In his trusty Peugeot, the Lieutenant appears bright and early to the crime scene. He’ll need a tall cup of coffee and two sugars before he’s ready to solve the mystery of the late night rave crowd. This is part four of our analysis of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”.
In deconstructing the crime scene, pay attention to the conversation between Lt. Columbo and Sgt. Harkin. Their conversation is mostly long and uninterrupted. Even when Harkin is bewildered by Columbo’s actions, such as smelling the corpse, he politely continues. This is opposite from the panic between Justin experiences. There is one exception: the coffee. Coffee is the first thing Columbo asks for and an unnamed officer makes deliberate interruption to hand it to him. This may be another example of opposites. Remember the young man who was placed on a gurney at Justin’s club from dehydration? This could be a subliminal example of how different Columbo is from the typical patron of Justin.
Linwood Coben, even in his death, is still described as a monster. The Sgt. Harkin describes to Columbo that Coben suffered a broken neck, two broken legs, and a chest “smashed like a pancake”. He was an ugly man in an ugly place. Without Columbo, he would have been left unidentified like the homeless and his suicide presumed. This is a non-so-subtle hint that Columbo sees beyond others. He’s not interested how Coben died. He spends time in his apartment to see how he lived.
In Coben’s apartment, Columbo discovers a missing page from a calendar. He uses a pencil to highlight what was written on the missing page, directions to somewhere. When his fingerprint expert tries to show him something, he’s interrupted when Columbo remembers his coffee. Again, the coffee plays significance in the scene. When they realize that perhaps a glove may have wiped Coben’s fingerprints from the keyboard, Columbo rules out suicide but wants to find that someone who wants him to think that.
“This ain’t no suicide, but there’s some guy out there that wants me to think it is.” – Lt. Columbo.
The scene ends with Columbo’s disappointment with his cold coffee and leaves the cup behind. Its symbolism is elusive. Does this mean Columbo is now woken from his slumber? Was it a false hint that his trail has gone cold? But the Lieutenant is not without his most important clue. He takes the page from Coben’s calendar and follows ambiguous directions to a warehouse that looks suited for demolition. When he steps inside, the episode takes a surreal turn that suited for a psychological suspense. Columbo watches three women dance in costume where there is no music. They carry glow sticks in the middle of day, celebrating the moment as if it was night. Columbo has stepped into a different world. But he discovers a new clue, a new place, a new name. He found Justin Price.
This is part four of an analysis of the Columbo episode, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” directed by Jeffrey Reiner.