Magnum, P.I.

Season 7 Episode 6

Death and Taxes

Aired Unknown Oct 29, 1986 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
43 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Death and Taxes
Magnum is taunted by phone calls from a killer who doles out nursery rhyme clues to his upcoming murders.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

  • Magnum meets Miami Vice, and it works!

    In the mid to late-80's, no show was more groundbreaking than NBC's Miami Vice. From the cinematic look, to the soundtrack, to the glitzy-yet-gritty plotlines, Miami Vice set a standard that's still being imitated today.

    By 1986, Magnum, P.I. had been on since 1980, and in retrospect, it never "jumped the shark", but at the time, perhaps the producers thought they had to update the look of the show. What we have here is Magnum, but with some decidedly Miami Vice-ish elements. This sounds disastrous, but in reality, it actually works. This is one of the best episodes of season seven, and certainly a stand-out for the entire series (don't get me wrong, this isn't the caliber of "Did You See The Sunrise?", but it is an excellent episode).

    (Some minor spoilers ahead)

    The plot concerns Magnum facing a tax audit as the 4th of July (and his annual tradition for that day) draws near. Higgins, TC, and Rick all leave town, leaving Magnum to face the audit, with the help of Maggie. This all gets sidetracked when Magnum starts receiving phone calls from a bizarre, riddle-reciting maniac. "The Ripper" (as the killer is named by a reporter who only gets in the way) has a thing for killing prostitutes, and his riddles always point to where the murders will take place. He also seems to have some disturbing knowledge of Magnum's past.

    Magnum, P.I. could always work a lighter moment into an episode, but you'll find none of that here. The plotline is fairly dark. So, how does this all have a Miami Vice-feel? The opening shots of hookers on the streets all set against a neon backdrop immediately recalls countless images of MV. However, the biggest influence is the soundtrack. Twice in this episode the song "Mama" by Genesis plays. First, when Magnum and the police attempt to stop the killer's second murder after deciphering his clues, and later, much more notably, when Magnum discovers the killer's room and searches his various photos and clippings. The song fits perfectly with the theme of the episode, but also reeks of MV influence (c'mon, Phil Collins' songs were one of the hallmarks of MV! Even if this is technically a Genesis song, it's clearly Collins singing). Rip-off or not, the song works well with the theme of the episode, and is definitely mood-setting.

    It's not like Magnum is running around in pastel suits or anything like that, but the MV influence is unmistakeable. Later in the season, another Genesis song, "Tonight, Tonight" would play during "Laura" (the Frank Sinatra episode), and to a lesser extent, the patented MV "camera filming from the wheel" shot would be used briefly in "Limbo".

    None of this is bad, mind you. Okay, granted, both Magnum and Miami Vice are two of my all-time favorite shows, so I may be a bit more tolerable of this than others, but the formula works here. Is it preferrable to a 'regular' Magnum episode? No, I don't think so, but it does show an interesting change of pace.

    If you're a Magnum fan, you owe it to yourself to check this episode out. The plot is highly involving, dark, and ends without a (spoiler here) clear resolution of why the killer did what he did. This is an excellent episode, and shows that even seven seasons on, Magnum still had plenty of steam.moreless
  • With the rest of the gang away, Magnum plans to spend the 4th of July break doing his tax audit, but a crazed serial killer with a knowledge of Magnum's past starts taunting him over the phone with riddles of who his next victim will be. Top notch...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    'Death and Taxes' is one of the most polished and most memorable episodes from the latter end of 'Magnum, p.i.'s run. As many have already noted, it is pretty much "MPI does 'Miami Vice'" – and thankfully, it works, coming off as an excellent story.

    The influential 'Miami Vice' had been around for a couple of years by this point, and had overtaken MPI in the ratings, so the producers seemingly decided to try and emulate it in this episode. Thankfully though, it doesn't come across as a straight rip-off of 'Miami Vice', instead taking some of the hallmarks from that show and working them into the MPI mix.

    As soon as the episode begins, the style of filming, and particularly the incidental music, tells us that this episode is different from the standard MPI fare.

    Also notable at several points in the story is the use of the Genesis song 'Mama', which really works in setting the tone. (Phil Collins of (later) Genesis was a memorable guest star on MV, as well as having a lot of his music used in that show, creating yet another parallel).

