OK dear reader, I need you to follow me on a little journey in this entry.
I really enjoy watching episodes of Columbo. There’s little doubt that he is still my favourite television detective, just beating Sherlock Holmes and Detective Robert Goren of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I don’t claim to be a walking encyclopedia on all things Columbo, but I did think I had watched all the episodes. Evidently I had not.
The man who gave us The A-Team Stephen J. Cannell, wrote an episode of Columbo I had not watched before until recently. It’s always good to see an episode I had not watched before, just for the freshness of a new experience. Plus it was great to know it was written by someone who was responsible for many an enjoyable Saturday evening viewing pleasure.
Anyway, Columbo season 3 episode 4 is called Double Exposure and guest stars Robert Culp. It wasn’t his only episode of Columbo, either. In this one, however, the set up is delicious. The murder takes place in a way where the murderer has the ‘alibi’ that he could not have done it since people knew he was elsewhere providing narration on a film behind a curtain, although, in fact he had played part of his narration through a tape player giving him time to commit the act.
Now the beauty of Columbo is I can tell you all this and I haven’t really spoilt the episode for you. The premise of your interest in Columbo is not in any mystery of who did it or how it was done, it is in the thrill of the chase that Columbo will embark on not just in hounding the murderer for most of the episode, but how he will get that murderer bang to rights. At this juncture, I must confess, in as much as I love Columbo, I sometimes find myself rooting for the murderer to get away with it. I know, I am duly ashamed, but that’s sometimes how I feel watching it. Not because the murder was right or understandable, it’s more about how they interact with Columbo especially when it’s apparent that Columbo more than suspects them and now it’s about covering tracks or some other way look to outwit the lieutenant. When it’s done well, the murderer comes across almost a little hard done by when they are caught. The resolution to this episode was well done. That I will not spoil, but encourage you to watch that episode (watch it again even if you have watched it before).
All that to say, that the urge for honesty, integrity, truth and transparency in all things is not always a natural inclination. There is that element in a human’s condition that will seek to do the wrong and then see if you can get away with it. Where you can get away with it, there’s a tendency to go ahead and do it and in going ahead and doing it, there is a hardening of the heart and a slow erosion of the core of what makes the human experience so delightful. That is about the capacity to be free – free to be without any ‘hidden agendas’ and free from the need to cover the tracks to misdeeds and discrepancies. Living with that freedom is truly refreshing. So in as much as you go to see if you can get away with it, in so doing you only end up trapping yourself more.
That’s where the power of confession and the liberty that brings is a far better way to live than being ‘clever’ but only ending up with a mess to have to sort out eventually. Just when you think it’s only you, there are impacts it has on those around you that can make matters worse.
That’s obviously not just referring to murder – though when you consider the character assassinations that take place through gossip and refusing to carry out due process to establish truth and justice in grace and mercy there are a lot more murders that take place without Columbo ever being called for. This contrast between the need to cover tracks and the desire to live free from that burden us stark in the difference between both lifestyles.
In my brief sojourn on this planet, my walk with Jesus reassures me of the freedom in truth and the captivity of living in anything other than that. To be honest it still remains a challenge, but it’s exactly His grace and mercy that reminds me that this challenge can be one in which I experience victory because of the Truth who lives in me.
So all that came from watching Columbo season 3 episode 4 – Double Exposure. Oh and one more thing – remember, however clever we think we are, sometimes it won’t be for others to figure us out, sometimes our actions and words will betray us. Far better to not live with that risk and live in the light of the freedom in Christ.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden