This is part 7,
of our analysis of the Columbo episode, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”. After six parts, we discover a new theme; what’s missing? Things aren’t where they should be. It’s a mystery, two murders, and one clever detective.
From the opening scene, we’re introduced to a hole in the ground in Justin Price’s new club. Something should be there but is not. The theme continues with Justin’s backpack he hands over to Linwood Coben. Where’s the money? It’s not in there. Vanessa’s coffee table is gone, leaving only its footprints. Both Coben’s calendar and his folder are missing vital clues. It’s a symbol of nothingness. Like Columbo’s coffee, cold leads. If only the dots can be connected?
Visiting Justin’s new club, he notices the fish tank. If anywhere there was a moment of Columbo’s awakening, it would be here. Columbo drops the name “Vanessa Farrow” on Justin as possibly the victim of a blackmail photo scam. Keeping a stone face, Justin denies. But Colulmbo is putting the pieces together. Vanessa and Justin regroup at a restaurant. Gone is the loud art but they sit in front of a large window. The table is purposely asymmetrical and nothing about it is right. Justin has an untouched plate on his half of the table. Vanessa’s side is bare. It’s another clue the conspiracy is falling apart. Meanwhile, Columbo regroups with Sgt. Harkin. Notice how the 75 year old detective picks up on a faint, private conversation at the next desk. He hears “Tony Galper”, a missing person case. This opens the case further and its time for Columbo to return to Coben’s apartment. However, he’s intercepted by
FedEx SendEx delivery. Justin had sent him a present. An Hawaiian shirt. And very loud it is.
“Fish. The last time I was here, I didn’t see the tank.” – Lt. Columbo
In Columbo’s third visit to Coben’s apartment, he links Tony Galper to Vanessa Farrow and deducts the missing photos from 6/22 are about her. There is also a complicated backstory about Coben discovering Galper’s mob ties. A story that is reinforced with a street conversation with Sgt. Harkin. Justin’s present haunts Vanessa as Columbo stops at the store to make an exchange and coincidentally finds Vanessa there. Other than Vanessa understanding her secrets are becoming known, she can’t escape the ugly colors.
Columbo’s investigation subtly moves from Coben’s murder to Galper. As customary to every episode, he manages to learn something new. You can check out of hotels and return rental cars without visiting the counter. An interview with a housekeeper about cleaning toilets convinces Columbo that Tony Galper’s vanishing act was orchestrated.
The Lieutenant pays a visit to Justin. Columbo tells Justin he knows about Tony’s investment in the club and Tony’s father is head of a criminal organization in New York. As Columbo departs, he takes a curious look into each of the three fish tanks filled with Koi. Columbo then takes a provocative visit to Vanessa. He openly shares his opinion that Vanessa is his lead suspect in Tony’s disappearance. A large envelope filled with phone records tie her and Justin together. Panicked, Vanessa races to Justin as his club begins its grand opening. We get to see the front doors into the hellish underworld where evil men go after death. We get a grand view of loud, chaotic, ugly art. They are gods here and watching and listening.
Columbo raids Justin’s grand opening. He shuts off the loud music, of which he was no fan, and illuminates the club in balanced light. He has brought his angels and a search warrant to dispense justice. He makes his monologue to Justin and Vanessa in front of the packed house. The tank with too few Koi stoked his curiosity. With the help of ground penetrating radar, he commandeers the large displays with new, truly ugly art. He has found Tony Galper’s body buried underneath one of the tanks. Both Justin and Vanessa are arrested. A mob goon congratulates the detective. In his last moments in character, Lt. Columbo modestly exits right stepping out through the hellish doors and into the real world.
This is the seventh and final part of an analysis of the Columbo episode, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” directed by Jeffrey Reiner.