This is not one of my favorite episodes, either. I do enjoy several scenes, however: (1) Columbo driving around the movie set - it's kind of cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at what a studio looks like - the guy in the Native headdress biking around, the moving of huge pictures for a set. (2) Edith Head scene - I knew who she was when this episode came out (I used to watch the Academy Awards as a kid), so to see her make a cameo as herself was kinda cool. (3) And, as you mentioned, the scene where Nora tells Jerry Parks, "You couldn't get bus fare for what's in there!" I still crack up at that line. She's referencing how stupid she thinks he is - an empty head, so to speak. Those things being said, I didn't care much for Anne Baxter's performance - the phony crying when telling Jean she'd just have to do all these errands, blah, blah, blah; the constant convenient fainting spells; all of these scenes scream "ACTING"
As for the points you raise: (1) The Apartment - this is always one of my biggest complaints - I hate "studio" scenes that try to recreate a house. Why not just use the real house? (See "Dagger of the Mind", "Etude in Black" for example) (2) "If I had any idea" - I'm drawing a blank on this one. I can remember her saying it and I know she Jean switched cars because Nora put a flat on Jerry's. Not sure on this one, but someone will nail it. (3) George is his brother-in-law, must have been visiting. Columbo frequently makes reference to his family - nieces, nephews, in-laws, etc.
I have mixed feelings about this episode. I love how exaggeratedly phony Hollywood comes off (or is it accurate?) but the clues are not the best, i.e. the Shriner's ring.
I always thought that Columbo was kind of a jerk to Nora. He brought her down to see the burned car, right after being warned to go easy on her. He also got all excited and gave her the celebrity treatment, calling his brother-in-law, etc., right after her close friend was killed. It was insensitive to say the least.
Regarding the comment when Jerry says: "You can't get a warrant for what's in here", meaning you can force him to show his written files, but not his personal thoughts, Nora's comeback is hilarious: "You can't get busfare for what's in there".
Busfare is not particularly expensive, so I guess Nora is saying that Jerry's brain is not worth very much. My wife is Mexican so I understand how hard it is to translate puns.
Thank you :) now it seems obvious after what you have said