Magnum, P.I.

Season 7 Episode 8

Paper War

Aired Unknown Nov 12, 1986 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
32 votes

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Episode Summary

Paper War
Magnum finds himself dealing with both an increasingly hostile set of pranks pulled by him and Higgins against one another and his investigation into a crooked gambling operation.

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  • While Magnum is working on a case to break a crooked gambling ring, he and Higgins become embroiled in a feud of one-upmanship with each other, but the level of their practical 'jokes' beings to spiral out of control. A classic Magnum / Higgins showcase..moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    After a dodgy start with 'L.A.', season seven continues its upward trend of high quality episodes with this classic instalment.

    This is the perfect showcase of the strange Magnum / Higgins relationship, which sees them arguing like a married couple.

    The writing and acting is of a very high quality, and in my opinion the episode is as sharp as the show's early episodes.

    I wasn't sure about T.C.'s computer game being wiped after Higgins caused Magnum to shut it down – even back in the days when we weren't so familiar with how computers worked, this didn't seem very realistic (and actually, I incorrectly remember this as coming from a different episode). But thankfully, this is the only minor niggle with an otherwise perfect story.

    One touch I really like is that, even as their pranks on each other begin to spiral out of control, Magnum in his narration still speaks of Higgins as if he is a very close friend and that they understand how each other works, seemingly oblivious to what a terrible state their relationship (or whatever you'd term it as) has reached.

    Another key element of the latter end of the show's run is introduced in this episode – Higgins may actually be Robin Masters. Some like this notion, some don't, and there are certainly a couple of earlier episodes that contradict this (the first season's 'J. "Digger" Doyle' and season three's 'The Big Blow' spring to mind), but there is little that can't be explained away without a little creative reasoning. Whether Higgins was really Robin or not was never fully given away in the show, and I like it for that – it was up for each individual viewer to make up his / her mind for themselves.

    The sequences with Magnum and Higgins stuck in the lift, in the building about to be demolished, are also very good, and I like how they stuck two great actors, Tom Selleck and John Hillerman, in a confined space and let them just bounce off of each other.

    All-in-all, this is (yet) another classic from season seven, and definitely one for my all time Top 10 favourite episodes of the series. It's perfect... and how many other shows could have revolved such a great story around a flower blooming!moreless
James Shigeta

James Shigeta

Mr. Obata

Guest Star

Richard Narita

Richard Narita

Bill Nahli

Guest Star

Kimo Kahoano

Kimo Kahoano


Guest Star

Gillian Dobb

Gillian Dobb

Agatha Chumley

Recurring Role

Robert Silva

Robert Silva

Police Officer #1

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • When Higgins challenged Magnum as to who the man that claims to be Robin Masters is, Magnum suspects that Higgins hired, "...some little guy with a voice like Orson Welles," an in-joke to the series as the voice of Robin Masters was provided by Orson Welles.

    • As Magnum looks out of the top of the lift, there is a noticeable change in film quality on the shot of the rat.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • (While trapped in a lift together, Magnum accuses Higgins of being Robin Masters.)
      Magnum: No no no, you're laughing, because you're trapped. You have NEVER laughed like this. Now admit it. You've spent all these years pretending to be Robin's employee because you didn't want anybody to know that you write cheap pulp novels.
      Higgins: And who, may I ask, is the man we know and address as Robin Masters?
      Magnum: I don't know, some little guy with a voice like Orson Wells and a body like Truman Capote, that you hired to pose as Robin. And it was very interesting casting. You weren't satisfied with de nom de plume, you developed this whole persona, to create the kind of playboy you envisioned writing cheap pulp, so 'you' could devote yourself to serious writing.

    • (Magnum shoots the lock off a hatch on the lift roof.)
      Higgins: Why didn't you do that before now?
      Magnum: Because I didn't want to waste a bullet. If it IS Nahli playing the games, we may need it. (He climbs up and looks through the hatch.)
      Higgins: Magnum, are you certain it was a Mr. Bill Nahli you were to meet here?
      Magnum: (sees a rat on top of the lift) A rat!
      Higgins: I didn't ask for your opinion of his character. Just tell me if you're sure that's who you were to meet; Nahli, N-A-H-L-I?
      Magnum: Yes, and I just saw an R-A-T that could eat Rhode Island.

    • (Magnum wonders if Higgins is being honest about his past.)
      Magnum: there anybody you haven't known, or anything you haven't done?
      Higgins: You're calling me a liar again.
      Magnum: I'm calling you an exaggerator. Your memoirs read like a bad novel. Not that it's bad writing. No, it's kind of exciting ... very imaginative, very professional; not like that cheap pulp that Robin writes.
      Higgins: How dare you!
      Magnum: I was just quoting you. You're the one that's always saying that Robin's writing is cheap.
      Higgins: I never said cheap! It's just not serious writing. That's the only real difference between the memoirs and the novels.
      Magnum: "The" memoirs? "The" novels?
      Higgins: I was using the article the to compare the works rather than the writers.
      Magnum: Sure. Just how much writing have you done, Higgins?

  • NOTES (1)

    • The German episode titles are "Der Magnum-Higgins-Krieg" ("The Magnum-Higgins War") and "Die Streithähne" ("The Squabblers"). The French title is "Ascenseur pour nulle part", meaning "Elevator to Nowhere". The Italian title is "Amici e nemici", meaning "Friends and Enemies".