"This far....and no farther"
The Conspirators was the final episode of Columbo's seventh - and final - season on NBC. It's also a real gem of an episode in as much as Columbo faces off against someone very much like himself.
In other words, it's Sexy Dad against Sexy Dad, as one of the co-hosts of a popular Columbo-themed podcast would say.
Clive Revill plays Joe Devlin, an Irish poet/writer/singer whose work funds....well, the subtext is the "troubles in Ireland". He meets with an arms dealer, and when things go awry....well, it means that Columbo finds himself involved with a case that should have been much more tense, but isn't.
That's not an insult - it's hard to talk about any kind of political movement without invoking discussion of 9/11, but I'm avoiding it as much as I can in discussing The Conspirators. Howard Berk's script does a masterful job in laying out the situation without having an overtly "torn-from-the-headlines" approach.
(I'm looking at you, Law & Order).
What makes this story work is the interplay between Clive Revill and Peter Falk - although there's a definite cat-and-mouse game, there is barely any tension, with both men almost congenial in their approach to each other, which seems to heighten the stakes. It's as if both men are working hard to outcharm each other...and the end result is both highly entertaining and emotionally satisfying.
Although many people believe in the watch-every-episode-in-order-of-broadcast approach to binge watching, go ahead and watch The Conspirators next. You'll thank me later.