Monday, March 26, 2012

The Weirdest 'Columbo' Episode

'The Last Salute to The Commondore' has gotta be the weirdest 'Columbo' episode ever. Directed by Patrick McGoohan and starring Robert Vaughn, this show not only breaks the traditional formula it has the Lieutenant acting quite strange.

When he arrives at the murder scene, he gives Robert Vaughn a 'I know you did look' as soon as Vaughn opens the door. We always suspected that Columbo knew the killer right away, but this is over the top. Even more interestingly, Vaughn isn't really the killer.

Columbo is teamed up with two sidekicks, a rookie wunderkind and Sgt. Kramer, who has appeared in other episodes. There seems no point in having them there, other for them to exchange surreal bits of dialogue.

In a long scene Columbo takes a stab at TM with a young girl on a boat, trying to get into the lotus position. Later, he lays on a dock like a drunken hobo while he contemplates whodunit. And in two scenes gets waaay too close and personal physically with Vaughn. Once when they are cramped into Columbo's car and in another scene where he puts his arm around Vaughn like a teenager trying to cop a feel at the local drive-in.


The show ends with an Agatha Christie type climax with all of the suspects in a room. Columbo talks about donuts, yells at his sidekicks, admires a trench coat (not his) draped over a chair and in another surreal moment, places a ticking pocket watch uncomfortably in each suspect's ear.

The ending has Columbo rowing a boat across a harbor to meet his wife (for lunch, I assume). This contradicts an earlier character trait that Columbo hates being in a boat of any kind. The scene of his rowing goes on and on, and reminds me of something Falk said in a interview. Talking about Patrick McGoohan, Falk said, 'He once said to me "I see a vision of Columbo riding a camel in the desert". I suppose the row boat scene was as close as he got to that kind of image.

It's a fascinating episode, and although I haven't checked any fan sites, I assume it's one people either really love for its weirdness, or for those who don't get it, wonder why they made such an oddball show. It's the last episode of the fifth season. Check it out.

11 Comments:

Blogger Mark Verheiden said...

Only those involved know why this episode turned out the way it did, but given it was the last ep of season five and that Falk was mostly running things by that point, I'm guessing "Commodore" was him and McGoohan indulging their inner whimsy and desire to change things up. It IS a thoroughly weird episode...

8:51 AM  
Blogger Paige said...

I just started watching this one and had to google "Columbo physical comedy" after the whole scene in the car - the three men in the front, one in the back...his odd closeness not only in the car but on the dock...too funny!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Alan MacIntyre said...

Thank you for making this observation clear to all of us - I just finished watching the "Commodore" episode and had to research the internet to see if I was going crazy (or if the creators of Columbo were). Peter Falk's painfully slow and strange behavior, and other departures from past plot formats made it more of a mystery than a story where our favorite sloppy, lovable detective finds the killer. The camera angles and edits were very odd at times...example: Columbo looks down into the fireplace where the second murder victim is found, camera is looking up at him from the floor and he slowly bends down and brings his head to the lens, until his hair blocks the shot (that was the transition out of the scene!). Really?! Despite my discomfort throughout this episode, I still found myself enjoying the show!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Alexis Mokler said...

I LOVED this episode! But I see how you are right in that people will either love it, not understand it, or actually dislike it. Great post! And Paige, I just googled "Columbo Physical Comedy" as well. One of my other favorites is "The Quickest Way Down", but there are now others that are at the top of my list. Thanks for the tip!

5:18 AM  
Blogger darren garnett said...

~Im glad to find this blog after getting really freaked out by this episode but also loving it too i must admit that once i noticed magoohan was involved it went a little way to explain i suppose !!!!!!

1:37 AM  
Blogger James Ransford said...

I have just finished watching this episode. I admit I had to Google it to make sure I wasn't going mad! At first I thought I'd drunk one too many Vodka's!

8:52 PM  
Blogger James Ransford said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Nancy (Team McCurdy) said...

Thank goodness for these posts. It is 2015 and Hallmark has been running Columbo reruns for awhile. The Commodore episode is soooo strange I googled it. Why Faulk and Vaughn are connected at the elbow throughout this one was so bizarre I had to check on it. Well, I know I'm not the only one that thinks this very odd.

3:00 PM  
Blogger PomyCollingwood said...

Hi there! I'm one of those fans who like the episode! Actually I put it in my top ten, just around 6th place. Why? Because owning boxsets, having seen every one of the episodes, multiple times & analyzed loads of them over the years. This whodunnit is a rarity and has got to be the basic sum of the whole series: love it all hate it! Lets us have a glimpse of the Lieutenant's days / hours when real things happen. New recruit needs to be taken on field trips, a colleague gets involved, we see the corridors of the police HQ and learn about the " boys in the lab " as we happen to witness a conversation about the water in lungs stuff. The lab people aren't seen until much later when one of the CSI guys are actually is the murderer. The acting is great in this episode and Columbo is a bit out of his depth in the boatyard and with all that terminology thing. Great show! All the little extras we barely hear of / see regarding our favorite detective! No need hating this episode! I think many fans do not understand the plot and that makes them dislike it. I suggest these fans re-watch it when their more open minded or older? Gotta love this unique gem of all episodes!

Pomy Collingwood

4:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I never understood how the murderer could give himself away with the watch.

5:42 AM  
Blogger Sebastian said...

Peter Falk was on the verge of breaking ties with the studio over "artistic" and monetary issues. At the end of Season 5, COLUMBO was such a money-manker that he was in the catbird seat. So . . . anything goes! The last scene as the Lieutenant is rowing away? Listen to Columbo's lines.

6:03 AM  

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