Magnum Goes Home

RemingtonThomas Magnum, Hawaii’s private investigator extraordinaire, reconnected family ties in the Magnum, p.i. episode “Going Home,” a story with the rarity of taking place outside the 50th state.

Returning to his childhood home of Tidewater, Virginia to attend his maternal grandfather’s funeral, Magnum enjoys familial surroundings populated by his cousin (Karen), mother (Katherine), and best friend (Don Eddie Rice).  He also manages a thaw in the frosty relationship with his stepfather, Frank.  After Magnum’s father died, Frank married Katherine.

Frank had a son with Katherine.  Magnum’s stepbrother, Joey, died in the Vietnam War.

“Going Home” does not have the Magnum, p.i. trademarks of the red Ferrari, luscious scenery, or distressed clients that Magnum attempts to help in his work as a private investigator.  But it does have a poignancy.

Magnum, played by Tom Selleck, reveals emotions in “Going Home” not usually seen when he tails bad guys, battles with Higgins about use of the amenities on the estate of Robin Masters, or enjoys the privileges of the King Kamehameha Club.

Delivering the eulogy at his grandfather’s funeral, Magnum offers solace to his fellow mourners by praising the departed.  In the episode’s final scene, Magnum, also a veteran of the Vietnam War, finds closure to his stepbrother’s death by going to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Joe Cocker’s provocative interpretation of Bob Dylan’s song I Shall Be Released sets the mood nicely.  Watching Selleck’s slow walk alongside the memorial sets off a tearjerking response.

The memorial, a V-shaped structure made from black granite, is America’s tangible symbol of the sacrifice made by nearly 60,000 service members who died protecting freedom.  Each arm of the memorial extends toward the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  At the memorial’s dedication on November 11, 1984—Veterans Day—President Reagan said, “The men of Vietnam answered the call of their country.  Some of them died in the arms of many of you here today, asking you to look after a newly born child or care for a loved one.  They died uncomplaining.  The tears staining their mud-caked faces were not for self-pity but for the sorrow they knew the news of their death would cause their families and friends.”

Airing on October 31, 1985, “Going Home” provided a national platform for millions of television viewers to see the memorial as the first step towards a national catharsis of the emotional wounds created by the Vietnam War. Not even a year old, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was novel, though powerful.

In addition to the iconic wall with the names of dead soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen carved into the granite, the memorial has a statue consisting of three soldiers looking at the wall, perhaps searching for the names of their comrades.  Frederick Hart sculpted the statue.

Maya Ying Lin, 21 years old, won the competition for the memorial’s design.  An architecture student from Yale University, Lin’s written statement for the submission explained her vision of the wall.  Lin wrote, “Walking through this park-like area, the memorial appears as a rift in the earth, a long, polished black stone wall, emerging from and receding into the earth.  Approaching the memorial, the ground slopes gently downward and the low walls emerging on either side, growing out of the earth, extend and converge at a point below and ahead.

“Walking into this grassy site contained by the walls of the memorial we can barely make out the carved names upon the memorial’s walls.  These names, seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.”

Airing from 1980 to 1988 on CBS, Magnum, p.i. was one of the standout hits in the prime time television’s private investigator genre, which faded by the end of the 1990s.

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