The Greenhouse Jungle

Episode 9 – The Greenhouse Jungle

The ninth episode of Columbo was titled The Greenhouse Jungle and was the second episode of the show’s second season. A scheme to extract funds from a family Trust is turned on its head as an uncle double-crosses his nephew. Columbo has a little help for once as he tries to solve the case. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the highs and lows of the episode, including a return visit from one of Season One’s guest stars.



The dynamic of the Season Two opener, Ètude in Black, which focused on Columbo’s exchanges with the killer, was not repeated in The Greenhouse Jungle. There was a small amount of sparring between Columbo and Jarvis Goodland (the returning Ray Milland in a bigger role than he played in Season One’s Death Lends a Hand), but there was also focus on exchanges between Columbo and Sergeant Wilson; Jarvis and his nephew Tony; Jarvis and his nephew’s wife, Cathy; as well as Gloria West’s conversations with Cathy and Jarvis.


Sergeant Wilson was introduced as a partner for Columbo and his by-the-book style, combined with a lack of detective’s instinct, were played skilfully by Bob Dishy – perhaps better known to modern audiences for his roles in Law & Order and 2004’s Along Came Polly. Wilson’s naïvety was a boon to Milland’s killer, allowing suspicion to be cast on Sandra Smith‘s matter-of-fact Cathy Goodland – an unfaithful wife with few regrets and abundant self-belief. The work of these three actors – together with Star Trek veteran Arlene Martel as Gloria – were among the episode’s highlights.


Also featuring were William Smith – a man of many talents and many interests – as Ken Nichols; and Bradford Dillman as the ill-fated Tony Goodland. Directed by Boris Sagal in the first of his two stints behind the Columbo camera, The Greenhouse Jungle delivered an innovative twist on the typical Columbo approach.


During this episode we asked listeners for their thoughts on a number of issues, including pistol handling and which of William Smith’s achievements they’d most like on their CV. If you have thoughts on those issues or any other aspect of The Greenhouse Jungle then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts, Spreaker or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.


The Greenhouse Jungle was released in 1972. It is 74 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    Just checking in to add to your show notes above (I haven’t heard the podcast yet – I’m at work): Sandra
    Smith is also a Star Trek ‘veteran’ — she portrayed Dr. Janice Lester in the infamous third season episode entitled, “Turnabout Intruder.”

    “The Greenhouse Jungle” is not one of my favorite Columbo episodes, but I’m looking forward to hearing what you both have to say about it. I have no beefs with the cast, but it almost seems as if everyone is breezing through each scene with very little direction or rehearsal …. or something. Ray Milland’s Uncle Jarvis comes across — at least to me — like a caricature.

    • CarlosMu

      I agree, there is something half-baked about this episode. The thing I remember about Milland’s performance is when he is supposedly disguising his voice, every time I see it I think, “that sounds exactly like Ray Milland”.

      But like you I’m looking forward to hearing what the podcast team has to say about the episode.

      • Largo

        Exactly! It’s like Ray Milland is doing a parody of himself talking like a mob boss or generic tough guy or something. In fact, his Jarvis Goodland comes across as a bit of a self-parody: a Ray Milland version of a caustic uncle in a skit on some comedy-variety show.

        • It will be good to see what you guys think after listening – these are certainly things that we thought as well, to some extent.

          • Largo

            Yes, indeed! I’m with both of you when questioning that entire sequence involving Gloria and Jarvis — and his going for the gun in the drawer. It was gratuitous and I felt it was a scene that was clumsily added on. Just imagine this episode without the Gloria character at all and every one of Jarvis’ machinations works just fine. But this overly melodramatic scene with Gloria in the greenhouse doesn’t work at all and it is utter nonsense.

  • Ian Baxter

    Sorry, not a big fan of this episode (although enjoyed the podcast once again, thank you).

    The colluding uncle and nephew just don’t draw you in. I’d have liked to have seen more passion or affection from Jarvis for his plants and greenhouse, something to back up his desperate actions to control the money and feed his hobby.

    Without this other side to his character he’s a rather one dimensional hateful grumpy old man.

