Negative Reaction

Episode 25 – Negative Reaction

The twenty-fifth episode of Columbo was titled Negative Reaction and was the second episode of the show’s fourth season. An emasculated husband goes to extreme lengths to escape a miserable marriage. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at Columbo’s difficulties in ruling out a framed man and the errors that lead him to the true culprit.



No introduction is required for Dick Van Dyke, who skilfully portrays double-killer Paul Galesko. Galesko is a man driven to extreme lengths by the continuation of his intolerable marriage. Killing his wife, Frances (Antoinette Bower), then framing and killing ex-con Alvin Deschler (Don Gordon) seems an ambitious and risky alternative to divorce, but Galesko’s plan is strong and it takes all of Columbo’s skills to unravel the threads, even then requiring a dramatic final showdown to gather vital evidence.


Van Dyke is famed for a number of roles across a long a decorated career. A winner of Primetime and Daytime Emmys as well as a Grammy Award and a People’s Choice Award, Van Dyke is perhaps best remembered for his roles in Mary Poppins and Diagnosis Murder. He remains active, with 2014’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb his most recent big screen outing in a career that will soon stretch sixty years, despite only commencing in his thirties.


This episode is one that centres largely on Columbo and the killer, but there were entertaining roles for Larry Storch as a nervous driving examiner named Weekly; and for Joyce Van Patten as a sympathetic nun seeking to care for Columbo at a neighbourhood soup kitchen. Vito Scotti was excellent as ever as Thomas Dolan, a vagabond who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Alf Kjellin returned as director for the second and final time after helming Season 3’s Mind over Mayhem, while writer Peter S. Fischer took a third consecutive writing credit for his work on the episode.


During the episode we asked if any listeners had insight into whether ransom notes composed from cut-out newspaper lettering ever existed outside of television and the movies. If you have thoughts on this or any other aspect of Negative Reaction please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts 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.


Negative Reaction was released in 1974. It is 91 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.

  • Nelson Heyward

    This is great episode my no2 over all after Now You See Him Dick Van Dyke is brilliant, the storyline is very good one and you even feel a bit sorry for Galesko I really look forward to Gerry & Iain’s review and im sure it will be another class podcast.

    A bit of trivia as Im sure it will get asked, DVD beard is real it is his own!

  • I too felt that this was a top-notch episode, with Mr. Van Dyke on excellent form and this is now in my top 3, which currently stands at:

    1. Any Old Port In A Storm
    2. Etude in Black
    3. Negative Reaction

    It was refreshing to see Dick play against type. Podcast duly downloaded and ready for my 5am wake-up tomorrow.

  • Roberto

    Yes, I too have this as a very good episode. All the little stuff that goes on (like the mission scene and DMV driver instructor) make it very enjoyable. Crime and solution are far from perfect, and Dick Van Dyke is not the prototypical villain, but all around a fun watch.

  • Ian Baxter

    Very enjoyable podcast, and thank you again. I’ve been posting a lot about the episodes and various divergent subjects that arise, but wanted to add something about the actual podcast.

    Just to say that it has become a delightful regular feature of a Thursday night now, and I’m impressed with the continued informative, systematic, but relaxed approach. Always a bit of fun with the banter, and the regular slots, such as the ‘summary’ are now familiar and welcome. I’m sure I’m not alone in being grateful for the continued thought and hard work you put into the podcasts.

    Looking forward to the end of season treat… a prize draw? a chance to pick up one of the pilot episodes? a special guest appearance? a behind the scenes special? an outtakes episode? a featurette on 70’s dance and fashion as found in Columbo? The tension is palpable…

    Any way, just wanted to say thanks and keep up the good work.

    Oh… and the wife still a big fan of your fake accents! (well Gerry’s)

    • Roberto

      Oh for sure. You probably don’t hear it enough, but I love the podcast and you two have definitely become part of my Thursday schedule.

      Speaking of accents, I met James Doohan many years ago and he did not speak with a Scottish accent a’tall. He was a master of several accents and it was a great thrill to chat with him (there was a very poorly executed promo and I was one of only a handful of people who showed up to meet him).

