Magnum, P.I.

Season 4 Episode 6

Letter to a Duchess

Aired Unknown Nov 10, 1983 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
39 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Letter to a Duchess
When Higgins pens a love note for a visiting English duchess, she thinks it's from Magnum and clearly reciprocates. Meanwhile, Magnum gets ready for the annual surf-ski race.

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  • In a chance meeting, Higgins meets an English Duchess whom he had two brief encounters with years before. But due to a mix up with notes, the woman believes it is Magnum carrying a torch for her instead of Higgins. A wonderful character piece...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    'Letter to a Duchess' is a wonderfully written and performed episode of 'Magnum, p.i.', and sums up the overall high quality of the third and fourth season.

    Magnum is preparing for the annual surf ski race, something that is woven throughout the series – along with the fact that Magnum was beaten the previous year by a twelve year old girl!

    The episode contains top-notch performances from Tom Selleck and John Hillerman, as well as a perfect guest spot by Jane Merrow as Vivian.

    By this point, the series was well established enough to have almost whole episodes devoted to character interaction over the adventure of earlier stories. In particular, it is the interaction of Magnum and Higgins that can carry it off.

    The mix up over love notes is simple but very well played out; I love the scene of Vivian visiting Magnum in the guest house, mistakenly believing him to be the author. Magnum is bemused by her visit, but welcomes her in, in a very warm and humorous scene.

    I also like Higgins' flashback to his two brief encounters with Vivian in England years before. They add real depth to the story, and add more background to Higgins' rich past.

    Of course, there have to be some villains, and this time it is a couple of brutes after Vivian's supposedly very valuable jewellery. The fight on the docks at the climax is great, and adds some action to the story.

    The closing scenes, as Magnum goes out of his way to put Vivian off of him, are quite touching, especially Higgins subtle smile as he realises what Magnum is doing for him.

    All-in-all, this is a very pleasing episode. I like it so much that I give it a rare 10 out of 10.moreless
  • Higgins falls in love!

    The character interaction between Magnum and Higgins is what makes this episode special. This episode proved that they are good friends despite the usual animosity. When Lady Wilkerson shows up it stands to throw a wrench between them. Higgins is smitten with her, especially since he remembers meeting her twice in the past. The only problem is that she appears to like Magnum. When she receives a note from Higgins and believes to it be from Magnum, she starts to pursue Magnum, much to Higgins' chagrin.

    The problems between them have to be put temporarily aside when Lady Wilkerson is kidnapped and held for ransom. Seems that two thugs were hired to take her back to England but would rather have her expensive jewels, which have been entrusted to Higgins. Can Higgins and Magnum get over their romantic differences to save Lady Wilkerson?

    Watch and see.moreless
  • After Lady Wilkerson mistakes Magnum as the author of a love note that Higgins composed, the three must try to sort out their feelings while dealing with toughs who are after Lady Wilkerson's jewels.moreless

    "Letter to a Duchess" is truly a fine representative of the Magnum series. Romance, comedy, action and comraderie are perfectly blended into a distinctly "Eighties" episode that continues to entertain two decades later. With Magnum as the unwitting recipient of Lady Wilkerson's romantic interest--and Higgins trying desperately to procure it--the stage is set for a classic clash between Higgins' ordered and stuffy devotion to protocol and etiquette, and Magnum's casual slobbishness.

    Even though "Letter to a Duchess" is really a great episode in many ways, there is some room for improvement. At the end of the episode, the resolution between Higgins and Lady Wilkerson is disappointing and a little underdeveloped. The shallow and concupiscent facade that Magnum purposely erects seems a disappointing strategy to deflect Wilkerson's admiration away from himself and toward Higgins.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Magnum: Sure, I know, it's crazy to refer to whatever Higgins and I share as friendship, but it is. We fight and bicker like an old married couple, but somewhere, mixed in with the jibes, is a funny kind of mutual trust.

    • Higgins: For a moment, I failed to remember that the ways of a gentleman are patently foreign to you. I revere words like honor, integrity, chivalry—words that are clearly not in your vocabulary.
      Magnum: Higgins, enough! Knocking my rubber chicken or my sloppy habits is within the rules, but you're attacking my character. I would like to think you don't mean that.
      Higgins: Yes, I'm sorry. It's just that you can't know what it's like to care deeply for someone and have your hope taken.
      Magnum: Yes, I can.

  • NOTES (2)

    • The German episode titles are "Das Geheimnis der Herzogin" ("The Duchess' Secret") and "Ein Liebesbrief auf Abwegen" ("A Love Letter Gone Astray"). The French title is "Lettre à une duchesse", and the Italian title is "Lettera ad una duchessa", both exact translations.

    • In this episode, Magnum mentions that he is 38 years old.