By now most of you will be fully aware that I write lengthy articles critiquing each episode of Columbo.
And while I do so heart long-form content that really looks at each episode in detail, there’s room for bite-sized analysis too. Hence this thrilling new form of article about the five best moments from each episode.
As I’m reviewing the episodes in chronological order, I’ll be doing the same here. So with no further ado, here are my thoughts on Prescription: Murder‘s top 5 moments to treasure.
5. Columbo: first contact
True to the Lieutenant’s nature, his introduction is suitably low key. As Ray Flemming enters his apartment after returning from his Acapulco jaunt, he surveys the crime scene with an air of complete calm – until startled by Columbo wandering out from the bedroom, his first on-screen line simply: “Dr Flemming?”
Also true to his nature, Columbo takes something meaningful from the encounter, wondering why Dr Flemming didn’t call out to his wife to let her know he was back. It’s reason enough to suspect the doctor, and Columbo doesn’t let go until he has his man.
4. Death bed confession?
Dr Flemming made a hash job of the killing of Carol Flemming, leaving her clinging to life after a vicious strangling as he flew to Acapulco for a weekend of fishing and evidence disposal.
Stunned to learn she remains alive, the good doctor accompanies Columbo to the hospital where they receive the news that Carol’s flicker of life has finally extinguished. “If it’s any consolation,” a medical man tells Flemming, “the last thing she said was your name.” Little do the on-lookers know that what Carol was really doing was giving them the name of her killer.
3. Game over, Raymond
He’s had enough hen peckings from Mrs Flemming to know that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but Ray never considers that Joan might sell him out. As he’s essentially confessing to Columbo that he’d have somehow found a way to get rid of Joan (who he believes he’s just seen pulled dead from a swimming pool), he’s left reeling as she appears from behind him after hearing every duplicitous word.
Having been confronted by the real Ray Flemming, Joan is only too happy to make her confession to the police then and there. That’s game over, Raymundo. Game over!
2. Joan stands firm – just
It’s not only Ray that underestimates Joan Hudson. Columbo thinks that he can turn up the heat on her and get her to crack through shouting accusations at her in the workplace. He’s wrong.
Although she comes close to capitulating, Joan pulls herself together and refuses to give Columbo the hard evidence against Ray that he’s after. Even he has to admit that her resolve surprised him, but he makes it perfectly clear that this is just the beginning. Sooner or later, he will get what he wants from her – and he’ll make her life merry hell until that time. For now, though, it’s honours even.
“Although she comes close to capitulating, Joan pulls herself together and refuses to give Columbo the evidence he needs.”
1. The hypothetical debate
The episode highlight just has to be the extended ‘hypothetical’ conversation about the crime between Columbo and Dr Flemming over bourbon in the Doctor’s office. Adopting the ‘You know I did it; I know you know I did it; but you’ll still never catch me’ approach, Flemming oozes arrogant self-assuredness as the two men mentally size each other up.
With such conversational gems as Flemming telling Columbo he’s “a sly little elf”, it’s a scene boasting great writing and fine performances from the contrasting leads. It was also much emulated but never bettered in the show’s long life-time. Need a reminder? Then here we go…
Let me know what you think of this article in the comments section below. Did I miss out your favourite moment? And if you’re hankering for a more detailed read, access my full review here.