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Magnum Reloaded: Tracing a skip reveals deep wounds

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  • Video courtesy CBS


    Magnum (Jay Hernandez), center, fellow private investigator Luther Gillis (Ken Jeong), left, and bounty hunter Shane Powell (played by NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney) aim to track down a man accused of murder.

It seems quite appropriate that after two NFL Championship games the special episode of “Magnum P.I.,” which aired after the AFC game, should be called “Winner Takes All.” Adding in guest stars like former professional football player Eddie George and NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney to the mix helped to cap off the evening of sports-fueled entertainment and extended the theme of competition. Especially after both the AFC and the NFC games went into overtime to declare their winners, the idea of “taking it all” certainly continued into Sunday’s special episode. (On Oahu, the episode aired after the live broadcast of the Polynesian Bowl at Aloha Stadium — an all-star game featuring top high school players.)

Written by Gene Hong and directed by Amanda Marsalis, the episode has Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) trying to find a supposed murderer. Yet it turns into something much deeper and meaningful to Magnum than just a job of tracking down, or tracing, a skip — a fugitive who has skipped court and forfeited his bond. The skip, aptly named Skip Jenkins (Jake Matthews), is accused of killing Barry Howell, a well-liked nonprofit worker. Jenkins’ bondsman, Travis Leet, played by George, is offering up a bounty of $200,000 as a reward for finding him. He calls in what he considers the top bounty hunter/private investigator on the island and issues them the challenge. Since Jenkins’ bail is $1.4 million, and Leet doesn’t want to pay that to the court, he is offering up the entire bounty to the one who brings in Jenkins within 24 hours.


Magnum and his aloha-shirt-wearing twin Luther Gillis, played by recurring cast member Ken Jeong, are both called to the meeting. Luther ribs Magnum for stealing his “P.I. who wears Hawaiian shirts”-look, saying “Who wore it best? This guy,” meaning himself — as they are both wearing the exact same shirt. (In Hawaii, we call collared, button-up or pullover shirts in a tropical or Hawaiian print — aloha shirts. Only on the mainland and by tourists (or malihini) are they called Hawaiian shirts. No self-respecting local would call it a Hawaiian shirt.)

As Luther introduces Magnum to his intern/apprentice Willa Stone (Halston Sage), Ryan Blaney makes his cameo appearance as Shane Powell, another bounty hunter invited to the meeting. Shane greets them by saying “Nice shirt, Magnum,” much to our delight and Luther’s chagrin. Luther is even more crushed when he gets no response as he pokes fun at Magnum, yet Magnum’s joke about the skip being named Skip gets the room laughing.

As Leet explains what they need to do and drops the “winner take all” line — Magnum knows he needs to find the skip. He needs the money to pay to fix the Ferrari, as his last check to pay for the repairs bounced, and the red beauty was repossessed until he can pay the debt. Higgins (Perdita Weeks), joyfully, allowed the car to be towed, as she explains to the incensed Magnum — her job is to look after Robin’s property, “with the exception of the Ferrari,” which Robin entrusted to Magnum, making it his responsibility.

So Magnum needs to fix a very expensive car, and the only payments he has recently received for a case were two chickens named Beaker and Chick Norris and a unassembled propane grill. He leaves both payments in the capable hands of his best friends Rick (Zachary Knighton) and TC (Stephen Hill) to feed (the chickens) and assemble (the grill). He knows he needs money and fast, or he’ll be riding around on Kumu’s (Amy Hill) borrowed Vespa until he gets another shot at a big case.

Thankfully, Magnum still looks amazing driving Italian-made vehicles, even ones in powder blue with the best gas mileage for a foreign vehicle. He returns to Robin’s Nest to yet again ask Higgins to borrow her computer. She reluctantly agrees after Magnum explains to her about the case. He wants to figure out why Skip killed Barry and what he might’ve been after. He instinctively knows there is more to the case than just finding a bail jumper.

Magnum explains to Higgins that, “the victim has only one relative, a son who’s serving in Afghanistan right now that nobody’s been able to contact.” Higgins guesses that Magnum called in a favor through his Navy connections to contact Barry’s son, Staff Sgt. Brett Howell (Russell Charles Pitts). But Magnum needs an encrypted connection to talk to him as he is in the middle of a mission, and just as she agrees to let him give out her number, her computer pings letting her know there is an incoming satellite communication.


As Magnum sits down to talk to Barry’s son, he first apologizes for his loss. Magnum shares with him, as Higgins listens, about how he knows how Brett feels. He too lost a family member while serving overseas. He asks Brett how he is doing, and the young sergeant admits that it’s hard but he knows he is needed where he is and that he has to “suck it up.”

