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Operation: Silent Night

Episode Screen Caps Episode Number: 73
Season Number: 4.10
Air Date: 12/15/1983
Writer: Chris Abbott, Reuben Leder
Director: Mike Vejar
Producer: Reuben Leder
Exec Producer: Donald P. Bellisario

Guest Stars
Ed Lauter (Capt. Quintin), Bruce French (Ens. Jensen)
Episode Brief
Christmas Eve holds some unusual surprises when Magnum, T.C., Rick and Higgins find themselves stranded on a deserted island that the Navy uses for gunnery practice. As a Navy ship looking to do a little artillery work looms on the horizon, will the night end with peace and happiness for all?
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1 This is the second of two "christmastime" episodes in the series, the first being Season One's "Thank Heaven for Little Girls and Big Ones Too" (1.4).

2 Larry Manetti and Roger E. Mosley have both stated that this is their favorite Magnum P.I. episode.

3 "Frenchman's Island" is fictional. The island is an obvious reference to Kahoolawe, the "Target Isle", which is located 7 miles SW of Maui.

4 This episode has the fewest credited guest stars of any episode in the series: Two!

5 Most of this episode was filmed on the north shore at Puaena Point, the northern tip of Waialua Bay. This same location was used for the "beach shack" scenes in Season Two's "The Taking of Dick McWilliams" (2.10). (Noted by rubber chicken)

6 The footage of the naval ship was taken from the 1959 Cary Grant film Operation Petticoat. The ship is a Fletcher-class destroyer, the USS Wren (DD-568). (Noted by Mitch Collins)

7 The shots of T.C.'s chopper before it crash-lands include a number of stock footage, including some from the very early episodes (note the longer skids). The shot where the helicopter ducks down and up again is taken from the Season Three episode "Ki'i's Don't Lie". Just before the crash-landing, the stunt pilot briefly drags his tail rotor through the trees! Tail rotors on Hughes 500D's are pretty fragile. Close call!

8 T.C. notes from this episode:
  • New Orleans is his hometown and he still has family there.
  • He observes the principles of Kwanzaa*.
  • He is a pretty good singer, as demonstrated by his partial renditions of "Under the Boardwalk" (The Drifters) and "Chain Gang" (Sam Cooke).
  • For the first time, he refers to Higgins as something other than "Higgy-Baby"; He calls him "Jonathan".
9 Robin Masters owns a Banana Plantation on Molokai.

10 Several fitting films are mentioned; Rick makes reference to The Island (1980) and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965); T.C. remarks about Stewart Granger in King Soloman's Mines (1950). King Soloman's Mines will be referenced again in Season Eight's "Legend of the Lost Art" (8.10).

11 T.C.'s quote "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Higgins?" is a take on Arnold's (Gary Coleman) catch phrase, "What'chu talkin' 'bout Willis?" from the TV show Diff'rent Strokes (1978-1986).

12 Higgins was once stranded on an island off the northern coast of Africa, wounded and unconscious, for a week. When he awoke, he rescued himself by turning an airplane fuselage into an outrigger canoe and sailing to safety. (Noted by Stephen Huntley)

13 "Silent Night" is sung by Magnum, Higgins, Rick, and T.C. at the very end, with the classic melody playing in the background.

* This was one of the first times that Kwanzaa has been mentioned on primetime television.
Higgins: I, of course, have spent many a Christmas away from home and family, more times than I care to remember, in more places than I care to remember; forgotten battlefields, and sometimes even forgotten wars. I think being at war, makes Christmas all the more bittersweet; peace on earth, and goodwill to all men, and all that.

(Rick and Magnum are complaining about T.C.'s flying)
T.C.: You get what you paid for, and none of you paid!
Rick: Where is your holiday spirit?
T.C.: Back home in New Orleans, which is where I'm gonna be as soon as Captain Calvin's Charity Chopper dumps all you freeloaders off!

Rick: What is that?
Higgins: "Ukulele Lady". Written in 1925 by Gus Kahn, Richard Whiting and Irving Berlin. The gentleman who is singing it is obviously intoxicated. Not only has he transposed the verses, but he has discovered a key heretofore unknown to the human ear.
T.C.: Higgins!

T.C.: What'chu talkin' 'bout, Higgins?

Magnum: Merry Christmas, Higgins. You too, Rick. And Happy Kwanzaa to you, T.C.
1 There are several errors involved with the Navy Destroyer scenes:
  • When Capt. Quintin is discussing the live fire excercise with Ens. Jensen on Christmas Eve, the Captain refers to midnight as "2400 hours". In military time, midnight is "0000 hours". There is no 2400; it does not exist. No one in the military would ever say "2400 hours". (Noted by Tom Brendza)
  • At one point at sea, Capt. Quintin gives the order to cancel all "Leave" and set sail for "Frenchman's Isle". "Leave" is only given when the ship is in port, so there is a contradiction in implying the ship is at sea, but giving orders as if it were in port. (Noted by wilko)
  • The interior of the Destroyer has drop ceiling panels. Destroyers do not have drop ceiling tiles! (Noted by N1095A)
  • Capt. Quintin is seen drinking wine with his meal. Alchohol was outlawed on U.S. Navy ships in 1914 by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels (a "cup of Joe").
2 In the scene where Higgins is writing his will, the second half of his monologue is an obvious, and distracting, post-production overdub.

3 When the chopper first crashes on the island, T.C. fixes it quickly by tightening a nut, and replacing a cotter pin. The tail rotor is red with two white stripes at each end. Later while Higgins is making his hat, and Magnum is removing his Santa suit, we see T.C. working on the chopper again, but the tail rotor is white with two red stripes at each end. It appears to alternate between the two color schemes several times through out the episode. (Noted by N1095A)

4 When Magnum, T.C. and Rick are looking for Higgins, they come across what appears to be "peg leg" tracks in the sand (a footprint of his left shoe and a circular impression where the right foot should be), which they discover to have been made by Higgins walking with a stick in his right hand and dragging palm fronds in his left hand. This is impossible. If Higgins is dragging the palm fronds in his left hand then the fronds would erase his left shoe prints and not his right shoe print. Conversely, if Higgins was dragging the palm fronds with his right hand then he would have to hold the stick in his left hand, which would leave the bizarre track of a left shoe print and a circular impression to the outside of that. (Noted by wilko)

5 At mark 7:38, the film crew and their lights can be seen clearly reflecting on the outside of T.C.'s chopper. (Noted by Bernd-Christian Schulze)

6 When T.C. tries changing the frequency on the radio, the frequency digital display is dark, indicating the radio is turned off, yet we still hear radio transmissions. Also, we see a Caucasian hand operate it! (Noted by N1095A)

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