Magnum, PI is to this day one of the greatest and most enduring television shows ever made. It’s a show that had a series finale that managed to get placed in the top 5 most watched tv programs in history. It made a superstar out of Tom Selleck, and boasted a superior supporting cast in Roger Mosley, Larry Manetti and John Hillerman. The show was set in the gorgeous state of Hawaii and gave us all the beautiful scenery and women we could ask for. No doubt that Magnum PI is a iconic show that gave us many iconic episodes, some which are still talked about to death to this very day. Here I’m counting down my top 25 favorite Magnum, PI episodes that I personally feel were the show at its very best. Get ready to drive on down memory lane in your bright red Ferraris, Magnum fans.
25. The Great Hawaiian Adventure Company. Season 8, episode 9.
Magnum shelves plans for a lucrative business deal until he can get TC’s errant son (Shavar Ross) out of jail. A great comedic performance by Tom Selleck and a great heartwarming story about TC and his son made for a very funny and warm episode.
24. LA parts 1 and 2. Season 7, episodes 1 and 2.
When Magnum travels to Los Angeles to serve legal papers and winds up probing a comedian’s murder and falling in love with a beautiful lawyer played by Dana Delaney. Meanwhile, back in Hawaii, TC, Rick and Higgins search for one of the players from TC’s baseball team whose gone missing after getting into some trouble with some small time car thieves.This two parter served as a fantastic film of sorts with an exciting story as well as a great romantic subplot with Thomas and Cynthia.
23. China Doll. Season 1, episode 3.
Magnum is hired by a Chinese woman to protect her very valuable vase and finds himself chased by a special martial-arts practicing hitman. This was the first episode after the pilot that further established Thomas Magnum’s world and it was a pretty strong episode to start off with. The best part, of course, being the ending where Magnum outwits Higgins and we get that iconic shot of Magnum’s sly look to the camera.
22. Try To Remember. Season 2, episode 15.
In this classic mystery episode, amnesiac Thomas tries to figure out why he woke up in a car crash next to the body of a woman he was hired to find. A really strong and complex mystery, a well done twist and a classic Magnum\Higgins ending made for a classic Magnum episode.
21. Paper War. Season 7, episode 8.
When Higgins unwittingly causes Magnum to wipe an expensive computer game loaned from T.C., and Thomas accidentally erases a chunk of Higgins’ memoirs stored on the computer, a feud breaks out between the pair. The chemistry between Tom Selleck and John Hillerman was on full display in this classic episode. The writers fleshed out every aspect of the Magnum\Higgins dynamic from their hilarious rivalry to their deep, personal friendship. I’ve always said that Magnum and Higgins was one of the pillars of the entire show and this episode shows exactly why. This episode’s also notable because this is the first episode where Magnum believes that Higgins is actually Robin Masters.
20. Pleasure Principle, season 8, episode 2.
Still healing from his near-death ordeal and experiencing Mac’s ghost, Magnum is surprised when Higgins hands over his estate duties to be able to take some time off. In a bizarre twist, Higgins starts living the fast and loose life, wears loud Hawaiian shirts and becomes irresponsible, while Thomas assumes Higgins’ stuffy personality and ways, going so far as to wear a suit. Without a doubt one of the funniest episodes of the series, as well as another great showcase of the perfect chemistry between Thomas and Higgins.
19. Squeeze Play. Season 4, episode 7.
A not-so-friendly bet between Robin Masters and ruthless magazine publisher Buzz Benoit (Dick Shawn) could leave Magnum and Higgins on the street unless they can beat Benoit’s team in a high-stakes softball game. Magnum thinks their chances of beating Benoit’s beautiful magazine models is pretty high, until he learns that Buzz has brought in professionals to play. A very light, breezy and enjoyable episode with a pretty good use of guest stars and the ensemble cast.
18. Death and Taxes. Season 7, episode 6.
While the others are away, Magnum begins the hated task of filling out his tax forms for an audit but is interrupted by a phone call from a serial killer with a nursery rhyme for him. The man then hints that he knew about Philippe (from “Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii”). When a prostitute and former client of Magnum’s is found dead, Magnum ties together the murder with the nursery rhyme. After several more phone calls and another murder, Magnum confronts and kills the murderer, who turns out to be Milton Collins (Kenneth Tigar), a former client. This was a very haunting and darker Magnum episode with a great mystery, as well as a wonderful use of Genesis’ “Mama”, which was the first time in the show’s history that a song from popular culture was featured.
