May 22, 1977 was a red-letter day in televisual history. It was the day the best-ever Columbo episode hit our screens; it was the day The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case first aired.
Is there a hint of hyperbole about the above? Perhaps. But to my mind this is a truly special 70 minutes of television, deserving of the highest praise.
I hope to successfully make my case to you here about just why this Columbo outing has no equal. So let’s prep our robo-record players, fetch our umbrellas from the chimney and get ready to hang with Theo Bikel and his fellow geniuses down at Sigma Society HQ…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Oliver Brandt: Theo Bikel
Bertie Hastings: Sorrell Booke
Vivian Brandt: Samantha Eggar
George Campanella: Howard McGillin
Jason Danziger: Basil Hoffman
Alvin Metzler: Peter Lampert
Sergeant Burke: Todd Martin
Waitress: Jamie Lee Curtis
Suzy: Kathleen King
Caroline: Carol Jones
Mike: Kenneth Mars
Mr Wagner: George Sperdakos
Miss Eisenbach: Dorrie Thomson
Written by: Robert Malcolm Young
Directed by: Sam Wanamaker
Score by: Bob Prince
Significant locations: Sigma Society (2501 9th Ave, Los Angeles, 90018); Brandt residence (10451 Bellagio Rd, Los Angeles, 90077)
Episode synopsis: The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
Genius accountant Oliver Brandt has been embezzling funds in order to keep his high-maintenance wife in fine frocks and tropical getaways. She has no idea he’s up to such skullduggery, but his business partner and life-long friend Bertie Hastings has just found out – and he ain’t happy.
In order to ensure his cover isn’t blown, Brandt uses his fiendish intellect to concoct a recipe for perfect murder. The ingredients? An umbrella; some squibs; a marker pen; alligator clamps; a record player; a heavy dictionary; and a concealed, silenced gun.
Using the side entrance to the Sigma Society – a club of geniuses where he and Bertie are members – Brandt sneaks up to the library and puts the pieces in place. The squibs are attached to the inner spokes of his umbrella, and attached, in turn, to little alligator clamps on a spool of wire. All of these items are left in various places around the room, along with the gun.
Oliver also leaves a window open and preps a state-of-the-art programmable record player to select a particular tune from a Tchaikovsky LP and balances the humongous dictionary precariously on a small table beside the record player. He leaves the marker pen by the record player, then bustles away and makes a show of entering by the real front door as if he’s simply late for that night’s lecture – cruelly tickling poor Bertie on the way.
Once the lecture’s over, the intelligentsia retire to the bar for highbrow chat. Bertie begs for a private audience with Brandt and the two head up to the library. It’s there that Bertie reveals that he knows all about his partner’s embezzling – and that he intends to expose the misdeeds to the wider world. “In that case,” Oliver says drily. “I intend to kill you.”
That takes the wind out of Bertie’s sails, but when Oliver delivers another tickling, the pint-sized egg-head goes berserk. “I’m going to tell the whole world what you are,” he screams, spittle flying. Oliver calmly reaches for the hidden gun and fires twice – Bertie’s face a picture of disbelief as he slumps dead to floor.
Taking the cash from Bertie’s wallet to make it look like a burglary gone wrong, and opening the secondary door to a stairway exit, Oliver cues up the auto-record player, which will play a single song before resetting. He attaches the wired clamps to the player’s arm rest and places the marker pen beside the arm. As for the gun, it goes into the umbrella, which is stashed up the chimney. Got all that? Good…
Brandt nonchalantly returns downstairs where he converses with fellow brainiacs. However, the convivial chat is shattered by the sound of gunshots and a heavy weight hitting the library floor!
The group stampedes upstairs to. Bursting in through the main door, the far exit slams shut – clearly someone has escaped them by milliseconds, and that person gunned down dear Bertie. Two society members investigate the stairs, while a supposedly distraught Brandt slumps by the record player. It’s a ruse, of course. In all the hoo-hah, Brandt slyly winds up the spool of incriminating wire and pockets it.
Police are soon on the scene, with Lieutenant Columbo chief amongst them. He’s having some problems making sense of the divergent opinions of the collected geniuses. Seems that no one can agree how quickly the burglar fled down the stairs, or whether they were heavy or light, man or woman.
No wonder Columbo can afford a smile when informed that the club’s membership is made up from the top 2% of the global IQ elite. “Here I’ve been talking with the most intelligent people in the world and I never even noticed,” he says.
Once his questions are over for the night, Columbo departs – but not before Brandt sets him a mind-bending puzzle in order to test his IQ. Returning to his own home, Brandt hides the spool of wire under a potted plant in his garden and heads indoors to see his trophy wife, Vivian.
Vivian is more interested in showing off her new shopping than finding out about Oliver’s day. But when his hang-dog expression persists she pushes for information and Brandt divulges Bertie’s death. Vivian’s response gives us a true measure of the woman. “We must put Bertie out of our minds,” she says. “We’ll take a trip. We’ll buy some clothes!” Brandt has never seemed so alone…
We encounter him alone the next day, removing his umbrella from the Sigma Society library chimney before he vamooses to the park to dispose of the murder weapon. Just as he’s about the bin the offending item, he feels a hand on his shoulder. It’s Columbo, who has been directed to the park by Brandt’s secretary, Alvin.
In another scene of superior tension, Brandt waits until Columbo scoots off for an ice-cream before placing the gun in the trash. But he bungles it! The gun slips out of the paper bag and its handle is plainly visible through the wire mesh of the bin. Columbo returns with his cone and it seems certain that he’ll spot the gun – until a park attendant sidles over and takes the bin away for emptying.
A relieved Brandt puffs up with pomposity and delivers a stunning lecture to Columbo about the best place for a gentleman to keep an umbrella to maximise one’s chance of avoiding a drenching in seasonal rains. He then bids adieu, beaming and looking for all the world like a free man.
Columbo, meanwhile, tracks back to the Sigma Society, where members Caroline and Jason Danziger have both cooked up ideas to suggest that the death of Bertie was pre-planned. For her part, Caroline thinks the gunshots that were heard were actually on the record. But Columbo has already listened to the record several times – no gunshots.
Danziger’s idea is even more far-fetched. He believes that Bertie committed suicide using a gun on an elastic tether. The second shot was triggered in a death spasm, explaining why the bullets entered the body at the same angle – despite the fact the body was heard falling between the shots.
Danziger, bursting with excitement at the prospect of cracking the case, believes the gun will be found in the chimney, still attached to its tether. But Columbo has just looked up the chimney and there was no sign of the gun. Deflated, Danziger trudges sadly away.
Seeking further inspiration, Columbo drops in at Brandt HQ. It’s pouring with rain and for once he has no raincoat. Instead he’s cowering under an umbrella, leaving him drenched. He meets Vivian Brandt and notes with interest that the record player in their sitting room is the same type as the one at the Sigma Society, and that Brandt himself donated it.
“Brandt needed money to fund his wife’s spending ambitions after losing a fortune on stock options.”
Vivian even gives Columbo a crash course in how the player can be used to choose specific songs on a record – something the detective notes with great interest before he’s on his way once again to find Brandt’s former secretary (and now newly promoted accountant) George Campanella.
George is out at a trendy nightspot being chatted up by a wide-eyed ditz named Suzy. Columbo clomps in to cramp the young man’s style. George’s hated rival Alvin directed the Lieutenant to the venue and it’s clear that Alvin has also had a lot more to say on how George earned his promotion, and about the potential wheeler-dealing undertaken by Brandt.
Columbo broadly hints that he knows George is aware of Brandt’s embezzling – and that being an accessory to a felony is likely to put a quick stop to George’s meteoric rise. He then breezes out as quickly as he arrived leaving George a picture of dejection. “I wish I were dead,” he tells Suzy.
George evidently thinks long and hard about Columbo’s warning, because he’s ready to spill the beans the following morning. The accountant confirms that Brandt has been expertly sifting funds from his clients’ accounts. He needed money to fund his wife’s spending ambitions after losing a fortune on stock options – and Alvin and Bertie were on to him. George alerted Brandt to the danger, hence earning his promotion.
Brandt himself arrives and the tete-a-tete is over. Columbo wanders away and George again alerts Brandt to the dangerous situation he’s in due to loose-lipped Alvin. Columbo, however, spins things the other way when he meets Brandt up in his office, suggesting that Bertie may have been the one indulging in creative book-keeping.
“This comes as a terrible shock to me, Lieutenant,” says a secretly relieved Brandt. “You’ll have to excuse me.” “Oh yes sir, I understand,” says Columbo knowingly. “You’ll certainly need time to think.“
Brandt’s only immediate thought, however, is to punish Alvin for his treachery. As soon as Columbo has left, Alvin walks in to give his boss a piece of his mind – but Brandt’s response has him scurrying for cover.
“You DARE to tell me your position in this firm?” rages Brandt. “You niggling little twit! You self-serving, ambitious lout! You’ll be a secretary here until you’re old and grey and if you try to work anywhere else, I’ll pull so many strings that you’ll strangle in them. Suddenly, Alvin, you’re a great choking stench in my life – GET OUT!“
So powerful was Brandt’s riposte that it’s rumoured* actor Peter Lampert, who played Alvin, shed bitter tears and needed a cuddle from director Sam Wanamaker to get over it.
Still in a rage by the time he gets home, Brandt’s slamming of his front door brings Vivian galloping. The beleaguered accountant comes clean. “I have embezzled funds! And I did it for you! Do you understand what I am telling you?” he pleads, desperate for some human understanding. He’s to be disappointed with his wife’s response. “No,” she blankly responds. “And I don’t think I want to.”
The phone rings. It’s police HQ and Brandt is summoned to the Sigma Society to assist Columbo with his inquiries. Brandt arrives as a storm opens up above, lightning and thunder cracking the sky as he makes his way up to the library – where the same Tchaikovsky record that Brandt played after the slaying of Bertie can eerily be heard.
