If badly bewigged men bellowing in monotone for 75 minutes is your idea of a good time, you’re gonna LOVE Greenhouse Jungle!
Yes folks, Season 2’s second outing hit the airwaves on 15th October 1972, following hot on the heels of the uber-popular Etude in Black. A tough act to follow, perhaps, but with Ray Milland leading the supporting cast, and Peter Falk now owning every inch of the crumpled mac, anything seemed possible.
Is Greenhouse Jungle a pathetic African Violet, or a $1200 orchid of an episode? Read on and find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Jarvis Goodland: Ray Milland
Sergeant Wilson: Bob Dishy
Tony Goodland: Bradford Dillman
Kathy Goodland: Sandra Smith
Ken Nichols: William Smith
Gloria: Arlene Martell
Directed by: Boris Sagal
Written by: Jonathan Latimer
Score by: Oliver Nelson
Episode synopsis – Columbo Greenhouse Jungle
TRUE IDIOT Tony Goodland needs cash fast to win back his cheating wife’s heart, so hatches a harebrained scheme with bellowy uncle Jarvis (Ray Milland, bewigged) to fake a kidnapping and nab a colossal ransom fee.
Heading out to a remote location, the pair fake Tony’s kidnapping by firing a bullet through the window of his much loved Jag, then pushing it over a ravine. Tony then goes into hiding in a woodcutter’s hut as part 2 of the plan kicks in.
This all-action opening sequence means that Lieutenant Columbo is on screen within 9 minutes, meeting up with the energetic Sergeant Freddy Wilson at the crime scene. Wilson is an officer of the ‘new breed’ – well versed in the latest crime-fighting techniques after 2 years away with Mahoney, Sweetchuck, Hightower and the rest of those lovable boobs at the Police Academy.
In what proves to be one of the single greatest TV scenes of all time Columbo plunges down the hill to the crashed Jag to cast an analytical eye over the scene, plucking a bullet from the head rest of the driver’s seat. Wilson then reveals that he has been assigned to work with Columbo on the case. The Lieutenant doesn’t seem keen, but a drop of flattery wins him over, Wilson revealing that Captain Ritchie has described Columbo as “fast becoming a legend in the department”. That’s what collaring a best-selling novellist, a concert maestro and a revered US war hero will do for you…
As Wilson heads off to the lab with the bullet, Columbo heads off to update Tony’s wife Cathy, who’s hanging out at home with Jarvis. Although hardly rolling out the welcome mat to Columbo, they do let him in on a little secret: they’ve received a ransom note demanding $300,000 for Tony’s safe release. Of course they don’t have that sort of money lying around – but they can get it by breaking Tony’s trust fund!
Columbo smells a rat. Any why not? Didn’t he bust open a similar scheme just a year before when besting Leslie Williams in Ransom for a Dead Man? The Goodlands evidently haven’t done their homework on the crumpled detective and his track record of excellence…
After securing the cash from the bank, Jarvis heads to his opulent mansion home, only to find the Lieutenant rummaging around in his solarium, which is home to a priceless collection of orchids. Columbo’s even brought a plant of his own with him – his wife’s ailing African Violet, which Jarvis quickly writes off as a ‘pathetic specimen’.
In one of the series’ most delightful put-downs, Jarvis describes Tony as “a wife-ridden weakling whom I’ve despised for years.”
Columbo has questions about the case, and it’s not long before Jarvis is bellowing away – even threatening to report him to his superiors as early as the episode’s 25th minute! But the heat finally goes out of Jarvis as he reveals his true feelings towards his nephew. In one of the series most delightful put-downs, Jarvis describes Tony as “a wife-ridden weakling whom I’ve despised for years.”
So, armed with the cash, Jarvis receives a fake ransom call (from Tony) and heads out to the drop-site – tailed all the way by Columbo and Wilson. At a distant location in the hills, the transfer takes place. Wearing a stocking over his face (but still 100% recognisable), Tony lollops down a hillside to snatch the bag from Jarvis, who drives off.
