When Columbo took to the high seas on 9 February 1975, you better have packed your sense of fun – because this is an adventure like no other for the dear Lieutenant.
With Peter Falk’s BFF Ben Gazzara at the proverbial helm, Robert Vaughn pimpin’ it up as the murderer and Mrs Columbo tantalisingly just around the corner at all times, this has all the ingredients for a very bon voyage.
Sounds good, right? But is Troubled Waters plain sailing all the way, or a star-crossed journey destined for Davy Jones’s locker? I can’t wait to find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Hayden Danziger: Robert Vaughn
Rosanna Wells: Poupee Boucar
Lloyd Harrington: Dean Stockwell
Captain Gibbons: Patrick Macnee
Purser Watkins: Bernard Fox
Sylvia Danziger: Jane Greer
Dr Pierce: Robert Douglas
Nurse Melissa: Susan Damante
Written by: William Driskill and Jackson Gillis
Directed by: Ben Gazzara
Score by: Dick De Benedictis
Episode synopsis: Columbo Troubled Waters
Amidst all the hoo-hah of a
boat ship boarding, one Lieutenant Columbo is dashing around like a man possessed. We soon find out why. He’s not there investigating foul play. Instead he’s desperately seeking Mrs Columbo, who was won the couple a cruise to Mexico in a raffle aboard ye goode shippe Sea Palace.
The Lieutenant is relieved when Captain Gibbons (played by the Britisher-than-thou Patrick Macnee) confirms he has seen the dear lady and that she’s safely stowed away. Captain Gibbons and Purser Watkins are also pleased to note that Columbo has a Lieutenant’s designation (or ‘Leftenant’ in their parlance) – a fact that has a bearing on subsequent, murderous happenings, although they are bemused by his clothing. “Do you expect inclement weather in the Mexican waters?” the skipper asks, pleasantly.
Right behind Columbo in the queue is our chief antagonist Hayden ‘Huggy Bear’ Danziger, and wife Sylvia. They’re essentially the guests of honour. Car sales executive Danziger has a host of car dealers on board as his guests and wants them all to feel the love. As a prior guest on the ship, the crew ensure Danziger his every whim will be catered for. And with that, we’re all at sea!
We’re barely out of port, however, when Danziger starts getting up to mischief. With his sensibly packed key cutting set (apparently any car dealer who’s worth his salt has one on him at all times) and creates a master key, which he’s swiftly using for no good! He breaks into the room of big-haired piano player Lloyd Harrington and plants a receipt for a gun in his safe box.
He then ooches off to the room of sexy singer Rosanna Wells and plants the gun in her wardrobe. As he completes the task she walks in, but is little surprised to find him there. Indeed it appears she was expecting him. It emerges that the pair have been romping since they met on a previous cruise. He’s trying to break it off, but she wants cash to keep her mouth shut, or she’ll blab to Mrs Danziger.
The exchange gets heated. “No smart little broad from Pittsburgh” is going to mess up everything he’s worked 20 years for, he warns her. “This one is,” she replies – before receiving a punch to the face for her troubles. As he leaves, Rosanna’s face has retribution written all over it…
To put all this in context, prior to these fisticuffs we’re introduced to cruise ship band members Lloyd and Rosanna, who are former lovers now at loggerheads. Seems as if they had a little triste some time ago but while he’s keen to keep getting jiggy, she’s moved on to Danziger and tells him in no uncertain terms that it’s game over. The hirsute suitor yells angrily at her in the public bar, and stomps away.
Danziger, meanwhile, is putting the next step of his plan into action. Inhaling amyl nitrate crystals from a capsule, he plummets into the ship swimming pool, clutching his chest and squealing for help. By all accounts he’s had a mild heart attack, and must spend a night in the ship’s hospital. Yes folks, we’re off to an extremely action-packed start.
The next 3 hours of the episode intersperse Danziger’s sneaky real-time manoeuvres against the endless backdrop of Rosanna and the band belting out Volare to an audience of enrapt pensioners, which is every bit as glorious and hideous as it sounds and still the chief reason why I’d fight to the death to avoid being taken on a cruise.
Despite being under regular ‘observation’ by ship’s nurse Melissa, Danziger is able to effortlessly obtain a pair of surgical gloves from the dispensary as she reads and smokes cigarettes with her back to the door! It’s the medical equivalent of the bungling security guard watching the ball game as the baddie tiptoes past the surveillance screen he’s not looking at.
Gloves in tow, Danziger slips out of the hospital, grabs a crew uniform and jallops down the crew staircase to Rosanna’s room just before she gets there to change costume ahead of the band’s second set. As she sits down at her dressing table, Danziger emerges from hiding and shoots her dead without a word, muffling the sound of the gun by firing through a feather pillow. He draws a shaky ‘L’ on her mirror with lipstick and races back up the stairs to hospital – stopping only to shed the uniform and stash the gun in a mountain of towels in the laundry.
He gets back to his hospital just in time for his 11.30pm pulse and blood pressure test, nurse Melissa noting that the rates are sky high once again. The mystified band, meanwhile, can only wonder where their lead singer is as they bust out some gentle crowd pleasers (Agadoo, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, etc etc) and wait for her return.
Cut to Purser Watkins rapping urgently at a cabin door. It’s Columbo’s! The sleepy Lieutenant is informed that the Captain needs him, and his first thought is that Mrs Columbo has been misbehaving. “She likes to have a good time. Sometimes she gets carried away,” he stammers. But what they need him for is his crime-solving skillz, as he’s lead to the cabin of Rosanna Wells to do what he can to assist.
Columbo requests the crime scene is sealed off and photographs taken. Skipper Gibbons, though, is taking umbrage at it all. He can’t have an investigation take place! The passengers are on holiday, for goodness sake! His antics are suggestive of a man with something to hide, although this isn’t an avenue the episode ever goes down.
“Danziger’s been plotting this for a long time, and he doesn’t care if innocent lives are ruined in the process.”
Nevertheless, Gibbons finally agrees to allow a discreet photographer access to the room, while a seasick Columbo takes himself off to the hospital to seek a remedy for his churning guts. While he’s waiting for the medicine his eye picks up on something out of the ordinary on the floor right outside Danziger’s sickroom. It’s a tiny feather. And while it mightn’t mean anything to him now, it’s ringing enough of an alarm bell for the wily detective to pocket the evidence for later consideration.
The corpse of Rosanna is brought to the hospital, and while the bullet is being dug out, Columbo nips in to see who the patient is in the ward. Before he can get into too much chit-chat with Danziger, Doctor Pierce calls him away. Death was very likely instantaneous, they conclude, which puzzles Columbo. How could she have had time to scrawl an ‘L’ on the mirror?
While Columbo isn’t falling for the obvious, the ship’s crew is. Poor ‘L for Lloyd’ is summoned and his hands checked for gunpowder. There’s none to be found, but he could easily have been wearing gloves. A subsequent search through his room throws up the planted gun receipt, dated two weeks prior. And we can now start seeing the devilish depth of Danziger’s treachery. He’s been plotting this for a long time, and he doesn’t care if innocent lives are ruined in the process.
Of course, no murder weapon has been found yet. But that swiftly changes when an orderly finds it in the pile of laundry. Alas there are no prints on it, but Columbo confirms it’s the murder weapon after a test shot is a match for the bullet taken from Rosanna’s body.
Columbo has called on Danziger for help, given he has a large number of guests on board, and it’s at this stage that our killer falls into that old habit of being rather too forceful in his suggestions. “You’ve got the gun, a bullet, proof of ownership and a young man who felt rejected,” he opines. “It’s obvious the musician shot her.”
Of course, knowing Columbo the way we do, he’s never going to fall for the easy option. He dismisses the gun receipt as credible evidence. Why would Lloyd keep it amongst his other receipts – all of which were retained for tax deduction purposes. And he has every reason to start suspecting Danziger. He’s a previous passenger who knows the ship routine, after all. He’s a long-time car dealer, so would know how to cut a master key to both commit the crime and incriminate poor Lloyd. Plus he’s starting to get waaaaaaay too helpful. But how can Columbo prove anything against the guest of honour?
“Our killer falls into that old habit of being rather too forceful in his suggestions.”
He’s bothered by a number of things, too. Why wouldn’t the killer just fling the gun into the ocean? Lloyd had no powder burns on his hands, so if he fired the fatal shot he must’ve worn gloves. So where are the gloves with powder burns? If the gun was hidden, maybe the gloves were too (although we saw Danziger fling the gloves overboard upon release from hospital).
Continuing his investigations, Columbo discovers that a pair of surgical gloves are missing from the ship’s inventory. Danziger was in the infirmary, so it’s another reason to suspect him. The Lieutenant even goes so far as to ask the ship’s doctor whether it would be possible to simulate a heart attack. The doctor has to admit that inhaling amyl nitrate crystals might do it, so Columbo heads off to the swimming pool.
Checking the filter, what does he find? Two halves of an empty medicine capsule! When the doctor identifies it as amyl nitrate, Danziger is established as chief suspect. Even shirty Captain Gibbons starts to see sense – especially when Columbo refers to Danziger’s pulse rate on the night of the killing, which leapt right up just prior to his 11.30pm check-up. It could mean he’d had to run up the crew staircase to get back in a hurry. The noose is tightening around Danziger’s razor-sharp collared neck!