17. Limbo. Season 7, episode 22.
Magnum is critically wounded in a dockside warehouse firefight and ends up in a coma. He “wakes up” in Limbo with Mac but refuses to believe that he is dead, insisting that he is only dreaming, even though no one but Mac can hear or see him. Magnum finally accepts that he is dead, and says his goodbyes. If this had served as the series finale of the show, I can’t say that it would be a bad way to go. The episode was elegantly somber as well as still giving us that lovable and quirky Magnum humor.
16. Infinity and Jelly Doughnuts. Season 8, episode 1.
Magnum wakes up from his coma after suffering his near death experience, but is troubled by loose ends and the possibility that one of his shooters is still at large and could possibly kill Michelle and his daughter Lily. Season 7’s Limbo was originally supposed to be the episode that closed out the series, but thanks to fan upheaval the producers and Tom Selleck decided to come back for the eighth and final season giving us a terrific first episode that pays off Limbo terrifically. In this author’s opinion, Infinity and Jelly Doughnuts boasted one of Selleck’s finest performances of the series.
15. Paradise Blues. Season 4, episode 15.
Love is truly blind when T.C. drags Magnum to a meeting with a gorgeous jazz singer, Alexis Carter (Leslie Uggams), whom T.C. fell in love with years ago in Vietnam. Magnum warns that trouble follows Alexis wherever she goes, and sure enough, she reveals she’s on the run from dangerous Detroit drug dealers. TC as a character had many great episodes that focused on him and Paradise Blues is no exception. Roger Mosley and guest star Leslie Uggams lit up the screen together, giving us a touching and ultimately tragic love story about what could’ve been had one or the other chose a different path.
14. Laura. Season 7, episode
Magnum is hired by a retired NYPD Det. Sgt. named Michael Doheny (Frank Sinatra, in his last credited screen acting performance) to find the killers in an unsolved Bronx homicide, who are now living in Honolulu. It turns out that the little girl that was raped and murdered by the men Doheny was after, was in fact Doheny’s granddaughter, Laura. Magnum helps the detective find the killers and bring them to justice, with the help of Rick and Lt. Nolan Paige (Joe Santos). What more can one say about this episode than that it had FREAKIN’ FRANK SINATRA!!!? The episode was a tour de force for the legendary actor and singer, and the ending is one of the more satisfying and darker endings in the show’s history.
13. Forty. Season 7, episode 17.
Magnum’s 40th birthday begins with the loss of his lucky two-dollar bill during a night on the town on Hotel Street. He then finds himself in love with a beautiful TV news reporter Linda Lee Ellison (Patrice Martinez), who turns out to be involved with a case Magnum is working on. This episode just has a special charm to it. A great story about growing up, as well as pretty good romantic story with the woman who would end up being Magnum’s very last love interest by series end.
12. Unfinished Business. Season 8, episode 8.
When Quang Ki (Richard Narita), the man responsible for attempting to kill him and Michelle, is set free under a loophole, Magnum tries to gain information about the whereabouts of Michelle and Lily from Buck, who refuses to help. When Magnum receives a videotape of the murder of Michelle and Lily, he vows revenge and arms himself with a sniper rifle and commando gear. But when he learns that Ki will be exchanged for an American P.O.W. released from Vietnam after more than twenty years in captivity, Magnum reluctantly forgoes killing Ki for the sake of preserving good relations between the U.S. and Vietnam in order to free more P.O.W.s. I loved seeing Thomas Magnum on the war path, in full badass military attire. The end of this episode was a great contrast to the iconic “Ivan. Did you see the sunrise?” scene where Magnum makes a different choice in this not too different situation. Also, another great use of a Genesis song: “The Brazilian.”
11.Memories Are Forever parts 1 and 2. Season 2 episodes 5 and 6.
While working on a routine case, Magnum believes he has spotted Michelle (Marta DuBois), the woman he married while he was serving in the Vietnam War and who he thought had been killed in a bombing raid. T.C. and Rick are suspicious of the sighting but Magnum begins a thorough search of the area to find her. However, his search for Michelle places him in uncomfortable political territory. Magnum’s desperate search for Michelle faces being forced to a halt after he has been called up for active Navy duty and ordered to testify in Washington. Magnum suspects that it’s just a political smokescreen to try to get him off Michelle’s trail. The love scene between the two is one of the hottest love scenes in television history.