As the police photograph the switch site, Jarvis collects Tony on the other side of the hill. The floppy-haired fool folds himself into the car trunk and they ride off into the darkness, eventually returning to the hideout where Tony literally cuddles the cash in delight. His joy, however, is short-lived…
Now Jarvis has got what he wanted – the cash for himself – he’s able to finally put that imbecile Tony out of misery forever, gunning him down on the spot. Tony died as he lived – with a look of confused simplicity on his face.
Now it’s officially a murder case, Columbo’s suspicions are multiplying fast. How did the kidnappers know so much about Cathy’s spending habits and personality? How come Tony’s sports car was caught by a slower, heavier vehicle? And if they fired at Tony through the car window, how come he wasn’t killed outright as the trajectory suggests he ought to have been?
“Tony died as he lived – with a look of confused simplicity on his face.”
He also grills Jarvis about an incident in his solarium the year before, when he was required to fire upon an intruder. Jarvis missed, harmlessly firing into soil, and claims he can’t remember where he’s put the gun. He recognises that Columbo considers him a serious suspect, though, so enacts the next stage of his fiendish plan – framing Cathy.
In a scene of Hitchcockian splendour, Jarvis breaks into Cathy’s home, plants the murder weapon in her Imelda Marcos-rivalling shoe collection, then enters her bedroom as she tosses and turns to steal her own gun from a dresser drawer. How does he know she even kept it there? Not our problem, folks…
He turns over the ‘clean’ gun to the impressionable Sergeant Wilson, whom he coerces into conducting a search of Cathy’s house. The planted gun is (eventually) found, and before you can say “Step on it, Grover”, she’s on her way downtown. Jarvis’s hold on the $300,000 looks rock solid.
But wouldn’t you know it, he’s fallen into the time-honoured trap of underestimating the good Lieutenant. Returning home, Jarvis is disturbed by another commotion in his solarium. It’s Columbo again! He’s been waiting for Jarvis to return and has been indulging in a little modern policing himself.
“It’s going to be difficult for Jarvis to explain how the gun he admitted to firing in his own home ended up in Cathy’s bedroom.”
Redirecting a confused Wilson and resigned Cathy to join them, Columbo puts on quite a show. He’d borrowed one of Wilson’s ‘new fangled’ metal detectors to conduct a sweep of the greenhouse, eventually finding the bullet in the soil fired by Jarvis the year before. He’s had it run over to ballistics and has the report delivered to him live. And it’s a game-changer…
The bullet is a match for the one that killed Tony, and also the once taken from his car seat. It’s going to be difficult for Jarvis to explain how the gun he admitted to firing in his own home – now established beyond doubt as the murder weapon – ended up in Cathy’s bedroom.
Finally deflated, Jarvis knows he’s been outmanoeuvred. Flinging his wig to the floor and clip-clopping his furious hooves on it (dramatisation – may not have happened) he barely allows Wilson to escort him off the premises. Just before departing, Columbo remembers his wife’s African Violet. Now in full bloom, he lovingly scoops up the plant and turns to leave as credits roll…
Greenhouse Jungle‘s best moment – the hill fall
Peter Falk showed he’s an ace at physical comedy in Greenhouse Jungle‘s legendary hill fall scene. Directed towards the ‘quickest way down’ to the crash site by eager beaver Sergeant Wilson, Columbo’s perplexed look at the steep slope is hilarious in its own right, but it can’t compare to the mad capering that follows as the Lieutenant careers down the hill and ends up in a near neck-braking heap at the bottom. “I’ll tell ya – it was the quickest way down,” he concedes.
The film doesn’t appear to have been sped up, and the different camera angles in play clearly reveal that Falk did his own stunts. Whether this was another of his famous ad libs has never been made clear. Either way, what a performance! Not just the highlight of this episode, then, but one of the entire series’ standout moments. View it in all its glory below (if you’re impatient, skip straight to 1.00 mark).
My thoughts on Columbo Greenhouse Jungle
There comes a time when a man is at the absolute peak of their powers. In terms of his portrayal of Columbo, Greenhouse Jungle could represent Peter Falk’s very finest hour.
