A Stitch in Crime

Episode 13 – A Stitch in Crime

The thirteenth episode of Columbo was titled A Stitch in Crime and was the sixth episode of the show’s second season. A brilliant doctor is forced to improvise when a suspicious nurse begins to investigate his behaviour and Columbo goes head-to-head with the killer. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a popular guest star on what is a well-regarded episode.

 

 

In A Stitch in Crime Columbo is forced to face off with Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy is known around the world for his iconic role as Mr Spock across the Original Series, Animated Series, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine shows, together with the first six Star Trek movies and both of JJ Abrams’ rebooted movies – Star Trek in 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness in 2012. Outwith the Star Trek universe Nimoy has had a diverse and celebrated career in acting, but also direction and latterly in photography.

 

Nimoy’s calculating Dr Mayfield calmly murders the returning Anne Francis‘ Nurse Sharon Martin and former Dallas actor Jared Martin‘s ex-drug addict Harry Alexander (not to mention attempting to murder Dr Hideman, played charismatically by The WaltonsWill Geer). Indeed, Nita Talbot‘s Marcia Dalton is the only principal character who escapes Mayfield’s ire for the duration of the episode -though she is cruelly manipulated into guiding the police down the wrong track.

 

There was a welcome return to a more tight-knit principal cast in this episode and the show was better for it. The Columbo-Mayfield dynamic was allowed to take centre stage and that was a wise decision, allowing two strong actors to wring every ounce of drama from the script.

 

During this episode we asked listeners a couple of questions. Firstly, was the operating room (or any other part of the hospital set) used for a medical-themed show, or was it bespoke for Columbo? Also, do you think Columbo lost his temper with Mayfield, or was it a strategic move? If you have thoughts on those issues or any other aspects of A Stitch in Crime then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.

 

A Stitch in Crime was released in 1973. It is 74 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Arabian Knights

    Hello. So happy to have listened to this podcast!

    I discovered the link to your podcasts from the IMDB message board and had to listen to all of them in a massive blitz.

    You do a fine, low-key discussion of my favourite series. I have watched and re-watched the original series since its beginning in the 70s and can recite the dialogue from several preferred episodes. Very good job, gentlemen!

    Like Columbo, a couple of things bothered me in this episode:

    1. It was a product of the times, but I was always bothered by the nurse-doctor relationships. It seemed as if the nurses were always subservient to the doctors, who treated them as minions, rather than as skilled professionals in their own right.

    2. I was also bothered by how callous Dr.Hiedemann (sp?) was when hearing about the death of his nurse, who met her death through concern for him. He did not seem to care particularly.

    Looking forward to your podcast next week!

    • Thanks for the feedback, it’s much appreciated.

      I think you’re right on point 1 particularly – though by now we’ve almost become a little inured to some of the attitudes that seem out of place to us today, I think!

      • Arabian Knights

        Yes, indeed. It seemed normal at the time, when we women were breathlessly grateful just to be out there in the workplace. Always interesting to go back and re-capture antiquated technology and attitudes.
        All the best!

    • Largo

      Great post! Your first point concerning the nurse-doctor relationships is spot on — however, these attitudes persist to the present day. I work at a major health care facility and I still witness this kind of arrogance on the part of doctors almost every single day. Unless you have friends in very high places, nothing seems to curb this kind of poor behavior.

      Your second point about Dr. Hideman’s reaction to the death of his surgical nurse, Sharon Martin, is also a concern of mine. I blame the script and the director for this one. There should have been a scene where this tragedy is dwelled upon and then they could have cut to a different sequence and then cut back at a later time to continue the scene as it is written. Sharon Martin’s death is just brushed off way too callously in the original scene. I mean, we all know that Grandpa Walton cares! 🙂

      • Ian Baxter

        I also work in a healthcare setting… and the attitudes do persist. Shame.

      • Peter

        Well, being a physician, I think, at least at the places where I work, there is more respect and less toleration for the type of relationship you refer to. Tend to see this more with surgeons than people like myself:) They are also cracking down now on physicians who demean or abuse nurses.
        This episode is one of my all-time favorites, one where I could not wait for the murderer to get his come-uppance. I think Columbo’s anger was real, and this was one of my all-time favorite scenes. Love seeing him fired up since it happens so rarely.

