Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 5

Episode review: Columbo Now You See Him

Columbo Now You See Him opening titles

ALAKAZAM! As if by magic, master villain Jack Cassidy returned to give Columbo‘s fifth season a much-needed boost in the illusion-packed Now You See Him on 29 February 1976.

The presence of Cassidy as The Great Santini, the return of Sergeant Wilson and the unique and mysterious backdrop of the Cabaret of Magic help Now You See Him stand tall in the memory. But is the end result as good as the ingredients itself? Or to put it another way, is this a water tank illusion of an episode, or merely a simple card trick?

Let’s don our most luxurious capes, twirl our moustaches and bust out of some unbreakable handcuffs as we investigate…

Columbo Now You See Him cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
The Great Santini: Jack Cassidy
Sergeant Wilson: Bob Dishy
Jesse Jerome: Nehemiah Persoff
Harry Blandford: Robert Loggia
Della Santini: Cynthia Sikes
Danny Green: Patrick Culliton
Michael Lally: Mike Lally
Thackery (waiter): George Sperdakos
Dog: As himself
Written by: Michael Sloan
Directed by: Harvey Hart
Score by: Bernardo Segall
Notable locations: Cabaret of Magic (Magic Castle, 7001 Franklin Ave, Los Angeles)

Episode synopsis: Columbo Now You See Him

Jesse Jerome, owner of the Cabaret of Magic, has a hold over his star act, the globally renowned Great Santini. Only Jerome knows Santini used to be a Nazi SS guard by the name of Stefan Mueller. And when Santini refuses to play ball with Jerome’s demands for a bigger slice of his earnings, Jerome vows to send proof of Mueller’s identity to the Department of Immigration.

Now You See Him Santini poster

I’ll pay any amount of money for the original copy of this poster!

Santini isn’t going to take this threat lying down, so he concocts a brilliant murder scheme and puts it into action during his own live stage show, when he’s supposedly suspended in a locked case inside a glass tank of water.

Actually safely in his dressing room below the stage, having slipped out of the case’s false bottom, the wicked wizard applies a wig and false moustache and dons a waiter’s uniform enabling him to blend in with the throng of kitchen staff above. He also has a small earpiece and microphone enabling him to speak to the waiter who’s brought him his nightly brandy and create the illusion of being in the dressing room when he was really stalking his prey.

A sweaty Jerome is in his upstairs office, counting the nightly takings and swigging Campari. We can see he’s just finished typing his letter to send to the Department of Immigration and is ready to cook Santini’s goose. The ace escape artist has other ideas, though. Picking the supposedly unpickable new lock Jerome just had fitted to his office door, he slips easily inside. Alerted by a slight noise, Jerome comes to check and with one shot from a silenced gun, his career as a professional money grabber is over.

Columbo The Great Santini

Master of illusion, master of disguise, master marksman – is there anything Santini doesn’t excel at?

Leaving the gun on the floor and pocketing the incriminating evidence (which he later burns below stage), Santini slips effortlessly back to his dressing room and – lo and behold – is back on stage having amazed the crowd at the conclusion of his water tank escape just as Jerome’s body is found. Now that’s what you call a watertight alibi (chuckles for several minutes at own hilarity).

LAPD’s finest soon gather at the Cabaret of Magic, including one Lieutenant Columbo. He’s not looking quite the same as usual, though, as he’s sporting a new, dark brown raincoat – an unwanted gift from his wife. Upon arriving at the scene, Columbo learns that a Sergeant John J. Wilson is the officer in charge – the same Sergeant Wilson he worked with in Greenhouse Jungle (albeit having changed his first name from Freddie at some point in between).

It doesn’t initially appear that Wilson has learnt much in the intervening years, as it’s Columbo, as usual, who’s noticing things the others aren’t. For one thing, why is Jerome’s lower back so sweaty? And doesn’t the position of the corpse suggest that Jerome was walking towards the door when he was killed? He didn’t open the door, because he’d have been closer to it. Was he surprised by an intruder? The plot thickens when close examination of the door lock reveals scratch marks. It was picked!

Wandering around near the stage downstairs, Columbo is accosted by Santini, who is keen to avoid nosy parkers learning his secrets. He reveals to the detective (far too readily) that the killing must have taken place while he was suspended in the tank of water. He promises to help with any queries the Lieutenant has – but he’ll stop short of spilling the beans on his world-famous illusions.

Columbo Now You See Him new coat

Friends reunited: Columbo and Wilson tag team again after a 3-year hiatus

Columbo is back at the Cabaret of Magic the next day and enjoys the privilege of seeing Santini practising his act up close. He again attempts to find out more about Santini’s whereabouts at the precise time of Jerome’s death, claiming he needs the info to satisfy his superior. Santini doesn’t fall for it. He’ll only reveal his whereabouts if the law absolutely requires it further down the track. But give away his secret to Columbo now? “My dear friend, I’d rather confess to a murder than to do that.”

What the detective does leave with, though, is an invite to watch Santini’s live act that evening and with that in mind he heads straight to the locksmith to make a special request: he needs a set of handcuffs made using the unpickable lock from Jerome’s office door. And he needs it ahead of tonight’s show!

“Columbo plays his own trump card by challenging Santini to break out of his new unbreakable cuffs in front of a live audience.”

We subsequently find out Columbo’s need for urgency. During Santini’s show, the Lieutenant races up on stage to ‘volunteer’ to assist the great magician in his act. And after being dazzled by an array of card tricks, Columbo plays his own trump card by challenging Santini to break out of his new unbreakable cuffs in front of a live audience.

Unable to refuse, Santini does what he does best – and promptly escapes from the cuffs to the delight of the boozy crowd. Columbo winks at him. “I knew you could do it,” he says, a sly smile on his face. He has the proof he needs that Santini could have picked Jerome’s office lock. The magic man is Columbo’s new prime suspect – even more so when he bustles downstairs during Santini’s water tank illusion to find the magician in his dressing room – and expecting the Lieutenant’s visit.

While this proves Santini had the opportunity to kill Jerome, there’s a complication. Santini has a brandy delivered to him at precisely the same time every night. When Columbo finds the waiter, Thackery, who delivered it the night before, the guy states with certainty that Santini was in his dressing room, because he spoke to him and could see him moving around (another illusion, created by a revolving lamp).

He explains that Santini played a mind trick on him, correctly guessing the number he was thinking of. He does admit that he didn’t see Santini with his own eyes but would swear it was his voice he could hear.

Columbo Now You See Him Robert Loggia

Harry Blandford’s mother actually did storm the Cabaret kitchen to plant a smacker on him upwards of a dozen times and he never knew it

Columbo also chats to Harry Blandford (Robert Loggia – wooohooooo!), Jerome’s business partner, who tells him that the kitchen is so hectic every night that he wouldn’t notice if his own “mother came in here and kissed me.” This interests the Lieutenant, as it suggests that Santini could have snuck through the kitchen unheeded on his way to Jerome’s office to commit a killing.

One thing Columbo needs to do is improve his knowledge of illusions, so he visits a magic store and speaks to the sinister-looking owner, who proves to be most helpful. He suggests that it would be perfectly possible to appear to be somewhere you’re not through use of a concealed microphone and speaker. Such know-how is common in the trade and is widely used by the ‘gaff in the head act’ – a mind-reading stunt carried out by two people, one on stage and one roaming the audience (the gaff).

Further strength to Columbo’s suspicions comes when he chats to down-on-his-luck former high wire ace Michael Lally (played by series regular Mike Lally) who has known Santini for years under several different guises. He confirms that Santini used to be the gaff in a head act, so he’d be completely au fait with use of concealed microphones and radio transmitters. By now Columbo has all he needs against Santini – except a motive.

We don’t have to wait long for that. Catching up with Wilson at police HQ, Columbo notices a colleague at the water fountain has a damp lower back – just like Jerome did on the night of his death. Sweaty guy had been sitting in a low-backed chair, so the two detectives head back to the Cabaret of Magic to give Jerome’s office another once over.

