Episode highlights / Opinion / Season 3

5 best moments from Candidate for Crime

Nelson Hayward
Cool as a camel hair jacket? It’s ‘His Own Man’ Nelson Hayward

Candidate for Crime is almost a brilliant Columbo episode, but is let down more than most by the padding required to take it to a 90-minute running time.

Nevertheless, it has a number of terrific scenes and a liberal sprinkling of humour that still ensures it’s a treat to watch time and again. And it must be said that Jackie Cooper is rather excellent as the stereotypically wicked politician, Nelson Hayward, who bumps off his man-ape campaign manager Harry Stone. So plenty to enjoy, but what are Candidate for Crime‘s very best moments? Let’s take a closer look…

5. The inattentive officer

Columbo Candidate for Crime
Dumb and dumber: neither cop has a clue what’s going on

Arriving late at the scene of Harry Stone’s death, Columbo walks in in the midst of a fellow detective’s spiel about what they’ve found. Reprimanded by his superior officer for being late, and told to stay put for an update, the Lieutenant seeks the inside line from a uniformed officer who had been standing by throughout.

“What was he talking about?” Columbo asks. “Who?” is the less-than-satisfactory reply. “That detective who was just here,” continues Columbo. “I don’t know. I wasn’t listening,” his colleague vacantly deadpans back.

A short scene, and one of little consequence to the overall episode, but it’s the sort of aside Columbo as a show does so well, adding both levity and genuine humanity to proceedings. It doesn’t, however, portray the LAPD as the sharpest tools in the box, which conveniently brings us to…

4. Vernon’s boundless bungling

Columbo Sergeant Vernon
Vernon, you KNUCKLEHEAD!

Not a scene as much as a humorous thread, Hayward’s personal police escort Sergeant Vernon endures a saga of woe throughout the episode that really tickles the ribs – or my ribs at least.

First, the affable fella is totally duped by Hayward as the scheming politician sends him off to buy some cigars when he’s duty bound to remain at his post. This lapse allows a disguised Harry Stone to drive away in Hayward’s car, allowing the real Hayward to escape undetected to his rendezvous with murder.

“Sergeant Vernon endures a saga of woe throughout the episode that really tickles the ribs.”

Although he somehow avoids being thrown off the case, Vernon’s travails continue. His next major gaffe is when he picks up Hayward’s gun-laden jacket in the hotel suite, only to hang it up rather than notice the weapon and bust the plotting politician for carrying an undisclosed firearm.

Little wonder, perhaps, that Hayward had the confidence to attempt his audacious final stunt, which included setting off an instantly-findable firecracker on his suite balcony. True to form, when Vernon lollops in and gives the balcony a cursory once over, he completely fails to see the firecracker debris, simply mourning that Hayward’s fictitious assassin ‘must have been a human fly’.

Fortunately for the LAPD, Vernon was subsequently transferred to the Keystone Cops where I’m happy to report he excelled.

3. The birthday surprise

Columbo candidate for Crime Vicki Hayward
From certain death to howls of joy! Vicki Hayward’s birthday surprise

Fresh from the slaying of his brutish campaign manager, Harry Stone, Nelson Hayward returns to his actual home and meets with a shadowy figure in the darkness of the night-time garden, to whom he gives a key.

We then cut inside to Hayward’s wife, Vicki, who is drinking alone (and braless) in the palatial living room. When she slips out to pour herself another enormous scotch, Hayward slips in, dims the lights and hides out of sight. As she nervously re-enters, Hayward sneaks up behind her, arms outstretched. Surely we’re about to witness a second, thrilling murder in the space of moments?

No! In a classic bait-and-switch, Nelson places his hands over Vicki’s eyes and yells ‘surprise’ as the lights go up and the room fills with birthday well-wishers, let in by the shadowy accomplice. Vicki, as well as the viewers, can breathe a big sigh of relief as the tension melts away into joy. It’s very nicely done.

2. Chez Chadwick

Columbo Candidate for Crime Vito Scotti
The pout says it all!

In his second of his six guest star appearances, Vito Scotti delights once more in the role of Hayward’s snooty tailor, Mr Chadwick.

Scotti is on vintage form and it’s a blast to watch his reaction to the shabby detective, which is just on the polite side of disdain as he attempts to help Columbo find a jacket for an impending bowling league dinner dance – ultimately being unable to help due to the quick turnaround time required.

