Hello Fan Forum,
It's been over three years since I poked my head into the chat on the forum. It's great to see the site still humming along.
Actually had a question that never occurred to me to ask about "Columbo Goes to College." I'm wondering if this is the one and only time that Columbo solves the murder but never discovered the motive of the killer.
This, to me, is one of the more enjoyable ABC episodes. So Columbo, after feeling confident enough to arrest Justin & Coop for suspicion of murder, says "I have one question left. Why did you do it?" To which Justin answers something to the effect of, "Because we could..."
So why didn't the writers & producers of this episode include the parts of Columbo discovering the motive; the motive being that they killed Professor Rusk to prevent him from having them expelled for cheating. Seems like it would've been fairly easy to include, especially in the two hour ABS versions. It has always seemed that him discovering the motive is a huge part of the Columbo formula.
Any answers would be appreciated!
First of all it's good to see you posting again around here. Some of us "old timers" pop in now and then (like my favorite; Headache).
Aas far as Columbo discovering the motive, that is a grey area that I don't think anybody will ever solve. The writers of the episode never made it clear. Columbo I think immediately dispatched Professor Rusks wife as the killer.As well as June Clark. But you are absolutely right. Columbo knew nothing about the cheating orthe fact that Professor Rusk was going to have the kids expelled. On a completely separate note, I was glad to see those two punks go down. They had the holier than thou attitude throughout the whole episode. It was a joy to see them get arrested no matter how.
Can you imagine if Justin's father ever figured out the real motive??? That man would take justice into his own hands. 😁
Nice to see you on here, too, Fred.
I think it's like Ted said a few years ago. A lot of us come and go....we might hang around for a week or two...maybe a month or two....disappear...and then poke our heads back in.
I've never forgotten this site, simply because I still watch Columbo. I'm not able to explain to some of my other friends (often younger) what the lifelong addiction is to this series.
I could give the simple answer: Peter Falk is amazing in this role, but Levinson & Link have to get equal credit. I have Peacock here in the states and they have EVERY episode right at my fingertips. Just the other day I felt like watching "The Conspirators" with a glass of Irish whiskey on the rocks on the table next to me....(this far...and no farther...)
So back to this episode, yeah, the pompous arrogance of Justin & Coop powered the show. Side note is that I loved Justin's brief, dead-on impersonation of our favorite LT.
I just don't recall other episodes where Columbo genuinely didn't have the motive in hand when the arrest came.
Great seeing Robert Culp in his side role as Justin's dad. And he did say something to the effect of, "He's going to become the best lawyer in this country or I'll kill him"....so there's that lol.
This is a really good episode however the dubious motive is probably its weakest part ... that's why it's ignored.
I never "ignored" an episode lol...but I do get frustrated when something as simple as showing Columbo discover the motive doesn't occur.
You have two college kids who shoot their teach while sitting in a class Columbo is a guest speaker at, and he pieces it all together, with the suspects creativity and all...but doesn't have the motive. Columbo seems to crave motive in all of the other episodes, unless I'm mistaken.
Sorry Jake, as it appears I misunderstood what you meant by "ignored." You meant that the motive wasn't strong enough to believe that these students would kill their teacher in cold blood, but if that is what you meant, I respectfully disagree. They did make it clear to the viewers that both Coop & Justin would have hell to pay from both of their dads if there were (in Coop's case) anymore screw-ups or in Justin's case, humiliating his extremely successful and domineering father. I think they both felt (given their narcissistic personalities) that this was their ONLY way out.
Yes, this is the interpretation I intended -- that the motive is ignored (not the episode). Despite all the supporting evidence and characteristics - narcissism, immaturity, hedonism, parental pressure, and more -- the chosen solution to take out your teacher because you cheated and were caught, is not justifiable enough to make it believable/ impairs the ability to fully suspend one's belief in enjoying the episode. Given the elaborate scheming and technology employed to execute murder, it just doesn't stack up that these characters didn't have a shred of common sense to further examine their decision to commit murder... and yet the whole episode -- which is excellent (otherwise) in my opinion -- depends on this premise. Thus, with the focus shifted away from the motive, it distracts from this (weak) motive... plus, we (I hope) do not in any way sympathize with the boys' decision, but instead feel extremely taken aback when the guy trying to right their careers has his head blown off, remotely nonetheless. Whereas, in other episodes, we can at least partially understand why someone would commit murder, though we don't condone it. Being fairly absurd, the motive doesn't emerge as readily and is therefore not subject to the investigative energies that are in motion. However, maybe it does present itself somewhat in the boys' behavior. Still though, Columbo's inquiry as to "why" in the conclusion, followed by the murderers' hollow riposte -- only seems to fortify the largely absent role of motive in this episode; and in so doing not only serves to salvage and make successful this episode, but occupies an instructive role in the context of the rest (most, anyway) of the episodes. To me, this is what you pointed out... it's a specific Columbo topic in this episode that has always bugged me; but like many, I don't have the time to delve into these things... unless I'm given a head start, which is where your post came in. So thanks for that. Disagreement? Perhaps. But maybe just diversity in interpretation. In conclusion, the episode (with its motive at the epicenter) could be seen as a haunting harbinger of some of the subsequent violent acts we've experienced in our society; or, as a impactful lesson that breaks through to whatever insane mindsets may be emerging as a result of isolation and its attendant misguided and backward gutter balls that have strayed from the line of facing up to and striking the truth.
I hate when you have a whole response thoughtfully typed out, you go to edit it and then you lose the whole draft...
But I'll try and recapture what I had said. First, I realized that you are probably one of the bigger reasons I revisited the Forum. We've had some good discussions in the past, and you never fail to give me some insight that causes me to pause and sometimes rethink my original position, so thanks for that.
So it's probably all subjective...as when I saw this episode, as we were given their motive, I never paused to think it was implausible or overly weak. To me, it seemed to fit the profile. Two privileged, self-entitled, narcissistic sociopaths decided the only way to fix their common issue was to take out the man who was ready to blow up their college world. When you're narcissistic like these two, clearly they only thought of how Professor Rusk's continued existence was going to ruin their lives. Normally wired people guilty of cheating in college would probably say, "Yeah...that was a painful lesson, but I guess I have nobody else to blame but myself..."
Since we viewers received the motive from the writers, producers, directors and asked us to digest that as a valid motive, I am surprised they didn't deliver the motive to Columbo.
In fact, without going through the other 68 episodes, is this really the only time Columbo solved a murder absent the motive?
Great to chat with you again, Jake!
I usually type in my word processing program and then transfer it to the web. Seems I've taken a break from this site like you. There's always another rock to flip over with these episodes and you've again found some unexplored (to my knowledge) territory. I once read an excellent review/ analysis of this episode but have not been able to relocate it. There's a lot out there on this episode but not the one I once read. The author starts right in with the symbolism of how a helicopter is hovering over an institution of higher learning. He then follows with the symbolism of the remote control car that is shown next, making the now-obvious connection with the technology associated with the murder. It goes on like that, one insightful interpretation after another from someone experienced in this background. That's the good stuff, especially that there are no new episodes coming out. I'll keep looking for it, and in the meantime, yeah, great exchange, Mark.
I think they were making an allusion to the real life murders by Leopold and Loeb- fictionalized in COMPULSION and ROPE.