A great episode especially since it breaks format…
Sean Brantley (Ian Buchanan) owns a men's magazine called "Bachelor's World." The "playmates" are called nymphs. He lives in a massive mansion in a park-like setting called the Chateau where it's non- stop parties with a lot of exposed flesh. His business partner (who owns 51% of the company) is drop-dead gorgeous Dian Hunter (Deidre Hall). They're a real high-tech pair including wearing matching bracelets which are really paging devices. Dian wants to sell her interest to a Brit and leaves the Chateau in a limo for an airplane flight to London. However, she never arrives. Columbo is called into investigate and gets to work in his usual pesty way. He soon comes to believe that Dian was murdered on her way to the airport. stashed in the limo, and a substitute made the airplane trip only to disappear and return as someone else. Columbo begins having the grounds of the Chateau dug up to find Dian's body. This creates a great deal of publicity with the media swarming over everyone. Then the usual format of the series changes. The "dead woman" shows up. It was all just a publicity stunt to boost circulation. And, from Dian's point of view, she can now get even more money by selling her share of the company. She tells Sean she intends to do this and he kills her for real.
Sean tries to get Columbo to once again look for the missing Dian but Columbo refuses. However, he does place a phone call and then they hear a beeping coming from behind one of the bathroom walls. Opening the wall, Columbo finds the dead body along with the paging bracelet with the single word "Gotcha" on the message screen.
Ian Buchanan does an exceptional job playing the quasi-adolescent Sean. He's living out every man's dream and loving it. There's hardly a scene where he's not wearing a spectacular grin.
Deidre Hall is completely believable in her role as Dian. Considering the scant costume requirements of the other women in the show, she gets the bulk of the costume wardrobe and wears it well.
However, what really makes the story is the plot twists where first Dian isn't and then is a murder victim.