The one chair that fits the bill is a leather chair near the typewriter. There had been reading glasses on Jerome’s desk, suggesting he could have been typing, but there was no paper in the typewriter, nor any typed documents to be found. Closer inspection of the typewriter itself yields the key clue. It’s a very modern machine (as Wilson is happy to demonstrate), in which a golf ball-like device revolves and punches individual letters out of a disposable carbon ribbon. Everything that has been typed on the machine can be read back on the carbon ribbon.

Columbo Now You See Him typewriter

Wilson’s mad typing skillz ultimately cracked the case

Later that night, Columbo and Wilson put their sting operation into play. Tricking Santini into heading up to Jerome’s office, they use radio equipment to suggest they’re inside and on the cusp of proving the magician’s guilt. Taking flight downstairs, Santini is confronted by Columbo and Wilson who reveal that their voice-throwing trick was a copy of the one Santini himself used when killing Jerome and chatting to the waiter.

Better yet, they have established a motive for the crime. Jerome’s letter to the Department of Immigration, identifying Santini as ex-Nazi Stefan Mueller, is in Columbo’s hand. Taking the letter, Santini works his magic and – FOOM – it’s sent up in smoke before anyone can stop him.

Columbo, however, was well prepared for just such an act of sabotage. Performing some sleight of hand of his own, he produces another copy of the letter from a pocket. Then another. And another. Wilson does the same. The quarterback is toast!

“And I thought I’d performed the perfect murder,” whispers the dumb-struck Santini. “Perfect murder, sir?” Columbo responds. “Oh, I’m sorry there is no such thing as a perfect murder. That’s just an illusion.” Santini takes one last look around the Cabaret of Magic before police escort him off the premises, as credits roll…

Columbo Now You See Him closing titles

The Great Santini: now appearing nightly at Alcatraz Jail

Now You See Him‘s best bit: where the magic happens

The entire scene of Columbo volunteering to assist Santini during his live act is TV gold. So determined is he to get on stage and test the magician’s lock-picking skills that Columbo virtually storms the stage, giving Santini no option but to accept his presence – a decision that plays a big part in sealing his own fate.

The array of card tricks Santini plays on Columbo is delightful in itself, but the piece de resistance is the tense build-up (complete with cliche-licious drum roll) to Santini escaping from the unbreakable handcuffs. As the camera draws in on Columbo’s face the jollity has gone, replaced by a grim and intense satisfaction as his hunch that Santini could have picked the lock on Jerome’s office door is proved right.

Columbo Now You See Him handcuffs montage

Gotcha mate!

It all ends with a sly wink from detective to magician and the simple line: “I knew you could do it.” From this point on, you just know there’s no way Santini’s going to elude the detective’s clutches – whether he’s a master of escapology or not.

My views on Now You See Him

If ever a Columbo episode was bound to live long in the memory, it was destined to be Now You See Him. The magical setting, the fun of the tricks and illusions, the great humour throughout, the return of Sergeant Wilson, a Dog cameo, a speaking part for Mike Lally and the series’ swan song for Jack Cassidy, Now You See Him ticks so many boxes that your pen will run dry long before the end.

But there’s more to the success of this episode than merely the feel-good factor, for this is a terrifically plotted, scripted, directed, acted and paced episode that’s as good to watch the 100th time round as it is the first.

Columbo Jack Cassidy Now You See Him

Santini: a mystery wrapped in an enigma stuffed in a water-tight tank

Yet at its heart there is true darkness, with The Great Santini desperate to hide his shadowy past as Nazi SS Guard Stefan Mueller and – just as heinously – Jesse Jerome profiting from this through extortion. It’s interesting that Jewish actor Nehemiah Persoff was cast as the ghastly Jerome, the suggestion being that Jerome himself may be a Jew protecting a Nazi for financial gain – an unconscionable act by anyone’s reckoning.

That the episode manages to tread the line so effectively between darkness and light is to the eternal credit of writer Michael Sloan, story consultants Peter S Fischer and William Driskill, director Harvey Hart (here helming his fourth and final Columbo) and a magnificent ensemble cast, who all rise to the occasion.

Jack Cassidy plays the role of Santini with suitable gusto. He’s more reserved than raging force of energy Riley Greenleaf in Publish or Perish, less mischievous than Ken Franklin in Murder by the Book, but the trademark winning smile, the nonchalance and the underlying icy interior that Cassidy does so well are all present and correct. In short, everything he does screams charisma.

“Now You See Him ticks so many boxes that your pen will run dry long before the end.”

Cassidy deserves plaudits for his sleight of hand skillz, too. He really does a very commendable job at performing the tricks and illusions. Detractors of this episode grumble that the nature of the tricks Santini displays (card tricks, hankies from pockets, doves out of thin air etc) are a bit entry level for such a globally renowned magician. I beg to differ. I think it’d be absolutely terrific, akin to watching a master like Houdini up close and personal showcasing the building blocks of his trade. Kudos to real-life TV illusionist Mark Wilson, whom I believe showed Cassidy the ropes and was on set to oversee the quality of the tricks was suitably high.

Columbo The Great Santini

I’d happily watch Santini perform card tricks ALL YEAR LONG!

Cassidy and Peter Falk have incredible rapport, so it’s little surprise to find Falk on sizzling form, too. The presence of Cassidy always seems to give him a little extra, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that he puts in his most watchable performance of the season here. Of particular note is the extended scene where Columbo assists Santini on stage – a scene I imagine was largely ad libbed. From his eager volunteering and his genuine excitement at being on stage to the knowing wink after Santini breaks out of the specially prepared cuffs, we’re watching two masters at work here and it’s so enjoyable.

Columbo’s interactions with Sergeant Wilson are also supremely entertaining. Bob Dishy was a great pal of Falk’s and the two are having a great time during the ample screen time they share. Three years on from his debut in Greenhouse Jungle, we can see that Wilson hasn’t progressed as far as we might have hoped. He’s a diligent officer but lacks a spark of brilliance.

Despite his assertion that “I’ve gained a lot of experience since our last case”, poor Wilson is leagues behind the good Lieutenant. Columbo immediately dismisses the Sergeant’s suggestion that cabaret singer Danny Green is a viable suspect. He’s looking for someone who can pick an unpickable lock, which naturally makes the magician the chief suspect. This reality has eluded the hapless Wilson, who has discounted Santini because he naively believes he really was suspended in a  tank of water at the time of Jerome’s death. Oh, Wilson

Still, although Wilson may not himself be luminous, he is a conductor of light. Little wonder that Santini refers to him as ‘Dr Watson’ at one stage. Indeed, it’s Wilson’s knowledge and appreciation of Jerome’s state-of-the-art typewriter and its carbon ribbon that ultimately solves the case.

Columbo Sergeant Wilson Now You See Him

Wilson – I LOVE YOU!

Not that Wilson realises his contribution. After bolting out ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party’ on the ‘beautiful machine’, Wilson is up on his feet and ready to get back to work. Only Columbo sees the significance of the typed words being immortalised on the disposable ribbon, but he couldn’t have done it without his lovable sidekick.

So, yes, I adore Wilson! And I do find it a bit of a shame that we never encounter him again. I think one more appearance in the 70s’ series would have been fitting without over-egging the pudding. Or better yet, how about having him return in the 80s/90s a couple of times as a Captain to show his career progression? That would have been such a treat for long-time fans that I’m rather sad that it never happened. Still, I digress…

In Cassidy and Dishy, we have two actors that Falk loved being around, and who helped him deliver outstanding and rib-tickling performances. A third person who fits into that category is perennial series extra, Mike Lally – a man Falk loved having on set.

Beloved by serious fans, Lally racked up at least 23 appearances in the 70s – usually as a background extra with very few spoken lines. Here we’re treated to an extended scene of Lally (playing a former high wire act going by the name of Michael Lally) conversing with Columbo at his run-down apartment – and it’s terrific.

Columbo Mike Lally Now You See Him

Lally was naked beneath his dressing gown. Jus’ sayin’

Lally knows Santini from decades before when they trod the circuit together. He’s able to provide useful information about Santini’s changing accents and identities, although he doesn’t know anything about his original identity. He’s helpful to a point, but the beauty of the scene really lies in what it shows us about the real Columbo.

