It has often been said in show business that it’s best never to work with children and cats. The unwritten rule comes from the belief that both will steal the show because they are more often than not, sweet and adorable. Actually, the phrase is “never work with children and animals” — but in this week’s “Magnum P.I.” it seems Magnum (Jay Hernandez) has a soft spot for the felines. So when little Cecilia (Stella Edwards) asks Magnum to find her pet cat Mittens, offering to pay him out of her cat-shaped coin purse, we know he’s going to take the case.
While there are many elements about “Magnum P.I.” which seem to really work, it is especially good when Magnum interacts with children and animals. He definitely has a tender heart for vulnerable and innocent creatures. And even though there are two lads, actually Dobermans, who seem to dislike the mere scent of him, we know Magnum would never hurt them no matter how much Higgins’ (Perdita Weeks) personal bodyguards, Zeus and Apollo, would like to rip him apart.
This week’s episode, “The Cat Who Cried Wolf,” written by Neil Tolkin and directed by Eagle Egilsson, started off as a sweet case of find the missing kitty and turned into the case of find the missing body. While Magnum is diligently trying to track down Cecilia’s cat, he stumbles upon a dead FBI agent. And as they say in all good mysteries — it is here that the plot thickens.
JUST A MAN HIRED TO FIND A CAT
In voice-over, Magnum states that the life of a private investigator “is either feast or famine, and lately, it’s been a little too much famine,” which explains why he takes Cecilia’s case. When he gets to the girl’s home she gives Magnum a complete physical description, explains Mittens’ habits, and hands him a recent picture of her missing loved one. Her mother, Isabelle (Navi Rawat), looks on amused while Magnum takes her information and agrees to take her case. It’s darling how he treats her as a serious client, and only charges her 25 cents a day.
Magnum has no idea how to find a cat and asks the all-knowing Kumu (Amy Hill) for her advice. Kumu is always one to give her opinion and share her vast knowledge on all things Hawaiian, as well as practical, and she shares a story about her cousin Halia’s cat “who has wanderlust and only three legs.” Halia’s trick is to set out a large bowl of sardines mixed with rice outside her house and the cat always returns. Magnum takes her advice and puts out a bowl in front of Cecilia’s house and sets up to a stakeout complete with night-vision binoculars to see if Mittens takes the bait.
WHAT KUMU KNOWS
What I love about Kumu is she is that aunty in your family who knows all, sees all, and is known by all. She’s the aunty who knows everyone on the island, and her worldly experience is vast. She can tell you how to do anything or find someone who can. She doesn’t brag or try to be niele, nosy or in your business, she just knows more than you do about everything. Hill plays her perfectly — she’s helpful and kind, and never annoying. Her vast collection of matching Hawaiian jewelry and lovely muumuu adds to the flavor of her character.
While some may think she is playing a stereotype — Hill does not overplay her character and makes her seem more a part of the fabric of Robin Masters’ estate — Pahonu — than a caricature of a Hawaii local. I love how her sarcastic remarks reflect the tone and response of a kamaaina and give us the feeling of just how completely loyal she is to Magnum and Higgins. While her name, Teuila Tuileta, is not Hawaiian (the Hawaiian language does not have a T in its alphabet), her mannerisms and inflections give us the impression that she is at least part-Hawaiian, and obviously born and raised in Hawaii. Hill’s Hawaiian language is perfect and I appreciate all of the sprinklings of words and phrases she uses in her dialogue.
THE CAT WHO CRIED WOLF
While Kumu helps Magnum capture every animal on the block — Mittens does not come home during the stakeout. Yet another cat, who looks a lot like Mittens, but lacks freckles on his belly, does arrive with blood all over its paws. With the help of Higgins and several antihistamines, they take substitute Mittens back to Cecilia’s neighborhood and use a cat-tracking collar to find where the mystery cat lives. Once they get to its house, they find the cat’s owner long dead. But it seems the intruder who may have killed him is still there. Magnum and Higgins chase him parkour-style over fences and through backyards and are stopped when Magnum is hit by a car after he chases the suspect out into the street.
Of course, Katsumoto (Tim Kang) arrives as Magnum is being bandaged up with three broken ribs, and has little sympathy or belief in their story. His trust in Magnum and Higgins slips even further when they arrive at the dead man’s home to find the house sanitized and the body is gone.
I’m on the fence about Katsumoto — I just need him to feel a little more. His deadpan delivery just does not work. Especially since he needs to interplay with Magnum and Higgins. I don’t mind him being by the book, and a “just the facts ma’am” kind of detective, but a little emotion and inflection wouldn’t kill the character. Most Hawaii detectives are local boys — born and raised in Hawaii and grew up working the streets before they even became cops. It would be nice if we got that vibe from Katsumoto.
MAGNUM TO THE MAX
After Katsumoto takes them back to the crime scene and tells them he will look into it — and threatens to arrest Magnum if he goes back into the house — Magnum obviously has to defy his orders and look deeper into the case. He sends Rick (Zachary Knighton) and T.C. (Stephen Hill) after the cat. While the two fight over the fact that T.C. is eating a poke bowl and not sharing — they find the cat — not named Mittens, but Max. Or Satan if you ask T.C.
Meanwhile, Higgins digs into looking at the house where they found the now-missing body. After Kumu gives Higgins a local history lesson about “The Company” or the Hawaiian Syndicate, Higgins finds out the house was once owned by the mob, and then was seized by the feds and made into a safe house. Magnum thinks the dead man was “an informant or witness in a case. And the fact that the house was sanitized less than two hours after the murder means they are dealing with something very high-stakes.”
With Rick and T.C.’s information about Max’s owner, Magnum and Higgins search his house and find out he is Colin Francis (Andy McDermott), an FBI agent. He was killed by a dirty agent, Carl Nadella (Carlos Sanz) who wanted to find Colin’s informant, Robert Fraser (Austin Basis). Fraser was a CPA who “uncovered a large money-laundering and tax-evasion scheme by the Vasiliev Clan, a Los Angeles-based crime syndicate.” Francis was his handler who was killed trying to protect him.
Magnum is picked up by Nadella and forced to drive a boat out to sea. Seems as if Nadella is going to dump both Francis and Magnum and let them swim with the fishes. Magnum overpowers him and unfortunately causes the boat to explode — but is able to save himself and Nadella from drowning. They hang out in an inflatable raft as T.C. flies Higgins and Rick over the ocean searching for their friend. As T.C.’s chopper is low on fuel when they find Magnum, they alert Katsumoto and the Coast Guard that he is alive.
The scene is pretty intense as Rick wonders if they are going to find their friend. All are very concerned, and even the usually flippant Higgins seems overly anxious and worried. Once she spots the yellow raft, their relief is obvious. It’s interesting how the four have become a team — with Magnum at their core.
MAGNUM’S NEW LOOK
Overall the episode was a good one. While Magnum perhaps never thought looking for a cat would turn into a lesson in survival, it did make for an interesting turn of events. Without his friends, he most likely would not have been able to make it through the case in one piece.
Still, the best part had to have been when Higgins gifted him with a brand-new shirt at the end. She does this because she is a woman of her word, and had promised to replace the shirt Zeus and Apollo used for their obedience training. The shirt looks awfully familiar to fans of the classic “Magnum P.I.” — but unlike the original, this look comes from a new friend.