        • Largo

          No offence intended there, Peter. I totally agree about the majority of arrogant attitudes coming from the surgeons: this has been my personal experience as well. Yes, these negative types of behavior persist, but thank God there are plenty of nurses and nurse managers that refuse to take any of this crap. The surgeons that have been the worst where I work tend to be the specialists. A few continue to act like they aren’t accountable to anyone. 8-o

    • CarlosMu

      People were fairly unmoved by death throughout the whole series. I guess life was cheap in the 70’s!

      • Peter

        Be careful! I grew up in that decade and it was the pinnacle of high culture-bell-bottom jeans, leisure suits, shag carpets, long side-burns.

        • Largo

          When I’m discussing popular culture with the college-aged folks that I work with, I tend to fall back on my highly biased attitude: which is best summed up as, “If it’s not from the Sixties, it’s crap.” However, my teenage years were during the 70s and there was a whole lot of great films and other things made during this particular decade. But then again — there was this item called “Disco.” 🙂

      • Arabian Knights

        Great post – thanks. I was in my early 20s during that season and my circle was not indifferent about death. We were all so naïve that we had no shell against it. I suppose we thought: well, that’s TV not real life. We had no idea about how art could inspire death, if not life.
        I still have some contacts from that era and we are as pro-life as we were then, despite the passage of time.

  • Ian Baxter

    Found it amusing how you guys tried to keep down the Spock comments, but did anyone else notice the best, if subconscious, nod to Star Trek?

    Gerry describes Dr Mayfield’s phone call to party guest: “…in what possible universe do you pick up the phone to someone and you say ‘Listen Jim, we’re going to have to cancel the party’…” (42:25)

    Well I thought it amusing.

    • Missed that one, though I did slip the title of TNG’s finale in near the end of the podcast!

    • I’ve checked and Gerry refuses to confirm or deny whether that comment was an intentional reference!

      • Ian Baxter

        Was Gerry intentional? Was Columbo’s anger calculated? Did Columbo have brains with his egg? Did Gerry deliberately try to drop Iain’s summary from the show? I can’t handle all these uncertainties in my life!

  • Jenifesto

    I’m delighted to have finally caught up with the show! I’ve been re-watching Columbo for the nth time, and when I found your podcast, I went to season one and have followed along. Again, great work!

    I always give Columbo the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll say that he intentionally lost his cool with Mayfield. Forgive me if I’m getting the timing of evidence wrong here, but if at that point Columbo suspected it was to do with the suture, which is something he couldn’t just check on his own and his other option was to wait for the poor old man to die, I think he had to force Mayfield’s hand a little and make him do something dramatic. I don’t think the threat of Columbo’s superior being called isn’t much of anything, since a) his superior probably gets called about Columbo about once a week, and b) as we learned in Dagger of the Mind, he’s a bit of a legend. He gets results!

    Did not get: that pathetic fall down the stairs. That guy died from that!? I agree with Iain that he was certainly better off just *seriously* overdosing Alexander and being done with it.

    All in all, a good episode. Nimoy was chilling and is probably the murderer I’ve most actively disliked in all of the shows so far.

    • Thanks for the feedback Jenifesto (can we call you Jen??). I think the question of whether Columbo lost his cool or not is definitely a good one.

      It was said on twitter that perhaps Columbo gets angry when people die after he’s already on the case. Not sure if that holds up to scrutiny though.

      • Ian Baxter

        Absolutely agree with Jenifesto that Columbo was being very deliberate in his outburst and that the reason was his attempt to save Dr Hideman.
        He had been learning that the dissolving suture could be lethal in a matter of days with a heart patient. Therefore he is under pressure to provoke some reaction from Dr Mayfield. A great scene, together with the final reveal.

        • No Half Measures

          That’s interesting for me to read b/c I’ve always assumed that Columbo had finally HAD IT with Mayfield’s attitude and WANTED to say, “Look, you piece of sh–, I’m on to you, so drop the freaking coyness act and let’s be men about this!” But I have a very healthy dose of Irish and Scottish in me, so it might just be that that’s what I’D do if provoked by Mayfield’s flat affect! Oh, and I hope I did not offend Gerry, Iain, and anyone else on here who is Irish and/or Scottish. I am VERY proud of my heritage (-; !!

          • Ian Baxter

            As a proud Scot I take no offence, and if Columbo was a Scot I’m sure we’d see more fiery outbursts 🙂

          • No Half Measures

            Ha! Ha! BUT, Italians are stereotypically all hot-headed, too, so it is kind of surprising that he doesn’t get riled up more often. Believe me, I know! One of my best friends growing up was a full-blooded Italian and, boy, could her family go at it (-: !