Lally is clearly down on his luck. He lives in a dive and has to share toilets and showers with other tenants. All he owns in the apartment is his TV and the hotplate. His final years on this earth look bleak and lonely – a far cry from the life in the spotlight he once knew. Yet Columbo makes him feel like the place he’s in is a palace, not a slum, sharing a beer with Lally and displaying his rare gift of being able to connect with and put at ease people from all walks of life. It’s superb stuff.

Also worthy of praise is the episode’s on-going gag about Columbo’s hated new coat, which is a stroke of genius. From the moment of his introduction in it, when a fellow officer says he looks different and Columbo replies “I’ve had a haircut”, the coat is used as a device to tickle the audience – and it really works.

We’re so used to seeing him in the crumpled, beige mac that it’s almost an affront to see him smartly attired in a stiff and starchy new garment. Columbo seems to think so, too. “The coat! I CAN’T THINK IN THE COAT!” he seethes early on, tearing it off, before doing his best to lose it throughout the episode – even telling Dog to look the other way if someone tries to lift it through the open window of his car.

Falk himself was a big fan of the coat joke, telling Mark Dawidziak in The Columbo Phile book that: “The new coat made him very uncomfortable and self-conscious. It was a brilliant idea.” It’s part of the reason why Falk rated Now You See Him as one of his very favourite episodes.

Columbo Now You See Him new coat

Columbo’s new ‘haircut’ sent shock waves through the LAPD

The gotcha itself is another hugely memorable aspect of the entertainment, and one that the majority of fans rate extremely highly. I’m one of them, although it’s a bit ‘showy’ by Columbo standards. For the majority of the 70s’ series, the earthy Lieutenant didn’t need to indulge in unnecessary theatrics to prove a point. Such antics were mostly (although not exclusively – see Case of Immunity and A Matter of Honor) reserved for the comeback episodes of the 80s and 90s.

Still, the magic setting is so infectious that who could blame the writers for letting the Lieutenant exhibit a little showboating of his own to let Santini see that he’s not the only one capable of pulling the wool over people’s eyes? Not me…

Elsewhere, special mention goes to Nehemiah Persoff for giving us a truly odious and unsympathetic victim in Jesse Jerome. I’m not one to root for former SS guards, but Jerome certainly deserved his comeuppance. In a small role, Robert Loggia also brings the surly impatience required of him as the Cabaret’s junior partner Harry Blandford. Loggia has a menace to him that could have made him an interesting murderer for the series, although he’s perhaps a bit earthy to offer a really good contrast to Falk in the way Cassidy does.

Still, and rather like Santini’s failed attempt at murder, Now You See Him isn’t perfect. For all the intrigue of the illusory world we’re cast into, there’s little mystery about the culprit. As soon as Columbo learns the office door lock was picked, Santini is his only viable suspect. Even without the Immigration Department letter, the Lieutenant is able to prove method and opportunity, so Santini wasn’t nearly as clever as he thought he was.

Columbo Now You See Him gotcha

Perfect murder? Hardly. Santini’s trail was too easy to track down

In both of Cassidy’s other outings (Publish or Perish, Murder by the Book) there’s much more room to doubt his guilt, which makes Columbo’s unravelling of the crimes and chasing down of his quarry more of a challenge. However, Now You See Him has a better pay-off than both those earlier episodes, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

I also feel that the writers missed a fine opportunity to inject some genuine emotion into the finale, which could have effectively ended the episode on a heart-wrenching note akin to that seen in Season 4’s Playback.

Columbo Della Santini

For she’s a jolly good Della *groans*

Santini’s own daughter, Della, is an integral part of his act – yet their on-screen relationship is seriously under-cooked. One must assume that she has unconditional love for her father and is young enough to know nothing about his life as a Nazi. Having her present at the gotcha, and witnessing everything she knows fade away in front of her eyes, just like one of Santini’s illusions, could have been extremely powerful.

Given the darkness of Santini’s past and his motive for killing, I think such an ending would have been appropriate to add some gravitas and sobriety to the levity of the gotcha scene.

Della’s small role also plays into an unwelcome theme of Season 5 of there being few strong, memorable female characters. Grace Wheeler from Forgotten Lady aside, there hasn’t been a pivotal female character to speak of. Aside from her bewitching good looks, Della Santini joins that unenviable list when she could have been a really interesting addition to the series. C’est la vie.

Still, when an episode’s this good and this entertaining, it’s hard to hold too much against its creators. While I personally rate this as the least of Cassidy’s three episodes, that’s simply because I nominally prefer Publish or Perish and Murder by the Book to it, rather than it having any glaring faults of its own. It’s Season 5’s standout episode by a country mile and right up there with the series’ very best outings. I don’t even need to complain about its longer running time, due to its sensational pacing. That really is magic!

Did you know?

Columbo Now You See Him Jack Cassidy

Shadows and light: Jack Cassidy’s luminosity was extinguished far too soon

We’ll never know if Jack Cassidy would have reappeared for one more outing as a Columbo killer in seasons 6 or 7 due to his death 10 months after Now You See Him aired.

The details of his death in a house fire, which he appears to have unwittingly started in a drunken slumber, make for grim reading and represent a truly tragic way for Cassidy to exit stage left. He had just five more acting credits to his name after this appearance – four of which came posthumously.

Now You See Him is a suitable send-off for one of Columbo‘s most admired and beloved guest stars, and the one who set the benchmark against which all other killers are compared.

How I rate ’em

A hugely enjoyable romp, Now You See Him is fabulous entertainment. It has so many memorable aspects that it’s easy to see why it ranks so highly with series’ aficianados and newcomers alike. As is the case with all Jack Cassidy episodes, I love it and could happily watch it any day of the week. While some readers may be disappointed to see it outside my top 5, the margins between every episode in the current top 10 are wafer thin, so rest assured I rate it extremely highly.

Feel the need to revisit previous episode reviews? Then click on 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. Now You See Him
  10. Double Exposure
  11. Lady in Waiting
  12. Troubled Waters
  13. Any Old Port in a Storm
  14. Prescription: Murder 
  15. A Deadly State of Mind —B-List starts here—
  16. An Exercise in Fatality
  17. Identity Crisis
  18. Swan Song
  19. The Most Crucial Game
  20. Etude in Black
  21. By Dawn’s Early Light
  22. Candidate for Crime
  23. Greenhouse Jungle
  24. Playback
  25. Forgotten Lady
  26. Requiem for a Falling Star
  27. Blueprint for Murder
  28. Ransom for a Dead Man 
  29. A Case of Immunity
  30. Dead Weight —–C-List starts here——
  31. The Most Dangerous Match
  32. Lovely but Lethal 
  33. Short Fuse ———-D-List starts here—-
  34. A Matter of Honor
  35. Mind Over Mayhem
  36. Dagger of the Mind

Thanks for reading, and do let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments section. The rollercoaster ride of episode reviews continues very soon with Season 5 finale Last Salute to the Commodore. Does this represent a thrilling high or a devastating low? My friends, all will soon be revealed.

“Now You See Him is a suitable send-off for one of Columbo‘s most admired and beloved guest stars.”

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Escape THAT, Santini!

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153 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Now You See Him

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  4. My observations:
    1) Columbo struggles with the position of the body and how was he shot in the front for several minutes. Why couldn’t he open the door, take a handful of steps in — turn to talk to the shooter who then shoots him in the front? I would’ve thought of that before thinking he got up.
    2) Funny, how in the lab with the locksmith/scientist guy they have all those tubes with mysterious bubbling fluids… just so stereotypical & funny to me that any lab must have bubbling tubes to equate “science.”

    One of the better episodes. Cassidy was a very good actor, a troubled man in his personal life, but a solid actor.

  5. This is definitely one of the better “mid series”‘ episodes. I enjoyed Jack Cassidy a lot and found the character interesting and sympathetic. I also liked Wilson, dog, the coat joke etc. However, I thought the magic show was a bit cheesy and could have been shorter. That said, I’m watching the best of the ABC episodes and it is depressing as hell. The dialog, the acting, the plots, the guest stars can’t hold a candle to this episode. It’s just painful.

