This review contains spoilers.
The opening trailer for this episode makes it look like a courtroom drama, and from that, I didn't think I was going to like this episode very much. However, the courtroom section actually comes late in the episode, and the bulk of the story is about Magnum gathering evidence for the murder trial. This is not a typical MPI episode, but I ended up enjoying it far more than I had initially expected.
As I say, this is not a typical episode of the series, with low action, and a different type of story to the norm. But that actually works in its favour, and – as it often the case with MPI – they dared to try something a little different, and pulled it off.
It is written by Chris Abbott-Fish, who would introduce a number of more 'socially conscious' dramas and less p.i.-driven plots into the show, not all of which I was keen on.
The opening scene, of the little girl witnessing her step-father attacking her mother, is well staged and rather shocking for its time.
The actress, Natalie Gregory, who plays young Elizabeth is very good; sometimes, child actors come over as over-cutesy, and don't always deliver their lines very convincingly, but I really enjoyed the actress here. Her scene later on in the story where she describes to Magnum what happened to her mother, is excellent.
But the episode isn't all drama – in a way that the series does so very well, it mixes in a comedy b-plot to balance things out a little. This time, it is Higgins taking away Magnum's use of the Ferrari (for running over some flowers, no less), leading to Magnum having to buy another car to get around in. He ends up with an E-Type Jaguar, which in some circles would be a collectors vehicle – but not in the beaten up state of the one he buys! These scenes are very amusing, and act as good comic relief to the main plot.
Another amusing touch is when Magnum and Carol go to the Hall of Records, and Ms. Jones, first seen in the third season's 'Mr. White Death', makes an appearance – still suffering the same relationship troubles that she was having two years previously! She will go on to appear in an episode based around her, 'Ms. Jones', later this season.
One area in which the story is dated, is when it is revealed how the photos of the supposedly beaten up woman before her death, were doctored. Nowadays, it would be easy to do in any graphic design package, but back then, it was more complicated and less convincing. However, this didn't really mar my enjoyment of the episode.
And then there is the great final scene; with Magnum's conscience split about what to do, and with the audio tape that could potentially clear the man, recorded over, the story is left open ended; we never discover the outcome of the case. In some cases, this would have the viewer yelling at the television, but once again, MPI manages to pull it off.
All-in-all, I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. I went in not expecting much from it, and ended up liking it. I think I enjoy it better now that I did when I first saw it years ago, as my tastes have matured. It is by no means a classic, and – like many fifth season episodes – doesn't have much re-watchable value like some of the early episodes, but on its own, it is a reasonable entry from a so-so season.