Columbo episode "It's All In The Game" was unique for a few reasons - the most notable being the titular detective letting a killer walk free. While Peter Falk made the character an icon, he wasn't the first actor to play Columbo. The detective first appeared in anthology series The Chevy Mystery Show where he was played by Bert Freed (The Outer Limits). This version had little in common with the Falk's take, though they both used misdirection to confuse suspects. Falk would eventually take the role - after Bing Crosby passed - for 1968 TV movie Prescription: Murder.
When this proved to be a hit, NBC ordered a pilot for a solo Columbo series, which was another ratings smash. Steven Spielberg (Jaws) would direct the very first episode titled "Murder By The Book." The show would be acclaimed both for Falk's performance and the intricate plotting of each episode. The show was canceled in 1978 after seven seasons but was revived in 1989, with the final episode being 2003's "Columbo Likes the Nightlife." In between the show being canceled Falk would also appear in classic movies Wings Of Desire and The Princess Bride, alongside Cary Elwes and Fred Savage.
It was Peter Falk who came up with Columbo's unique wardrobe and mannerisms, with the lieutenant's tendency to wander wildly off-topic while talking to suspects a way to keep his co-stars confused. The typical structure of the show was unique too, in that almost every episode opened with the killer shown carrying out the murder, with Columbo's appearance delayed until later in the narrative. Instead of being a mystery, the thrill came from watching him piece together the clues. Columbo season 10 "It's All In The Game" is notable for being the only episode written by Falk and featuring a guest appearance by Faye Dunaway (Chinatown) as one of the killers.
This episode of Columbo has Dunaway's Lauren scheming with a woman named Lisa (Claudia Christian, Babylon 5) to kill the man who has been cheating on them both. They make it look like he was shot during a home invasion, but it isn't long until Columbo is on the case, scratching his head and playing dumb. Lauren decides to try and seduce Columbo, adding a strange romantic element to the episode, but he naturally works out she's guilty by the end.
Columbo "It's All In The Game" also reveals Lisa is actually Lauren's daughter. While he knows Lisa helped with the murder, in exchange for Lauren's full confession he lets Lisa flee the country. Surprisingly, this wasn't the only time he let a killer go, which also happened in season 5's "Forgotten Lady." That was under unique circumstances though, with the killer - played by Psycho's Janet Leigh - suffering from a brain disease, meaning she'd forgotten her crime and didn't have long to live. "It's All In The Game" is a great episode, with Falk and Faye Dunaway having great chemistry together. Dunaway would also win an Emmy for her work.