Try and Catch Me

Episode 40 – Try and Catch Me

The thirty ninth episode of Columbo was titled Try and Catch Me and was the first episode of the show’s seventh season. A successful author seeks to avenge her niece’s murder. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a game of cat-and-mouse between a playful killer and the lieutenant.

 

 

Season seven kicks off with a memorable contest between Columbo and Ruth Gordon‘s Abigail Mitchell.  Over the course of the show the two gain respect and no small degree of fondness for one another; but as understandable as Mitchell’s actions are, they still add up to murder and the lieutenant is left with no choice but to take her in.

 

The victim of Mitchell’s act of vengeance is her niece’s widower, Edmund Galvin – played with perfect detachment by Charles Frank. The episode features a small principal cast – Mariette Hartley returns (after an appearance in Season 3’s Publish or Perish) as Abigail’s assistant Veronica; Mary Jackson plays her housekeeper Annie and G.D. Spradlin makes an impression as her loyal attorney Martin Hammond. Beyond these three only Jerome Guardino (Sgt. Burke) and Marie Silva-Alexander (Veronica’s belly-dancing instructor) have credited appearances.

 

This episode marked the arrival of Richard Alan Simmons as the show’s producer and he was to implement a focused approach to storytelling, as we discuss on the podcast.

 

James Frawley directs the first of his six Columbo episodes (he would ultimately helm more than half of season seven’s shows) from a script by Gene Thompson (interestingly uncredited for his involvement in writing Ransom for a Dead Man).

 

During the podcast Iain was convinced that Dog was played by a new actor in this episode. If you have thoughts on that or any other aspect of Try and Catch Me, 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.

 

Try and Catch Me was released in 1977. It is 73 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.

  • An extremely enjoyable episode, with fabulous rapport between Falk and Gordon. I love the part where she literally skips behind him – a very nice touch especially considering her age at the time (she was 81 and remains the oldest actor ever to appear in a Columbo episode). I’m sure both actors had a lot of fun with the script. It kind of reminds you of ‘Murder She Wrote’ at the start, doesn’t it? Also nice to see Mariette Hartley again, funnily enough almost emulating a previous role on Star Trek. That must have been a cheeky nod. Also nice to hear ‘This Old Man’ again. My youngest daughter always loves that.

    Anyway, very much looking forward to listening to the podcast tomorrow morning, as is my tradition.

    • Peter

      Completely agree. I thought this was one of the “funnest” episodes as well and loved the repartee between Falk and Gordon. I also cannot decide if Edmund was guilty. It was clearly a loveless marriage. Also found mode of death gruesome.

  • Dylan Winslow

    Abigail Mitchell’s status as a sympathetic murderer is a bit of a trick played on the audience. There’s absolutely no evidence in this episode — Columbo’s expressions of sympathy notwithstanding — that her niece was murdered. The audience believes it because she’s a Nice Old Lady, and you want her to be right. She’s obviously prepared to trade on this as a way of getting away with things. It certainly works on her lawyer and her assistant, and she tries it out on Columbo as well.

    • If you view the episode with the assumption that her niece was not murdered at all it takes on a whole new complexion!!

      • I’ve always watched this one with the assumption he WAS guilty. This was the first time I watched the nephew’s scenes a little more critically and was surprised to see nothing that blatantly told me he was. What a horrible mistake Abigail made if he DIDN’T murder her. And, by the same token, I’ve always considered Abigail one of the most sympathetic of killers, but this watching had me feeling like a lot of those wry comments of hers were a little more barbed than not–I felt some haughtiness I hadn’t before from her. Interesting…

  • Ian Baxter

    When it comes to sympathetic killers Abigail Mitchell is absolute top of the list (Sorry Dylan, I have been well and truly ‘tricked’ by her and I hope she gets away with it)…

    Her motive is ‘honourable’ bringing Edmund to account for the death of her niece when the authorities failed. Compare this to Agatha Christies ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ where Poirot lets the killers off after he deems them to have been bringers of justice.

    She shows no desire to kill again, Veronica is one of the few to escape the blackmailers curse of becoming victim number two – a brief pause to remember poor Roger from ‘Double Exposure’ 🙁 – the other blackmailer who escapes the curse being Carsini’s secretary in ‘Any Old Port’ (and he too is quite high on the sympathy list).

    She has a lovely rapport with Columbo, and his respect and admiration for her is clear. Again this is something we see in other episodes with more sympathetic killers, when he dislikes the killer he’s not afraid to slam the odd clock and tell us!

    Even the other characters show sympathy, respect and loyalty towards Abigail. Love the bit where the lawyer stands by her admitting he knew.

    Good podcast… Iain’s attempt at dog spotting when he doesn’t even recognise the actors is very amusing; but the funniest moment has to be Iain’s version of ‘This Old Man’!

    As for the wild animals moving the car keys… genius! I’m sure her defence in court will include the evil bunnies… and she’ll get away scotch free 🙂

    • Yes – interesting how both the secretary and lawyer knew. Mind you what do you expect from Senator Pat Geary of the Godfather! I also enjoyed Columbo’s heart-warming speech about how most people are good.

