Magnum, P.I.

Season 1 Episode 16

The Black Orchid

Aired Unknown Apr 02, 1981 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
47 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The Black Orchid
Magnum has been hired by a woman to act out some of her rich, bored sister's fantasy dramas, concocted from 1930s Dashiell Hammett films, but soon finds himself involved in a real mystery.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
  • Damsel makes her own distress.

    This episode was my first exposure to "Magnum, PI" and I enjoyed it. The nice balance of mystery and humor made the whole affair seem like something that could have played out on "The Rockford Files," with a dollop of film noir thrown in for good measure.

    From the outset, we know something is not quite right as we witness two demure women engaged in a shootout with drug dealers. From there, we meet the "Black Orchid" as Magnum becomes entangled in her fantasy games. It's a great jumping-off point for a mystery, since who would suspect anything if the woman fell victim to one of her own games?

    What makes the story particularly interesting is how conflicted Magnum feels about his client. Equally frustrated with her and sorry for her, Magnum ends up taking on the role of her protector in spite of himself.

    I still prefer "Rockford," but was very pleased indeed with my first episode of "Magnum" and can't wait to see more.moreless
  • Magnum proves he'll do anything for a buck.

    Before Paris Hilton, I might have believed that bored, rich heiresses passed the time and found excitement by hiring people to stage elaborate crime dramas as if they were real-life adventures. Now I know that rich heiresses just get drunk at the club and have sex with a different guy/s every night - so that ruined this episode. I might have also believed there was some nobility in Magnum's value system or profession, but this episode proves he'll whore himself out to anyone who has $200/day plus expenses. When Magnum was asked to be a bodyguard for a dog or horse in previous episodes, he protested, claiming these jobs compromised his professional integrity. In those cases, he gave in, ostensibly as a favor to Robin Masters. In this case, he's got no excuse – except maybe that Higgins told him his phone was shut off and he needs to make a quick buck. Priceless moments include Rick & T.C. helping the rich woman live out a fantasy by dressing as Chinamen, pretending they know karate, and jumping her and a 1920's P.I. costume clad Magnum. The only other thing worth noting in this episode is that Magnum wears the red Hawaiian shirt.moreless
  • Thomas has been hired by a wealthy woman to act out some of her bored sister's fantasy games with a 1930s P.I. theme, but the "game" turns nasty when her over-protective husband finds out, and when the woman is poisoned. A so-so episode...moreless

    'The Black Orchid'... some 'Magnum' fans absolutely love this episode, but I have to confess, it's not one of my outstanding favourites.

    The episode marks the first of a number of times where fantasy elements would play a key part in stories. I for one don't mind that, it's just that this particular example doesn't really do much for me. But hey, a story where T.C. and Rick dress up as 1930's heavies can't be ALL bad, I suppose.

    In some respects, this story could just have easily come from any of the show's later seasons, where more eccentric and fantasy-based plots were often used.

    And Magnum posing as a black and white-era detective foreshadows 'Murder by Night' in season seven.

    Judith Chapman gives a good performance as the eccentric rich woman wrapped up in her silly "games", and she is probably the best thing about the episode.

    There are signs that more was filmed for this episode than made the final cut. In the opening trailer, Christine offers Magnum $500 dollars as "an attention-getter", and on the closing credits, with a shot of Christine and Louise in bikinis talking to Higgins at the King Kamehameha Club (of which, by the way, the commonly-used beach bar is used for the first time in this episode). These scenes were presumably dropped for timing reasons.

    When I was younger, I had little time for this story; when I saw it again to review, I didn't mind it so much, and gets a higher score than it would have done from me just a few years ago. I suppose it has its moments, but it's certainly one of my lesser favourites from the first season.

    (As a footnote, a scene from this episode can be seen being shown TV in Donald P. Bellisario's later hit 'Quantum Leap', in the second season episode 'Another Mother').moreless
Ray Austin

Ray Austin


Guest Star

John Ireland

John Ireland

Wyndom Jackson

Guest Star

Judith Chapman

Judith Chapman

Louise DeBolt/Jackson

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Magnum: (narrating) I know what you're thinking. After the phoney beach attack, I should have said goodbye to Louise. But you know something, I was starting to have a good time. Maybe she wasn't the only one who had fantasies about famous detectives who are heroes.

  • NOTES (2)

    • The German episode titles are "Die schwarze Orchidee" (an exact translation) and "Gefährliche Spiele" ("Dangerous Games"). The French title is "L'orchidée noire", and the Italian title is "L'orchidea nera", both exact translations.

    • Episode director Ray Austin has a small part in this story. He also plays another small character in the fifth season episode "Ms. Jones", another episode which he directs.