Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 5

Columbo episode review: Last Salute to the Commodore

Last Salute to the Commodore opening titles

May 2nd, 1976 looked for all the world like it would be the end of an era. With Peter Falk out of contract, Last Salute to the Commodore threatened to be Lieutenant Columbo’s farewell voyage.

To give viewers an unforgettable experience, the usual format was ditched in favour of a genuine whodunnit, while Patrick McGoohan was drafted in as director to add some eccentricity to proceedings after excelling at the helm in Identity Crisis just three episodes earlier.

Certainly they succeeded in creating a truly unique and unforgettable Columbo episode. Whether it’s any good or not is subject to fierce debate, with a high percentage of viewers loathing, rather than loving, the high-jinks on display.

So is Last Salute a bon voyage to Columbo‘s fifth season, or is it dredging untold depths? And more importantly, can I avoid having a rage-fuelled aneurysm while watching? Before we find out, I urge you to take a deep breath and grab a life jacket. You’re gonna need ’em…

Last Salute to the Commodore cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Charles Clay: Robert Vaughn
Joanna Clay: Diane Baker
Swanny Swanson: Fred Draper
Commodore Otis Swanson: John Dehner
Kittering: Wilfrid Hyde-White
Wayne Taylor: Joshua Bryant
Lisa King: Susan Foster
Sergeant Kramer: Bruce Kirby
Theodore ‘Mac’ Albinsky: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Jackson Gillis
Directed by: Patrick McGoohan
Score by: Bernardo Segáll

Episode synopsis – Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore

World-renowned naval architect and sailor Commodore Otis Swanson has a face like a wet weekend as he scowls through his birthday shindig at a lavish yacht club.

The miserable mariner is sick of the spongers and ne’er do wells that surround him – including useless nephew Swanny, alcoholic daughter Joanna and meddling son-in-law Charles, who is transforming the Commodore’s beloved, boutique boat-building business into a faceless corporation.

Columbo Commodore Otis Swanson
Yo Otis – are we having fun yet?

The Commodore is planning to sweep the rug out from under them all by selling his business, so after the furious sailor poops the party and storms home early big Charles promises wife Joanna that he’ll make a last-ditch bid to talk some sense into the old boy later on that evening.

When we next see Charlie, though, he ain’t talking. Instead he’s wiping prints of a nautical belaying pin that appears to have been used to cudgel the Commodore to death, off-screen, in his own home. He also finds and pockets a ladies’ brooch – one that he recognises as belonging to Joanna.

Charles is interrupted mid clean-up by a ring at the door. It’s boatyard manager Wayne Taylor, who is delivering an updated self-steering mechanism for the Commodore’s yawl. Cool as you like, Charles pretends that the Commodore is chatting on the phone in the next room and that he’ll see Wayne at the yard the next day. The two men then leave the Commodore’s home together and drive away.

Charles’s toils aren’t over, though. He dons scuba gear and returns to the Commodore’s house from his own yacht – underwater, natch, to avoid being seen. He then slips into Otis’s sailor suit and takes the yawl for a spin – making sure he’s seen by the Coast Guard – before ditching the body in the water and scuba-ing back to safety. What a night’s work!

The Commodore’s boat – sans Commodore – is discovered the next morning, so one Lieutenant Columbo is sent to the Clay homestead seeking information. A hideously hungover Joanna can’t remember even leaving the yacht club, so Charles agrees to assist with enquiries – ‘hilariously’ being squeezed into Columbo’s car with the Lieutenant, Sergeant Kramer and new kid on the LAPD block, Sergeant Theodore ‘Mac’ Albinsky.

Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore
Robert Vaughn’s agent was mysteriously axed from his 1976 Christmas card list

They motley crew stop off at the harbour to view the Commodore’s yawl, Charles helpfully explaining the finer points of boats and sails to the clueless detectives. Young bucks from the Coast Guard also rock up to show logbooks that detail the Commodore being seen to leave port at 3am that morning. He was a great sailor and the boat’s in great shape, so his loss remains a mystery.

Next stop is the boatyard, where (after an endless and shouty conversation with the foreman) Columbo discovers that the Commodore stopped by there the day before to pick up some stencils and black marine paint. What for? We’ll have to wait an age to find out.

A conversation with the Commodore’s ancient nephew ‘Swanny’ (was the Commodore, like, 100 years old?) subsequently reveals details of old Otis’s will. Joanna will inherit almost everything with the odd pittance thrown to others, including Swanny himself.

“It seems like the Commodore was clonked on the noggin by the mizzen boom and pitched into the sea.”

Swanny drops Columbo and co off at Charles’ giant yacht, where the Lieutenant intrudes on young naval architect Lisa King’s transcendental meditation session before hearing from the Coast Guard the supposed particulars of the Commodore’s demise. It seems like the ancient mariner was clonked on the noggin by the mizzen boom and pitched into the sea – a rather ignominious end for such a master sailor, a bit like Boba Fett being sent screaming girlishly into the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi.

There’s still no obvious suspect for the police, but the viewer is starting to doubt whether Charlie is actually guilty. After receiving a call at home that the Commodore’s body has been found, Charlie shows Joanna the brooch he found at the murder scene. She was so drunk she can’t remember where she was. Could Joanna be the killer instead? Sure looks that way!

Charles goes to identify the corpse and Columbo tells him that the police are now pretty certain that Otis was murdered. An autopsy has shown too much (or too little) water in his lungs, so he must have been killed before being dumped in the drink.

Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore
I’d rather be dashed over the swede with a belaying pin than EVER watch this scene again

Columbo suspects Charles, but his alibi is strong enough – for now. Security guards saw Charles leaving the island where the Commodore lives and not returning before the Commodore was seen departing on his yacht. The only way to get back to the house without being seen by the guards would have been to boat or swim back – but he’d have almost certainly been spotted in the busy channel. It’s a tough one to ponder.

With this on their minds, Columbo, Kramer and Mac attempt to solve the mystery of the Commodore’s stencilled letters. They appear to spell the word ‘SAILS’, and the suggestion is that Otis was going to use them to stencil a locker. Sounds plausible, but there’s also a stencil of a dot (a full stop for the Brits, or period to US readers), which doesn’t make much sense. The proverbial plot thickens…

Still, they get a break when an underwater boat maintenance man noisily surfaces nearby. He’s wearing scuba gear, giving Columbo a lightbulb moment. So later that night, the scuba guy assists the detective by taking an underwater trek from Charlie’s yacht to the Commodore’s home. He gets there in good time, proving that Charlie could have made it back unnoticed to the scene of the crime.

The next morning finds the police trio back at the Commodore’s house, where they discover a lipstick and a smashed pocket watch hidden under the sofa. Upon examining the pocket watch, they note that it stopped working at 12.42am, just four minutes before Charles was logged off the island by the security detail.

The eagle-eyed Columbo also notices one of the belaying pins is dust free, while the others all have dust on them. The murder weapon? Could be. He has now established potential weapon and opportunity. Lipstick aside, it looks like Charles is his man.

But wait! The game is about to change – and how! Charlie shows up dead in his own home, and Joanna is nowhere to be found. Columbo tracks her down to the yacht club, where’s she’s in a drunken haze and nodding over the piano being jauntily played by a neckerchiefed Swanny.

Columbo Diane Baker
Joanna took the news of Charlie’s death completely in her stride

She takes the news badly, and when questioned about her whereabouts on the night of the Commodore’s murder, she is vague on the details. She thinks she went to see the Commodore at his house, but can’t be sure. Swanny then chimes in. Yes, he dropped her off there in his boat just before midnight before he returned to the club to ‘sing with the boys’.

Joanna can’t remember anything else about the night, but was later informed by a friend who lives on the island that they found her drunkenly asleep on a chair outside their house at 4am and dutifully delivered her home. It’s a flimsy alibi. Joanna could certainly have murdered her father.

Columbo is having a mental block until a meeting with Mac on a bridge overlooking the docks strikes a chord. He spots a boat going by the name of MOLLY J. This revelation (while baffling both to Mac and the viewer) gives the Lieutenant the impetus he needs to set up a parlour room reveal at the Commodore’s house, with key players Joanna, Swanny, Kittering, Wayne and Lisa all on the guest list.

This meeting opens with a little trick. Columbo has Swanny dress up in the Commodore’s outfit as he arrives by boat. Looking out over the water through a telescope, Joanna is distressed to see ‘Daddy’ riding in to the meeting. Rather than strangling Columbo once Swanny makes his entrance, she instead laughs like a loon. It’s crazy stuff. Columbo has proved his point, though. On the night of the Commodore’s death, anyone could have passed themselves off as him to fool witnesses.

Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore
Fear not viewers, the end is mercifully within sight!

Given how diluted and confusing the plot has been up to now, Mac and Kramer handily summarise the key information for the attendees and viewers. The police have deduced that Charles, believing Joanna had killed the Commodore, disposed of the body to ensure his wife (and he by association) remained chief beneficiary in the will.

They’ve also cracked the ‘SAILS’ stencil mystery. In a revelation that shocks the room, Columbo explains that they were intended to spell the name LISA S. Why? Because the Commodore and young Lisa were to be secretly wed and he was going to name his new yawl after her!

Surely this makes Lisa a key suspect as a money-grabbing young seductress? Not so. Lisa explains that she only agreed to marry old Otis if he promised not to leave her any money in his will. And she also confirms that her deceased fiance planned to sell the boat yard and give all his money to charity, leaving the rest of them high and dry.