    Tony is just unbelievably gullible (did you know that if you say ‘gullible’ slowly it sounds like ‘oranges’). His mistress gives one hint about his good nature, but he’s just coming across as a buffoon.

    If there is one saving feature it is Falk’s performance. Especially his interactions with Wilson and Tony’s wife… and not forgetting the great tumble. Looking forward to next week…

    (sorry about the oranges)

    • Largo

      Yeah — Tony is far too gullible, but he’s the only character that I truly feel sorry for in this particular Columbo episode. Arlene Martel’s Gloria is rather sweet and lovely, even though she’s sporting a cheesy blonde wig. [On a similar note — is it just me or do any of you other gents find Sandra Smith’s Cathy Goodland kind of sexy in a trashy sort of way?]

      On the Columbo tumble down the hill: this was featured prominently in NBC’s advertisements prior to the original broadcast of this episode. I’d better stop rambling now ….

      • Peter

        Wow Largo! Great memory for detail. How on earth did you remember that about the coming attractions? I am very impressed.

        • Largo

          Thank you, Peter! I guess I’m blessed with a very good — but highly selective — memory. But I happen to remember this one for a couple of reasons. First, these NBC promos impressed me because it was really Peter Falk taking that fall and not a stuntman. Second, I remember this NBC promo because of how my heightened interest in seeing this particular Columbo episode had morphed into anger toward my father.

          You see, this was the very first Columbo episode I missed due to my dad being a PBS network “educational television only” type snob. NBC had moved Columbo to its Sunday Mystery Movie rotation this season and this was the night that it aired until its final year in 1978. My family had only one TV in the house at this time and my dad ruled it on weekends (please see my post in the “Murder By the Book” thread).

          • Peter

            Largo, you sound like you are my age (I am 54). Now a real test of memory: what show followed the Sunday Night NBC Mystery Movie? First hint: main actor who appeared in show was guest star on at least two Columbo episodes. Let me know if you need second hint.

          • Largo

            Well, during this first season of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie I know it was followed by Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery.” “Night Gallery” was yet another NBC series that went from a weeknight schedule to airing on the weekend — and, you guessed it: my dad wouldn’t let me watch this show except on rare occasions. But this turned out to be okay due to this third season of “Night Gallery” being its very worst.

            As far as the later seasons of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie, I don’t remember any series following it at all. All I recall airing on Sunday evenings on NBC was the “World of Disney” followed by the Sunday Mystery Movie — and that’s it, eh. Peter, I guess this 55 year old needs another hint …. or a vitamin B complex supplement for a memory boost.

          • Peter

            Unfair question as there may have been others shows following. Another hint: the star of this show as mentioned was in at least 2 Columbo episodes. Both had boat themes, one was extremely unpopular amongst some Columbo fans as it was unconventional in technique

          • Largo

            The only TV series that Robert Vaughn starred in during the 70s was “The Protectors” — and that didn’t air on the NBC network since this particular series was a syndicated UK import. In other words, you’ve got me stumped, Peter.

          • Peter

            It was The Protectors! Came on right after Columbo, at least during the 1974-5 season. What made you think of Robert Vaughn? The Commodore was the controversial episode I was referring to. Won’t say more about it as Iaian likely has never seen it

          • Largo

            “The Protectors” never aired in my particular television market, but one television station aired it (on a weeknight) in the eastern part of my state (Iowa). I thought you were at first asking about an actual NBC network show and not a syndicated series (i.e., shown on certain TV stations at various times). A tricky question for this very literal-minded Columbo fan!
            : )

            Your two hints indicated to me that it could only be Robert Vaughn — “Troubled Waters” and “Last Salute to the Commodore.” “Commodore” is indeed very controversial: bloated, tedious and with a director who let almost every actor overindulge themselves to no end. But we’ll discuss this in more detail at the proper time. Be seeing you!

          • CarlosMu

            Can’t wait til the podcast gets to “Commodore”. Lots to chew on in that one!

