Has it ever bothered anyone about the scene in which Columbo obviously loves a type of cheese found on the victim's desk, he makes reference to the cheese "doing some traveling" as if the reason he's taking it is to enjoy it himself. As I recall it's the episode in which teeth marks on the cheese/cracker identify the murderer (Patrick McGlohan?). Yet I'm not postive that taking the cheese in the first place was for the investigation, but simply pilfering? It's been a long time since I saw that episode so my unColumboish memory may be unreliable.
The episode is Agenda for Murder, it is a good episode, one of my favourites of the 90s ones. It seemed that at fisrt Columbo was just taking the cheese so that some other cop wouldn't get it first. But I have sometimes thought that maybe he really knew what he was doing from the start, and pretending it was his uncles favourites cheese or whatever was just that - pretending.
Also, thinking about this episode got me thinking (obviously). But I was wondering if, in about 20 years, we will look back on the 90s episodes with a similar nostalgia with which we now look upon the 70s episodes. This episode shows us Columbo using a fax machine, for example, in the way he was fascinated by a VCR in Fade into Murder. And some episodes have a 90s atmosphere about them in the way that the 70s episodes have that 70s feel about them. Or maybe not? I would be interested to hear what people think.
I have a tendency to nitpick some of the earlier episodes for some of the evidence gathering procedures that would no longer hold up in court, although they may have in the 1970's. The OJ Simpson trial and many other famous cases seemed to change the whole science of evidence gathering. I guess that's one of the reasons the CSI shows are popular. If you remember Columbo used to just wrap stuff up in a paper napkin and put it in his pocket. Could you imagine what Garagos (spelling?) and some of these other big time defense attorneys could do to Columbo on the stand. But then again, maybe Columbo's down home charm and honest demeanor would sway a jury to his side.
It is my view that Columbo's initial interest in the cheese in "Agenda For Murder" was cleverly staged to throw the first-time viewer off base that it would end up being the final clue. (One of the best final clues of the series)
The "bite of cheese" clue was based on a real-life case (a burglary, not a murder case), where former LA Coroner Thomas Noguchi identified a perpetrator the same way. Noguchi often talks or writes about it when recalling his exploits.
I suppose I didn't make myself clear in my original observation. From Columbo's remarks, it appears he is pilfering: a character trait not observed before. The analysis may be right. Columbo appears to be interested in it for personal enjoyment rather than evidence. On the other hand, why does he feel the need to hide his real intent? It's been a while since I've seen the episode--is the killer in the room when he talks about the cheese doing some "traveling"?
Personally, I think Columbo did take the cheese home -- except for the part that he knew might be potential evidence. And that he was openly admitting it, as a lesson to his colleagues who don't know a good reggiano when they smell one.
I doubt that cops at a crime scene, even today, routinely preserve the entire contents of a dinner-table or refrigerator. It's not like Columbo is a thief, but...the cheese was just going to get thrown away.
I would say it is a previously established trait of Columbo that he is always on the mooch for free food -- whether it comes to him from the killer, or the victim, or friends of the victim. Caviar previously noshed by the victim, chili bought for him at a fine restaurant, multiple courses of gourmet delights from a team of cooks, squirrel meat at a post-funeral barbecue.... if it's free and available, Columbo will take it. And since the owner of the cheese was dead, and it would have just gone to waste, Columbo didn't have to ask permission.
You've made some valid points here about the ethics of his taking the cheese. I didn't necessarily think of his mooching (but that's true, of course). What I couldn't remember about that episode was the killer present? If so, his taking it would be an excellent cover for the teethmarks being the last bit (no pun intended) of evidence presented.
Hi Michael. I'm pretty sure the killer was not present. We did see him biting the cheese, shortly before the murder. But the cheese gets Columbo's attention during the initial crime-scene investigation, before Columbo meets the lawyer.
I do underatnd your point, that it's a bit jarring to see Columbo helping himself to a dead guy's food at a crime scene! I just thought I'd offer some somewhat parallel past behaviors, to suggest that while it is a bit disturbing, it's not necessarily completely out of character.
No, the murderer is not a the scene when Columbo talks about taking the cheese. Columbo hasn't even found out about Oscar Finch yet. It is also possible Columbo was just joking about taking the cheese. Other than the free sample he had, we never see him take it.
I really liked how Patrick M. directed the scene when the piece of cheese is returned to the table (to be used as evidence by Columbo later). Finch puts the cheese and the gun down at the same time. I suspect most people are looking at the gun, not realizing what's happening with cheese. It's clever way of "hiding" the final clue without cheating the viewer. I only realized this when I rewatched the episode. I completely missed it the first time around.
This food discussion reminds me of a couple of major annoyances I have with A Trace if Murder. First, Columbo shows up handing out bananas, potentially compromising the crime scene. I don't think our good lou would do this. (At least when he cracked his hard-boiled egg on the murder weapon in A Stitch in Crime, he asked if it had been printed.) Then, he doesn't mention that the victim is several feet away from the panic button he was supposed to have pressed. The coroner says the victim died instantly. How then could he be so far from the security panel? This should have been the major clue that bothered Columbo.
Ok...this is getting down-right annoying!! First of all I haven't seen the "cheese episode", so I can't stick in my 2 cents!! You know how hard that is for me!!! And then...you guys talking about cheese all the time is making me so hungry!!! It is one of my favourite foods, and I am dieting!! And then Ted had to bring up reggiano!!! You guys are driving me crazy!
I'm sorry! I'm sorry!! I really love this episode, but Columbo and the cheese business has bothered me a while. Hey, I've got some old-fashioned hoop cheese and some muscadine wine--I'm ready for a snack myself
Wait a second...when we see Finch put the cheese down, I think it's YELLOW (like cheddar cheese) but reggiano cheese is WHITE (I just used some in a recipe). (At least the cheese looked yellow, correct me if I'm way wrong.) Therefore, Columbo wanted to sequester the reggiano cheese for his own enjoyment because (1) the killer wasn't present when he made the remark and (2) he was looking at a large chunk of white cheese on the desk, as opposed to the small piece Finch was munching on.
Darn good observations--I'm going to have to review that segment soon. I suppose discussions of Columbo plots that revolve around food have been exhausted already.
Thanks a lot!! Now I am going to have to raid the fridge....I have some great Boar's Head cheddar in there and I suppose I will have to knock back a few slices!!
Michael, I'm sure you know, the best episode about food is Murder Under Glass!! And also there is that scene in A Stitch in Crime when Columbo crashes Dr. Mayfield's party and eats that plate of food. And let's not forget the escargot in The Most Dangerous Match.
I'm so hungry!!!!