Gunshots ring out! A panicked Brandt turns tail and makes to escape the club – only to be blocked at the door by the sullen Sergeant Burke. Columbo then hails him. He’s been running an experiment up in the library and needs Brandt’s help. His heart still racing, Brandt heads on up to the scene of the crime.
Columbo has figured out several aspects of the murder, but not all. One thing he has fully figured out, though, is the IQ puzzle Brandt set for him days earlier, which he gleefully explains. The Lieutenant then sets a puzzle for Brandt – ‘a minimum information problem’ about how Man A could could kill Man B in this very library and make it appear that Man B was murdered later after being left on his own.
The detective has surmised the use of a silenced gun and how the squibs were detonated by the movement of the record player arm. He’s even deduced that an umbrella was used to conceal the exploded squibs and gun – and that it was all stashed up the chimney to avoid prying eyes.
“You can’t be serious,” gasps Brandt. But Columbo isn’t just guessing – he has hard proof, gained by ‘accidentally’ taking Brandt’s umbrella rather than his own during that brief visit to his homestead the night before. “It was an honest mistake, sir, and we’re not allowed to get evidence that way. But as long as I had it… the lab found burns from the squibs. And lots of soot.”
It’s clear as day that Columbo knows Brandt is his man, but one elusive clue remains unsolved: how did the killer create the sound of a body falling between gunshots? Stoking Brandt’s ego, Columbo suggests that club President Jason Danziger came up with the answer: vibrations from the first squib unsettled the heavy dictionary, causing it to audibly fall prior to the second squib going off.
“That’s Danziger’s a genius,” croons Columbo – much to Brandt’s disbelief. “Vibrations? That nit-wit! The man who conceived all this – you make him out to be a BUNGLING ASS!” roars the bearded accountant. “No! This is what he would have done…”
Snatching up the marker pen, Brandt places it alongside the record player arm. The arm unsettles the pen on its way to setting off squib one, sending it toppling onto the dictionary. Squib one explodes! The dictionary slams onto the floor! Squib two explodes! Brandt has filled in the final missing piece.
Slumping dejectedly into an arm chair, Brandt finally realises the game is up. Now freed from his tortured mental cage, he compliments the detective on his abilities. “Lieutenant, what did you say your IQ was? It must be very high. My own is….”
Brandt rummages in a drawer for a mental poser – which Columbo solves in a heartbeat. Impressed, Brandt asks: “Lieutenant, have you ever considered another line of work?” “Me, sir? No. Never. I couldn’t do that,” replies the humble detective, as credits roll…
Bye-Bye‘s best moment: the meeting of minds
I could have chosen any one of 10 or more magnificent scenes, but my ultimate favourite is the heart-to-heart between Columbo and Brandt in the library, which reveals so much about both men.
For starters, Columbo talks at length – and for the first time in the entire series – about his background, his motivations and his work ethic. From a character we know so little about, it’s a fascinating monologue.
Brandt’s response is just as telling. He reveals his anguish about his troubled childhood, and how he’s had to disguise his intelligence through ‘painful, lonely years’. At some point it was important to him to be able to associate with others on a high intellectual plane. Not any more. Brandt is no better understood by the world at the end of the episode than he was in his childhood.
“Oliver Brandt is undoubtedly one of the series’ loneliest and most troubled souls.”
The power of this scene is that it helps firm up our sympathy for Brandt. Yes, he committed a terrible crime but his life has been largely joyless. Despite his supposed ‘gifts’ of intelligence, wealth and a nubile wife, Oliver Brandt is undoubtedly one of the series’ loneliest and most troubled souls.
Without this scene he’s just another callous killer. Because of it he’s a fragile shell, deserving of at least some level of sympathy. It makes for a truly special exchange between hunter and hunted.
My opinion on Bye-Bye Sky High
A wise man** once said that true perfection has to be imperfect. The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case handsomely backs up that assessment. This is 70 minutes of television featuring major plot holes, an almost complete lack of cat-and-mouse suspense and, let’s face it, an episode title so contrived as to be ridiculous.
Yet Bye-Bye rises above all this to deliver a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining adventure that doesn’t just salvage Columbo‘s sixth season – it proves that the show could be as good as, if not better than, ever before.
Before I unpack the many wondrous elements Bye-Bye packs in, I feel I ought to DISCLOSE my own history with the episode, which has inevitably influenced my feelings towards it. For this is the first Columbo I ever remember seeing (and enjoying), at the approximate age of 10, sometime in the late 1980s, at my granddad’s house.
I recall being captivated by Theo Bikel’s immense bearded frame, and feeling sad for him when he was caught, although I can’t claim that I had some childhood epiphany and was a Columbo convert on the spot. It was only in the 2000s, when the series became available on DVD and I was able to revisit them all, that these memories flooded back.
“I have viewed Bye-Bye Sky High on dozens of occasions – and it still delights me every single time.”
Still, I don’t believe this clouds my judgement on the merits of Bye-Bye. Another episode I remember fondly from my youth, Columbo Goes to the Guillotine, I’ve come to realise is a rather silly outing with a particularly outlandish ending.
As a result, every time I watch Bye-Bye I do so with slight wariness. Will this be the time when it doesn’t live up to the hype? Fortunately not. I have viewed the episode on dozens of occasions – and it still delights me every single time. There are several reasons why, including a huge ensemble cast to die for, a very different Columbo/killer dynamic and more magnificent scenes than you can shake an umbrella at.
Bye-Bye is also notable in that it was the first episode produced by Richard Alan Simmons – a long-time associate of Peter Falk, with whom he worked with as screenwriter on 1960’s The Price of Tomatoes (earning Falk his first Emmy Award), and later as a producer on The Trials of O’Brien in 1965-66.
Falk was big on trust. After the two rather lacklustre season 6 episodes that preceded this (Fade in to Murder and Old Fashioned Murder), and the departure of Everett Chambers as series producer, Simmons was an obvious choice to be entrusted with keeping the series’ leading man on the top of his game.
Simmons introduced two significant thematic devices that would become a hallmark of the 70s’ remaining Columbo episides: that of the Lieutenant being a more fearsome adversary from the get-go; and having Columbo and the killer establish a level of mutual understanding through personal reminisces. On both fronts, Bye-Bye‘s delivery was never bettered.
Consider Columbo’s initial meeting with Brandt: a supremely tense scene in which the killer hears footsteps approaching the library as he struggles to rub a smudge of soot from his forehead. Even though the footsteps belong to young Caroline, not the detective, it’s marvellously done. Columbo’s subsequent appearance through a cloud of smoke via the other door has a power all of its own. This is a guy to take seriously.
This tension pervades their next meeting in the park, too. When Brandt bungles placing the gun in the rubbish bin and notices that the handle is plainly visible, we, the viewers, hold our breaths along with him until the trash collector removes it from harm’s way.
Better yet is the heart-to-heart between Columbo and Brandt at the Sigma Society, which I chronicle in greater detail in the ‘Best moment’ section above. It’s a superb scene, which humanises both men and allows them to gain a greater understanding of the other, while also nourishing the viewer with vital insight. As the best scene from the best Columbo episode, it necessarily equates that this is one of the finest TV scenes of all time.
I attribute much of my appreciation of this episode to the performance of Theo Bikel as tortured genius Oliver Brandt, yet he’s not an easy character to pin down and is an atypical example of a Columbo killer. Despite his sky high IQ, Brandt rarely seems like he believes himself to be superior to Columbo. He’s certainly never sneering, mean or condescending in the way the Dale Kingstons and Ken Franklins of the world were, and he keeps a lid on his pomposity for the most part.
If anything, Brandt is relatively easy prey for Columbo. Once the euphoria of fathoming how to get away with the perfect murder has passed, Brandt seems to wake up to the reality that his situation is even grimmer than it was before. Killing Bertie was an intellectual problem to be solved – but it hasn’t solved Brandt’s underlying problems of isolation and an almost total lack of emotional connection to those around him.
Brandt’s insecurities run deep. For decades, Bertie seems to have been his only friend. Familiarity breeds contempt (and in this case murder), but I see Bertie and Oliver as being like R2-D2 and C-3PO, or even Bert and Ernie. Despite the bickering and niggling, they need each other to get by. Oliver without Bertie is an empty soul. For that reason, I sense it was a relief to him when he was caught.
Speaking of which, detractors of this episode find it ridiculous that a genius would give himself away to Columbo in the way he does. I interpret it as Brandt feeling so alone and so desperate to feel superior to anyone at that moment that he allows Columbo to lull him into revealing how the marker pen caused the dictionary to fall, rather than let ‘that nitwit’ Danziger and his vibrations theory take credit for it.
Lest we forget, Columbo already had enough evidence to suggest pre-meditated murder and as Brandt was the last man to see Bertie alive, he’s really the only viable candidate as murderer. Motive and method are quickly established and even without a murder weapon Columbo has a strong case. Brandt’s exhibition of guilt was the icing on the cake, but he was going down all the same.
The late, great Bikel brought a sad vulnerability to Brandt that never fails to impress. But he’s just as good when required to boom and bark – as he shows when berating poor, luckless Alvin. It’s a quite astonishing tirade. Later, as he works himself into a frenzy in the episode’s climax, Bikel summons a desperate energy that takes the breath away.
Regular readers will know that I’ve had my concerns about the Columbo characterisation since Falk and McGoohan tinkered with the essence of the Lieutenant in Identity Crisis and then booted him into the left field in Last Salute to the Commodore. Fortunately Falk is firing on all cylinders here.
The sparkle is back, and credit must go to producer Simmons for injecting new life into the jaded star. Columbo has a twinkle in his eye throughout and seems wryly amused at much of what goes on around him, yet he never oversteps the mark into weirdness or self parody, while the warmth and charm we’ve always loved about him is apparent in spades.