    • Thanks, much appreciated. Can’t ruin the surprise now!

    • Considering Gerry and Iain are really from Aberystwyth, I think they do an incredible job with the Scottish accents. :p

    • CarlosMu

      I agree, the boys do a first-rate job!

  • Peter

    Great episode. I think Galesko is in the top tier of most loathsome killers. Cold, arrogant and nasty, he accomplishes the feat of making us unsympathetic to him for killing a shrew, unlike Tommy Brown. The last scene was so satisfying. Van Dyke was terrific in this. Great job as well with the podcast. Listening to it and posting here as well as reading the insightful comments is definitely part of my Thursday routine.

    • Thanks Peter.

    • Dimples818

      If you were being nagged for 24 hours. How long would it take before you would snap?

  • Largo

    My personal reaction to this fourth season Columbo Mystery Movie entitled, “Negative Reaction,” is not really very positive. This Columbo episode has the distinction of being my least favorite of the fourth season. However, I don’t hold any beefs against any of the actors involved in this production. So I will place the entire blame on the director and on the script for my own negative reaction to this particular episode of Columbo.

    Anyway — I’m posting this tidbit to enhance the show notes:

    I was surprised that there was no mention of the very lovely Joanna Cameron, who portrayed Galesko’s personal assistant and mistress, Lorna McGrath. Joanna Cameron’s claim to fame is due to the fact that she starred in the very first weekly series on American television that featured a superheroine: the Saturday morning children’s adventure series, Isis (1975-76). In this series, Joanna Cameron portrayed archaeologist, Andrea Thomas, who finds an Egyptian amulet that gives her the ‘powers of Isis’ which enables her to fight evil. As fascinating as this show sounds, I’ve never even seen one frame of this series. But here’s a bit of trivia about it: Cameron hated working with that pet raven and continually asked the producers to take this bird out of the show. Be seeing you!

    • Phenomenal trivia as always, Largo. Thanks!

      • Largo

        You are most welcome! I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I absolutely love your accents. Of course, I seem to have a predalection for all things Scottish — especially since Sean Connery is my favorite actor of all time, eh! 🙂

    • Peter

      I think Cameron is stunning. I never watched Isis but have always been tempted to check it out on YouTube. Definitely one of the most beautiful woman to appear in a Columbo episode. I do like this episode because of the actors. I thought the clues though in this episode were in the whole too obvious and ham-fisted.

      • Largo

        I totally agree, Peter! Joanna Cameron is absolutely beautiful. Here’s another bit of trivia: the producers of Isis hired her because of her “great legs.” 🙂

        It’s a true shame that this Columbo episode spent too much time at the homeless shelter and included that gratuitous sequence with the driving instructor instead of taking the time to develop the relationship between Lorna and Galesko. As it stands, there really is no chemistry or spark between them at all. I would’ve included a scene where Galesko discusses their Philippine trip at his photography studio and then he takes Lorna in his arms and while embracing her, talks about their future together. Of course, Columbo intrudes with his questioning and ruins this moment.

        I also concur about those “obvious and ham-fisted” clues that are strewn throughout ‘Negative Reaction.’ The whole episode collapses under the weight from all of the sheer idiocy involved in the various plot and character contrivances. The script and the episodes’ direction are truly lackluster, in my opinion. I’m a big fan of Dick Van Dyke’s work, but his performance in this Columbo episode truly frustrates me. It is totally unbelievable that a man as meticulous and as intelligent as Paul Galesko would be making all of those stupid blunders.

        If Columbo’s whole case depends upon Galesko incriminating himself by picking out the actual camera from that evidence shelf, why even bother to waste the viewer’s time and insult their intelligence with all of these illogical and convoluted script contrivances? Paul Galesko is a cunning, crafty, conniving and cold-blooded rat-bastard and so it would be incredibly ridiculous for me to just give a pass to all of the episodes’ outrageously moronic and overly manufactured plot mechanics. What a waste of time and talent, eh! 🙁

        • I couldn’t disagree more on your general view of this episode, but then that’s the beauty of individuality, isn’t it?!