    • I don’t have much sympathy for Santini, yes he was painted into a corner, but he also used to oversee people being people put into ovens. But he is interesting. What I find amusing that you alluded to, is the magic itself. Santini is not just Santini, but the GREAT Santini. We are told that he is “The cream of the cream” (in the opinion of a slum-dweller anyway), and that his magic is second to none. But, the actual tricks he deploys are some of the simplest, dime-store magic tricks that are used to amuse kids at birthday parties. That anyone was fooled by his “You are thinking of a number” mentalist trick is probably the weakest element of an otherwise really fun episode.

  6. 2 takes on today’s viewing (again) on this gem of an episode,

    The looks being giving to each other when trying to get off the handcuffs… that is PRICELESS… and the ever-so-subtle… “I knew you could do it” (with a wink) at the Cabaret Of Magic

    Also, I love how Santini signs the Guest Check (with his side piece) with a “pencil”, not a penbefore Columbo sits down… too funny

  7. I can’t believe there was no mention of Thayer David (Dark Shadows) as the magic shoppe dude!!! For Shame!!!

    • As a Dark Shadows fan from way back, Thayer David was one of my favorite actors and possibly the best actor on that show, playing several roles, all very different from each other. He later also appeared in Rocky and the Jack Lemmon movie Save the Tiger as the arsonist. I wish he had done more before his death.

  8. I LOVE this episode. Entertaining from beginning to end. I love the interplay between Falk and Cassidy. Here are my highlights:
    *Never since the Volare scene in Troubled Waters has a lounge singer been so wonderfully, dreadfully, cringey.
    *Columbo, in his new raincoat, reminds me of those videos of people putting socks on their cats and watching them walk around, uncomfortably tortured.
    *When Santini picks the lock on Columbo’s handcuffs and Columbo looks him in the eye and says, “I knew you could do it.” He even winks!
    *I love Sgt. Wilson and wish he were in more episodes.
    (I loved learning that Sgt. Wilson is married to Jennifer of the Jungle on The Electric Company, who I thought was married to Paul the gorilla. I was a weird kid.)
    *I like saying Nehemiah Persoff out loud.
    *The hand guillotine scene. Columbo is SO adorable!
    *”I’m gonna leave this coat in the car. If somebody tries to lift it, you look the other way.”
    *Sgt. Wilson is so pleased that he impressed Columbo with his typing. In that one moment in time, someone sharing the screen with Columbo is cuter than he.
    *Columbo softens towards Wilson and lets him in on the “gotcha”.
    *”There’s no such thing as a perfect murder. That’s just…an illusion.”

    • yes they are all very good moments which top episodes like now you see him , Try and catch me , Negative Reaction , swan song and The Bye- Bye IQ murder and so on have thaat make them great , poorer episodes such as Dead weight , Murder under Glass , Short fuse and Lovely but lethal are very watchable but just dont have these moments .

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  11. Is that Suzanne Pleshette, of season one’s “Dead Weight”, wearing a hat in the audience during the fatal show?

  12. Pingback: Columbo episode review: Last Salute to the Commodore | The Columbophile

  13. A favourite episode, and I needn’t detail why because it’s all in your review (the scene in Lally’s room especially). I must say my favourite bit is the magic shop. I’ve always looked out for Thayer David after seeing him play the villain in “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” in the 50’s (eating a pet duck called Gertrude, what a fiend!). His line: “Ah, dear Jesse. To know him was to detest him” is a classic in my book.

  14. One of my all-time favorites, for all the reasons you mention, in your great summary. To me the only shortcoming is the ending, because it lacks the classic Columbo “trap”, or brilliant deduction, or psychological ploy to turn the killer’s own arrogance or psychopathy against him, which we expect of the best episodes (even if there are lots of other good episodes that don’t really have such endings). Instead, it’s a physical clue that, really, the crime scene guys should have thought of (as in “Try and Catch Me,” another episode I otherwise love). Still, there are plenty of great deductions here (the initial investigation scene, reconstructing the whole scenario from body position and a damp shirt), and a true Columbo classic, the “I knew you could do it” trick. But mainly I love it for the sneering villainy (who else but Cassidy could pull off lines like “My DEAH good maan…”), the killer’s true evil and Columbo’s way of dealing with him. And as you point out….the Mike Lally scene!

  15. I’ve been looking forward to The Columbophile’s review of “Last Salute to the Commodore” for a long time. I’d agree that it was probably the worst episode of the NBC run, but a genuinely fascinating one, in that they obviously wanted to do something different and tweak the usual “Columbo” formula.

    As far as this one goes, agreed that it is one of the standout episodes of the NBC run. One can understand why they didn’t want to give Columbo a partner but Sgt. Wilson *does* bring something to the episode with his Dr. Watson cluelessness. I like how in this episode the bad guy has an alibi (the magic trick) and an alibi within the alibi (well fine, he wasn’t in the water tank, he was in his dressing room!).

    Finally, Cynthia Sikes was one of the sexiest “Columbo” guest stars ever, along with the photographer from that Patrick McGoohan-Leslie Nielsen episode, Kim Cattrall in an episode near the end of the run, and the unfortunate chanteuse who gets murdered in the cruise ship episode. (I’m terrible with titles.)

    • The patrick Mc goohan Leslie Nielsen episode is Identity Crisis 1975 which has recently been reviewed, dont know about the middle one I need more info and the girl who was murdered in the cruise ship was Rosanna wells The episode being
      Troubled waters also 1975 , two of my overall favorite episodes .

      • Oh yes, “Troubled Waters”, that was a good one. I enjoyed how Mrs. Columbo was actually there, on the scene, and we still never saw her.

        Just looked it up and the Kim Cattrall episode was “How to Dial a Murder”, which was the next-to-last episode of the NBC run.

        • Yes I remember now , I haven’t seen how to dial a murder for quite a while as it dosent get aired as much on 5 USA as other episodes , Its not one of my all time favorite episodes but its still a very watchable and decent outing , I like to think of it as somewhere in the middle of my 1970s ratings .

    • The photographer in “Identity Crisis” (with Patrick McGoohan and Leslie Nielsen) was the lovely and talented Barbara Rhoades. She made a lot of TV appearances, and was a regular on Soap, if I remember right.

  16. This is in my top five Columbo shows. It was so good and Jack Cassidy was terrific. It’s his best Columbo episode. The ending was perfect. Dog was especially good in his role. Did he ever win an Emmy? Ha ha. If only he had lost that coat.

    • yes I agree when I reconsider, I think Now you see him is my favorite Jack Cassidy episode 2nd being publish or perish and 3rd murder by the book .

  17. It’s amazing that this was filmed 30 years or so after WWII ended. Which wasn’t that long ago to be honest during the release of this. There’s one thing that I’ve always wondered about this episode. When Jerome mentions to Santini that he (or they) are/is the only one that knows about Santini’s past after the old man died. Does anyone ever wonder how the old man died? They never say and there’s no indication that Jerome found his death suspicious. But I always think that Santini had a hand in his death. Maybe he found a way to make it seem like he died from a heart attack. And his death was never questioned. I wouldn’t put it past Santini. Oh another thing is when Columbo and Wilson do the voice thing near the end. I always thought it never sounded like Wilson. Maybe because it was a voice recording. I don’t know. Thought it was weird. lol The whole thing with the coat. I loved it! I actually liked the coat but it was so not for Columbo. lol The scene with Michael Lally was so sad. Anyway, great episode. I watch it everytime it’s on. Thanks for the review!

    • The voice could have been Danny Green’s, the boyfriend, who got a nice part as witness to the takedown. Although he’s there when Della isn’t, it’s nice he can watch the condescending Santini go down.