      • Peter

        Senator Geary has a problem with I-Talians. First Mike Corleone then Lt. Columbo

  • Ian Baxter

    Bunnies sighted driving around town in Edmunds car…

  • Roberto

    As I have foreshadowed in the previous thread, this is one of my favorite Columbo episodes. I readily admit that it runs counter to many of Columbo’s ideals (e.g., arrogant, haughty, unlikable killer ala Jack Cassidy), but it is so fun to watch that I embrace the differences.

    I always start my evaluation of a Columbo episode on the quality of the writing, especially the plot lines and number of forced clues and plot holes. In my opinion the writing is first rate with very few forced clues or significant plot holes. The entire episode is light-hearted with many fun one-liners throughout.

    Ruth Gordon is fantastic as nearly everyone agrees (though there is a vocal minority of Columbo fans who don’t like her performance). Abigail Mitchell is a very sympathetic murderer as I (like any sane person) fervently believe that Edmund did indeed murder her beloved niece. I love her interactions with Columbo including the remarks about losing loved ones and comparing poverty stories in a Rolls Royce.

    With a nod to Law and Order, it is the job of the police to arrest suspected criminals and then it is the job of the legal system to determine guilt (beyond a reasonable doubt) and, if found guilty, appropriate sentence. So I am okay with Columbo arresting Abigail, though it pains me dearly, since I am quite confident that she will get the barest of sentences (time served) if and when she is found guilty (permit me my fantasy on this point).

    The final gotcha harkens back to Agatha Christie style locked-room mysteries. I appreciate it for its novelty and inventiveness. In the Columbo universe in which Abigail is tried for murder, I am sure the prosecution will present evidence that Edmund’s fingerprints were on the light bulb so there really will be no reasonable doubt that this was essentially a dying declaration (legally presumed to be true). To anticipate Iain and Gerry’s podcast piece on whether Abigail would be found guilty if tried in a court of law (sans any confessions), it saddens me to opine that I think she would.

    Anyway, it is a thoroughly enjoyable Columbo episode and I am now off to listen to what I trust will be another thoroughly enjoyable Columbo podcast episode!

    • There’s going to be an interesting discussion come the end of the season! Can’t agree that a dying declaration is presumed to be true though – admissible as evidence, but bearing no more weight than any other piece of evidence, I would hope.

      • Roberto

        Every law student learns the hearsay rules and its exceptions. A dying declaration in a murder trial pertaining to who killed the declarer is almost always admissible, an exception to the hearsay rule, precisely because the statement (“Johnny killed me”) is presumed to be true. This is definitely the case in the United States and has been for a long time.

        Wiki tells me: In medieval English courts, the principle originated of Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentiri — “no-one on the point of death should be presumed to be lying”. An incident in which a dying declaration was admitted as evidence has been found in a 1202 case.

  • CarlosMu

    Am i crazy or is it not a giant plot hole that Edmund’s will never became a point of suspicion? An old lady prepares a will for a young man to sign, and then he is found dead in her safe the next day.

    Regardless, like everyone is saying, a very enjoyable episode. The humor is fantastic. I especially liked her wisecrack about the plaster cast.

    And another bit of trivia, Columbo complimets Abby’s living room, “lots of nice little things you have standing around here”. He said the exact same thing to what’s-her-name in “Old fashioned murder” and it was funny in both episodes.

  • The missus and I watched this episode just Thursday night–neither of us could sleep, so even though Friday morning’s workday alarm was looming, we decided to throw caution to the wind and have a post-midnight Columbo showing. I haven’t gotten to the podcast yet, but just wandered through the Show Notes. Here’s what I learned/found interesting:

    Charles Frank married his sweetheart in 1977 and they’re still together. Two Hollywood types marrying and staying married into old age warms my heart. Never got famous, but they made a living doing what they loved doing and stayed in love (I’m assuming) to boot.

    Ever since seeing Mariette Hartley play David Banner’s wife in 1970s The Incredible Hulk series, I’ve had a little crush on her that’s never gone away. Didn’t know she’d written a memoir, maybe I’ll give it a read. And, she really needs to hire a professional to redo her website.

    G.D. Spradlin, I’ve seen in various roles for years, but have never looked him up. Made his fortune in oil and then caught the acting bug from his teenage daughter! Now that’s not your average story. I liked his quote: “Being rich changes surprisingly little. You still have to have an absorbing interest in life, something to do to make you feel alive.” I would love to test that theory out on my own, by becoming rich and seeing what changes. But I already agree a person has to find ways to feel alive in life.

    Jerome Guardino was in Octoman. That is not something you want to put on your resume. Even as a lover of obscure, crappy movies, I couldn’t make it all the way through that one. I like him in Columbo, though.

    Marie Silva: There’s a union for the protection and betterment of work conditions for Southern California belly dancers?

    Richard Simmons: other than initially expecting a page with the fitness guru on it, I was surprised to find Falk did another series in the 60s, “The Trials of O’Brien.” I must have known that. I’ve read Falk’s memoir, after all. But if I knew I’d forgotten. That would be interesting to see. Wonder if it’s available?