Again confiding in Danziger, a Hawaiian-shirted Columbo explains the significance of the surgical gloves stolen from the hospital. They simply must be hidden somewhere and if they can be found with powder burns on them that could be the clincher required to connect Lloyd with the killing. Danziger takes the bait – and how!
Late that night he steals the ship magician’s .38 revolver, another pair of surgical gloves from the hospital (presumably leading to nurse Melissa’s dismissal for failing to adequately secure precious medical supplies) and sneaks down to the engine rooms, using the drone of machinery to block out the sound of the gunshot. He then tucks the gloves into a fire hose and beats a retreat.
Quite why he’s chosen this course of action is revealed the next morning. As the ship nears port, a final fire drill test is run and before you can say “THAAAAAR SHE BLOOOOOWS!“, the surgical gloves flop out of the hose on to the floor. Now it’s Columbo’s time to shine!
Danziger is called to the bridge where he is greeted by Captain Gibbons and the Lieutenant, who is indulging in some old skool police work as he examines the gloves with a Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass. A cocky Danziger believes he’s home and dry. “I’m delighted for you,” he tells the detective. “Now, if you can find powder marks on them you’ve got your final proof, haven’t you? And that will prove that the whole thing was planned.”
“Columbo is indulging in some old skool police work as he examines the gloves with a Sherlock Holmes-style magnifying glass.”
Columbo concedes all these points. He has found powder marks on the gloves, but that’s not what he’s really looking for. What he wants is on the inside of the glove! The latex of the surgical gloves retains finger prints and palm prints. So if Columbo can positively match the prints with someone on the ship, then he has his killer. And it’s at this stage, Danziger starts looking more than a little seasick.
Using graphite shavings from a pencil, Columbo obtains a print from the index finger of a glove. He can see straight away that it’s not a match for Harrington, whose prints he captured earlier. No longer beating around the bush, he takes the direct approach to draw out a confession. “Mr. Danziger would you place the index finger of your right hand in that graphite and I think, maybe, we can wrap this whole thing up very quickly?”
Danziger attempts a feeble excuse but is stopped in his tracks and has to admit defeat. “How did you find out?” he asks dejectedly. Columbo whips the little feather out of his top pocket. It triggered his suspicions because they don’t use feather pillows in the hospital because of allergies. And that means Danziger must have inadvertently picked it up at the crime scene and deposited outside his hospital ward.
Danziger is escorted off to the police launch, but the fun’s not quite over. The episode ends as it begins with Columbo desperately seeking Mrs Columbo to depart the ship, this time to a jaunty and stereotype-tastic Mexican trumpet ditty. Purser Watkins points her out, just about to hop onto a launch for shore.
“Do I still have time to catch that ship?” asks the Lieutenant, after an episode of being ear-bashed for referring to the cruise ship as a boat. “Yes you can,” he’s told. “And Lieutenant? That’s a boat.” The puzzled Lieutenant finally computes. “Ah, to Hell with it,” he grins as credits roll…
Troubled Waters’ best/worst moment: Volaaaaaaaaare
I’ve made light of it in the summary above, because the thought of actually being in a cruise ship audience being subjected to Volare is my idea of hell. However, ask a fan their main recollection of Troubled Waters and Poupee Boucar’s interminable rendition of Volare is always right up there.
As referenced earlier, this is wonderful and terrible at the same time, featuring a show-stopping turn from Boucar in front of an audience who are absolutely lapping it up. It epitomises the cruise ship experience of the 70s (I’m guessing), but is also effectively set against the scheming Danziger’s break-out from the hospital and his date with destiny with the singer when her song is finally done.
My thoughts on Troubled Waters
An absolute blast from start to finish, it’s easy to see why Troubled Waters resonates so strongly with viewers, and has routinely been in and around the fans’ top 10 Columbo episodes each year since I started a poll in 2015.
The cruise ship setting is unique, memorable and entertaining, we’re tantalised by Mrs Columbo’s proximity (surely we’ll see her at last!) and we’re treated to one of the series’ best ever killer guest stars in Robert Vaughn.
Vaughn is a great place to start our analysis. He makes an immediate impact as the dastardly Danziger – not least because of his extraordinary attire. Is this what auto executives routinely wore at their leisure in the mid-70s? If so, please someone invent a time machine and whip me back there, because he absolutely rocks the ‘pimp chic’ look like no other actor could.
When we first meet Danziger he’s wearing a brilliant white lounge suit, a dark crimson shirt with some of the widest, sharpest collars ever produced and a devil-may-care cravat around his neck. This guy knows how to live! His subsequent wardrobe changes are equally outstanding giving us a killer who might well top the Columbo fashion standings, certainly giving Nora Chandler and Viveca Scott a good run for their money.
Vaughn wonderfully fits the Columbo villain archetype with elegance, charm and arrogance in abundance. It’s as if he was borne to it, and his wordless dispatching of troublesome lover Rosanna Wells is as ice cool as the series gets. I could watch Vaughn all day long, and he’s so good in this that it’s a borderline crime that he never played a Columbo killer again (instead being wasted in the BILGE that was Last Salute to the Commodore a year later).
“Robert Vaughn wonderfully fits the Columbo villain archetype with elegance, charm and arrogance in abundance.”
He and Falk seemed to really hit it off and their interactions are amongst the series’ most enjoyable. We’re taken right back to the Columbo basics here: the Lieutenant latches on to his suspect straight away, brings them into his circle of trust, elicits their opinions and help throughout – and finally pulls the rug out from underneath them just as they think their innocence is assured. While the denouement doesn’t match that of Suitable for Framing, the table-turning gotcha is conceptually similar to the take down of Dale Kingston.
The crime itself is also reminiscent of Framing in its depth and complexity. Danziger has taken time to craft a marvellously devious plan to incriminate Lloyd Harrington and establish his own alibi, involving the pre-purchase of a revolver in a location he knew Harrington to be; faking a heart attack; and sufficiently memorising a ship’s layout to commit the crime unnoticed. In the end it’s only a combination of Columbo’s blind luck and inspiration that does in for him.
And if I’m being ultra-critical of this episode (and that’s the point of these reviews), it’s the blind luck aspect of the crime solving that is a little hard to bear. A seasick Columbo spotting the feather outside Danziger’s hospital room is a bit of an easy way out. There are plenty of reasons to ultimately suspect Danziger, but they all stem from the pesky feather.
A similarly implausible device is used in A Deadly State of Mind later in this series when the Lieutenant spots the tiny spent lighter flint on the carpet, which triggers his suspicions of Dr Collier. I’m not a mystery writer, so don’t have a better suggestion off the top of my head as to how these situations could have been better resolved, but I just find it all a bit too convenient.
Danziger’s superhuman knowledge of the bowels of the cruise ship is also pushing credibility just a shade. He’s referenced as a past guest, so it’s OK to assume some level of understanding of ship layout and crew movements, but he knows it so well that he might have designed the ship and created the staff rota himself! It doesn’t hamper my enjoyment of the episode, but is again just slightly too convenient for my liking.
“Danziger’s superhuman knowledge of the bowels of the cruise ship is pushing credibility just a shade.”
As is so often the case with a good Columbo episode, plot holes can be be forgiven to a certain extent if the viewer simply buys into the fun – and that’s where Troubled Waters makes it easy for the viewer. Because the episode was filmed on a real cruise to Mexico, the cast and crew mingling with actual guests, everyone seems to be having a right old time.
Peter Falk’s great mate Ben Gazzara directed this episode and his presence doubtless helped keep his leading man in good humour throughout. It can’t have been an easy job at times for Gazzara, with a mass of extras to manage as well as an at-times stormy voyage that caused seasickness amongst the film crew. The wind whipping across the decks played havoc, too, with basically everyone in the main cast suffering from BAD HAIR DAYS at some point during the shoot.
Still, if this dampened enthusiasm aboard ship it absolutely doesn’t show in the final product, because this is a total hoot. Note the lovely, natural interactions Columbo has with fellow guests while searching the pool filter. It’s quite charming to see. Also note the rapturous looks of the audience enjoying the century-long version of Volare. The guests must have been dining out on the experience for decades to come!
All credit to Gazzara, who delivered an episode poles apart from his first Columbo effort, A Friend in Deed, the dark and humourless tale of police corruption that rounded out Season 3. That he could apply his hand so easily to the light and cheery Troubled Waters shows terrific versatility.
The script certainly gave its stars every chance to have a good time. Highlights include the game of quoits between Columbo and Danziger that resulted in the Lieutenant flinging his ring overboard; his shedding of his regular work clothes in favour of a muted Hawaiian shirt; the crew’s irritation that Columbo kept calling the ship a boat; and his concerns that Mrs Columbo’s apparently wild antics were going to land him in trouble.
Having Mrs Columbo there but just out of sight was a good move, finally proving beyond doubt that she is a real person (unless the crew were all suffering from mass hallucinations) and keeping the audience guessing right until the end about whether we’d finally catch a glimpse of her. Of course we don’t, which was the right decision, but drawing out the suspense is just another element of what this such a memorable adventure.
