Columbo (1971–2003)
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Last Salute to the Commodore 

Charlie Clay runs the ship building business of his father-in-law, Commodore Swanson, who turns up murdered; Lt. Columbo is on the case.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Charles 'Charlie' Clay
Kittering, Esq.
Commodore Otis Swanson
Sergeant Theodore "Mac" Albinsky
Joanna Clay
Joshua Bryant ...
Wayne Taylor
Susan Foster ...
Lisa King
Fred Draper ...
Swanny Swanson
Coast Guard Officer
Guard (as J. P. Finnegan)
Joseph Roman ...
Shop Foreman
Hanna Hertelendy ...
Jerry Crews ...


Charlie Clay runs a ship-building business owned by his father-in-law, Commodore Otis Swanson, who is not happy with his profiteering son-in-law's shady dealings. Nor is he pleased with any of the people closest to him, including his alcoholic daughter Joanna Clay, his elderly nephew Swanny Swanson or his lawyer Kittering. Soon the Commodore is murdered, and Charlie Clay covers it up by impersonating the Commodore, taking the corpse out on the man's yawl at night and throwing the body overboard. Lt. Columbo investigates this case with the help of a veteran sergeant and a 29-year-old novice. The rumpled, redoubtable detective knows Clay covered up the crime, but his assumption that Clay committed the crime may prove premature. Written by J. Spurlin

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Release Date:

2 March 1976 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This is the only Columbo episode, in which the audience does not know the murderer from the start. Contrary to the normal Columbo "howcatchem" plot it has a classic "whodunit" ending scene with all suspects gathered in a room to be revealed the perpetrator. See more »


As Columbo wraps up his phone call with Ensign O'Connor aboard Charles Clay's yacht, three people can be seen on the adjacent yacht "Cameo", peering through the windows in the background. They're clearly not extras, since they stare at the camera nearly constantly, only occasionally turning to discuss what they're seeing with each other. See more »


Charles 'Charlie' Clay: Listen, are the police always called in when there's any possibility of an accident?
Columbo: Accident... Oh, I'm sure this is an accident. Don't worry just because I'm from Homicide. Didn't I mention that? Well, never mind.
See more »


Featured in Big Daddy (1999) See more »


This Old Man
Traditional English children's song/nursery rhyme.
On soundtrack in several variations at end as Columbo rows away
See more »

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User Reviews

A Bizarre Disjointed Episode
25 December 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

As an utter Columbo devotee I was almost shocked to watch this episode.

It revolves around the murder of an elderly ship-yard owner who has plans to sell-out to a conglomerate, to the horror of various family and friend leeches who see their meal ticket flying out the window.

Even the first cut scene to the murder location has you wondering if a chunk of tape hasn't ended up on the floor without the editors noticing.

A stellar cast including Vaughan (who starred in a previous cruise-ship murder Columbo episode) utterly fails to make this work, and Vaughan himself looks extremely uncomfortable in this outing.

The scenes are awkward, apparently ad-libbed, Falk open with a knowing self-satisfied stare when stood at the door of the Commodore's (ship-yard owner's) home as though by divine inspiration he thinks he knows who's guilty even before the killer has made his/her trademark slip-up.

Stilted dialogue, long, long awkward silences, uncomfortable character dynamics (Columbo keeps draping an arm around Vaughan in most scenes in a bizarre fashion), oddly timed cut-scenes, absence of incidental music and worst of all absence of endearing Columbo characteristics made this a cringe-worthy outing. I felt uncomfortable several times watching it.

Some reviewers will rate this quirky episode simply by virtue of it trying to be different-what that ignores is that the very appeal of Columbo, especially the 1970s outings, is its formulaic presentation. Falk is smarmy, condescending to his young detective trainee, all-knowing well before any clues have been presented...all in all it presents like a drama-class ad-libbed thrown together session. A very bad episode, possibly because it suggests the end of the Columbo series, with Columbo rowing off at the end whistling that annoying Nik-Nak Paddywhack tune (despite having a cigar clenched between his teeth!). Going by the 1980s/1990s episodes maybe it should have been the end.

When you compare this episode to the gems starring Robert Culp and Jack Cassidy, it almost poisons the entire series, and definitely feels non-canon. Fans avoid, this was bad, very very bad.

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