I love a sprinkling of humour in my Columbo – and Bye-Bye has plenty. I particularly enjoy the scene where the Lieutenant grills the geniuses following the murder. No one can agree on how fast the burglar escaped down the stairs. Was it a heavy man, Columbo asks? One boffin thinks so. Another thinks an average man. A third thinks it was a woman. “Well that clears that up,” the detective says with a contagious smile. Enjoy the scene below…
He’s on similar form when crashing George’s party at the nightclub – even exchanging hair compliments with crazy Suzy in between laying down the law. Meanwhile, the ‘doughnut confiscation’ scene, featuring a young Jamie Lee Curtis, is a joy to behold. Given that the Lieutenant’s character of season 7 is very much more theatrical and overblown in his mannerisms, this is likely the last great Columbo performance of the 70s.
The last couple of paragraphs touch on the true strength of the episode: the abundance of brilliant scenes. Bye-Bye hands out goodness like candy on Halloween and has 10 or more of my favourite-ever Columbo scenes. I can’t detail them all, but just consider the quality of the following: –
- The gun disposal in the park
- Brandt tearing Alvin a new one
- Columbo cramping George’s style at the nightclub
- Danziger’s crazy suicide theory
- “Well that clears that up!”
- Columbo’s tense intro
- The library heart-to-heart between Columbo and Brandt
- Columbo in the rain without his coat
- Brandt’s umbrella lecture
- The forbidden doughnut
On top of those, the gotcha scene itself is also a marvel. Set against thunder, lightning and Tchaikovsky, there is majesty in the editing of the sequence. Employing simple cuts between the faces of the two leads, director Sam Wanamaker ramps up the tension and accelerates the confrontation to its conclusion as an increasingly agitated Brandt is driven to prove his intellectual superiority by showing Columbo exactly how the murder was committed.
This denouement also features a cracking script, none more so than when Brandt, driven to a frenzy, brays at Columbo: “The man who conceived all this, you make him out to be a BUNGLING ASS!” It’s terrific stuff, and well worthy of its place in my top-10 Columbo gotchas list.
The quality of the writing is matched by the performances of a huge cast that epitomises strength in depth. Columbo is famed for this, but Bye-Bye is on a new level. After Falk and Bikel, we have Sorrell ‘Boss Hogg’ Booke as Bertie and Oscar-nominee Samantha Eggar as Vivian Brandt, while veteran character actor Kenneth Mars has a throwaway role as a society member.
Basil Hoffman is hilarious as manic club President Jason Danziger and Howard McGillin superb as suave George Campanella. But beyond them there’s class everywhere, whether that’s Peter Lampert as the wronged and noble Alvin, Todd Martin as the gruff Sergeant Burke, or Jamie Lee as the surly waitress. Throw in a Mike Lally cameo and everyone’s a winner!
These glowing positives help off-set the episode’s plot holes – some of which would blight a lesser outing. The biggest is the argument between Bertie and Brandt in the library. Given that their fellow society members clearly hear the thud of a dictionary hitting the ground as part of Brandt’s elaborate alibi set-up, it’s fanciful to suggest that Bertie’s post-tickle hollering would have gone unheard.
“Bye-Bye hands out goodness like candy on Halloween and has 10 or more of my favourite-ever Columbo scenes.”
There’s also the issue of Brandt’s umbrella. He takes an enormous chance leaving such an incriminating piece of evidence up the chimney at the crime scene before fetching it the next day. Quite aside from the fact that it suggests shoddy police work in leaving it undetected, Columbo later tells Danziger that he’s already looked up the chimney for evidence. If so, when, and why? Certainly it would have been easy to show him having a glance up the chimney to satisfy this point.
The alternative is that Columbo did find the umbrella on the eve of the killing, and later knew it had been removed and was looking for who took it, thus establishing Brandt’s likely guilt when he met him in the park. The Lieutenant’s certainly wily enough to do this, but it’s never revealed to the audience so we must assume not.
I also have a slight beef at what appears to be a toxic culture at the Sigma Society. There’s some sort of weird collective bullying of poor Bertie, in which the poor fella is mercilessly ticked by Brandt to elicit a girlish giggle that amuses their fellow members. Isn’t there some sort of society constitution they’re all in breach of here? Geez, you guys!
Brandt also treats 14-year-old Caroline like she’s an unfeeling automaton, and later refers to the other members as ‘dunces, the lot of them‘. Combine that with his unfeeling wife and no wonder Brandt realises how wretchedly lonely he truly is by episode’s end.
Columbo’s complimentary words about young Caroline’s good looks bother some viewers, and admittedly they haven’t aged well considering the #MeToo movement. I see it as an example of Columbo telling someone something they need to hear to brighten their day rather than him being a mac-wearing old creep. We know Columbo to be pure of heart, after all, although the scene might have worked better if the Lieutenant had seen Caroline on the receiving end of some meanness from her fellow members.
However, it is what it is, and these quibbles can be set aside because the episode as a whole is so gosh-darned good. And it seems like Peter Falk agreed. As usual at the end of a season, the rumour mill was circulating that he’d solved his last case. Presumably buoyed by the presence of Simmons as producer, he would commit to another year.
So we end season 6 on a stellar note. Columbo has proved what we’ve always known deep down: that the humble, dishevelled Lieutenant has one of the great minds of his time. And just three days after Bye-Bye aired, on 25 May 1977, came another red letter day, this time in cinematic history, with the release of Star Wars. All in all, then, a pretty good few days for popular culture…
Did you know?
The famous Mrs Melville portrait from Murder by the Book evidently found a new home following the arrest of Ken Franklin as it can clearly be seen lurking at the back of the main sitting room at the Sigma Society.
It seems fitting that one of the great minds of the fictional fictional detective world should find a resting place amidst so many other towering intellects, and it’s a lovely call-back to where the series so memorably kicked off 6 years earlier. Where is she now? I’d love to know…
Theo Bikel, incidentally, was well cast as a genius having himself been a member of Mensa earlier in his life.
How I rate ’em
I haven’t exactly hidden my admiration for this episode, so it oughtn’t to surprise you to see it’s perched tippety-top of the standings, where (spoiler alert) it’s set to remain in perpetuity. It’s not perfect, but every aspect is sufficiently strong to see it oust long-time leader Suitable for Framing. Tough luck, Dale…
Feel the need to revisit previous episode reviews? Then click on any link below and saddle up!
- The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
- Suitable for Framing
- Publish or Perish
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- Negative Reaction
- A Friend in Deed
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Now You See Him
- Double Exposure
- Lady in Waiting
- Troubled Waters
- Any Old Port in a Storm
- Prescription: Murder
- A Deadly State of Mind —B-List starts here—
- An Exercise in Fatality
- Identity Crisis
- Swan Song
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- By Dawn’s Early Light
- Candidate for Crime
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Forgotten Lady
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Fade in to Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- A Case of Immunity
- Dead Weight —–C-List starts here——
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Lovely but Lethal
- Short Fuse ———D-List starts here—-
- A Matter of Honor
- Mind Over Mayhem
- Old Fashioned Murder
- Dagger of the Mind
- Last Salute to the Commodore —Z-List starts here—
Where do you stand on The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case? I can’t be alone in my love of it, because it currently stands in third place overall in the fans’ favourite episode poll on this very website.
Love or hate it, share your opinion below. And as we’ve now knocked off season 6, the next episode under the microscope will be season 7 opener Try & Catch Me, starring the irrepressible Ruth Gordon. Will it get close to Bye-Bye‘s brilliance? Check back soon to find out…
This review, and personal experience, fills in a puzzle piece for me.
At the very beginning of the show, we see Mike (Kenneth Mars) addressing the group. My actual memory is uncertain, but I remember the character talking matter-of-factly about being downtrodden in life, set to one side because his genius doesn’t translate very well into the modern-day workaday world.
I was a smart kid myself, the “little guy” at a chess club. Otherwise, I was quite socially isolated. I was certainly no jock, and my brains didn’t always translate into good grades. Even if they had, I can’t imagine being a popular kid unless I showed off. For years on end, my great exhibition was rattling off the names of all the Presidents of the United States in order, in 15 seconds or so, using a cadence I taught myself. I could sing and act, which helped to an extent, but I was always the hanger-on.
Now, the Sigma Society is a whole collection of people who don’t fit in anywhere else. Some of them may have good jobs, but as Brandt shows vigorously, probably not a one has true love. Only within the society itself can they be their true and unfettered selves, suppressing it and being very little people outside.
I figure Columbo, himself a genius, realizes that Brandt was willing to steal and kill just to try to get the love of a woman who was flatly not worth it. He thought he had turned his life around when Vivian married him. Sure hadn’t. And I think Columbo figured that out through a scene watching the two of them together.
I also think Columbo knows that Brandt would never give himself away OUTSIDE the Sigma Society. Only where he is the best of the best. You may notice that Brandt, despite thinking he is better than the other geniuses, sees Columbo as a full equal. He doesn’t ridicule Columbo’s hypothesis; he ridicules DANZIGER’S hypothesis after Columbo relays it to him. He’ll give Columbo the missing puzzle piece, by thunder, because only he knows it and only Columbo will appreciate it!
And you know what? I write my comments here, and I think a lot of us do, to tell The Master (Columbophile) we have studied and marked the lesson. We are smart enough to let Columbophile enlighten us further.
Now, you, don’t get a big head!
Waw! I was a bit skeptical because when you say an episode is beautiful I sometimes don’t like it very much and vice versa. But frankly, never when you say it is REAL good or REAL bad. And I agree, this was real good. I haven’t seen them all yet but it could indeed be the very best Columbo ever. So far, I think it is.
It was like a true film, not an episode from a series. A film without bad moments. A very good scenery. Good camera. Good director.
I loved the ending. When you see how IQ is very relative. That mechanical intelligence is also limited. That there are other kinds of logic than what is usually defined as “intelligence” and which is only intellectuality. Columbo has some sort of creative, examining, learning kind of intelligence. With more such people on the planet, the planet might be helped a lot.
I loved how the murderer was portrayed. I know such people, they are terrible. Good actor. ;). And Columbo is so cute, smiling, confident though humble. The camera often takes him from above. Good director as well. And those electric trains, oh! So beautiful.
