Identity Crisis

Episode 33 – Identity Crisis

The thirty second episode of Columbo was titled Identity Crisis and was the third episode of the show’s fifth season. A double agent kills a CIA operative in Columbo’s jurisdiction. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the way the lieutenant takes on a skilled opponent.



Patrick McGoohan returned to Columbo after his debut in Season Four’s By Dawn’s Early Light, directing and starring in this episode. He plays Nelson Brenner, a CIA agent with a secret second identity, by day a high-level consultant who prepares speeches for politicians and socialises in elite social circles.


Brenner’s victim is also portrayed by a returning guest star, Leslie Nielsen. The character is referred to as ‘A.J. Henderson’, but this is an assumed identity and his real name is never known. His CIA codename is ‘Geronimo’. He suspects Brenner to be a double agent, but more importantly knows Brenner has held on to money he’s due for his part in an earlier operation. Ultimately, this dispute leads to Geronimo’s death.


Series regulars Val Avery, Bruce Kirby and Vito Scotti played important roles as an ex-cop turned barkeeper, Sgt. Kramer and politician Salvatore Defonte respectively, while Otis Young was key as Lawrence Melville, an ex-con under the malevolent influence of Brenner’s alter-ego. David White‘s appearance as Phil Corrigan, Director of the CIA, pulled things together in the final stanza.


McGoohan’s directorial debut saw him working with William Driskill‘s thrid and final Columbo script – all for 1975 episodes after Season Four’s Troubled Waters and the Season Five opener Forgotten Lady. McGoohan would go on to direct four further episodes, right up until the year 2000.


During the podcast we asked if anybody could spot Paul Gleason, who is credited with the role of ‘Parsons’ in the episode. If you spotted him or have thoughts on any other aspect of Identity Crisis please share them 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.


Identity Crisis was released in 1975. It is 95 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 the show’s seasons released by Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Largo

    “Identity Crisis” is my favorite Columbo Mystery Movie. This does not mean that it is the absolute best of all of the Columbo movies or that it is completely flawless –- it just happens to be my personal favorite. One of the main reasons that “Identity Crisis” is my favorite Columbo episode is the fact that it features the great Patrick McGoohan as the special guest-star murderer. Not only do I think that this is Patrick McGoohan’s best performance in a Columbo episode, but I also feel that he’s at the top of his game here as he gets to direct this production as well as being the main villain in this particular Columbo Mystery Movie. Patrick McGoohan’s performance in “Identity Crisis,” as double-agent Nelson Brenner, is very special to me because he’s obviously having so much fun here while he gets to riff on his very own The Prisoner (1967-68) television series.

    “Identity Crisis” also features a superb and winning performance by Peter Falk as our favorite detective hero. But there is so much more to love in this Columbo episode: fan favorite Vito Scotti in a most delightful appearance where he and Falk both speak Italian; the excellent Val Avery as an ex-cop who is also a bartender; the wonderful Bruce Kirby in a follow-up appearance as the very reliable and no-nonsense Sgt. George Kramer; and then there is David White (hey — it’s Larry Tate from Bewitched) who plays Special Agent X-9, Phil Corrigan, the director of the CIA; and finally Leslie Nielsen as ‘A.J. Henderson.’ I guess the only person missing here that would complete the ensemble would be character actor, John Finnegan. This episode also contains not one but two separate scenes — where grown men interact with little girls — that are both almost guaranteed to upset Gerry and Iain’s sensibilities; whereas a lot of the rest of us (I hope) just find these particular scenes endearing. I mean one would be hard of heart to not be at all charmed by Archibald Panda or one of the other girls responding to Columbo with “I didn’t know dogs could swims.”

    “Identity Crisis” is also very special to me because of the nature of Lieutenant Columbo’s triumph over the villain in this particular episode. Despite the fact that Nelson Brenner is extremely cunning and dangerous with the very powerful and nefarious Central Intelligence Agency backing him every step of the way, our little detective hero still gets his man in the end. Nelson Brenner is a member of the so-called ‘international jet-set’ — rich, powerful and influential. Brenner is also a prestigious consultant who most likely hobnobs with famous movie stars, politicians and a host of foreign dignitaries and diplomats (as suggested by his house party). Nelson Brenner is a war hero who left his military career and entered the CIA and is one of their very best operatives. But he admits to Columbo that he finds his life and its various achievements to be “rather dull.” This includes his ultra-secretive and ultra-dangerous life as a double-agent. Brenner seems to be tired of this kind of erratic life and this appears to be why Nelson Brenner gives it all up to Columbo during the finale: he gladly admits defeat to the only truly worthy opponent that has ever crossed his path — our humble but very tenacious and brilliant homicide detective hero.