Truth be told, the calibre of the supporting cast was such that we didn’t need Mrs Columbo anyway. Alongside Vaughn was Patrick Macnee as the quintessentially British Captain Gibbons, and Bernard Fox as Purser Watkins making his second Columbo appearance after starring as Chief Superintendent Durk in Dagger of the Mind.
Dean Stockwell also made his second series’ appearance after being the murder victim in Most Crucial Game, while Poupee Boucar (or Poopy Pantz as my children refer to her as) gave as good as she got as Danziger’s wronged lover Rosanna in a small role.
We even have former silver screen beauty Jane Greer as Danziger’s older wife, Sylvia. She had one memorable conversation with Columbo that hinted at her passion for her younger husband and the fact that she wears the trousers in the relationship, but it was really an under-cooked role. Her character was a strong and interesting one that warranted further exploration. It’s a shame the episode didn’t go there.
It’s also a shame that the episode wasn’t slightly bolder when considering suspects other than Harrington and Danziger. Columbo indicates strongly that he believes a member of the crew could have committed the crime, something Captain Gibbons vehemently disagrees with – a little too vehemently to my mind.
“The actual gotcha, while clever, is a bit of an anticlimax, with Danziger simply quietly admitting he did it without any fuss.”
Initially obstructive of the Lieutenant’s investigation, and showing a surly demeanour about the on-going ship/boat gag, Gibbons would have been my first suspect. I would have enjoyed at least a hint of an investigation into his whereabouts at the time of the killing, but alas we are denied what could have been a really interesting confrontation. It doesn’t help, either, that the actual gotcha, while clever, is a bit of an anticlimax, with Danziger simply quietly admitting he did it without any fuss.
A final key takeout from Troubled Waters was Columbo reverting to old skool policing techniques to investigate the case in the absence of crime scene investigators and more modern crime solving paraphernalia. The sight of him using pencil graphite to capture finger prints and examining clues through a giant magnifying glass is a pleasant nod to simpler times, and also more overtly Sherlockian than we usually see.
Lest we forget, murder always followed Holmes wherever he was, too, and, like Columbo, he was always up to the task. It’s a good reminder of how similarly shrewd and resourceful the two detectives are, despite contrasting characters and eras.
In summing up, Troubled Waters is Columbo escapism in its purist form. It’s not perfect, but it has enough memorable ingredients to place it near the summit of most fans’ favourites list.
Columbo as a series doesn’t travel well (think Dagger of the Mind and Matter of Honor), but Troubled Waters makes a virtue of its unique, nautical setting to deliver a very different viewing experience. While it lacks a bit of the thrill of the chase with Columbo so firmly attached to Danziger throughout, it makes up for this with a big heart, big smiles and even bigger hair. It’s a
boat ship load of fun on the high seas and is highly recommended.
Did you know?
The actual ship from Troubled Waters was named the Ocean Dream, and was launched in 1972. It also appeared in The Love Boat (why not the Love Ship?) and Herbie Goes Bananas. However, it’s currently at the bottom of Davy Jones’s Locker off the coast of Thailand after capsizing and sinking in 2016. Rumour has it that Volare is still being sung, though…
How I rate ’em
Enjoyable as it is, Troubled Waters falls just outside my current top 10. It has many elements that help it stand out, but the quality of the mystery itself isn’t quite top tier. Still, this is one I’d always watch with gusto if I saw it on TV as it’s so enjoyable.
Missed any of my other episode reviews? Then view them via the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Publish or Perish
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- Negative Reaction
- A Friend in Deed
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Double Exposure
- Lady in Waiting
- Troubled Waters
- Any Old Port in a Storm
- Prescription: Murder ——– A-List ends here—
- An Exercise in Fatality
- Swan Song
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- By Dawn’s Early Light
- Candidate for Crime
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man —– B-List ends here—
- Dead Weight
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Lovely but Lethal ———— C-List ends here—-
- Short Fuse
- Mind Over Mayhem
- Dagger of the Mind
Check back in again soon when I get round to reviewing the gadget-laden 30th Columbo outing, Playback. And do let me know your thoughts on Troubled Waters below.
The feather issue was also mentioned in my long buried post. I agree that visitors would make that clue moot.
I don’t think that we can assume that she never visited him just because we weren’t SHOWN the visit. I commented elsewhere that Dansiger’s wife should have been a top suspect (a woman wronged). Besides, it’s Jane Greer! She was always up to no good (at least in the late ’40’s and early 50’s).
This is a definite weakness in the script. Columbo appears not to have coinsidered her at all.
I concur. Although it would’ve benefitted the script to at least reference her visiting poor Hayden in hospital, I assume she would have done. Probably he asked her to keep an eye on his guests that night in order to make sure she was well occupied during the crime and NOT popping in to see him. This could’ve so easily been factored into the script.
Although, if Danziger did have visitors, then the identity of the person who accidentally brought the feather into the hospital becomes fuzzier. The story works best if only the doctor, nurse, and Danziger trod that hallway before Columbo arrived.
Did it seem like Danziger was the type (personality) to even have visitors? Not like he demonstrated an “on” or “off” personality switch. He was annoyed at the beginning of the cruise, obsessed with executed his crime. The way the crime was carried out, and preparation needed, wasn’t woman’s style. Who if it was (very unlikely to be Jane Greer) would’ve just shot her. And (give me a break) not bothered with lipstick. So Columbo never needed to consider her. Visitors were probably discouraged if the first place. The idea was for Danziger to stablize, rest, recover, get out of there. And make space for the next patient. No time to chat. And finally, the wife didn’t even seem like the hand-holding type. She couldn’t/didn’t remember the gloves, and it wasn’t important. They shared a life tor appearances and finances. Neither of them were “warm & fuzzy” via any (writer’s) hints whatsoever.
As I keep adding to my 100+ comments, if the (writers) were going to have any revealing scene at all, it should’ve been focused around a dinner among guests and observers. To see a bit of interaction and express more of the personalities. But I don’t logistics and timing allowed for it. Probably too ambitious a scene to stage under the circumstances, and maybe the production grew getting sea sick made it impossible. But I think that’s what the story was truly lacking, was point of coordination.
This thread started just as a funny aside.
I know 😉 and sorry I didn’t post the smiley, because my instant reaction was also tongue ‘n cheek. Viewers complain about RV’s lack of personality. But it was for that purpose.
You left one thing out that always made me laugh about this episode. You mention that Jane Greer goes pretty much unused in this episode. I always found it funny that she never visits him when he’s in the hospital. Her husband has had a heart attack, but she’s too busy lounging somewhere on the Lido deck, sucking on a Mai-Tai.
Ha, yea. I had mentioned that as well! Not even a stinkin’ card or flowers from her or from a boatload (ship!) of used car dealers!
I found that a bit of a plot problem. What she had been visiting him at the time he planned to commit the murder, or came by unannounced while he was out and about committing it? I guess it is theoretically possible she visited him at some other time during his several hours there, but it she did one would think it might have been alluded to at some point.
I’m on my first watch of Columbo (and I LOVE it!) and just finished this episode. I feel so confused because…I thought this was one of the worst episodes so far. I was excited for this one because of the unique location, the incredible lounge suit in the opening scene, and I saw that it was a fan favorite. And yet I felt like I kept waiting for it to get exciting. At times it was a slog to get through, I think because Danziger really did nothing for me as an antagonist. He certainly looked the part with his swanky suits, but as a character he was all looks and no substance for me. One of my favorite parts of this show is how nuanced the villains are, from Culp to Cassidy the psychological profiles of the killers are usually so juicy. Danziger felt so one-dimensional in comparison, as the audience I felt we never got to sink our teeth into his thoughts.
I’m curious if anyone else felt this episode fell flat. I see it regularly makes top 10 on fan lists and polls, and in general I love the episodes that others love, so I’m not really sure why this one missed the mark for me but sailed into the hearts of everyone else. I did love Columbo’s Hawaiian shirt in the last scene though, so I’ll give it that!
1. Great “perfect crime” — with the one flaw that Danziger tried to make it too perfect. He wasn’t satisfied with giving himself a great alibi; he expended too much effort pinning the blame on someone else. Ultimately, this was his undoing.
2. Great links between the murderer’s backstory and his plan: his special skill copying keys; his knowledge of the ship’s and Rosanna’s routine from his prior cruise where the two met. (“Volare” was his signal to leave the ship’s hospital.)
3. Great watching Columbo wielding a magnifying glass and doing his own lab work.
4. The episode had some of the same “closed world” feel of a classic Agatha Christie novel. (Giving the ship a British crew helped here, too.)
5. Great pretext for involving Danziger in Columbo’s investigation, followed by great scenes between the two.
6. The Hayden-Sylvia scene about forgetting his golf gloves is a hidden gem teasing Columbo’s solution to the case (i.e., if Danziger had worn leather golf gloves, he wouldn’t have left prints inside).
A top-5 episode in my book.
Richard, excellent points! What I really liked about this episode is seeing Columbo out of his normal element, in this case the high seas. Same when he goes to London in Dagger. Danzinger may have been kinda bland as a killer but Columbo nonetheless stalked his prey with briliant detective work. Volare indeed!