Magnum asks him what he thinks Skip was looking for at his father’s apartment. Brett doesn’t know but tells Magnum about a storage unit his father kept and agrees to send him the details. As they end the call, Brett makes Magnum promise to find out who killed his father, who “was a good man. All he ever wanted to do was to serve others.” His father is the reason the sergeant is doing the same.

Magnum gives Brett his word that he will find out what happened to his father, as Higgins looks concerned for her friend. Because no matter how competitive the two get over Robin’s cars, boats, wine cellars or expensive toys, they are friends, and Magnum’s revelation saddens her. She later apologizes to him about not knowing he lost someone when he was in the military, and Magnum tells her it was his mother who died.


Without friends, Magnum never would have figured out this case, or survived it. Without Higgins’ computer help as well as freeing Magnum and Luther from a storage unit. Luther’s “apprentice” Willa locked them in so she could take Barry’s computer and get the $200,000 for herself. It seems as if Willa took Magnum’s warning — that private investigators have no friends and drive boring cars — to heart. She definitely gives up having Luther and Magnum as friends, and then steals Luther’s nondescript Honda Civic in the process.

Thankfully, Rick and TC are up for a little fake fender-bender to resteal Barry’s computer from Willa — complete with a shaka mahalo as they drive away. Magnum may not work for Five-0, but he certainly has a good team who has his back — albeit some of them are more reluctant partners than anything else.

Katsumoto (Tim Kang) is one of those reluctant members of Magnum’s team who certainly sees right through Magnum’s offer to “help him” solve his murder case. But Magnum never would have gotten the clue that tied Barry’s nonprofit coworker Sam (Sean Whalen) to bail bondsman Leet without Katsumoto reviewing the video evidence from Barry’s case. This helped to confirm Magnum’s suspicions about Skip’s innocence.

Magnum realizes after finding Skip, which technically means that he really did win the competition — that he did not kill Barry. He had no motive. While Skip and Barry clashed over the nonprofit’s delivery trucks blocking Skip’s parking lot, it certainly wasn’t anything to kill over. Magnum doesn’t want to let Skip go, even though he didn’t kill Barry, but he doesn’t want to take him back to Leet without more proof, so he calls on yet another friend to help him out.

Luther arrives and agrees to help Magnum watch Skip — once Magnum tells him he can keep all of the reward money. For Magnum it is about finding out who really killed Barry, and keeping his promise to his son. It seems as if Barry, stumbled upon a conspiracy — coworker Sam, with Leet’s help, was moving drugs under the radar using the nonprofit’s shipping center.

Magnum might still be stuck in a crate full of drugs without Higgins, TC and Rick, who arrive just in time to free him from Sam and his gun-toting henchmen. Sam takes off after being confronted by Magnum’s friends, and Higgins and Magnum chase him in the red Ferrari. TC and Rick head out to save Skip who has been turned over to Leet for the reward money by Willa and other bounty hunters. Leet plans on killing him in order to cover-up the drug smuggling.

It was pretty cool to watch TC and Rick banter about Rick’s talent as a sniper in order to confuse Leet and catch him off guard enough for TC to tackle and disarm him. Nice football moves on Stephen Hill’s part, and great comedic banter with Knighton — they certainly make a strong partnership.

Meanwhile, Magnum and Higgins have taken off to chase Sam in his a fully-loaded SRT Hellcat, an interesting car for someone who works for a nonprofit agency, but Magnum is a private investigator who drives a Ferrari, so it’s all in your perspective. Still, a car chase between a Ferrari 488 and a Hellcat is pretty cool, and when the Magnum says to Higgins — “I’ll just give him a little tap, he’ll spin out — there won’t be damage to either car,” in order to stop Sam. It doesn’t really go that way for him. It actually causes the Hellcat to hit another car and fly through the air before rolling to a stop. Magnum figures damage to the Hellcat, rather than the Ferrari, is not all that bad.


All in all, Magnum is a man of his word, and kept his promise to Brett. And at Barry’s funeral, Brett thanks him for keeping his word. Higgins tells Magnum she hopes Brett can get a little more closure and Magnum agrees with her. He tells her it was his mom who passed away when he was in captivity in Afghanistan. He missed her funeral and didn’t even know she died until after he was released.

Higgins realizes why he gave up the reward money, because Magnum understood how important it was for Brett to know the truth, and to have closure about his father’s death. It is yet another reason why Magnum is a man of honor and always trying to do the right thing rather than for the money or glory. It is really what makes him one of the top private investigators on the island — one who will take chickens as payment, and gratitude as a reward.

Wendie Burbridge writes the “Five-0 Redux” and “Magnum Reloaded” blogs for Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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