A pity that Columbo didn’t see Brandt put the weapon in the waste bin. Is there something out of balance there ? Columbo sees the man from a distance, and instead of watching him some time (espacially near a waste bin), he goes right up to him, interrupting him in what he wanted to do. Is that still human, or not so good policework? It’s a bit like with the umbrella. We probably shouldn’t expect that, though Columbo is very “intelligent” (in an original way), he isn’t human and cannot make mistakes. After all, the genius made mistakes as well. This way, it is more realistic cinema, and that is for the better.
It is nearly summer. I’m dreaming of ice creams.
There is much more to say I suppose but you and others already did this.
I’ll read your texts and enjoy my memories. And watch again, some other time, for sure.
Not on my A list for sure. But the time didn’t drag while watching it, perhaps due to the multitude of characters, above the average for Columbo. Although The conclusion with the gotcha was one of the most igniting and intense, not to say inventively directed, of the whole series.
I’ve tried watching this episode several times in the past but never quite passed the initial 10 minutes. However, today I forced myself to watch it all, as in the past I’ve always wondered the reason this episode is ranked first on this site, and I was somehow hopeful the remaining part of the episode would be particularly good. I’ve seen almost every episode of Columbo (maybe skipped some from Season 10), and on my personal list, to my regret, The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case is one of the worst episodes. There is nothing exciting in the plot. The main actors are quite superficial and exaggerated in their acting. I fail to understand how such episode is ranked so highly, but hey, opinions are opinions. In my personal list, I’d put this episode on the “D list” (and I’d even rank Dagger of the Mind higher than this episode to be honest — at least, the final ten minutes in the Wax Museum are much better than the last 10 minutes of this episode).
Ironically, in my view, the final ten minutes are terrific: how Columbo toys with Brandt’s most vulnerable spot — his claim to intellectual superiority. How Columbo uses that pretense, and Brandt’s intolerance of the other Sigma Society members, to squeeze out the incriminating red marker moment.
The episode does have its flaws: the prolonged lecture about where to keep one’s umbrella was insufferable (and illogical; the most logical answer from Brandt under the circumstances is to keep your umbrella with you). At the same time, there are far fewer exchanges between Columbo and the murderer as clues drop and explanations for them are warranted. Most of Columbo’s investigation centers on the motive, not the means. He explains the squibs and alligator clamps in the final scene, but you never see the process of him getting there.
However, the final ten minutes are not the problem.
Agreed, Rich. I would also add that Brandt’s towering intellectual ego isn’t set up very well during the course of the episode, so the Gotcha doesn’t have the kind of impact it could have had if he was constantly touting his brainiac powers. I attribute this to new producer Richard Alan Simmons, who was looking to humanize the show’s villains more. As a result, we get the subplot with Brandt’s spendthrift, whiny wife, and for me, it turns Brandt rather pathetic.
“Shooting Columbo” notes that James Mason was a possibility for the Brandt role, and that would have been some spectacular villainy.
I agree, right down to placing “Dagger of the Mind” above “Bye-Bye…”, although I do believe that the so-called gotcha in “Dagger” was the weakest and least convincing in the series. But “Bye-Bye…” for me resides somewhere in the high thirties when ranking the classic episodes of the ’70s. It, along with another later episode that I consider weak – “How to Dial a Murder” – were portents of the weaker episodes to come from 1989-2003. Bikel is an interesting actor, but he wasn’t a captivating or menacing villain, and he didn’t engage Columbo in the “I know that you know” gamesmanship found with many of the stronger villains. And while this is all subjective, I found “Bye-Bye…” to be riddled with annoying supporting characters, even down to Jamie Lee Curtis being inexplicably annoyed with the shoehorned donut gag. The Mensa members and the ditzy woman in the club only added to the lack of merit. That said, the setting, crime, and Bertie Hastings were solid. I’d give it a grade of C on the Columbo scale.
Well, one man’s meat is another man’s poison as they say. It’s worth pointing out, though, that Bye-Bye ranks very highly in the Columbo favourite episode poll on this site. Voters were asked to vote for their single favourite episode and Bye-Bye is fifth in the list with approx 10,000 votes cast. It is loved by many, not just yours truly.
Boss hog would never have fallen Brandt’s ploy!
Its an okay episode to me, i would not rate it very high,
I like the setting in the house, but i don’t see Oliver Brandt as an interesting murderer, when it comes to tragic characters i see Ruth in “Old fashioned Murder” or Mc Goohans Character in “By Dawns early Light” as far more convincing.
And for an episode that runs 73 Minutes it feels…slow. In many scenes they try to make something but it doesn’t work, doesn’t fit (like the Doughnut-Scene…it feels like an eternity when he is sitting there..okay there is Jamie Lee Curtis but then he is giving it to her???), starting for me in the beginning when Brandt has to wait for Columbo in the room without knowing why he is waiting there. Has Columbo ever done that before? It did not fit in for me.
A whodunit in the house might have been it. Why the male secretaries when You have a bunch of possibly interesting characters in the club?
Oh and i guess the second time Columbo has a creepy scene with a kid (the other one in Etude in Black) …okay those were the old times, but the usually so careful Columbo seems to lose it sometimes with kids, nice that its mentioned here https://columbophile.com/2021/03/07/10-times-columbo-should-have-been-reported-to-his-superiors/ but still.
Again, the creepy scene with the kid would not have been seen as creepy with the late 1970’s older audience who would have caught the references and seen it as a joke:
Typical movie cliche: “He only loves me for my body. I want someone who lives me for my mind” – especially seen as humorous in the mouth of a somewhat dim woman.
Kid in Columbo: “Everyone loves me for my mind. Your the first one who loves me for my body.” Turns the cliche on its head.
WIth the increase of sexual expression and crossing of boundaries today, it does look creepy to today’s audience but my mom and dad would have only seen it as a humorous twist of phrase.
Maybe You’re right, can’t ask my parents anymore but I see and rate the episodes now first from a todays audience perspective (which also includes everything were those episodes did not age well) and from there its still creepy…not the kids answer (Your right its a nice joke) but Columbo`s words.
But off course You got a point, 1977 was another time.
Well since you exclude the kid’s answer from creepiness, you really shouldn’t have too much trouble using your imagination to visualize how an audience from a different era might not be creeped out by Columbo’s words.
Just imagine they’re spoken by a woman. This instantly removes the creepiness and you can see how it might be perceived as a positive comment, right?
The fact that they’re now perceived so negatively reflects our current society’s preoccupation with male sexual predatory behavior–a preoccupation that is sadly in many ways warranted, of course, but it also comes with collateral damage… as all the controversy around this scene clearly demonstrates.
As I elaborate on elsewhere, people no longer conceive of any middle ground of “innocent, but [perhaps] inappropriate”. Instead, creepy has become a binary and anything that is inappropriate automatically takes on sinister undertones, regardless of intent. Which I think is a shame, and rather counterproductive, but oh well. Things are indeed better nowadays, but I guess there’s always going to be that “one step back” after the two steps forward.
Honestly I found this episode to be a total snoozefest. I actually fell asleep twice watching it, and was saved from a third nap by the brilliant and very funny gotcha scene.
It was too arch for my taste, and too goofily stereotyped (Sigma Society members); I, too, missed witnessing Columbo’s unraveling obscure clues. I enjoyed reading about your childhood discovery of the episode, and the reasons you appreciate it. Your captions are priceless and hilarious and your analyses extremely enjoyable. Thank you.
Don’t know it if is THE best, but it is certainly up there. Beautifully produced, and the killer is a real person.
If anything, the way his wife is treated in the script is a bit misogynistic, isn’t it?
I think it is, but that mostly reflects Brandt’s misanthropy toward humanity in general. His wife bores him because she, like everyone else in his universe, is so clearly “inferior” to him. So those scenes play pretty true to character, IMO.
She’s certainly portrayed as a bit of an airhead. Her reaction to Bertie’s death in wanting to take a holiday and buy some clothes (!) was rather pantomime. And not understanding embezzlement? It’s not as if she’s a child. Still, there are/were people like that in the world (ladies and gents) so I’m willing to live with it given how good the episode is overall.
I started with a long comment, then lost it.
I’ll just say that I find Columbophile spot on when he picks up on Brandt being terribly lonely, and really having to demonstrate his own intelligence upon demand.
Let’s just say I know it at first hand.
I’ll even speculate that Brandt bonds with Columbo because the detective is the only person who recognizes Brandt’s genius and doesn’t treat him like a circus performer.
I think all the members of the Sigma Society have very mundane jobs and dull lives. (Kenneth Mars pretty much says exactly this at the beginning.) Brandt has achieved much more than they have, which is why he looks down on them. But it’s at a cost. Nobody, except Columbo himself, is as smart as Brandt. Columbo is the only worthwhile adversary. Brandt incriminates himself to impress Columbo, and when he does, he is grateful that Columbo is, in fact, smarter than he is.
I don’t understand why Oliver didn’t just tickle Sergeant Burke and make his getaway
Did you see Sergeant Burke’s scowling face? I don’t think any man would be brave enough to give him a tickling.
I wouldn’t. But, I’m not a black belt in the art. OB had years of practice on poor Bertie.
While I’m thinking of this episode which I just rewatched (a great one), at the risk of feeling stupid for missing the obvious (and I scanned a bit through the comments), can anyone tell me what they’re talking about at the end? Theatrically, Columbo says he couldn’t do THAT as a different line of work. What? Be an accountant? Be a killer? Is Oliver hinting at hiring Columbo to kill Vivian or George or that surly waitress? I can’t help thinking it’s a bribe of some sort, that if Columbo accepts this different line of work, Brant won’t be arrested. But, you can’t really bribe someone by offering them a job as an accountant. That’s a puzzle, sir, that I’ve been trying to solve for many years.