    When Nelson Brenner first throws down the gauntlet at Columbo, he quite firmly pronounces that Columbo is dealing with things outside of his (and the LAPD) authority. But how does Columbo react to this challenge? He walks away from Brenner as he looks back with a rather quizzical expression at first and then one of bemusement. When Brenner’s little games involving disguises and other false leads fails to deter the Lieutenant, he resorts to his ultimate weapon: the full weight and authority of the CIA through his contacting Director Phil Corrigan. Even though CIA Director Corrigan intercedes personally (ironically, in a meeting with the Lieutenant held on a non-functioning train engine exhibit in a park), this still doesn’t faze Columbo one iota, just like the knowledge of his being followed by CIA agents as well as his house being bugged by the same. Columbo never loses his focus and he has Brenner pegged as the murderer and never gives up despite all of the obstacles thrown at him by Brenner and the CIA. In short, Nelson Brenner has finally met his match: our disheveled and disarming Lieutenant Columbo.

    There’s a parallel between the characters of Columbo in “Identity Crisis” and Number Six from The Prisoner series. Number Six represents the strong-willed individual battling against the monolithic State. Columbo is the tenacious homicide detective going up against the State’s most powerful (and corrupt) weapon: the Central Intelligence Agency. Nelson Brenner represents the CIA’s true face: mostly apolitical and amoral, pitting one side against the other and reaping all of the spoils while maintaining a twisted form of oligarchy. In my very humble opinion, the CIA is not only evil and undemocratic, it is flat out a total violation of America’s Constitution and completely unAmerican in its outlook and modus operandi. The CIA has been secretly running the USA’s foreign policy since 1948 — causing one international crisis after another with its nefarious ‘black ops’ and other filthy shenanigans. These various CIA induced crises always leads to a military response and intervention, thus maintaining what President Eisenhower once termed “the military-industrial complex.”

    Unfortunately, in the reality of such international corruption and intrigue, one homicide detective wouldn’t stand a chance against such an entity as the CIA. The CIA would interfere with any police investigation of one of its own or one of its various schemes, either directly or through another federal agency such as the FBI, the NSA or Homeland Security. At best, the CIA would just be shutting down a homicide investigation or creating a cover-up. At worst it would resort to actually murdering a determined homicide detective or another type of investigator. So having Columbo win over such an evil entity as the CIA (albeit defeating a ‘rogue agent’) within the fictional world of television crime drama is really most satisfying to me. In a real world context, the CIA always comes out on top, by any means necessary. But one little homicide detective did succeed and bring about justice against this unscrupulous organization — in the imaginative dimension known as The Columbo Zone. Be seeing you!

    • I don’t think the scenes with little girls upset our sensibilities at all. There is clearly no malign intent. We simply choose to highlight the difference between how these scenes would be perceived now to how they were intended. Even although we have fun with it on the podcast, I don’t think we’re suggesting at all that the scenes actually represent anything sinister!

      • Largo

        That’s not at all what I was suggesting when I was gently tweaking your noses with that particular comment in my review. I was just going by the previous Columbo Podcast Team’s comments deeming at least one of Columbo’s earlier scenes (in “Death Lends A Hand,” for instance) with children as simply “inappropriate.”

        • Heh, I think we commented in Etude in Black as well – inappropriate in a modern context. Acceptable in the 70s!

          • Largo

            I have removed all mention of the Columbo Podcast Team from my review. I apologize profusely for even bringing up the Team within this particular context. I promise that it won’t happen again.

          • There was no need to do that, you’re perfectly entitled to express your uncensored opinions here. Please be assured that no offence was ever taken!

      • saltyessentials

        Agreed. I doubt folks creating or watching these scenes back in the day had pedophilia jump to mind, but it’s the first thing we think of today. More a commentary on our society than anything else. I mean, I assume there aren’t greater or fewer numbers of pedophiles around these days than there were in the 1970s. But we’ve gone from being completely unaware, of what is certainly a horrific issue, to seeing a potential pedophile in every interaction between a grown man and a child. Obviously, reality is somewhere between the two extremes. Be nice if we as a a society could have a more balanced approach. But that’s hard to do. We’re all products of our society, and my knee-jerk reaction to Colombo sidling up to the little girl and starting a conversation was “Ugh! Don’t soil my Columbo with creepy old man vibes”! I’m sure, today, that mother would have been all over Columbo, keeping her kids safe from the creepy old man….

        • George Ramstein

          If you think that’s bad, I saw an episode of Perry mason where he goes up to a boy on a beach and has his look for a bottle in the water. Once the kid finds the bottle he gives him money and takes the kid with him in his car to the police station.

          He then brought him home. Nobody batted an eye. Imagine if something like that happened today.

          People were more innocent back then. There still were pedophiles and stalkers, but there are a lot more nowadays.

