Magnum, P.I. (1981) – Billy Joe Bob & Dead Man’s Channel


Well, my computer was being a bit difficult, so I decided (oh the hardship) of continuing with Thomas (Tom Selleck) for another season!

Season 2 got underway on 8 October, 1981 with Billy Joe Bob, an episode written by Jeff Wilhelm. Thomas is hired by a Texan, the titular Billy Joe Bob (James Whitmore Jr.) to find his missing sister, Carol Ann (Marla Pennington), who was a ‘nightclub singer’ in Hawaii before she disappeared.

Billy Joe has a quick temper, and is more likely to throw a punch than a question, and Thomas has his hands full as he tries to hunt down any clue on the missing woman, especially when almost all the evidence seems to suggest that she’s been murdered, her death ordered by Ito (Seth Sakai), the Vice Lord.

There’s a nice showdown towards the episode’s end as Billy Joe, in his hat, jeans and boots, pistol strapped to his thigh, is ready to draw on Ito, in his kimono and reserved style, unflappable. East meets West.

Thomas learns, however, that there seems to be more going on here than was initially thought and finds that he and Billy Joe are in the midst of a huge criminal investigation, and that the Texans shoot and hit first style may be endangering the case.

It’s fun, especially watching Thomas try to keep Billy Joe under control, but it’s not something that could be used in today’s realm of television to launch a second season. Of course, television today is a different animal, which is why, sometimes, it’s fun to go back and see how things used to be.


Dead Man’s Channel aired on 15 October, 1981 and was written by Diane Frolov, and ends with one of my favorite fun moments in the series to date.

Jeff MacKay makes an always welcome appearance as Lieutenant McReynolds, while Thomas is hired by a college student, Marion Hammond (Wendy Girard) to investigate the disappearance of her father. It seems her father’s boat was discovered adrift in the Nehoa channel, a place that the locals believe is cursed and non-Hawaiians should not enter.

With rumors of a big day from a sunken treasure, Thomas convinces Rick (Larry Manetti) to help out, and let him use the King Kham II, a rather luxurious fishing/cruise boat to investigate the channel.

It’s believed Hammond was murdered and it may have been a competing theory he was developing as an archeologist about contact with the Hawaiian islands pre-dating Captain Cook that may have been the instigating factor.

The episode features some nice underwater work, which looks great on the small screen, and Thomas and Marion share some nice moments.

The stuff with Rick and Higgins (John Hillerman) are the highlights of the episode though, watching the way these characters interact is the driving force behind the series, and the chemistry is going strong here, though T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) is sadly missing from this episode, I’m sure he’ll be back next week though!




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