Oh, just one more thing:
7. Great way they used Columbo’s own past history. We knew from “Ransom for a Dead Man,” “Dead Weight,” “Dagger of the Mind,” and “A Stitch in Crime” that Columbo was prone to motion sickness or other stomach ailments. But never before did his weak stomach figure as importantly in an episode’s plot. If not for his seasickness, he never would have seen the feather under the door to Danziger’s hospital room.
You’ll probably hate me, but the title of that famous 1958 Italian song is “Nel blu dipinto di blu”. Many people mistakenly believe it’s entitled “Volare”, because that is the first and most emphatic word in the refrain.
Hi all. There is an inconsistency puzzling me. When Columbo is being called to the dead woman, and also after, when he seeks aid for his nausea at the ship´s hospital, he mentiones 2 times he´s advised by the purser to do so. However, in my recording of this episode I can´t find a conversation between the purser and Columbo with this content. Can anyone confirm? Was it cut out of my (European) version?
2nd, did anyone notice: before the band´s break (in which Roseanna is killed), the bass player is left handed. But when they resume to play after the break, he´s right handed.
This weekend, I rewatched “Troubled Waters” and realized I’d been blind to something for years. I was among the many viewers to point out the significance of the early scene between Hayden and Sylvia over “Johnson” forgetting to pack Hayden’s “golf gloves.” Were these the gloves Hayden intended to wear while carrying out his murder plot? Leather gloves that would not have left his fingerprints on the inside? Did Johnson’s oversight indirectly lead to Hayden’s use of surgical gloves retaining the fingerprints that proved his guilt?
But contrary to what Sylvia says — “You know, civilization has come to Acapulco. You can pick up a pair there.” — golf gloves aren’t worn in pairs. Golfers may have multiple gloves, in case one gets sweaty or worn out, but they’re all for the same hand. Unless Hayden planned to commit his crime one-handed, risking all sorts of other potential tripwires, using his golf gloves couldn’t have been part of his plan.
I’ve played golf for forty years. And yet, the reference to “a pair” of “golf gloves” slipped by unnoticed.
You know, it’s tricky. What writers provide in terms of intentional clues is different than how they need to write natural dialogue. Doubtful non-golfers would know the difference between a “pair” of golf gloves and just gloves. And afterall, wouldn’t there have to be a right and a left anyway. What’s written is the kind of gloves which wouldn’t have left fingerprints were golf-gloves period. And the point is, they were forgotten. Now whether forgetting was intentional by the wife, is another fine point. But too subtle add to the clues, and to what purpose. Except she might’ve been annoyed with her husband to begin with. The absence of his ow gloves, threw him off track, having to account for another detail, and gave the only reason for using plastic gloves. as Hayden’s ultimate downfall. Which sounds to me more like the writer’s necessary plot device (which is the combination of logic and circumstances)..
I’d never noticed that either, although I reckon we can give the writers a hall pass by assuming that Danziger likes to wear two gloves to play (I have encountered golfers who do) and Mrs Danziger knew his preference, so referenced he could buy a pair. Tenuous, I know, but a permissible suspension of disbelief.
Or — the moment is more about the Hayden-Sylvia relationship and less about the crime. He carps. She’s impatient with his carping. He feels deprioritized. He says “gloves” because he always carries an extra. She says “pair” because she’s a non-golfer who thinks of gloves in pairs. And the moment’s placement in the episode is never remembered by viewers once gloves start becoming important to the story unless they’ve seen TW multiple times. (That said, I would much prefer it if using golf gloves had been his plan. It makes Columbo’s later reference — “if he’d worn leather gloves” — so much better.)
On second thought, the golf gloves scene clearly foreshadows this later moment between Columbo and Danziger: “I asked my wife. She didn’t pack any gloves. Now, I’ll bet Mrs. Danziger didn’t pack any either. Neither for herself nor for you. We’re going on a tropical cruise. Who packs gloves?” The reference here to Mrs. Danziger not packing any gloves “for you” cannot be coincidental.
Then again, if packing golf gloves was so vital to Danziger’s murder plan, maybe Hayden should have packed them himself. Of course, if it was his job, he’d have no one to confront about their absence. We’d never hear about it.
I do enjoy this visualization. Let’s see, extra bathing suit? Check. Collared dining shirt? Check. A few business cards for networking? Check. Some foreign currency? Check. Cruise murder gloves? Hmmm … murder gloves, murder gloves … dammit! How the hell could she forget to pack my cruise murder gloves? If I told her once I’ve told her a thousand times …
I thought Vaughn seemed awkward around Columbo (and not in a good way); definitely among the worst killer-Columbo chemistries in the series, and Vaughn essentially having only one expression through it all didn’t help either. And yes, he should have been extremely suspicious of Columbo, because as far as he knows no one is aware of him having anything to do with the victim. (Columbo of course found the feather…) In other episodes the killer is known to have known the victim so that it’s logical for Columbo to pester the killer, and the killer would be aware of this, but in this episode there’s no obvious reason why Columbo should bother a car salesman with no known relation to the victim.
And way too much about the gloves. Why should he let himself be entrapped like that? Why would he appropriately dispose of one pair of gloves only to hand over to Columbo another pair littered with his fingerprints? He did it basically because Columbo asked him to! That he used gloves in the first place indicates he was aware of the concept of fingerprints and how their pertain to crime investigations. Way too non-believable.
Oh, and talk about an unsympathetic victim! Hard to feel anything for a callous blackmailer.
Welcome, to your contribution and with all due respect for sharing it!!
Here we go again, Columbo viewers must be the most analytical crime-busters on Earth. Otherwise they’ve been watching too much Perry Mason. This episode was written to focus on exceptions, namely 1) how does Columbo solve a case without tools 2) without a most obvious suspect 3) without logical leads and connections 4) with scant evidence. The idea behind the premise is to examine just how brilliant *is* Columbo. And by the way 5) let’s have him solve something impossible while on vacation!! Oh, and during a real cruise! Yes, they were actually at sea, and during some rocky weather.
The main reason Columbo started looking at subtilties is because the crime was staged to be *exactly* the opposite. And that was a killer-clue right there for someone like Columbo. So yeah, it’s going to be a long way between the feather to the glove finale. But Columbo isn’t stupid, because he knows people meet under different circumstances (like another cruise) all the time.
Also the killer was painfully and (ironically) obviously subtle himself – there’s the real clue. The reason being is that Columbo has seen enough crimes in his career, to be on the lookout for the most “perfect” of them all. And one that is filled with all kinds of little conveniences. 1) like a total lack emotion, 2) a very convenient alibi 3) and the mystery of a motive.
Columbo solves his crimes through observation, and in this case, by using reverse osmosis. Meaning, “just pull one tiny thread (feather) and see what unravels.” That’s the fun of THIS episode!! It’s a vacation from the typical.
Of course the episode *can* frustrate the most avid fan, because it’s painfully constricted by limited running time and locale. [ I always thought they should’ve at least had a Dinner Scene where the characters mingle, and tip themselves off. ] but they’re never given that satisfaction, because. Because the premise is about them living in the moment right along with Columbo.
Only RV fans understand that what you got when you put him in a role, is RV. He traded on his own personality, being that it was bare bones, which made even his slight smile seem like an over-joyous celebration. Because he rarely did. As a well-seasoned working actor he knew enough to let PF do his thing. Just be there as his foil, taking his cues. Meaning, you don’t steal scenes from Columbo, you just need to be there. So no, I don’t think RV was uncomfortable with him, or any respectable actor. He’d been in the business since childhood. He had stories in his autobiography about very notable actors with a lot of interesting anecdotes. (Tip) One thing RV never lacked, was confidence!
It’s not Robert Vaughn who is uncomfortable around Columbo, it’s the character that he’s playing. He’s not expecting a homicide detective to be on the cruise.
Columbo’s excuse for pestering him is that half of the passengers on the ship are his guests, so he can act as a sort of liaison with Columbo, who is only looking into the murder unofficially himself.
Robert Vaughn is unaware that rubber gloves will retain his fingerprints on the inside (and probably on the outside as he puts them on and takes them off). He thinks that the clue Columbo is looking for (against Dean Stockwell) is powder burns on the gloves from firing a gun, which he provides.
And the murder victim was a callous blackmailer, but she was also a beautiful young woman. (“Credit where credit is due. She may be evil, but she is attractive”).
Columbo made it clear to Danziger (Danzinger?) that he was looking for a pair of gloves with powder burns. Danziger obliged him, not knowing that his fingerprints will show up on the INSIDE of the gloves.
This episode is indeed a departure from the standard Columbo formula for many reasons, and the fact that it is shot on location on a ship (boat?) full of non-actors makes it unique.
RV and PF and the director, Ben Gazzara, were friends so the chemistry was there. It was also there in Last Salute to the Commodore although the episode was a disaster.
RV has certain mannerisms that he sometimes over-uses but not in this episode. All Columbo’s villains put on a cool, unflappable attitude and that’s what his Danziger projected too. Most of the time. There is a scene where he and Columbo are dressed in white and sitting just inside a door to the deck (“Ya see that? That’s the biggest garbage dump in the world.” How cringingly prophetic.). At one point Columbo looks away from Danziger and our villain looks him up and down with distinct drop-dead malice. The charm and innocence return quickly when Columbo again turns to him.
All-in-all one of the best episodes, in spite of some plot conveniences.
