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.