          • Largo

            Indeed! Be sure to check out my most recent posts here that highlight just how absurd I feel Negative Reaction truly is on several fronts. Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Johnny

    True to hyper-critical form, I am coming on to say Columbo didn’t believe Deschler was involved he said so simply to throw Galesko off.

    Also you can’t be racist to Scots, only xenophobic.

    Sorry, I can’t help myself. Love the podcast as always!

    • Haha, don’t worry – we welcome pedantry in all its forms! Glad you’re enjoying the show.

  • Arabian Knights

    This is one of my favourites. Love the “fillers”!

    You mused in the podcast about the motel’s telephone log. In the good/bad old days, at least in Canada, it was common for the lodging to levy a charge for both local and long distance (trunk) calls. Sometimes, particularly in fancier establishments, self dialling was available, but there was always a hefty surcharge. (We always used a pay telephone, LOL.)

    Alvin was staying in a budget but respectable motel in which the front desk would place the call for him and log it for billing purposes.

  • CarlosMu

    Great episode, and great podcast as always.

    I was amazed by Dick Van Dyke in the episode. He is such a great comic actor, but in this episode he never cracks a smile. There is one moment, I forget exactly when, where it looks like he is about to crack up but he holds it in.

    And in addition to some really broad humor, there is a lot of subtle humor as well. I thought the murder scene was very darkly humorous, with the victim badgering Paul to the very end.

    And I loved the moment where Columbo and Paul pause for a long moment to watch Lorna walking away at the funeral. Columbo finally says, “lovely girl”. Paul answers “yes, she’s very… professional”.

    Finally the hilarious confusion of poor Alvin on the phone with Paul.

  • Ian Baxter

    Motive: I always assumed it was money. They don’t make this explicit, but the impression is given, and the plot could easily have been expanded. There are a few clues…

    1. He has married someone for their wealth, perhaps a rich lady he took a portrait picture of (a hint with the portrait session he so reluctantly engages with later in the episode, a means of funding the kind of work he really wants).

    2. After only three years has realised the money is still controlled by her (he has to approach a friend for the ransom money because he can’t access the funds).

    3. She allows him some ‘pocket money’ for his photography but it hasn’t been the cash injection he needed (evidenced with his need to go to her for permission/funding for the trip to the Philippines and the Ranch).

    It’s not love, not even sure it is henpecked hate, this is greed and money.

    • Astute observations, sir!

    • Largo

      Sorry for being so late to respond to this post of yours, Ian. But since last night’s viewing during the live #ColumboTV tweet-a-long for Negative Reaction, I now need to counter these observations that you posted here:

      1. This is only a theory and the how and why of Paul Galesko’s meeting and marrying Frances is never explained.

      2. Ray, Paul Galesko’s publisher, provides the ransom money because it is the most expedient way to do so — and, thus, Galesko can avoid all involvement of the banking and police authorities that might possibly interfere with his kidnapping/murder scheme. Nothing is ever stated here about being unable to access any personal funds.

      3. No, he had the money to actually purchase the farmhouse (remember the ‘Sold’ realtor sign they pass in the Rolls-Royce is highlighted immediately) and he continues to pay Alvin Deschler for a few weeks worth of work. But the bottom line is this: Ray, Galesko’s publisher, is the actual sponsor of the trip to the Philippines. Galesko never asked for permission or funds for said trip from his wife.
      All we hear is Frances stating rather flippantly, “You really think that you’re going to go running off to the Philippines with that charming little Lorna and leave me to rot in this shanty?” The subject here is leaving Frances alone in the farmhouse (“shanty”) and it is not about permission to go on this trip to the Philippines or obtaining any funds for same. Again, the “offer” of this trip comes from Ray, the publisher.

