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Columbo TV: The Whiskey Episode

Posted by Colonel Bourbon on


"Just one more thing..."

-- Lieutenant Columbo

Columbo, the popular 1970s TV series starring Peter Falk has certainly stood the test of time. During the COVID-19 pandemic we heard from several friends who rewatched old television shows that they remembered as kids; shows that their parents watched. Columbo was among the shows.

It was different than other detective dramas or mysteries, in that it started by showing the audience who the murderer was and how the murder took place. The mystery was in learning how Lieutenant Columbo, LAPD homicide detective, solved the case. In the beginning of each episode, we know who the murderer is, and we see them complacent with Columbo's seemingly blundering ways, misplacing everything;  his disheveled look, wrinkled raincoat, and mess of a car, which is particularly messed up in this episode.

Full's Irish Dew Let Each Man Be Paid in Full "The Conspirators

("Full's Irish Dew, the Irish whiskey bottle in the Columbo episode "The Conspirators," that helps the detective solve the crime.)

The episode, "The Conspirators," is considered the last of the original Columbo series, filmed in 1978 (during its seventh season). The thing about this episode, and why Colonel Bourbon is blogging about it, is this:

The crime is solved with whiskey bottles.

The suspect, the red-cheeked Irish poet Joe Devlin (played by Clive Revill) has just released his book. He is doing book signings and raising money for the victims of The Troubles, that lasted  30 years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. The episode was produced during the height of the conflict.

Mr. Devlin has less than benevolent plans. The money he is raising is for gunrunning; smuggling arms into Ireland, with his partners the O'Connell's.  During an arms deal, he kills the middle man in the deal. An an execution, he said;  the man got what he deserved. He kicked a fallen bottle of whiskey to the dead man's side.

He is very surprised when a LT Columbo shows up at his house. It turns out that the detective has the book the poet had signed for the man he had killed (at a book signing). More inconveniently, the book was signed over the written words, "ourselves alone."

Full's Irish Dew

With Irish songs, limericks, and heavy brogue, the episode is full of the Irish cliques we've come to know. We've seen reviews which refer to the episode as drenched in whiskey and in the drinking thereof, but it's mild by what we've seen over the years. But the whiskey bottle solve the crime:

The rascal poet Devlin drinks an Irish whisky, Full's Irish Dew. At one point, Columbo quips:

"They certainly know you around this town, Sir. No matter where we go, out comes your very own whiskey bottle."

This will come back to haunt the poet. The bottles will feature prominently in evidence that will eventually bring the murderer into Columbo's cross-hairs. As we see in the end, Columbo has been diligently collecting the bottles he has been sharing with his prey. 

Here's the definition of Irish Whiskey, from GearPatrol: "Irish whiskey is famously light and easy-drinking because of the region's focus on malt-based whiskey and virtually no interest in peat. The law of the land in Ireland states Irish whiskey must have malt in the mash. Other grains may be added, but malt is a required. It must also be produced in Ireland or Northern Ireland, and it must be bottled above 40 percent ABV. Unlike American whiskeys, Irish whiskey makers may use caramel coloring to deepen the color of the whiskey in the bottle."

Anyway, back to the story: Columbo has been covertly collecting the Full Irish Dew's bottles he partakes in with his prey. He's also been particularly tying to figure out why one bottle was next to the victim's body on the floor, having been apparently moved from where it had fallen during the murder.

Devlin was somewhat distracted from the one-man dragnet closing in on him, as he had been trying to find a new seller for the arms he still needed to send to Belfast. 

(Some Irish whiskeys, Wikipedia)

Columbo gets his man with the help of the whiskey bottles.

At a bar (of course), overlooking the harbor, the terrorist-murderer-poet Devlin is watching what he thinks is the ship heading out to sea, with (he thinks) the arms aboard. When, of course, Columbo shows up, with his paper bag of evidence.

Devlin remains intrigued, as so many of Columbo's antagonist's do.

Columbo considers the Full Irish Dew whiskey label:

Full's Irish Dew: "Let each man be paid in full"

"Give him what he deserves," Columbo observed. The killer, in a solitary moment of dispensing "justice," gave the victim what he deserved for placing profits above the cause.

Devlin offers that he doesn't think that's enough to convict him. That is when Columbo pulls all the bottles he has accumulated. He asks Devlin if he notices anything about them. The bottles include the one found at the murder scene.

"They are alas empty."

And, the detective reveals, they all have the poet's habitual mark, "This far, and no further."

Case closed.

Sirens blare as the U.S. Coast Guard intercepts the ship (and the tug boat, which Columbo had deduced was carrying the arms at the moment).  Devlin had been watching, making his defeat complete.

The detective and his suspect share one final drink, with the former scratching the bottle:

"This far, and no farther."

Here's a full review of the episode. If you want to watch just the ending, where the LT catches the bad guy, go to this link.

More about the episode, a plot hole

Fun fact: The actor who played Devlin, Clive Revill, was the Emperor in Star Wars: Episode V -- The Emperor Strikes Back. Listen to the voice.

The character he plays in this episode is not nearly as cunning as the Emperor. In fact, as may have already thought, Devlin made a huge mistake that undoubtedly sealed his fate: He should have gotten rid of the whiskey bottle instead of kicking over it to the victim's body. Everybody seemed to know Full's Irish Brew was his favorite whiskey, and it was marked by his habit of scratching the finish line onto it, forensically as good as fingerprints And speaking of fingerprints:  as a bit of a plot hole, the writers forgot that Devlin's fingerprints would have been on the bottle, since he didn't wipe the bottle. 

And if Columbo hadn't known the killer's favorite whiskey, Devlin conveniently took the police detective to his favorite Irish haunt, where everybody knew and a waitress offered him his bottle. Oops.


(Columbo, copyrighted by Universal Television.)

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