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Magnum, P.I.

Season 3 Episode 9

Mr. White Death

Aired Unknown Nov 18, 1982 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
36 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

Mr. White Death
A wrestler asks Magnum to find his long lost son—which he does—but the son claims his father's been dead for 17 years.

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  • Guest Star

    My favorite guest star:

    Ernest Borgnine
  • Mr. Borgnine plays the loveable rogue for the zillionth time.

    Having played just about every other role Ernest gets the chance here to play a wrestler with naturally (in keeping with Magnum time) something eating away at his conscience. Not a very bright installment, we get a few close ups of Rick's horrific jeans as Borgy throws him around in the most charming way (why couldn't he go Levis like T.M.?) This is no disgrace, at least not compared to the demonic "Mixed Doubles", after all, Borgnine's charm levels are sky high as always, it's doubtful all the same, that the show built its reputation around half hearted watchable fillers like "Mr. White Death", for every "J.Digger Doyle" there is one like this, neither a shambles, nor a success. So be warned...moreless
  • Magnum, Rick and T.C. are befriended by an aging wrestler, who asks Magnum to find his son whom he walked out on years before. But Magnum becomes suspicious as he finds holes in the wrestler's story. Guest star Ernest Borgnine makes this great episode...moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    Until I came to re-watch it last night to review, I'd almost forgotten just how good 'Mr. White Death' is. And the one key thing making it so likeable is guest star Ernest Borgnine, and his lovely performance as aging wrestler Earl.

    It could be said that Borgnine always plays the same character, and I suppose in a way that could be true; but he is a wonderful actor, and it is very hard to not warm to him.

    It is surprising that he does not receive 'Special Guest Star' billing for this episode.

    It is believed that Borgnine's appearance in this episode brought him to the attention of Donald P. Bellisario, who was impressed enough to offer him a main role in 'Airwolf' (1984-1986), of which I am also a huge fan.

    The friendship struck up between Higgins and Earl, after Higgins finds that Earl was friends with an old comrade, is also very good, and adds another layer to the episode. Also of note is the first appearance of Ms. Jones (Maggie Impert), who will go on to have intermittent appearances in odd episodes, before having her own storyline in the fifth season's 'Ms. Jones'.

    In other hands, the story could have been so-so, but thanks to a great performance by Borgnine, as well as the other able performers, this comes off as a really likable episode.

    One of my favourite scenes of the season comes after Magnum has confronted Earl about the holes in his story; the scene as Earl wearily goes to leave the Estate, and his conversation with Higgins, is wonderful, and the sombre music score under it brings it to life even more. The final meeting of Earl and his long-lost son at the airport is also great. The whole "we'll see that ball game some day, son" dialogue could have come off as corny, but in the capable hands of the two performers here, it works.

    And then there is the classic final scene, with Earl's aeroplane flying over. Magnum admits that the Mob will probably catch up with Earl one day, "but not today".

    All-in-all, I didn't consciously realise it before, but 'Mr. White Death' is probably one of my favourite third season episodes.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • The first time Thomas leaves Phil Lewis' office, he's wearing his Detroit Tigers cap, but by the time he gets back to the estate, he is wearing his Da Nang cap.

    • When Thomas races towards the estate's main building, the shot of the car's wheels as they skid to a halt is actually backwards, because the dust from the ground is being sucked under the wheels instead of being kicked up from the wheels.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Magnum: (narrating) I remember when I was five years old, I found this little puppy in the street. It had been hit by a car and was in pretty bad shape, so I brought it home and my dad and I took it to the vet—one hundred twenty bucks. The little puppy grew into a big Saint Bernard. It ate a five hundred dollar couch and my dad's favorite armchair. The next day, my dad put it in the back yard, where it dug under the fence and ran away. Ever since then, I've been wary about taking in big, adorable pups, one of life's lessons you just have to keep learning over and over again.

  • NOTES (2)

    • The German episode titles are "Im Ring: Mr. White Death" ("In the Ring: Mr. White Death") and "Ein Vater sucht seinen Sohn" ("A Father Looks for His Son"). The French title is "Le match". The Italian title is "Un vecchio conto da saldare", meaning "An Old Score to Settle".

    • This was the first production on which both Donald P. Bellisario and the actor Ernest Borgnine have worked on. Bellisario casted him later as a main character on one of his other shows: Airwolf.