After a full season to flesh out the raincoat, Falk had now achieved mastery over every nuance of the character. It makes Greenhouse compelling viewing for the serious fan – even if it is one of the weaker mysteries the series has delivered up to this point.
“After a full season to flesh out the raincoat, Falk had now achieved mastery over every nuance of the character.”
Unlike Etude in Black, which took itself perhaps a shade too seriously. Greenhouse delivers just the right mix of humour to make the most of Falk’s comedic talents. Giving Columbo a sidekick was a flash of inspiration. Being shackled to the keen yet green Sergeant Wilson (played by one of Falk’s best pals, Bob Dishy) allows Falk ample opportunities to exercise his funny bone – and he does it brilliantly.
From their first moments together, where Wilson speaks at Columbo for several minutes before the Lieutenant even asks him his name, to his pleasure at being described as a ‘legend in the department’, and his appearing to feel ‘past it’ as Wilson whips out the latest equipment and talks up the hottest Academy techniques, Falk’s performance is SOLID GOLD!
The partnership between Columbo and Wilson is an intriguing one. In many ways it mirrors that of Jarvis and Tony Goodland: a superior mind being encumbered with a lesser one, whom they just want to be rid of. Only Columbo manages the process in a much more humane way.
He gives Wilson just enough leeway and rope to hang himself, but at least he makes it a learning experience for the young rookie, and gives him credit where it’s due along the way. It’s Sherlockian in a way. Holmes often needed Watson as a foil to draw out his best thinking. Columbo employs just such techniques here to crack the case.
“Bob Dishy is delightful, too. His Sergeant Wilson is as keen as a puppy and pretty impressed with his own abilities.”
What’s most interesting is that Falk, along with co-producers Richard Levinson and William Link, had railed against giving Columbo the human sidekick that the studio was baying for. And yet with Dishy as his foil, Falk delivered his finest performance to date. I’m sure the irony wasn’t lost on the studio, who would have to wait 3 seasons for the return of Wilson.
Dishy is delightful, too. His Sergeant Wilson is as keen as a puppy and pretty impressed with his own abilities, especially when Jarvis stokes his ego and sends him off to search Cathy’s house. Wilson’s sense of shame when he realises he hasn’t got his woman is palpable. His best bit, though? Tough-talking the bumbling Sergeant Grover, who has fobbed off checking all of Cathy’s shoes with the metal detector – missing the gun in the process. Which brings us to…
New game: Blame Grover!
Grover (pictured) is clearly a liability at any crime scene. So any time there’s an incident in Columbo where the policework appears sloppy, it can be blamed away on the hapless Grover.
Who checked the equipment sheds at Bo Williamson’s horse track and missed the dead body? GROVER!
Who failed to notice the exceedingly visible carnation on the floor of Jennifer Welles’ house? GRO-VER!
Who neglected to look up the chimney in the Sigma Society where the umbrella was hidden? GRO-VEEEER!
The shame appears to have worn Grover down to the extent that he changed his name by deed poll to ‘Vernon’ by the time we meet him again in Candidate for Crime. He was, however, still bungling, as proved by the fact he failed to notice the gun in Nelson Hayward’s jacket as he thoughtfully hung it up in a closet. Oh, Grover…
Back to business!
Apologies for that aside. Where were we…? Ah yes, let’s talk about Ray Milland. If you’ve read my article on the best ever Columbo guest star appearances, you’ll know that I rate his turn as media mogul Arthur Kennicut in Death Lends a Hand extremely highly. There he delivered power, vulnerability and subtlety to a role that could have been one-dimensional. Yet his Jarvis Goodland is a cardboard cut-out.
His default setting is angry bellowing and if looks could kill, everyone within a 20 yard radius of him would keel over within miliseconds. He may be the basilisk of Columbo bad guys, but there’s not enough depth of character to make him a truly memorable adversary. All he does is shout in monotone. His talent is wasted.
