The Californian Airplane Mystery

OK, so I haven’t posted here in a long while, and this post is just an addendum to the one below. My apologies, though I’d like to post some more soon.

As for updates to the “missing Columbo” mystery:

Unfortunately, not all that much progress has been made on it. Though TomCat has searched high and low for it (thanks, TC!) and come back with a few different episodes of two TV shows, both I and the others who remember it, at IMDb v2.0 and Reddit, are positive none of those is it.

Some more comments. Here’s what I originally wrote:

Unless I’m imagining it, there was a Columbo in which the killer had a clever 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 the episode list! 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 thought at the time that the episode was “Candidate for Crime” (S3:E3), and I was sure the killer in “my” episode was or looked like Jackie Cooper, who was the killer in that episode.


But that alibi just doesn’t appear. Perhaps I was conflating it with another episode? But no Columbo episode seemed to have that alibi—as I confirmed on the Columbo subreddit and with the webmasters of several different Columbo websites.

I posted the question to IMDb v2.0 (where ended up the largest, er, diaspora of folks who had been on the IMDb boards when they were shut down) and to Reddit. Many people on both also remembered the episode; one, “@jervistetch” at v2.0, even wrote this:

I feel like I remember a detective/police investigator at an airport actually looking through a book where flight schedules had been recorded and visibly noticing that it had been altered.

The astounding thing is that that was exactly what I remembered—but I had never written that. In fact, up until that point, I had never mentioned the logbook.

We both distinctly remembered the times (which the killer changed) being in pencil and the detective character, who we thought was Columbo, noticing the pencil marks where the previous time had been written.

We both remembered the murderer’s not being in that key scene, though we did remember an airport employee’s being in it. And here was where our memories first diverged: I remembered an elderly male employee, while he remembered an elderly female employee.

In addition to a slew of people at Reddit, two others at v2.0 concurred with my and @jervistetch’s recollections.

Someone else mentioned that it could be the second murder in the episode.

Still, no one could find an example of this plot line anywhere.

Recently, we confirmed our memories diverged on another point as well: two people remembered a shot of a man (the killer, maybe?) in the cockpit of the plane, while I didn’t (and still don’t) remember one.

Several guys on Reddit thought they knew the episode but, on searching, couldn’t find it.

That’s pretty much everything I’ve got right now. I’d love to know the answer.

This entry was posted in Help, Questions, Real-Life Mysteries, TV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Californian Airplane Mystery

  1. TomCat says:

    Unfortunately, not all that much progress has been made on it. Though TomCat has searched high and low for it (thanks, TC!)

    You’re welcome! This mystery of the missing, apparently non-existent, Columbo episode has intrigued me. I still think it’s a case of “Watson’s Memory” and you, somehow, remember an episode from a different detective series, but it surely is weird there are more people who share your memories (unless they’re pulling your leg).

    I mean, you know about my crystal clear memory of Try and Catch Me having a different ending, but that was just me and easily explained, because I was rooting for the murderer. This is a real mystery.

    So, yeah, I also would very much like to know the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve thought about my memories’ affecting theirs, which explains many Mandela Effects as well, but I can’t get over @jervistetch’s knowing about the logbook before I mentioned it. You thought Ruth Gordon gets away with the murder in Try and Catch Me, right? Because he lets Janet Leigh get away with it in Forgotten Lady. (I think we’ve already talked about this, right?)

      I do hope they’re not pulling my leg—they’re all very nice people, so I doubt it. And there’s always the Sleuth singer if you want another real-life mystery! 😉

      And, again, I appreciate all your efforts on my behalf.


  2. TomCat says:

    My memory of the ending was that, after Abigail Mitchell pleaded with Columbo, he handed over the vital evidence (car keys) to her, but when I re-watched it (years later) the ending was completely different. You’re right that The Forgotten Lady probably partially to blame for this. However, there’s an episode from a Dutch detective series that likely also did its part in helping implanting this false memory and I only thought of this recently.

    An early episode from the first season of Baantjer, De Cock en de moord op de moordenaar (De Cock and the Murder of a Murderer), opens with an elderly man bringing Inspector De Cock to a basement where he had walled up a young man many years ago, but the Statute of Limitations has run out and De Cock has to let him go – effectively beating the police and getting away with murders. Some time later, this man is murdered himself and the episode ends rather tragically with De Cock having to arrest his murderer. A character who more than deserved to have gotten away with gutting that bastard.

    If you see who played this second murderer, you’ll understand how these episodes could have mixed up in my head. Especially since I watched them around the same time. So you have to wonder if this is possible with multiple people, because alternative universes colliding is too iffy an answer. Why would just this one episode disappear from existence? Was it written by someone who was not born in this universe? Or did he take a different career path here?


  3. Giovanni says:

    A very similar alibi is set up in Burke’s Law season 1 episode 19, there’s no logbook and no airport scenes though… but there’s a pretty funny way to use a minor character to set up the revelation (Burke doesn’t do much sleuthing). Here’s a link:


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