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.