      • That could be it. But then I swore I though Columbo said something to the effect of it was “me and Wilson”. But it sure didn’t sound like him so I’d believe it eas Green’s more than Wilson. Thank you, Audrey! 👍🏾😊

  18. Great review Columbophile , I just watched Now you see him in full yesterday on you tube and I thoroughly enjoyed it , The intro music is good and same music at the credits
    there dont seem to be any obvious flaws with this episode , maybe the contrast in size between the lock on the door and the handcuffs but that s only very minor ,
    Maybe not as funny as some other episodes but it has its little moments ,
    The Handcuff escape at the club scene is clearly the episodes stand out moment/scene
    Columbo says I knew you could do it and winks is one of my favorite scenes , It was sergeant Wilson who ultimately cracked the case with his knowledge of typewriters the end scene could have slightly been improved maybe made more emotional but columbophile has already mentioned this with his daughter present at the arrest Reminiscing of Elizabeths tear stains in playback ,
    However The episode is very good on the whole and thoroughly deserves its position at 9th although i f it was me I would have it rated higher than Double shock and death lends a hand at this stage.

  19. My only quibble with the way the plot unfolded is that Jesse Jerome is not going to write that letter to the authorities right then. As a blackmailer, what does he gain from that? More likely he will try to come to reduced terms with Santini.

    My only quibble with your episode review is that you fail to gloat over the Columbo braintrust’s coming up with “The Great Santini” several years before the Academy Award-nominated Robert Duvall movie of 1979 (from a 1976 novel).

  20. One interesting and subtle aspect of “Now You See Him” is Santini’s disdain for the singer Danny Green, whom his daughter Della is dating and intends to continue seeing him, despite her father’s disapproval. Lamenting to a dinner companion that his daughter “lacks taste,” I wondered whether Santini’s objection might’ve been because he suspected that Green might be Jewish.
    I also noticed that in previous interactions with Santini, Harry Blandford was warm and gregarious. However, near the end of the episode when Santini was called back to The Cabaret of Magic, Harry’s manner toward the magician had noticeably cooled, as he was much more brusque and curt towards Santini, indicating that Harry now possibly knew Santini’s past identity as Nazi guard Stefan Mueller.

    • I’ve never read such a dark motive in Santini’s dislike of Danny, although you could be right. I always just assumed the lad didn’t have sufficient talent to be deemed worthy of the daughter of The Great Santini! As for Blandford, yes, I suspect Columbo has told him about Santini’s past and he no longer cares to pass the time of day with him.

  21. Actually, I put this episode at the top of my list of Cassidy’s best appearances as a Columbo killer. Followed by Murder by the Book and lastly, Publish or Perish, which I wasn’t the least bit impressed by. I wish Jack Cassidy could’ve been around for at least one more guest appearance.

    • I agree , I just watched Now you see him in Full and in good quality on you tube and i think its the best episode of Jacks 3 , I do think publish or perish was a good and a great performance However, i dont put it in my top ten as I think its a little bit overrated Now you see him is a very enjoyable episode and is up there with the best.

  22. The Escape from the water tank and sneaking Half disguised up flights of stairs to murder Jessie Jerome and having to get back down into place in time is very similar to danzigers murderous spout in Troubled waters ( having to race back to the hospital bed before the nurse checks on him ) these race against the clock murders elevates an episode to a top level but it was never done better than with Kay Freestone in make me a perfect Murder especially with the Background music which is dramatic , the interruption of the security guard ( who was mike Lally by the way ( Did columbophile know that ? ) stopping to browse at a almost nude model in a magazine , and then racing back to the projection booth before Walter came back is a Very memorable Columbo scene , These are 3 Great episodes.
    I cant think off the top of my head any more race against the clock murders so to speak I am sure there is loads but these are the stand out ones to me so please feel free to Reply .

    • You could put “The Most Crucial Game,” “Double Exposure,” and “Forgotten Lady” all in that category. In each, the murderer had to finish and return within a set period of time. “Fade in to Murder” perhaps qualifies as well, although Mark wasn’t likely to wake up any time soon.

      • Thanks, I remember Fade in to murder but its an episode I’ve never put on my Top pile ,but the murder is quite good but as you said Fowler had a bigger time window , Double exposure as well A time limited murder and good episode and forgotten lady also .

        • The Most crucial Game also , I am sure There are plenty more but Troubled waters, Now You see him and Make me a perfect Murder seem to stand out the most for Me .

        • I await Columbophile’s review of “Fade in to Murder” as eagerly as “Last Salute to the Commodore.” There are aspects of Ward Fowler’s character that are extremely weird (and bring out Columbo’s odd side as well).

          • I Enjoy all of columbophiles reviews and i will treat last salutes review no different but I Hate the episode , Fade in to Murder is a better episode but not one of the best , And Will explain why columbo allows Fowler to play into his role as lieutenant Lucerne to aid the investigation which was a break from the Norm but it comes off as silly at times IE trying on hats and Fowler saying as lieutenant liucerne would say , the murder itself was good but the finale just didn’t grip me , but the most annoying aspect , a decent enough episode but it wouldn’t trouble mt top 20 even. .

    • Always felt it was ironic that Kay’s plan was almost upset by that particular type of magazine.

      • Ever since Dagger of the Mind was reviewed back in March the 12 2017 which is nearly 2 years and 4 months now , It Has Rotted like a Shipwreck at the very bottom of the current ratings ( No big surprise there ) It Hasn’t t Moved ever since , Even the Dire a matter of Honor couldn’t budge it . With last salute to the commodores review on the horizon we wait with great Suspense to see Will it take bottom prize and It is no Secret that Columbophile does Not Like Last salute ( I cant stand it ) although I think its Final scene is slightly more satisfying than daggers but only just , Its a terrible episode and on a lot of other Blogs its rated worst of the Seventies , place your bets folks we will wait and see , ( we will still read the main part of the review as well though )

  23. Here’ My favorite exchange between Santini and Columbo:
    Santini: Do you have a suspect?
    Columbo: Yes
    Santini: you do?
    Yes. We do…but we don’t have a motive for you.

  24. Great review.Thank you kindly.
    I love the picture of Columbo holding the letter up in the air after Santini sizzled the first… his left coat pocket is exposed with more to come… burned baby! Classic episode.
    RIP Jack. Best villain ever.

  25. Jack Cassidy played a marvelous villain, once again. It makes one sad to think of how many more roles he might have played had he lived. That scene with the handcuffs and the shots of Columbo’s face were fun to watch! I’ll bet those two actors really enjoyed playing together.

    I don’t know about Jerome being Jewish or not, but Nehemiah Persoff played a Nazi himself at least once—and very well! In the old Twilight Zone episode, “Judgment Night”, he played a U-Boat Captain whose eternal punishment was to be on the very passenger ship he had torpedoed in WWII. Another Jewish actor, Werner Klemperer, was not only delightful as Colonel Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” but also played a very convincing Adolf Eichmann in the 1961 film “Operation Eichmann”. (Wasn’t Klemperer also in a Columbo episode?)

    • Werner Klemperer was in two episodes of “McMillan & Wife,” but no Columbos. He also played a Nazi defendant in “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

      • A pity he wasn’t in any Columbo eppies…bet he’d have been great. I haven’t seen “Judgment in Nuremberg” in ages, but I’ll check that out. Thanks! 🙂

    • One of the best Man from UNCLE episodes features not only both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (before Star Trek) but also Werner Klemperer before Hogan’s Heroes. I love watching old TV shows!

  26. The Cabaret of Magic’s a pretty nice place– the lounge singer is a graduate of the Ken Delo School of Lounge Singing– but I wouldn’t mess with the maitre ‘d. I saw that guy on Rockford. Jerome’s due for a little visit from the boys.

    The typewriter is a good gimmick. Those ball-and-cartridge models had been around for a while when Wilson encountered it at cop school. One of the best later-day Perry Masons has a brilliant moment when Perry has Burger and Lt Anderson flummoxed with a little quick handwork on the typing ball. (TCO the Elusive Element, season 6.)