      So I guess it seems to be all about henpecked hatred and pure revenge on Paul’s part for being mistreated by Frances. But again, the script is so murky about the actual motive when it should be made crystal clear in the dialogue within the farmhouse murder scene. Be seeing you! 🙂

      • Ian Baxter

        For two years my comments remained unchallenged 🙂 but you make a fair response, and it is indeed the script that lies at the root of the problem. Galesko is stuck between being sympathetic (the hen pecked husband) and unlikeable (he never really develops a rapport with Columbo). I’d say we needed the script writer and the editor to have given us a chance, and some space, to understand where the character was coming from. I look forward to your reply in 2019 😉

        • Largo

          I fully admit that I was very lazy with my initial responses concerning Negative Reaction from two years ago. I really should have done a far more thorough job with my original critique. But this particular episode doesn’t do much for me and so I quickly moved on to the next one (with The Prisoner stuff and Mrs. B’s birthday and all) back then. However, your own interpretation of Galesko’s motives is still a good one since Peter S. Fischer’s poorly constructed script allows for quite a lot of leeway. Frances’ “control” and “domineering” of Paul can be viewed as covering a lot of ground within that horrible relationship. EEK! :-0

  • Well, reading everyone’s views, it seems that the majority enjoyed this episode, as did I. I particularly liked Vito Scotti’s performance. What a guy! He has gone from putting in a performance as Enzo the baker in The Godfather to playing a number of discrete personalities in Columbo. I particularly enjoyed his performance as Dolan in this episode, with Scotti (no relation to Scotty of ST fame!) putting in a credible and very different performance. The IMDB score of 7.8 is about right in my view. For me, DVD was superb in this episode, playing completely against type in what was a thoroughly enjoyable episode.

    I also really enjoyed Larry Storch’s performance as ‘Mr. Weekly’. Those humorous interludes are essential in my view, keeping a nice balance of light and shade. Tragicomedy is very much under-rated, after all.

    Joyce Van Patten was excellent too, as the Sister of Mercy. She went on in later years, of course, to appear with DVD in ‘Diagnosis Murder’.

    Bye for now,

  • Ian Baxter

    “Porpoises rescue Dick Van Dyke”, interesting choice.

    • Couldn’t resist, though it meant I needed a second link in the next paragraph!

  • Robert MacDonald

    Hey guys, this was my absolute favorite episode. Dick Van Dyke was stellar, smug and arrogant and excellently against type, and Falk played off of him beautifully. I loved the slick gamble of the Gotcha moment, displayed by Columbo’s slumping on the table with his jacket half on. He threw everything into what was essentially a million to one shot to catch Galesko. Brilliant.

    An added bonus, the spectacular Joanna Cameron was a guest star as Lorna. That all combines into an almost perfect episode for me.

    Great work guys!

    • Thanks Robert. Glad you’re enjoying the show. Completely agree that this was a great episode.

      • Largo

        In my opinion, Negative Reaction is a “great” episode only if one ignores all of the script’s utter nonsense and character contrivances and the focus is purely on the actors and their performances. I’ve added some recent posts here at the CPF that highlight some ridiculous elements that I feel are contained within this particular Columbo production. Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

    Hi friends, while pondering my own answer to the itchy question of precisely WHY we all bestow so much love and appreciation on such a flawed series as Columbo (a question I kindly pose for all of you to answer), I’d like to argue on essentially the same lines as I did on the “Candidate for Crime” page.

    Galesko throws the towel and resigns himself to trading a trip to the Phlippines for one to the gallows in a most incredible way, for he had a trivial answer to not only silence Columbo for good, but even to have him and his collaborators indicted for evidence forging!

    Galesko, a highly qualified photographer, might easily have argued that the minute he entered the dungeon where Columbo and his cronies awaited him, his eyes went to the cameras on the shelf, studying them all with his expert eye. When shown the jumbo sized copy of the photograph, his brain instantly established a connection between the picture and the cameras, and in a flash of conscience arrived at the conclusión that such a big printout was feasible only from a large negative such as only the camera he picked might have held inside. End of the question!

    Anyway, Galesko’s bafflement and stupor might not last for long, and a defence on the above lines should have produced a “not guilty” verdict for him in trial….
    This is an excellent, most enjoyable episode, and yet its denouement is nothing short of ridiculous. Once again, precisely WHY do we like Columbo so much?