And is it me, or do Columbo and Jarvis not get nearly enough screen time together? There’s some nice interplay in the solarium, and when Columbo shoots some pool on Jarvis’s table, but they have scant time to build the sort of rapport that we see in the very best episodes.
Plot-wise, Greenhouse Jungle is choppy. Tony is far too stupid to be believable. Just how did he think he’d be able to keep hold of the cash after the fact and not arouse his wife’s suspiscions – or avert a jail sentence for fraud? How did he not see his own demise coming when it was so clearly signposted? And why on earth did he autograph a photo of himself for his own wife? He’s a special kind of weird, so no wonder Jarvis would want shot of him. I find him one of the most deserving victims of all.
Similarly, Cathy Goodland is an odd character. She’s confident and unrepentant despite playing around with lover boy Ken Nichols, but she treats Columbo icily throughout for no good reason – as if she’s daring him to disapprove of her lifestyle. He’s just doing his job, ma’am.
With Jarvis hating on both Tony and Cathy, we have an important trio of characters that don’t evoke any sort of viewer sympathy. I couldn’t care less what happens to any of them. On the plus point, this frigidity does give Milland the opportunity to deliver some nice put-downs at their expense – usually about Cathy’s spendthrift ways, and Tony’s weakness of character.
“With Jarvis hating on both Tony and Cathy, we have an important trio of characters that don’t evoke any sort of viewer sympathy.”
Elsewhere in the cast, Arlene Martel is cute as Gloria, Tony’s sort-of love interest, who runs Ray Milland close in the worst wig stakes. And ‘professional sunbather’ Ken, as the hunky love interest of Cathy, beefcakes about until Columbo drops him in it by mentioning he was willing to take $50,000 from Tony to disappear.
Presumably Cathy ditched him 5 seconds after Columbo left, as he was last seen on Bicep Beach, trying to pick up chicks and having his style cramped by the Pink Panther (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, visit YouTube and see for yourself).
I also have a problem with the crucial clue. Yes, there’s good detective work from Columbo to find the bullet in the soil to tie it to the murder weapon, but it’s a clumsy clue overall – almost desperate, in fact. It isn’t nearly damning enough either, so makes for an anticlimactic gotcha – as we can see from this transcript from the subsequent court case:-
- Lawyer for the Prosecution: Mr Goodland (smug voice), how do you explain the murder weapon appearing at Cathy Goodland’s house?
- Jarvis Goodland: Well my good man (fixes with withering stare, starts bellowing), I lent it to that wife-ridden weakling Tony, who was worried that a muscular ski instructor was going to steal his wife away. When he returned it a fortnight later, he must have given me the wrong gun!
- Lawyer for the Prosecution: Ahhhh… ummm… errrrrm…
- Jarvis Goodland: *nearly pops eyes out they’re staring so hard*
- Lawyer for the Prosecution: (weakly) No more questions your honour.
- Judge: Mr Goodland, you’re free to go!
And one more criticism… I’m unsure of Jarvis’s motive. Columbo, as a show and a character, is big on motive. I can see why Jarvis would want to bump off his dolt of a nephew for the good of humanity, but why bother when he could just ostracise him instead? Jarvis clearly wants the $300k, but it never appears like he needs it. He lives in a giant mansion with a greenhouse full of priceless orchids – hardly an indication that he’s short of a bob or two.
It would have been easy to fill this motive gap – just a throwaway line or two about how Jarvis has gone broke through his orchid obsession would’ve done nicely. The lack of a clear motive would give old Jarvis yet more wriggle room in the court of law.
And if all this frivolity makes it appear I’m not taking this episode seriously, please forgive me. Rather like Etude in Black, this is an episode I want to like more than I actually do. The saving grace is that Falk’s performance goes a long way to compensate for the episode’s shortcomings.
So even if Greenhouse Jungle is Columbo not quite hitting all the right notes, it’s still better than most TV you’ll come across, and every watch offers up something more to treasure in Falk’s performance. As a result it really stands up to repeat viewing – and will always retain a special spot in my heart.
