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Recap / Columbo S 04 E 04

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Episode: Season 4, Episode 4
Title:"Troubled Waters"
Directed by: Ben Gazzara
Written by: William Driskill (teleplay), Jackson Gillis and William Driskill (story)
Air Date: February 9, 1975
Previous: By Dawn's Early Light
Next: Playback
Guest Starring: Robert Vaughn, Dean Stockwell, Jane Greer, Bernard Fox, Patrick Macnee, Poupee Bocar

"Troubled Waters" is the fourth episode of the fourth season of Columbo.

Hayden Danziger (Robert Vaughn) is a used-car dealer and frequent luxury cruise passenger. On his last trip aboard the Sea Princess he met curvaceous temptress Rosanna Wells (Poupee Bocar), the lounge singer aboard the ship. An affair followed. Unfortunately for the married Hayden, afterwards Rosanna started blackmailing him, threatening to tell Hayden's much richer wife Sylvia (Jane Greer).

Hayden resolves on murder. His clever scheme involves sniffing amyl nitrite to fake the symptoms of a mild heart attack. After he's put in the ship's sickbay, seemingly establishing an airtight alibi, Hayden sneaks back to Rosanna's cabin and shoots her dead. He attempts to frame Lloyd Harrington (Dean Stockwell), the pianist in the ship's band and Rosanna's jilted lover. However, Hayden didn't anticipate the presence of Lt. Columbo of the LAPD, who won a raffle and is taking a cruise with his wife. With the ship being several days out of port, Capt. Gibbon (Patrick Macnee) asks Columbo to investigate the case.

Second appearances on Columbo for Dean Stockwell (the victim in Season Two's "The Most Dangerous Game") and Bernard Fox, who plays the ship's purser in this episode and played a Scotland Yard detective in Season Two's "Dagger of the Mind".


  • Attack on the Heart: The ship's doctor says Hayden's shot got Rosanna Wells right in her heart. It ends up screwing with his Dying Clue setup, as she wouldn't have had the time to write it.
  • Blackmail Backfire: The scheming Rosanna is demanding a payoff from Hayden, lest she reveal their affair. It's a bad idea.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Having discovered that a pair of ship's surgical gloves is missing, Columbo tells Hayden that all he needs to nail Lloyd is to find the gloves, with gunpowder on them. Hayden proceeds to steal a gun and some gloves, fire a bullet, and stash the gloves where they'll be found. What Hayden doesn't know is that it's easy to get fingerprints from the inside of surgical gloves, which Columbo does.
  • Busman's Holiday: Columbo gets roped into investigating a murder while he's on a cruise.
  • Cruise Episode: Mr. and Mrs. Columbo take a cruise. Naturally there's a raffle.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Columbo gets Hayden to test-fire a gun, saying "I don't like guns."
  • Dying Clue: Hayden attempts to fake this, scrawling the letter "L" (for Lloyd Harrington) on Rosanna's vanity mirror with lipstick. Columbo isn't fooled, especially when he finds out Rosanna died the second the bullet hit her.
  • Frame-Up: Hayden tries to frame Rosanna's murder on her ex, Lloyd Harrington. Columbo, naturally, doesn't buy that bull.
  • The Ghost: Mrs. Columbo as usual, but particularly notable in this episode as she's on the boat with him. One sequence has Columbo wandering around the boat looking for her. Another scene has the captain pointing at Mrs. Columbo offscreen, getting on a shuttle boat.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Subverted. Due to the fact that Rosanna Wells was shot in the back while wearing a backless dress, the body is shown with a small bullet hole and some blood dripping out of it. A bullet, even that small, should've produced a lot more blood than was shown, but it would've rattled the censors at the time.
  • Insistent Terminology: A Running Gag in the episode, as Columbo keeps calling the cruise ship a "boat" only to be corrected to "ship" by the captain. In the end, when he calls the vessel that he'll use to get to the shore a "ship", he's corrected that it's a "boat", at which point he lets out a frustrated "to hell with it!"
  • Instant Death Bullet: Played straight, as Rosanna slumps over in death. Plot-relevant in this case, as the ship's doctor doubts that she would have had time even to write the letter "L" after she was shot through the heart.
  • In the Back: How poor Rosanna gets it.
  • MacGyvering: Since there's no forensic crew aboard the ship, Columbo uses graphite from a pencil to check whether the murder weapon has any fingerprints on it and shoots at a mattress to catch the bullet so that he can compare it to the bullet that was found in the victim.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Columbo just gets more suspicious when he finds the Dying Clue, the pistol, and a receipt for the pistol. Part of his problem with it is that the crime took place on a cruise ship, so it should have been incredibly easy to dispose of evidence
  • Pillow Silencer: Hayden uses one to shoot Rosanna. This backfires on him since a feather from the stuffing gets caught in his clothes without him noticing and ends up next to his room in the sickbay, which is what initially makes Columbo suspicious of him.
  • Playing Sick: Hayden creates his alibi by sniffing amyl nitrite to simulate a heart attack, then sneaking out of sickbay while he's supposedly laid up in bed.
  • Too Clever by Half: Hayden tries to set Rosanna's ex as the killer when he probably would have had more luck just shooting her and chucking the gun into the ocean.
  • Vacation Episode: Columbo messes with the formula a little by having Columbo investigate a murder while he's on a cruise ship, his wife having gained the vacation for the two of them at a lottery.