Title:"Blueprint for Murder"
Directed by: Nicholas Colasanto
Written by: Steven Bochco (teleplay), Richard Levinson and William Link (story)
Air Date: September 17, 1972
Previous: Blueprint for Murder
Next: The Greenhouse Jungle
Guest Starring: John Cassavetes, Blythe Danner, Myrna Loy
"Etude in Black" is the first episode of the second season of Columbo.
Alex Benedict (John Cassavetes) is an orchestra conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with a lovely and very rich wife, Janice (Blythe Danner, mother of Gwyneth Paltrow), and an even richer patron in the person of Janice's mother, Lizzie Fielding (Myrna Loy). His life is complicated however by the presence of his gorgeous mistress Jenifer Welles, a concert pianist in Benedict's orchestra. One day, Jenifer gives Alex an ultimatum: either he divorces his wife or she'll tell her about the affair. Alex chooses to take a third option, murdering poor Jennifer and staging her death to look like she committed suicide by gas oven. Unfortunately for Alex, Lt. Columbo is on the case.
Directed by Nicholas Colasanto, who was a decade away from getting hired to play Coach on Cheers. Pat Morita has a bit part as Benedict's manservant. This episode marks the first appearance of Columbo's dog. Two years after this show John Cassavetes the independent film director would cast Peter Falk as the male lead in his film A Woman Under the Influence.
- The Alleged Car: More jokes about Columbo's battered old Peugeot. He follows Benedict to the auto shop where Benedict's car was being serviced. The mechanic takes one look at Columbo's and says "Have you thought about getting a new car?" and states that they only service foreign cars anyway. When Columbo tells him that it IS a foreign car, the mechanic declines, saying "There are limits, mate."
- And Starring: Myrna Loy gets the "Special Guest Star" credit. As she deserved!
- Artistic License Law: A particularly egregious example of Columbo's extremely casual attitude towards evidence. He takes Jenifer's typewriter, with the suicide note inside, to the Hollywood Bowl to sweat Alex. Then he strikes a key on the keyboard, typing another letter, to demonstrate that the letter is misaligned and thus Jenifer didn't really write it.
- Asian Speekee Engrish: Pat Morita's bit part involves him speaking in a thick accent.
- Cartoon Conductor: Alex waves his baton around in an extremely unconvincing manner.
- Conversation Cut: Alex appears at the board meeting and tells the orchestra board that Paul Rifkin couldn't possibly have done it. (He's actually trying to subtly throw suspicion on Rifkin by mentioning his assault conviction). The camera cuts to Lizzie, who says "You have a power friend and supporter, Mr. Rifkin." The scene has actually cut to Lizzie, Rifkin, and Columbo at Lizzie's home.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Pat Morita has a bit part as a manservant at the Benedict mansion.
- 555: Jenifer's phone number is 555-7921.
- Graceful Loser: After Janice contradicts Alex's alibi, he takes a quick moment to apologize to her and tell her that he loves her before confessing to Columbo so he isn't too humiliated by being caught as well as telling him that he's a genius at his job and that he knew that it was only a matter of time when he first saw Columbo.
- Lennon Specs: Janice is wearing some particularly large ones while playing tennis.
- The Mistress: "I don't like being a secret mistress," says Jenifer to Alex as she demands he leave his wife. She probably liked being dead even less.
- Never Suicide: Alex whacks Jenifer over the head with an ashtray. Then he stages a scene where she supposedly turned on the gas to her oven and sat down in a kitchen chair, only to slip off the chair and whack her head on the oven as she fell. Columbo is not fooled.
- Pet's Homage Name: Jenifer named her parrot "Chopin".
- Stock Footage: Of Hitler and the Nazis, no less...as Alex and his crew are scoring a documentary.
- Too Clever by Half: Alex could've avoided incriminating himself if he hadn't picked up his boutonniere flower from the crime scene and wore it in the presence of the news crews while leaving the crime scene.