With livelihoods and inheritances at stake, everyone in the room except Lisa has a motive for homicide. But how can Columbo smoke out the guilty party? Well, he reverts to suitably eccentric means to do so.

Cupping his hands around an unseen item, the detective holds it up to the ears of each suspect and says: “The Commodore’s watch.” Swanny says “Tisn’t.” Wayne and Kittering don’t give a damn. Swaying Joanna feebly utters “Daddy’s watch.” What is this all supposed to mean?

Columbo finally gets to the point. The watch was deliberately smashed by the Commodore’s killer to establish an alibi. The only person in the room who bothered to reveal their whereabouts at the time of the murder was Swanny, who told Columbo he was singing at the yacht club just after midnight. The broken watch was a blind.

Columbo Swanny Swanson
Chill out, Swanny. There’s not the slightest chance any of this will hold up in court!

Swanny has a motive, too. If he could make police think Joanna was guilty, he would inherit the Commodore’s fortune. When Charlie messed up this plan, he too was dispatched to fuel further suspicions of Joanna.

But how does Columbo really know Swanny did it? Because when the watch was held to his ear only Swanny denied it was the Commodore’s watch, and only the murderer could have known that the watch had been broken. Check mate, Swanny!

Basking in their success, the three police musketeers head outside to the Commodore’s back lawn. Lighting up a cigar, Columbo hops into a small boat and row off into the distance to meet Mrs Columbo at the yacht club, as credits roll…

Last Salute‘s best moment – heading off into the sunset?

Last Salute to the Commodore Patrick McGoohan

Beautifully filmed and scored, Columbo’s farewell in Last Salute would have graced any episode. With word on the street being that this would be the Lieutenant’s last ever outing we are treated to a suitably poignant goodbye scene, which gives me goosebumps every time.

If the whole episode had matched the tone of this scene, Last Salute could have been a belter. Oh for what might have been…

My opinion on Last Salute

WARNING: If you’re a happy-go-lucky type who loves every Columbo episode and can’t stand to see any aspect of the show savaged do not read any further. Instead, visit this safe page of images of Columbo and Dog for a heart-warming boost.

Still here? Good. Now let’s bravely forge on…

Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore
Uber-eccentric Columbo irritates from his first seconds on screen

Columbo as a show so rarely disappoints that when standards do dip the disappointment is all the more keenly felt. Never was this more apparent than in Last Salute to the Commodore.

Previous series have yielded the odd flop. Think of Short Fuse, Mind Over Mayhem and Dagger of the Mind. Yet these are merely lesser lights by Columbo standards – I’d still watch ’em over most other TV ever made (well, maybe not Dagger, but you catch my drift). Last Salute is a different kettle of fish. To put it bluntly, this is a disastrous outing, which isn’t just bad by Columbo standards – it’s simply a bad piece of television.

It’s no coincidence that this is the episode that splits opinion more than any other, with negative feedback usually outweighing positive by a nautical mile. And while there are fans of this episode – including Peter Falk himself and series creator William Link – I am 20,000 leagues from being one of them.

Still, before I embark with Ahab-esque zeal on my quest to ensure unsuspecting viewers know exactly what this episode holds in store for them, it’s highly pertinent to explore the background to Last Salute, which goes some way to explaining why it turned out the way it did.

“To put it bluntly, this is a disastrous outing, which isn’t just bad by Columbo standards – it’s a bad piece of TV.”

The intention was for Last Salute to be the last ever Columbo – or at least the last serialised episode. Peter Falk’s contract for the show was up in 1976 and his big focus was making movies after being buoyed by the critical success of A Woman Under the Influence (which he made alongside BFFs John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands amid his Columbo commitments), as well as his role in comedy Murder By Death alongside silver screen legends David Niven, Maggie Smith, Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.

He still had love for the good Lieutenant, though, and in this fascinating article in the Ontario Daily Report from July 1976 Falk discusses how he wanted to make one really good episode of Columbo each year amidst his burgeoning movie schedule.

As a result of Last Salute supposedly being the last Columbo, the decision was made to mix up the formula – doubtless in order to ensure a memorable send-off for everyone’s favourite shabby sleuth. So Patrick McGoohan was brought in to direct after impressing Falk with his approach behind the camera in Identity Crisis. The two had had a hoot shooting that episode, and McGoohan was keen to push the Lieutenant’s boundaries in his farewell outing.

Some of the more eccentric mannerisms Falk and McGoohan introduced to the Columbo character in that episode are therefore dialled up to 11 here – and it hurts. Take a look at the short scene below as an example. Note the ponderous delivery, affected facial expressions and exaggerated mannerisms. It’s Columbo, Jim, but not as we know it…

A young sidekick (Dennis Dugan’s ‘Mac’) was also added in last minute as a novelty alongside series regular Sergeant Kramer. But of course, the biggest departure from the norm was the format. Last Salute was the series’ first true whodunnit, which ended with a parlour room reveal aping the grandest traditions of the mystery genre. There’s merit in that concept, and on paper all this doesn’t sound too bad. But in reality, it’s a fiasco.

Knowing that I hate this episode, I was watching the clock with a keen eye as the episode unfolded to record unwelcome landmarks that may be of interest to readers keen to compare notes:-

  • I reach annoyance point after only 20 seconds due to that berk Swanny singing while he pilots ye goode shippe Titanic down the channel.
  • I’m offended before we reach the 15-minute mark when Columbo makes his infuriating, mumbling entrance at the Clays’ front door. Whatever he’s  been smoking, it ain’t cigars…
  • I’m ready to turn off in rage 31 minutes in when the Lieutenant has to scream at the boatyard foreman over the noise of drills and buzz saws to make himself heard.
  • I’M QUITE WILLING TO KILL COLUMBO MYSELF in the 35th minute when he cosies up to young Lisa as she attempts to meditate beside Charlie’s palatial yacht.
  • I’ve lost the will to live by the 51st minute when the police start arsing about with the stencilled letters. Here endeth the clock watching.
Last Salute to the Commodore yoga
Ugh, make it stop!

That’s just the crust, though. The filling of this festering pie is just as  unappetising and is riddled with the unwelcome ingredients of tedium, goofiness and over-indulgence. But its cardinal sin? Between them, Falk and McGoohan make Columbo an annoyance – not just to the suspects, but to the viewer.

Yes readers, the Lieutenant of Last Salute is an irritating nuisance. He shouts all the time and creepily invades people’s personal space. He lacks his usual courtesy and warmth. He’s more whimsical, distracted and aloof than we’ve ever seen him and he seems to continually be in a state of mild amusement – as  if he’s stoned. His mannerisms are overblown and theatrical. In short, he’s an oddball – and McGoohan’s indelible fingerprints are all over it.

Of course it takes two to tango, and Falk must shoulder his share of the blame. After 36 outings in the crumpled mac he was doubtless glad of the chance to mix things up and push Columbo in new directions, but I daresay his friendship with McGoohan clouded his judgment and took his good eye off the ball, because allowing the Lieutenant to evolve into the infuriating weirdo he is in Last Salute is a betrayal of the Columbo we know and love.

The only comparable example I can think of is how Indiana Jones was portrayed as an unfunny, pedantic fool in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. How Harrison Ford stood for it I’ll never know.

‘Offbeat’ is probably the best way of describing this episode and the Columbo characterisation in one word and I would argue that McGoohan and Falk were being hugely overindulgent here. When he helmed Identity Crisis, McGoohan had such an insane story line to work with that he was able to satisfy his penchant for the offbeat without sacrificing everything else. Here, the audience isn’t in on the joke as its central star and director serve up a madcap imitation of what Columbo should be.

On your feet, idiot!

At this stage I ought to reiterate that it’s not the premise itself that hampers Last Salute. I have no issue with the series throwing us a whodunnit after 30+ stupendous ‘how-will-he-catch-ems’. The writers and producers have earned the right to surprise us.

Story writer Jackson Gillis was one of Columbo‘s most important contributors over many years, having been involved in classics such as Suitable for  Framing, Double Shock, Troubled Waters and Requiem for a Falling Star. The basic premise of  his story – man is slain, we think we know who did it until they too show up dead, then Columbo reveals all in a thrilling denouement – is sound. It could have been a solid entry to the series, but under McGoohan’s guidance the telling of the tale is an absolute shipwreck.

To start with, Last Salute is excruciatingly drawn out – far, far more than can be justified. Watching it is an absolute chore. I often crow about longer Columbo episodes being filled with padding, and the subsequent damage caused to the story, but this is on a whole different stratosphere. Minutes at a time are wasted with people saying nothing, or repeating the words of others, or talking about frigging boats, or even lying down on the job.

“The mystery culminates in what can only be described as the least satisfying parlour room reveal of all time.”

The camera lingers on this non-action for what seems like eons. A good example is the throat-slitting tedium of the police crew trying to rearrange the Commodore’s stencilled letters to spell something other than the word ‘SAILS’ – including toying with the word ‘ASSLI’. As a single scene it’s an embarrassment, but in reality every single thing that could be drawn out in this episode is drawn out. Enduring it is agony.

It also makes it hard to follow what’s going on, akin, if  you like, to trying to navigate a ship by starlight in a dense fog. If this was the first Columbo episode you ever watched I imagine you’d abandon this proverbial ship long before the episode’s denouement – and that would be no bad thing because the gotcha scene is one of the entire series’ biggest missteps.