  27. The series gets back on track with a solid episode after a couple with spotty writing. This one didn’t have any major plot holes. I think the gotcha would work as Mueller was wanted and there would be old photos and possibly fingerprints. He was sunk. If I wanted to be captious, I could quibble about the police not checking the typewriter ribbon sooner. One would think that would be a logical thing to do at a murder scene.
    My other main reaction is whatever else is said about him, Santini did produce the sexiest daughter in the whole series. And while most fairly trashed Volare in Troubled Waters, the lounge singer’s Charade in this episode seems to be getting a pass. In this case it might be less the song than the singer. He was awful, but must have had something else on the ball for that girl to go for him.

  28. Great episode, great review, a joy to read! I love every aspect of Now You See Him as much as you do. In fact the only thing I disagree with is how you rank this one. I’d have had it swap places with Double Shock (and of course I’d have ranked Any Old Port top of the list but let’s not get into that now). Thank you for a very enjoyable start of my working week.

    • Hi David. I raised the same point below (and I too would have Old Port right at the very top). See Columbophile’s defense of his high placement of Double Shock in his response to my comment below.

      • Thanks Leo, normally I would have spotted that but apparently I’m too busy these days. I can only agree with Columbophile when he says Peter Falk is at his (shared) best in Double Shock and I really enjoy it as well; it’s just that there are even better ones than that one, especially Any Old Port.

  29. Great review, Columbophile! This is my absolute favorite Columbo episode. I agree with your assessment of the episode’s acting, plotting, scripting, and pacing. This is one of the few Columbo episodes where there really isn’t a dull moment in the entire episode. It has many memorable scenes, some of which you already touched on. The scene in the magic shop is great, too; from the owner needlessly telling Columbo his whereabouts on the night of the murder, to him explaining what a gaff in the head act is (including the very outdated term of “broad” for a woman), to Columbo reluctantly sticking his hand in the mini guillotine, it’s just a well-constructed and crucial scene.

    Also love the gotcha, one of the best of the entire series. And since Santini was such a showman, I think it makes perfect sense that Columbo uses a little flair to nail him. And it shows his intuition and smarts by staying one step ahead of Santini by producing subsequent copies of the damning letter- with a great line to boot: “I hope you were paying attention because that was my best trick..” Other great lines- Santini saying that the other name he had while performing in Europe was Washington. Columbo asks for the first name and Santini deadpans “Martha” before walking away. And the last line in the episode is one of the best of the series: “Perfect Murder, sir?” There is no such thing as a perfect murder… that’s just an illusion.” Perfect ending to a masterful episode.

  30. I’m surprised you didn’t catch the fact that the owner of the magic shop was the fine character actor Thayer David.
    He played Apollo Creed’s manager and set up the whole fight in Rocky!
    “ Get some sleep kid—I’m sure you’ll give us a good show”!
    (David to Stallone).

      • Thayer David portrayed the head of the spy agency that sent Clint Eastwood on his mission in “The Eiger Sanction”, which co-starred Jack Kennedy in a fabulously scene-stealing role. Highly recommended

          • Yes, Jack Cassidy is great in “The Eiger Sanction”. George Kennedy has a prominent supporting role, as well. And that would explain how you wound up saying “Jack Kennedy”.

  31. A very enjoyable episode that cracks my top 10, though I do agree with SUKI that the lack of locations slightly diminishes the episode. I guess we get spoiled with all the beautiful houses and groovy 70’s offices.

  32. Before I continue, I have to mention this. I’ve probably mentioned it before but I love your caption comments. So funny. And I love how your reviews have touches of comedy throughout. It makes reading the reviews even more entertaining. Okay I’m going back to reading the review.

  33. I just love it all! Wish he was still here, young and healthy to make more episodes! Rip Mr Falk! God bless

  34. Excellent review of a high quality episode. Just watched it again and I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. At approx. 33 minutes into the episode, Columbo is in a CSI-style lab, where Robert Gibbons is one of the “boys down at the lab”, examining Jerome’s lock, where he verified that the lock had been picked, the napkin used to wipe off prints from the weapon, and the ballistics of the .38 slug that killed Jerome. Is this the first time we ever see “the lab”, or one of the “boys down at the lab”? I know there is a whole episode in the later series with Shera Denise, where her lover/the killer worked in a large lab.

    IMDB lists Gibbons as “Rogers” in this episode, though his name wasn’t brought up in the episode. He looked familiar and IMDB cross referenced him to “Blueprint for Murder”. He was the local bureaucrat reviewing/administering the plans for city construction, who made an impatient Columbo wait while he ate his lunch. Nehemiah Persoff, who played the truly loathsome Jesse Jerome, is almost 100 years old.

    Everything about this episode sparkles to me, due to Cassidy and his interaction with Columbo. The one I watched on YouTube was about 1:30 in length. If so, then with commercials, this would have been one of the 2-hour shows. This is one of the 2-hour episodes that worked.

    A Few Highlights:

    1) The Remarkable Santini, aka Stefan Mueller, Martha Washington. This was sadly Cassidy’s Columbo Swan Song
    2) Santini’s hot daughter, Della, and the ‘smoking’ (literally) hottie who Santini was interviewing in the restaurant to take Della’s place as his “traveling companion”, Miss McCarthy
    3) Della’s lame boyfriend in that horrible light blue tuxedo, caterwauling incessantly
    4) Santini’s offer to “go out and have a couple of jars” to the Stage Manager, which would probably mean a couple dozen “jars”
    5) Jesse Jerome getting well-deservedly whacked
    6) Columbo interacting with his bud Mike Lally (who also appeared in “Citizen Kane”, “Singing in the Rain”, and many other movies/television shows)
    7) The totally nebbish Detective Wilson (aka Dr. Watson). It would have been great to have him in more eps. Without his knowledge of the typewriter ball, Columbo may have not had evidence for motive
    8) Robert Loggia, one of the best character actors ever. He was partners with Jerome, but must have been a minority owner/partner. The look of contempt and disgust he gave Jerome on his way out the door at the beginning was priceless
    9) Thayer David’s dialogue in the magic shop. “Dear Jesse…to know him was to detest him”
    10) Dog, and the constant disappearance of his new coat

    • ……just found something else I hadn’t noticed previously. During the final gotcha scene, Columbo and Wilson were confronting Santini with the evidence. Standing behind them on the stage was lousy lounge crooner Danny Green, with his hands in his pocket, like the typical ’70’s slacker he was.

      If I had been Danny right then, I would have jumped for joy knowing that Della’s dastardly omnipresent Daddy would be out of the picture, and Della would be mine, mine…..mine….I tell you…HA HA, take that, Oh Great Santini! Have fun in San Quentin!

  35. Using Henry Mancini’s title song to the film “Charade” (sung by Della’s boyfriend, Danny Green, and then reprised as the episode’s closing music) was a nice touch. “Charade” is among the all-time best movie thrillers not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [Mancini also composed the “Mystery Movie Theme” that begins and ends every “Columbo.”]

    • But he sings it as a classic Las Vegas lounge singer. Thankfully, we only saw a small snippet of his act and missed his big number: “Volare”.

  36. Wonderful episode, but one thing I dislike is this immediate “revelation” Columbo has about the murderer having opened the door himself. He explains this to Wilson with a seemingly logical elimination of different scenarios, but… in all of them Columbo assumes that the shot must have taken place almost right away after the perpetrator has entered. But there are other pefectly plausible situations that would’ve let to the same position of the corpse. For instance, it could have happened that Jesse Jerome actually opened the door himself to a person he knew, and had a short chat with them not realising the danger. At the end, the murderer would make a pretence of leaving, but then abruptly turn away (presumably saying “just one more thing”) and shoot. Just one scenario, but there must be more like this.

    In the end, it’s not a major glitch, because Sgt Wilson’s thorough inspection of the crime scene would probably lead to detection of scratch marks on the lock anyway. Still, there’s the more important point raised by Columbophile that one would love to see Columbo struggling significantly more with establishing means & opporunity, even doubting the identity of the killer, “running in circles”, and not having the crucial clue delivered right away on a plate.

  37. I agree, once again, with all of your review. You didn’t leave anything out. This was a great episode and an equally worthy review.

    I don’t think the handcuffs had the same lock as Jerome’s door. More than likely Columbo simply had the set made with a lock that would have been as difficult to pick. That would have served the same purpose.

