pressure, was a bad idea.<<
    Was it? Didn't Collier know right away that having a fragile soul such as Nadia's as an accomplice would always be a threat for him? I think he planned to suicide her already while thinking about his cover up story after Karl's death. Columbo's scepticism fitted into his plan, because in the end Columbo is supposed to believe that Nadia was the murderess and couldn't cope with her deed, so she jumped from the balcony.

  28. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Fade in to Murder | The Columbophile

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  31. This Is How I overall rate Season 4

    1) Negative Reaction
    2) Troubled waters
    3) Playback
    4) By dawns early light
    5) A deadly state of mind
    6) An exercise in fatality

    In conclusion a very strong season Negative reaction comfortably the best episode
    Im not a big fan of this one A D S O M , ill even go as far as to say i rather Hamiltons new episode Murder can be hazardous to your health which i enjoy more , however its still twice as good as an exercise in fatality which i am not a fan of except. for the gotcha


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