A sparkling gotcha goes a long way to papering over the cracks of even lesser Columbo outings. Short Fuse is a very silly episode but has a cracking gotcha. Playback is an average adventure boosted by an emotionally charged conclusion. For the whodunnit experiment to work, Last Salute had to wow us with a riveting finale. Instead it ends with what can only be described as the least satisfying parlour room reveal of all time. Agatha Christie died only two months before this aired. She must have actually been spinning in her grave.

Columbo Last Salute Fred Draper
Say ’tisn’t’ again! SAY ‘TISN’T’ AGAIN! I dare you, I double dare you…”

Rather than gripping intrigue, we have 20 minutes of meandering chat from Columbo and his bungling sidekicks, and a medley of couldn’t-care-less-about characters reacting to the Lieutenant holding cupped hands to their ears and stating: “The Commodore’s watch.” The guilty party – our mate Swanny – identifies himself by saying ‘Tisn’t.’

And that’s it.

I’m sure this absurdity tickled McGoohan immensely but after wading through 90 minutes of bilge up to this point, for most viewers it’s a bewildering anticlimax – made more so by the fact the scene promptly cuts to Columbo and his fellow officers outside in the sunshine.

There’s no arrest shown, no reaction from the other suspects, and no further reference to the bonkers solving of the case. Mac and Kramer ought to be screaming: “What the hell just happened in there?” Instead we get silly smiles, and small talk about Mac’s new raincoat and Columbo being back on the cigars. On more than one occasion it has left this correspondent completely baffled, wondering if I’ve missed something.

Certainly Swanny needn’t worry about being locked up, so flimsy is the evidence. If anything, the case would more likely result in Columbo being bust back down to Sergeant for sullying the LAPD’s good name.

Last Salute fails on many levels besides this, too. Columbo’s stupid assistants add nothing and succeed only in making the LAPD look like cretins. I’m guessing they were supposed to add comic relief, but by gum they’re tedious. The running joke about whether ‘Mac’ has any Scotch or Irish heritage is staggeringly unfunny. I have to ask: who was this for? The viewers at home, or the back-slapping cronies Falk and McGoohan?

In fact the humour misses the mark throughout. I love a Columbo to be laced with some really good chuckles. That’s why Double Shock, Negative Reaction and Publish or Perish rank so highly with me. Last Salute thinks it’s funny, but the ‘gags’ on display here are, without exception, painful.

Report him to his superiors, Charlie! That’s harassment!

Columbo cuddling up to Charlie in the front seat of the Peugeot may have been vaguely entertaining, but to then have the detective massage Charlie’s thigh as he wraps him up in a phone cord aboard the yacht is really overdoing it. The Lieutenant’s yoga ineptitude similarly fails to raise a smile, as does his awful screaming match with foreman Fred at the boatyard.

If you enjoy these scenes, good luck to you. As I watch them unfold, I can assure you that my face is every bit as irate as the titular Commodore’s was at his birthday bash in the episode’s opening minutes.

Another pet peeve is the sheer number of characters in this episode – far more than it needs. Many are largely irrelevant, including some of the supposed key suspects. Lawyer Kittering and boatyard manager Wayne Taylor are really surplus to requirements. We never sense they’re involved in the crime and they’re so underdeveloped that in the gotcha scene they’re simply there to make up the numbers. Likewise the Commodore’s wife-to-be, Lisa King. She’s just a girl in the background throughout rather than the pivotal figure to the investigation she really ought to have been.

Exacerbating this is the fact that here’s no one to care about in this episode. As well as loving Columbo, we can usually sympathise with the villain, the victim or some of the support characters. Not here. Everyone is miserable and hateful. They also act weirdly around each other. Remember the scene when Swanny comforts a drunken Joanna after the death of Charles is revealed by creepily placing his hand on the side of her face? Even Columbo seems disturbed by it. I had to run and have a wash after viewing…

“Just one more question, sir. What the HELL are you doing?”

Because of all this it’s impossible to give a damn about the personal battles of any of our chief antagonists. Lisa describes the Commodore as ‘the most beautiful man who ever lived’. If so, why didn’t we see some of that so we could care a fig about the miserable codger’s fate? It’s terribly frustrating.

And how about having Fred Draper as the murderer? He’s been a bit-part player in so many Columbo episodes that I’m sure McGoohan and co thought it would be a delicious and unexpected curve-ball to have him cast as the killer. Who’d suspect old Fred, eh? Again, there’s merit in the idea, but again they botched it. Swanny is too much of a nothing character to draw any sort of emotional reaction when his guilt is finally (and nominally) revealed.

A further beef with Last Salute is the reminiscent nature of several key aspects. The young yoga-loving stunner marrying the elderly soulmate is a riff of Double Shock‘s (a Gillis-penned story) relationship between Lisa Chambers and victim Clifford – both of whom were far more effectively sketched out. A would-be will beneficiary stitching another to secure an inheritance is straight out of Gillis’s Suitable for Framing.

“Frankly the episode would’ve been more entertaining if they’d all gone on a boat trip together and it had sunk with the loss of all hands.”

Then there’s the broken watch clue that was prominently used in Candidate for Crime. And there’s also a hark back to Requiem for a Falling Star (another Gillis story), which referenced Nora Chandler disguising herself as her husband and heading out to sea to fool witnesses. Trying to disguise these familiar beats may have been another reason why Last Salute was so slathered in nonsense.

So does anyone come out of this mess with credit? Well, Diane Baker puts in a believably desperate turn as sad alcoholic Joanna (the latest in a long line of boozy Columbo housewives), but that doesn’t make her character likable or enjoyable to watch. Most viewers will  find her turn highly annoying, but I actually know people who are like that when drunk and can tell you it’s no bad acting performance.

Robert Vaughn is blameless as Charles Clay but looks bemused throughout – and no wonder. He was magnificent in Troubled Waters and warranted a second outing as a killer. He’s wasted in this swill.

Baker and Vaughn somehow emerged from this debacle with their heads above water

Finally, Last Salute irks because of the shadow it cast over the rest of the 70s’ episodes. Shades of the rage-inducing Columbo characterisation we see here remain – albeit mercifully toned down – until the curtain fell on the Lieutenant’s first run in 1978. I’ll be paying close attention to this in future reviews.

Still, as a long-term lover of this show there are positives to take, even from this baloney – chiefly the episode’s great twist, when prime suspect Charlie turns up dead an hour in. Although we didn’t see Charlie strike down the Commodore, surely every first-time viewer never doubts he’s the killer. It’s Robert Vaughn, after all! His death is a genuine stunner. All credit to the writers – now this really is a mystery.

Elsewhere Bernardo Segall’s jaunty score (his 9th of 10 Columbo outings) is excellent, and the cinematography can’t be faulted. The location shooting, showcasing deep blue water and light blue skies, really shows off the majesty of LA living. And keen fans are treated to cameos by series regulars John Finnegan and Mike Lally.

The best, though, is saved till last. As referenced above, the final scene of Columbo hopping into a boat and rowing off across the sparkling blue water to meet Mrs Columbo at the distant yacht club is a beautiful thing.

Columbo Bruce Kirby
Last Salute‘s magnificent locations offer a crumb of comfort to desperate viewers

The on-running gag throughout the episode is that Columbo is giving up the cigars. In real life the rumour was that Falk was leaving the show. So the ‘I thought you were quitting’ question put to Columbo by Kramer, and the Lieutenant’s response of ‘not yet… not yet…’ had a delicious double meaning, leaving the door ajar for a sixth season.

Had it all ended there it would have marked a fitting and poignant closure for the series. As such the scene ranks as one of the show’s very finest moments. But is it worth sitting through the rest of this rubbish to get there?


Did you know?

Last Salute to the Commodore is sufficiently infamous to have secured a place in the UK Guardian newspaper’s ‘When good TV goes bad‘ series back in 2017.

The tongue-in-cheek series chronicles those ‘jump the shark’ moments when outstanding TV shows slip from their peak, with Last Salute described as ‘a truly berserk episode‘. A fun read, clearly written by someone with affection for and knowledge of the show’s proud heritage, you can read it here!

How I rate ’em

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m not much enamoured with Last Salute to the Commodore. Frankly the episode would’ve been more entertaining if the key players had all gone on a boat trip together and it had sunk with loss of all hands within the first 10 minutes.

As a result, it plummets to the foot of the current standings where it will doubtless remain for many moons until some of the worst pap from the 80s/90s challenge its stranglehold on the wooden spoon.

Feel the need to revisit previous, more positive, episode reviews? Then click on any link below with confidence!

  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
  37. Last Salute to the CommodoreE-List starts here

Thanks for sticking with me through this treacherous voyage. Do let me know your own opinion on Last Salute below. If (horror of horrors) this episode ticks the boxes for you, PLEASE explain why because, try as I might, it gets worse for me with every viewing.

Still, I shall recover and will be back in the hot-seat to revisit Season 6 opener Fade in to Murder in the coming weeks. How will William Shatner’s particular brand of madcap compare to Mr McGoohan’s? Only time, that sweet, sweet healer, will tell…

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Columbo Last Salute to the Commodore
Let’s drink to forget all of this ever happened, shall we?
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342 thoughts on “Columbo episode review: Last Salute to the Commodore

  1. Agree with most of the comments and the review – this episode left me woefully unsatisfied.

    In terms of the “gotcha” it might have been plausible if Swanny had been shown to have a *very instinctive* reaction to Columbo holding the watch to his ear and saying “the Commodore’s watch”. In other words, if without thinking Swanny blurted that out, it could be possible that he was inadvertently gave himself away.