10. Going Home. Season 6, episode 7.
After thirteen years away, Magnum returns to his hometown of Tidewater, Virginia to attend the funeral of his grandfather, Everett, and reopens a long-running family feud when he suspects his stepfather Frank Peterson (David Huddleston) of stealing and selling a missing family heirloom — a letter from Abraham Lincoln. A very unique episode, not just for this series but in crime television in general. Just a whimsical, grounded and warm episode dealing with the ups and downs of family life. Of course, I missed TC, Rick and Higgins, but this particular episode worked out perfectly the way it did just focusing on Thomas and his by blood family.
9. Round and Around. Season 6, episode 6.
Ron Pennington (Bob Minor), a friend of T.C. and Magnum, is shot dead when interrupting an armed grocery store hold-up, and they discover his son, Ron Jr. (Larry B. Scott) is linked to the murder. This one is my number 1 favorite TC centric episode, and it’s easy to see why when you watch it because Roger E. Mosley is absolutely brilliant in it. A great story about friendship and doing what’s right no matter how justifiably angry one is.
8. A Girl Named Sue. Season 8, episode 7.
Magnum is hired by Melissa Wainwright (Shelley Smith), an attractive woman to find the missing will of her late father, William (George Coe), who was recently killed in a suspicious boating accident, which she suspects her brother Arthur (John Calvin) of being behind, in order to steal the will. Working on the case, Thomas finds that former client Susan Johnson (Carol Burnett) — whom he was once locked in a bank vault with — is now a fellow private investigator, and is working on the same case — for the brother, who suspects his sister as responsible for their father’s death. The two P.I.’s are soon locked in a battle of wills as they both race to solve the investigation first, but the pair are forced to put their rather love-hate relationship to one side and team up to solve the case of sibling rivalry. Whenever Carol Burnett appeared on the show I always find myself having the best time watching it. The sparkling hilarious chemistry between Selleck and Burnett is always so much fun, that it made so much sense why the producers brought Burnett back in the wrap up season. Just a fun episode all around.
7. Don’t Eat The Snow In Hawaii parts 1 and 2. Season 1, episodes 1 and 2.
In the pilot episode, Magnum accidentally uncovers a drug operation in the islands when picking up an old Navy friend of his at the airport and helps his friend’s sister uncover the truth about a conspiracy involving the NIA and Southeast-Asian drug dealers. Magnum makes a casual reference to predecessor series Hawaii Five-O after his pursuers drive over a cliffside. When his friend winds up dead, Magnum must find his killers and uncover a smuggling ring that leads him to people from his past during the Vietnam War. One of the most perfect pilots I’d ever seen. I remember when watching it for the very first time, the entire first scene ending with Magnum smiling at the camera and peeling off in the Ferrari, I was hooked.
6. Resolutions parts 1 and 2. Season 8, episodes 12 and 13.
Magnum ponders his future while paying a visit to his family in Tidewater, Virginia, where he unexpectedly meets his namesake grandfather (Howard Duff) and considers an offer to be reinstated to the navy. Thomas returns to Hawaii to ascertain whether former girlfriend Linda Lee Ellison (Patrice Martinez) is being stalked, while Rick prepares for his wedding to Cleo. As Thomas and Linda renew their relationship while he searches for her stalker, Magnum becomes increasingly certain that his daughter Lily may still be alive. As Rick’s wedding looms ever closer, Magnum continues his surveillance on Linda to try and catch the psychopathic killer who is stalking her. T.C. faces a reconciliation with his estranged wife. Magnum gets some surprising news about his theory that Higgins is really Robin Masters, when Higgins finally admits that he is indeed Robin. Discovering that his daughter, Lily is alive and that her fate is in his hands, Magnum decides to return to active duty in the Navy, at the rank of Commander to protect her from General Hue’s enemies. A truly perfect series finale, that I already said before was and still is in the top 5 most watched television events in television history.
5. Rembrandt’s Girl. Season 4, episode 14.
Susan Johnson (Carol Burnett), a woman whose father was just released from prison asks Magnum for help in ensuring he doesn’t commit further crimes. I am a sucker for stories about two people trapped somewhere and getting to know each other, so no surprise that this one is in the top five of this list. The extraordinary chemistry between Tom Selleck and Carol Burnett was just so enjoyable to watch, and I couldn’t help but wish that Susan could’ve been made a series regular or at the very least a recurring guest star after this.