    • I agree heartily with you. There is much to enjoy about this episode and I too loved McGoohan’s performance in this (although see my separate comments).

    • CarlosMu

      Old home week! I see what you did there! 🙂

      • Largo

        Huh? I wasn’t being facetious there, I was being affectionate, eh. To wit:

        Definition of OLD HOME WEEK

        1. often capitalized O&H&W: a week of special festivities during which a community invites former residents to return for a reunion : ‘the social activities of an Old Home Week’ — Agnes Repplier.

        2. a reunion of former associates marked by special warmth or cordiality : a little knot of alumni having an Old Home Week in the stadium parking lot.

  • Largo

    Did any of you spot the painting by Tom Wright in Nelson Brenner’s office that was originally used in a segment on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (1970-73)? The painting appeared in three different sequences in the Columbo Mystery Movie, “Identity Crisis,” — the most prolonged shot was during this episodes’ finale. This Tom Wright painting, titled “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” was for the Night Gallery segment of the same name. “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” was written and directed by Gene R. Kearney and it was adapted from the famous short story by Conrad Aiken. This particular segment starred Radames Pera (of Kung Fu fame) as the boy, Paul, and it was superbly narrated by Orson Welles. “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” originally aired on October 20, 1971. It is interesting to note that Gene R. Kearney had directed and co-written an earlier black and white film version of this very same short story back in 1966. Be seeing you!

    • saltyessentials

      Nice catch, Largo.

    • digger01

      Wow, that’s a great eye you have there, Largo. “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is a beautiful and powerful story, and I agree with your assessment of Orson Welles’ narration of the Night Gallery episode.

      • Largo

        Thank you, Digger! “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is one of my favorite Night Gallery segments, too. There’s a little story behind the Orson Welles narration. The NG producers contacted Welles’ agent for this narration job, but never heard back from him. Just when the NG producers had given up on Welles — and were about to make emergency arrangements for a replacement — a tape recording showed up at their Universal Studios office. It had been sent by Orson Welles himself and his recorded narration was found to be just perfect. Indeed it was, eh! 🙂

  • Peter

    This is definitely one of my favorite Columbo episodes. In fact, any episode with McGoohan will be high on my list. Just love a charming erudite villain to contrast with our rumpled detective. The interactions between all the actors are priceless. The only small drawback is that I can’t take Leslie Neilson seriously in a serious role due to his subsequent film career. I keep expecting him to say to Nelson “…and don’t call me Shirley”.

    • Largo

      That’s too bad about how you take Leslie Nielsen in his dramatic roles. I really enjoyed his presence in “Identity Crisis” and I always feel really sorry for him when he gets murdered by Brenner. One of Leslie Nielsen’s finest performances, in my very humble opinion, is in the Night Gallery segment, “A Question Of Fear.” He makes an excellent villain in this particular NG episode — plus, Nielsen gets to wear an eyepatch! I’m kind of partial to eyepatches, eh. 😉

  • saltyessentials

    I’m only about 30 minutes into the podcast–doing it piecemeal as usual–but here are my thoughts so far.

    I like this episode. It’s different, but different isn’t always bad. (Sometimes it is, but not this time, I don’t think.) I always enjoy the episodes with McGoohan’s involvement. He likes to have fun with the characters he plays and he enjoys pushing the envelope when he directs, for better and worse, depending. Every episode he directs takes Columbo off his usual course, character-wise, and I appreciate the effort and like watching he and Falk getting off the beaten path, so to speak.

    Don’t get me wrong, Columbo’s character is noticeably off base, and it doesn’t really work for me “as Columbo,” but when McGoohan and Falk get together, I know I get to just sit back and settle in for a bit of good natured experimentation, and enjoy it for what it is.

    But that’s my nature. I enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) and the Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998), both widely panned for not being true to character. I’m a big fan of both The Hulk and Godzilla, and these two films were definitely not them, but in both cases, once I realized “oh, they’re taking a different tack, here,” I was able to step back and enjoy what was, versus being upset by what wasn’t. (Ooh, that sounded very Zen.) At any rate, I approach McGoohan’s Columbo’s the same way–it’s not Columbo, but it’s an interesting departure that’s fun to watch when taken at face value.

    And I thought McGoohan’s take on Columbo, here, had it’s moments. I didn’t like what felt like an overall sense of smugness; it almost felt like Columbo spent the episode patting all the regular schmoes on the head: “There, there, you tiny-brained fellow. You can’t expect yourself to measure up to my incredible skill.” And he came across, to me, with what was almost a sense of apathy–could hardly be bothered with the case, and his job in general. But I liked his whimsicalness and lightheartedness. Not the usual Columbo, but an interesting and enjoyable departure from the usual.

