I was just watching this yesterday...and you are so very right! Even though I have seen this episode and this scene so many times I still had to rewind and watch it again. As you said Mac, the timing is just great...and it shows Columbo's some-time oblivious personality.
The funniest Columbo quote ever was in "Double Shock" when Columbo responds to Dexter Paris asking "Do you intend to demonstrate drowning yourself, Lieutenant?" by saying, "Uh, no, sir."
The other subtle funny moments, are i my view quite visual,the look on Columbo's face after the boat trip with Eddie Albert, obviously feeling quite unwell.
The look after Columbo gets out of the police airplane, obviously again quite unwell.
Probably the most under estimated scene is when columbo starts to walk down the hillside and ends up running down unable to stop and he falls in a heap in a ditch, how Bob Dishy kept a straight must of been quite difficult.
Peter's performance was quite remarkable, giving us all the views and feelings that he was experiencing.
The scene was certainly well done, and credit goes to Bob Dishy as the officer who explains that Columbo looks different. Again the writing is first class.
The funniest lines ever are those at the end of "Death lends a hand", when Columbo tells Ray Milland that as a matter of fact his wife did have both contact lenses hinting at setting up a trap for Brimmer and (maybe?) at putting a "fake" lens in Brimmers' car trunk.
Then Columbo tells Milland about him when he was a boy in a gang and used to put cars out of commission sticking a potato in the exhaust pipes (referring to what he just did with Brimmer's car); and, finally, Columbo says he feels he entered the police to make up for all those bad actions.
All that hinting at lies, traps, actions that Columbo has (or may have) done is fantastic!
This is, by the way, one of my favorite episodes.