Butterfly in Shades of Grey

Episode 63 – Butterfly in Shades of Grey

The sixty first episode of Columbo was titled Butterfly in Shades of Grey and was the second episode of the show’s twelfth season. A bombastic radio presenter reacts violently to the prospect of his daughter leaving town. In this podcast Gerry and Iain remark on a couple of returning faces.



William Shatner makes a welcome return to the show as right-wing radio host Fielding Chase. Angered by the efforts of show investigator Gerry Winters (Jack Laufer) to persuade his daughter Victoria (Molly Hagan, last seen on Murder, Smoke and Shadows) to head to New York in search of a publishing deal he shoots the younger man dead, while staging a phone call from his own home.


Another small cast participate in this episode, with Shatner and Peter Falk doing the heavy lifting. Richard Kline appears as Lou Cates, a literary agent who can help Victoria; Yorgo Constantine has a cameo as the radio station manager; Mark Lonow is a soap star and Gerry’s boyfriend, Ted Malloy; Robin Clarke appears briefly as Senator Gordon Madison; and DeeDee Ross (Beverly Leech) and her agent (Brian Markinson) dine with Fielding Chase ahead of his interview with Madison.


Dennis Dugan, who appeared as Mac Albinski in Last Salute to the Commodore returns to direct this episode, working from a script by veteran writer Peter S. Fischer (his eighth of nine shows).


If you have thoughts on any aspect of Butterfly in Shades of Grey, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


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Butterfly in Shades of Grey was released in 1994. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal (all remaining episodes are considered ‘Season 10’ in the DVD collection).


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

44 thoughts to “Episode 63 – Butterfly in Shades of Grey”

  1. I don’t like this Columbo And The Black And White Butterfly ABC Mystery Movie. I find this one rather unpleasant and on the whole quite dull, too. I admit that it’s nice to see the great William “The Shat” Shatner and adorable Molly Hagan again, but they’re both stuck in a rather clunky and unsubtle Columbo episode with a incomprehensible title. Butterfly In Shades Of Grey — what in the Sam Hill does this even mean and what does it have to do with ANYTHING in this episode!?! A more honest title for this production would have been The Columbo Producers Really Despise Conservative Radio And They Will Build A Straw Man And Knock It Down So You Can Really Hate Those Conservative Talk Show Hosts Too. But most times I just quickly refer to this episode as simply The Shat And His ‘Stache.

    However, I have yet another title for this Columbo episode that continues to tie in with the burning question that I have about this Mystery Movie: what’s up with that ultra fake and multi-color changing mustache attached to William Shatner? I mean, this ‘stache alters its colors as often as one of those silly ‘Mood Rings’ from the Seventies, man! Why even bother with this ‘stache if the makeup department is going to make it so thin that it resembles a little furry caterpillar above Shatner’s upper lip? Why didn’t Shatner just grow a mustache? If there was a scheduling conflict and he didn’t have time to grow one, why didn’t the makeup people create a fuller and more convincing ‘stache to attach to The Shat? And what was the problem with the director and the continuity people here — were they all high on drugs or something? So, in short, my very own title for this particular ABC Mystery Movie is Columbo And The Man With The Moody Mustache. Be seeing you!

      1. I’m not a fan of Rush Limbaugh, but it’s kind of creepy when one contemplates what the Columbo producers are actually revealing about themselves through the character of Fielding Chase. So why not have a Columbo villain who is a radical environmentalist, or a leader in PETA, who lurks in the shadows as a cannibalistic serial killer and pedophile? All of this is just as ‘subtle’ as a sledgehammer to the face with its politics — and this is exactly how I feel about Butterfly In Shades Of Grey. The Columbo producers should leave their politics completely out of this series.

        A few folks on the CPF have previously mentioned that “Columbo and sex don’t mix” or words to that effect. That’s like saying that sex and homicide don’t go together — yeah, right and history proves this one out, huh? HA! But whenever the Columbo producers have surrounded our little detective hero with flirty belly dancers or sex therapists or cooing centerfold models and the like, Lieutenant Columbo has always remained a sweet and humble gentlemen.

