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
The Commodore who was murdered is named Otis Swanson. In the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Dead Ringer", the murder victim is also named Otis Swanson. Jackson Gillis is credited as the writer in that episode as well as this one. 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 »
I don't think he, Charles Clay... I don't think he murdered anybody.
Really, Mr. Columbo. Charlie certainly went to a lot of trouble if he didn't murder the commodore.
Oh, I think he would have gone to twice that much trouble if he thought that his wife had murdered the commodore.
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An off-beat episode that nearly makes you switch off!
This 1976 episode ignorantly dispenses with the basic Columbo formula in it's thought, style and execution. with a distinct aura of parody smothering it's dialogue and characterisation.
Whether it was felt by the regular members of the Columbo crew that it was time to try something different, or whether things were ad-libbed around a basic storyline I don't know. Suffice to say, that after an interestingly constructed opening with an off-screen murder, the remaining part of the first half of this episode rambles desperately, with characters seemingly unable to keep a straight face, yawn-inducing discussions on boats and parts of boats, and some irritating repetition of secondary characters introducing themselves to each other etc.
It's almost like somebody decided to tighten things up in the second half, with a wonderfully inserted twist relating to the prime murder suspect and a script, which becomes increasingly rich in interesting clues, that facilitate an decent Agatha Christie-like resolution. Despite this significant improvement, the sealing clue is woefully inadequate and thus the glaring mediocrity that haunts so much of the early part of this episode returns at a very crucial time.
Slipshod in overall execution, the script could have been significantly tightened and sharpened to render a Columbo episode that, whilst deviating from the typical approach, would have proved to be a relatively entertaining story.
From a historical point of view, it seems that Peter Falk had intended, prior to the production of this episode, to make this his final outing as Columbo. If this is true, he appears to have changed his mind by the story's finale: his remarks to his colleague about "not quitting" - which in the context of the story, refer to Columbo's smoking habit - may have been a subtle reference to his desire to carry on a little longer.
Sadly, this episode does mark Falk's departure from the portrayal of some of his character's appealingly deceptive traits - the seeming absent-mindedness and dim-wittedness of the Columbo character has been replaced with an unsatisfying and pronounced arrogance. Unfortunately, this would take the gloss of the remaining episodes in the original series, some of which are very good.
Painfully uncertainly paced and padded in places, significant tolerance will need to be shown by most viewers to get them safely through to the second half. Ironically, this addition to the series could provoke more discussion than any other, in light of its very curious approach.
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