      • Jenifesto

        It’s interesting how Columbo reacts (doesn’t react) when there’s a second act murder. (Note to all would-be accomplices or blackmailers: just don’t! You’re going to be the second act murder!) He doesn’t often show any particularly strong emotion, so I assume it’s him having a professional detachment from it and keeping on with the bumbling/ingratiating persona to get the murderer to reveal something.

        (And certainly – Jen is fine!)

        • Ian Baxter

          Ha ha… they never learn… my kids just roll their eyes and say ‘well that’s them dead’ when someone tries to blackmail the killer.

  • Largo

    I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise when I say that this is one of my most favorite episodes. Despite some weak script maneuvering and contrivances, Leonard Nimoy’s superb performance as the cold-blooded, clever and conniving Dr. Mayfield does compensate for these shortcomings in this story. Mayfield is a most worthy opponent for Columbo here and the ‘cat and mouse’ scenes between them are really wonderful and a joy to watch.

    But what isn’t so wonderful is that insipid and superfluous drug addict subplot. Eliminating all of these scenes would have given us even more sequences involving Will Geer and Leonard Nimoy and Peter Falk — with another dash of Nita Talbot, too (as the concerned roommate and not as a dupe for Mayfield). In short, I find it highly illogical for the superior intellect of Mayfield to risk any more for himself other than to quickly dispatch Nurse Sharon Martin and stage this horrible crime as a mugging gone terribly wrong.

    Logic dictates that Columbo could have pursued the murderer just based on the clues of Sharon Martin being upset after a supposedly successful operation and the “MAC” note (which lead to the chemically based dissolving suture). Columbo’s brilliant deductive technique would have come to the logical conclusion in good time and with Dr. Mayfield pinned as murder suspect number one. But Mayfield’s emotions got in the way of logic, specifically the emotions of greed and arrogance. These particular emotions are alien to me and I could have written a much superior Columbo script in which ……

    I am so sorry about that previous remark — please just ignore it. I was looking at my Franklin Mint pewter collectable USS Enterprise on top of my Mac Pro tower as I was typing and my mind wandered off on a trek of its own making. However — speaking of emotion, I now come to the scene. You know which one I’m talking about, eh. The scene that elevates this episode into the stratosphere: where Columbo expresses his anger toward the arrogant and mocking Mayfield and the ‘Columbo pretense’ is completely dropped. This quickly leads to one of the most brilliant ‘Gotcha!’ moments of the entire series.

    Needless to say, I loved your podcast as always! Obviously, I truly enjoyed all of the Spock remarks and asides. Leonard Nimoy played off of some these ‘Spock expectations’ superbly as the cold-blooded and ambitious heart surgeon in this Columbo episode. I totally agree with Peter: I just couldn’t wait until Columbo nailed this arrogant cuss. What a chilling and disturbing murderer Nimoy made here — poor Anne Francis as Sharon Martin! :.(

    However, I was disheartened somewhat when Gerry admitted that he had only seen a few episodes of the original Star Trek series. Please watch the entire first season of Star Trek, Gerry — at least before you guys get to William Shatner’s guest starring appearance in the Columbo episode “Fade In To Murder.” And don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to accomplish this task. Be seeing you!

    • Thanks Largo. I think it’s been a fairly common failing of Columbo killers so far to try and do too much – to have a perfect alternative narrative. It’s yet to work out for them (save possibly Beth from Lady in Waiting).

    • Ian Baxter

      Agree Largo, another good podcast and a favourite episode. The last few scenes (once the very bad stair fall, that Jenifesto rightly mentioned, is over with) are some of the best. I remember watching for the first time as a child and enjoying it all the more because I could not work out where it was going. I’d not seen Columbo get angry before, and, as said in the podcast, I thought the suture was in his hair. Columbo’s delight at finally nailing the Dr is a bit infectious.

      • Largo

        I’m right with you there, Ian! That hair swipe was good misdirection and it caused me to pause when I first saw it, too. And back then, as a wiseacre 13 year-old, I kidded my friends and kept referring to this episode as “the Columbo show where Spock murders Altaira.” 🙂

        • Ian Baxter

          I was born the year this episode was released, so I’ll confess that I just had to ‘google’ Altaira 🙂 I’ll add Forbidden Planet to the list of things to watch.

