Season 5 Episode 6

Last Salute to the Commodore

Aired Unknown Mar 02, 1976 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
51 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Last Salute to the Commodore
Commodore Swanson is tired of his greedy son-in-law turning his ship building business into an embarrassment and decides to sell the company.

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  • I'm really surprised.

    I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Patrick McGoohan directed. At the same, it accounts for a lot of the eccentricities. Any fan of Columbo will sense right from his first scene there's something off about the performance. His interactions, his mannerisms, the process by which he solves the case are all really inappropriate for the character of Columbo. The solution to the whodunnit isn't awful, but the murderer seems random in the end. Robert Vaughn barely plays a part in the meat of the story, and the first hour is incredibly slow going. You have to give McGoohan credit for trying a new direction, but this isn't "Columbo" at its best.moreless
  • Columbo has visibly drunk too much and seems to have trouble cracking his case.

    "What's wrong with this ?" Such was the question that kept hauting me during this episode. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Columbo, I grew up with it, in a way, and although I've pretty much seen them all, it's always a tremendous pleasure watching them anew. Well, except for this one, I must say : I'd never seen it before and guess I'll never ever give it a try again. I'm not at all boycotting episodes that try to stray from the usual formula, provided it's entertaining enough and that the new ideas fit in neatly with the series. However, throughout this episode, things are presented in such a way that the viewer is constantly under the impression that the directors were on strike and that the actors consequently did not have precise directions. What ensues is a fairly disturbing impression that everyone is improvising and/or is wholly unconcerned by what is going on. I mean, look at Columbo ; I always thought that he was a wonderful, round, complex and well-crafted character, and that the various episodes always strived to develop him further each time. Well, here, all that long-running work of characterization is torn apart by a miserable (and unexplainable) reworking of the character : he doesn't investigate per se (meaning he doesn't focus on the apparently unimportant things that the murderer overlooked) and just roams about groping people for not apparent reason. At times, it even seemed to me that he was miles away from the Columbo we all know, for he went from being discreet and nice (on the surface, at least) to being quite offensive and heavy-handed. Even the very first appearance of our beloved Lieutnant raises unanswered questions : why on earth does he look so dumbfounded and groggy (and he does look drunk at times) for the first half hour of the episode ? Where is his habit of pestering the murderer until he finally gives himself away ? We don't even see much of Robert Vaugnh, who is nevertheless supposed to be the main character in this. Needless to say that there is absolutely no alchemy between the Lieutnant and the "murderer", while this is a much-sought element in the Columbo series. To add insult to injury, one keeps feeling like Columbo is not very efficient in this case, since he doesn't do much and lets his two partners do the work (and, most of all, he is wrong for quite an important part of the episode ! Now talk about inconsistent characterization). A shame too, that the relationship between Columbo and the rookie is just superficially broached upon, without any development whatsoever. And I really hate to say this but even Peter Falk's acting was unconvincing, the latter often appearing bored or rather unsure if he's doing the right thing. As for the scenario, I think it fell quite flat in the sense that trying to captivate an audience takes more than a hasty, vaguely Agatha Christie-inspired ending whose one and only vindication is to swiftly tie all the loose ends that were left (and also to give Columbo some opportunity to twiddle yet another bunch of people ; good thing he finally goes to meet up with his wife !) Overall, a very disappointing and mediocre episode I wish I could erase of my memory, as it leaves a foul aftertaste of oddity until the very end, to say the least : what's with that weird idea of having Columbo row his way to the place where is wife is ? Isn't he supposed to be the type of person who is seasick (and we know he is) ? Well, one thing is sure in all this confusion : you'll be glad when the credits roll, but will hardly believe that Patrick McGoohan could direct such a terrible episode ! .moreless
  • fool-the-audience-scenario

    About thirty minutes into the film, I thought this was one of the weakest "Columbo"s ever because it had the usual beginning (a murder happening, then Columbo coming, inspecting everything and interrogating the main suspect) squared! It was boring because I thought I knew everything already.

    But then there was a surprising twist that turned this episode into a most exciting one. Suddenly, many characters were involved, I started to guess with Columbo and the ending was just like Agatha Christie's Poirot endings are.

    The film is full of irony, and looking back, I must admit that the whole episode is great work of the writers because the ordinary first part is a mere tool for creating this irony, creating a huge fool-the-audience-scenario.

  • Epic Columbo

    This episode is about as close to an epic as you can get in the Columbo series. First, there's a big twist that you won't expect if you are familiar with the usual way Columbo episodes progress. We actually find out that Columbo has been wrong all along during his investigation and things weren't what they seemed. Peter Falk goes a little more over the top with Columbo in this episode, appearing almost repulsively obtuse at times. He really overstays his welcome and gets right the the face of his prey - a little more confrontational that we usually see from Columbo.

