Help Request

At the risk of returning just to ask for what the title says—some help—I’ve been trying to figure this out for a while, to no avail. I wonder if anyone in the mystery-loving blogosphere may be able to help! 🙂

I remember what I think is a Columbo episode in which the killer had a clever Croftsian alibi that involved apparently being in San Francisco while the murder was happening in Los Angeles; in reality, the villain had killed his victim and then flown his private plane to Frisco, making it in time for his meeting. The only problem is, I can’t find it on anywhere! I first thought it was the one with Johnny Cash [which also involves an airplane], but it doesn’t look like it. Anyone know this one?

I’ve tried to hunt it down all over; I reached out to a Columbo fan site, but its owner didn’t recognize the synopsis. If not Columbo, I don’t know what it is, but—does anyone know it? Many, many pre-emptory thanks.

ETA: As I wrote below to TomCat, there are several other people who also remember this episode, yet we’ve all been unable to find it. Indeed, so far it doesn’t look like it even exists, in Columbo or any other show for that matter—which is, to tell the truth, rather creeping me out.

A piece of information which I didn’t put here but which may be relevant: I remember Columbo (or whoever the sleuth was) figuring out that something was off because he checked an airplane logbook, and the time the plane came in was erased and replaced with a new time.

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17 Responses to Help Request

  1. TomCat says:

    This is part of the comment I posted on my own blog as an answer to your comment, but I thought it was worth repeating here:

    Johnny Cash episode was also the first one that came to my mind. Perhaps you remember an episode from another crime series, but from the same period, because I recently came across a YT video of someone uncovering a link between Columbo and The Rockford Files.

    There are two episodes from both series that use the same (filler) scene of a party, but, when played back-to-back, it looks like a cleverly hidden crossover between both series with the detectives being at the same time and place – except that they’re engaged on different cases. So perhaps the episode you remember used airplane footage from the Cash episode.

    You can watch the video here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TomCat says:

    Just out of curiosity, I fiddled around with some keywords (“San Francisco,” “Los Angeles,” “Alibi” and “Airplane”) and this was one of the results that turned up: The Perfect Alibi (1988) from a TV-drama called Knots Landing.

    This summary is from IMDb:
    Karen, Abby, Gary, and Mack are warned that Manny will make it look as if they are behind the drug ring at Lotus Point. In Santa Tecla, Manny’s goons attempt several methods to scare off the archaeological dig, ultimately succeeding. Mack asks Greg to use his federal contacts to learn why Manny is useful to the government. Greg learns that Manny is not running drugs but weapons. Jill departs for a conference in San Francisco – with a gun. In a wig and using a fake name, she buys a used car and hides the gun under the car’s back seat, parking the car at the airport. On her flight, she discusses with a fellow passenger the fact that she has learned a lot about murders in her work as a lawyer. Once in San Francisco, Jill flirts with an efficiency expert at her conference and unbeknownst to him, she slips a mickey in his drink. He later passes out in her hotel room. She then leaves a message on Gary’s answering machine that is billed to her hotel room and asks the hotel operator for a wake-up call. Donning a different wig and glasses, she heads to the airport. She encounters several difficulties returning to Los Angeles, but ultimately ends up at Val’s. Meanwhile, Val has agreed to join Frank and Pat for a movie while Julie babysits the twins. In Santa Tecla, Johnny keeps Paige from getting into a car with the reporter only seconds before his car explodes.


    • Hey, thanks, TC! For all I know it could be the filler footage; I hope it’s something, as I’ve found lots of other people who “remember” this as well (as a Columbo)—and, as yet, we’ve been completely unable to find it, on Columbo or any other show, for that matter.

      Almost kinda creepy so far; a few of the other guys who remember this have posted information that I also remembered but hadn’t posted. (Thus my “Mandela” gag!)

      I appreciate the help: I’m nearly completely positive that I’ve never seen Knots Landing—certainly that I’d never heard of it before—but at this point I’m willing to check anything.




  3. TomCat says:

    Just out of curiosity… have you identified the episode or are you one of those who, somehow, ended up in this Berenstain universe?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heh. 😉

      I actually put the Columbo episode on the Mandela Effect reddit board, just as a gag more than anything. I actually do remember “Berenstein,” but that’s pretty much just false memory because “-stein” is so much more common than “-stain.”

      As for the Columbo episode mystery, I wondered if I could have somehow conflated the logbook in “Mind Over Mayhem,” the airport in “Swan Song,” and non-murderer Ray Milland’s (genuine) alibi in “Death Lends a Hand” to come up with this “missing” one. What gets me, though, is (in Mandela Effect-fashion) how many people also remember this one, right down the pencil marks in the logbook. Nearly every Columbo site I go to has someone who remembers it and then is surprised to see it’s not there.