        But if Columbo suddenly became a leering Grouch Marx type, that would be the time to cry “Foul!” Well, I’m shouting ‘foul’ against these overt political shenanigans here by the producers of this Butterfly In Shades Of Grey. I still think that blatant critiques of liberal or conservative politics should stay completely out of popular television entertainment. So, in short, I say keep the political commentary only to the news analysts and the various pundits. Be seeing you! 🙂

          1. Indeed! This reminds me of how I’d like to produce films in Hollywood that deal with Christian characters that are seduced by the darkness or what have you. Typical Hollywood treatment of Christian characters has been really abysmal in the last several decades: they’re either repressive jerks or total psychos. Hey, Hollywood — how about presenting decent and true Christian characters that are calling out these dark (pseudo) Christian types within the film’s narrative? Well, typical Hollywood doesn’t even know what a true Christian really is or even what the Bible actually teaches. They just appear to conform to a stereotypical thought pattern and regurgitate seemingly anti-Christian bigotry. It’s high time for Largo International Pictures, Inc. to set them straight, eh! Now, who’s with me here?

          2. I totally agree with you on this one Largo; ministers/vicars/priests in particular are seldom portrayed in a realistic way. The film makers far too often revert to lazy stereotypes for a cheap laugh and are afraid to deal with the complex and tough realities of issues around death and faith in society today. Don’t get me started…

          3. Exactly, Ian! And I welcome you to the production board of Largo International Pictures, Inc. with open arms! 🙂

          4. Indeed! And LIPI needs clever gents such as yourself, Kieran. So I welcome you to the production board of Largo International Pictures, Inc. with open arms, too! 🙂

          5. i agree. I think it’s like what you said about “the Conspirators”, the Irish thing was just a setting for the story, they weren’t making a point.

        1. “Make me a perfect murder” had an arguably an anti-feminist message. And Kay Freestone was certainly written to be a left-winger. She greets the secretary (MIdge I think was her name) saying “Peace” and giving a Black Power salute.

          1. “Make Me A Perfect Murder” was decidedly anti-feminist for sure and that’s just one of the reasons why I despise that episode. I don’t recall the salute, Carlos, but I do recall a lot of sheer idiocy from both the Freestone character as well as the Columbo producers. Shoot — I’m going to have to finish that blasted “Make Me A Perfect Murder” review of mine one of these days, eh!

          2. I imagine that your last comment was not intended to be taken seriously. As you and others probably know, the women’s movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s adopted the “clenched fist” salute (along with many other movements before and since) as a greeting of solidarity. And many people greeted each other with “Peace” during the 1960’s and 1970’s too. It became a generic greeting among young people as a symbol of friendliness and solidarity.

  2. I have a theory and it goes like this: I believe that Richard Kline (literary agent, Lou Cates) is part alien — specifically, part Metalunan. You guys remember those space aliens from This Island Earth (1955), don’t you? You know — those alien dudes with the unusually high foreheads? Yup, Richard Kline’s dad must have been from the planet Metaluna! It’s just gotta be, man! 😉

  3. Hey! You all ever remember a rock group called Monochrome Butterfly? Here’s the cover of one of their ‘live’ albums —

      1. Right, man! It’s sorta like that, but way groovier! If you squint real hard you can just make out “Monochrome Mike” on the middle-left. Totally psychedelic, man! 😉


    The following is a subspace message from alternate universe Spock:

    “I find your comparison between me and Fielding Chase to be quite erroneous and illogical. Mr. Chase is a highly emotional and mentally unstable being who is prone to rather outrageous and unsubstantiated statements. I definitely do not share any of these qualities for they are alien to me. I am a being who is dictated by logic and reason and Fielding Chase is sadly lacking in both. In addition: my facial hair is obviously superior. Long live The Empire. Spock out.”

  5. Another great podcast, another decent Columbo episode. Much levity and laughter.

    I think you guys did a good job of describing the William Shatner experience. His over-acting and stilted deliveries are now so commonplace that we don’t even notice them.

    Well done.

        1. Indeed! William Shatner is moving and fighting very well for an 82 year old man. I sure hope that if I make it to 82 that I will still be able to fight lizard people. 🙂

          1. Yes, well, he wasn’t really moving very fast in the original, his one good move was to tweak the lizard ears, and his grand finish was to run away… But I sure hope I’m paid as well as he is when I’m 82 ?

    1. Well, as a life-long Star Trek fan, I have learned to separate my feelings for Captain Kirk and my feelings for William Shatner. As I think I may have mentioned in previous posts, I have attended countless Star Trek conventions over the years starting with one in the San Francisco Bay Area around 1974.

      In numerous conventions stories are told about what a jerk Shatner was on set and off set during the original run. I can vividly remember a writers’s panel in which one panelist regaled us with a story of when he first was hired as a Star Trek writer, Shatner forcefully told him that Kirk was the star of the show and every script had better reflect that. Nobody else could get the girl, nobody else could save the day, nobody else could defeat the bad guys, etc. After the story ended, the moderator asked if anybody else on the panel wanted to make any comments. Each panelist in turn told the same story with differing levels of amusement and animosity.