    In this episode he has not one but two Dr. Watson's following him around. In the end, Columbo gathers the suspects in a room and explains to everyone (with diagrams) what happened. We've seen that before in Agatha Christie mysteries but it's the first time I've seen Columbo do it.

    This episode is a lot more memorable than most episodes. As a surprise, when the credits rolled I noticed Patrick McGoohan of the Prisoner directed this one. No surprise there, since McGoohan usually delivers episodes that are always a little more lively and different. All in all, an enjoyable Columbo.moreless
  • One of the oddest Columbo episodes--not merely because the murderer wasn't known until the end, but because of the way Columbo acted and interacted.

    I am at a loss to explain the change in Columbo's character that occurred in this episode. Perhaps Mr. Falk was tired of the typical Columbo routine and wanted to try something new. Whatever the reason, from the opening sequence, this Columbo is very different from the affable, bumbling, but shrewd loner that manages to disarm his adversary prior to closing in for the kill.

    At the beginning Columbo seems to be in a kind of stupor. It isn't that this is in and of itself odd, since he has appeared in various stages of dishevelment in many episodes. But there appears to be no explanation for it--no lack of sleep, cold, allergies, etc to account for this sluggish behavior.

    This is only a mild variant behavior compared to his other odd action. He seems to be "all over" everyone in the episode. I mean he is getting very close to them, putting his face right next to theirs, his arm around them, sitting practically in their lap, etc. At first it appears to be confined to Robert Vaughn's character as a kind of way to unnerve him, but it later seems to spread to nearly everyone. This is quite a departure from the normally shy but charming approach he normally has.

    Additionally, his two sargeants play a much bigger role than they are normally allowed to play. Usually, Columbo uses his auxiliary personnel to deliver the more tedious information and run a few errands. In this episode they are constantly involved in the case, which waters down Columbo's interaction with the other characters that is one of the attractions of the program.

    As for the episode in general, the acting by the other characters is often over the top. Lots of unnecessary shouting and arm waving. Even Robert Vaughn's stoic performance appears a bit to stilted and his wife's drunken character is only a series of irrational scenes with little or no substance. The final scene, reminiscent of Christie's Poirot gathering all the suspects together for the solution, is particularly tedious and overacted, and there is really no ingenious bit of unraveling done by Columbo other than him practically embracing each character and doing the bit with the watch.

    I gave it a 5 because even with all these flaws, Peter Falk is fascinating to watch. And I thank God that Columbo was back to normal in the next episode.moreless
Robert Vaughn

Robert Vaughn


Guest Star

Wilfrid Hyde-White

Wilfrid Hyde-White


Guest Star

John Dehner

John Dehner

Commodore Otis Swanson

Guest Star

Fred Draper

Fred Draper

Swanny Swanson

Recurring Role

Bruce Kirby

Bruce Kirby

George Kramer

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • What are the chances that a wealthy boat designer would have put the name of his beloved young bride on his favorite boat using crate stencils?

    • Columbo is only able to confirm that Swanny is the murderer because he obligingly responds to Columbo's little experiment with the watch. Not only does one wonder why Swanny (or anyone else) respond to Columbo's watch-listening experiment, but it seems unlikely this would be anywhere close to convictable for a jury.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Charles Clay: Isn't the police always called in when there's any possibility of an accident?

      Columbo: Accident? Oh, I'm sure it's just an accident. Don't worry just because I'm from homicide. Didn't I mention that? Well, never mind.

    • Charles Clay: They're on duty 24 hours. I simply could not have returned without them seeing me.

      Columbo: Yes sir, I guess that's all true and that guard, he certainly remembers what time you left just like I told you he did. But that's exactly what's been bothering me right from the beginning-- time. Ever since I saw that beautiful watch of yours. Time. Why would you check with the guard when you were leaving the island, the time? He's got a drugstore watch. Unless you wanted to make certain when you were leaving he would remember...

      Sgt. Mac Albinsky: The time.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Second appearance for Robert Vaughn. His first appearance was as the murderer in "Troubled Waters" in Season 4.

    • 90 minutes long.

    • This is the second of two appearances on Columbo by veteran actor Wilfrid Hyde-White. His first appearance was in Season Two's "Dagger of the Mind".

    • This is the only episode of the original series where we don't know who the murderer is. Or rather, that the writers and producers play it clever by setting us up to think we know who the murderer is and then leave us to guess who the second one is.

    • A clip from this episode can be seen in the movie "Big Daddy", directed by Dennis Dugan. Mr. Dugan, who plays Mac in this episode, can be seen in the clip, behind Lt. Columbo .