Also, I, too, think “This Old Man” is annoying in its persistence throughout the series, but just think of having, “Boo Hoo (You’ve Got Me Crying For You)” as Columbo’s theme song. And now you’re hearing it in your head. Don’t worry. It’ll go away in a week or two.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Dorrie Thompson were both regulars in the TV-series version of Operation: Petticoat the following season, playing two nurses who wound up as crew members on a pink submarine in World War Ii.
Sam Wanamaker was hired to direct a Hawaii Five-O episode, “A Very Personal Matter, during the 1978-79 season. The very first scene he directed got him into a fight with series star Jack Lord, who told Wanamaker to get lost and directed the show himself. (Because this was considered tampering and thus a major violation of the Director’s Guild contract, Lord contrived to have the Unit Production Manager get the directing credit.)
I believe that “The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case” stands alone as the only Columbo episode where the murderer unconsciously gave himself or herself away.
Beginning with “Prescription: Murder,” Columbo established himself as a master psychologist when pitted against a psychiatrist, as well as a master detective.
But Columbo didn’t so much trick the murderer into giving himself away as he persuaded the murderer to trick himself into giving himself away. Brandt’s vanity, conceit, and overconfidence led him to expose himself.
As Tchiakovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Overture comes to a climactic end and Columbo explains 95% of how the murder was technically executed, Columbo drives Brandt over the edge (just like the balanced dictionary) with his pronouncement that “That Danziger’s a genius!” Columbo’s words triggered what Edgar Allen Poe (the inventor of the modern detective story) called “The Imp of the Perverse”–or the compulsion to confess.
Didn’t Paul Galesko unconsciously give himself away in “Negative Reaction”? And Roger Stanford in “Short Fuse”? What about Emmett Clayton in “The Most Dangerous Match”? Or Mark Collier in “A Deadly State of Mind”? Perhaps I don’t understand the distinction you’re trying to make, James.
A really superior outing, satisfying in every way.
Entertainment: 5 out of 5
Never a wasted moment, with more jump scares than
a Hammer film, and some stormy horror film effects
to boot. Oliver may plan brilliantly and meticulously,
but his oversights, and Columbo’s penchant for popping
out of nowhere, bring several hair-raising moments.
The various eccentric Mensa members add bits of
humour here and there.
Bikel’s performance as he slowly unravels once Columbo
builds his case, is also top notch. As a killer who neither hates his
victim, and burdened by a hard-to-please wife to boot (screen
queen Eggar) Oliver gains our sympathy. He makes us think that his
superior logical intellect has obliged him to try this way out of his
difficulties. And almost unique among the series villains, and Ironic
for a Mensa member, he never sells Columbo’s intellect short
Clues Leading Columbo To The Killer: 2.5 out of 2.5
Realizing that a super smart intellect may be behind the
crime, Columbo wisely focuses at first on the human
element and establishes motive.
Then convinced of Oliver’s involvement, he enlists the club’s
teen member, and it’s president, to help him crack the case.
Their explanations are not too far wide of the mark, and help a lot.
Even Oliver’s wife gets into the act by showing him the all important
Final Gotcha: 2.5 out of 2.5
No, not the umbrella switcheroo, though that’s interesting. The final
gotcha is Columbo’s explaining to us how Oliver pulled it all off. Which
we didn’t already know in all details, even though Oliver’s equipment
was shown to us. Columbo’s cajoling Oliver’s ego to solve one
final mystery, is just icing on the cake.
For the acting, clues, final gotcha, extra puzzles, and general quality
of the episode.
Final Rating: 10.5 out of 10
This is an episode that really grew on me over the years. Still just misses my top ten but i agree with your points. Just reminds me of what a great series this was when a superb episode as this can’t make my top ten. Of course i have no arguments with anyone who has it much higher. The ending was one of my favorites, really well done by both actors.
This is a good episode but I certainly don’t rate it as the best, far from it.
I thought the gotcha was really lame.
1) I just don’t see why Brandt would take such satisfaction from ‘figuring out’ how the book fell when he was the person who set it up in the first place.
2) It’s unbelievable that he would not know that showing how this was done would incriminate him.
As has already been mentioned, someone as intelligent as that would never be so incredibly stupid.
Hi David. Brandt is showing how much cleverer he is than one of his fellow SIGMA members, all of whom he despises. He gets so carried away by this that he momentarily does not realise what he’s doing.
Apropos of this, I don’t understand why the people downstairs hear the book fall between the faked gunshots, but didn’t hear Bertie fall when Brandt shot him (with a silenced gun) a few minutes earlier. Surely Bertie weighed more than even a heavy dictionary?
I know he’s meant to get carried away in the moment but I still don’t buy it.
It’s so obviously a trap but:
1) he doesn’t see it’s a trap
2) then he walks right into it and does something really stupid.
That didn’t work for me at all.
Figuring out what somebody else has done is clever – that’s solving a mystery.
But there’s nothing clever about revealing what somebody did when you were the person that did it.
It’s like writing a crossword puzzle and then patting yourself on the back for knowing the answers.
The bit about not hearing the body fall doesn’t make much sense either.
Maybe they heard something but didn’t consider it to be suspicious because there weren’t any gunshots?
It’s not so much that Brandt is pretending to figure out something elaborate that he already knows the answer to, but rather that he is happily trying to show how stupid the “vibrations” theory (that Columbo told him one of his fellow members came up with) is.
It’s a subtle distinction I’ll grant you, but it’s Brandt’s eagerness to make one of the “eccentric bores” look bad that gives him away, not his wanting to look clever, as Columbo already knows he’s clever. That’s why he can be tripped up by such a simple trick: it’s too simple for his complicated mind to notice.
And I take your point about not thinking the sound of the body falling was suspicious without any accompanying gunshots, but you’d think somebody would have remembered it after the body was found.
Perhaps we can put that down to something like the power of suggestion that Columbo uses later, where each of the witnesses he questions think they heard somebody like themselves on the stairs, when there was nobody there at all.
I kind of thought that’s why Oliver shot him
so that he fell over the steps, so that his fall
would sound like someone stomping up them.
Of course the muffled shots were in quick
succession, and not far apart as heard. Hence their
entering the body the same way, a key clue that the
gunshots heard were bogus.
I also note that only once the shots rang out, would
anyone be listening for a falling body. And thumps or
bumps before that might just be forgotten.
Oh, I see. So Bertie’s slumping onto the steps is quite deliberate, as Oliver knows that the people downstairs will interpret it as either himself or Bertie (both heavy men, sir) walking on the (possibly uncarpeted) steps? And it’s when Columbo realises that Brandt used some sort of time delay trick that he understands the significance of poor Bertie laying where he is, i.e. he had to be on the steps for the illusion to work. Thanks.
Or stumbling on the steps, as they
may’ve overheard many times before.
It also seems a good place for someone
to have a little fall without injury.
Exactly. Brandt’s fatal flaw is believing himself smarter than everyone else, and his intolerance of anyone thinking otherwise. As for the book falling, it isn’t the noise itself, but its context, that made it noticeable. The gunshots got their attention.
Hi Richard. So, they would have heard Bertie’s body fall, but not taken any notice of it as there were no gunshots either side of it. Well, I guess that must be what happened. The power of suggestion instilled by the faked gunshots made them think that Bertie had only just been shot, while it may not have been unusual to hear the occasional thump from the attic, so they all just ignored it as usual.
I think the book is one of the biggest flaws in Oliver’s
plan. What on earth is it doing on the floor of the library?
And why does it have a line scratched on it at its balancing
Just watched this episode last night, again after a long time. Whilst enjoyable – it lacked the suspension and build up for me, and the method used seemed too far fetched to make it realistic. Whilst definitely not the top of Columbo for me, by any stretch, it was worth seeing again. It just shows that art is so subjective. Evidenced if you will, by movie reviews – and how they can vary so much.
Sorry if this has come up before, but isn’t it odd that everybody downstairs heard the dictionary fall and assumed it was Bertie, but nobody heard when Bertie really fell a few minutes earlier?
Love the site (and insights), and truly enjoy the comments. I learn something new from both with every viewing. That said, I’ve a slightly off-topic question: in this episode, at 4:49 as the Sigma Society’s formal meeting adjourns, is that not Gene Barry sitting in the back right?
ITs a difficult episode to assess , on one hand its very enjoyable with plenty of memorable scenes and funny moments , on the other theres a weird element and terrible plot holes and it dosent feel a typical columbo process best example of this i can give is by dawns early light where columbo slowly pieces all information and evidence
Together and goes through the mill to nail his man and while its a top qaulity episode how many put it in the top 10
THE bye bye has more humour and maybe some
People prefer that but it wouldnt put the bye bye top Negative reavtion , try and catch me &swan song are better epidodes overall for me.
Brandt is one of the quickest villains to unravel during the episode in the series, I think, but he wasn’t very ‘raveled’ to start with. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for him. He’s obnoxious and high-handed with everyone. The real surprise is that he’s such a lamb with Columbo, when other villains make a point of being sneering and disdainful. Where I think this episode excels in in the cinematography – especially the thunder and lightning, shadows and darkness of the final scene. Other scenes were lush and elegant, and the coloring is superb. I may have to watch it again to get the full impact of the opening scene where he sets up the murder scene.
I agree that Oliver unravels quickly. But I think it’s
in keeping with his logical intellect, that he doesn’t
anticipate Columbo’s method in breaking the case, and
it’s this which causes him to crumble.
He fully expects the detective will either buy the crime
scene setup, or try to explain how it was actually
done, but fail.
Instead, the Lieutenant sidesteps this at first, and uses
his people skills to uncover the motive. The very thing
that the murder was supposed to hide.
Seeing the effect that being exposed as an embezzler of
rich widows’ funds has on Oliver, helps convince Columbo
that this must be the motive.
