Columbo (1971–2003)
30 user 6 critic

The Most Crucial Game 

The manager of a football team murders its callow owner, making it look as if the young man had had an accident in his swimming pool. Lt. Columbo is on the case.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Paul Hanlon
Walter Cunnell
Coach Rizzo
Eve Babcock
Shirley Wagner
Eric Wagner
Ralph Dobbs
Kathryn Kelly Wiget ...
Miss Johnson
Richard Stahl ...
Mr. Fremont
Deputy Coroner
Cliff Carnell ...
Joe Renteria ...
Box Attendant Jimmy
Ivan Naranjo ...
Sgt. Hernandez, L.A.P.D.


The owner of a football team is found dead in his swimming pool. It looks like an accident, a slip and fall; however, Columbo doesn't really believe in this being an accident and investigates as if it was a murder case - but the person he suspects has a powerful alibi. Written by Maarten Hofman <>

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Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 November 1972 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


The scene where Peter Falk and Robert Culp are talking at the basketball court has appearances by Los Angeles Lakers players LeRoy Ellis, Pat Riley, Happy Hairston, Jim McMillan and Keith Erickson. They are part of the scene, as Culp's character Paul Hanlon explains to Columbo that they are some pro players that live nearby and like to get together and play for fun from time to time. See more »


Hanlon hits Wagner while he is facing him, and as a result he falls backwards into the water. But he is then shown floating in the water face down with no explanation for how he rolled over. See more »


Lt. Columbo: You know, I had tickets for the game? Didn't even use 'em. Couldn't enjoy it. Till I find the answer, I can't think of anything else.
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Edited from A Gathering of Eagles (1963) See more »


Eine kleine Nachtmusik
composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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User Reviews

Great episode, confusing ending
28 October 2016 | by See all my reviews

While other reviews have given the plot by now, and I am going to agree with them. I will also say the writing and acting are top notch. The murder is a great idea, as I have always heard the perfect murder weapon is an ice sickle. This comes close as he uses s block of ice. (Since Columbo shows the murder at the beginning of the show, I don't think this is a spoiler) The interaction between Columbo and the killer are classic, Once again the killer thinks he can outsmart our hero. He does plan this one exceptionally well, leaving only a few clues to show its murder instead of an accident.I think most detectives would have ruled it an accident, and gone home. How Columbo could tell it was not an accident at first is only his intuition. I will say the few mistakes the killer makes does help point to it as murder, just not who. I will also the motive is not clear. While we can speculate, anytime you have to speculate it means the motive wasn't clear. The acting was good, and Columbo was at at his best being his usual self. I loved him looking for shoes all episode. The flaw in this episode is the ending. The show is going along great, and you expect some master reveal, and then the credits roll. I wasn't even sure what Columbo had to prove the killer did it. It's a shame such an incredible episode had that ending. Even with the bad ending, it's definitely worth watching, as it was just superb until then. So when you read reviews and see that the motive, and the ending are weak, yes they are, but it's so good please don't pass this episode up!

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