The humour of the scene works perfectly, but it also has a pay-off in that Columbo learns just how far in advance Hayward had to order his own replacement jacket for the one Stone was killed in (10 days). While not conclusive, the revelation is a key element in Columbo’s strengthening case against the crooked candidate.

1. Hayward’s bubble bursts

Columbo Candidate for Crime gotcha
Won’t these duplicitous politicians ever learn?

While pretending to make private phone calls in his office at campaign HQ, Hayward fires a silenced gun through his balcony window into a wall behind his desk. He then has the gun smuggled out by unwitting accomplice (and lover) Linda and merrily trots off to vote with Mrs Hayward.

Upon his return, he sidles into his private suits again and sets off a firecracker on the balcony to masquerade as a gunshot. Cue pandemonium as Hayward’s entourage bursts in to find him shaken and claiming to have barely escaped being slain by a gun-wielding thug on his balcony, who has, suspiciously, immediately disappeared without trace.

“The masterful take down proves to be one of the most satisfying and memorable Columbo gotchas of all.”

Columbo enters, stating that the gunman is in the room. In fact it’s Hayward himself, he says. Hayward loses it, challenging the Lieutenant to pluck the bullet from the wall and run it through ballistics to prove it’s a match for the gun that killed Harry. There’s no gun in the room, so that proves Hayward didn’t kill Harry, doesn’t it?

No, sir, says Columbo. You see, he already dug the bullet out of the wall just after Hayward went to vote. He knew Hayward wasn’t making calls from his office because he was monitoring the indicator lights on the phone lines (only in the 70s). And Columbo busts Hayward’s bluster in unforgettable fashion: “I dug this bullet out of that wall three hours before you said that somebody fired it at you three minutes ago [immense pause for effect]. You’re under arrest, sir.”

The masterful take down proves to be one of the most satisfying and memorable Columbo gotchas of all. Indeed, I’d rate this second only to Suitable for Framing in the list of great gotchas. And that’s high praise indeed. Revisit the brilliance below…

And one to forget…

In a new addition to these articles (as suggested by regular reader Peter Q) I’ll also highlight one lowlight or gaffe per episode. Here I consider the thorny issue of phone records, and their inconsistent application.

Columbo admits he checked the phone records of Nelson’s beach house to confirm the call to the police alerting them of the ‘assassination’ of Hayward didn’t come from there. So why didn’t he check the records from Hayward’s regular home, where his prime suspect was known to be at the time the call was made? That could’ve tied up the case there and then. 

Candidate for Crime Nelson Hayward
Evidently Sergeant Vernon was entrusted with checking the phone records…

Use of phone records has been inconsistently applied throughout the series (inconclusive in Most Crucial Game while damning in Double Shock), but inconsistency in the same episode is a bit much. I can’t help but wonder if too many cooks were involved here. Candidate has five credited story contributors and it feels like they may have unwittingly tied each other up in knots – doubtless as a result of having to extend scenes or add new ones at short notice to bump up the episode running time. This example is a pretty major oversight. Bah humbug!

“The masterful take down proves to be one of the most satisfying and memorable Columbo gotchas of all.”

That’s a wrap, gang! As always I’d love to hear your own personal episode highlights from this one, as there were several other scenes close to being included.

And of course, if you want to gen up on this episode in more detail read my full-length review right here!

You can also read up on where the Hayward Case ranks in the list of Columbo’s highest profile arrests here.

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Candidate for Crime Nelson Hayward
Why I oughtta…
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53 thoughts on “5 best moments from Candidate for Crime

  1. I love this episode, but I still don’t follow Hayward’s motives for killing Stone. Was it just because he didn’t want to end his extra marital relationship?

    • Like most Colombo episodes, I wonder where you can get things like, in this particular episode, the “Hayward his own man” litho, or a repop of Colombo’s Cali blue and yellow plate 044 APD, a box of … well, these aren’t that great… cigars, and most of all… a picture of mrs Columbo!!?? I can only imagine she has a bit of Julia Childs in her, but who knows. As much as I like Jackie cooper as Nelson Hayward, I can’t believe Peg Bundy (Katey Sagal) was that … Effin hot, WHEN I WAS ONE YEAR OLD!!

