Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 4

Episode review: Columbo Troubled Waters

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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… Troubled Waters cast

Dramatis personae

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!
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The Danzigers came in fancy dress for the Mexican cruise

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…
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Hell hath no fury and all that…

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.
Columbo Troubled Waters

Arrrrgh! MY HEART!

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.
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That’s one way to put a stop to Volare

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 (AgadooItsy 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.
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Lloyd’s hair-moustache-eyebrows combo give him trouble enough WITHOUT framing him for murder, too…

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!
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Danziger falls for Columbo’s trap – hook, line and sinker!

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?”
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Up yours, Mr Danziger!

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

Volare 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.
columbo fashion robert vaughan

Careful you don’t cut yourself on those collars, Mr Danziger!

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.
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A tad far-fetched? The tiny feather that caught Columbo’s eye

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.
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HAIR-RAISING times on the high seas

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.

Macnee and Fox make for the most British of guest stars

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.
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Back to basics: Columbo employs traditional detecting techniques to crack the case

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.
  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Publish or Perish
  3. Double Shock
  4. Murder by the Book
  5. Negative Reaction
  6. A Friend in Deed
  7. Death Lends a Hand
  8. A Stitch in Crime
  9. Double Exposure
  10. Lady in Waiting
  11. Troubled Waters
  12. Any Old Port in a Storm
  13. Prescription: Murder ——– A-List ends here—
  14. An Exercise in Fatality
  15. Swan Song
  16. The Most Crucial Game
  17. Etude in Black
  18. By Dawn’s Early Light
  19. Candidate for Crime
  20. Greenhouse Jungle
  21. Requiem for a Falling Star
  22. Blueprint for Murder
  23. Ransom for a Dead Man —– B-List ends here—
  24. Dead Weight
  25. The Most Dangerous Match
  26. Lovely but Lethal ———— C-List ends here—-
  27. Short Fuse
  28. Mind Over Mayhem
  29. 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.
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To summon an emergency hairdresser to your cabin, PUSH THE RED BUTTON.

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132 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Troubled Waters

  1. 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.

    • 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….

  2. 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.

    • 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!

    • 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.


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