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Suave restaurant critic and TV chef Paul Gerard is extorting money from three restaurant owners by threatening to write bad reviews of their restaurants unless they pay him kickbacks from their profits. When one of the owners, Vittorio Rossi, says enough is enough and refuses to pay Gerard, and in addition threatens to expose his extortion, Gerard decides he must murder him.
Gerard is to have a dinner with Rossi that evening. In preparation, he extracts the deadly nerve toxin from the Japanese fugu fish and somehow manages to get it into a wine bottle that is chosen at random from the wine cellar by Rossi's nephew Mario, who also serves as the waiter. Although we are told at the time of the murder that Gerard is guilty we are not told exactly how he managed to administer the poison. This is just one more mystery that Columbo must unravel as the story progresses.
Although Columbo is confronted with intricate puzzles in this case, he is guaranteed never to go hungry, as the other restaurant owners loved and respected Rossi and have pledged to keep Columbo well-fed until he catches the killer. This is one episode it is not advisable to watch if you are hungry, as the endless parade of gourmet dishes will soon have you gasping for breath.
Antony Alda, who plays Rossi's nephew Mario, is the half-brother of Alan Alda, best known as Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H.