Try and catch me is my overall favorite , i always enjoy it anytime it comes on wich is not every weekend asc5 USA Know its a gem , i love the scene by the marina in particular and the ladies club, ruth gordon is superb , falk at his best , great clues , theresvan irish housemaid thrown in , veronica a nice addition , dog , , a squeaky chair , sergeant burke , a rolls royce some nice LA outdoor shots and i love the ending with the metal boxes and burnt matches overall one of the best
And very watchable
The two episodes share some similarities.
An impossible crime committed by someone
who wasn’t in the room at the time. An intricate
puzzle that has to be solved before the killer’s
identity can be proven.
Currently, these are my two top-rated episodes.
But that’s because they’re both very good, and
very original, not because of any similarities.
One of Jamie Lee Curtis’ very first acting roles (as the waitress) with only about ten seconds of screen time and a few short lines of dialog, and she complete steals the scene!
I think this episode is above average, but definitely not great and certainly nowhere near Top 10 territory. I’d probably place it around 20-25 out of the original 45 episodes. Bikel is good, I will agree on that.
The score in this episode is also interesting but at times sort of mildly irritating. I think this was the only score Prince did and I am sort of thankful that was the case.
How do tell the the real gold from the artificial gold? Toss the scale, take the penny, and scratch the coins to reveal the fakes.
Which of the four words doesn’t belong? “Leave”, the only one-syllable word.
I’m a simple-minded genius.
Enjoyable episode. Number 1? Not quite, but clearly top 10.
Love the blog, Columbophile.
Terrible episode shocked it’s anywhere near the top. It takes a really long time to get going, Columbo is barely in it. The tickling is weird. The high IQ society is so goofy. It goes out of it’s way to be bizarre sexist with the creepy 14 year old girl scene and the oh wow gee wiz a male secretary. Meanwhile we don’t even see Columbo go through his process and figure things out. He just randomly shows up and bugs the main characters, and then in the end just says how it was all done. Why did he go to the nightclub? What’s with all the cheesy comedy in this episode? Girl flirting with Columbo at the club.
I’m so disappointed I was saving this episode since it was supposed to be the best, but it doesn’t even compare to suitable for framing. It was like watching a CSI episode with all the cheesy dialogue and convoluted plot. Also what was with the gun in the trash can? Meant nothing. Usually Columbo plays a great balance of intimidating the suspect into acting irrational, and slowly piecing together what happened, and being awe shucks. But he seemed like he was just bumbling around all episode being weird.
This episode just wasted time until the final scene, could have chopped 45 minutes out.
While I wouldn’t assess it as terrible, I would rate it in the bottom ten of the 1968-1978 episodes. You’re spot-on about his presence lacking an investigative edge. It’s as if Columbo stumbled into an episode of “Murder She Wrote”.
Completely agree. This episode was weird, and lousy.
The accountant was a boring bully. He embezzled large sums of money because his wife spends large sums of money – like a negligee. Whoopee.
The disco scene was bizarre and practically nonsensical.
I am shocked that this is rated anywhere near the top ten. It shakes my belief in the Columbophile website to the core.. 🙂
I need only point out that this episode sits firmly in the top 5 most popular Columbo episodes of them all on a poll on this site that has had thousands of votes. That means HUNDREDS of voting fans place this as their #1 episode overall, so it ain’t just me who adores it.
This episode just misses my top ten….which means it is GREAT!!….Original screenplay, a young Jamie Lee Curtis in a funny scene, and a superb ending in which Columbo tells about his struggles as a young but not “brilliant” detective. An episode i could watch again and again.
Can anyone explain the significance of the tickling? I just found it weird.
I’m not sure it carried much significance beyond showing that once Brandt identified a person’s weakness, he was the type of egocentric bully who would use that knowledge against them and to elevate himself. It was obviously very important to him to feel superior to others, and demeaning Bertie in public view made him appear the stronger business partner/society mind.
Early in I thought the episode might be setting up a gay subplot or subtext — as Brandt is strangely disinterested in his purring sexpot of a wife — but even with him professing his love for Bertie postmortem, nothing notable about their history as friends emerges to indicate a likely romantic relationship.
The tickling was merely an obnoxious means of demonstrating Bertie was subservient to Brandt and perhaps how badly Brandt related to all people.
I don’t think the gay subtext has much bearing on the plot, but it goes beyond Brandt’s professed love for Bertie. For instance, after his run in with Colmubo in the park, Brandt’s new secretary George comes into his office to suggest that Brandt might want to look over some new private accounts at home. Brandt then suggests that George drop them off that evening at his house on his way home and the two exchange knowing smiles.
Interesting observation. I’ll keep an eye out for that exchange next viewing. Like you say, it’s difficult to see any relevance to the story, but nerdy blogs exist for nerdy discussions. 😁
The exchange of knowing smiles was due to the subtext that the paperwork removed from the office and taken to Brandt’s home were the fraudulent accounts.
I think the tickling was an implied statement that overly intelligent people think & act differently than the majority of people. Eccentric behavior.
I think that Oliver has mocked and bullied Bertie so much
over the years, that the only way Oliver feels he can get
Bertie to laugh any more in his presence, is by tickling him.
The way that I figure it, the tickling is vital to Brandt being able to commit the murder. I think that this is one of the occasions when the murderer gives the potential victim a chance to avoid being murdered. (Tommy Brown is a good example). Bertie has just recanted, saying that he and Oliver were friends, and that he could never hurt him. Oliver cannot rely on that, so he tests Bertie by tickling him again. When Bertie reacts angrily and threatens to tell the world what he is, Oliver considers that he now has no choice and reluctantly, but efficiently, shoots poor Bertie dead. Alternatively, Oliver has already made a final decision to kill Bertie, but he can’t do it while his old friend is being so nice, so he provokes him, being more able to shoot a man shouting at him in anger.
Very good deduction. It occurred to me too
that Oliver might be waiting for the bare threat
to expose him before acting, as his own remark
Also, Oliver intended this tickling play and Bertie’s
laughter in the library to be overheard by others
who might otherwise later become suspicious.
I found it interesting that Columbo noted the oddity of Brandt carrying around an umbrella on a sunny day. This is the man who wears a raincoat every day of the year? In Los Angeles? Sure enough, just a bit later Columbo is remarkably caught out in the rain without his raincoat! When he showed up at the Brandts unannounced and ended up trading umbrellas – was this really an accident?
Regardless, the sequence was funny.
Gotta say more about Jamie Lee Curtis. Of course her most famous movie, Halloween, also starred Donald Pleasance of Any Old Port in a Storm. But what I find interesting is that, four decades later, she showed up in the whodunit Knives Out.
I wouldn’t count this as the “best” Columbo, but it’s certainly a very good one.
Great episode of Colombo. It’s one I hadn’t watched in a long while. One interesting thing is that unlike most of the murderers, Brandt seems to actually be dealing with a lot of guilt from his murder. From all of the smudges and marks he can’t seem to clean off his forehead to the constant looks of guiltiness until he breaks down to his wife and then finally confesses to Colombo. He finally looks relieved at the end when hanging up on his wife and giving Colombo his little final quiz.
A fantastic episode. Definitely in my top five.
I wonder if this episode, however, could have benefitted from a slightly LONGER running time?. This could have have given more insight into the great cast. (I still don’t fully understand the wife. I get that she likes shopping, but was she really greedy? I’m not sure she’s as awful as people make her out to be. But I could be wrong.)
Speaking of the wife, I think I found a mistake.
When Columbo “drops in” at the Brandt residence, Mrs. Brandt opens the door and just lets Columbo in without ever asking who he was and what he wanted? And I don’t think Columbo ever introduces himself to her formally.
Minor. But strange.
It could have been a case where Columbo (or someone from the department) called ahead of time advising her that he’d be coming over to ask a few questions.
I have mixed feelings on the wife. The way Brandt “needed” Bertie, I think she get his death was a chance to reconnect with her husband. Why she wanted him to “forget all about Bertie” and do
something with her. Cold yes, but I felt she wanted more from Brandt then to just spend his money.
I promise to buy you a cup of coffee on 8 January (totally boracic at the moment…) MeToo notwithstanding, a *sincere* compliment to a beautiful girl on her brains and vice versa will always go down well! I have been lurking here a while, as a lifelong Columbo/Peter Falk fan I was delighted to discover this. 5USA has been showing Columbo for a while now and I’m loving it (and recording them too…)
She was 14. This was a really good episode, but that scene REALLY did not age well. To me it means in cannot be the best episode ever.
Sigh. I think our culture has a long way to go when it comes to unraveling the the issues of creepiness and appropriateness. It’s my believe that this sort of attitude only makes matters harder for females of all ages dealing with various kinds of actual creepiness or abuse.
Far too many people are viewing something that is *inappropriate* by today’s standards as something that is inherently *creepy*. They aren’t the same thing. Put it this way: what if it were an unquestionably heterosexual woman making those comments to her instead of Columbo? Would the comment still be so bad as to completely ruin the episode for you… or would the re-contextualization suddenly make the comment seem a lot more positive?
My point is that while *some* comments are inherently and irredeemably bad (no matter who is saying them and what their inner motivation is), other comments like this one are not inherently bad; it is only the uncertain subtext and potential motives that surrounds them that makes them feel creepy by today’s standards. Such comments are *potentially* bad due to hidden motivations or–even if innocently intended–due to misunderstandings on the part of the recipient.
But surely the potential such a misunderstanding (assuming we’re in agreement here that Columbo was not, in fact, trying to hit on a 14 year old) shouldn’t be enough to ruin an entire episode? Are we really so rabidly polarized as a society that it’s become that bad?
Metoo and such have unfortunately been focused on strictly vilifying everything that feels even slightly creepy, which honestly only makes matters harder for girls and women placed in uncertain gray areas of not knowing in what sense a comment was made. There is a difference between a symptom and an underlying disease; conflating the two only makes diagnosis and treatment harder. Innocently inappropriate things should be pointed out and corrected, yes, but conflating them with maliciously creepy things does no one any favors.
This is a lot of analysis directed at what was really intended as a bit of a throwaway joke regardless, but seems like a lot of people were fixating on this scene.