    And my two cents on the belly dancer: I think McGoohan wanted the audience to assume Columbo was entranced by the woman’s body and then surprise them at scene’s end to find out he was actually caught up in studying what wasn’t obvious, under the surface. A very Columbo-like thing to do, really.

    And the amusement park photographer! Oh my. There’s no way the showcasing of her breasts was not calculated as well. Somebody had to cast the actress, decide on the outfit, and set up those camera angles. Not sure exactly what they were going for, maybe just another fun aside for McGoohan and Falk to play around with: “Hey, what if we get Columbo smooshed into this tiny booth with a voluptuous woman who’s six inches taller than he is, and have him be completely oblivious to her obvious assets”? Or something like that. 🙂

    Woo. Didn’t mean to write a novel. I’ll stop here. Maybe more to come after I finish the cast….

    • Largo

      “I enjoyed Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) and the Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla (1998) …”

      Sorry, but all of your arguments are invalid to me because of this admission of yours, eh. Now is the time for me to send in a tough little cookie named Rainbow Brite. 😉

      • saltyessentials

        Wow. I had to look this one up. Thought, due to vague remembrances of a horse being involved, maybe it was a My Little Pony reference. But Wikipedia set me straight and told me way more than I wanted to now about this little gal. Created by a greeting card company! That’s America for you. I think I like the shotgun-toting version better than what Wiki showed me….

        • Largo

          Indeed! That young lady in the picture takes her cosplay very seriously, eh.

  • saltyessentials

    Just went through the show note links.

    Really enjoyed the link for Otis Young. A Pastor! It’s always interesting to look past the performances and get an idea of how much more there is to an actor’s life than the little we see on screen.

    Also thought the Leslie Nielsen quotes were hilarious. I always have to work hard to put his comedy out of mind when I see him in a serious role. Well, he played his roles the same, serious or comedic, his deadpan delivery is what made him so funny.

    Had no idea Val Avery was of Armenian descent. That’s cool and interesting.

    And I thought the link for McGoohan was tremendous. Beautiful reminiscence.

    Well done, as usual, guys!

    • Thanks salty. Much appreciated.

    • Also, hope you liked the choice of image!!

      • saltyessentials

        That drawing of Brenner as Steinmetz, the epitome of “creepy old man”? 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    Lots to enjoy about this one, but I do get worried when I hear Lt. Columbo slowing down. I thought it came across in a couple of your clips. I’d not really considered it to be McGoohans influence before but there are a couple of early warning signs here around Columbo’s ponderousness and whimsy that already point a withering hand of dread towards the end of season episode.

    One observation… When Columbo becomes insistent about returning the $10 that Brenner passes over at the gas station I assumed it was because Columbo did not want to give the message that they were ‘all good’ now. Brenner has presumably observed the CIA leaning on Columbo and is now trying to befriend him and add him to his list of police friends in high places. Columbo is not put off by the CIA and is avoiding getting caught up in the spymasters web. What starts as $10 for gas will next soon evolve into concert tickets for Madame Butterfly!

    Oh and just to settle your debate… Moray is pronounced ‘Moray’, not ‘Moray’ 🙂

    Thanks again for a fun podcast!

    • These days no doubt Brenner would be trying to connect to Columbo on LinkedIn.

  • Roberto

    I will post more later when I listen to the entire podcast, but just wanted to post my top of mind – top of episode thoughts first.

    Not a top-shelf episode, but very enjoyable. McGoohan was great and his interaction with Falk was quite fun. Columbo does seem a bit off here, not quite sure why. I prefer the “typical” Columbo, not this new guy. The crime here was second-rate and the detection was uneven.

    All in all, though, a better-than-average episode. If there are five tiers of episodes, this would surely be squarely in the second tier.

    Be seeing you (to coin a phrase).

  • Roberto

    Great podcast! I love your back-and-forths. And please don’t edit out any stuff that has you both laughing uproariously. Gerry points out the plot holes and Iain doesn’t like McGoohan’s acting (smile).

    Random points after listening to the entire podcast. (1) A wet bar is a bar with a sink and running water for mixing drinks. A dry bar is just the bottles. (2) The meme about a dirty old man in a disheveled raincoat has been around forever, so I am quite confident that the Columbo writers were well aware and took special glee in having Columbo go up to pretty young girls and ask them questions. (3) My best guess is that Paul Gleason as Parsons was in a scene that was cut from the final episode. (4) Barbara Rhoades, the pretty redhead photographer at the Amusement Park, was in many TV shows in the 1970s and was quite a good actress. (5) Glad to hear that Patricia Mattick (Margaret) has become a Podcast meme!

    • Thanks Roberto. We say we’re going to cut things a lot more often than we actually do!

