College students and frat buddies Justin Rowe and Cooper Redman both come from rich, prestigious families and are under strong parental pressure to excel at everything they do. As a result, they steal an exam paper from Professor D. E. Rusk's office. Rusk discovers their theft and threatens to have them expelled from the college. Rowe and Redman realize that this would mean the ends of their careers since their parents would disown them so they decide to murder Rusk before he can expose them.
Rowe tells Rusk that he has had a conversation with his father (who has been a generous donor to the college) and that Rowe's father would like to meet Rusk that evening at a restaurant in order to discuss the situation. As luck would have it, that evening Columbo is giving a guest lecture on criminology to the college, and Rowe, Redman and Rusk are all in the audience. Rusk leaves the lecture halfway through for his meeting with Rowe's father, and as he is getting in his car in the basement parking lot, he is shot and killed by an unknown assailant.
After the lecture, Columbo and several students from the audience discover the body. Columbo naturally suspects Rowe and Redman of being involved, but has to work out how they could have arranged to shoot Rusk when they were both sitting right in front of him in the audience at the time of the murder.