  2. I agree with Pennalady that in the 70s there would be no phone company record of a local direct dialed call to LAPD from the murderer’s LA residence -it would be normal for the beach house to be in a town outside the local LA calling area, even if in the same area code, therefore long distance, so records were kept for billing and thus could be checked. To us back then, this was a “given” and normal; why would police check for a local call to/from a local number? Once ended, such a call was untraceable, as if it had never happened. These were all land lines (no other kind in those days as far as I know), probably hard wired to boot. Your monthly phone service typically included an unlimited number and duration of local calls; long distance was charged by the minute. To make a local call, you dialed only the 7-digit phone number; local long distance (outside your local call area but still within your area code), you dialed 1 then the phone number; for any other long distance you dialed 1, the area code and phone number. And still mostly using a rotary dial phone in the 70s, since push buttons were far from common, much less universal. You could also call the operator (dial 0) and she (yes, mostly females in that position) could dial a call for you (the opposite of direct dial) but there would be a record of this, since there was usually a charge, even for a local operator-dialed/assisted call.
    Multi-line phones, with 2 or more phone numbers on the same phone set, were common in businesses, including hotels, and you accessed the different lines (to make or receive calls) by pushing the correct button along the bottom edge of the phone, and dialed using the key pad (push buttons) or even a rotary dial. The button for a line in use would light up as soon as you pushed it and lifted the receiver, even if you never dialed a number (I think). A hotel private phone switching system would keep track of any call made, even from a single line room phone, because in those days they charged for any calls made, local or otherwise. A multi-line push button phone, as well as other phone equipment and features which are now obsolete, were used in the episode with Robert Conrad as the murderer, Episode in Fatality. His multi-line home phones were trappings of his tech saavy and wealth in those days; although the wealthy often had several home phone numbers, they were usually separately wired (children’s phone number only on their bedroom phones, business phone number only in the private study or office). Telephones figure significantly or prominently in many Columbo episodes, in ways which now would be impossible to duplicate. Ransom for a Dead Man comes to mind, offhand.
    I also agree with Mr. Steve who liked the poolside scene between Columbo and the wife…touching yet pathetic how afterward she went running back to her husband to warn him, yet still trusting in him…and of course, the inimitable Vito Scotti in yet another great scene.

  3. This comment really belongs on the episode review, but I’m putting it on the newer post anyway. I don’t think that Hayward’s primary motivation for Stone’s murder was to keep hopping in the sack with Linda. I think that when Stone showed that he was willing to blackmail Hayward, Hayward realized that he would essentially be at Stone’s mercy throughout his entire career. This would be an unacceptable position for someone as cunning and ruthless as Hayward, which is why he murdered Stone.

    • Heidi, excellent point, totally agree. Stone was a liability because he not only knew too much, he was probably planning on blackmail even if Hayward broke with the girlfriend.

  4. 6. The appearance of a very young Katey Sagal, Boris’s daughter.

    This was a good episode but the motive seemed shaky. Jackie Cooper kills his campaign manager because…the campaign manager wanted him to break it off with his mistress? Really?

  5. In selecting your No. 1 moment from “Candidate for Crime,” you say: “The masterful take down proves to be one of the most satisfying and memorable Columbo gotchas of all.” I would only add my view on why this is true.

    The best Columbo gotchas aren’t tack-ons; rather, they are thoroughly interwoven into the heart of the episode. Little is interwoven into “Candidate for Crime” more than the Stone-Hayward campaign strategy that Haywood is the courageous victim of death threats. That’s how he hopes to win the election. That’s why Columbo is on the scene. That’s the apparent explanation for why Stone was gunned down. And that’s the core of the episode’s gotcha — a further phony assassination attempt that Columbo exposes for the fraud that it is.

    The meshing of the episode’s premise, its ongoing story, and the ultimate solution makes for an extremely satisfying ending.

  6. Great to know Last salute up before end of July , Great post and nice filler , I do enjoy the 5 best moments very much although I will say in all honesty and very respectfully that Candidate for crime is Not one of my favorite episodes. mainly the padding spoils it for me while some people enjoy these scenes , I find this episode a bit boring and a bit overrun with politicians and I dont find any of the scenes particularly funny mainly these ones

    The interview in haywards office goes on forever , The questioning at haywards home drags , I like the outdoor shots at the swimming pool which should be noted the episode has more outdoor scenes than most which is refreshing and adds credibility but also drags and Columbo s car being inspected by the cops is a bit silly and I dont really find it funny.
    However the Vito scotti scene as always is enjoyable and I do love the last 10 or 15 minutes and has one of the best gotchas in the whole series ,
    so to sum it up I dont dislike Candidate for crime it just lingers somewhere between 25th and 35th in my overall standings.

  7. Columbophile,
    Thanks for the honor of the shout-out in your blog post, I have already had the chance to brag to several people.