    • I think everyone has their own reasons for liking the show. I would imagine a lot of it comes down to affection for the main character.

      • Francisco Javier Gil Vidal

        Something else must be at stake: a “likable” character as Columbo would be a flop today …. Columbo somehow chimes in with his time, a time in which the Vietnam debacle instilled deep suspicion of the state, the institutions and the status quo (ALL Columbo rogues are rich, powerful people). Columbo, on the other hand, is a retreat to “well intentioned” subjectivity, one which would change the world with the weight of its talented, if highly informal, “do-goodness”. Columbo is the ultimate hippy! And that is what makes Columbo, ultimately, aceptable to the establishment: hippies are welcome too, provided they’re cops. “There’s a new generation with a new explanation”. Sure enough, but provided it’s in San Francisco (or L. A.), and California is ruled by Ronnie Reagan….
        Anyhoo, I’d like to know what other Columbo fans think of my objections to “Negative Reaction” ‘s denouement.
        Regards from Argentina!

    • Ian Baxter

      Guess we’ll all have our own answers as to why we like Columbo, but for me it is an affection for the lead character. I appreciate the fact that it’s a show using an original formula that depends upon character development and psychology rather than brut force. It’s also about fond childhood memories, I grew up watching Columbo reruns… not old enough to have watched the original run 🙂

    • Largo

      As I stated in my much earlier response to Peter, I totally agree with you that the denouement is really absurd: the bottom line is that Polaroid Land cameras do not contain any negatives. So there’s actually no reason at all for Paul Galesko to reach for any camera on that evidence shelf! Plus there are actually two ‘ransom’ photographs of Frances that Columbo had in his possession that were in police evidence: the photo that accompanied the ransom note and the rejected snapshot he found in the fireplace. There were also several crime scene photos that were taken of Frances’ corpse at the farmhouse. So did Columbo have all of these photographs of Frances ‘destroyed’ as well? Hardly! So all Paul Galesko had to say was something like this:

      “Come on, Lieutenant! That blow-up photo is obviously reversed — just look at my wife’s decorative lapel, it’s supposed to be on her left side, not on her right. Just check for yourself with all of your crime scene photographs if you don’t believe me. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to leave here and contact my attorney and charge all of you with harassment, falsified evidence and attempted entrapment!”

      Yes, Peter S. Fischer’s script for Negative Reaction is one hot mess that is chock full of ridiculous nonsense. Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Joe Barron

    Antoinette Bower, who played Frances, and Michael Strong, who played Sgt. Hoffman, also appeared on episodes of Star Trek: Bower in Cat’s Paw, and Strong in What Are little Girls Made Of? Strong played Roger Corby, and had much more to do than he did in Columbo.

    As absorbing as the episode is, I can’t figure out why Paul Galesko would kill his wife. If he’s so miserable, why not just leave her? He doesn’t seem to care about her money. It seems to me he’d be happier hacking through the jungles with his hot young assistant.

    • Largo

      Thank you for those Star Trek shout outs and for your observations about Negative Reaction, Joe. In my opinion, Peter S. Fischer’s teleplay is a very clumsy mess. But one crucial flaw in this script is that Fischer never explicitly reveals Paul Galesko’s actual motive for murdering his wife. The viewer has to assume that Frances is not only a verbally abusive shrew (as is shown), but that she also controls ALL of the finances and only allows her husband a few measly crumbs to pursue his photography career (however, this doesn’t appear to be the case since Paul Galesko has successfully published several photography books). Otherwise, a quick divorce is the easier solution and Paul Galesko could live happily ever after with the very lovely Lorna McGrath! Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Dimples818

    Trouble Waters, Negative Reaction, Now You See Him, & Forgotten Lady are my favorite episodes.

  • The Man Who…

    Wonderful episode, and proof that beards are evil. A clean shaven Dick Van D would never have bumped off his wife

  • Largo

    Last night (July 22, 2017) this episode was hosted on Twitter for a #ColumboTV live tweet-a-long event. Here are some pics that I posted along with a few of my own Tweets during said event. Enjoy! 🙂

  • Largo