Columbo: An analysis of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” part 6


Lt. Columbo continues his investigation.
In this phase of the episode, Columbo is picking up pieces of clues.  Until now, the worlds of Justin Price, Tony Galper, Vanessa Farrow, and Linwood Coben have not intersected.  This is part six of our analysis of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”.

At the offices of the National Inquisitor, we continue to hear how disliked Linwood Coben is.  Like a movie monster, people tend to continue talking about how ugly he was.   As Columbo accepts files from the Inquisitor editor, pay attention how he brushes her description of Linwood Coben off.  When she practically repeats Justin’s word for word how Coben drank too much, Columbo isn’t interested.  However, when she gets to say the famous tag line, “just one more thing”, Columbo heeds her advice to investigate every lead.


The next scene jumps to a quick interview with the paramedic present at Justin’s club the night of the Coben’s murder.  Here, Columbo learns about the significance of the pager.  The next scene jumps to Columbo re-visiting the club.  On the surface, its another fun scene suited for a trailer.  He’s meandering through a dance floor with strobe lights and adorned in a feathered boa.  He’s certainly a fish out of water.  Let’s look below the surface.  Columbo is walking through hell.  From the music and lights meant to disorient, it is not a place he’s comfortable with.  The Lieutenant is recognized by one of the young women from his earlier visit seen dancing without music.  Interesting, she is the observant one!  The fact that she seems to be always there, perhaps everyday, makes her more of a demon than a productive citizen.  She invites Columbo, welcomes him, and dons him a piece of the world, a feathered boa.  The deeper Columbo walks in, the deeper the temptations.

“What’s this?  A new look?” – Justin Price to Lieutenant Columbo.

The club is a rundown grocery store.  Justin’s office is located beyond the double doors you see at the back meat section.  It’s more evidence this is the place of the illogical.  He’s sitting in front of meat freezers in a place camouflaged as a rave club.  When Justin sits down with him, Columbo attempts to chip away at the alibis.  This is where the beeper/pager resurfaces.  Columbo figures the dead battery is a rouse and begins questioning Justin’s morning routine.  When Columbo is on camera, the camera is fixed.  When the camera is on Justin, it is slowly pushing in.  This symbolizing the danger he is in and his vanishing ability to maneuver.


When Columbo leaves, Justin gets hint that Columbo may be closing in.  He watches him leave through the  window.  In one of the episodes most clever moments, comes a flash of light that posts Justin’s reflection in the glass.  Like Coben and his mirror, Justin is trapped.


Columbo returns his investigation to Linwood Coben’s apartment.  Here, the story employs coincidence.  During Columbo’s meaningless search, including an awkward battle with a picture frame, he overhears a phone message from disgruntled Sean Jarvis.  Columbo jots down this number in front of a wall of pictures.   We can think of them as many, different windows into the world Coben had invaded.

The phone call leads to a visit to Mr. Jarvis.  In a conversation with Sean Jarvis (played by John Finnegan in one of his 13 series appearances), Columbo learns Coben had promised to pay $300 to take pictures from one of the trees.  Columbo follows the trail of Coben who climbed the tree on June 22.  An important date missing from Coben’s calendar.  Seeing the neighbor’s yard and its privacy trees, a curious Columbo comes knocking on the neighbor’s door.  It is Vanessa’s house.  The dots are starting to connect.

Frivolous piece of trivia, watch Vanessa’s reflection off of one of her picture frames.  A novel coincidence?  Columbo figures something had happened here with the missing coffee table and Vanessa at first denying it.  When Columbo returns to Coben’s apartment, he verifies a file was kept on Vanessa.  He first overlooks divorce papers before noticing missing pictures from the June 22 folder.  Again, the date of mystery resurfaces.

This is part six of an analysis of the Columbo episode, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” directed by Jeffrey Reiner.

Pt. 1  Pt. 2  Pt. 3  Pt. 4  Pt. 5  Pt. 6  Pt. 7


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