    However, Swanny seems to pause for a second or two before saying “t’isn’t”, which implies that he had to think about it. Given a few moments to think about it, he might have just stayed silent or just said “if you say so, Columbo”.

    It’s not a long pause, and it’s possibly borderline, so maybe it was intentionally directed that way to justify a further 10 minutes of walking around testing everyone, discussing it further and then explaining it. A quick reaction from Swanny might have given it away even *more* obviously to less sophisticated audience members whereas this way it was something you might miss, might not.

  2. Lately I’ve been wanting to revisit Columbo, so I’ve been watching a few episodes here and there. I haven’t seen this one since it first aired. I misremembered it as the finale to the original series, thinking they had gone out on an actual whodunit. I want to make this short, so I’ll say I agree with every word you said except the positive ones. I think I like it less than you did. I’m glad Petey and Patty had so much fun making this one, but for the rest of us–this is an atrocity.

    On the plus side, I’m really enjoying your site. It’s been very helpful as I rediscover Columbo.

    • Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the site (although sorry to hear you like Last Salute even less than me – something I barely thought possible!).

      • I’m watching rerun of the Commodore today, Feb. 2021…and made me think that after a few years how Peter Falk is acting so odd…touchy feely – noise throughout the movie but putting his Hands and Face in places with others where he should not be…I noticed this in many reruns after a few years and think this behavior and overacting very odd

  3. To me one redeeming quality of this episode would have been if the Commodore’s estate had really gone to charity, as Lisa claimed they were going to do. But if he hadn’t yet changed his will, presumably it will go to Joanna, who will probably drink it all away. Bummer.

  4. Having read so much in this blog about how bad this episode is, I was eager to see it again, because I didn’t remember it being so awful. But you’re right. It’s terrible. I love Patrick McGoohan as an actor, but as a director–at least here–he’s overly quirky, bordering on self-indulgent. He has a penchant for putting his actors in uncomfortable and awkward positions. In Identity Crisis I was annoyed at the gas station scene, where Columbo leans half his body into the passenger window of McGoohan’s car for a lengthy conversation instead of just walking around to the driver’s side. Here he crowds people together almost smarmily–Columbo stuffing himself into the front seat next to Vaughn so that he has to put an arm around him, repeated in that squirm-inducing scene where he inexplicably seats himself next to Clay, stretching that phone cord over him and again putting an arm around his shoulders, when he could have just stood up to take the phone call. Some of the scenes on the boats are done the same way, with Columbo, the Coast Guard guys, and the two other policemen all squeezing around each other. As well as his cozying up to hippie Lisa and jarring her out of her meditation. BTW, little Lisa doesn’t seem very upset by the loss of her “beautiful” man. She seems to be in a trance all through the episode.

    We can’t blame McGoohan for all the problems, though. The writing has a lot to do with it. The dialogue is just awful, with so much repetition. And having Kramer and Mac explain everything in the drawing-room scene is unnecessary filler. And what happened to that list of suspects? Columbo tells the other detectives to show it, but nothing is done with it. Twin Peaks did this device much better.

    And yes, Columbo comes off as a goofy fool. The shouting scene is painful (“Black what?” “Paint.” “Black paint?”). I think most viewers will know right away that Charles isn’t really the murderer because we didn’t see him do it. We know he’s covering up for somebody. Yes, finding him dead comes as a shock, but it’s a trick rather than clever plotting. I don’t think anyone really would believe Joanna killed her father. She’s too much a Daddy’s girl and she’s always three-quarters looped on alcohol. She’s virtually a zombie. She wouldn’t have the guts or strength in her state to kill a strong man like the commodore.

    But the biggest thing missing in this episode is the cat-and-mouse game between the lieutenant and the killer. Falk and Vaughn play it for a while–Clay gets to explain sailing to the “clueless” detective–fulfilling the type of the “magnanimous” murderer we’re used to seeing–but the two never get to know each other the way they do in other episodes. We don’t understand anything about Clay (yes, Vaughn is wasted in this role) and we don’t get to see them playing off each other, which is Columbo, the character and the show, at his best. His few scenes with Swanny have no tension at all.

    Finally, I agree that the other two detectives just cloud up the scenery. In this episode Mac actually seems more professional than Columbo–I was wondering if he might be wondering why he got assigned to work with such a bumbler! I also wondered if this might have been a pilot for a series with Dennis Dugan, but he didn’t have a big enough part to justify that.

    So I agree with the review–giving it one star is being generous.

    • I watched it, against my better judgment, for a THIRD time last night and it was excruciating in all the ways mentioned by so many other Columbo fans. Script, pacing, audio and visual, acting and overall plot. This epsiode make all of the others episodes languishing at the bottom of Columbophile’s rated episodes list look positively entertaining in comparison. Yes, it’s in a class by itself!

    • Yes, I assume that as this might have been the last episode of “Columbo” it was used as a back door pilot for a new series starring Dennis Dugan as “Anybody ever call you Mac?”. It’s never explained why people should call him “Mac”, other than that he produces his own raincoat (or mac) at the end of the episode.

      Oh, and Lisa might have been traumatised, or using her yoga to maintain a sense of calm?

      • That’s possible, but she seemed serene enough when Columbo interrupted her yoga, and her attempts to teach him how to do it were a little too generous and considerate for a young woman in shock and mourning. Even at the end, in the final revelation scene, she doesn’t show any emotion at all while Joanna is falling apart. Just my observations.

  5. Glad I didn’t read the review before watching it. The worst I found it was, it wasn’t as interesting or attention grabbing as other ‘golden era’ Columbo episodes (though I’d take it over any of the 80s & 90s episodes any day). I did find Diane Baker’s overacting as the drunk unstable wife a bit annoying. She was glugging off that glass every time she opened her mouth. I did like the Mac character and thought the actor was great. The family attorney’s revealing night life was humorous, and the way Clay’s body suddenly appeared in the shot was pulled off great. Anyway, I don’t think this episode deserves the death sentence as some of you do, just not one of the top 10. Still watchable.

  6. Such a brilliant, funny review. I am in total agreement, this episode is a total trainwreck (shipwreck?). I watched it again the other day and after it had ended I figured going to the dentist might have been more enjoyable. The twist with the supposed murderer Charles Clay getting bumped off halfway through worked well but other than that it proved to be painful viewing for me. I kind of enjoy a slower paced episode but this one had scenes which were drawn out beyond human endurance. The dialogue was laughable, the plot confusing and lazy. But worst of all was the fact that they took a much beloved character in Columbo and turned him into a darker, creepier character which has no part in my personal favourite detective series. I am only glad that the series didn’t end here, it would have left a bad taste.

    • I think that the script was fine, but the problem most people have with this episode seems to be in the direction. I’m assuming that there was a lot of improvisation going on here, which could explain the (too) slow pace. Was Columbo suddenly becoming so tactile in the script, or something worked out in rehearsal? Either way, I think it’s supposed to be Columbo trying out a new technique for unsettling the suspect.

      I recently saw a 1970’s Doctor Who story “Terror of the Zygons” which was apparently plagued by script problems. The story was saved by all the actors making contributions to improve their dialogue and actions. Maybe Patrick McGoohan and Peter Falk were trying to do this with “Last Salute to the Commodore”, but it made it worse instead of better?

    • Great comment, completely in a agreement. I was so confused the first time I watched. The pacing was terrible. Just too many characters for one thing. Like a game of Clue!

      I’m a RV fan too but what a lackluster performance.

  7. This has to be the absolute WORST Columbo episode ever made. Totally stupid. I’m sorry but if Columbo held his hand to the side of my head and said, “Commodore’s watch”, there is NO WAY POSSIBLE that i would incriminate myself by saying “Tisn’t”….totally stupid….i mean it was obvious what he was trying to do…so with a simple word like “Tisn’t”, you can actually get a conviction?…..this is one episode i wish they would lose somehow…..

    • The Sept. 13, 2020 review of By Dawn’s Early Light with Patrick McGoohan sent me searching for for more of his Columbo work. Which brought me to this episode. Being (an ultimate) fan of Robert Vaughn usually anything in which he appears is compelling enough to make the viewing worthwhile. However his performance in this episode was so understated (and monotonous) I couldn’t figure out his purpose, until watching the episode another time. The beginning was so boring it was hard to continue. The only thing that stood out was the smashed watch gambit (not exactly a unique plot device unique to Columbo). As renown an actor as is Patrick McGoohan, his directorial skills left much to be desired. I mean how often is a Columbo episode actually boring, when you wish it would just be over? I thought the “Clock Watching” play-by-play was hilarious, so I learned (being new to this site) that my reaction was not at all an aberration. Thanks Columbophile!!!

  8. I have to agree, it’s a poor episode to end a season, or a series, with. The final scene with Columbo rowing to the yacht club, he is whistling “This Old Man”, while a cigar hangs from his mouth. Have you ever tried whistling with a cigar in your mouth?? And his creepy, invading personal spaces……seemed like he was becoming a pervert or something.

  9. To say I was horrified, shocked and unsettled by this episode would be an understatement. It’s positively horrible and I want to thank you for basically hitting on all the reasons why.

    The most egregious is simply that it’s a massive break in character. It’s a highly un-likable Columbo who has no manners, an arrogant creepy smile, and perhaps most perplexing a Columbo who invades everyone’s space for no good reason touching and embracing and caressing everyone but with no motivation / invitation to do so. Actually it’s not just Columbo – there are other characters doing it too. I don’t know it just goes on and on. Thank god for this website – I thought I was going nuts.

    The pacing and sheer number of irritating events from beginning to end does almost seem designed to piss off somebody – I thought perhaps it was some sort of F#ck Y$& to the people who hadn’t yet renewed Falk’s contract or something.

    I’m not gonna repeat the author ad nauseam but I could because I agree with almost every word. The episode was pure torture to watch and the people in charge showed an I credible lack of self awareness- unless as I said it was designed to be bad.

    • I don’t think anybody sets out to make something bad. I think it was meant to be a “comedy” episode, that badly misfired.

      • Considering that Falk and McGoohan loved the episode, I don’t think it went wrong in any way. Both Falk and McGoohan were artists and aside from Columbo Falk was in many films that were not your run of the mill projects. They set out to subvert Columbo and they succeeded. They wanted to break with the “been there… Done that” aspect of the show. Also they wanted to raddle your cage…and apparently they raddled most of Columbo fans cages. They fuc*ed with you.

        • OK, well lets look at it another way, by grouping “Last Salute to the Commodore” with the two derided Ed McBain based stories from the later run.

          “Last Salute to the Commodore” is about a quirky, very eccentric detective that solves a whodunnit, “Undercover” is about a detective that adopts various disguises to solve a whodunnit, and “No time to Die” is about a team of detectives trying to rescue a kidnap victim, all of which are departures from the series usual format

          If you have never seen Columbo before and watch any them as stand alone stories starring Peter Falk as the detective, then I imagine that they are all fine, but they are not true series episodes of Columbo, deviating too much from the character and the premise.

          “Commodore” can be enjoyed on it’s known merits, but as a comedy episode of a well established series, it misfires badly.

        • If they wanted to break the mold or rattle the cage or f#ck with us, they certainly could have done so and still have created something entertaining. But that would’ve taken a kat more effort than this lazy and boring waste of time. IMHO, of course!

        • Let’s not forget that Hitler was an artist too and “rattled” many millions of people’s cages. Not a good thing in either case.

          • When Hitler “rattled” the world, it had nothing at all to do with him being an artist.

            Let’s not get carried away here.

            • Actually the fact that he was rejected as an artist had a lot to do with his pathology. The point is excusing this tripe as artists getting one of on us mere rubes is a ridiculous premise. They just screwed up, that is all.

              • I just think it’s going too far to compare a bad episode of “Columbo” (or a bad episode of anything) with what Adolph Hitler was trying to do.

  10. It’s a crazy, surreal episode to be sure, but after watching it for the first time last night in years, I actually found it hilarious, now knowing – I suppose – what to expect.I too absolutely hated it when I first saw it and haven’t watched it since. It’s as if Columbo dropped LSD before being assigned to this case, or maybe this is some of the art house influence of Casavettes rubbing off on Falk and McGoohan. At any rate, if one can accept it as an avant garde riff on the character, it can be worth a good laugh. The idea, for example, of the format of a drawing room finale, where all solutions should be revealed, is completely turned on its head. I especially found it funny that Mac spends time presenting a map that has no bearing whatsoever (“they don’t need to know all that, Mac,” Columbo instructs), and then, when he is about to detail a “list of suspects”, a panicked Columbo exclaims, “No! Don’t show them that!” Then there’s the way Falk fixates on things throughout, like the stencil for the period, which he holds up to his eye several times, slowly drawling, “hmmm….hooooole,” each time. Weird!
    It’s interesting that you consider this a dividing line for mannerisms that would, unfortunately, stick to one degree or another for the remainder of the show’s initial run. I will have to pay attention to that from now on and see if I agree!

  11. I like this episode probably for all the reasons you guys dislike it. It’s an absurd episode in the vain of of the last 2 episodes of “The Prisoner”. It’s a Columbo episode from an alternate universe. It’s obvious that it was made by Faulk and McGoohan with complete control over the mayhem. McGoohan always had an absurd and experimental streak and it shows right here and Faulk was 100% in on the ride. To compare this episode to the rest of the show is foolish because it obviously made to be separate from the rest. Look at as the best of the bizarre episodes. You gotta have a offbeat and absurd sense of humor to enjoy it.

  12. I personally don’t mind this episode so much, I like stuff related to boats, and it was unusual at least in that the first suspect turns out dead midway into the episode and in the ending in that there’s a group conversation between columbo and the other suspects, of whom anyone of them could be the murderer.

    Reading your annoyance marks at minute 30 and so on, I agree with 3 out of 5 of them, the exceptions being that I don’t mind columbo yelling at the person on the boat and the policemen swapping letters to try and find the clue word, the other 3 scenes you mentioned annoy me as well, and I think this difference could be part of the reason why, while not a great episode, I don’t rate it as badly.

    • I agree that the episode certainly looks nice, with all the wonderful locations. And the script id OK, with the plot twist and the grouping of suspects being clever departures.
      But I think the problem most fans have with this episode is the off beat direction.

      There’s nothing wrong with it as such, but it’s too radical a departure from the rest of 1970’s Columbo. The other episode directed by Patrick McGoohan “Identity Crisis” is also off beat, but that can be justified by the Lieutenant being in the unfamiliar and murky world of espionage, and having to deal with an authority higher than the LAPD.

  13. I’m a Columbo fan from way back, watching them as a young teenager when they first aired in the 70s and watching them countless times since. I very much enjoyed and agreed with your appraisal of “Commodore” – I can’t say I hate the episode, but I can certainly say it’s the weirdest episode, with Peter Falk looking too amused throughout, as if he were drunk, or stoned, or just inexplicably giddy. But gosh, yes, the whole thing is goofy, and the show was not a hit because it was goofy. And to top it all off, we have him inexplicably whistling “This Old Man” while he’s puffing on a cigar, which you just can’t do. You also can’t shout “I’m meeting my wife at the yacht club!” with a cigar in your mouth, but at that point I’m just happy it’s over. It’s nice to know there are others as befuddled and annoyed with this episode as I am.

  14. The Top Ten of the 100 Greatest Columbo moment’s of the 1970’s has just come out.

    And the Top Three are . . .

    #3 “PAINT! BLACK MARINE PAINT!” – Last Salute to the Commodore

    #2 “S A I L S .” – Last Salute to the Commodore

    #1 “’tisn’t!” – Last Salute to the Commodore

  15. I logged in to make a first time comment specifically for this episode, like others here. I’m 39, so I have fond memories of the newer TV movies that I grew up with, but only recently discovered the brilliance of the 1970s run: first via netflix when my youngest daughter was born (had to do something when she wasn’t sleeping!) and now again via IMDB.com via amazon (free with ads).

    I just got to Last Salute. I remember never liking it when I watched on netflix- it really did stick out as bad even on my casual, middle-of-the-night-with-my-child first viewing. Watching it again more seriously: wow. It’s BAD.

    If I saw this and it was not Columbo- like some weird old movie I rented or something, I might find it tolerable as an interesting one-off experimental movie. But unfortunately it wears the baggage of this character we love, so no matter how hard I try to just imagine it that way, it doesn’t work.

    It’s also such a radical departure from the character. To be honest, I hadn’t really noticed the issues of his character in Identity Crisis- part of Columbo’s character was that he could be a little weird- in fact, today we’d probably say he was nueroatypical (I’m glad Columbo was made before we had a good understanding of that- he seems more mysterious in that his genius isn’t given an explanation). But there’s a little weird and there is just stupid- that opening scene at the doorway, wow. It sets the whole tone for the rest of the episode.

    Does anyone else get the impression that Peter Falk is actually breaking character and laughing during the “shouting” scene at the boat yard? This is one of couple instances of kind of weird editing choices- this and Ricardo Montahlban’s tom-foolery with the sword in A Matter of Honor being the other.

    Anyway- wonderful site. Mostly agree with your takes- except for Dagger of the Mind, which I really like 🙂

    • I think that both Columbo and Peter Falk were laughing at the absurdity of the “shouting scene” in a “What a way to make a living!” manner.

      There is a brief moment in Identity Crisis, just after Columbo learns that his house has been bugged, when he is briefly alone and the mask slips. Whatever we may think of McGoohan as a director (and he was a fine actor) that was good.

  16. I know we’re not taking the plot of this one too seriously, but how did the blood on the mizzen boom get there? Did Charles somehow put it there to help make the death look like an accident? Did I miss something?

    • Good point. Charles must have taken the actual murder weapon, the belaying pin, with him and transferred the blood to the mizzen boom. We know that the pin was wiped clean afterwards, as it was the only one without a layer of dust.

  17. I think I’ve figured it out. If there are as some have suggested an infinite number of universes, this episode somehow got switched with a different universe’s version of this episode. They are likely just as perplexed by what they got from us.

    Or, knowing this was the last episode, and likely leaving TV to work in features, Falk and McGoohan got drunk one night and they cooked up a scheme to make an episode to resemble a Cassavettes film maybe just as a good-natured joke at Cassavette’s expense. (“How do you think John would do it?”)

    Yes, I know that these possibilities are absurd. But then, so is this episode. I could understand it as an early show, Falk still trying to figure out his character. This one is inexplicable after so many years of the Columbo we know that made this show such a hit and Columbo established as one of the most interesting characters in television.

    • I always like the parallel universe theory (which explains the differences between the two seasons of Space: 1999). Another possibility is that Patrick McGoohan had also directed (and wrote) “Fall Out”, the final episode of his own excellent series, The Prisoner. This subverted all expectations, was a pseudo-intellectual triumph (of sorts) of style over content, and explained nothing (at least not in a way that could be readily understood) leading to a lot of disappointed viewers, myself included (and I’m a fan). The Prisoner was full of mystery, but there was not even a ’tisn’t scene to explain it all at the end.

