I actually found the episode enjoyable myself. Up to a point. After Charles Clay gets killed it kind of goes downhill. I thought the ending was a little bit hokey with Swanny's 'tisnt'. And poor Mac explaining everything to the crowd. Columbo had to continually correct him.
One of the best little deliveries is when Dennis Dugan says "No, you call me Mac."
For someone talking about a NICKNAME, he says it in almost a deadly serious way.
" Do you have any Scotch or Irish in you, Mac? "
Agree. seems like the cast was on drugs. Columbo's mannerisms and mumbling was weird.
I've grown fonder of this episode over the years, due to its quirkiness. I especially enjoy how Columbo annoys Mr. Charles Clay at every turn ("Japan is... THAT way???; putting his arms around him; stuffing him into the car) and Robert Vaughn's delivery of several lines ("I like everything... PRELIMINARY")
I too have softened on this episode recently. I find it quirky and unusual, although there are some bits that I have to mute the TV for (the shouting at the ship yard, and the daughters drunken hysterics).
A point of trivia: The house used in this (where Columbo bundles everyone into the car), is the same house as used in the later episode, Murder in Malibu. It’s almost identical, despite being quite a few years between the two episodes.
Maybe that explains why each of these episodes were, shall we say, "Less than stellar". MURDER IN MALIBU is so painful (Andrew Stevens might be the worst actor ever) I usually skip it in the rotation.