    • Peter

      Is it me or is Barbara Rhoades incredibly appealing?

      • Largo

        Yes, she is very much so — for two very good reasons ….. 😉

        Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself there. Barbara Rhoades was excellent in this supporting role as the amusement park photographer. It’s too bad that Barbara didn’t get to special guest-star in a later Columbo Mystery Movie. :.(

        • Peter

          I think we have similar tastes!

          • Largo

            Indubitably! 🙂

        • Erm, what was the second reason, Largo?

          • Largo

            I’ll have Peter explain this one to you since he’s a doctor. 😉

        • epaddon

          Barbara ended up wearing the same outfit in a “Switch” episode a few months after this one!

  • saltyessentials

    Well, the problem with listening to the cast on the treadmill in the morning is by the time I’ve showered, dressed, driven to work and popped up the website to comment, I’ve long forgotten what sparked the desire to comment in the first place. Hard to pause and make a note to self while treadmilling. 🙁

    I DO remember the conversation about Falk and McGoohan as actors, and Falk being the better actor. I’m not sure I’ve seen McGoohan enough, other than in his Columbo roles, to know what his reach as an actor is. Seen him in a few episodes of The Prisoner, is all. No, I did see him in a 70s British telefilm awhile back, called The Hard Way. I remember thinking he did a nice job expressing his character without using a lot of dialogue. He played a hit man being roped into “one more job”. The movie wasn’t that memorable, but I thought he did a nice job portraying the damage living a life like that would do to a psyche over time.

    I have seen Falk in quite a few other things, and it seems to me he’s one of those actors who’s almost always kind of playing himself–not a huge difference in the way he delivers his lines and such. I did see him in a film he did with Jill Clayburgh–Griffin and Phoenix. I thought he did a bang up job there. Played a guy with a terminal illness, who leaves his family and ends up hooking up with Clayburgh who’s also terminally ill. Not a happy story, by any means, but very un-Columbo-like. Fun to see him in something so disparate. The movie’s not in print. I had to order a bootleg from an overseas release to get ahold of it.

    • Peter

      I think McGoogan’s acting is ok but his style is what makes him enjoyable to watch. I thought his best acting was as King Edward the Longshanks in Braveheart. He was outstanding. If you want to see an incrediblly hilarious acting job by Falk, watch The In-laws. His interactions with Alan Arkin were priceless.

      • saltyessentials

        I’ll give ’em both a shot, Peter.

      • Largo

        This is a great recommendation, Peter: The In-Laws (1979) is a top-tier comedy! Alan Arkin’s reactions to Peter Falk’s outright lies and other shenanigans are incredibly funny. Two favorites: “Flies with beaks?” and “I’ve got flames on my car!!!”

        • Maddie

          The In-Laws is a fantastic movie! My favorite line ” serpentine Shell, serpentine” !!

  • Peter

    I have always been bothered as to why Nelson would choose to meet Geronimo in an amusement park where he had to know he may get photographed. You would think a top CIA spy would know how to anticipate events.

    • Largo

      This particular rendezvous is due to Nelson Brenner’s “perverse affection for amusement parks.” Besides, he immediately took care of the photograph problem himself. Unfortunately, the script demanded to have a certain item two ways: it’s made clear that the photographer takes one photo of as many individuals as she is able to — but why were there two shots of the rotund woman? Because the script demanded that Columbo obtain this easy-peasy clue via the photographs. How could Nelson Brenner, a top CIA operative, have anticipated the mighty hand of scriptwriter William Driskill? 😉

    • CarlosMu

      maybe they were bad spies, which would explain their use of the worst code words anyone ever heard of. no beach like a long beach?

      • Largo

        I’ll have to strongly disagree here. Colorado and Geronimo were superb operatives …. that is, until they both entered The Columbo Zone! D-:

  • For once I find myself in violent disagreement with the sentiments of the podcast in respect to the (IMHO) excellent performance of Mr. Patrick McGoohan, hereby referred to as ‘Pat’. In comparing the performances of Pat and Pete, what stands out for me is that neither is the better actor, but that Pat had obviously trodden the boards in a theatre more. In particular, in this performance, there are several theatrical flourishes and Pat is clearly enjoying himself and truly inhabits the role. Not only that, but he directed it too – a real accomplishment in my book.

    Having said all of that, once again I was struck by the differences in viewing it and simply hearing extracts during the podcast. The chemistry simply didn’t transfer to simple aural presentation.

    Alongside ‘By Dawn’s Early Light’, this now ranks as one of my all-time favourites and that is down to the legendary acting skills of Pat. of course, like many of you, I was left wondering about the motive for the murder. Was it just that Brenner was bored and fancied a spot of bludgeoning on the beach, or was there a genuine reason for murder? If anyone could cast any light on this, I would be grateful.