PS – it also includes this wonderfully melodious jazz-infused theme by Oliver Nelson. One of the best and most recognisable of all Columbo themes – so check it out now!
Did you know?
Greenhouse Jungle was the first episode in which Columbo appeared before the murder was committed. Although infrequent, this also occurred in several other episodes for various reasons, including Candidate for Crime, Troubled Waters, Case of Immunity and Make Me a Perfect Murder.
How I rate ’em so far
The strength of Falk’s performance elevates Greenhouse Jungle beyond the sum of its parts and above classic outings Blueprint for Murder and Ransom for a Dead Man, although at this early stage in the series’ lifetime it still only finds itself mid-table. Certainly not a pathetic African Violet, then, but not one of Jarvis Goodland’s very best orchids, either.
- Suitable for Framing
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- Lady in Waiting
- Prescription: Murder
- Etude in Black
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- Short Fuse
How do you rate Greenhouse? Let me know in the comments section below, and if it’s your numero uno, do vote for it here in the favourite episode poll!
Next up in our trek through Season 2 is The Most Crucial Game, which can be summed up in four key words: Robert Culp. Handlebar moustache. Can’t wait…
So is Peggy Mondo in this or not?
It’s easy to second-guess and wonder how things could go differently with a story, and I can’t help doing it with this one.
If Cathy is even half as mercenary as Jarvis says she is, I don’t think she has any intention of actually going anywhere with Ken, as opposed to the way things are already. So maybe I’m awful, but Tony could just say to her “You have your fun with Ken, I’ll have my fun with Gloria, but we’ll stay married.”
Well, despite Falk being in fine form and having two lovely ladies (one playing a stereotypical ditzy “blonde”) this isn’t a particularly strong episode for me.
Milland is rather 2-D, the nephew doesn’t elicit sympathy, and the reveal is pretty weak for reasons mentioned above, and many others. The set-up could’ve been shown to be a fake kidnapping by a reasonably intelligent 12-year old; how did Milland expect to get away with it, having MOTIVE written all over him?
6/10 at best, mostly for that hill-plunge by a nimble Falk.
This Columbo episode has my all time favourite quote, delivered by Sergeant Wilson (Bob Dishy): ‘Grover, bring in the troops!’
It also has my two all time favourite characters, as in Sergeant Wilson. He appeared in two episodes but what an impact. And then the endearingly human, simple, vulnerable, lovely Arlene Martel (Gloria West).
Wish there was much, much more of Wilson, but did the producers wrongly think he could have equalled – and therefore diminished Peter Flak – in the best police tv duo ever?
Quintessentially, Columbo works alone. Wilson’s primary purpose was to alert Columbo to something technological, to which Columbo otherwise would have been oblivious, essential to the episode’s gotcha. In “Greenhouse Jungle,” the metal detector; in “Now You See Him,” the IBM Selectric typewriter. I’m trying to think of another episode where that kind of help was needed.
Perhaps with the robot that conducts war games or the fully remote control house? I agree about the gotcha ending based on Wilson’s bachelor* enthusiasm for new technology and his eagerness to be left off the leash. I somehow wished Wilson had been given a more personal nod of acknowledgement by Colombo.
*Columbo : You used your own money? Wilson : Well, I wanted to have the best equipment for the job, sir. Columbo : You must be a bachelor.
“Mind Over Mayhem” involved technology well above anything Wilson would have learned at the police academy. Fortunately, the solution did not require such knowledge (although Columbo did swap his notebook for a pocket tape recorder). The solution to “Playback” did involve enlarging a videotape, but here, too, I can’t envision Wilson adding anything that Columbo didn’t know already, or replacing the lab technicians in doing the technical work. Wilson’s niche was gadgetry, not engineering.
Columbo needs help in determining the significance of the newfangled “Turn Twice After Midnight” watch in “Old Fashioned Murder”. In the episode, it points to Schaeffer’s faking of the “9pm” phone call shooting; in the original “In Deadly Hate” script, the watch is much more crucial, as it blows up the killer’s contrived story and provides the final Gotcha. Having Wilson aboard to assist would have given this dreary episode a much-needed shot in the arm.