    There is no way that cheapskate Columbo was ever going through with an order for a new jacket at those prices; he must have either suspected his fictitious bowling timeframe would prove to be too short or he had another excuse for not ordering hidden up the sleeve of his raincoat.

  8. Couldn’t agree more with your 5 best moments, and a joy to read them. I think Candidate for Crime is a truly brilliant episode! And this is purely guesswork, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the inspiration for one of the best 90’s episodes, Agenda for Murder.

    • I think you’re right. Agenda seems like it was the natural progression of the idea to make the setting bigger and more audacious. And, yes, Agenda is a really good episode.

      • Do you think more episodes of the 90’s were inspired by any predecessors of the 70’s? If not, some were still linked by their settings and theme’s, I think. Like By Dawn’s Early Lights and Grand Deceptions; Now You See Him and Columbo goes to the Guillotine; maybe even Make Me a Perfect Murder and Sex and the Married Detective (a woman taking revenge on the lover that betrayed her). Could this be something for a future article? Or is the idea too far fetched?

        • I’m glad you brought this up. I was watching Lovely But Lethal yesterday, and it involves one of the victims with a really bad smoking habit that gets taken down by a poisoned cigarette. Same goes for Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health where the victim who also has a terrible habit gets taken down by a poisoned cigarette. Coincidence or inspired by? Also again with By Dawn’s Early Light, Patrick McGoohan is seen putting together his murder accessories if you will at a table, and he is again in Agenda For Murder doing the same thing. I’d love to see an article on this too.

        • Compare the murder method in 1993’s “It’s All in the Game” with 1971’s “Suitable for Framing.” An electric blanket is used in both cases to keep the body warm to disguise the time of death. In both, an accomplice waits until an unimpeachable witness is within earshot, and then fires in the air to establish a phony time for the murder — a time when the real killer has an unshakable alibi. Coincidence? Hardly. The writer of “It’s All in the Game” knew “Suitable for Framing” rather well. That writer was Peter Falk.

          • Good one! And I think Tara’s examples are spot on as well. Surely the Agenda scene must have been a deliberate reference to By Dawn’s Early Light.

            • There may well be mileage in such an article if I can cook up a few more examples. Just finishing the review of Last Salute now and it’s noticeable that three key plot devices from previous episodes are re-used here so it wouldn’t surprise me to see more than a few riffs on the classic episodes in the 80s/90s episodes. Problem for me is that I’ve deliberately not watched any of the new episodes since I launched the blog in 2015 so I can revisit them with fresh eyes when I come to review them.

              • I understand, about not having watched the 90’s episodes lately, I’d have done the same in your place. But there’s no rush, it would seem only logical not to write such an article until after you’ve reviewed ALL episodes. Which will take a while, I know.
                Looking forward to the Last Salute review, by the way, even though reading a bad review of a Columbo episode tends to depress me… but in this case I’ll probably find myself in complete agreement with your analysis, since I you don’t like that one anymore than I do.

              • What a thought-provoking post. “Three key plot devices” in Last Salute “from previous episodes”? The one that immediately came to mind was framing a primary heir so that a secondary heir could inherit (“Suitable for Framing”). I struggled to find two more. My guesses are: staging a scene to make the victim appear alive after his murder (“Exercise in Fatality”); and trying to make a blunt-force murder look like a drowning (“Murder by the Book”). I’m anxious to read your analysis, CP.

                • Actually I hadn’t even thought about the primary / secondary heir aspect, which is totally valid to include. The three I’d identified were all different to those you reference here, but it’s telling that 3 out of the 4 I’ve included in final version are lifts from other episodes written by Jackson Gillis.

  9. Love the episode, and moments described. Agree about Columbo’s scene with the little cars, and more than that– this may be the most beautifully endless of all the “one more moment” scenes. Hayward’s practically jumping out his skin by the time Columbo goes to get the jacket. Then he has to turn around and be The Affable Politician. And dumb about the engine temperature question. (Oops– “thank you very much”, for an answer to a very Police Question, will receive special attention.)

    – “Not undercover, just underpaid.”
    – The whole collection of scenes around the Pool Shoot. Hayward foolishly pokes at the Lt, and Columbo just lets him go until he blows up Hayward’s alibi– and we get to see him flounder like Wile E Coyote, opening his little parasol before dropping 300 feet. I don’t think I ever saw Columbo look as hard as he does when he goes after Hayward with that box. No more fooling around.

    Love your take on the estimable Grover. (And don’t forget how he dragged his heels when Wilson wanted to get into those shoe trees!) Robert Karnes– lots of work in 60’s TV and movies. If they needed a deputy sheriff on Sea Hunt, he was the guy.