          • Largo

            Forbidden Planet is defintely an SF classic and a must-see film. It’s loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and it plays out rather like an ambitious episode of classic Star Trek. However, be prepared for some juvenile and dated humor. But still — Anne Francis in miniskirts and Robby the Robot!!! 🙂

          • Have to admit to being a fan of Return to the Forbidden Planet, but shamefully have not seen the original!

          • Largo

            I had to google that one as I’ve never even heard of this “jukebox musical.” I have heard of jukebox Technicolor films — which describes a whole host of movies from the 1950s, including Forbidden Planet (1956). So in other words, you just gotta see it — especially before you get to the “Mind Over Mayhem” Columbo episode.

      • No Half Measures

        I was the same way! My parents loved the show, and while I confess that I DID think it was a boring adult show (-; , I could never figure out where it was going, either. I guess growing older is good SOMETIMES (-; !

  • Emrys

    Great podcast. Nimoy is a superb baddie for Columbo to play against. I’ve always loved this episode. Can’t quite place it in my top ten due to the (in my opinion) unnecessary drug-dealer-falling-down-stairs-killing sub-plot.
    And while I think Columbo was genuinely angry, he is clever enough to know when to ‘play’ that anger. If I were Columbo I’d be angry at most of the clever-ass murderers. But Columbo knows when to switch it on. He needed to coax a reaction from the statue-faced Nimoy. And he got it. Great episode.

    • Largo

      Nah — I’m not buying it, eh. Aren’t you the one that has that Captain Kirk episode of Columbo in your top ten list? Just admit that you prefer Kirk over Spock and all will be good. 😉

      • Emrys

        Yeah, I’m prejudiced. Shatner’s episode is my favourite killer/cop interplay. I haven’t watched a lot of star trek… but doesn’t kirk get to kiss the lizard ladies? That can only be a win!

        • Largo

          Lizard ladies?!? I believe you’re referring to the Orion slave women —- which, uhm, yeah … [looks furtively to the right and to the left] is a definite win-win! 😉

  • CarlosMu

    I love this episode just for the party scene alone. I have a thing for scenes where Columbo shows up at a party hosted by the killer. Especially when the killer is a doctor.

  • Ian Baxter

    So sad to hear of Leonard Nimoys death today.

    Alongside the many tributes that will be paid it seems appropriate to post here and say a thank you to someone who has made a great contribution to this little corner of the TV world that is Columbo. He has has been such an iconic part of many of our lives, through many TV and film roles. One of the best.

    Thoughts and prayers are with his family friends.

  • digger01

    I just heard word that Leonard Nimoy has passed away this morning (February 27). He had a brilliant career as an actor, director, and even musician.

    His role as Spock is, of course, legendary. But other aspects of his career are equally memorable for me, not the least of which is his role on Columbo.

    If you’ve never seen Nimoy’s “The Legend of Bilbo Baggins”, check it out on YouTube… it’s a lot of fun and so distinctly ’60s!

    I will also always remember him for hosting “In Search Of…” in the ’70s and early ’80s. I tuned in every weekend to watch, and his narration made the mysteries that much more fascinating.

    I think it’s pretty neat that our discussion of his episode comes at the time of his death. In our own way we are paying tribute to a brilliant career.

    Thanks to all of you for your posts. I feel that we have become a community, and I appreciate all of you!

    • Ian Baxter

      Well said, thank you

    • Largo

      Thank you so much, Ian and digger01, for those heartfelt words. I just found out from my supervisor about Leonard Nimoy’s passing. He will be sorely missed. I don’t know about the rest of you here, but I really need a drink now — such sad news.

    • Richard Hinton

      I watched Stitch In Crime, while listening to this podcast, this afternoon (Feb 27th) and heard of his passing via @ColumboPodcast … Been a strange afternoon – entertained and saddened.

    • Gummo Marx

      Glad you said that about ‘In Search Of..’ digger…that narration really got to me when i was a kid, the show fascinated me. Honestly, that’s how i’ll remember Mr. Nimoy.

    • No Half Measures

      I loved “In Search Of…”! I’ve always been glad that Nimoy was able to spread his wings and do other projects b/c he could have been seriously typecast as Spock (which, to some people, he probably was). But he was SO talented and seemed like just an all-around nice guy who was very humble. I was very sad to learn that he had passed away )-: . The world certainly lost a valuable person that day.

      Oh, and digger01, if you liked “In Search of…,” then you might like Alan Alda’s Scientific American Frontiers, which was on in the 90s. It’s not as mysterious as “In Search Of…,” but it does showcase a lot of interesting topics, such as sociology, technology, and a bunch of other -ologies (-; .