    Colonel Rumford with the lead piping…

    • I think he and Geronimo had collaborated on a previous job and Brenner kept the proceeds. Whether he wasn’t able or wasn’t willing to share, believing he’d get away with the murder meant he didn’t have to.

    • Roberto

      What about the idea that McGoohan was a double agent? I thought that was the unstated motive. Nielsen probably had something on him.

      It sure looked like McGoohan had more than enough money to give to Nielsen to make things right regarding their previous adventure in Bananaland. So I don’t think money could be the entire motive.

      Anyway, like a few other episodes, the motive here is a bit murky.

    • saltyessentials

      I agree, Kieran. It’s not a matter of who’s got the greater acting chops. I think McGoohan is classically trained and delivers his performances in a more theatrical manner. Falk has a more relaxed style that you see more often with screen actors. Back in the day, I’m thinking 30s and 40s, most screen actors had a much more theatrical style because there were a lot more coming into what was then a newer medium.

    • Largo

      I felt that the motive was very clear, but the script mechanics surrounding the actual crime were rather weak. Geronimo is one of the CIA’s top operatives, as is Colorado. In this previous “Bananaland” operation, Colorado had set up a double-cross that essentially left Geronimo for dead and himself twice as rich. Apparently, Geronimo was the only real threat to Colorado’s double-agent schemes and he attempted to take him out at the earliest opportunity during this “Bananaland” operation.

      Flash forward three years and Colorado now learns through the intelligence community that Geronimo is very much alive. Colorado contacts Geronimo and ropes him into his current ‘Steinmetz has some stolen microfilm’ scheme for the sole purpose of eliminating Geronimo himself. It is made very clear that Geronimo is still very much a threat to Colorado’s double-agent operations when he flat out labels Colorado as an actual double-agent and that Geronimo’s information is based on intelligence that is “more than rumors.”

      Now the script demands that Geronimo not only accuse Colorado as being a double-agent while demanding his share of the money from their previous operation together, but it also forces the Geronimo character to continue to work alongside Colorado on yet another operation! Logically, Geronimo should have gone straight to the director with his “more than rumors” intelligence and hung Colorado out to dry (but Geronimo is greedy and still wants his money). The script also demands the viewer to accept that a top operative would completely fail to pull out his gun the instant he hears his code name squawked out in the dark (McGoohan’s high-pitched squeal here is hysterical) by persons unknown while under a pier at night.

      Logically, Geronimo should have held Colorado at gun point under that pier a good twelve away from his own person while he cussed him out for shouting out his code name! Then, and only then, should Geronimo demand to know “what are you doing down here” from Colorado. If Geronimo received a solid response, he could have left from a safe distance with his gun still drawn. If Geronimo received an unsatisfactory response, he should have fired a bullet into Colorado’s brain and let the CIA sort it all out. But then we wouldn’t have had a Columbo episode entitled “Identity Crisis.” We as viewers just have to roll with the trope that in Columbo fantasyland, even top CIA operatives behave stupidly after they have spouted various accusations in front of the guest-star villain and then later remain at an easy to kill distance.

  • hungbunny

    I find McGoohan a bit Shatneresque in his delivery – pauses in all, the wrong, places, and so, forth. It’s a shame they never completed the trilogy by using Christopher Walken.

  • Erm, embarrassed to admit it, but I’m struggling to locate the show note links… where are they please?

    • saltyessentials

      I was just referring to the links Iain puts in each show’s description, up top.

    • Ian Baxter

      Click on the red words

      • For crying out loud. I can’t believe I missed that. I knew I’d looked at them previously!!!

        • Ian Baxter

          “I saw the light, I saw the light…” 🙂

        • Largo

          Inconceivable!!! 😉

  • Ian Baxter

    Found this quote earlier as a piece of trivia about the episode, not sure where they are getting their source for this, but it’s interesting enough… “Nelson Brenner’s alter-ego “Steinmetz”, borrows both name and appearance from the German-American electrical engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923). Steinmetz had the reputation of being something of a “mad scientist”, although in reality, contributed a great deal to the practical use of electricity.”

  • Largo

    Well, once again your Columbo Podcast has earned a “Margaret Williams Stare-Down.” It was predictable that both of you would tear into certain scenes like a hobo on a ham sandwich, but the giggling like two giddy schoolgirls has got to go, eh! Margaret is a schoolgirl, but she is very serious and studious. Both of you gentlemen could learn a thing or two from Margaret Williams! 😉

  • Largo

    I just wanted to let everyone know that my niece thoroughly enjoyed watching the Columbo episode, “Murder By The Book” with me and her parents a few nights ago. Ironically, we all watched this Columbo episode on my older sister’s birthday. When Katie brought down the Columbo Season One DVD box set I had given her earlier this week, and handed it to her mother, my sister proclaimed, “We’re going to watch every one of these episodes.” My brother-in-law reiterated that Columbo is “a great show.” Needless to say, both my sister and my brother-in-law are huge fans of the Columbo series.