    Can I just say something about Boris Sagal, the director? I really appreciate how he was able to work around some budget and technical limitations on this episode. (Jackie Cooper’s salary was probably part of that.) First of all, those were the days when filming a TV set would get you a lot of snow and glare, and not much picture. He had to matte in the TV stuff and it’s a little sloppy but, for a TV episode, you get it done. Same for The Balcony Backdrop.

    Yes, The Balcony Backdrop. From the murder of the hapless Carol Flemming in the very first pilot, to the street outside Kay Freestone’s office in Make Me a Perfect Murder. Those apartments, cracked sky and all, outside the hotel room, making one of their half-dozen or so appearances in the series. A budget thing– “we have this backdrop, and next week it’s on McMillan!”– but also a bit of old-timey TV.

    • “Grover”. Yes, Vernon Grover, LAPD, assigned to the Bungling detail.

      Also, it’s “One more question”, not “One more moment.” So, to make up for the faux pas, here’s some info on how Columbo closes out the scene: Shakes Hayward’s hand, says “I’ve taken up enough of your time”, then spends over 4 minutes to get out of there. He might be going at 2 and a half minutes, but remembers to ask about the coat. 4m, 17s for Hayward to close the door on him. This might be the record.

      • I like to think that Grover changed his name to Vernon in an attempt to put his Greenhouse Jungle bungling behind him – a task he thoroughly failed at.

        • Sergeant Burke was also a memorable character , I remember him most from my own favorite try and catch me , he was also briefly in make me a perfect murder a year later and there was a sergent Burke in The Bye -Bye – Sky high IQ murder although he seems to have a completely different appearance , IE as a slim blonde German looking chap instead of a bald american looking bloke with a brown mustache , my dad says he was also in lovely but lethal but i cant remember as its a while since i seen it , if he was in any more please fill us in columbophuile.

          • The moustached Burke was, I believe, also in Forgotten Lady where he takes Columbo’s gun test? I don’t think he was in Lovely but Lethal. The other Sergeant Burke (actor Todd Martin) was also in Murder Under Glass as well as Bye-Bye Sky High.

            • Thank You for Clearing that Up columbophile , I will have to re watch forgotten lady , I had forgotten the blonde Burke was in Murder Under Glass but i Remember Now

    • Just love the expression on Haywards face when he knows its all over brilliant,?!..Also suitable for framing when Columbo finally had Dale Kingston.. Kingstons face was a picture.. Could watch Columbo all day.

  10. I enjoy the scene where Hayward is trying so very hard to convince Columbo that the shooter couldn’t have known that he killed Stone. “Gee,” our Lieutenant said, “I thought you would have been relieved!”

  11. Joanne Linville seen braless, this from the femme fatale Romulan Commander in STAR TREK’s “The Enterprise Incident.” All I can say is va va voom!

    • I don’t much care (or at all care) about the braless part but she looked amazing in those William Ware Theiss Trek outfits. The strapless black-and-white and sensational mini were among the best WWT designs seen in the series, among many beauties. Anyway they’re my all-time favorites.

  12. A perfectly good list, can’t argue with any choices.

    My Honorable Mention would be Columbo in Heyward’s campaign office using the car models and a marker to explain his problem with the available light from the car headlights given that the street light was out, and the angle of the shooting. He very carefully constructs an argument that there’s a lot more to this shooting than a simple case of mistaken identity and leaves Heyward squirming big time by the time Columbo is finished.

    My second Honarable Mention is when Columbo explains to Heyward that the phone call to the police could not have come from the nearby gas station as it had closed early that night and the phone was inside.

    It’s a great episode. Most of Season 3 is full of them.

  13. I agree with your general view that this is a superb episode with just a few holes in the plot and a few excessively drawn out scenes. Just a few points regarding your points:
    1. I may have overlooked it, but how do you know that the jacket had the gun in its pocket? Perhaps Heyward took it out of the pocket after entering the room? The way he looks at the detective as he picks it up is not indicative of a man deadly fearful of being caught redhanded in an instance!
    2. You seem to imply that Columbo’s attaining the info about the 10-day wait for the jacket was sheer unintended luck. My understanding was that he went there seeking that info from the start, and went thru the whole purchase process as a stunt to pry that information loose.
    3. As for Columbo’s failure to search Heyward’s home phone, could the writers have presumed that Columbo was still not sufficiently suspicious of Heyward to check his home hone, and he merely checked the beach house under the presumption that the murderer may have made it from there right after committing the murder?
    4. I would have included the dental scene rather than Vernon’s boundless bungling as one of the five scenes.

