Columbo: An analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” part 12

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Continuing our analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder”,

at 1:18:11 Kay backs away from Columbo to return to the elevator to retrieve the pistol above the elevator roof.  She takes out the radio antenna still found in her purse.  The antenna resembles a needle and makes us think about the story Columbo had shared with Sgt. Burke.  Kay is too short and makeshift a stool out of her jacket and red notebook.  As blue is an ominous color, red signifies safety.  She is depending on the red notebook to help bring her world back to normal.

 

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When Kay steps out of the building into the lot, we see a new car taking the empty space spotlighted early in the episode.   It was Mark’s gift and he is speaking to Kay from his grave.  The “Kay #1” becomes sarcasm.

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After dumping the handgun into the sewers, Kay arrives at the boardwalk set at the studio back lot.   Her first order of business is ripping pages out of the script to return the production to schedule.  One more example of Kay deleting content.  Kay steps outside and surprisingly sees Frank Flanagan out from his limousine dressed in a tuxedo.  He asks her to step inside the limo for a talk.  As they sit inside, Flanagan requests the chauffeur to close the sliding glass door for privacy.  Flanagan challenges Kay’s recent decision and forgives each, but one.   Flanagan seems to know very much of Kay in a short time.  Valerie was a good friend of Kay’s.  The director had warned her about Valerie’s dependability.  The ratings were extremely poor for The Professional and finally the news about Kay moving into Mark’s office.  Forgiving each sin but the last, Flanagan fires her.  Kay steps out with utter confidence while Flanagan continues to his party. Let’s start with the private conversation behind the glass.

This is one of the many meanings beyond overt signals that this conversation will be difficult one.  It foretells the first glass door or ceiling Kay will not be able to pass through.   Kay has doors to her sides she is not ready to escape.  Another sign of confrontation.  Next, we are impressed with Flanagan’s ability to gather information without Kay knowing.  After all, Kay had been trying to get a hold of him since morning since the ratings were released.  Just did how Flanagan knew about Kay’s plan to move into Mark’s office when it was announced just prior to her arrival to the set?  For that we remember Madge at the doorway.  Other than Columbo, she was only one who knew and wasted no time to vent her disapproval.   Finally, we take another look at Frank Flanagan the hypocrite.  The episode shows him waffling about hiring Clay Gardener and changing opinion about how impressive The Professional is.  Here is someone in a tuxedo and cigar, modeling himself after Mr. Moneybags from Monopoly mourning over the death of Mark McAndrews by rushing to a party in a limo.  And he questions Kay’s poor taste? Kay steps out on the boardwalk and sees Columbo’s car.

She makes a quick 180.

The carousel music in the background is loud and infinitely loops. It doesn’t go away and always present.  This is Columbo’s theme.  He doesn’t go away and will circle and circle until you concede.  Kay retreats to a trailer equipped with a technical panel.  She tries to find solace in a cigarette.  Her hands shaking having lost the confidence once enjoyed at her family home. Columbo steps into a set with a carousel.  Kay can see and hear him from many cameras from her seat.  They carry a conversation where Columbo insists he must see her now.  Frustrated, Kay works the control panel to “turn off” Lt. Columbo.  No matter how many buttons she pushes, he won’t disappear.   This is the only time we see her at the controls and she is unable to operate it.  Or could it be that the cameras see Columbo who he truly is?  The man who will not go away!

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The episode nears conclusion at the final confrontation at the trailer’s doorway.   Kay meets Lt. Columbo as she tries to exit.  Kay immediately retreats to her chair indicating her concession.  It is no secret who the victor of this last verbal combat will be.

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Columbo brings out his brown paper bag of tricks and pulls his first prop.   A video tape recording of The Professional.  He shows the cue blips and mentions Walter’s testimony.  He questions Kay’s statement exactly when she performed the change over.  Columbo correctly surmises she had the opportunity to murder Mark.  We remember earlier, foreshadowing Kay being out of synch.   She murdered Mark on time but her testimony, the truth, was out not synchronized. Not yet ready to confess, Columbo pulls out Kay’s glove.

There are quick, fleeting hints to pin it on Walter.  However, Columbo have seen enough of Walter’s attention to detail to never consider him a suspect.  Kay is not flinching until Columbo pulls out a second video tape showing before and after Kay last left the elevator a second time to retrieve the gun from the ceiling panels.   Columbo holds the murder weapon, Mark’s own gun.  Television, the media Kay long obsessed over, had betrayed her. Trivia: Columbo explains the gun was discovered earlier that afternoon.  This disproves the theory having been located the day before.  However, we’ll stick to it believing Columbo misspoke or blame it on an error of continuity. Kay acknowledges her defeat.  She stands and begins scripting her future which includes fighting on and winning presuming acquittal.  Meanwhile, the monitor resumes displaying the carousel just spinning in an empty, unoccupied set.

As Kay walks away, she doesn’t bother to turn off the panel.  This is Kay’s life, soul, and hope.  Either she sees no further point to control the destiny of others or it symbolizes her delusion she will be found innocent of murder.   Columbo goes to the panel and switches is off.   He is putting an end to everything, including the episode.

Revisit part one by clicking here.

This is the 12th and final of a 12 part series, an analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” directed by James Frawley.

Do you have a favorite Columbo episode you want us to pick apart?  Let us know!

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5 Comments

  1. chris d January 16, 2017 4:49 pm  Reply

    Great analysis – thanks very much!

  2. Vicky May 1, 2017 7:39 am  Reply

    Wow, thank you. You add even more depth to an already nuanced show.

  3. foggy July 12, 2017 2:46 pm  Reply

    I was just re-watching this episode last night for the (I’ve lost count) time, and on a whim decided to Google and see if anyone had any opinions. Holy moly! What a treat!

    Long live Columbo. Long live Columbo fans! And long live Columbo analysts! Thank you so much. I’m off to devour the rest of your articles.

    (I’d like to see an analysis of Kay’s hair. There is something very strange going on there! But it’s not important.)

  4. Coles August 30, 2017 2:32 am  Reply

    This was great! So fun to read and I love hearing from other super fans. I have to say though, this is one of my least favorite episodes. I just find it a little boring and slightly strange. And I agree with the person below who said the biggest mystery here is Kay’s hair, lol! Anyway, I think you forgot 3 interesting tidbits! 1) The very subtle inference that Kay and Valerie were involved in a relationship. I think that’s important to mention just considering the time this ep was made. 2) when Kay gives the guy in the control room an unsolicited massage, he sort of glances up at her and shoots her the biggest “get off of me” glare ever! 3) When Walter does his complaining about the content of The Professional, he says something to the effect of ‘When are they going to stop making shows like this!’, not recognizing that Kay was the one who put the show together! She was the “they” who got it made and on film, lol! That always cracks me up.

  5. rosuna March 2, 2018 6:40 am  Reply

    There is something I don’t understand in this episode related to the timing of the movie projector.

    Columbo gives much importance to the fact Walter returned to the projection room just after the reel was changed. Why?

    The first scene of The Professional Walter saw after he returned from the depot is the suicide. So what?

    Kay points to the two minutes at the counter when Walter left the room. It is her alibi. Columbo says she could have manipulated the counter. Right, but then, why is so important the precise moment in which Walter returned? I think this is a serious mistake in the script.
    Columbo needs to demonstrate she effectively manipulated the counter, and Walter’s testimony does not help.

    Walter does not have idea about how much time spent in his trip to the depot, and he does not remember the scene in the movie before he left.

    Therefore, Kay’s alibi is very strong. The only solid proof against Kay is the gun in the elevator, so why Columbo mentions Walter and the projection room?

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