    Sgt. Wilson accepts what he sees at face value without ever asking the critical “whys” that Columbo does. He may be good at forensics and reconstructing crime scenes, but lacks the curiosity and critical thinking to make a great detective. He’s well meaning and a nice enough guy, but not someone I’d assign to a difficult case.

    Finally, good point about Della coming and going. The final scene would have packed a big emotional punch if Della was shown in the background crying and perhaps led away by an officer as her father was exposed as the killer (think of Vicki Hayward at the end of “Candidate For Crime”) but that’s a minor point.

    (Is there any TV drama from the 70s Robert Loggia wasn’t in? I don’t think so)

    • Columbo takes the lock from Jerome’s office to the locksmith who made it originally specifically to get a copy of it fitted into the cuffs. Must have been a strangely small lock, but what the hey?

  38. I would like to place a second huge objection to Columbo´s way of solving this case: for the last 43 years, I have been unable to reconcile how a door´s lock can be installed into a pair of handcuffs. I acknowledge my absolute ignorance as far as locks and handcuffs go, but in my opinion it´s plain to see that a door lock is far too big and bulky to be grafted into those law-enforcing utensils. And this is no tangential matter, but pivotal in establishing Columbo´s conviction that only Santini could have opened Jerome´s door. Anyway, it´s true that the absurd change-over gives way to one of the best scenes ever in TV history, so I suppose all is forgiven…..

    • And for 43 years, I never considered this. That fact must say something about how blinding to latent factual errors effective scenes like this can be.

    • I used to think the same about the locks, but we see enough of the door lock itself to see that it was very small. I don’t know how common this was, so perhaps we can assume it was a bespoke, revolutionary design made just for Jerome.

        • At the 30:58 time mark we see quite clearly that the lock is far too big to fit a pair of handcuffs. And at 34:30, on the lab table, the whole thing is seen to be HUGE! Nothing conclusive can be seen about the 40:00 minute mark, when Columbo is in the locksmith´s (and interrupted by bumbling Wilson), but overall what we get to see allows us to conclude (with a little help from common sense) that the whole idea of putting a door lock into a pair of handcuffs is good old bollocks. The lab, by the way, looks ridiculously cartoonish, in a quaint ´30´s B movie way: all those retorts with funny coloured liquids a-bubbling bring you back to the most mawkish “mad scientist bent on ruling the world” scenario this side of “Frankenstein”! Wonder if that was supposed to be funny…..

          • I was thinking that the keyhole component of the lock is small enough to be replicated and applied to the mechanism of the cuffs. We may need an actual locksmith to comment on the possibility of this!

    • I thought it was a generic test of Jack Cassidy’s lock-picking ability, rather than reproducing the actual door lock in the cuffs, which would be silly.

      • No, the point of the test was to see if Santini could pick that specific lock, which Jerome made to order because it was allegedly unpickable. A ‘standard’ lock wouldn’t have been proof enough, because Santini could be expected to get out of those easily enough.

      • Please allow me to differ. We see Columbo at the locksmith´s a few hours before the show asking the man to install “this lock into these cuffs for tonight”, which prompts a lament by the ageing locksmith that “youngsters nowadays (never mind that Peter Falk, and preumably Columbo, was 49 in 1976, and therefore barely a “youngster”) want everything for yesterday, and live always in a hurry”. Being a top-rate magician and illusionist, Santini could be expected to open any hand-cuff, and SUSPECTED to have been able to open the all-important lock to Jerome´s door. But to merely raise a SUSPICION, Columbo did not need to stage that little show at the cabaret. Again, we should be thankful for the fantastic Cassidy/Falk scene at the cabaret, but rigging the script just for for the sake of jazzing things up is not completely honest. Anyway, who wants honesty, when we get that close-up of a Lieutenent beaming in triumph and winking his glass eye?

  39. I think this episode´s “gotcha” runs the risk of landing both the Lieutenant and Wilson in jail under the accusation of forging evidence. It was Wilson´s very tampering with the tape (Nº 1 sin in every police inquiry) which led to the so-called incriminating evidence. If Wilson (i. e. the police) had written that nonsense on the tape, why couldn´t he (they?) also have counterfeited Jerome´s alleged writing? Santini´s lawyer needs only show that ALL the police have against the magician is an introductory phrase which could have been written by anybody, on a tape which was acknowledged to have been manipulated by Santini´s accusers! And let´s suppose that some elaborated technical study shows that the “incriminating” phrase was written days before, and so necessarily by Jerome. The phrase itself can be no accusation; in fact, it only introduces the critical evidence in the form of hard documents supposed to go with the letter. But no documents exist, because Santini burnt them. So there is NOTHING against Santini, and A LOT against Wilson/Columbo, who in real life would be at least severely upbraided for tampering with criminal evidence. Other Columbo “gotchas” are weak, but this is worse: this may be made to look like the desperate attempt by an agent of the law to frame someone in view of his inability to solve the case. I put “Negative Reaction” in the same category.

    • You’re only flaw in that line of thinking is that it only takes a phone call to the German government and the validity of the ribbon is confirmed, thereby taking any tampering out of play, because how would they know his real name in order to frame him? They wouldn’t. Santini’s only escape was no one thinking to call Germany to verify it, why do you think he would kill him to get the original letter?

      • Well, in the chaotic circumstances of Germany 1945 nobody can seriously be trusted to keep a record that this Whatshisname Müller actually fled and is wanted or simply died somewhere in one of the various German fronts. A phone call to Germany might prove that there was a certain Whatshisname Müller in the SS ranks, but that was a very common German name/surname. Imagine I charge you of actually being Fred Jones, a psychokiller from the Marines in the war against Japan who went missing somewhere in the immensity of the Pacific, and they check and confirm that there effectively was a Fred Jones serving in the Marines in WWII. What does that prove? How many Fred Joneses were there at PTO? The cops could still forge the tape with a very common German name. Or, even better, they could look up some list of missing SS butchers (granted, no Google then!) and pick this Müller up for framing Santini.

        • There might be photographs or film footage of Mueller in which he looks like a younger version of Santini…this was a plot point in the weird 1990 Dan Aykroyd/Gene Hackman comedy “Loose Cannons,” where a politician running for chancellor of West Germany is revealed to have been a Nazi in his youth thanks to a reel of film accidentally intercepted by a random pornographer. Of course in that case the politician had a distinctive Harry-Potter-esque scar on his forehead that made it really clear he was the same person.

          (Fun trivia: the eccentric closing theme music to “Loose Cannons” is sung by Katey Sagal, who appeared in “Candidate for Crime”!)

    • “Tampering” implies intent. That clearly was not the case here. Yes, some desperate defense attorney will try to exploit the fact that Jerome’s typewriter wasn’t seized initially (and his office perhaps never sealed throughout). But I have a feeling that, on the witness stand explaining his actions, Sergeant Wilson will come across to the jury as guileless. They’ll accept his explanation. And has already been said, the truth of the contents of Jerome’s letter, recovered from the typewriter tape, is something one can corroborate.

      • Yes, tampering implies intent, and having one´s investigation in a cul-de-sac might be a reason to fabricate an accusation, after Columbo convinced himself that Santini MIGHT have opened the unpickable lock (though what he actually opened was an “unpickable” pair of handcuffs, implying to whomever wanted to believe it that he could also have opened Jerome´s door), and that Santini MIGHT have duped the waiter into thinking he was in his dressing room (though hard proof that he used the cheap “guess the number” trick is impossible to provide). Desperate in the absence of a credible culprit, Columbo might have invented Jerome´s supposed paragraph. The fact remains that Santini has an alibi for the moment of the crime (provided by the waiter, and Columbo can not say that alibi fails because a radio transmitter COULD have been used), and the tape given as evidence was manipulated. Wilson´s “guilelessness” may by trounced into smithereens by a good attorney, who may quite as well show him as a buffoon and an incompetent (which he was), easily manipulated by wily Columbo into writing the sham “disclosure”. And I don´t know how truth of Jerome´s letter can be corroborated. We know nothing of Müller really, but he must have covered his tracks adequately to avoid any connection to an SS officer. Anyway, just as back in 1963 nobody at EMI thought that people would be picking any odd recording mistake by The Beatles well over half a century later, I´m sure nobody thought in 1976 that Columbo would leave such a deep impression in everybody´s minds that people would be dissecting the possible flaws of a cult series. They just got away with one more episode, and everybody was too naive (and too happy with the character) for nit picking. And enter Patrick Mc Goohan, with the dopey “Commodore”!

