Within the Great American Justice Docu-drama Columbo, lie answers: both to murder most foul, and life most similar.
Take for example, the Tour de Bochco-written episode from Season 2, “Étude in Black.” In it, the dark and dashing music man has an affair he’d like to cover up. Through a series of “My car’s in the shop,” “Of course not darling, I love yous,” and tedious mens’ accessories, he bashes his side bird over the head with an ashtray.
Now then. Anyone with an Associate’s in “One More Thing” knows he’ll be caught. A careful moment of consideration brings those haphazard details blazing. Not available when he said he’d be; over-compensating attention; an inexplicable temper aimed at wifey Blythe Danner when it was really inner turmoil that was rocking him.
It doesn’t add up. None of it. From any angle.
But you know what they say about perception — it makes an ass out of you, me, and assumption. Because in perception, there’s a very deliberate choice. You choose what you want to see. In dark, dashing music man’s story, there are holes. Huge ones. Neither Columbo nor Blythe believe what they’re told. But Columbo wants the truth to show itself — and Blythe wants the truth to be what she’ll allow herself to see.
Of course in the end, Music Man’s symphony of lies ends in a crash, undone in the end, by a single flower, a fussy detail of fashion, a trail of petals to the truth.
You can be a Columbo, or you can be a Blythe. Believe what you see, or see what you believe. Only one of them can be true.
And we learn in this lesson of life most foul: a carnation left behind ain’t the same as a man bringing you flowers.