Or — I could see Wilson admiring Oliver Brandt’s stereo, with all its sophisticated cue settings, much as he admired Jesse Jerome’s typewriter. “It’s a remarkable machine, Lieutenant, very modern.” After all, it was only a “Victrola” as far Columbo was concerned. Not that Wilson would understand how it was used in Bertie’s murder. Wilson never knows that much.
My mind was blown when Columbo tumbled down that hill! That wasn’t just grass on that hill, there were also rocks! He actually landed inches from some rocks jutting out of the soil! He could have seriously injured himself! Color me IMPRESSED! I know Falk was an athlete in his youth but that was CRAZY!
Unless Jarvis Goodland has the world’s most stupid lawyer, he has nothing to worry about. Columbo searches the greenhouse and uses a metal detector to find the bullet which, supposedly, shows Goodland’s gun is the murder weapon. He conducts the search without a warrant and against Goodland’s wishes – he asks him several times to desist with the search and leave. Any evidence discovered or collected during the search is inadmissible in court.
When you are talking bad wigs, how come nobody mentions Bradford Dillman’s? He was 40 at the time and had made a very good career out of playing very clean-cut, very square villains, and this looks like an attempt to de-age and hippie-ize him in a major way. Boy oh boy, does it not work. (P.S.: on first seeing this episode in the early 1980s, I thought Ray Milland was trying to channel John Houseman, but Houseman hadn’t done The Paper Chase (movie) yet when this was made. Houseman and Dean Stockwell might have been great in this episode!)
It did the trick for me – I didn’t know it was a wig.
Hi there, Columbophile!
I just wanted to share my appreciation and respect for all the work you’ve done here. I can only hope to one day dedicate my time and effort to my own favorite shows in the detailed, thoughtful, loving way that you discuss this show.
This is the first article of yours I’ve read – my grandfather and I are watching the show together, and we just saw this episode. Watching Columbo has been a really great way to bond, and he enjoyed hearing the facts and details you included in this article. I look forward to reading more of your work as we continue to watch.
Thanks again for all your hard work. Wishing you the best! 🙂
One of my favorite moments in this episode is Columbo’s reaction to Wilson’s saying he paid for his fancy equipment himself, where he says something like, “You’re clearly not married.” It’s charmingly wry and also great evidence that Mrs. Columbo does exist!
So, oddities / plot holes that I see in this episode
1. When Jarvis went in to plant the evidence in Cathy’s home – why the hell would he take the “clean” gun from one place, but hide the “dirty” gun in another? It makes no sense to do that. Sure, the new place was good enough to fool the people searching the place for a while, but why? So that they WOULDN’T actually find it and the framing won’t happen? It only helps Cathy in court (she already acknowledged owning that gun, but it was hidden somewhere she wasn’t aware of).
2. When they find the “ransom bag”, nobody seems to care about potential kidnapper buddies fingerprint on them and sending it back upstairs makes no sense too.
3. In the final scene Columbo says “that’s what I was doing there in the dirt”, but he must have found the bullet some hours ago to send Grover to the lab, etc. So that couldn’t be what he was doing there in the dirt at that point any more.
4. Jarvis sneaking into Cathy’s house without alerting anyone, without anyone seeing him – doesn’t sit right. Just imagine an actual burglar in his stead. They must have had some precautions against burglary. Why would Jarvis have keys for that house?
As for the question in the article – what Tony thought was going to happen next? Clearly, all this plan was made just by the Jarvis guy (and he literally admits it in the beginning) – not sure why your article states “Tony Goodland … hatches a scheme”. Thus, Jarvis must have filled Tony’s head with enough nonsense about how he’ll be able to use all this money afterwards. I see no problems or plot holes with Tony’s gullibility there.
p.s. I really loved the sneaky lieutenant leaving his dying plant randomly amongst the Jarvis’es orchids and having it taken care of basically in a con trick more than that downhill run scene – it was a bigger highlight. Although, I could actually put it in the plotholes sections – being such a dilligent flower grower Jarvis would surely not think one of his plants randomly was dying and notice that it was Columbo’s plant sneaked in.