        • As Columbo correctly says, “What we have to remember is that Mr. Santini is a master of illusion. He makes you believe what he wants you to believe.” It’s the inherent irony in a magician creating an alibi for himself. However effective it appears to be, everyone knows that a magician’s stock in trade is misdirection. So a stronger alibi only means a better magician. What’s his defense? I’m really a lousy magician?

          It’s the reverse of the situation in which Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren found himself. Van Meegeren’s Vermeer forgeries were so good that he was charged with selling real Dutch national treasures to the Nazis, a capital crime. To save himself, he had to prove the paintings were his forgeries, not real Vermeers. [The movie “Incognito” has somewhat the same story.]

          At least, van Meegeren’s brilliance worked in his favor. The opposite is true for Santini.

          • Allow me to disagree, sir. When having your bones thrown into a cell (or your bottom onto an electric chair) is at stake, the profession of the culprit is immaterial. True, Santini (or any cheap magician, for that matter) COULD have faked the waiter alibi, but that is no proof that he DID. Imagine some other crime had happened any other day at the café. Santini would have given the waiter exactly the same impression, and in those cases he would actually have been in his dressing room!

  40. I have always felt this episode lacked something which made me not want to do repeat watching. I think one thing missing is the lack of locations scenes. Most of it is shot in the dingy restaurant/stage.

    • On the plus side, the majority of the episode was actually shot within the Magic Castle venue, so had a good, authentic feel. But you’re right, it does lack a bit of the opulence of some of the grand mansions we’ve become so used to seeing.

    • I don’t think it is a dingy restaurant. rather high scale in fact.

      One thing that bothered me was the opening pre-credit scene of Cassidy loading bullets into the revolver without gloves. Fingerprints, anyone? Now that would be hard to explain away.

      BW, I can’t stand that wimp Wilson.

      • I agree with both of you: on the one hand I think it’s a fun location in this case, but OTOH I do think that the setting plays a big part in how enjoyable an episode is.

  41. Since I agree with just about every point in your review this time, my comments will be shorter than usual. Only two quick points: a) I can see a reasonable argument made for each of the others listed above this episode, except for one. Double Shock has so many weaknesses and so few really great positive aspects that I could never figure out how you could put it even close to the top 10, let alone at No. 3. b) While this is indeed a great episode, why do you have to exaggerate and say that it is “Season 5’s standout episode by a country mile”? Better than “Last Salute to the Commodore”? Come on! (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.) Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks Leo, I wonder where Last Salute will rank in the standings…? We won’t have long to wait. As for Double Shock, a great deal of its appeal to me is the strength of Falk’s performance. I really think it’s his single best performance as Columbo EVER and every time I watch it I find more to enjoy. That perhaps elevated it above the sum of its parts, but it’s a very special one for me, plus I love Landau, and find Mrs Peck hilarious. I’m surprised that more folk don’t rate it as highly as I do, but each to their own. I mean, some people actually rate Last Salute as their absolute favourite! What’s the world coming to?

        • “Last Salute” is a flawed attempt to twist the Columbo formula back on itself. When you focus on the twist, there’s a lot of good things to say about the episode. When you focus on some of the details, not so much.

          • An essential part of “Commodore” is humour and clownish situations (Columbo´s “yoga”, Robert Vaughn´s eye and face expressions when the Lieutenant slaps the telephone cord right under his chin, or passes a more-than-friendly arm over his shoulder, and many others). The denouement is part of that immense laughing stock. Just imagine a cop sending a guy to jail (or the electric chair) because he placed a ticking clock onto the suspect´s ear saying “the Commodore´s clock” only to be answer “No it isn´t”! “Commodore” is a big joke and little else, and in that spirit must we judge it. I always have a great time watching that episode.

            • Hey guys. Save it for the review actual episode, which is coming to Your Internet soon! I’ll join in!

            • Last Salute is a wasteful episode , The plot is weird the story line is difficult to follow the cast are very annoying and silly , columbo is not his usual self , the funny moments just come across as silly , Robert Vaughn s talent is wasted as erith and the conclusion is not entirely satisfying either .

  42. I think that this is a super review. Just… one more thing.

    In the on stage scene you rightly identify as the highlight of the episode, I think that one of the things in both their minds is that Santini could greatly help his case by simply failing to unpick the lock. Santini would have realised it was the same lock as the door. Watching him with that great, grim smile, Columbo knew that he knew. But he also knew his thought in that moment – that Santini simply couldn’t let himself seem to fail before his audience. Why, he’d rather be convicted of murder than that. And so he was.

    Alex Deane Senior Managing Director & Head of Public Affairs UK, Strategic Communications Partner, FTI Consulting LLP FTI Consulting +44 (0)20 3727 1167 T | +44 (0)75 8322 8135 M Alex.Deane@fticonsulting.com @ajcdeane 200 Aldersgate | Aldersgate Street London | EC1A 4HD | United Kingdom http://www.fticonsulting.com

  43. Great Review Columbophile , It Has been a while since we have had a Big Hitter , I E an episode that has made the top 10 or above and this Merits it as anticipated , despite it being the lesser of cassidys 3 episodes, although having said that I think this is a more enjoyable outing than by Murder by the book I think its Main criticism comes at the end where there is plenty of evidence to convict santini It Centers mainly on the motive which seems a bit Unsatisfactory for me as i can name episodes where there has been Damning evidence where a murderer simply wont even begin to try and explain there way out of for example Try and catch me , Blueprint for murder , Swan song , double exposure ,By Dawns early light , a friend in deed You get the Idea but every other aspect of The show is almost perfect and very entertaining , Its well worthy of its 9h spot at the moment , Now you see him wouldn’t be in my Overall top 10 probably top 20 once every episode is reviewed. ,

      • Without giving Columbo a permanent sidekick, I think the show runners could have had Columbo repeatedly encounter several teams of lower-level investigating officers (a la Lennie Briscoe/Ed Green). While he does frequently run into Sgt. Kramer (Bruce Kirby, in 6 of his 9 appearances), I think it likely that Colombo would be assigned to work with known underlings on a regular basis. It is true that while Colombo often addresses colleagues by name, they are familiar to him but not to us.

        I think it would have added a little something to the series, a sort of wheel within a wheel. (“What’s playing on Mystery Movie tonight? Great, a ‘Columbo’!” Later, “Oh cool, it’s Sergeants Mutt and Jeff this time.”) That said, I wouldn’t use any particular team or person more than once or twice in any given season. There would not even be a need to make them central to the investigation at hand, as Dishy is in his two appearances. They could just appear in one-off scenes, like the immortal Vito Scotti.

  44. I’ve always enjoyed this episode, but there is a terrible gun related error that sticks out like a sore thumb. Those who are interested can seek out videos on YouTube of people firing “silenced” automatics. In real life the shot from an automatic fitted with a suppressor is nearly as loud as that from the unsilenced weapon. It’s nothing like the little pftt you see in movies or on TV. But even if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and pretend a silencer will work for an automatic, it would still be utterly useless on a revolver. There’s a gap between the chamber and the barrel that would let all the noise of a shot out even if the muzzle were silenced.

      • Does columbophile remember the blooper from Murder smoke and shadows with the full milkshakes on the bar when columbo exits the room and liam Brady then angrily smashing two empty or drunken milkshake glasses before columbo pokes his head back in the room and says I was right about the cream sodas
        Firstly columbo why did the content of the glasses suddenly dissapear and surely coluumbo would have heard the smash , this for me is one the most noticeable bloopers, but with good episodes these things can be overlooked , Murder smoke and shadows was Not one of the worst of the new run .

  45. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Matter of Honor | The Columbophile

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