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Recap / Columbo S 04 E 06

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Columbo drives an unethical psychiatrist crazy.

Episode: Season 4, Episode 6
Title:"A Deadly State of Mind"
Directed by: Harvey Hart
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Air Date: April 27, 1975
Previous: Playback
Next: Forgotten Lady
Guest Starring: George Hamilton, Lesley Ann Warren, Bruce Kirby

"A Deadly State of Mind" is the sixth and last episode of the fourth season of Columbo.

Dr. Mark Collier (George Hamilton) is a rather slimy psychiatrist who is treating an anxious rich housewife, Nadia Donner (Lesley Ann Warren)note . Slimy, in that he's just generally slimy, but specifically slimy in that he's having an affair with Nadia, his patient.

Nadia invites Mark to a weekend sex vacation at her husband's beach house. Mark shows up at the beach house only to be unpleasantly surprised by Nadia's husband, Carl Donner. Carl has found out about Nadia's affair (just the latest of several) and is not too pleased, threatening to expose Mark's affair. When Mark surprises Carl by attempting to leave with Nadia in tow, Carl attacks him. A scuffle ends with Mark whacking Carl over the head with a fireplace poker and killing him. Mark, thinking quickly, concocts a story. Nadia tells the cops that two robbers attempted to break into the place, and killed Carl in the struggle.


This however does not satisfy Lt. Columbo of the LAPD, who notices some odd details, like the tiny flint stone in the rug, and wonders why Nadia didn't see the headlights of the burglars' car. Columbo also notes that the tire tracks in the Donner's driveway are similar to the tires on Columbo's Peugeot, pointing him to search for a European make of car and finding out early on that Mark has matching tires on his Mercedes.



  • Accidental Murder: Carl gets physical with Mark when he tries to depart the Donner residence with Nadia. Nadia intervenes and he turns on her. Carl is now irate with Nadia over her dependence on Mark. Next, Mark makes a questionable judgment call to bludgeon him with a fireplace poker. He'd probably be charged with aggravated manslaughter considering the circumstances. Columbo ultimately brings him to justice by proving he killed Carl, but lacks proof for an actual murder he later commits.
  • Always Gets His Man: A rare partial aversion on Columbo. Columbo admits in the end that he can't prove Mark killed Nadia. But he can prove Mark killed Carl, and that's good enough.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Mice, like most mammals, are red/green colorblind. They wouldn't do very well trying to find the colored lines in Anita's maze.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Hypnosis is presented as flawless Mind Control that can be activated by a trigger phrase and lets the controller make someone do anything they want. It is explained that Mark did use drugs to make Nadia more susceptible, helping downplay this trope.
  • Asshole Victim: Mark Collier and Carl Donner are this in their own ways. On the one hand, Dr. Collier is taking advantage of Nadia Donner and Carl Donner is understandably irate over his exploitation. But on the other hand, Carl hits Nadia more than he does Mark, and Mark is perfectly willing to kill Nadia to save his own ass. This helps viewers cheer on Columbo as he pulls apart Collier's story, and finally fools Collier into blurting out too much information at the end.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: Dr. Collier kills Carl by whacking him with a fire poker.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Mark nearly runs over a blind man walking his dog as he's peeling out of the Donner beach house after the murder. At the end, Columbo brings out an "eyewitness". Mark chortles with derision and points out that the "witness" is actually blind. He gives the "witness" a magazine to read—which the witness reads perfectly. It turns out that the "witness" isn't actually the blind man, but rather, the brother of the actual blind man. The fact that Mark thinks he was the blind man proves that Mark saw the real blind man, basically making him an eyewitness against himself.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Mark has to puff away on a cigarette as he tries to figure out what to do after killing Carl. This proves to be a mistake, as he loses the flint from his lighter, thus drawing the suspicion of Lt. Columbo.
  • Disney Villain Death: Nadia is killed when Dr. Collier makes her jump from her balcony five stories up.
  • Hypno Fool: How Mark kills Nadia. Under hypnosis, he conditions her to feel an uncontrollable need to dive into a swimming pool, after she hears her trigger phrase. He calls her, and says the trigger phrase, and she takes her dive—off her fifth-floor balcony...naked. The fact that one cannot hypnotize someone into doing something they don't want to is brought up, but Columbo notes that Mark could have used drugs to make her more suggestible (which is in fact the case). It also helps that Collier presented the command in terms of something Nadia would willingly do.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Columbo never mentioned anything to Dr. Collier about a blind man being at the scene of the crime. Columbo deliberately tricked Collier by having the man's brother tag along under the pretense that he saw Collier speeding off from the crime scene. Collier then calls Columbo's bluff and states that he couldn't have possibly seen him at the crime scene because he's blind.
  • Impairment Shot: Nadia's vision is shown to blur, demonstrating her hypnotic haze right before she leaps to her death.
  • Ironic Juxtaposition: One scene has Anita demonstrating for the publisher her experiment. Anita is running mice through a maze with various colored lines on the floors of the maze. After the mice learn how to get to the end of the maze and find the food, she switches the colored lines around to test whether the mice are following the colors or going by dead reckoning. This scene is immediately followed by a scene where Lt. Columbo is looking at a map on the wall showing the colored lines that direct people around the research institute. Columbo follows the right color line to find the wing where Anita works.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Although Columbo can't prove that Mark hypnotized Nadia into committing suicide, he can prove that Mark murdered Carl and that will have to do.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Mark is using drugs to cheat results on his experiments, he is having an affair with one of his patients, has hypnotized Nadia into becoming dependent upon him, and he's a huge creep in general. It's a wonder that he wasn't fired before Columbo arrested him on suspicion of murder.
  • Never One Murder: When it becomes clear that Columbo isn't buying Nadia's story and that she's probably going to cave, Mark kills her via a Hypno Fool trick and tries to pin Carl's murder on her.
  • Never Suicide: Mark tries to stage a scene to suggest that Nadia killed herself, after suspicion fell on her for her husband's murder. Columbo isn't fooled.
  • Oedipus Complex: Nadia's recollection of her childhood (while under hypnosis) strongly suggests that she had a thing for her father (notably, the very orgasmic way she says "daddy"). To put it more disturbingly, it's also implied that she even went as far as to drown her sister in the family's swimming pool (knowing she couldn't swim) so she can have their father all to herself.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A rare burst of temper from Lt. Columbo. Columbo seems to find Mark particularly loathsome, and he knows that Mark killed Nadia to cover his tracks. The lieutenant is questioning Anita about the drugs found in Nadia's system and whether she could have been killed via a Hypno Fool trick. When Anita says he'll have to ask Dr. Collier, Columbo gets angry. He shouts "No, I'm asking you! I'm asking you about a murder!"
  • Trigger Phrase: Mark programs Nadia with a Trigger Phrase that is the name of his book publisher. This allows him to call Nadia in the middle of a room full of witnesses (including Columbo himself), say the publisher's name, then pretend that he dialed a wrong number and hang up, after which Nadia jumps to her death.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: Dr. Collier is particularly sleazy and creepy, abusing his credentials to make Nadia dependent upon him. Carl is naturally outraged with Mark's manipulation while Columbo isn't fond of him in the slightest. Similar to Dr. Barry Mayfield, Mark is portrayed as having little to no redeeming qualities as a Doctorate holder.
  • Wham Line: "Always pack a bulky sweater and some heavy underwear..." For context, this is the the supposedly blind witness reading from a magazine that Mark gave him. As Columbo points out, why would Mark believe the guy was blind unless he'd seen him before?
  • Would Hit a Girl: Carl Donner is more than willing to hit Nadia when she tries to help Mark by pulling Carl off him.