November 23, 2015

Mondays With Columbo: A STITCH IN CRIME

With Leonard Nimoy's passing earlier this year, it should not be surprising that much of his non-Star Trek work would be reexamined. (Nimoy tended to dismiss his work on Mission: Impossible soon after Trek was canceled).

Part of that work includes Nimoy's turn on Columbo's second season as Dr. Barry Mayfield, a heart surgeon who decides to murder his partner Edward Heidemann (Will Geer). It's an episode that both Columbo podcasts - The Columbo Podcast and Just One More Thing - have discussed, and having caught it myself, I can only say one thing:

Leonard Nimoy makes one terrific villain.

See. Mayfield and Heidemann are working on a drug that helps transplant patients with rejection. Mayfield simply wants the money and the recognition, and Heidemann is concerned with really trivial things like drug safety, etc. So when Heidemann has a health crisis, Mayfield finds an opportunity to take action and rid himself of a potential obstacle...

...and that's where the fun begins. Nimoy manages to balance charm and malice - Mayfield is not as overtly contemptuous of Columbo as other leads, but he manages to maintain a righteous veneer when performing despicable acts. (And this is one of the few Columbo episodes where you could argue the villain is an incipient serial killer).

The cat-and-mouse game between Nimoy and Falk's Columbo has a nice, almost cordial feel to it, and Hy Averback's direction manages to ratchet up the tension. Nimoy and Falk's interplay becomes rather frustrating, but in a good way - we know what happened, and we have faith that Columbo will figure things out....

...but when Columbo snaps, we understand. Perfectly.

Even the end has a twist that we probably should have seen coming...but don't. And it makes perfect sense.

This has always been more of a fan-favorite Columbo....but in retrospect, it's a hidden classic. And worth watching.

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