Tonight 50 years ago, one of the best episodes of the series aired: S03E17 "To Kill Or Be Killed".

The episode covers a complicated (and one of the most controversial at the time) issue: the Vietnam War. Five-O investigates the death Army Lieutenant Jack Rigney (Peter Jason) who died in the parking lot six stories below his apartment. The question initially is whether he was pushed or jumped himself. Things become convoluted from the word go because Jack's father is Brigadier General Earl Rigney (John Anderson) stationed in Hawaii. The general tells McGarrett that suicide is out of the question because he considers his son pretty level-headed.

However, the general doesn't inform McGarrett of one important thing: he has another son, Michael (Michael Anderson, Jr.). Michael is up for the draft and must report in a matter of days. To his credit, Michael looks at all his options including escaping to Canada and seeing a counselor at a draft-dodging organization in the Hawaii Committee to Aid Draft Resistance. The last option is facing a three-year jail term.

As if things weren't snared enough, Army Criminal Investigations is involved snooping on Jack prior to his death. They're also following Michael but it's never made clear why. Were they concerned about what Michael knew? This part isn't made clear.

In the end, all the flaws of the episode fall away due to a gut-wrenching final scene. After pulling some major strings in DC, General Rigney is able to listen to a tape made on Jack's final moments. Things become clear on Michael's involvement in Jack's death in trying to prevent it. Turns out, Michael took Jack's gun from him after Jack was close to blowing his brains out. Jack was despondent on his role in a village massacre. He felt he had nowhere to turn, especially his father who he saw as one who wouldn't understand the turmoil Jack was dealing with. To the show's credit, they didn't hold back as we hear Jack jump to his death after Michael's departure. It is a moment that is so shocking for the viewer and to those in the room listening, including McGarrett and Danno, all are affected and rightly so.

Mr. Mike's 4-star review is here:

This is Five-O at its best, in my opinion, because it tackles the human element of the controversial issues before it. General Rigney sees things in black and white and is part of the old school military. He sees service in Vietnam as service to the country and he isn't wrong (again, my opinion but understand I'm retired military myself). However, the village massacre clouds this stance but the general discounts this as "an isolated incident". That could be, but it's what people focused on at the time. Ken Burns created an excellent documentary on the Vietnam War and its worth checking out. It answered a bunch of my questions that I frankly couldn't ask (my dad fought in Vietnam).

There's some quirky stuff in this episode, such as calling Canada "Trudeau-turf" which I find completely stupid and uncalled for. (Sorry Mr. Mike, I feel your pain!) They couldn't come up with something like "White tundra"? Speaking of white tundra, Alaska even gets a mention when the guy in charge of the hippies talks about why bananas grow in Hawaii and not Alaska.

Mr. Mike also mentions in his review about Danno going undercover. I could see it working. Danno wasn't a draft dodger necessarily, but an Army deserter. I get the age difference, but I could buy it. However, if they did try to put him undercover as a draft dodger, then they would have had problems. I still find it hilarious that he's handed a joint at the house and can't get rid of it! Then his cover is blown just as the raid happens. Lucky break!

One of Mr. Mike's questions concerned General Rigney and the fact that he fought in three wars. I would suspect General Rigney was in more of a headquarters role rather than being boots on the ground like Jack. I bring this up because Jack tells Michael their father didn't fight "this kind of war". That's one answer I have for it, but I know that's splitting hairs.

Happy 50th "To Kill Or Be Killed"!!