      In addition, we have all heard about how Shatner treated minor actors on set too (where “minor” means any non-Shatner actor). Including the truly sad example when Shatner essentially vetoed a camera shot in a scene that would have focused upon George Takei, a scene that meant alot to Takei. James Doohan and others have also commented over the years that Shatner was beyond difficult to work with.

      Wow, I didn’t intend to go on and on about my dislike for Shatner. But every time I see him on screen, I cannot put those stories out of my mind. And his over-acting (whatever you want to call it) is surely a manifestation of this.

        1. Falk has been described as a professional on set, and I can’t recall hearing any bad stories.

  6. I loved Shatner in this episode, a lot more than his first one. It was more straightforward, a classic arrogant killer. So many great moments, the slap in the hotel, the fantastic restaurant scene, and all the other scenes he had with Columbo.

  7. Certainly a welcome, if brief, return to the Columbo formula.
    However, I agree with Iain that this was good but something was missing. Perhaps it was the weak motive, as pointed out in the podcast. I think also it needed a scene where Columbo gets on better with Chase, cut the insults about being a father and add a moment of sympathy or insight.
    The other missed opportunity that would have lifted the episode was the car breaking down, did no one else hope that Columbo would produce a potato from his raincoat and pop it up the exhaust? ?

  8. “Butterfly in Shades of Grey” is a Columbo episode that I try my very best to avoid because of its incredibly high ick factor. I’m with Gerry on this one — I think that the Columbo producers are trying to push some sort of dark development between the obsessive and controlling Fielding Chase and poor Victoria, which is just sick and wrong. The remark from Gerald Winters in that hotel lobby that causes Chase to respond by hitting Winters, along with that super creepy and sudden grabbing of Victoria’s hand by Chase and his yucky kissing of same, all implies that things are going quite rotten in this relationship. I mean just … ugh! I just do NOT want to even go there … but apparently the Columbo producers want us to and … ugh! EEK!

    Now I’m just scaring myself and that’s getting me upset! Calm down, Margaret, calm down. I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. Just discussing this disturbing episode makes me feel so disgusted that I want to take a shower to rid myself of its filthy implications! Icky, icky, icky! But now that I am cool and collected, I start to think about that ridiculously fake mustache pasted on William Shatner’s face, and I begin to laugh myself silly. Then I’m reminded of the fact that Victoria escapes from that creepo Chase dude and I sigh in relief! So, everyone — just focus on that ludicrous mustache and all will be well. Toodles!

  9. Haven’t finished the podcast yet, but the missus and I decided that Chase’s weirdness toward his daughter could be accounted for as his love/obsession with her mother bleeding over into his relationship with her daughter. It’s mentioned more than once how much he loved the mother, as well as how much the daughter looks and acts like her mother. I don’t think they’re trying to tell us Chase is having incestuous thoughts (none he would act on, anyway), but he does want to hold on to the person, in his sick-bastard way, who allows him to be “with” his dead love. My guess is if he had ended up with the mother, he’d be treating her just as controllingly as he does the daughter.

    1. Yes, Mister Salty. But it’s still very, very icky. Or as you said: “… his sick bastard way …”
      I couldn’t agree more, Mister Salty. Fielding Chase is one sicko, that’s for sure! Ugh!

    1. Yes, it was an interesting article. But. who. is. the. real. William. Shatner? Tee hee hee!

      I just love those old Twilight Zone episodes that had Shatner as a guest-star. But my favorite role of his is Captain James T. Kirk! So many of my friends at school prefer Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard. I just don’t get this at all. William Shatner’s Captain Kirk is the bomb! Toodles!

  10. RIP George Gaynes, age 98. We knew him as the French wine expert in “Any old port”, and one of the reporters at the fancy restaurant in “Etude in Black”.

    1. Ah, the wonderful ‘Etude in Black’. If memory serves, this has a special place in Largo’s affections… and as for ‘Any Old Port’, some extremely memorable moments in that one.

      1. Ètude in Black does hold a special place in my heart, Kieran: because it features the very lovely Blythe Danner as Janice Benedict. Blythe’s character comes across as a rather sweet and sensitive young woman and I tend to feel quite protective toward her in this Columbo Mystery Movie. It is also interesting to note that while Ètude in Black was in production, Blythe Danner was pregnant with her daughter, Pepper Potts! 🙂

        1. Excellent – good to know you got something from it. I’m going to view it again, after having watched all episodes, and see if it still holds together as well as did the first time round.

  11. no mention of JOHN C. ANDERS, per usual. i cannot even find a wiki page about him! x^b

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