You Columbophiles must see Dean Stockwell in a 1961 episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (he is the featured actor)
Thanks Columbophile for the inside stories on this episode, such as its being filmed on an actual cruise to Mexico, and that it’s ship has sunk. Great information for a fan. The realism definitely shows! Its going to be broadcast on the telly ? here in Chicago this evening as soon as Patrick McGoohan’s noteworthy performance in “By Dawn’s Early Light'” has ended.
I love watching what goes on in the background. While at Shuffle board there’s an older gentlemen wearing what appears to be a tiny blue speedo. (More like a banana hammock.) It’s quite the look and I really can’t get it out of my head. Unfortunately. I wanted to see PF assistant who makes an appearance but it must have been cut.
The scene with his assistant is there! She makes the comment to Danzinger about margaritas and not going back to el Centro. Love RV swim costume there.
While watching this episode again on Amazon Prime (no scenes edited out, thank goodness), I noticed a continuity mistake. When Danzinger starts to run back up the stairs after the murder, he has the gloves on. When they show him going up the next two flights, the gloves are off. When he gets to the Stewards’ room to change back into his pj’s, the gloves are back on.
That would be a joy to see the uncut version! It’s my same reply as to another post. No doubt production realized the mistake (dailies). But shooting within the timeframe of a real cruise, also carrying on its business for passengers, being a well used stairwell, production couldn’t afford to be reshooting a minor element of scene. They also had to fill or trim scenes appropriatel, but is much harder to keep the premise intact. I’m fascinated by TW because of the extra challenges met in doing a complicated Columbo episode in nearly real time in front of invited (but) real passengers!
And it’s barely noticeable.
I saw this episode on 5USA last Sunday and enjoyed Dean Stockwell’s performance.
So I was sad to learn this morning that this was the same day that he passed away.
R.I.P. Dean Stockwell, alias Lloyd Harrington. :'(
Dean Stockwell has been
around a long time. You may
want to look up and watch “Compulsion” (1959) on Internet
Archive, with Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles, about the
Leopold and Loeb case. Orson plays basically framed
attorney Clarence Darrow from the case. E.G. Marshal
shines as the prosecutor, and Stockwell is one of the two
Martin Milner from Columbo:Murder by the Book,
and the rarely seen Diane Varsi are also in that one.
Truly riveting, and groundbreaking for its time. I haven’t
heard much about the recent remake.
Yes, Stockwell is known mainly from Quantum Leap.
But his great acting goes way back to 1945!
That does sound interesting. Stockwell has been solid in everything I’ve seen, even a small but riveting part in “To Live and Die in L.A”, which was my introduction to him.
Now, THERE’s an L.A.
attorney that Columbo
villains could use:
“You won’t have to do the whole life
term of course. Just four years, to
keep Columbo happy”
He’s just one of those actors everyone
has seen from somewhere.
Come to think of
it, he had a riveting
role in Blue Velvet. (Need I mention bizarre
and surreal too?)
That other David Lynch film he was in, Dune,
didn’t work out as well.
It shows though what a smart actor Stockwell
was, to take on little memorable roles that kept
him in the public eye.
My mistake, the
wasn’t a remake. Oh yes,
and ‘famed’ not ‘framed’
attorney, Clarence Darrow.
Trivia: the title of Roger Ebert’s
autobiography, ‘Life Itself’, comes
from an Orson Welles line in the
I saw this again on 5USA yesterday and noticed two things I’d not realised before.
Firstly, Hayden gets annoyed when he realises that the valet has not packed his golf gloves. Although the murder was well planned, it must have included using the golf gloves to prevent powder burns on his hands, and he had to improvise using the rubber gloves from the infirmary. This helps at first in being further evidence against Lloyd (who makes innocent daily visits to the infirmary for his insulin) but ultimately leads to Hayden’s downfall.
Secondly, the name on the magician’s case looks something like “Curtis Clipper”, and this name appears in the closing credits. I had assumed that the magician was played by an actor, but as he is only seen (with his assistant) entertaining the passengers, I’m now assuming that they were a real magic act, and that this was filmed as part of the show for the real passengers, along with the song.
The device used by Danziger to make the keys is also called “curtis clipper”, and this is a real tool, you can find a lot of results for it using Google.
Hi George. Thanks for that. I think I got the name “curtis clipper” from the real tool used in the episode. The magician’s first name is Curtis and I think his second name also starts with “C”.
I also noticed in this episode that Columbo seems to . . . . pause a lot before answering a question.
He is being his usual annoying folksy self before the murder is committed, which shows that it is not all just an act to unnerve the suspects.
And he also says “Just one more thing” to the captain, which shows that he doesn’t only say that to unnerve the suspects either. (Maybe it’s a little private joke).
Somewhere in the Columbophile it’s been mentioned, but read where it’s used in other examples too. As a tool to adjust the timing of a scene. I believe Mr. Falk started it himself regarding Columbo with the “One more thing” phrase. But it can be accomplished by drawing out conversations through “thoughtful” pauses. Increases suspense in some cases. Probaby seems more exaggerated on the ship because (my guess is) they had limited time or convenience to reshoot many scenes. The bit had to work the first time. Johnathan Harris (of LIS fame) also explained how to use “bits” to extend scenes to meet the running time.
Thanks for that. I hadn’t realised that there might be another reason than just adding to the drama. The pause works to good effect when Danziger says that he wouldn’t have thought Columbo had any authority on the ship, and Columbo eventually replies “I don’t”.
I remember reading years ago about the long pauses in the dialogue of the Marx Brothers movies. This is a little annoying when watching them on TV, but the pauses were there so that the audience would have time to finish laughing and not miss the next gag. Probably because a lot of their movies were originally stage shows with a live audience and they worked out the timing accordingly.
I already commented several years ago on this episode (generally liked it, but the dull, monotonous acting of Vaughn was a negative), but after just re-seeing the episode, I re-visited this review. Here are a few additional observations.
I liked it less, not more, after re-viewing it. Firstly, I find the humor and padded scenes silly (at best) or grating (at worst). I see nothing funny in the whole boat-ship joke, esp. not to have Columbo repeat “boat” 15 times throughout. Neither did I find the opening and closing scenes with Columbo searching for his wife very funny, and the other scene where he bumps into Danziger and asks about the room service is really stupid. Likewise the horseshoe throwing scene.
Also, I haven’t seen anyone mention how Columbo repeatedly refers to Vaughn as “Danzinger” while everyone else calls him “Danziger.” Was this an intentional joke?
It also seems very implausible that Columbo keeps inviting Danziger to “help with the investigation,” then either makes ridiculous requests (a list of people whose names start with L “so that I could have another suspect”), or has him do a simple task like shoot a gun through a mattress (why call Danziger for that? Couldn’t the captain, standing right there, have shot the gun?), or just has him watch his testing and do nothing. Moreover, despite all this, the intelligent Danziger does not become suspicious, and even falls for the final trap after Columbo reveals the glove search to him in a private chat that Columbo requested “just so that you shouldn’t think I’m poking around and asking questions for no reason.”
Finally, I respect the opinions of the majority of the bloggers who seem to love Vaughn, and don’t want to seem condescending, but I suspect that watching Vaughn’s suave, debonair looks may have more to do with it than his actual acting, which seems so plainly dull and monotonous to me, and so lacking in the brilliant acting skills of murderers like Cassidy, McGoohan, Culp or Van Dyke, who indicated changing moods with a mere raised eyebrow, shrugged shoulder, or half-grin, or with slight changes in the tone or emotion of their speech.
Perhaps not the same “boat” as Troubled Waters is in itself, but I nick-named this trope as being the “Ship of Probability” whenever a viewer is sadly disappointed by gaps in an episode’s feeling of reality.
The point being that the minute a viewer enters the world of “Columbo” (which is actually its own universe of connections that fans have kept together) regarding circumstantial evidence, much less that which is truly suitable in a court of law, then reality and even logic disappears.
Memo to viewer: whatever happens in the Columbo series is for the purpose and pleasure of showcasing Columbo’s (Mr. Falk’s talents) meaning HIS presence in the episode! If viewers are looking for a more well-knit mystery, then tune-in nightly to MeTV’s Perry Mason episodes, of which you’ll soon tire after they repeat for 8 seasons over a 4 year cycle. THEN…. you have to starting looking at different things within that series!
So if a viewer isn’t doing the same thing for the Columbo series, they’re missing a lot of bonuses. Like purpose of interactions, how does (Falk) frame them, what do they reveal, how do they entertain. Meaning through character development, relationships, chemistry, background, guest stars, circumstances, challenges and on it goes.
Because “who” solves “what” every week soon becomes irrelevant. We already know that stuff. Especially when watched more than the first or second time. And let’s face it, all of us here, are hooked.
But Columbo (the series’) production team was WELL aware this series would go on in perpetuity. So there’s a whole range of stuff to be reappreciated. And to not just be criticized because it “seems” boring or disconnected. In fact those writers were successfully engaging viewers by the sheer fact of the volume of discussion surround it. How many very long term series are able to do that! And THAT’s what the writers wanted to leave their fans with. A bit of television immortality, and thank heavens for the Colombophile which has kept the torch alive.