Regards Columbo’s comment to the young girl, from my perspective (for what it’s worth lol)…..
Maybe I’m well off the mark here, but this is what I took from it:
So, the first point is this was filmed back in the 70’s or early 80’s I think? Back then there was simply nowhere near as much safeguarding etc around this kind of thing – and also no social media to help it gain momentum!
When Columbo made the ‘pretty’ comment, back then how women looked was for a large percentage of them unfortunately about as much as they could hope for in life and this girl was clearly at an impressionable age, what was also clear was the fact she did seem a bit ‘nerdy’ and probably never had a boyfriend saying those things to make her feel positive about herself – I honestly feel he was just trying to give her a little ‘boost’ of self confidence?
I was actually more uncomfortable at HER response to HIM! – “that’s the first time anyone’s said they like me for my body and not just my mind”
From a 14 year old girl – THATS cringey & inappropriate! I would’ve said “whoa hang on there little lady, that wasn’t what I was getting at!”
It would’ve been totally different if he used a term reserved for older consenting adults such as “you’re a really hot girl” or “you’re a really sexy girl” etc – but ‘pretty’ is not a bad thing to say to a teenager. I’ve picked up my partners girl a few years ago for a school disco and I said “oh you look very pretty today darling!” And no one thought it was inappropriate or creepy?
@Fraser Those in the 1970’s were familiar with the movie cliche “He only likes me for my body; I want someone who likes me for my mind.” (I think it may have been said by a dancer in White Christmas but I’m not sure).
The words of the 14 year girl was an attempt to jokingly turn the cliche on its head by saying the opposite. Without that cultural context, the comment does seem odd. It wasn’t the best joke in the world but that was what they were aiming at.
Oh really David? That’s very interesting and when look at in that context then it’s it’s not as bad as I thought!
I think you’re completely correct about her comments being more inappropriate than his–the implication being she was indicating she perceived it as a come-on and was fine with it. However, as the other responder pointed out, this was also intended an obvious joke playing on the old cliche “You only like me for my body.”
My memory here is a little fuzzy… I’m not sure if the girl herself seemed to be “in” on the joke as she said it, or if it was only a joke for the audience to ‘get’. I only remember that she smiled. If she herself was saying it jokingly–therefore, implicitly she was NOT recognizing Columbo’s comment as being a come-on–then I think it might not be such a cringe-worthy moment. She was just making a joke that should’ve made Columbo blush and stammer.
Actually, I kinda think that a blush / stammer / hasty correction response from Columbo is the main thing that the scene could probably use, regardless of whether or not she was intentionally making a joke.
So I think we may be largely in agreement there. I just don’t think that the as-is inappropriateness is remotely enough to ruin an entire episode… and I suspect we have considerably different ideas about the timeline of female oppression in general and the forms in which it persists today.
“how women looked was for a large percentage of them unfortunately about as much as they could hope for in life”
I mean… no, you’re just wrong. Flatly wrong. Although you’re not the only one; I’ve seen several similar comments on another episode set in the late 70s. Let me check the exact year.. yeah, see, this was 1977; not 1947.
Do people honestly believe that 1977 was the Father Knows Best era of housewives slaving over stoves? I mean… really? You know that Monterey Pop festival (the one where Hendrix torched his guitar) was a full decade prior to this, right? That most of the teenagers of the Woodstock generation by this point already had families of their own?
Sure there were still some geezers here and there who sometimes actively stood in the way, but this was way after the co-educational movement had begun in earnest. Females were present in almost every profession by that point.
(We could get in murkier waters here talking about statistics, glass ceilings, pay gaps and such but suffice it to say, these things typically aren’t represented correctly. When women are given lots of support and hiring quotas–as they are in the Nordic countries, for instance–they actually tend to gravitate away away from “male industries”. Having more opportunities in life means there is less of a reason to take on the higher stress jobs that are traditionally male dominated…. which obviously begs the question of why males would disproportionately wish to pursue such stressful careers and then before you know it, I’ve written another masters thesis on Columbophile’s blog. Main point being that opportunities were very close to equal by the time 1977 rolled around, especially for the younger generation. If you were a 50 year old woman in 1977 well ok, it’s likely enough that you had doors closed to you because of your sex. But that really can’t be said of a 14 year old.)
Taylor — you make several valid and interesting points. Except this one:
“Metoo and such have unfortunately been focused on strictly vilifying everything that feels even slightly creepy…”
I haven’t seen any proof that they are focused STRICTLY on that. Where did you get the idea that the MeToo movement is STRICTLY focused on that?
Well ‘strictly’ was the wrong word, obviously. Just exaggeration and/or sloppy word choice. I meant “prominently.” It seems like the biggest stinks were being raised over some of the least important incidents (with some notable exceptions, like Weinstein.)
This is a textbook case of a generational culture shift skewing perceptions. In 1977, that exchange with Caroline was perfectly acceptable. Certainly, the Columbo producers and Peter Falk himself would never knowingly corrupt the character’s brand. And keep in mind that this is the era where it was also acceptable for executives to keep copies of men’s magazines, replete with centerfolds, in their office waiting rooms (“Make Me a Perfect Murder”).
I lived the era. Trust me, nobody watching Columbo in 1977 took anything creepy from that interchange. But people’s reactions to it today are a terrific test-case demonstration of how our culture has changed/evolved. Our reactions – not judging the reactions, but just observing the reactions themselves – tell us more about the context of the eras in which we watch, and less about the actual dialogue between Columbo and Caroline.
Glenn, I completely agree. I was 13 in 1977 and I wouldn’t have found anything creepy about that exchange with Caroline. Same with other scenes that had the Lieutenant with young characters, like Audrey and the kids in Identity Crisis. I actually liked seeing Columbo interacting with various youngsters, it made him more human and believable as a parent himself.
Thinking about this topic more, I thought of a Columbo scene that was kinda disturbing: Tommy Brown and Tina. Granted, we don’t know her age but given that Tommy liked them not quite legal (Mary Ann) well you know the rest. Given his unsavory predilections in the episode, it’s still an uncomfortable scene to watch.
Thanks again for your deep analysis and thought provoking ideas. Personally I am a great Columbo fan but don’t analyse too much. Or rank the episodes. Can’t say that this one was very special to me. But it was enjoyable. These days I don’t watch any drama apart from Columbo. And although I was an avid Columbo watcher in the 70’s I don’t remember any of the episodes.
Being a nitpicker I couldn’t help testing the challenge given to Columbo about the bags of gold, and according to my calculations the answer is flawed. Or maybe the puzzle is. E.g. Say there are four bags and the real pieces of gold weigh 1 kilogram. If you took four from one bag etc the weight would be 4+3+2+1=10. Right? But what if the weight were 9? Which bag had the fake pieces? Answer is that it could be either of two bags. If the pieces in bag four weigh 750 grams, the four pieces add up to 3 instead of four, reducing the total to 9. Likewise if the pieces in bag 2 weigh 500 grams, the total is reduced by one. So maybe Columbo (and Brandt) are not so smart after all !
The artificial gold coins, whichever bag they’re in,
have a known weight, greater than 1 pound. (Or less
if you wish). Which makes the solution always unique.
It’s only when their weight is not known, or the same as the gold, that the solution can be non-unique.
Yeah, the thing you missed was that the weight of the fake gold was a known quantity. I think the show maybe phrased this awkwardly by saying it could be either heavier or lighter (the point of saying this was to point out that it didn’t matter, but the exact deviation vs. the weight of gold was known.)
Since you say you enjoyed that puzzle, you might want to check out a parity-based puzzle. They also work on the principle of trying to gain information when it seems like there isn’t any way to do so.
There’s a good example on Youtube titled “Are You a Master Message Encrypter?” It’s one of the most impossible-sounding puzzles you’ll ever encounter (unless you’re already familiar with the basics of parity encoding.)
I remain staggered that this episode ranks top despite the nostalgic feelings it conjures up from the youth of the author.
There are certainly some high points and this is an above average Columbo but nowhere near the top ten for me nor, according to polls on other sites the majority of others
The episode is full of too many stereotypes of high IQ people (which sadly does not include me so no personal grudge here) and cringeworthy moments. The infantile “Oh Bertie” scenes more befitting of the type of programme the author probably should have been watching at ten years old when visiting Grandlpa.
While I appreciate the need for the investigation to be primarily focused in the building the murder took place, the depressing interior of Geek HQ, as we are influenced to believe would be a more appropriate name makes for a depressing backdrop. Finally, by this point in the series the murderer effectively saying “Wow you are more clever than you first seem” is somewhat predictable, moreover tedious.
In conclusion, a criminally (pun intended) overrated episode but nevertheless a watchable one. As a final word I want to say a huge thank you to the site owner for very informative, entertaining and readable reviews. It’s a superb site and streets ahead of copycat and predecessor sites but on this particular outing we are streets apart.
Coffee just bought for your work though. Thank you.
Thanks for the coffee, Rob! We may not agree on the brilliance of this episode, although I must post out that the episode is in the top 5 of the most popular Columbo episodes of all time as voted for by readers. Many thousands of votes have been cast over the last four years, so it gives a very clear indication of the popularity of the episode given that so many voters rate it as their number one.
What were the 4 words in Columbo’s puzzle?
Uncle. Asphalt. Delight. Leave.
Leave doesn’t belong because it ends in a vowel.
No, wait, Leave doesn’t belong because it has only one syllable.
No, wait, Leave doesn’t belong because it has 3 vowels instead of 2.
No, wait, Leave doesn’t belong because its L is spoken at the very beginning of the word.
No, wait, Uncle doesn’t belong because the other three are clearly “outside” things…asphalt on the road, de light from de sun, and the leaves on the trees.
