Season 4 Episode 1

An Exercise in Fatality

Aired Unknown Sep 15, 1974 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

An Exercise in Fatality
A health club owner kills his partner who is about to uncover a fraud and makes it look like an accident

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  • A Flaw in the Solution

    Part of the solution was that the murderer's sneakers were tied backward for a right-handed person, meaning that someone else facing the murderer tied his shoes. I noticed earlier in the show though that the victim was left-handed and would've tied them w/ the loop on the same side as a right-handed person facing him. Good thing for Columbo that Milo Janus didn't notice that!
  • James West, meet Lt. Columbo...

    A killer with brains and brawn...a rare nemesis for Columbo, and the result is Robert Conrad as one of the coolest, meanest murderers in the history of the series.

    Conrad plays Milo Janus, whose profitable business of health club franchises is threatened by the damaging details one of his managers is about to bring to light. Janus kills him, setting up what he thinks is a perfect alibi.

    What makes this episode so satisfying? Of course, the interplay between Peter Falk and Robert Conrad is one thing. Conrad was not known for his acting chops, but he steps up his game with Falk and the results are enjoyable. Secondly, it is one of the few shows where Columbo really loses his cool with a suspect. Watch for the scene where he practically screams at Janus in the waiting room of a hospital. And finally, the reveal of the key evidence...the one thing that absolutely nails Janus, and it turns out to be his own alibi.

    What else can be said about Peter Falk? By Season 4 of this series, he knew Columbo like the back of his hand. There is not a bad episode in this season. Watch Falk get winded trying to keep up with Conrad in a jog on the beach, or when he questions Janus in a sweatsuit after a run on the treadmill. Luckily the lieutenant did not live up to his promise to do away with cigars as part of his health-kick.moreless
  • Spoilers

    One of the most clever murders in the Columbo series were stud Robert Conrad breaks his victim's neck and rigs it up to look like he was lifting weights which killed him. He also tries to mask the time of death by forging a phone call. When Peter Falk shows up to investigate, boy, do the enemies ever get sick of each other fast. In a hospital-set scene, Columbo even yells that he believes Conrad is responsible for the death- rare for Columbo, who tries to hide that fact normally. Interesting watching the lieutenant sort through the clues, and the office-set conclusion has the viewer hooked.

    Conrad is perfect as creep crook murderer who sells health gyms and then soaks owners for supplies with over inflated prices. One of the few episodes where Columbo actually despises his suspect and lets him know it in a rare scene where Columbo angrily chews him out. Also rare for a conclusion that doesn't require Columbo to set up a trap to trip up his suspect.

Peter Falk

Peter Falk

Lieutenant Columbo (no first name)

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • Columbo must wait for what seems like an eternity while the computer prints out the information he requested on Lewis Lacey. Finally, the computer stops. The last line printed on the form is "MORE?".

    • Columbo's last line said that Janus's confession was going to hang him. At that time, California used the gas chamber.

    • When Milo Janus starts the movie for his party guests, the take-up reel holds about two-thirds of the movie, while the supply reel (front) only one-third. In other words, the movie is already about two-thirds finished.
      Furthermore, he had earlier mentioned to Buddy that this was going to be an "uncut X rated" film. The one being shown does not even remotely resemble that kind of film. The group he has over does not appear to be the type to watch that type of film either.

    • In the opening sequence, Milo's secretary (Gretchen Corbett) is supposed to be recording an incoming telephone call, but doesn't depress the record button (small red button) on the tape recorder. Technically, the tape recorder is in playback mode.

    • When Columbo is speaking with Milo Janus in his office after he's been doing exercise his track suit is all sweaty, but when they meet in the corridor a moment later it is clean.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Columbo: You removed the bulb on the phone in the living room so the line wouldn't light up because if 6901 lit up the people there would know that you were talking from the phone in the study.

      Janus: Guesswork, supposition, more cigar ashes. What you need is proof. That's what you need-- proof.

      Columbo: It didn't take me 'til July but I got the proof.

    • Milo Janus: I don't care what you think. I don't care what you suspect. I don't care what visions you see when you look at your cigar ashes because I'm innocent. I have an alibi for the time Gene Stafford died and you can huff and puff on that rotten cigar until next July and you'll never prove otherwise.

      Columbo: I wouldn't count on that.

    • (after watching Columbo light his cigar)

      Milo Janus: Your health program didn't last very long, did it?

      Columbo: Long enough.

      Milo Janus: You know something, Columbo, you're a devious man.

      Columbo: That's what they tell me.

    • (Columbo is running on the treadmill)

      Milo Janus: What's he doing here?

      Buddy Castle: Well, you know that introductory thirty day offer we've been pushing on television?

      Milo Janus: Yeah.

      Buddy Castle: That's what he's doing here.

      Columbo: Mr. Janus, how you doin'! Listen, I gotta tell you, this is terrific! I'm starting to feel like a new man already.

      Milo Janus: Fine, fine Columbo.

      Columbo: Of course, you know, I've only been on for about 20 minutes.

    • Columbo: You tried to contrive the perfect alibi, sir. And it's your perfect alibi that's gonna hang you.

  • NOTES (2)