MAGNUM, P.I. was rarely, if ever, better than the two-hour premiere episode of its third season. Broadcast in the fall of 1982, "Did You See the Sunrise?" finds Magnum (Tom Selleck) and T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) flashing back to their ugly days as prisoners of war in a Vietnamese camp run by the vicious Ivan (Bo Svenson), a Russian KGB agent who delighted in torture and murder.
Their nightmare returns when Nuzo (James Whitmore, Jr.), a buddy with whom they escaped from Ivan's camp ten years earlier, arrives in Honolulu, raving that Ivan is trying to kill him. Executive producer Donald Bellisario's teleplay grows more complex with Magnum feeling guilt over the death of his friend Mac (Jeff MacKay) in an explosion meant to murder Magnum and the presence of Colonel Buck Green (Lance LeGault), Magnum's rival in Naval Intelligence, who's using the P.I. without his knowledge--an action that may have directly led to Mac's death.
It turns out Ivan really is in Hawaii, but not for the reason Nuzo claims. Svenson, who portrayed WALKING TALL sheriff Buford Pusser in two movie sequels and a shortlived TV series, is properly imposing and chilling as the sadistic Ivan, whose cruel nature is powerfully demonstrated in his constant use of racial epithets to bait T.C. (imagine trying to get this episode on the air today).
The reason everyone remembers this episode is its climactic scene, which I won't spoil for you, but it packed a major punch in 1982, as it showed Magnum doing something that TV detectives just did not do. The sensitivity with which the scene is played and directed (by former stuntman Ray Austin) makes it feel "in character," however.
Also on the Hawaii theme, I watched the famous "Hookman" episode of HAWAII FIVE-0 at lunchtime. It was the sixth-season opener, and featured a memorable guest-star turn by Jay J. Armes as a cop-killing sniper. What made the show stand out was Armes himself, who was a real-life El Paso private investigator making his acting debut in "Hookman". He lost his arms in a childhood accident, and was outfitted with a pair of hooks, with which he could do just about anything, it seems, including drive, shoot and assemble a weapon.
As Kurt Stoner, Armes plays a former bank robber who blames four police officers for the accident that robbed him of his arms, one of them being, of course, Five-0 head Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord). Morton Stevens' Emmy-winning score propels the action, particularly the scenes of Armes preparing for his next kill. As Armes has almost no dialogue, the music is handy in keeping up the pace and excitement. Stoner drives a cool Mustang in a good car chase with McGarrett, and, besides the sniper shootings, director Allen Reisner stages a pretty violent shootout between Five-0 and a red herring. Reisner and writers Glen Olsen and Rod Baker weren't generally considered outstanding creatively, but all were at the top of their game with "Hookman," as were Stevens and Armes.
And, yes, I realize the irony of a man named Armes having none of his own.