I think he wanted to complement Columbo,
so any answer with a reason was the right
Asphalt, because its vowels are the same
Leave, the only one that’s not two syllables
Uncle, as can only be one part of speech, a pronoun
Delight, as the only one that is an anagram (lighted)
This epidode is closer to the bottom than the top. Brilliance, my arse
Columbo is my favorite, self-soothing shelter-in-place cocoon of nostalgia. I write about silent movie locations – some overlap with the show – https://silentlocations.com/2016/05/16/columbo-and-the-silent-clowns-chaplin-keaton-and-lloyd/
I enjoyed the episode, its a great outing for Columbo. I couldn’t help but feel that the method of murder (or rather, the alibi) was heavily influenced by The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the famous Agatha Christie novel.
This is a dull episode. Bikel is very unlikable. Columbophile over thinls his take as usual
Great blog. I have enjoyed reading your analysis of episodes. Bye-Bye is one of my faves as well. I think Mrs. Vivian Brandt deserves a mention for her bizarre reaction to Bertie’s death ” We’ll buy some clothes, take a trip etc. we must put him out of our minds”
I just watched this episode (“The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case”) for the first time, and then read your Columbophile review and comments from other fans. My initial impression is that the murder itself was intricately devised and only a genius could have concocted such a brilliant setup. I enjoyed that part of the plot very much. I agree with Columbophile that Oliver Brandt is a sympathetic killer, and I too found the conversation between Columbo (revealing his own initial feelings of inadequacy when he joined the police force and aspired to be a detective) and Brandt (who hid his intelligence from bullies and others who wouldn’t understand him, for much of his life) to be outstanding. The acting of Theo Bikel and Peter Falk is superb, and this great scene reveals a lot about both characters.
I wish that the members of the Sigma Society were featured more prominently into the episode more prominently, however. We never get a sense of what their personalities or quirks are, other than the ridiculous scene with Danzinger explaining his preposterous theory of the murder (I personally found that scene to be too silly for inclusion in this episode), and several short scenes with the precocious 14-year old genius, Caroline. I personally thought (and hoped) that Caroline’s photographic memory would play into the unravelling of the murder. At the very least I wished that something that she suggested or said would enlighten Columbo to unraveling the murder plot.
I have two issues with the murder planning. First, as mentioned above by Columbophile, Hastings’ screaming would have clearly been heard by the guests downstairs. Additionally, after Hastings was shot he fell to floor more silently than if he’d climbed into bed – I think his body would have been much louder – at least as loud as the sound the dictionary made several minutes later when it fell. I feel that another shortcoming was the idea that the red marker causing the gigantic dictionary to fall. Even when watching Columbo’s re-creation in slow motion, you can see that the dictionary begins to tumble BEFORE the marker falls on it. I think a much heavier object would be needed to make such a large, heavy dictionary fall than a small plastic marker.
I do have one question I have about the elaborate setup by Brandt that is not explained – unless I missed it. Can someone please explain how Brandt ensured that the back door to the library would slam as the guests ran into the room, creating the illusion that the killer had just escaped moments beforehand? I don’t think that this part of the ruse was addressed in the re-creation that Columbo showcases to Brandt at the episode’s end.
Despite this minor shortcomings, I did enjoy this episode very much, overall, but personally I prefer “Troubled Waters” and several other episodes over this one in my personal rankings. I love this Columbophile blog, and thank you for posting such fantastic (and incredibly funny photo captions!) comments and critiques of each episode. This must take a LOT of time, and I (and many, many other Columbo fans) appreciate it very, very much.
The far door of the library closed because Brandt left a window open to create a draft that closed the door when the main door was opened. Columbo doesn’t reference this, but we do see him notice that the doors do this later in the episode, right before his conversation with Caroline in the library.
Thanks for the explanation! Again, I love the blog. Keep up the great work!
Thank you, I’m pleased to hear you’re enjoying it.
I have no problem with thedfoor slaming good clue , my beef is with the
chalk line halfway on the dictionary , its basicslly the most obvious clue and i wish they had shown oliver wiping it or getting rid of it or some other way of including it
Plus the fact it was lying on the floor, i really struggle with this and for me relegates it lower than episodes like swan song , try and catch me and negative reaction which i consider top 3 of the seventies
I also think Columbo picks up on clues
too subtle for Oliver to notice.
For instance, Oliver tells Columbo that
Bertie is tone deaf, and would happily
listen to anything. Columbo surely must
wonder why then would Bertie program
the phono to play a specific Tchaikovsky
I managed several properties in which each had a door that would slam if it was open when a second door to the room was opened. It is a very weird phenomenon despite my knowing it would happen .
Can’t agree about the gun disposal in the park trashcan which you list as No 1 best scene. It was ludicrously out of step for what we are led to believe is such a high end genius. In fact it made him appear to be a dunce. Of all the places in LA to dump the weapon he put it very clumsily in that bin. Uncovered and waiting detection by the pestering super detective. Utterly ridiculous and undermined what was a decent episode?
I don’t rate that as the best scene in the episode, although it’s a very good one. Top scene is the heart-to-heart between Columbo and Oliver in the library prior to the gotcha.
Agreed. That was beyond just acting. It became more personal. The scene in the nightclub with George’s girl friend gazing almost lovingly at Columbo as he stuck his beak and cigar right in their faces lol. On the ice cream moment do you agree or not on the lameness of it as I described or what is your view of the scene. As you obviously rate it.
Great site by the way friend. Keep up the good work.
I disagree completely about the ‘lameness’ of the scene. I think it’s excellent and a real episode highlight. The tension is almost unbearable until the bin is taken away for emptying, and the way Oliver’s relief gives over to his pompous monologue on umbrellas makes my heart sing!
He doesn’t just leave it uncovered in the trash can. He had it in a paper bag, but the lady with the baby stroller jammed her own trash in top of it which dislodged it from the bag and exposed it.
It’s not much of a gotcha at all. It’s Brandt making an egotistical fool of himself. Someone that smart shouldn’t be so dumb.
On the contrary, sir. As Columbo explained in Prescription Muder: “You’re probably right. He sounds just too clever for us. What I mean is, you know, cops, we’re not the brightest guys in the world. Of course, we got one thing going for us: we’re professionals. I mean, you take our friend here, the murderer. He’s very smart, but he’s an amateur. I mean, he’s got just one time to learn. Just one. And with us, well, with us, it’s – it’s a business. You see, we do this a hundred times a year. I’ll tell ya, Doc. That’s a lot of practice.”
Loved this episode, along with Forgotten Lady & Troubled Waters 😊
P.S. Why such a long, sing-song title? Were they referencing something? 🙂
I don’t know. It’s very out-of-keeping with the rest of the series.
I thought this might’ve been a better title for the
episode, Short Fuse, which sounded dull.
I suppose “Big Dic” wasn’t an option.
This episode didn’t wow me the first time I saw it, but if Columbophile thinks that highly of it, I’ll definitely give it another shot. Fortunately, I think it’s the next episode that will air on MeTV, so I’ll get my chance soon.
This has to be my favourite Sorrell Booke role. Bertie Hastings is cute! Yes, his head does resemble an egg, as do a lot of people’s. Maybe that’s where we get the term “egghead” meaning “intellectual.” I have somewhat of a weird big head myself so I don’t cast aspersions on anyone else’s head!
Sam Wanamaker was also an actor as well as a director, and played several powerful villains. I think he would have made a good “Columbo” villain.
I seem to be alone in not having a “first” episode of “Columbo” to become attached to. Technically, the first one I saw was “Columbo Cries Wolf” when it was on A&E in the 1990s, but I didn’t clue in to how great “Columbo” was then. The episode has no sentimental value. Some 35 years later, what got me to start watching “Columbo” regularly was stumbling upon “Double Shock” on TV in a hotel room, and while it was a good enough episode to make me a fan of the series, I’d say it’s only a medium-good episode. It does have some nostalgic value as I have pleasant memories of watching it for the first time in that hotel room that night.
Is Todd Martin the second actor to play Sergeant Burke, after Jerome Guardino, or are there two separate Sergeant Burkes in the LAPD? It’s not impossible. I’m curious as to which way Columbophile leans!
Unfortunately, the toxic culture at the Sigma Society is no surprise to me. I have found there is nowhere in life where you can escape bullying, neither among fellow intellectuals nor among fellow misfits and outcasts. Humans are basically bullies by nature and will do it when they can get away with it.
Caroline enjoying being treated like a regular girl instead of a girl genius is kind of like Steven Spelberg from “Mind Over Mayhem” enjoying being treated like a regular boy instead of a boy genius. They should hang out together! They could go see “The Loves of Frankenstein” at the drive-in and then Steven could trundle MM7 over for a demonstration at the Sigma Society!
Since we now know Columbophile’s top episode of all time, I’m going to take this chance to decide my favourite episodes out of just the 1970s ones I’ve accumulated on my PVR so far. In descending order of favouriteness, they are:
1. “The Most Dangerous Match”
2. “Double Exposure”
3. “Publish or Perish”
4. “Mind Over Mayhem”
5. “Double Shock”
6. “A Case of Immunity”
7. “Fade in to Murder”
All of the above are good episodes I actively enjoy watching, and it was tough to sort some of them. “Lovely But Lethal,” “Playback,” “A Matter of Honor,” and “Old-Fashioned Murder” are the other 1970s episodes I have but which I find less entertaining. Of those, “Playback” is the one that almost that made the favourites list, thanks mainly to the snarky banter between Margaret Midas and Harold Van Wick.
I may change my mind about some of the non-favourites as time goes on. Originally I wouldn’t have put “Mind Over Mayhem” in there, but I discovered I enjoy listening to it while I lie down and go to sleep. Maybe José Ferrer’s deep voice is soothing. He has soft fluffy consonants like Donald Sutherland. And every time I listen to the episode I’m impressed at how he takes the long, unwieldy, and expositional line “Howard, you’re a chemist, and I would say that your ability to analyse a man’s intellectual capacity is way beyond your powers, or is this psychological deduction something your wife came up with, considering that Neil’s been in therapy with her?” and wrestles it to the ground! That’s almost a Bulwer-Lytton Contest sentence! Go José! 🙂