They pushed the world’s most beautiful car off a cliff! (Okay, it was a vile colour, but it could have been resprayed…) Broke my heart.
Comfort yourself with the thought it was just an already damaged body shell that went over the top, not the real deal. I don’t think a Columbo budget would stretch to wrecking an E-Type for a few minutes of screen time.
I thought it was crazy that Columbo was smoking a cigar in an area filled with dry brush.
Goodbye to handsome William Smith! I love the way you decorated this episode.
Read your wonderful review while listening to Oliver Nelson’s Abstract Blues album.
Thanks from France !
I mostly agree on the motive part, that it could have been established more strongly, but there was actually a line that could be taken as what you suggested. When Columbo first talks about the orchids, he says something to the effect of “one can go broke with all of these”, can’t get the exact wording from my mind anymore. Granted, it’s not a direct line by Jarvis or anything, but I think that’s why it was there, to not have it just plainly said by Jarvis, but inferred
I have to say I really enjoyed Greenhouse. And although Milland did phone his narky performance in, maybe the plot and details are being sold short in the reviews.
Jarvis does, in fact, hint that he also may be living beyond his means. Remember fairly early in the piece when he and and and free-spirit Kathy are contemplating the ransom note? He says he’s not in a position to pay it; and she accepts that summary of his finances. Maybe the Bentley is just months away from being auctioned off…
Also did you notice the comment to Columbo by side-kick Sergeant Wilson that the guys down at the station are starting to ask questions about “why you’re putting your time in on a case that isn’t a murder”. And we should guess right at that moment that the (now legendary) Lieutenant strongly suspects it very soon will be a murder!
And the final underrated (I think) plot device is that the final phase of blaming the spendthrift wife was clearly not part of Tony and Uncle’s original plan; probably because they never counted on someone like Columbo keeping the heat on them, by seeing past the obvious clues and distractions Jarvis had built into the crime.
It was only serendipity that sent buxom and sweet Gloria over to the greenhouse to relay what she had gleaned from our rumpled friend of the deepening investigation back to Mr Goodland senior. Her nosiness and insights almost got her killed – until she saved her own life by concluding her commentary with a conviction that wife Kathy must be the culprit, and must have been in on it all along with Biceps McSuntan.
So Jarvis thinks to himself, if Gloria knows as much as she does about this rapidly deepening mess he’s in, and has come up with Kathy as the culprit; then maybe the way out is for him to lend a hand to that particular theory.
And of course Gloria maybe isn’t 100% sweet (who is?) because she fantasises a chunky reward if only the rich and fatherly Jarvis will take all this to the police and credit her with cracking the case.
The subtlety of the writing delivers us hints that the poor-but-stunning Gloria is from the wrong side of the tracks, and sees herself as too insubstantial to make her own representations to the fuzz, and that Uncle Snarky resembles the kind of rich class of person that her upbringing has taught her to put on a pedestal as noble and influential. That’s why she overlooked him as the villain!
Maybe it’s just as well that Gloria equates richliness with Godliness, because a truer take on life would have got her shot right there in the greenhouse. And, of course, we Columbophiles have known from the get-go that high society types should always be top of the list of suspects:)
The best CP write-ups offer a healthy dose of loving sarcasm — usually at the episode’s expense — while also making a few observations that might even change a viewer’s initial impression of the episode. This is one of those perfect posts.
1. Great Simpsons reference.
2. Dishy was indeed beautiful. What a blend of youthful ambition, well-meaning naivete and kiss-assery.
3. Milland was quite off-putting as a villain, really grew tired of him barking at people before they barely finished introducing themselves. And the hair, my god the hair.
