This is a fun episode in the final season of the show (for another fun episode, see the Great Hawaiian Adventure Company). This episode allows Selleck to have some fun with an Indiana Jones-like character, since he was not able to play the character in the movies due to his commitment to Magnum. Selleck and company adequately ham it up in this episode, mirroring several scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, while making it "Magnumesque." While this episode is not representative of the series per se, the fun and irreverence portrayed are Magnum hallmarks, which is why I loved this episode and this series.
Higgins wants Magnum to find the 'Lost Art of the Ancients', a priceless ancient scroll created by an ancient advanced culture, but the search turns dangerous thanks to several other parties who are also determined to find the scroll. Great fun...
'Legend of the Lost Art'... one of the most well known and best remembered stories of the final season of 'Magnum, p.i.'.
For those who don't know the story, Tom Selleck was originally to have played Indiana Jones in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (filmed 1980, released 1981). However, filming conflicted with the beginning of 'Magnum', and he had to choose between the two. Of course, he chose MPI, but ironically, the filming of MPI was delayed until late 1980 due to a writer's strike, which meant that he would have been free to play Indy anyway!
By way of compensation, and to have fun with what might have been, with the end of the series nigh, this spoof episode was made.
I have heard (or read) some who consider this to be the single greatest episode of MPI. While it is very good, I wouldn't personally consider it the best ever – it is great fun, but personally I can think of other episodes that appeal to me even more.
At the same time, I think a few people misunderstand this episode, and that it is a deliberate spoof of 'Raiders...'. Maybe you need to know the story of Selleck *almost* being Indiana Jones to fully appreciate it.
That said, there are some great set pieces. Although I don't watch the series simply for episode after episode of gun-toting action, one of the things I did feel was missing from later in the show's run was action and adventure; thankfully, this episode redresses that gripe somewhat.
Amusingly, a number of movies are mentioned within the episode, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' is never referenced by name once. A humorous running gag throughout the story is the 'Lost Art' continually being wrongly referred to as the 'Lost Ark'.
I do like this episode; I like it a lot. The only two things I would say against it are that it takes its time to really find it's footing, and at a couple of points, the plot seems to be shoehorned around the action set pieces. I wonder if it had come from the 'golden age' of MPI (third / fourth season) whether it would then be my single favourite episode? (No, I have a feeling the fourth season's classic opener 'Home From the Sea' would still rank as number one in my book).
All-in-all, this is a really fun episode, and I'm glad they made it. Part of me feels that my 9.0 rating is slightly harsh; but I still think it is a fair rating for a very good story.
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