Wednesday, January 3, 2018


I realize it's a Wednesday and not Tuesday, but we're still going with a "Two-fer".....  

Episode aired 26 November 1972

When the camera picked up Lt. Columbo again after the butler Tanner was found hanging in his cottage, he was in Green Park near the Wellington Arch, sitting on a bench with an old man who was feeding the pigeons.

If you've read the previous post, you know my stance is that the old man was actually the fictional televersion of J.R.R. Tolkien, down from his new lodgings in Oxford to receive the CBE from Her Majesty on March 28th.

But when the camera caught up with the American detective on that bench with "Tolkien", they both had been there for awhile.  No words passed between them in that scene, but Toobworld and its occupants don't stop existing if the cameras aren't on them.  I think Columbo, being the affable fellow that he is, would have exchanged pleasantries with "the Gaffer' when he sat down.  And eventually, the Lieutenant might have felt comfortable enough to speak his mind in the presence of "Tolkien".....

Lt. Columbo was sent to London as the envoy from the Los Angeles Police Department to learn new policing techniques from New Scotland Yard.  While there, he helped Detective Chief Superintendent Durk solve the murder of Sir Roger Havisham, a renowned theatrical impresario.  For a time, it looked as though the true perpetrators of the crime would get away with it, having framed Sir Roger's butler and then staging his "suicide".  The whole business gave newspaper editors the chance to blare that old cliche across their front pages:  


But Columbo knew that wasn't right, that the true murderers would get away with it.  But he had no way to prove it.  Even more stressful was that he was pressed for time; he had been booked on a flight back to Los Angeles that afternoon.

As he sat reading the newspaper in the park near Wellington Arch, Columbo became increasingly bothered that Durk would close the case as soon as Columbo had left the country.

"I didn't think it would end this way...." Columbo groused to himself.  But it proved to be loud enough to be overheard by the old duffer sharing the park bench with him.

Taking a moment from his intent on feeding the surrounding pigeons, the old man took the pipe from his mouth and regarded Columbo with a twinkle in his eye.

"End this way?" He chuckled his his deep, slow cadence.  "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. But it's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish.  A... very old friend told me that once."

Columbo pointed out to the elderly gentleman that there was no time left; that he had a flight to catch at Heathrow.

The old man nodded.  “Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

"Well, that's the problem," sighed Columbo, scratching his forehead.  "The Chief Superintendent never believed in my solution to the case.  It took a lot to get him to realize it wasn't just a fall that killed Sir Roger.  Once I'm gone, it will be considered a closed case.  And two killers will still be free and profiting from the murder.  From TWO murders!"

It pained the old man to find himself discussing something as dark as murder with a complete stranger, and one with an American accent to his speech at that.  Perhaps it had been a mistake to come down from Oxford this early for the ceremonies after all.  His son Christopher may have been right all along; perhaps he should have come down to London only the day before his audience with the Queen.

At last he sighed and took another deep draw from his pipe.  "The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places,” he mused to the American.  “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

"And that's the other thing!" Columbo interjected.  "They expect me to board that plane back to America this afternoon!"

His bench-mate said nothing, focused on feeding the pigeons and smoking on his pipe.  For him, the conversation had ended.  But this strange rumpled little man had other ideas.

"Just one more thing," asked Columbo.  "What type of tobacco is that?  See, I've always smoked cigars and basically you take whatever's wrapped inside them.  But my wife....  She would like to see me give them up.  My wife - she prefers a pipe.  But I never could get used to those things. There's just too much stuff you have to carry around with you But gee....  I do like the flavor of that smoke you have."

The old man held the pipe out proudly.  "It's my own special blend.  I call it Iar Tobui.  "Old Toby"......."


No comments: