Awesome / Columbo

  • Columbo's deductive flourishes — as revealed to his target at the end — sometimes approach this. As do the occasional brief scenes in which he drops the fawning and tells the perp exactly what he thinks of him.
  • One of the rare times Columbo is seen upset is in "A Stitch In Crime," when he's facing Leonard Nimoy's character of Dr. Mayfield. Dr. Mayfield is an open heart surgeon who's working on a crucial research project with a senior partner, Dr. Hiderman. Mayfield also has to operate on his partner, by repairing his heart valves with permanent sutures. He instead uses dissolving sutures, which when dissolved will cause his partner's heart to rupture, killing him in a few weeks, leaving Mayfield to hog all the credit for the project. Sharon Martin, a nurse, discovers this and Mayfield kills her (which is how Columbo first gets on the case).
    • In a genuinely chilling moment, Columbo abruptly drops all pretense and actually slams a beverage pitcher onto a table! He angrily informs Mayfield that if his partner dies anytime soon, Columbo will have a full autopsy performed to see if the real cause of death was that the sutures that were supposed to keep his heart valves in place were no longer there. This forces Mayfield to re-operate on his partner, forcing him to save the life of the man he was initially plotting to murder.
  • In "An Exercise in Fatality," Columbo gets so fed up with Milo Janus that he tells him "she thinks you're responsible for the death of her husband, and you want to know something? So do I!"
    • This followed by him laying out that he knows Milo's alibi for the time of the murder is hogwash and that he fully intends to nail the guy. Oh, and does all this in front of half-a-dozen startled hospital guests.
  • Pretty much every episode of Columbo ends with a CMoA when the villain realises how Columbo has pwned him.
    • In "Negative Reaction", Paul Galesko is convinced that Columbo is both an incompetent cop and an incompetent photographer to boot. When Columbo produces a photograph of the crime scene that seems to blow Galesko's alibi, he says that Columbo has managed to flip the image of a clock and picks up a camera in the police laboratory to get the negative. Columbo then asks how Galesko knew which camera to pick up. The look on his face when he realises that not only has he given himself away but that Columbo managed to get him to give himself away is one to treasure.
    • In "A Friend in Deed", Columbo has to bust his own superior, the police commissioner, who has attempted to make a Detective Patsy out of him. The commissioner's (and the audience's) realization that Columbo has so ingeniously outwitted him—"He doesn't live here. I live here."—is a series highlight.
    • At the beginning of "Death Lends A Hand," Columbo says he believes in astrology and palm reading, then to prove a point, he reads the palms of the murderer and the husband of the victim. It's easy to throw that just as another of his Obfuscating Stupidity quirks... until the end of the episode, where it's revealed Columbo carefully inspected the ring the murderer was wearing and was able to match it to the cut on the victim's cheek, which then led to him focusing his efforts on the murderer. The murderer's face upon hearing that is priceless. Then, seconds later, it turns out the way the murderer was caught was a particularly clever plan by Columbo.
    • In "The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case," an Insufferable Genius who had murdered a fellow member of a Mensa-like organization asked Columbo if he had ever been tested himself. After Columbo said no, the killer pulled down a book with an example test in it and asked him a random question, which Columbo answered correctly after only a moment's thought. The killer was almost relieved to have been caught by what he now considered a Worthy Opponent.
    • The end of Playback has Columbo discovering a simple but utterly conclusive clue the fact that the murderer's invitation to the art gallery he went to that night to provide his alibi is visible on the tape of his mother-in-law being shot and laying it out forcefully before the killer: "This" (holds up the invitation) "is this" (points to the screen). "This is what you presented at the art show the night of the murder. The problem is it was on the desk immediately after the shooting. How did it get to the art gallery? By your own testimony you took it there. But in order to get it, you practically had to step over the body."
  • Any of the four episodes with Patrick McGoohan as the guest villain. Pure classics, and McGoohan won two Emmys for his guest roles. (He also directed five episodes and wrote the scripts for two).
  • In "Any Old Port in a Storm", Adrian Carsini had killed his half-brother by locking him in a wine cellar with the ventilation system shut off, sealing the room. Columbo nicked a bottle of wine from the cellar and set up an opportunity for Carsini to sample it at a restaurant, claiming it was his own. Carsini notices that the wine was heat damaged, and though he did not realize it was from his own collection, this caused him to realize the contents of the wine cellar were damaged as well. His subsequent action of destroying his own damaged collection confirmed for Columbo where the murder actually took place.