    I’ll check back in after the weekend, when I’ve listened to the cast. Have to fit it in between movies, as this long weekend the missus and I are having a Jaws marathon. All four Jaws films, plus Deep Blue Sea as a bonus film. Now THAT’S the way to spend a weekend.

    • Roberto

      Wow, I only have a vague vague vague recollection of Falk’s Trials of O’Brien. I suppose it might be mainly due to the fact that I was very young at the time it aired, but also I imagine it might reflect how unmemorable (or unwatched) it might have been. I will try to locate and watch some episodes on the internet this weekend. Thanks for the idea.

      • Yeah, I’ll have to see if I can find anything online. It doesn’t seem to be commercially available, as far as I can tell.

        • Ian Baxter

          i can only find short clips like this intro… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMgdsxHkb1M

          • That’s all I found, too.

            But I DID come up with some interesting trivia on the show. It was produced by none other than Richard Alan Simmons, as of this episode, Columbo’s new producer.

            And Get a load of this list of guest stars. Some great names, along with a few we’ve seen Columbo pass some time with:

            Robert Blake
            Buddy Hackett
            Roger Moore
            Robert Loggia
            Cloris Leachman
            David Doyle
            Theodore Bikel
            Dana Elcar
            Frank Langella
            Martin Sheen
            Alan Alda
            Charles Grodin
            Claude Akins
            Milton Berle
            Rita Moreno
            Burgess Meredith
            Angela Lansbury
            Thayer David
            Faye Dunaway
            David Carradine
            Gene Hackman

            It’s last two episodes were redone as a color TV movie, “Too Many Thieves,” a year or two later, also with Falk. I couldn’t find any trace of the TV movie online, either.

            EDIT: I did find (and ordered) the TV movie from an online store called Zeus DVDs. It looks like one of those “guy with a lot of old movies in his basement that he taped off TV and decided to make a few bucks off of them” kinds of places.

            Can’t wait to see it!

          • Ian Baxter

            I look forward to hearing the conclusion of this one when it arrives 🙂

  • Great cast, guys. This is one of the more enjoyable episodes for me. I loved Ruth Gordon’s quirkiness throughout.

  • Austin Barnes

    Just finished listening to all the podcasts (including this one) so far and as a big fan of Columbo, I find the critques and blow-by-blow recap delightful.

    On the subject of the victim, I was always inclined to believe Edmund had done it. He was on the boat that night, but nothing bad happened to him, his general attitude (ironically) is more in line with typical Columbo villians (very self-assured, slightly disingenuous with his grief, his life seems to have not suffered from his wife being gone but in fact has gotten better). And the big one for the audience (which I love because the actor nailed it): Edmund is alone in Abgail’s office, is drinking from a glass, picks up the photo of his late wife from the desk, gives it a little smirk and downs his glass, almost in mock toast to her memory and her money, which he is about to get more of. He is so very guilty.

    I often look at this episode (based on one Abgail’s last lines) as what would happen if Columbo didn’t solve a case, or when a case is left in Not-Columbo level hands. There has already been much discussion on how the rest of the force is not as observant, compulsive about following up leads or looking beyond the surface facts. And with an odd enough circumstances, they just shrug and go “Oh well, on to the next one” (not an indictment of the police in general, just the ones Columbo seems to work with).

    It almost feels like it could have gone the ‘Murder, She Wrote’ path if it wasn’t personal: young man with more interest in spending money than having a wife fakes her disappearance and the plucky older woman who is a mystery novelist bugs the police with clues until the real culprit is discovered. But because its her niece, no prolonged games or handing him over to the police, just cold, cold revenge.

    Sorry, that rambled, but hopefully some of those points came across okay. Thanks again for the show! I’m on pins and needles for when you do Prescription Murder.

    • Roberto

      Welcome Austin! Great points that I agree with. 🙂

      Please become a frequent poster on this great forum.

      • Austin Barnes

        Very kind of you to say. I’ll give it a try.

    • Thanks for joining in Austin and for the positive feedback. Good points made. I especially like your observation that this story could easily have been a MSW episode with a sleuthing older lady.

  • Mark Ruffalo as Columbo? I gotta say, I could see him pulling it off. And I’ve always been one of those that said Columbo could NEVER be played successfully by anyone else. He’d bring his own touch to it, but I could see him doing that and honoring what makes Columbo great, as well.

    • I was in the ‘no never’ camp re a new Columbo until recently but I think it could work if done in the same manner as the Sherlock reboot.

      • That’s just what my wife said. 🙂

      • Ian Baxter

        hmmm… I do like the Sherlock reboot, but I’d want to see Columbo set in the low teck 70’s.

        • Largo

          Indeed – Columbo set in the 1970s and James Bond set in the 1960s. YEAH!

  • Largo

    This is not one of my favorites. But despite this particular opinion of mine, I do have a very fond and bittersweet memory associated with “Try And Catch Me” — this was the last Columbo Mystery Movie that the entire Largo Clan watched together. Both of my parents seemed to enjoy this one, especially my mom. Be seeing you!