The first of my double-Friday review. I forgot how good this episode is!
Magnum, Rick and T.C. are befriended by an aging wrestler, who asks Magnum to find his son whom he walked out on years before. But Magnum becomes suspicious as he finds holes in the wrestler’s story. Guest star Ernest Borgnine makes this great episode…
This review contains spoilers.
Until I came to re-watch it last night to review, I’d almost forgotten just how good ‘Mr. White Death’ is. And the one key thing making it so likeable is guest star Ernest Borgnine, and his lovely performance as aging wrestler Earl.
It could be said that Borgnine always plays the same character, and I suppose in a way that could be true; but he is a wonderful actor, and it is very hard to not warm to him.
It is surprising that he does not receive ‘Special Guest Star’ billing for this episode.
It is believed that Borgnine’s appearance in this episode brought him to the attention of Donald P. Bellisario, who was impressed enough to offer him a main role in ‘Airwolf’ (1984-1986), of which I am also a huge fan.
The friendship struck up between Higgins and Earl, after Higgins finds that Earl was friends with an old comrade, is also very good, and adds another layer to the episode.
Also of note is the first appearance of Ms. Jones (Maggie Impert), who will go on to have intermittent appearances in odd episodes, before having her own storyline in the fifth season’s ‘Ms. Jones’.
In other hands, the story could have been so-so, but thanks to a great performance by Borgnine, as well as the other able performers, this comes off as a really likable episode.
One of my favourite scenes of the season comes after Magnum has confronted Earl about the holes in his story; the scene as Earl wearily goes to leave the Estate, and his conversation with Higgins, is wonderful, and the sombre music score under it brings it to life even more.
The final meeting of Earl and his long-lost son at the airport is also great. The whole “we’ll see that ballgame some day, son” dialogue could have come off as corny, but in the capable hands of the two performers here, it works.
And then there is the classic final scene, with Earl’s aeroplane flying over. Magnum admits that the Mob will probably catch up with Earl one day, “but not today”.
All-in-all, I didn’t consciously realise it before, but ‘Mr. White Death’ is probably one of my favourite third season episodes.
Other notes, bloopers and misc.:
* When Channel 5 broadcast this episode in 2002, in the scene near the beginning where Rick, Magnum and T.C. are being beaten up by the goons and Earl steps in, a brief shot of Earl slamming the two goons’ heads together was edited out. 5 were very cautious of children copying such head banging moves!
* When Earl is showing T.C. and Rick various wrestling moves, and carrying each in turn on his shoulder, it is quite clearly a double for him in several shots. (But there is a shot of him picking up Rick where it is actually him!)
* …In the same scene, when Rick falls to the ground, it is clearly a double.
* After abridged commercial breaks on so many episodes on the DVD version, this episode has gaps for all the commercial breaks. …I’m a stickler about things like that!!
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