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So the Jail He Broke Outta He’s in Again

The final episode produced for Columbo‘s original run, “The Conspirators” has Irish poet Joe Devlin (Clive Revill) brokering an arms deal to send an RV-load (literally!) of machine guns to the IRA. When he shoots the dealer over a perceived betrayal, he not only has to cover up the crime, but also figure how to get his hands on those guns. Columbo is in a race against time, drinking pints and shots and slinging limericks, to prove Devlin did it and prevent the weapons from leaving Los Angeles. Steven Goss (Columbo Interiors, Robophono) joins Jon and RJ to talk about an odd end to the original series.


  1. Rory Pond Rory Pond

    “The Conspirators” contains a second, albeit more esoteric, connection to Star Wars. Bernard Behrens provided the voice for Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Radio Drama series that originally aired on NPR.

  2. TJ Meier TJ Meier

    Thought you’d explore a key repetitive line/theme throughout the entire episode “this far—and no farther.” It pretty much answers the question you all posed during the podcast. Why end this incarnation with this one? The metaphor of what was written on the Full’s Irish Dew whiskey bottle “let each man be paid in full” taps into the idea that Falk was making an ungodly amount at the time per eppy ($200K?) which was unsustainable expenditure and “this far” brings this series full circle—they’d tapped all ideas, all that was said needed to be said—“no farther” was needed as in more episodes. End it. Point of no return. Finished off. Til 1989.

    • Jason Brown Jason Brown

      Yup, totally agree. Columbo’s ‘sky falling in’ I think was also a nod to how much he’d pushed and pushed the studio. He was on a helluva lot of money, even by todays standards.

      The last line of the series is by Columbo, isn’t it? The ‘this far…’ he says?

      In terms of run time, is this the longest Columbo? The box set makes a thing of this being a two hour episode.

      Another great pod. Looking forward to your Bilko one to replace it – only a finite number of those, too…

      • Jon Morris Jon Morris

        If I could think if an angle for the Bilko pod, I’d be a hundred percent on that one…

        I hadn’t considered the “this far/tilt” references being made as knowing jabs towards Falk’s often contentious relationship with the studio, but it’s an intriguing way to look at it. Falk probably would have been open to tweaking the studio’s nose on the way out …

        • Jason Brown Jason Brown

          Hmm… Review two episodes per pod, and look at the satire, class warfare, and sticking it to the man, while being, eh, uniquely patriotic?

          The Empty Store could be an analogue of crypto-currency, say…

  3. Chana Masaledar Chana Masaledar

    I thought that the mystery and clues in this episode were really weak, but I really enjoyed everything else. The interaction between Columbo and Joe Devlin is outstanding, and the comic relief bits are actually fairly comical.

    As for why Devlin goes back to find Columbo at the crime scene: from what I’m told, this is something that happens a lot in real investigations. Seasoned detectives know that if some bystander or interested party shows up repeatedly at the crime scene, tries to get chummy, and wants to “help out with the investigation,” that’s someone to investigate carefully. Murderers often think that they can nudge the detectives in the direction they want; even if they supposedly know better, sometimes they just can’t help themselves. They want to be in control of the situation.

    On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked “The Conspirators.” The original series could have ended in many worse ways.

    • TJ Meier TJ Meier

      But then why would Devlin come back to the hotel room/murder site? Like RJ said, Devlin’s categorical screw-ups sort of betray his character’s supposed background of being criminal savvy and familiarity in interacting with the police. The fact that he’s a good writer and artist shouldn’t be confused with his criminal acumen—which is near zero.

      And Columbo usually takes the time to point out incompetent behavior to particularly incompetent murderers! I kept waiting for “ya know, sir, you’re one hell of a clever author and storyteller, but you’re just plain lousy at murderin’ a fella.” Maybe Columbo likes Devlin too much. Or maybe he figures it was the Dew (Full’s, not Mountain) talking.

  4. Joe Joe

    Saw this episode on COZI-TV yesterday morning (unemployment has its rewards) and noted once again that the master detective overlooks a crucial piece of evidence: for all the fuss Columbo makes over the bottle beside Pauley’s body, why does he never think to check it for fingerprints? Joe Devlin must have provided some beauts when he opened it, gripped it firmly to cut it with his ring, and poured himself a drink. (He should have been wearing Dick Van Dyke’s driving gloves, but he wasn’t.) And then, of course, Columbo destoys the evidence by repeatedly rolling the bottle across the floor. But that’s typical: he’s forever contaminating crime scenes and handling evidence that hasn’t been bagged. This case should have been wrapped up in minutes.

    And we know Joe is a poet because he’s good at quoting other people’s poetry.

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