      I’m guessing that Peter Falk liked “Fall Out” and for what may have been the final episode of Columbo, he wanted to do something as different as possible from what had gone before. McGoohan was a fine actor, and I wonder if we would have liked this episode more if he had appeared in it, possibly as the Commodore?

      • Yes I hope there is a parallel universe where Columbo fans love this episode, since it is incomprehensible whey they don’t. It’s a fun, zany episode. Fred Draper gets to be the killer. He is a regular in Cassavetes films. The episode is zany and fun. Okay I am also a fan of the Prisoner (love the engimatic ending). love Cassavetes films and Wim Wenders films.
        By the way are there any fans of the Trials of O’Brien. I would love to know if there is any way of seeing the show. It looks very good. Even if it did cancel Rod Sterling’s The Loner another good show.

  18. Had the misfortune of wasting 1 hour and 30 minutes of my life watching this episode. Prior to watching, I was already aware of its ‘Z-List’ rating on this website, but I never expected it to be as dreadful as it was. Poor storyline and dialogue, but worst of all Columbo appeared to be completely out of character, almost bordering on strange! Not Columbo’s finest hour to say the least.

    • I’ve mentioned this before on this thread, but as this might well have been the last ever episode of Columbo, I wonder if it was intended as a back door pilot for the “Mac” character, with Dennis Dugan solving a whodunnit in a quirky manner once a month on Sunday nights? It would explain the complete change of pace, and have given Peter Falk what could have been his last chance to play the alternate “McGoohan” version of Columbo that he evidently preferred.

      • What a dreadful thought! Dugan in a “Columbo” was enough for one lifetime. I suspect that the supporting detective Sgt. Miller in “Old Fashioned Murder” was a role possibly slated for Dugan. Just as well. Dugan smirking as he tells Columbo that he knows about antiques might have been too much.

        • Good point about the nice young sergeant in “Old Fashioned Murder” being a similar character to Mac. As I recall, after the first season the TV executives wanted Columbo to have a hip young sidekick, who would handle the action scenes. The producers response to that was Dog. Perhaps Mac was intended as an in-joke, the young sidekick turning up in the final episode, saying “Hello everyone, Sorry I’m late. How are we for time?”

      • I had the same thought–that it might have been a pilot for a Dugan show. But he wasn’t really in the episode enough. In a pilot, the piloting actor often takes center stage from the lead character. Which again raises the question of what he was doing in this episode in the first place.

        • From what I gather, Mac was a late addition to the story to help bump up the running time and give rise to some ‘humorous conversations with Columbo. Based on that, there could never have been a network plan for a spin-off.

  19. Something trivial but annoying amongst a myriad of trivial and annoying was the scuba diver. Guy goes through all this effort only to have Columbo ask him what his name is and walk away.

    So, Frank didn’t know Johnny’s name until just that moment? They didn’t meet and plan the whole thing out? All the thanks Johnny got was “what’s your name?” or something like that? I think his name was Johnny but I can’t clearly recall. Not the point anyway.

    Annoying to say the least and Frank Columbo comes off as arrogant, clownish creepy and elitist, which he did in many other scenes as well. Serves as a good microcosm into how different this aging/morphing Columbo has become from the normal Columbo and was a precursor into how bad the reboots would be.

    My favorite Columbo personna ever probably goes back to the first pilot. Not that I didn’t enjoy the unkempt and play stupid personna of the vintage Columbos, but when you take that cocktail and morph him to an arrogant clown this is what you get.

    Even as poorly written as this episode was, a normal Columbo could have made it somewhat easier to watch.

  20. I just put myself through it again. Nothing changed. Just a horrible episode with no redeeming qualities.

    The “t’isn’t” bs capped it off. All the torture to sit through the episode to convict a guy stupid enough to say t’isn’t.

      • Swanny does at least evoke the Agatha Christie rule of the murderer being the last person you would suspect, not least because he’s played by Fred Draper, who has been known to help Lt Columbo solve a crime.

        As is often the case in Columbo episodes, the murderer is the first character the viewer sees, and gets vey chummy with Columbo, even dressing up as the Commodore to help out with the gathering of all the suspects at the end.

        The clue about the watch is not a bad one, but it would have been better if Swanny had not been the first suspect Columbo asked to listen to it ticking, and if he had replied “it’s not”, avoiding the need to draw out the explanation.

  21. There comes a time in the life of a Columbo fan, where they have to sit through this episode.
    I think you are right to say that changing the standard format was not the issue at all. Also a sailing themed episode, gives opportunities for great local shoots, fresh sea breeze, diving, swimming across harbours by night… some adventure! This ought to have been good.

    I appreciate your summary of the episode, because although it’s a fairly simple story, I didn’t have much of a clue what was supposed to be happening. I was baffled by major parts the story (such as the relevance of Lisa and the dreaded stenciled letters) the most baffling being the final gotcha moment. Is that it? Tisnt!
    It doesnt help that there isn’t a single character that I actually cared about, including columbo.
    Peter Falk delivers some lines in the script as if they are supposed to be really profound and poignant. But very………slowly….sluring his words as if drunk. Unfortunitely it’s not just delivery though. The dialogue really is bad. The scene where columbo turns up at Clay’s house to say the commodore is missing is just one example. Huge pauses between sentences, even pauses within sentences!

    Why does columbo have his arm round Clay in the car and in the boat? Why is there a whole scene when they talk to each other whilst facing in opposite directions? There are lots of why questions…
    Perhaps this episode was a bit of fun to make, and the whole thing is full of in-jokes…

    • And in the final scene…. everyone seems to have forgotten that one of the main characters (Charles) has been killed! It’s like he was deleted from the story, without any further explanation.

  22. From what I remember, this was a depressing episode. It wasn’t quite as traumatic for me as it was for most of the fans here, but it was unpleasant. I would say the biggest problem is the unlikeable characters. I’ve never liked the “greedy relatives fighting to see who will inherit the money of the old relative who hates them all” trope and this episode loves going there. It’s weird; there have been other episodes where the victim was unsympathetic and other episodes where the murderer was unsympathetic and they didn’t end up being this sad. Maybe the difference is that an episode has to at least have some respect for its own characters, even the ones we’re not supposed to like, and this episode had contempt for its own characters. And that keeps us, the audience, at a distance.

    Still, I won’t know if I really dislike it until I get the chance to see it again. I mean it’s got Robert Vaughn, and I like him. I do recall being pleased with myself for figuring out the “LISA S.” mystery before the show told me.

    Lisa’s describing the Commodore as “the most beautiful man who ever lived” in spite of the evidence of our own senses reminds me of Tony (you know Tony, he owns the diner) in “Fade in to Murder” talking about what a sweet, beautiful soul Clare Daley was. Oh really? It didn’t seem that way to us. Was Tony the one person in the world she was actually nice to?

    “It’s Robert Vaughn, after all!”: There’s this “Thin Man” movie and through the whole movie my roommates and I were saying “Well, the killer’s not going to be Jimmy Stewart—after all, he’s Jimmy Stewart!” And then the killer turned out to be Jimmy Stewart! They totally fooled us. Now that’s some clever casting against our expectations! 🙂

    • The boatyard foreman is a likeable character (the commodore tells us so) and he couldn’t be the killer, as he’s the doctor from “A Friend In Deed”.

    • But “everybody loved the Commodore,” we’re told. Hard to judge that from what we see. However, I did like his stand against corporatization.

  23. Truly a turkey of an episode. While reading about the dynamics between Falk and McGoogan and the implication that only they thought what they were doing was amusing, I couldn’t help thinking of the Jim Carrey movie “Man on the Moon”, where Danny DeVito’s agent character was shouting at Carrey’s Andy Kaufman and Paul Giamatti’s Bob Zmuda telling them “NOBODY BUT YOU TWO THINK’S THIS STUFF IS FUNNY!”.

    • True this was perhaps one of the worst episodes. I do like seeing a Robert Vaughn and I always liked Diane Baker. I strongly disliked the episode with Ricardo Montalban. There was nothing that I enjoyed in it, perhaps time will change things. I wasn’t crazy about A case of immunity, but it’s gotten better recently.
      I know people have there favorite episodes, mine being Ruth Gordon episode.
      My question to others is on a whole, which was your favorite overall cast in an episode?.
      Suitable for framing sure stands out,
      Negative Reaction too.
      Any old port, excellent!
      Thoughts anyone???

      • Although not my favorite episode, I would have to list Blueprint for Murder as my favorite overall cast, with Forrest Tucker as the victim, Patrick O’Neil as the murderer, Pamela Austin as the naïve young wife and Janis Paige as the unforgettable 1st wife, Goldie. Maybe because Falk directed this episode, the supporting cast was given more to do and that’s why I love them so much.

  24. One of the most offensive things about this episode- I don’t think we ever get to hear “Just one more thing…”

  25. I’m new to Falkville and Columboland. When he was on in prime time in the 70’s I was too caught up in kid things to even take notice. I never even watched one episode, not a single full episode, until January of this year. I didn’t live in a bubble, I was well aware it was on TV, but I was either too young or too busy to sit down and watch.

    I’ve never had cable TV, nor do I watch the airwaves. But one thing I do… I have Amazon Prime.

    One day several months ago I was in the break room at work and saw part of an episode airing on one of those retro TV channels. I thought it was quirky enough that I might be able to stomach it. Since then I have binged it up, in succession, to this very episode. I found it to be so out of sync with the previous 35 episodes that I had to find out what was happening. I then found this website. What a fun website! What great critiques with tidbits of TVland and character actors from a bygone era.

    Keep up the good work.

  26. This was an inside job.

    The late British actor Albert Finney had a cameo appearance during the opera scene of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother” where he turns and looks directly into the camera and asks the audience; “Is this rotten or wonderfully brave?”

    This is what I kept asking myself while trying to endure this episode.

    I then came to the conclusion that this was an art project, done for the benefit of like minded people within the TV/film industry.

    I coupled that realization with my love for everything “Prisoner” and Number 6 related.

    I began to realize that this wasn’t just a sequel to Patrick McGoohan’s Prisoner series, but was an addition to the Prisoner series. I found it to be full of the same strange, but oddly humorous details you might see in “The Girl Who was Death” Prisoner episode, which, by coincidence, was directed by the same guy who was also the assistant director on the Sherlock’s Brother movie, David Tomblin.

    So it wasn’t really a Columbo episode, even though it starred Peter Falk as Columbo.

    Yep, it was an inside job, an art film. The cast and crew were enjoying an inside joke. With those lenses I found myself enjoying it completely.

    • I sort of see what you’re saying. But I don’t really think you have to be an insider to enjoy this episode. It’s my fav. episode. Because it’s so different. Because it reminds me of the Marx Brothers I am also a fan of the Prisoner. Peter Falk did love so called art films or European films.
      Did you ever see him in the two Win Wenders films. Also John Cassavetes’ films. They were close friends and his films were brilliant I am in the minority for loving this episode. But I will watch it again and again

      • I’m not aware of those two directors you mention here, but will give it a look.

        I know what you are saying about the Marx Brothers.

        The scene where he is yelling to communicate with the boat yard manager over the noise of the grinder… what a hoot. Just the way those guys would start yelling, stop, glance towards the epicenter of the noise, then continue yelling again. All done for effect and so out of character for this series.

      • Oh… John Cassavetes, Victor Franco from the Dirty Dozen!

        I didn’t know he directed as well.

        Imma gonna look into this!

  27. I found this episode to be so bad that when I watched it, I ended coming here to see what others thought of it. I’m glad that the Columbo experts here and the reviewer found the same points in this episode annoying and unnecessary. Really a shame because I love sailboats and the ocean and wish I could look forward to re-watching the episode again.

  28. I put off watching this episode for a long time because of the horrible things said here and elsewhere about it. Maybe because of the extreme negative-ness of these things I didn’t find it as loathsome as I expected. But it certainly is boring, annoying, drawn-out and one of, if not THE worst of all Columbo episodes.
    Especially annoying is Columbo’s habit, in the first half of the show, of repeating things back to people who are saying them; as if he has memory impairment and needs to do it in order to imprint it in his feeble brain. Columbo’s police sidekicks seem to be smoking whatever the Lieutenant is smoking, maybe not as strong a version. The characters are either overacted or underacted or not interested in acting.
    I find Dagger of the mind more unwatchable, and more annoying. Maybe what makes Commodore more offensive is that it was supposed to be a send-off of sorts, and left such a bewildering and bad taste in the mouths of fans of the show.
    Some “salute”, huh?

  29. Hi, This is my first post here. I really enjoy your reviews. I remembered many of these episodes from when I was a child and enjoyed them. I also enjoyed “McCloud” and “McMillan and Wife”, but Columbo was my favorite.

    I am watching every Columbo in order and when I finished this one, I came on here to see what you had to say.

    This is by far the worst episode I have ever seen. So weird. Columbo was acting so strange and why on Earth was he so handsy?

    One of the things I’ve always liked about Columbo is that he is clearly a professional cop, he is unfailingly polite, kind and considerate. So, when he is impolite, or even yells at one of the murderers, it emphasized how affected he is by the murder. However, in this episode, all of these traits are gone. The reveal of the murder Robert Vaugn’s character to Diane Lane’s character was just cruel.

    Also, it is already well established that he is afraid of boats, but he just hops into a rowboat to have dinner with his wife. Right.

    Aside from the slow weirdness, the real disappointment is that some guy other than Columbo showed up in this episode and I really didn’t like this guy. I hope the real Columbo returns in the next season!

    • Columbo is never quite this weird again, but the shadow of Last Salute was cast throughout the remaining seasons. Falk’s Columbo impersonation is also pretty grating in a number of Season 7 episodes – especially Murder Under Glass and The Conspirators.

  30. Well, you wanted to know whether this episode is not that bad, right? Well, try to compare this shipwreck with the episode based on Ed McBains writing – No Time to Die – which is not a Columbo story at all. Also the truly last Columbo episode – Columbo Likes the Nightlife – is a similar disaster to the Commodore´s watches. Speaking of which, I hope you plan to review all of the episodes because even in the 10th season there are some great ones like Ashes to Ashes or Strange Bedfellows.

    • I certainly will be reviewing the new episodes, and Columbo Goes to the Guillotine will be coming up in the next few weeks. In other news, I don’t think I’d be rating ‘Strange Bedfellows’ as a great episode. My limited memories of it are far from favourable.

    • Don’t agree at all with your stating Columbo Likes the Nightlife is a disaster similar to “Commodore”. While not even close to a classic, the former is much more serious in tone than the latter. And the gotcha in “Nightlife’ is absolutely clear and definitive, the exact opposite of Commodore’s gotcha.

      • I had long dreaded coming around to watching “Nightlife” as I have a low opinion of the 1989-2003 episodes as a whole. The idea of Columbo, grey-haired and shuffling as Falk’s caricature of a caricature by 2003, investigating rave scenes sounded beyond dreadful. But that this wasn’t the worst of the 1989-2003 episodes is an achievement. The infusion of a Fincher-eque filming style was also a revelation.

    • Strange bedfellows has a bad reputation and is considered to be a bit of a stinker but its very slightly underatted and i did say very slightly , Rod steiger is a positive there are a few good clues that stack up and an exciting car chase and a few funny moments here and there and i prefer it to these following 6 Murder with too many notes , Undercover , Murder in Malibu Murder a self portrait and if you pushed me goes under the guillotine which i Never warmhearted to ( i find it very long and boring paticulary the first half and the end is just ridiculous ) and Grand deceptions which often slips my mind .

      • Agree. I always found “Strange Bedfellows’ to be much better than it’s reputation. I could come up with at least a dozen Columbo episodes that I rate lower.

  31. I get that they were going for offbeat comedy, and I have no problem with that as a concept. Taken on its own terms however I just don’t think it is very funny. It’s a strange style of deadpan anti-humor that just doesn’t quite land imo.

  32. I’ve just watched this again today ( I’m OK thanks for asking ) and I had to rewatch the closing reveal a second time for this reason:

    Where in all that dialogue does the fact that Swanny killed Charles come out? The reveal seems to ignore his death entirely and focuses on the commodores death.

    Please if anyone can tell me which bit of dialogue it is that clearly lays the blame for that death at Swanny’s feet I would love to know.

    Or are we as viewers meant to join the dots ourselves? It was just a utter mess of an episode. Its apparent they all had a blast making it ( I think Falk is acting weird because he is trying to suppress his urge to laugh all the time myself ) but It really needed a critical eye casting over it.

    Delightful end to it though!

    • The murder of Charles is essentially completely overlooked during the tepid parlour room reveal. I guess we’re supposed to join the dots, but it’s another example of the vague writing. Also, if any of the characters in this episode did anything normal, they would have been asking about who killed Charles at the end – particularly his wife. It wouldn’t have been difficult to factor in a few lines of explanation about why Swanny killed Charles (especially when you consider how much time was wasted throughout), so just shows what an utter shambles the whole thing is.

      • Also no real motive is given for the murder of Charles. Wouldn’t it have been better for Swanny to have the suspicion of the Commodore’s murder fall on Joanna, who was so wiped out that she couldn’t deny anything? Killing Charles just undermined that, IMO.

  33. Did I spot young Bruno Kirby in an uncredited role as the photographer’s assistant in the party scene? Looks like him. But he had just done Godfather II and had a speaking part in the 1974 McGoohan episode “By Dawn’s Early Light”.

    None of the evidence in the Commodore episode would hold up in court.

    Columbo demonstrates that Charles Clay couldn’t have driven to or from the murder site in time (I’m still not sure which) according to the time on the watch. But the actual murderer set the watch to implicate someone else (and conveniently detached it from the body lest it be lost when the body was moved by a person who found the planted broach, but not the detached watch).

    Two suspects are further implicated because they volunteered alibis. Not that the alibis were false, just the fact that they established them further implicated them, supposedly.
    I barely noticed that Swanny had said “Tisn’t”. He easily could argue that he’d actually said “Otis” (his uncle’s first name) and Columbo had misheard.

    The meditating lover had not yet wed the Commodore and we have only her word that she was not after his money. He had not changed the will yet, nor married her yet. If he had, he did not inform his lawyer who, being present in the room at the time of the reveal, would have pointed out the change in beneficiaries. She was not distraught when we first see her, despite the fact that her lover has just gone missing and is, perhaps, dead. The only clue that she had not killed the old man is that she clearly could not act to save her life and she would have betrayed her guilt immediately.

    • The discovery of the lipstick, along with the watch, was a red herring intended to point to Joanna, but if I remember correctly nothing is ever done with it, as opposed to the broach.