    The rest of the gang – Higgins, T.C. and Rick – are away for this episode, appearing only at the very start of the story. But making her return to the series after a long gap, is Jean Bruce Scott as Lt. Maggie Poole, last season in season four's 'The Look' – in the meantime, she had played Caitlin O'Shannessy in Bellisario's 'Airwolf', which had finished (in it's original version) a couple of months before this episode; with the end of 'Airwolf', JBS made a few return appearances in MPI.

    Also of note in this episode is the first appearance of Joe Santos as Detective Nolan Page. Santos played Detective Dennis Becker in 'The Rockford Files', and would go on to make several more appearances as Page; personally, I always preferred Lt. Tanaka.

    Anyway, the plot itself is a very good one. It starts off a little silly, with Mangum struggling, Arthur Fonzarelli-style, to say "tax audit" out loud, but thankfully, soon after, the main plot kicks in. It is gritty yet stylistic, and 'The Ripper' (played by Kenneth Tigar) really comes across as an unhinged madman.

    And then, there is the red herring – how many of us expected the Ripper to be revealed as the reporter, Jeff Spangler? I certainly did. The ending is also very good too – very sombre, and with a lot of questions left unanswered.

    The story has a very mature feel to it, and also, in my view, has a feel that they knew the end of the show was in sight (the series was originally to have ended at the end of this season, with Magnum being killed) and were willing to try new things before the end came.

    All-in-all, this is a great episode, and one of the episodes that marks that the series, after losing its way for a couple of seasons, really found its feet again in season seven. I give this one a solid 10 out of 10.moreless
Kenneth Tigar

Kenneth Tigar

Milton Collins

Guest Star

Gary Frank

Gary Frank

Jeff Spangler

Guest Star

Dick Jensen

Dick Jensen

Det. Kinohe

Guest Star

Joe Santos

Joe Santos

Nolan Page

Recurring Role

Jean Bruce Scott

Jean Bruce Scott

Maggie Poole

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • The Ripper has newspaper cuttings of some of Magnum's previous exploits. These include: 'Thomas Magnum Honored by Cat Fans' – harking back to the sixth season's "Photo Play", where Magnum received a pet lover's award after saving a cat from the tidal pool 'Clever Canine Leads Private Eye to Casebreaking Clue', which wasn't an actual episode, though we do see a shot of Magnum following the supposedly smart dog 'Local P.I. Nabs Suspect After High Speed Chase' – again not from an actual episode, but footage of a supposed previous adventure of Magnum's that we see several times in this episode 'Magnum and Kobata Lead King Kamehameha Club To Senior Swim Finals' – an event that we hear more about in this episode 'Local Investigator Solves Psychic's Murder Riddle' – the fourth season episode "Fragments". After the Ripper taunts him about leaving Philippe for dead in Vietnam, Magnum experiences flashbacks to his confrontation with the character, otherwise known as "La Bull", in the Pilot.

    • Maggie appears with her hair down when she comes to the guest house to help Magnum with his taxes. It is only one of a few episodes in which we see Maggie out of uniform.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Magnum: (narrating) I once had a paper route in Tidewater, the Daily Sentinel. It was my first major job. I made $12 dollars a week and a penny for every delivered paper, and I never got nervous at income tax time, because I knew the IRS always gave me my money back, reluctantly. Sending in your 1040 form has always been as much a part of the American way of life as hot dogs at the ballpark on the Fourth of July, only now I've found myself having to file a lot more than a 1040. I wasn't getting my money back anymore, and I hadn't been to the ballpark since, well... before the paper route. I told myself not to feel persecuted. I told myself that people who get audited are choosen at random. I told myself it was nothing personal.

  • NOTES (3)

    • The German episode titles are "The Ripper" and "Spur eines Killers" ("Tracking a Killer"). The French title is "Comptes et comptines", meaning "Accounting and Nursery Rhymes". The Italian title is "Filastrocca mortale", meaning "Deadly Nursery Rhyme".

    • This episode features clips from the pilot, "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii".

    • The original version of the song "Mama", by Phil Collins, is featured prominently throughout this episode. On the closing credits, an instrumental variation of the track is used instead of the usual theme.