Here’s the point about “Troubled Water.” It was a break in the Columbo routine. Columbo being on vacation symbolized that clearly. Everything about the adventure was turned upside down. Beginning with waking him up (as a passenger) in the middle of the night! To him working without his LA Police headquarters research unit. Mainly that he’s solving this mystery gratuitously (and reluctantly) and especially independently, out a sense of duty and forced circumstances. But he, himself, is supposed to be on vacation, the allegory being, so is the viewer! Meaning, it’s time to take things as they come for a change. It was never meant to be perfect. The adventure is far from ordinary.
The second point is appreciating the circumstances of the production itself. Try putting together 90 minutes of almost the equivalent of a made-for-TV movie, on a fully loaded CRUISE ship with (a selection of invited) yet non-professional guests and STILL trying to make the experience seem normal, much less festive!! They had just a few challenges along the way (one being rough sea). Do you know how difficult it is to “set design” such a compacted space in every scene, and keep most of them fresh and entertaining through camera angles and lighting?? My argument is that they should’ve done way more action in the dining room itself, but oh well. However, at least they did get to the shuffleboard deck and to the pool, a remarkable departure for RV and a major accomplishment for the Columbo production crew’s technicians. That it “seems” like not such a bill-deal is the beauty of the accomplishment. But a far play from studio controlled special effects.
I thought there was plenty of “personality” already being displayed among a wide variety of personalities. A very hot tempered and clueless mistress, a lovelorn worn-out musician who couldn’t have been more pathetic except for being a very young Dean Stockwell, in his element! An even more milk-toast band-leader, practially useless. The glib, polished, dignified British crew and stuffy captain, an obviously cash-cow rich (murderer’s) wife, and other incidental folks sprinkled throughout in transitory bit-parts.
Post Mr. Vaughn’s starring role in his signature 3.5 yr. 60’s series, he was thereafter expected to be equally charming, suave, humorous, and (otherwise) the life of any party in every successive part he took. He was however, by his own admission very often a villain, if not a serious heavy, and displayed little of the light-heartedness of NS that happened to be exceptional for that particular series. (Check out his resume). That was not, nor ever was (except for his trademark series) his stock and trade personality being offered as an actor. When you hired Mr. Vaughn, producers knew exactly for what reason. For doing a job; he was by trade a “working actor” who built his reputation on completing one performance after another with reliability and self-declared expectations.
In reading the script, obviously focused on Columbo himself (as it always is) I’m not sure what else Mr. Vaughn (himself) could’ve expected to contribute to the episode. He certainly couldn’t out perform any of those other character/actors. Like why, the crime itself was bold enough! But never-the-less the beauty in his ability to keep his performance expectations low (and under those circumstances) is that whatever additional “bit” he added to the role, more than stood out. Like his hypocritical interaction with his wife, and Columbo in the very beginning in the lobby (as being anything but sincerely engaging). Clearly presenting a range of traits meant to emphasize and underscore his lethal, cold-hearted character, was the hatred he had for the mistress, the cunning he had for the crime, and the irredeemable selfishness he threw at his wife. Shall we say it was all about vanity and smuggness.
I would say, how that character (having nothing to do with RV) was written, said enough, and it would’ve been contrary and artificial for the character/actor to pretend otherwise, by adding false flashy touches of superficial charm. The character “hated” his circumstances and found no appreciation for most anything around him (is what I read into the interpretation of that role). And that’s what an accomplished, very experienced actor (such as RV) will do. Was he monotonous, which underscored the malevolence of the villain? Of course because we weren’t meant to like him in any capacity. He put his screen-time to very effective use. And that’s what he was hired to do. Fans appreciate RV for being who he is, pure and simple as an actor, and still quite separate from his private personality!! 😉
Thanks for your analysis. I always loved the episode.
After that rendition of Volare, I’m surprised Napoleon Solo didn’t get to the woman’s room to find that someone else had murdered her first. In fact I’m surprised there wasn’t a queue!
I’d rather hear that than “This Old Man” lol.
I loved the whole Volare scene. The song is an ear worm.
I didn’t think Robert Vaughn’s wife was older. They looked the same age to me. He sure was a beautiful man & dresser.
Wait, that was Dean Stockwell?!? Never recognized him.
As a wife-character she’s older than Danzinger and holds the purse strings. The actress was older by 10 years than RV as well.
Thank you. Guess I’m not a great judge of age.
Goodness don’t feel misled regarding the apparent age of actors JG and RV. Both consummate actors their stock and trade is making characters convincing! Whether at 31 (MFU) or 42 (Columbo) RV communicated a very mature presence in every role, which comes from being a “working actor” beginning at a very young age, as well as his on-screen personality. RV (actually) known for being cast as the villain, one of the few exceptions in his career, is his most memorable.
Definitely loved him when he was good in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This episode wrapped up at 10:00 PM CST on February 9 of 1975, but that version of “Volare” still hasn’t finished. Bring it on home, sister!
This is my favorite “Columbo” exactly because it’s the opposite of most episodes.
It gets dinged a lot but here’s the brilliance of it:
It totally took him out of his element, away from the Police Force, his native authority, his routine, his autonomy, ready witnesses, and bulk evidence. . Then threw him up against not only a (fairly) cunning adversary, but an (equally fairly accomplished) actor!!! Both being, beloved by their fans, no matter what’s going on!! And that’s the pure fun of it all!
Oh wait, aren’t they actually having fun on a real (by invitation only) cruise! I think they are!!
While I did enjoy the episode I was a bit disappointed at the gotcha moment. After watching someone commit the crime then think their getting by with something for the duration of the episode its only natural to want to see them really crushed at the end when they know they are cooked. Actually even though I love the show, quite a few Columbo episodes leave me a bit unsatisfied at the end. You just naturally want to see the murderer really seem crushed that their finally caught. I personally feel too many of the episodes cheat us out of that satisfaction. A really great example is Prescription Murder. He just sort of lights up a cigarette at the end as if nothing happened! Even though he is facing prison etc…. I know he is arrogant but come on, we want to see him fall into a chair with his head in his hands or something!
I think you’ve been watching too many Perry Mason dramas, where the characters get hysterical over everything.! The DA looks at them cross-eyed and they can barely function. But that was the 50’s/60’s style of “theatrical” acting anyway! In the 70’s I think the acting was purposefully toned down. For the most part these villains are very intelligent and affluent in some way. In other words they’re not raging around in life to begin with. With Troubled Waters (and I know it well) it would’ve been very out of character (and for RV himself) to be over acting the arrested murderer role. And remember these are only the assumed arrests, not even the process of putting together the perfect trial, etc. So my second hunch is that these villains take their capture all in good time. And it might be kind of premature (on their part) for them to express an excess of emotion. My bet is that the “satisfaction” of the episode (the “gotcha moment”) is supposed to be focused on Columbo himself. And the villain becomes the “throw-away” character.
Just a matter of directorial styling that’s, no worries! 😉 More power to your opinion!!! Thank you for sharing!
I agree. Harold van Wick is the reactive outlier among Columbo killers, with nearly all being resigned or unaffected by their respective arrests.
Thank you for the thoughtful comments regarding my post. Pacificsun expressed some points I had not thought of. I guess even taking these comments under consideration I am just expressing my FEELINGS when watching the shows. I personally would enjoy the endings a bit more on some of the episodes if the culprit showed a bit more devastation at their being finally caught. After all, its just fictitious television for our entertainment anyway. And I always hear critics discussing plot holes, even on Columbophile! So, nothings going to be EXACTLY like real life, so lets see some really fallen faces at the end for dramatic effect! Just my opinion. Thanks again for the replies.
I think that most
of the murderers
are traumatized and resigned at
their arrest. So their lack of a
reaction would be most natural.
There are exceptions, such as the
murderess in Make Me a Perfect
Murder. For whom their arrest is
just the first defeat in their attempt
to get away with murder.
A very fine episode! But there is just one slip. There is no such British revolver as a ‘Weatherby’. This revolver is a Webley or an Enfield Webley-variant, designed without an external hammer for use by tank crews.
Anyone know why Ben Gazzara disappeared from directing after Troubled Waters (only ensuing credit is a 1990 French movie)? He did fantastic work with both TW and A Friend In Deed, clearly talented enough to earn a gig on a project that didn’t involve his buddy Falk. Especially with Gazzara running in such an artist-heavy circle, you’d think there’d be no shortage of opportunities presented to him in the late 70s and 80s.
Watching this episode on MeTV in the US and now I laugh like crazy every time I see Rosanna Wells because I think “Poopy Pants” thanks to Columbphile. Finally my wife asked “What is so funny?” and I had to look up the episode list to show her the actress’ name. She laughed… but not as much as I did.
I will let my children know that the memory of Poopy Pantz has delighted a global audience!
What is the name of the book nurse Melissa is reading in sick bay while smoking cigarettes? Thank you!
Pausing on a hi-def version of the episode, you can make out that the book she’s reading is titled “The Consciousness of Creation”. But so far as I can tell, there’s no actual book that exists with that title. The author name on the cover is sort of right on the edge of legibility so perhaps someone else might be able to decipher it. But I couldn’t make it out to see if that would help shed light.
