Sunday, November 30, 2014

#82: Jack of Lies

Season: 2

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver gets convinced by his old buddy Jack Dalton to fly to Central America and rescue a botanist, who turns out to be their friend Mike.  The military is holding Mike in a monastery in hopes of luring Jack in order to recover their heroin that Jack stole.  After rescuing Mike and seeing their plane surrounded, Jack (who is dying) saves Mike and MacGyver by flying the military Colonel on a suicide mission in his leaky plane.     

Memorable Quote:
Charts!  Shouldn't we be using charts?   ~MacGyver
What's the name on the plane, Mac?  ~Jack
Fly by Night.  ~MacGyver
Exactly!   ~Jack

Good scene at the end where Dalton says his goodbyes to Mike and MacGyver.  It's poignant, and at this point of the series, the audience doesn't realize he will be back.  Also I like how MacGyver runs after the plane and the transition from the somber music to the rock that was heard earlier in Dalton's headphones, and then the music transitions once again after the plane leaves. 

A strange scene at 24:42 as MacGyver and Elena (the cantina owner) hide outside the compound and MacGyver plots a way in.  The dialogue itself is fine, but Elena says her lines with a weird seductive intensity that is out of place.   

Best MacGyverism:
Uses red wine to jump start a battery, then links the battery to a plane propeller.  That is then connected to a rope trap which snares one of the bad guys.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Jack cleans out MacGyver's apartment of all its belongings in order to get his attention.  Even a small apartment would take quite a long time to clear everything out of--not sure that was the best use of Dalton's time.  
  • This is Jack's first appearance in the series, and it's Jack at his wacky best.  I'm a big fan of the character--Bruce McGill is a great actor and did a great job of making Jack goofy and rascally but also soulful and likable.  Here's an interview where he talks about all his roles including MacGyver.  Interesting tidbits here, like how the producers wanted to make him a regular and how his energy lifted up the "laconic" RDA.  RDA may be laid-back, but the article makes it sound like he had the energy of a corpse which I don't find to be true as a viewer.  And I like how Bruce calls him "Ricky."
  • I've always liked Jack's "left eye twitches when he lies" gimmick.  It'd be interesting to know who came up with that idea.
  • It's a Gregory Sierra sighting in a familiar role as a corrupt Latin American military leader!  We've seen him before as Captain Diaz, he plays Colonel Antunnez in this episode, and we'll see him later as General Vasquez.  
  • 30:24 - the mildest of shakes.  But bonus points for wearing a monk outfit.  
  • 33:50 - why is the American in the suit threatening the Colonel who has many soldiers at his disposal?
  • Conversation at 35:53:
    • "We need the plane and we need time to fix it."  ~MacGyver
    • "We need to get Antunnez and his men away from it."  ~Jack
    • "That's where you come in, son."  ~MacGyver
    • I love it when MacGyver drops "son" in conversation.
  • At the end we hear the story about how Jack told the Colonel that both engines were smoking and they had to bail.  I don't get how this is a clue to MacGyver that Jack was up to something.  The only thing I can think of was that maybe there was only one engine in the plane?

Here's my conversation with episode writer Kerry Lenhart.

Final Analysis:
A solid, steady episode with no obvious highlights or lowlights.  Good acting, and a fun introduction to the Jack Dalton character who we'll see again and again.  And interesting how I've now reviewed 7 of the first 8 Season 2 episodes, but only 2 of the next 14 from that season.  Next up, our first two-parter!  There are three to choose from - which one will it be?!


  1. We're pretty close on this one as well. It's a solid and steady episode throughout (although I'm glad I'm not the only one who found Elena's seductive tone oddly placed) and I liked the way the story played out regarding Mike Forrester being "the botanist" and the excellent ending where we're led to believe Jack sacrificed himself while the epilogue keeps his would-be departure ambiguous. Jack Dalton was a great and fun character who added some sizzle to this series, and I mostly agree with the article that MacGyver needed a semiregular foil to get under his skin and allow us to see another side of MacGyver. But if there was a downside to both Jack Dalton the character and this episode, it was that the series' tone took a fairly prolonged lighthearted pivot that, at least in my opinion, didn't represent the best of this series' work, particularly since so many of the villains the accompanied the lighter-hearted episodes were relatively cartoonish as they were in this episode. Now don't get me wrong. Lighthearted MacGyver was still outstanding and "Jack of Lies" was a thoroughly enjoyable 48 minutes of television from beginning to end, but I always felt the series was more compelling when the tone was more serious and the threat level more ominous. So I rated this episode #92. It was an excellent episode of MacGyver....I just found more things to like in 91 other episodes

  2. I'm pretty much in agreement here including the ranking. I'm with Mark on the Jack character - I enjoy a lot of what he brings - some amusing one liners and rascally energy but find that some of his episodes tread the fine line between lighthearted and slapstick. Verging towards the latter does reduce the threat level and therefore the dramatic tension> Jack/Bruce and MacGyver/RDA seem to have a good on-screen rapport (the article was an interesting insight) but occasionally for me, MacGyver's frustration and annoyance does bring out some slightly hammy acting from RDA. Still, this is an enjoyable tho not great episode. Moments I like include a cool, simple MacGyverism where he unscrews the lightbulb with a roll of paper, some good physical comedy where MacGyver slides across the floor and rolls over when Jack bungee jumps from the beam and the scene where Pete, supposedly on a diet, consumes a burger and shake in his office. Good MacGyver quotes; ' I know I said I was going to slug him but how and do you hit a kid?' about Jack and 'Tricks of me trade' in a funny Irish accent at the end reprising Jack's earlier quip. I think MacGyver knows that the smoking engines were one of Jack's tricks because they'd only run out of petrol not had any engine trouble and Jack had already pulled a stunt of some kind with the engine when they escaped the villains a the beginning.

    1. I also like RDA's Tricks of me trade at the end, and Pete's eating the burger is a fun touch. Good point about the engines - that makes sense.

  3. It’s nice to see Jack but it wasn’t very nice of him to put MacGyver through what he did, good he was so forgiving! I liked how MacGyver avoided the trap at the door and that it was set up so that the bucket didn’t come down to knock him on the head. If I were him, I would have left Jack upside down a little longer. While Jack stringing MacGyver along was mostly fun (great one-liners back and forth) I don’t understand any more than Mac what all the lies were for instead of just saying that Mike needed rescuing and I think the eye twitch is corny. I liked the return of first season scores, the rock music @ the night flight, the piano version of it at the end (Edelman rules) and the way it was revealed to be coming from the radio. “Please extinguish all smoking materials” – is that really how it used to be?? Pete proceeding to tuck into the burger while wearing a tracksuit then freezing up at MacGyver’s coincidental remark was a scream. And how lovely to see Bonnie again! I was surprised Jack was locked up with her to freely confer with, MacGyver would immediately have started working on an escape plan with her help as he did later at Jack’s departure. I liked Jack’s “We got it. MacGyver.” answer to Mike when she said they needed a miracle to get out and Mac did some fun tricks with the robe when subduing the guards, then he ran with it covering his head! I liked the poignant ending scene too with the return of the rock music. Jack sounded like MacGyver who said “yeah, we’re all gonna die, the trick is not to rush it” in The Assassin. Interesting mix of light-hearted and serious tone in this episode.