It's WWIII at the wargaming tables of the Cybernetics Research Institute, a think tank. "Oh, a place full of geniuses," says Lt. Columbo, "may I ask what you do here, Sir?" Marshall Cahill (that's his name) replies, "I'm the director." His son's been very naughty, written a paper someone else actually composed. The "radical" Dr. Nicholson wants the lad to confess, or by gad he'll turn him in. Marshall Cahill does the doctor in.
Of course, he has to send young Spelberg to the movies (a child prodigy). "Everyone can use a robot," says little Spelberg, who has invented one. The robot types instructions to the wargamers while the deed is done.
Lt. Columbo's dog washes out of obedience school. The lieutenant abandons his notebook for a tape recorder, miniature. "Bad dog! Bad dog!", it says when benefiting Marshall Cahill with a demonstration.
There is much amusement. Elderly Dr. Nicholson has a young wife (Jessica Walter, marvelously aggrieved). Burnt match and missing pipe at the scene of the crime. Is there any hope for the natural gas car? They're testing them at the Institute.
The good doctor (Lew Ayres) was researching heroin for the government. Jose Ferrer as Cahill manages an impression of, say, John Van Neumann.