      I checked Knots Landing and that’s not the one, unfortunately. Many thanks, though, TomCat. 🙂


      • TomCat says:

        So let me get this right. You went to several Columbo sites and there are people there who remember exactly the same episode as you do, but the episode doesn’t appear to exist? Have you dug around Peter Falk’s career filmography? Falk is inextricably linked to Lt. Columbo and, perhaps, you saw a crime movie or episode with Falk in it and conflated it with Columbo, because your brain associated Falk’s face with Lt. Columbo. It’s the only logical reason I can think of why the episode can’t be found in the Columbo series.

        But just to be sure, let me officially welcome you to the Berenstain universe. You’re here forever. So you better enjoy your stay! 😉


      • Yep, you’ve got that right.

        And, yes, both I and another guy went through Falk’s filmography—couldn’t find anything on anything like it. It’s really weird, I know.

        The very strangest thing for me is that one guy, @jervistetch on IMDb v2.0, actually told me things I remembered before I’d written them on the site. Cue Twilight Zone music…


      • Also: I can’t seem to find any plot,Columbo, TV, or neither, that matches this synopsis.


      • TomCat says:

        I’m going to give this one last shot. Do you think it’s possible the alibi-trick you remembered came from a Columbo parody, like the time table sketch from Monty Python, and conflated the sketch with the bits from the episodes you mentioned?

        I’m sure you’re all remembering an episode or movie and attributed it to Columbo. I mean, the alibi-trick you described suggests the inverted mystery format of Columbo. So that would be one explanation for the mixup.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I thought of that too, TomCat.

        I haven’t found a parody yet, but a few of the other guys who remember this and I are looking for an inverted-mystery episode/movie. I hope there’s something out there to explain it…


    • In case you’re still interested…

      Still nothing, TC. It’s baffling.


  4. TomCat says:

    Update! I may have turned up a lead.

    This website is dedicated to the crime show The Streets of San Francisco and their review of a season four episode, “The Cat’s Paw,” not only mentions a SF/LA alibi, but also pointed out a season one episode, “Shattered Image,” in which someone flies to and from Los Angeles to establish an airtight alibi. Let me know if any of this helped jog your memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, thanks very much, TomCat! I’m sure that I’ve never seen The Streets of San Francisco, unfortunately, and I just pulled up “Shattered Image” on YouTube: that’s definitely not it. In “my” episode, two definite elements are a scene in the airport and a scene where the detective notices that the departure and/or arrival times in the logbook have been erased and written over. There’s a close-up of the log, I think. Neither scene appears in “Shattered Image”; in fact, though I only skimmed through it, I don’t think the plane alibi is all that important in it.

      I’ll check “The Cat’s Paw” when I can, just in case, and I let the other guys who remember the episode know about both San Francisco episodes.

      Thanks again, TC.


  5. Jason Half says:

    Hello! Since you’re still on the search as of yesterday, I thought I’d give you my two cents. As a Columbo fan, I remember the prime clue that most of the 45 original episodes turn on — the series was pretty ingenious with using a time-worn clue like a fingerprint (Suitable for Framing) or a dying incrimination (Catch Me if you Can) or an eyewitness (A Deadly State of Mind) in a new and surprising way. While I remember Johnny Cash’s plane ride and broken leg in “Swan Song,” I can’t say that I recognize an LA-San Francisco alibi as you describe it in your initial post. I too thought that it might have shown up on Barnaby Jones or The Rockford Files instead — some other spoke in CBS’ original Mystery Wheel that rotated with Columbo — but I don’t recall the gimmick in Columbo’s original series run. It does *sound* like an unbreakable alibi aligned with the series, though. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jason! Good to hear from you again (I’m Karl S.; you and I e-mailed back and forth a few years back).

      The prime clue in the episode I and several others remember is the pencil-marks that indicate that the actual time was erased and another time substituted—making the alibi gimmick work.

      We all remember a scene in the airport, like the Johnny Cash airport scene in “Swan Song,” except that the murderer wasn’t in it. Columbo (or whoever the sleuth is) is talking to some airport employee: I remembered the employee as an elderly man, someone else (@jervistetch at v2.0) remembered an elderly woman.

      Two people remember a scene that shows the cockpit of the airplane—something I don’t remember. I remembered the killer as looking like Jackie Cooper (who was the killer in “Candidate for Crime,” which I initially thought was this episode); someone else thought it was Ross Martin.

      Someone else offered it might be the second murder in a Columbo.

      Unfortunately, a bunch of other people and Columbo webmasters have assured me that there’s no Columbo like this.

      I haven’t been able to find any plots like this, unfortunately, except for the few TomCat offered, and in that case I know (and the others agree) none of those is the one.

      Thanks again, Jason!


      • Jason Half says:

        Hello Karl! Thanks for revealing your identity 🙂 I would not have made the connection otherwise.

        I read your new post, and yes, the collective memories of the phantom episode are intriguing. The details of the penciled listing in the log book convince me that it exists, and it is possible that it was part of a multiple-clue show where there were a couple of deductions to enjoy. It’s also possible that I might have viewed the episode and forgotten about it. It does make me want to watch all of the series again, if only I had the free time.

        Good luck, and I look forward to the jubilant post when you have your Eureka! moment and can pin the evidence on the shadowy suspect — J.

        Liked by 1 person

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