4. Operation: Silent Night. Season 4, episode 10.
Christmas Eve holds some unusual surprises when Magnum, T.C., Rick and Higgins find themselves stranded on a deserted island that the Navy uses for gunnery practice. As a Navy ship looking to do a little artillery work looms on the horizon, will the night end with peace and happiness for all? The dynamic between the core four of Magnum is truly the most important, as well as the most iconic aspect of Magnum, PI. This episode was so wonderful because it was all about these four guys together. Magnum, Higgins, TC and Rick are very much their own little family, and this episode cinches it. We also get a special moment between Higgins and TC where TC calls Higgins by his first name, which never happened before and never happened again.
3. Did You See The Sunrise? Parts 1 and 2. Season 3, episodes 1 and 2.
Magnum, T.C., and an ex-army buddy named Nuzo (James Whitmore Jr.) try to track down Ivan (Bo Svenson), a Russian KGB agent who held them captive during the Vietnam War. Nuzo claims Ivan has been stalking him, and that Ivan is after all of them. Meanwhile, Lieutenant “Mac” MacReynolds (Jeff MacKay), claiming that he has resigned from the Navy, starts hanging around Magnum. In reality, Mac hasn’t resigned but is working under Buck Green’s orders to keep tabs on Magnum because Magnum’s name has surfaced in connection with a Soviet Intel operation set to take place in Hawaii. After a night out at a bar, Mac is killed by a car bomb when he gets into Magnum’s Ferrari ahead of Magnum. Magnum vows revenge. Magnum discovers that Nuzo, who is actually Ivan’s operative, has hypnotized T.C. and convinced him to kill a visiting Japanese dignitary. Magnum stops T.C. in time, but due to diplomatic immunity Ivan is set free, his next target perhaps being the president. With Rick’s help, Magnum captures Ivan, who admits to killing Mac (in a attempt to kill Magnum), and taunts Magnum and tells him that he can’t do anything to stop him. At the end of the episode, Magnum asks Ivan, “Did you see the sunrise?”, echoing a wish Mac had expressed with his last words. Ivan replies “yes”, and Magnum turns towards Ivan, raises his gun, and fires.
Considered by most fans to be the number 1 greatest episode of Magnum, and was also ranked #88 on the 2009 edition of Tv Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes list.
2. Home From The Sea. Season 4, episode 1.
Magnum’s tradition of spending the Fourth of July alone at sea turns to a life-and-death battle when his surf ski capsizes due to a reckless boater and a strong current takes him further and further from land. Forced to tread water for hours in shark-infested waters, Thomas uses his memories of his mom and dad to keep himself alive while Higgins, T.C., and Rick begin a frantic search for him. A true tour de force performance from Tom Selleck, made a already great episode even greater. It must’ve been brutal for Selleck to have to endure treading water for agonizing hours, but it was worth it because the episode was and is a masterpiece. It’s no surprise, like Sunrise, that Don Bellasario wrote this one himself.
- All For One parts 1 and 2. Season 5, episodes 15 and 16.
Tyler Peabody McKinney (Robert Forster), an old commando acquaintance, asks Magnum, Rick, and T.C. to help him rescue a buddy who is held prisoner after being captured in Chong Ker, Cambodia by Vietnamese soldiers. Magnum, Tyler and Higgins are held prisoner by the Vietnamese major that has a reign of terror over Chong Ker. As Rick recovers from his wounds, T.C. works with a local he’s befriended trying to repair an old helicopter for their escape, but it becomes apparent that Tyler has been deceitful about the true nature of the mission. I had a tough time trying to figure out how which of these amazing 25 episodes would take the number 1 spot. It was very close between Home From The Sea, Did You See The Sunrise, Operation: Silent Night and All For One, but, as they say: The heart wants what it wants. I had to choose the episode that mastered every single element of Magnum, PI that I love and All For One had it all, especially when it came to give the core four equal amounts of screentime, character development and furthering their bond as a chosen family.
In conclusion, Magnum was and still is a true classic and you can enjoy the show on reruns on Hallmark Mysteries & Movies and STARZ or stream it on Amazon Prime. The best option, though would be to just go ahead and collect the whole series that has recently had its complete series released on Blu-Ray. All eight glorious seasons for your pleasure.
I’d be remiss not to officially close with a solemn R.I.P. To the late great Roger E. Mosley who we’ve lost four days ago, as well as the late great John Hillerman who passed back in 2017. Much love to TC and Higgy Baby.