4. The supporting characters were even worse (excepting Sergeant Wilson, of course), and I agree the plot rather weak.
5. All those shortcomings distracted me from noticing how on the ball Falk’s performance was … especially compared to the prior Blueprint, when his attention was divided by directing. This is where reading the CP blog comes in handy. He’s 100% right that Falk was truly great in Greenhouse, and I feel foolish for overlooking the me ain entree. Columbo the series is even more fun when one remembers not to take Falk’s talent for granted.
6. Oh, Grover.
Just a heads up, your video clips have been taken down.
I was wondering if anybody knows the make/model of uncle Jarvis’ automobile. I like it, I’d like to find one, but I can’t go about referring to it as, “Uncle Jarvis’ car”.
According to IMCDB website it’s a 1959 Bentley S2 Continental.
Like others it just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t like saying it, because Peter Falk is terrific in it and i really like the Wilson character. Big shame he wasn’t a more regular sidekick. He wouldn’t have in every episode, or even half of them, part of the appeal was that the character was rationed. A bit like “Dog” and Robert Culp and Jack Cassidy as killers, it would have got annoying if they had kept popping up all the time. William Shatner nearly overstayed his welcome with just the two episodes, a third would have been a step too far i think. Patrick McGoohan kind of got away with it because his appearance changed quite a bit over time. But i’d have liked to see Wilson return maybe 4 or 5 more times. The way Columbo dismisses him his hilarious and Bob Dishy plays the role to perfection. It’s something if overdone, it would feel ridiculous, but they both play it so straight it works really well.
But i digress! Apart from Falk and added “Wilson”, the actual episode is pretty dull for me. The killers really do make or break the episodes and Milland’s character is duller than a magazine on the Romanian wool industry of the 1920s. Still watchable because Falk. And it’s certainly not a bad episode, just a bit meh in comparison to other episodes. It’s the margarine of Columbo. The Diet Coke of Columbo. Sorry i went a bit “Dr Evil” for a second there.
I was Never a big fan of the greenhouse either , mainly due to Jarvis good land , a real boring killer one of my least favorite murderers of the series , very funny hill fall scene but overall not one of the best seventies I prefer blueprint for murder to this despite it being placed higher in the table.
cant agree with greenhouse jungle being rated above blueprint for murder , greenhouse jungle has never done it for me much its a sort of very middle of the road episode , The ending/gotcha to blueprint is much better , How on earth would Elliot markham even begin to talk his way out of that in a courtroom?
Probably this is obvious to all but I am puzzled. If Cathy and Jarvis cannot or not willing to pay the ransom and they get it from Tony’s trust fund, why Tony cannot get it himself from his trust fund instead of going through all this scheme? Who is in charge of the trust fund?
A trust fund is precisely a way to protect beneficiaries from themselves I.e. Idiot Nephew cannot take more than a small percentage of the fund each year – for his own good. As his father knew he would spend everything and finish in misery. Irony is that is precisely what killed him in the end 🙂
That’s explained. The trust is set up so that ordinarily Tony gets an allowance on a regular basis, but has no access to the principal. The only exception would be an emergency — something like this kidnapping where the money would be necessary to save his life.
I thought the same thing–usually trust funds are set up so that the beneficiary gets it at a certain age–21, perhaps; I think that was the case with Margaret in Ransom. Tony certainly looked old enough to be able to get access to his own trust fund.
Well, it stinks that NBC has removed the video content! How long can they own an entity?
If I’m not mistaken there’s a Jaguar E type and a Rolls Royce as well in ‘Étude in black’ as in ‘The Greenhouse Jungle’… Posh people in LA…
Jaguar E type is the sexiest car ever – part of Columba’s charm for me is the ladies and the cars 😉
Just a nerd fact: Bentleys and Rolls Royces come off the same production line. It’s just that Rolls is more for the chauffer-driven set, and Bentleys are (slightly) sportier for the enjoyment of the man-about-town who uses it as sort of a “fluffer” for his personal life.
They did. Now BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Volkswagen owns Bentley.
Stock footage of that Jag going over the embankment was used not once, but TWICE, in “Barnaby Jones.” In one of the episodes, it even had Bradford Dillman as the bad guy, pushing it over!