      And I agree with your comment that you feel like we’ve become a community. I feel the same way (-: ! It seems like a very kind, respectful, and seriously funny at times, community. Thank you so much, Gerry & Iain!!

      • digger01

        Thanks NHM, that’s a great suggestion about Scientific American Frontiers! I have heard of the series but haven’t seen it. I will definitely be checking it out.

        Nimoy had a commanding presence and voice, and he lent a certain gravity to those “In Search Of…” episodes. Every once in a while on a Sunday afternoon I will still pull up a few episodes from YouTube on my TV, and they’re still a lot of fun to watch. One of my favorites is the one about the mystery of the Coral Castle.

        Thanks again for the suggestion! : )

        • No Half Measures

          You’re welcome (-: ! And boy, do I agree about Nimoy’s commanding presence and voice! He’s one of those men whose voices I can get so caught up in that I neglect hearing the words (-; . Anyone just has to look at the picture Gerry & Iain used above to represent the episode. I remember that look of his being the final shot of the episode and thinking, “The director couldn’t have picked a better final shot than one with Nimoy raising one of those awesome eyebrows!” (-: .

  • Richard Hinton

    The operating room is also used in the Columbo episode Lovely But Lethal which, by the way, is the episode I’ve chosen to host on the live tweetalongs (#ColumboTV) on May 23rd on Twitter.

    • Ian Baxter

      Nice segue!

      • Richard Hinton

        Nice coincidence isn’t it.

  • I am finally caught up!

    As someone who works with people in the health sciences on the academic side in America, I think what’s driving the Leonard Nimoy character is not even just money. These people kind of live and die on things like research grants and papers and prestige. It’s not just the development of the drug, although that obviously factors into it–everything else ties into it. They present their results at a big national or international conference and create buzz. Then they write a bunch of papers and again, buzz and glory. It would be unusual for a single person to get all the credit–the objection I have here to the episode is that there aren’t more people in the lab working on this project (these things are usually done by a cast of thousands). Even back in the 70s, it would be unheard of to have a single author/researcher on a project like that.

    Today, the big pharma angle would probably be played up because those drug companies play fast and loose with ethics.

    The hierarchical relationship between doctors and nurses and other health care professionals is sadly accurate today, at least in the US. While there are efforts to have something a bit more equitable and mutually respectful system, it’s pretty deeply ingrained that surgeons are at the top. I was once told by a group of OR nurses with whom I was drinking that a good nurse knows when and how to step in and correct a doctor.

  • Kieran Wright

    This was a memorable episode, and to my knowledge maybe the only one in which Columbo expresses anger. Leonard Nimoy despatches of his victims in a very matter of fact way, which makes the episode all the more compelling. Peter Falk also makes a rare slip up, as he refers to nurse Sharon’s room-mate as ‘Miss Talbot’ – which was actually the actress’s name – instead of ‘Miss Dalton’. This usually happens on live episodes of ‘Eastenders’, but I was a little surprised that it never got picked up prior to being released.

    Incidentally, Peter Falk and Leonard Nimoy had previously worked together on ‘The Balcony’ in 1963, which was a bit of a racy film for its day, by all accounts. Funnily enough, Peter Falk’s role in that was a police chief…

    • That’s two really great pieces of trivia, thanks Kieran. Agreed that this was a really good, fun episode.

  • Joe Dokes

    I like this episode but do not buy the ending. The anesthesiologist that was keeping an eye on Mayfield for Columbo said the doctor didn’t make one false move the whole operation. So how did he manage to secret away the faulty sutures which he then planted in Columbo’s scrubs for disposal? Doesn’t make sense. Seems like they really couldn’t think of a way to tie it all up (sorry) and that’s the best they could come up with. Great episode otherwise.

    • I was certain they were going to be in his hair!

    • David Griffiths

      Statement of the obvious I know, but shouldn’t the removed suture have been covered in blood and looking generally tatty?

  • dusty

    One of my favorites, I love the soiree given at Doctor Mayfields home and one of the funnest gotcha’s for me……………..just began listening to this podcast ep. today on the way into work, going to finish it tonight on the drive home……….i think i’ve discovered my new drive time entertainment for the foreseeable
    future!

  • Shannon Charleston

    I love this Columbo episode and I never miss it when Me-TV airs it. Nimoy makes the episode worth watching and never gets old.