    After the aforementioned Columbo episode was over, my niece asked me again about how many seasons the original series ran on NBC. When I replied that it was seven seasons, my niece then observed, “So this coming Christmas I can expect ….” and I immediately replied in the affirmative. My niece responded with a smile and the word, “Great!” I’m planning on purchasing Columbo seasons two and three on DVD as a Christmas gift for my niece. Needless to say, we have a new Columbo fan. Be seeing you!

    P.S. — All of my forum posts this morning have been written while I’ve been wearing a 100% cotton t-shirt and my American pajama pants! 🙂

    • What a great response to a gift. You must have been thrilled.

      • Largo

        Indeed! It was the polar opposite of what I got at first on my niece’s actual birthday. She had her best friend over and both were doing the typical teenager with attitude thing during almost all of the birthday celebrating. My older sister called her on it a few times. But as I was eating some birthday pie (my niece prefers pie over cake) later that evening, my niece exhibited a totally different attitude as she approached me with, “Tell me more about this Columbo show, Uncle Largo …” A stern lecture from a parent does wonders sometimes for ‘typical teenage attitude.’ 🙂

        • I particularly enjoy that she calls you Uncle Largo.

          • Largo

            [Shhhh! Not really, eh. It’s just all part of the show!]

  • Largo

    Colorado is still a mighty river. Mah Jongg. Back in the games. Mah ——— Jongg! The dolphins are in the jacuzzi. Repeat: the dolphins are in the jacuzzi. CPT: skip the haggis and order the filet mignon. Margaret will arrive after midnight. Have goods at the ready. Bare midriff: send by sea. Strapless gown: send by air. The music box is playing “Quadrophenia” in quadraphonic stereo. Madam Butterfly is not a monarch. Donnez le bordelaise à Columbo. Be seeing you!

    • The eagle had landed. The chicken is in its coop. If you need me for anything, I’ll be eating mulligatawny soup.

      • Largo

        Check — understood. The cat ate the canary. Now’s the time to be wary. Over and out.

  • Largo

    Does anyone remember Quadrophonic Stereo? This was an early attempt in the mid-1970s at surround stereo, albeit in analog four-channel stereo. Needless to say, it was a commercial failure because it arrived almost a couple of decades too early. It wasn’t until the 90s that digital surround sound really took off, especially in the home theater systems that were being sold at this time.

    Well, in the Columbo episode “Identity Crisis,” Nelson Brenner explains to Lieutenant Columbo that his music sound system is “Quadrophonic.” Just for kicks, I happened to have the subtitles on and this is what the folks at Universal Home Entertainment provided in place of quadrophonic: “Hydrophonic.” So are we all supposed to believe that Nelson Brenner has close ties with Aquaman and this is how he got his home surround stereo system!??!

    • Brenner is in Hydra? Makes sense. Hail Hydra.

      • Largo

        Huh? I thought we just established that Columbo is a part of the DC Cinematic Universe. Our little detective hero can’t belong to both the DCCU and the MCU — that would be utter chaos, dude! 😉

      • Largo

        Speaking of Marvel: Have you seen Ant-Man yet? I thought it was a whole lot of fun. It wasn’t as awesome as Guardians, but few movies are these days, eh.

  • CarlosMu

    When the two CIA guys are sitting with Columbo at Travel Town, right before they flash him their IDs, the guy with the striped pants glances up at a third agent some distance away. You get a good look at him, and I’m pretty sure this is the actor you are asking about, the one who played the principal in the Breakfast Club. The mystery is why he gets a credit just for standing there like that.

    As a normal piece of entertainment where you sit down and enjoy a story that pretty much makes sense, this episode isn’t very successful. But as a “bizarro episode”, where you have a lot of familiar elements but things are twisted around a bit, I love it. The same reason I LOVE Last Salute to the Commodore. Both episodes, a casual viewer might keep asking themselves, “why is that person acting like that?” And there really is no answer. But in my opinion, it’s entertaining.

    Plus the locations are fantastic. 1970’s L.A. at its grimiest. It reminds me of my childhood in Chicago (my beloved alma mater is Steinmetz High School by the way), where in the summer you would spend the day outside and come in and have a layer of soot all over you just from being outside.

    And yes I think it’s clear that Nelson was creeping on that girl a bit. But he also in this episode killed a man with a tire iron.

    • That could be a spectacular spot on the CIA guy. Good work. Hopefully someone will verify!