          • Largo

            Yes — a whole heck of a lot to chew on, eh. Hokey smokes — I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m ready to rip the “Commodore” episode a new one right now! But I’ll be patient and wait until said podcast is online. : )

  • Maddie

    Once again a great podcast guys! I love all the trivia you find about the cast and crew. Very interesting.

  • saltyessentials

    I enjoyed the discussion on whether or not Captain Ritchie really thought Columbo a rising star, or just fed the line to Wilson hoping it would grease the wheels in getting the two working together. My take is the compliment was genuine.

    If we assume all these crooks Columbo collared were convicted (and I’m sure that, in Columbo-Land, they all were), Columbo would certainly be getting noticed by his superiors as having more than average success. And Wilson seemed so excited to work with Columbo, I’d guess he’d already heard plenty of good things about him around the department.

    My guess is Captain Ritchie wanted to get the two of them together, hoping some of Columbo’s detection skills might rub off on Wilson, and thinking it wouldn’t hurt to expose Columbo to a few of Wilson’s high-tech tricks as well.

    And I think Columbo’s surprise at the compliment was genuine as well. Columbo’s character strikes me as brilliant in many ways, but not always necessarily aware of his own brilliance. His focus stays in the job at hand, and he does his job naturally and intuitively, without a lot of thought as to how he’s going about doing it. So the compliment probably came as quite a surprise to him.

    Wow. Four paragraphs devoted to a completely fictional person’s psyche.

    I am a *serious* Nerd.

    • I think that’s probably a fair analysis!

    • Ian Baxter

      I wondered if Wilson was a bit of a pain in the department… boring folk with talk of his latest gadget… being a bit intense with his superiors… way too eager to please… does he have the respect of his colleagues in this episode? Is there not a glint in the eye of his colleagues when Columbo exposes his mistakes?

      Well, if I’m right, then attaching him to Columbo is more about Captain Ritchie dealing with a nuisance, and so Columbo sees through the ‘compliment’ about him as a way of sugar coating the bad news – you’ve got the short straw, you’ve got Wilson.

      Maybe that’s a touch harsh. But it’s all fun speculating these back stories. Enjoying your comments, ‘saltyessentials’, hope you can catch us all up soon 🙂

  • saltyessentials

    Oh, and I’ve noticed your several comments around time confusion on the various episodes: Did minutes or hours or days or weeks pass between a particular scene and another.

    It’s something I’ve never really though through before, but Columbo, as a series, if really rife with that kind of confusion. So many times, I’ve watched a show and thought “wait, that doesn’t make sense.” But after hearing some of your comments, I see many scenes make a lot more sense if more time had passed between them. And a lot of the scenes you mentioned make a lot more sense with time in between, but we’re left guessing or assuming on how much time.

    Would have been really easy to work a bit of dialog into those scenes, or a visual cue, to help the audience recognize a certain amount of time had passed–something the episode writer probably knew in his head, but didn’t communicate it well enough in the end.

    Right. Back to work.

  • JR

    In the podcast it was noted that it was difficult to find much info about Bob Dishy. Bob Dishy and Blythe Danner(from Etude in Black) were in a Neil Simon movie called Brighton Beach Memoirs. They played the parents of the main character.

  • ImaSayinIt

    I obviously remember Columbo playing on TV as a young child but only these last few months have worked my way through the entire series. I find it so entertaining and am enjoying repeating many of the episodes.
    I was googling to remember an actors name & WALA! Came upon your podcast! I can’t wait to dig in!

    Ahhhh….one more thing ? Thank you in advance for sharing your time, love for the show & talent with us!

  • Ciaran Guilfoyle

    I was a little disappointed that the writer of this episode didn’t fully exploit Ray Milland’s greenhouse obsession. Would have been nice to incorporate an ironic twist where say Milland ends up proving his own guilt by reference to some orchid, possibly in a one-upmanship move against Columbo acting of course on Mrs Columbos instructions. But as it was the only thing that tied the greenhouse into the plot was a pile of dirt that really could have been anywhere. Then again I’m not a screen writer and wouldn’t even know where to begin a Columbo teleplay.