Whether it is or isn’t a bona fide real world title, I can’t really see how its hinted contents would relate as a theme to the show in any manner that would suggest it was a deliberate touch. I assume that there are stores of studio system props that are recycled for reuse for utilitarian purposes — possibly starting out, though, from productions where their original design or titling or whatever may have drew an intended affinity between theme and mise-en-scène — and there’s no other reason for the nurse reading *that* particular title in this circumstance beyond this.
Having said that, one of the great minor joys of Columbo’s first season is recurrently being able to spot in the background of subsequent episodes’ bookshelves the distinctively designed “Mrs. Melville” novels. That probably was once again down mostly to a utilitarian prop reuse decision but it does show that the filming of Columbo involved at least some deliberate “easter egg” style flourishes in this vein. It’d be interesting to identify other occasions in the series, if any, where something like the “Melville” book reappearances occurs, come to think of it.
The bit with the captain prioritizing people’s holiday over investigating a murder is so accurate to the actual cruise industry, it didn’t really occur to me that there might be more to it.
One of the (many) great things about that episode is that, usually, the killer gradually realizes that he/she is the prime suspect of that pestering Lieutenant who keeps coming back to ask increasingly unsettling questions.
Well, not here, because good old Hayden never realizes that Columbo suspects him until it’s too late. “Officially”, Harrington is the suspect and Columbo is just trying to get the evidence supporting that. Hence, the “Please help me solve that case” look on Columbo’s seemingly desperate face (7th picture of this review). And Hayden, as you wrote it so well dear Columbophile, completely falls for it…
Columbo litteraly has to do with the means “on board” (as we say in French) while on the ship where he has no police lab and no jurisdiction.
The only thing that really disappoints me about this episode is that the story, or the murder plot if you like, is taken from Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. It’s Hercule Poirot rewritten as Columbo.
Four days after watching this I still have Volare stuck in my head. Thanks, Columbo.
It’s funny how one of the characters (forget who) says, “it’s a big ship.” When compared with today’s cruise ships it looked like a … well, a boat.
Princess Cruises in the United States. Same as what was used for “The Love Boat” TV series. MeTV wrote a story about the demise of that “ship” certainly in terms of providing an intimate gathering of guests (relatively speaking). In terms of retirement, in fact the ship was left off of Thailand (I believe) and sank due to lack of maintenance.
This fun episode is on ME TV at 8pm tonight…..volare!!
Watching it now Tony!. My comment (in response to Tony, below)
Of course Jerry, It didn’t take me long to figure out, as a lover of the country from which I have no connection except that its a favorite place to be, many many of the Columbophile participants are from across the pond where “Me TV” may be somewhat unavailable…Im afraid I would place a smile face here if I knew how do do it…This kinship is one thing I like about this site….
Awesome…. yeah it’s so cool to hear from all the Columbo fans from around the globe….
We have probably never been so “geographically” close from Mrs Columbo than in this episode, especially when the crew wakes Columbo up in the middle of the night to inform him of the murder.
Columbo also goes from disagreeing with the Captain who suspects Lloyd while appearing initially awkward (and seasick) to the crew to eventually convincing everyone and finding the murderer.
A great episode, one of my all-time favs. Wonderfull supporting casting too (Dean Stockwell, Patrick Macnee, Bernard Fox, Peter Maloney…)
Troubled Water Fans: Viewers Heads-up. Sunday 9/27/20 MeTV (PDT) Weigel Broadcasting Network, USA.
Looking forward to all the comments on this episode!
Agree, Tony, the cast is excellent. Previously enjoyed Dean Stockwell as an even younger, more callow and naive (but oonfident) young Brit who found himself at a spooky rooming house in a 1/2 hour Hitchcock TV episode. He fit the bill well. Here, he is one of a number of, well, just as you said above. Definitely rewatchable.
OMG, Dean Stockwell appears in an even creepier role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Hour Long “Anabel.” (1962) I didn’t even remember him so very young. But because of his very particular acting affectation, I looked him up. And sure enough there he was.
Like many of my generation I discovered Dean Stockwell with Quantum Leap where he was absolutely great. So I like when I discover him in previous roles! I also like to watch this episode for the late actors I loved when I was young, like Patrick Mcnee. Robert Vaughn was also a fine, sophisticated character in this episode.
But once again, MeTV cut out that scene where Columbo is awakened by the crew member in the middle of the night, and he mistakenly thinks it’s because Mrs. Columbo got carried away that evening in the lounge (or something like that…I’m doing it from memory because they KEEP CUTTING IT OUT).
They really did. I’ve never seen that scene either, and I was watching for it this time because of all the comments.
But they also edited out even more than from the prior run on MeTV quite awhile ago. For example there was more footage to that swimming pool scene. More crowd shots. More time on the Shuffleboard sequence. I guess the editor figured nobody would miss that stuff. Except Columbo watchers are very observant! And everything matters!
Just watched this episode again and it’s even better the second time. The writing is superb!!
I like it because it’s a straight-up “Fox and Hound” duel between 2 quintessential actors with a great supporting cast for entertainment value! The setting is so defined (there’s only so much you can do with a ship, meaning as a public backdrop) that the point isn’t so much the “crime” (yawn, another crime) but how the sparks flow between PF & RV. They’re gunning for each other straight away. Both Falk and Vaughn have an amazing amount of acting experience (or instinct) so it’s enjoyable watching them play off of each other. Vaughn at only 10 years older than the MFU role, deftly caught in the Disco decade, doesn’t suffer for the wear. But only ages more gracefully.
The feather clue is not totally blind luck — Columbo picks up a feather when he first enters the murder room. The one he picks up in the hospital is the second one he comes across on the ship.
Picking up on the seemingly innocuous feather is what Columbo does because of who he is.
Yeah with clues like that, I always figure Columbo is baffled until there’s one particular thing that pulls it all together. Like .. what are the odds he’d come across 2 feathers on a Ship. Which automatically draws a tighter circle around all the possibilities. Of course the lipstick “L” pointed him in the direction of a setup. And the receipt sealed it. The rest was about turning those things into evidence, and very much without the convenience of lab work and other types of routine detective resources. (So the premise of the story was brilliant). I liked it best when RV realized a “police detective” was on board, which he’d never counted on!
Isn’t it odd that Danziger’s wife or any of his guests come to the hospital room or even send a card?
Michael, I honestly came to this episode list just now thinking isn’t it strange that his wife did not come to the ships hospital room to sit with him or just even visit her loving husband. I didn’t think about his guests visiting him until you wrote it here. Very good.
Well, a few things: First, Hayden was only in the hospital overnight. Second, we see how the doctor shoos Columbo away that visitors are discouraged. Third, because Hayden has the Captain’s ear, we can assume his wife is getting progress reports. Last, in theory she might have visited for a few minutes. It wasn’t relevant to the story so we’d never see it. Just in the same way we didn’t see Hayden on the toilet.
Do you think this subtle (and symbolic) “emotional fatality” (which the writers didn’t let slide) was to reinforce Columbo’s suspicions? Or to reinforce upon the viewer how unlikeable Danziger was?
I thought his wife was a very unlikeable character. Yes, I know her purpose. But (considering the likeability of RV in the eyes of his fans) she was an impossible target of Danziger’s affection because of her remoteness. So I think this detail was added motivation/explanation for Danziger’s original dalliance and subsequent crime. A counterpoint to RV’s natural charm and subtly.
Unlikely cards are necessary on a Ship’s cruise surrounded by (supposedly) familiar friends. Weren’t the guests Danziger’s workers anyway who’d probably socialized with him before?
Do re–watch the episode. There were many challengers involved in filming the cruise (rough water indeed). The actors were lured into doing the cruise (not only for compensation) but the fun of travel, stellar camaraderie and a chance to work with (and observe) Mr. Falk’s talent up close!
Bon Voyage Sunday Night!
The wife could have come to see him several times, it just wasn’t shown. After all, Danzinger had a full set of clothes when he left. The wife must have brought them.
Being the well-trained Columbo fans that we are, remember to never make assumptions. (IMO the wife was very close to being a bitch anyway. So no real love lost between them in spite of appearances). But not even related to that tip, Danziger could’ve asked the Purser to pick up something from his cabin to wear. Or even buy something new. They’d easily seen what he was wearing while he was moving around on the ship.
One of my favorite episodes despite the murder plot being way overly complicated and implausible. So many issues. Danziger having that level of knowledge of the ship. More critically, how would he be certain of the medical protocol? If they took his blood pressure every 15 minutes, the nurse sits facing his room, he is put to sleep with an IV, etc., it sinks everything. And if any passenger or crew member spotted him running about the ship, there goes the perfect crime. And how did he know the singer and piano player would be fighting? Still, Columbo is in great detective form and like has been said, it is so entertaining one overlooks the plot holes.
Actually, Danzinger did prepare for and had an encounter with a crew member while he was running about the ship. He obviously thought it a distinct possibility, so he planned for it by donning a crew member’s uniform and it worked when he was able to pass by one unrecognized. And he knew the singer and the piano player were on the outs because she ditched him for Danzinger on the last cruise and had been trying to break up with him ever since.
I don’t think what’s mentioned represent plot holes.