      • Roberto

        I replied to the previous post but my post has vanished. My guess is that posts with links are not allowed (is that right?).

        Anyway, I am 99% positive that that third CIA operative is not Paul Gleason, at least not the Paul Gleason that is fairly well-known for his 30-year acting career.

        Gleason was young looking at the time (just a few years later he became somewhat of a hearththrob on All My Children), and, no offense to the other guy, that other guy is not young looking. I cannot imagine there would be a reason to make Gleason look older than he actually looked (another way of saying this is I cannot imagine a reason why they would cast Gleason as a middle-aged man).

        There is a good picture on the internet (link previously given not allowed) of a young Paul Gleason as he appeared on The Green Hornet in 1967. Of course, there are many pictures on the internet of Gleason as he appeared in All My Children. He was quite distinctive looking, and kept his youthful looks for a long time into this career.

        Strangely, there is another Columbo website that shows a picture of *another* CIA operative as Paul Gleason. This was the guy who frisked Columbo inside the train. Again, I am 99.9% positive that that guy was not the familiar Paul Gleason either. Perhaps there are two actors named Paul Gleason.

        I will refrain from further guessing who might have been Paul Gleason (Parsons) in this episode.

        Maybe other sleuths can chime in.

        • Curiouser and curiouser!

        • CarlosMu

          yes the man’s age is a flaw in my theory.

          I think we’re going to be having a similar discussion about George C. Scott a couple of seasons down the line…

  • CarlosMu

    RIP Theodore Bikel. Just now heard the bad news, and of course thought of the episode where he kills Boss Hogg.

    • Roberto

      Wow, sad news. Bikel was a phenomenal person who, among dozens of other things, was instrumental in founding the Newport Folk Festival.

      Sadly, I think Bikel is the third Columbo murderer of the Original Series to pass away this year, following Louis Jourdan and Leonard Nimoy.

      By my quick tally I think there are 13* Columbo murderers (TOS) that are still with us and 26* who have passed on.

      * I am counting both Honor Blackman (living) and Richard Basehart (dead) as murderers.

      RIP Mr. Bikel.

  • Post now approved. I need to do it manually when you add links.

  • Maddie

    The comments are almost as enjoyable as the podcasts!!! I love all the trivia, and the insights!

  • Largo

    I just recently found some interesting trivia on the 1972 Citroën SM car that Patrick McGoohan’s Nelson Brenner character drives in “Identity Crisis.” This car was actually banned in the USA at the time of this Columbo episode’s production, due to the NHTSA and their draconian safety requirements in 1974:

    “Citroën hasn’t sold cars in the US since 1974, when the Citroën SM was effectively banned in 1974 for not meeting U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) bumper regulations. The SM’s six headlight set up was illegal in the U.S. at the time, and consequently, U.S. specification cars were fitted with four fixed round exposed lamps. Also, the separate glass windshields of the headlights were illegal in the USA after 1967, which is why the DS did not get them on USA cars when it was restyled for 1968, and the VW Beetle and Vanagon/Kombi and Jaguar XKE lost their headlight glass windshields at the same time.

    Despite initial success, U.S. sales ceased suddenly — Citroën expected, but did not receive, an exemption for the 1974 model year 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumper regulation imposed by the NHTSA. The integral variable height suspension of the SM made compliance impossible.”

    And here is an interesting video on the 1974 Citroën SM courtesy of YouTube —

  • resedaman

    I’m new to the Columbo Podcast and delighted. . I enjoy the podcasts as much as the Episodes. Indemnity Crisis is one of my favorites Living in LA I can offer location comments.
    Sinbads, was a Santa Monica Pier institution for years, not a strip club but a restaurant with a Arabian Theme, it is now gone in place of Bubba Gumps. Also being in Santa Monica it would not have been LAPDs jurisdiction.
    Travel town is part of huge Griffith Park located in the Hollywood Hills. It is right off the 134 Freeway by Warner and Disney Studios, easily visible . The Griffith Observatory is also in Griffith Park, made famous in Rebel Without a Cause and the opening of The Terminator. As the boys mention The Biltmore Hotel is in the show, in downtown LA, a beautiful place seen in many movies and TV shows, recently in Mad Men, be sure to go there for a drink if you visit LA. There are some great photos of the Oscar Ceremonies that were held there in the past. Last.. Stienmetz tells Melville to meet him in Topanga Canyon, and long windy road through the Santa Monica Mountains between the San Fernando Valley and Pacific Coast Highway Cheers !

  • Whiskey Jack: Lord of Pith

    What Columbo was saying about the Belly Dancer was that her eyes are closed; she doesn’t seem to want to see the audience she’s dancing for. He finds that behavior strange, but finally realizes that she is simply shy, which is incongruous with her job.