List of Columbo episodes

Here is a list of Columbo episodes, from the early pilots to both the NBC and ABC years.  While many had a number of motives, we simplified choosing only one per episode.  Hyperlinks to episode-specific articles are included.

Pilots Title Motive
1 Prescription Murder Divorce by murder
2 Ransom for a Dead Man Divorce by murder 5 things missed

5 unfortunate aftermaths

 

Season 1 Title Motive
1 Murder by the Book Keeping the status quo Jack Cassidy’s novels

 

2 Death Lends a Hand Keeping the status quo (Accident) 5 terrible aftermaths
3 Dead Weight Keeping the status quo Recycling

General’s prophecy

5 things missed

4 Suitable for Framing Inheritance 5 things missed

5 unfortunate aftermaths

Ode to Uncle Rudy

5 Lady in Waiting Revenge
6 Short Fuse Escaping blackmail The ghost

 

7 Blueprint for Murder Keeping the status quo 5 unfortunate aftermaths
Season 2 Title Motive
1 Etude in Black Escaping blackmail 5 things missed

Myrna Loy’s dress
2 The Greenhouse Jungle Inheritance
3 The Most Crucial Game Keeping the status quo 5 theories

5 things vanishing

 

4 Dagger of the Mind Keeping the status quo (Accident)
5 Requiem for a Falling Star Protecting a secret
6 A Stitch in Crime Protecting a secret The vanishing clock
7 The Most Dangerous Match Protecting a secret 5 things missed
8 Double Shock Inheritance An analysis

5 things missed

5 terrible aftermaths

Season 3 Title Motive
1 Lovely But Lethal Revenge
2 Any Old Port in a Storm Keeping the status quo 5 things missed

5 unfortunate aftermaths

3 Candidate for Crime Keeping the status quo 5 things missed

5 post-election hangovers

4 Double Exposure Keeping the status quo
5 Publish or Perish Keeping the status quo
Mind over Mayhem Protecting a secret 5 things missed

5 dangerous characters

7 Swan Song Divorce by murder The wake scene
8 A Friend in Deed Divorce by murder
Season 4 Title Motive
1 An Exercise in Fatality Protecting a secret Milo Janus, dictator

5 things missed

2 Negative Reaction Divorce by murder
3 By Dawn’s Early Light Keeping the status quo An analysis

5 things missed

4 Troubled Waters Escaping blackmail 5 terrible aftermaths
5 Playback Escaping blackmail 5 things missed
6 A Deadly State of Mind Keeping the status quo Dr. Collier’s confession
Season 5 Title Motive
1 Forgotten Lady Divorce by murder 5 things missed
2 A Case of Immunity The money in the safe
3 Identity Crisis Protecting a secret
4 A Matter of Honor Protecting a secret
5 Now You See Him Escaping blackmail 5 things missed

Charade

That hat

6 Last Salute to the Commodore Inheritance
Season 6 Title Motive
1 Fade in to Murder Escaping blackmail 5 unfortunate aftermaths
2 Old Fashioned Murder Keeping the status quo
3 The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case Protecting a secret 5 things missed
Season 7 Title Motive
1 Try and Catch Me Revenge 5 things missed

5 unfortunate aftermaths

Ruth Gordon’s speech

Abigail’s theme

2 Murder Under Glass Keeping the status quo Television chefs
3 Make Me a Perfect Murder Revenge 5 things missed

An analysis

4 How to Dial a Murder Revenge
5 The Conspirators Revenge 5 terrible aftermaths

 

Season 8 Title Motive
1 Columbo Goes to the Guillotine Revenge Recycling
2 Murder, Smoke, and Shadows Protecting a secret
3 Sex and the Married Detective Revenge 5 things missed
4 Grand Deceptions Protecting a secret
Season 9 Title Motive
1 Murder, A Self Portrait Keeping the status quo
2 Columbo Cries Wolf Keeping the status quo
3 Agenda for Murder Escaping blackmail
4 Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo Revenge
5 Uneasy Lies the Crown Keeping the status quo
6 Murder in Malibu Revenge
Season 10 Title Motive
1 Columbo Goes to College Keeping the status quo Recycling Pt 1, Pt 2

5 things missed

5 cheats

An analysis

5 unfortunate aftermaths

Poor Rich Boy

2 Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health Escaping blackmail
3 Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star Divorce by murder
4 Death Hits the Jackpot Keeping the status quo
5 No Time to Die Not applicable
6 A Bird in the Hand … Divorce by murder
7 It’s All in the Game Revenge
8 Butterfly in Shades of Grey Keeping the status quo
9 Undercover
10 Strange Bedfellows
11 A Trace of Murder Keeping the status quo An analysis

Newspaper headline

12 Ashes to Ashes Protecting a secret
13 Murder with Too Many Notes Protecting a secret Elevator goof
14 Columbo Likes the Nightlife Keeping the status quo 5 things missed

An analysis

The formula for Columbo is re-using the same motives.   We’ve broken them down to a few.

Keeping the status quo: People don’t like change.  They like their lives just the way they are.  If they’re not a victim of extortion or blackmail and not hiding a dark, life-ruining secret, we assign this category.   Sometimes, a deadly accident is covered up to not disturb the killer’s life goals.  See “Any Old Port in the Storm”, “Old Fashioned Murder”, or “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”.

Protecting a secret: Sometimes the villain has a secret in jeopardy coming out in the open.  They’re not necessary blackmailed, but warned ahead of time their lives will go under great change.  Beyond keeping the status quo, they’re desperate leaving secrets hidden from the world.  See “Mind over Mayhem” or  “An Exercise in Fatality”.

Escaping blackmail: More severe than simply protecting a secret, the murderer is experiencing blackmail.  Generally, the victim should have seen it coming and probably not liked and deserved their fate.  See “Fade In To Murder” or “Now You See Him…”.

Divorce by murder: Here is a special category for married villains.  While some use murder to escape blackmail, see “Swan Song”, what they really want to escape their spouse who is causing them grief.   Many are just too lazy to file papers.  See “Ransom for a Dead Man” or “Negative Reaction”.

Revenge: Other than season 7, wrath is a rarely used theme.  Some may commit murder under wrath for a monetary gain, see “Try and Catch Me”.  See “Columbo Goes to the Guillotine” or “Make Me a Perfect Murder”.

Inheritance: The motive is playing for the will.  Often, it involves a little more than greed as relatives discover they’re written out and take out their vengeance.   See “Suitable for Framing” or “The Greenhouse Jungle”.

Trying to find the screenplay online?   (Links 404 over time)
http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/episode_scripts.php?tv-show=columbo-1971