Columbo: An analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” part 4



At 8.25, Mark makes a blunt, yet symbolic, goodbye to Kay.  He purposely breaks (up with Kay) the glass of ice in order to give his gift of a new car to her.   Although he lets go of one, his hands still grasps the other glass.  He has dropped Kay out of his life and putting physical distance in between.  However, its become clear that he is cursed as the ice will not distance him.


Kay is never seen accepting the keys.  Rather, her eyes is focused on another prize.  In a final insult, Mark finishes the conversation with an explicit “goodbye”.


The episode returns to Lt. Columbo who is recovering from his accident.  It is no coincidence the theme again is the massage.   The purpose is quickly contrasting Kay and her soon-to-be opponent, Columbo.  Columbo is vulnerable as a recipient of a massage from a pretty intimidating fellow.  Compare that to a seemingly fair Kay Freestone who gives them.  Although Columbo pleads not to have his neck “slightly adjusted”, he loses the argument.    There are also parallels.  Both Colombo and Kay felt their pain half undressed, both without pants.  Both will have different approaches to recovery.  Notice Columbo’s trademark overcoat hanging on the hook in the background.


Day becomes night as we hear Kay’s voice on a tape recorder.  Her recorded voice is performing a countdown.  She is the third character to speak to him or herself.  Unlike Columbo or Mark, she uses a  tape recorder.  She stands out as unnatural for using a device.  Other than not singing, she doesn’t miss a beat or get a number wrong or forget a line.  As the men fumble along their songs, Kay is unwavering both in her recording and with her life.  We know her next decisions in her life demands precision.

The camera pulls in from above her living room.  We see all of her tools.  The earphones, the watch, her handbag, her radio with antenna.  We also notice stacks of notebooks where primary colors of blue and red take dominant positions.    While green is a compromise between blue and yellow and purple a compromise between red and blue, the primary colors alone denote no changes, no blurring, no negotiations.  While the camera pulls back and up, we see Kay’s overcoat in its very familiar color.  It is a metaphor about Columbo, of course.  It is a predictor that both of them will meet as adversaries.  The blue notebook is near Kay’s coat.  The red is at the other end of the table.  The tools of murder are in between.  As the camera rises, we see a very Spartan dining room.  It is oddly clean as if no one really lives here.  There are no plates, flatware, dinner pieces anything resembling dining.   There is a shelf in the background that resembles more like an iron fence.   It holds small, modest trophies.   Whether the trophies are hers or simply decoration is not clear.  The size and shape of the fence  is.  The camera pans to our right and we see Kay sitting on the stairs alone.  Again we see vertical bars trapping her.  Her seating position is unseemly ironic.  This is the place she begins her path to murder.  It will also be the exact place attributing to the further end of Kay’s career and possibly ending the career of another!

Easily missed is a glass of red wine perched near Kay’s right shoulder.  We can walk away with many of meanings.  It is not a cold drink.  Could it be anytime she feels alive is when she’s plotting murder?  The drink is untouched.  She could have been there for hours listening to her voice.  Red wine is a metaphor for blood.


Unbeknownst to us, Kay is short one more tool.  During her countdown, she walks from the stairs, lifts a transistor radio and snaps off the antenna in a act of frustration or rage.  Many interesting things to consider in the final seconds of the scene.  Kay picks up another instrument of broadcasting, the radio.  Like her televisions it too is not functioning.  Ripping out the antenna is another example of Kay removing or deleting content.  She is very good crippling sound – now literally.  She will be good crippling life.

If we had to choose when she made her decision to commit murder we would most choose this moment.  Listen to the countdown, it is out of synch.  She disables the radio at “5”, not at zero.   This is important as it signals what to expect from her in the near future.

We conclude part four at 11:39.  Revisit part one by clicking here.

This is the fourth part of the series, an analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” directed by James Frawley.

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