  34. Another person re-visiting this one and still left wondering what happened. If Peter Falk was so protective of the Columbo character and the quality of the films (the the point of being bloody-minded, apparently) why did he let this slow motion car crash get made and transmitted? I can only imagine he allowed himself to be convinced (as many people seem to be) that Patrick McGoohan was some sort of oddball genius. McGoohan could be a good actor (with a tendency to be a bit twitchy) but he sadly overestimated his talent for creativity (the premise for ‘The Prisoner’ is excellent, but some of the individual episodes? Oy!). The result is a case of being different for the sake of being different, not to bring forward any new ideas or insights into the Columbo character. It’s just a mess.

  35. I forced myself to watch it again. It’s one of two episodes i hate, the other being A Case of Immunity which i know most people view as pretty average but i detest it. My conclusion? It’s not as bad as i remember it. It’s even worse! I know i’m opening myself to accusations of lacking intelligence, but i don’t care. I simply have no idea what just happened! Couldn’t follow any of it. No idea even who died and who didn’t. A combination of bewildering jumps in the plot, random weird events (like pretty much every 30 seconds), far too many characters spoiling the broth, Peter Falk randomly grinning like he’s on crack for no apparent reason and a general feeling of myself slipping into a coma left me utterly confused by the entire thing. It’s not so much a “whodunnit?” as a “whyamisupposedtocareagain?”. I have no idea how anybody signed this off to be aired. It’s like one of those local plays you get dragged along to watch on a school trip, only worse. Much much worse.

    I often say one of the things i love about Columbo is it’s slow. It takes its time to properly tell a story. I’m now thinking slow is the wrong word for what i mean! By slow, i mean just about the right amount of time. It’s not rushed like most tv shows are. It reminds me of the Twilight Zone in that respect. But this episode is on a whole new level. This is slow in the wrong sense of the word. Does Columbo really need to say the word “Mac” approximately 700 billion times in the 1 episode? In my mind, all i could hear for the entire episode was “Mac Mac Mac Mac Mac Mac Mac PaddyMac give a Mac a Mac!” The script is abysmal, the camera work is abysmal, the acting is abysmal, even Peter Falk is abysmal. I wonder if he ever just thought “what in the hell are we doing here?” He must have known the whole thing was utter garbage? At least it’s achieved one thing, i now hate A Case of Immunity a bit less. I hate it, but really it’s on a different level to this tripe. I don’t like going with the general consensus, often i like movies that get poor reviews and vice versa. But this time, there’s just no way to find anything good no matter how hard i try. I couldn’t even enjoy the ending, i just wanted to push Columbo’s head into the sea. I didn’t pay a cent to re-watch Last Salute to the Commodore, but i still feel like i should get a refund!

    • For years I had cited Roddy McDowall’s hysteria at the end of “Short Fuse” as the most cringeworthy scene for the 1968-1978 run. Then one night I steeled myself and rewatched “Commodore” for the first time in several years and it was like an infestation of irritation: Columbo inexplicably allowing the annoying Mac to learn how to drive his car by doing rounders in the driveway, Columbo attempting yoga with Lisa, and the ultra-irritating scene where Columbo and the ship worker shout at each other. It’s reminiscent of the heaping gobs of bullsh*t that was dumped all over the 1989-2003 run.

      • I get the feeling not many Columbo fans are fans of John Cassavetes films or Patrick McGoohans The Prisoner. No I think Peter Falk would have loved doing the Last Salute. as he loved doing Cassavetes films.

        • I became a fan of “The Prisoner” when I was young and it was airing in reruns on PBS. My father also liked it. If one is a fan of “The Prisoner,” then it’s a treat to see Patrick McGoohan in episodes of “Columbo.”

          The two shows are different, though. Madcap surrealism isn’t necessarily appropriate for “Columbo,” which strives to be a warmer show that connects emotionally with the audience through its lovable main character, as opposed to “The Prisoner” which is more of a cold intellectual experiment, trying everything imaginable with form, with a cypher of a protagonist.

          We’re rooting for № 6, we respect him as a hero, but we can never identify with him as a person. He keeps us, like his captors, at arm’s length. We don’t even get his last name, let alone his first name!

          • I always imagined that No. 6 was actually John Drake from “Secret Agent.” In fact, I think I’ve read that supposition a few times.

            I loved “The Prisoner,” too. Have the DVD set.

            • I think this came about because Patrick McGoogan’s publicity photo as John Drake from “Danger Man” (aka “Secret Agent”) was used as No. 6’s file photo in The Prisoner. As I understand it, McGoohan himself was the “prisoner”, wanting to escape from his role as Drake.

  36. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Murder Under Glass | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  37. I’m doing a full series rewatch and most of season 5 is a disappointment after season 4. Even one of my old favorites (Now You See Him). This episode plays like everyone is drunk or at least Columbo is. Were they setting up Sarge and Mac to take over as detectives? They actually didn’t bother me (but then I’ve always liked Bruce Kirby and Dugan). Everything else in the episode did.

  38. With this (and Identify Crisis) it kinda makes sense to imagine he was going through a tough time in his personal life, maybe a relationship crisis with the wife… Or a decade of catching baddies caught up to him and he started hitting the booze.

    That’s how he comes across in this (and identity) – that he was drunk on the job.

    The only narrative that makes sense to me that explains the weird behaviour.

    Maybe he quit the force for a few years between season 5 and 6.

  39. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Try & Catch Me | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  40. Pingback: The 10 least satisfying Columbo ‘gotchas’ of the 70s | THE COLUMBOPHILE

    • He would inherit the Commodore’s fortune if the daughter was convicted of his murder. He killed Charles to make Joanna look extra guilty after Columbo started to suspect Charles killed the Commodore.

  41. I will defend this hot mess of an episode. If this were a movie, it would be one of those so bad it is good, unintentionally funny or cult classics. This is hilarious and my family loves it. My sisters love to cry’ (paraphrase) ‘don’t lie for me, don’t know where I’ve been in a long time’.
    Columbophile posts are always funny and thought provoking, but I disagree with many of his ratings. This is not the worst episode; that honor must be duked out between some of the later offerings such as Undercover and….(tries to think of episode as bad)……
    Also, some of my personal favorites that are always being dissed by others….Short Fuse, Dead Weight, Exercise, Requiem, Matter of Honor, Lovely but Lethal..
    I do not enjoy Candidate, Playback,as much as any of these; and how is Blueprint so far down on the list?

    Love the ‘cast and crew’ caption on the photo!

    • I dont rate candidate for crime too highly either and I llike blueprint for murder it should be rated higher and i dont think short fuse is too bad , But sorry I just Dont like Dead weight, Requiem , Matter of honor but i Dont dislike lovley but lethal but its a long way down the list .

  42. I totally agree this is the worst episode ever. What also bothers me is the sound quality. It looks they lost the sound tape and dubbed the whole episode. It’s often not in sync, and too loud or too soft alternately. Or is it only me experiencing this?

  43. Well, I’m sure I’m not alone in waiting for this review of the most disliked Colujmbo episode ever. Columbophile again shows why he stands alone in his ability to explore every aspect, including nuances of a show. An awesome review, thank you! There is so much to discuss about Commodore, I will just say that I agree that Anglophile Ms. Baker is too talented to turn in a bad performance, although I was annoyed early on with her constant grabbing for a glass or bottle and always waving a glass around merrily. My point is that she could have been a sympathetic character if drawn with any subtlety whatever. There are simply no likeable characters; most important of whom is Columbo himself. Another agreed upon point is the interminable drawing out of everything. When the show began this morning, I decided I would try to identify when it begins to show its flaws. For me the fissures develop right after the amusing scene with all the guys (I enjoy watching Vaughn’s controlled discomfort) in Columbo’s car. And that’s pretty early on. But its really an overall mood and pace issue. It just isn’t very entertaining; unlike the Columbophile review above which will hold up to many repeated readings!

    • Still its not all that bad–if you can disregard 80% of Columbo’s “uneven” (I’m being charitable) performance and have Columbophile’s plot explanation to follow along.

      • OK Just one more thing. I have to mention the Columbophile captions. While “Joanna took the news of Charlie’s death completely in stride” made me smile broadly, nothing prepared me for Lisa’s “UGH Make it stop”. One for the ages.

  44. I’m watching that episode right now—or trying to—and while I don’t exactly ‘hate’ it, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around everything that’s going on. And some parts of actually weirded me out, like that close up of Columbo leaning over Charles’ dead body.

    At the risk of smooching up, I have to say that this review was more entertaining than the episode! XD

  45. Is everyone in this episode stoned? If it weren’t for your review, I’d have thought it was me that was high. Columbo is downright weird and I don’t even like him! The way he keeps humping people makes me really uncomfortable. When he kept looking through the dot stencil, I figured it out. It’s a joke. The whole episode is a joke on us. It was all calculated so that, since it was to be the last episode, we wouldn’t miss Columbo so much. Well, in that case, this horrendous episode was very considerate. Thank you very much. I hated it a lot.

    • You nailed it! I’ve been re-watching the ’80’s-90’s reboot episodes. On the whole (excluding the Ed McBain atrocities), they are not, scriptwise, worse than the ’70’s episodes. What is missing is the Columbo we all know and love. Who is this guy who shows up in the rumpled raincoat?

  46. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Fade in to Murder | The Columbophile

  47. Pingback: Trying to Salvage Last Salute to the Commodore | The Columbophile

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