  14. One thing I always thought about is that a firecracker would leave an incredible “residue mark” on a (70’s) tile patio floor. Columbo would have cracked it immediately. Notice that NOT ONE person busting in through the room door after the “firecracker sound” looked at the slider entrance???? Nice directing…
    P.S. Love Jackie Cooper. Superb!

  15. I agree with the previous comment regarding this episode being an all time favorite! One of my favorite scenes is between the prodigiously talented and lovely Joanne Linville as Vickie Hayward and Columbo during the poolside campaign commercial shoot. Wonderful comedic work between them as they try not to interrupt the proceedings, and the great Jackie Cooper as Nelson Hayward is sublime with his reactions of frustration, curiosity and anxiety wondering what his “tipsy” wife is giving up to that pesky Lt. Brava one and all!

  16. as a former cop, seeing Vernon herd people out of the room after the shot while his finger is on the trigger of his gun was cringe-worthy, but I did love this episode. They use that ‘scare’ in many shows, and love their ladies sloshed!

    • I can imagine watching crime shows is a whole different experience for a (former) cop, than for the average viewer. Vernon is clearly not at his best here, but it’s nice to see that you still enjoyed this one.

    • “Fortunately for the LAPD, Vernon was subsequently transferred to the Keystone Cops where I’m happy to report he excelled.” 🤣🤣🤣🤣

      What also gets me is that it’s clear Hayward and Stone are completely different sizes. Hayward should have looked like a little kid drowning in Stone’s jacket, and Stone probably wouldn’t have fit Hayward’s at all. Guess we’re supposed to overlook that, and apparently we did. lol

      Also, I think we’ve seen Vicki’s dress on one or two other women in different episodes before. I know Lesley Ann Warren wears one in a darker color in A Deadly State of Mind, and I think it’s worn by one of the ladies in Last Salute to the Commdore. The dresses are similar material, design, and cut but might have a slight difference. But they are all basically the same. The costume dept. must have gotten a good deal on a bundle to have them in their wardrobe. lol

      This is one of my fave epsiodes but I like that Youtube has clips of the best scenes cause you get the best out of those scenes. So I don’t really have to watch the full ep if I can’t or don’t want to.

      Thanks for the list.

    • My mother didn’t dislike much about Columbo (she was a big fan like me – got it from her), but she definitely didn’t like the many scenes of some of the women in various Columbo episodes drunk as a skunk. Something she couldn’t tolerate.

      • Maybe your mother took some comfort in Jack Cassidy’s slushed Riley Greenleaf or the glass of Full’s Irish Dew glued to Joe Devlin’s fist? It was not just women drinking in Columbo, but I can see where she’s coming from. For the women is was usually a sign of utter unhappiness and being powerless to change it. I always find it a painful sight as well.

  17. The issue with checking phone records is explainable if one knows about 70’s phone calling in the US. Only “long distance” or toll calls were logged by Bell Telephone. Any calls that went through without charges could not be traced after the fact by police. So, in this episode, Hayward’s call from his home to the police to alert them to the body at the beach house must have been a “local” call that did not incur charges, therefore, no record available from the phone company. A call from the beach house to that same precinct would have been far enough away to have incurred charges and a record at the phone company.

    The boundaries for when a phone call would be local or a toll call seemed rather arbitrary, so a TV show using phone evidence like this was easy to accept by a viewer in the US. I hope this helps with understanding this seemingly annoying weakness in the writers’ devices for establishing evidence.

    I love your blog and cannot wait to read your review of Last Salute.

    • Would you be interested in exploring this topic more broadly in an article for the blog? I think it would be most interesting and enlightening reading – especially if the article included some specific examples from the series that appear to show inconsistent use of phone records. If so, please email me at columbophile@hotmail.co.uk

  18. Not a fan of a gaffe of the episode in these articles. I much prefer to stay positive since it’s about the BEST moments. Columbo was a near perfect show so I don’t like to dwell on any low points since there were so few.

  19. Levinson and Link’s love of magic is evident in a few episodes as we all know. But since they didn’t write this episode, I wonder if the 5 writers had magic connections.
    Dai Vernon was an accomplished magician so it would be fun to reference his name for the not-so-brilliant Sergeant Vernon…
    Or perhaps Richard Levinson and William Link added that touch as producers.


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