At some point regarding an episode, things need to be taken at face value, unless a counter point makes a direct contradiction. Just because we don’t “see” Danzinger “researching” the details of the Ship (logistics) or medical protocol, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the knowledge. Didn’t he take a cruise before? Also he’s most likely got a wide network of contacts and people to give him information. He’s pretty “charming” in terms of making conversation or small talk. So it’s a given that he’s timed everything out. And certainly knows about the previous affair between the singer and piano player. The Blood Pressure was taken every half hour. However it was a fortunate bit of luck the Nurse’s back was to his room, unless he’s observed her before. But as an alternative, he might’ve asked if his door could be (virtually) closed because her cigarette smoke was annoying. Who knows what other adjustments might’ve been made, as there’s always an explanation. Excellent writers always think through their stories, no matter what the running time permits in the final presentation.
…but I am afraid, nobody thought through the problem, on which part of Danzinger’s body the feather could have possibly stuck. After the shooting he changed clothes during his run up the crew stairway, so if not then, how on earth could the sticking feather fall down afterwards?
I’m not saying I endorse this explanation. But people are assuming it would’ve stuck to his clothing. Or in the cuff of a sleeve. But if I was a writer I’d counter with a floating feather (disturbed by the force of air generated by the gun) landing on the back of his hair or caught above his ear (please don’t laugh). Then stuck it just long enough due to the perspiration accumulated from his running up and down those stairs. And for that matter (I’ve always wondered) wouldn’t that extra, extraordinary, rapid exercise he took on the stairs be reflected in the sudden change in a blood pressure reading? Especially right after his return to the room (sans the tranquilizer he discarded which should’ve leveled his reading) showing a significant difference?
Feather or piece of foam?
Yes, Troubled Waters is a very enjoyable episode. The “feather” giveaway is also a fantastic plot device. Columbo always notices the small details and this was inevitable that only he would notice it and that it would bother him. A fantastic giveaway, that the Lieutenant would pick up on.
The final gotcha with Danzinger’s prints on the “inside” of the surgical gloves, after Columbo had told him, “ if I find the gloves, I’ll find the murderer” was too much bait for Robert Vaughn, he knew WHEN there would be a fire drill and knew they would be located.
This was excellent writing.
He fell into Columbo’s honey trap.
Also having taken the cruise many tines before, he would have studied the layout of the ship to perfection to formulate the perfect scheme.
Easily a TOP 10 episode.
Really enjoyed it.
I’d forgotten that Hayden Danziger tried to frame Lloyd Harrington! That makes Danziger a way less sympathetic a killer than I had previously thought. I don’t feel the slightest bit sorry for Rosanna Wells, but Lloyd was totally innocent. I’m glad he was exonerated and not also killed as so many patsies have been in other episodes!
I’m not sure if I like Columbo’s Hawaiian shirt or not. It’s a perfectly nice Hawaiian shirt, but it looks weird on him. I’m probably just not used to seeing him without his usual costume. It’s definitely better than the giant Hawaiian shirts he looks at in “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” though!
It’s kind of odd that Columbo solves a murder without ever speaking of a motive. I can’t remember any other episode where he doesn’t at least consider it or hint at it. Did I miss something in this episode? Did I nod off during that dialog?
He never discusses Paul Hanlon’s motive in Most Crucial Game, nor Dr Keppell’s in Double Exposure – convenient, because no motive is even apparent to the viewers in those ones.
Colombo doesnt discuss the motive in “Playback” either.
In this one he doesn’t discuss the motive, but it’s implied that he knows it. He learns that Danziger is the kind of man to be faithful and that the trip to Vagas may connect him to the murdered girl. In one scene he talks to Danziger’s wife about his trip to Vagas (where he goes with the murdered lady). From the scene Colombo learns that his wife is wealthy in her own right and that she would be unforgiving about his infidelity if she knew. So he suspects a motive.
There is another scene where Colombo shows a photo of Danziger to her ex-boyfriend asking if he’s seen him before implying that he suspects he may have been the man he was dumped for.
Definitely in my top 10. Vaughn’s performance was right up there with Jack Cassidy. A complete sin he was asked to play more Columbo villains.I agree with everything in this review except the part about the feather. I thought this was a brilliant plot device. Columbo picked up on the feather because that’s how his mind works; it didn’t belong and therefore that bothered him.
I’d love to know what Mrs Columbo does when she “gets carried away”. Given her – presumably – Italian roots, my guess is dancing on tables. This episode is a great antidote to those who say there was no Mrs Columbo. I love it when we see Columbo talk to her on the phone, there’s a sort of by-play between them which shows he has a real affection for her.
TOO MUCH COINCIDENCE!
Columbophile wrote: “And if I’m being ultra-critical of this episode (and that’s the point of these reviews), it’s the blind luck aspect of the crime solving that is a little hard to bear. A seasick Columbo spotting the feather outside Danziger’s hospital room is a bit of an easy way out. There are plenty of reasons to ultimately suspect Danziger, but they all stem from the pesky feather.”
But EVEN WORSE BLIND LUCK is the very premise of the episode, which I will call the Murder She Wrote Fallacy. (I know full well that the same series creators were later responsible for “Murder She Wrote.”)
What are the odds that a homicide detective would go on a cruise — only to encounter a homicide?
I so much prefer the usual format. Someone — we never know who — has summoned Columbo to a homicide. He is the imp of justice, the pesky hand of fate. And you will not escape him. SUCH a superior concept.
And, of course, his London and Mexico trips, respectively.
Believe me, I get that this place is for opinions! And everyone’s matters! Just that I happen to be a staunch defender of “Troubled Waters.”
In defense of the episode (and writers) the more complicated the Trouble Water’s crime might’ve been, would’ve added equal running time in trying to solve it. Every clue leads down a different rabbit hole. By definition however (and by choice) the cruise venue (and in fact, being on location) presented it’s own limitations! But more importantly was the opportunity for Columbo to use his unique crime solving skills, Which by necessity (premise wise) HAD to start with his own sense of intuition! Figuratively the feather clue wasn’t so much a “device” in itself, but the opportunity (a pointer) going between the suspect, and what would’ve taken Columbo probably the whole episode to track down. Which we know he would’ve done eventually, anyway. Otherwise the killer wouldn’t have been found, and then there’s no story at all. And that, was the box that the writer put himself into! The writer could’ve made the crime too easy with more obvious clues (including a lot of conversations with the passengers and crew, but which the Captain forbade anyway). Or instead, by letting the whole mystery circulate around in Columbo’s brain. And that, is what the writer chose to demonstrate about Columbo. As in, EVEN under the most dire of criminal situations, and a lack of access to his LAPD tools, Columbo will still prevail!
Now, thinking anything less, devalues the character himself, and his credibility, as so many, many successful criminal resolutions have demonstrated throughout the series. The writer is appealing (and rewarding) the die-hard fans who’ve already accepted his unique mental capability. And (after all) the episode is to give the fans (as well as the passengers) a little extra fun! It’s no accident that Robert Vaughn was chosen to be the villain on this cruise! What better, more beloved character actor than charming, suave, smooth Robert Vaughn to turn into a hateful villain. And an adversary against Columbo (and speaking actor-wise, against Peter Falk). And so the story starts from that very point. The running time (of the episode) was constructed simply to be a “cat and mouse” game between the two. Who were acting contemporaries, very experienced “working actors” who understood the nuances of their roles! The episode was a treat showing their acting chemistry. And (perhaps) offering the viewer a “vacation” too from tougher crime mysteries! Hey, it’s a vacation after all! An escape!
So it’s an invitation to just relax and enjoy the cruise!!! 😉
Just a friendly exchange! No attempt to change your mind, is not the point. In a way, here’s the analogy to your preference. That we shouldn’t see Perry Mason outside of his formulaic courtroom drama. Normal routine: client requests PM services, he investigate innocence, establishes legal presentation, and wins. We never question it happening 8 seasons. Yet, PM does visit friends, goes to hunting & fishing resorts, never with any intention of picking up a case. (Especially in the movie version). He’s just there, and circumstances involve him anyway. The enjoyment is the same. Columbo’s power of observation, regarding clues and human nature. He’s a genuis in that area. Cruising with the wife wasn’t farfetched, anymore than a crime happening. Life & leisure is unpredicable. That’s the reality. “Troubled Waters” is unabashedly a “vacation” especially for the viewers. Or they would’ve been no need to film at sea. Which was an enormous production challenge! In this episode, viewers are treated like guests. Invited to put away the usual hard work (of guessing at clues in their mind). Sit back, watch and enjoy the view. There was no accident to casting both the Singer and Robert Vaughn (easy on the eyes, RV only 10 years older than his iconic fame). IMO, the intensity of the musical number, the song and the lyrics, which so draws the fictitious audience into their own imagination (of romance and sexual attraction). Is the cue for the viewers to surrender a bit of rationale too. Just to see what happens. And what happens, is the chemistry, of all those great actors in that episode.
Absolutely. There’s a similar scene in “Exercise in Fatality”. He phones his wife from Stafford’s office shortly after arriving at the murder scene. During the conversation, he discusses that evening’s dinner with her.
The impression gleaned in both these episodes (together with the hundreds of allusions in the other episodes) suggests, compellingly, that Columbo loves his wife very much. He’s a very compassionate, sensitive and understanding husband who does everything to accommodate her idiosyncrasies. He also loves her family very much.