The guest star with the craziest backstory in this Columbo episode was a boat
George C. Scott nearly sunk the thing. Nixon loved the thing. Barry White met his poetic end on the thing.
At the end of "Last Salute to the Commodore," the season-five Columbo finale, the beloved detective heads off into the sunset. In a rowboat.
There was a good reason for this closing shot. At the time, the Hollywood rumor mill floated the idea that "Commodore" would be Peter Falk's last appearance as Columbo. Ever. Hence, him oaring off to the horizon. Of course, this episode aired in 1976. Falk would portray the character until 2003. It was no farewell.
Which was a relief for several reasons for fans. Partly because it would have been a rather odd finale. "Commodore" broke the mold of Columbo entirely. Typically, the series shows the audience the murder and the murderer in the opening scene. The pleasure comes from watching the lieutenant snaring the guilty party. However, "Commodore" is a traditional mystery. You don't learn "whodunnit" until late in the game.
Robert Vaughn is the biggest name in the list of guest stars, but the one "guest" we truly want to talk about is a yacht.
Vaughn's character, Charles Clay, owns the "superyacht" in the story. In reality, it belonged to a wealthy California mogul named Frank Muller. The businessman christened the boat "Mojo" — and the vessel has led quite the life. Let us list the ways.
President Richard Nixon adored the boat, sailing on the thing "no less than two dozen times," as seen here in this trip to Catalina Island, documented by the Richard Nixon Library.
In 2003, Michael Jackson took the ashes of soul crooner Barry White aboard the boat, sailing out to sea and scattering White's ashes into the waves.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have been aboard.
But perhaps the craziest story tied to this boat comes courtesy of actor George C. Scott. In 1978, the Patton star plunked down $10,000 to charter the boat so that he could sail up the coast to a gold tournament at Pebble Beach. Like the fictional S.S. Minnow, this ship encountered vicious waves, 20-foot swells. The Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol advised that the boat not attempt the mean sea. Scott ignored the advice.
A "massive" break slammed the boat, shattering the window, injuring the captain, and causing significant damage. The repair costs totaled $85,000. But the boat at least got an upgrade in the process.
In "Commodore," you can see the "MOJO" name (well, "MOJO JR") behind Peter Falk when he sits next to the meditating woman.