  • Every episode when he says "Just one more thing..." — that is, until the later seasons where most bad guys are wise to his act.
  • While it's a case of Characterization Marches On, it's pretty awesome in Prescription: Murder when Columbo shows he's not bumbling, confronts the murderer's accomplice and even screams at her for her crime.
  • In "Ransom For A Dead Man," the second pilot movie, Columbo explains to Leslie Williams what her mistake was: "Mrs. Williams, you have no conscience and that's your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people who would take money to forget about a murder? It didn't, did it? I knew it wouldn't."
  • In "Undercover," Columbo, undercover as Artie Stokes, is walking to the apartment of Mo Weinberg, one of the criminals to meet him for an arranged deal. He looks through the key hole and sees the guy with a gun. Columbo takes out his notepad, writes "you're a horse's ass" on a piece of paper and slips it through the crack in the door. As the criminal takes the paper, Columbo kicks the door in and points his own gun at the guy! It was quite a moment of Took a Level in Badass for Columbo.
  • The "endless fence" scene from "Murder, Smoke & Shadows" as Columbo and Alex Bradey discuss reality and perception.
  • In an episode Columbo is trying to get a better feel for a possible suspect and he's trying to talk to a peer of him, a doctor, she repeatedly brushes him off and this finally ends with..
    No I'm asking YOU! I'm asking you about a murder!
  • A subtle one in "Now You See Him:" Columbo tricks the Great Santini into demonstrating that he could have picked the lock to the room where the murder took place by challenging him on stage to escape from a pair of handcuffs with the same lock.
    • To add to the scene's brilliance, when the camera stops on Santini's face you can see that he recognizes the lock. It makes Columbo's follow-up line of "I knew you could do it" much more machiavellian.
  • In the episode "An Exercise in Fatality", the normally-patient Columbo has to wait for an interminably long time to get the information he needs from an uncooperative receptionist, who then directs him to the pay-phone to call the witness...who is out. Columbo gets his little revenge for the inconvenience via the message he leaves, which he makes sure is loud enough for the receptionist to hear so that she knows who exactly she was jerking around:
    "Hello. This is Lieutenant Columbo: homicide. It's very important that I talk to you. You can call me at the main precinct. The number there is: you can look that up."
  • In "Double Exposure", the criminal uses subliminal cuts on a tape to get the victim out into the open. At the end of the episode, Columbo uses a subliminal cut with photos of him looking around the murderer's office to get him to pull out the weapon.
  • This exchange:
    Dr. Collier: "I presume you have no proof?"
    Columbo: (looking him steadily in the eye) "Not yet."
    Collier: "Well, you will let me know when you do?"
    Columbo: "You'll be the first to know."
  • The ending of the early episode Suitable for Framing, where the greedy art critic murders his uncle for his valuable paintings, then tries to frame the uncle's ex-wife for the crime by planting the paintings at her house. When they'e discovered, Columbo orders fingerprint testing. The murder smugly assures him that it wouldn't matter, since he'd frequently handled the paintings anyway. They find fingerprints. But not the murderer's; Columbo's. See, earlier in the show he'd met the murderer while he was carrying the stolen paintings in a case and casually reached in, professing interest in seeing them before the murderer stopped him. The murderer then furiously accuses the detective of planting the evidence just now, causing Columbo to pull his hands out of his pocket, revealing that he's wearing gloves. The look on the art critic's face is priceless.
  • Uneasy Lies the Crown: The dentist, who is drowning in gambling debt and failed investments, tries to conceal the source of a lethal digitalis dose in a tooth crown he laced with the drug (to murder the actor who is marrying his ex wife). Columbo uses the dentist's admitted lack of chemistry knowledge against him, to lure him into confession. Columbo convinces him that the underside of the crown turned blue because digitalis reacts that way at body temperature, "providing" that's where he planted The overdose.
  • The real killer in Murder in Malibu is caught due to their mistake of dressing the victim with the panties on backwards. Seeing the victim's sister yell in grief how much she hates them and getting closure is so satisfying, even if they'll be in turmoil for a while over their loss.
  • Justin and Cooper in Columbo Goes to College feel so overconfident after murdering their professor (they got found out cheating on an exam). However, it turns out that as usual, Columbo only appears to be misled by their deception. The duo is very terrified when they find out that it was Columbo who was playing around with them.