Columbo: An analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” part 9

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At 44:17, Kay knocks on Valerie Kirk’s locked door.  Things are going badly for the Valerie Kirk Variety Show.  Kay must make her way through the door to confront the star.  There are two repeated themes in this scene; the doorway and the two Kays. First repeated theme here is the doorway.  Valerie chooses not to confront Kay there.  She concedes and acknowledges the situation the show is suffering.  This foreshadows a quick victory for Kay, short lived it will be.  The second theme is the two Kays.    Like the television monitors and Mark’s glasses, we see Kay through another prism.   Valerie chooses to first speak only with Kay’s reflection in the mirror.   For a moment Valerie can’t make out the figure in the mirror is a friend or foe.  “Which side are you on?” she asks.  Kay stares at Valerie like a cat would stare at its human servant.  Kay is framed carefully in the middle straddling the door trim, her halves split in two.  Kay isn’t ready to decide which to show.  We see two images of Valerie.  Neither is making direct eye contact with Kay.  No one sees her who she really is, yet.

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Ignoring Valerie’s opinion of herself, Kay escorts her return to the stage.  Columbo and crew are watching monitors from the booth.   The proof of her return is made only through the camera.  Even Columbo recognizes her now.   Interesting that moment of familiarity is through a glass tube rather than in person.  Valerie isn’t the only of the two who is more familiar through the television.  The crew sees the fire-fighter, workaholic, miracle worker Kay is.  Like most television, its a facade.  Therefore, Valerie returns to the imaginary patriotic backdrop continuing this delusion.

Yankee Doodle went to town Riding on a pony; Put a feather in his cap, And called it macaroni

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Kay pays a visit to her childhood home.  It is an abandoned ruin housing only memories.   It is an interesting scene.  There is no electricity, no television, and no broadcasting medium.  Kay is not allowed to reflect alone.  She first discovers Columbo’s neck brace, the first indication he is here waiting for her. Right off, we see two themes at play.  We learn one of the secretaries tipped off where Kay would be at night.  As Columbo caught up with Kay with the use of an elevator earlier in the day, he beats her to the house without clear explanation how he got there.  Kay can’t shake Columbo, even if she tried.  We also take note Columbo released from his brace.  He has recovered from his injuries and is more formidable than ever. Pleasantries aside, they both prepare their third round of combat taking turns sitting and standing.  One is often looking down from a position of prominence over the other.  We revisit the massage theme.  Kay volunteers giving Columbo a shoulder and back massage.    Unlike other moments in the episode, Columbo welcomes it as it strengthens him.  It may be the moment Kay accepts Columbo as worthy opponent who shows unexpected skills of mental agility.  Notice both with raincoats and cigar/cigarette in their hands.  Both cast under the same darkness. As late as the episode has reached, Kay has one more step to ascend.  This isn’t the moment her character begins to fall.  Columbo has poked around with many questions, alluding to getting Frank Flanagan’s attention.  He shares with Kay the fact Flanagan wouldn’t have mind if Mark let her take over the L.A. office.  The news brings instant euphoria to Kay and an unexpected jackpot to murder. Kay reminds Columbo about the little voices in his head, twirling her fingers around her ear.   She chides him about wondering if she’s a suspect benefiting from Mark’s murder.  She does this standing with an evil grin on her face staring down Columbo.   Columbo is unmoved, though he seems to concede that Kay is not a suspect, he reminds her that when he finds the motive, he’ll find the murderer.  Columbo has no proof or hearsay, there was a relationship between Mark and Kay.  He long suspected Kay and digging for motives.   Murder over a new position isn’t enough, so he’ll keep digging.

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Columbo positions himself at the doorway exit, blocking Kay from leaving.  This is more aggressive than the shuffle at the projection booth door.   Choosing to remember this moment to confront her over a note of Mark’s with the letter “K” and numbers.  Kay is in denial, probably sincerely.   There is something she and perhaps we the audience have overlooked. We conclude part 9 at 57:13.

Revisit part one by clicking here.

This is the 9th part of the series, an analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” directed by James Frawley.

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