Thursday, November 20, 2014

#85: The Wasteland

Season: 6

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
A developer plans to build a city on land that MacGyver believes may not be able to support it due to a long-term lack of water.  In order to try and convince the developer of this, MacGyver takes him on a tour of a nearby wasteland, an environmentally damaged and uninhabitable area. Meanwhile, the developer's son and daughter attempt to take over the company by getting their father out of the picture, permanently.  

Memorable Quote:
When MacGyver checked into his motel, I attached a bomb to his odometer.  When it hits 55, goodbye Daddy.  And MacGyver.   ~Scott

The MacGyverism at the end of the episode is either amazing or ridiculous depending on your point of view.  While I certainly acknowledge its sheer ridiculousness, I land firmly into the "amazing" camp - in fact, this is the best MacGyverism we've had so far and is going straight to the top of the list.  What other person in the world could construct a flying parachute by himself in less than 15 minutes using only a tent cutout, cables, and a heavy-duty fan?  No one that I know. Though it would have been nice if the parachute looked more worn and patchwork-like to give a greater sense of realism.  Wait, why am I talking about realism when MacGyver is flying through the night with a fan strapped to his back?

I don't like seeing MacGyver get knocked out in the billiard room, but at least he gets in a few good blows with the pool cue.  

Best MacGyverism:
See highlight.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Strong opening segment with Willis almost drowning in a cesspool of quicksand-like mud.  I wondered where this episode was filmed and found this interview with Bruce Harwood (Willis)  which answers my question.  The relevant part from the article is pasted below, where Harwood reminisces about this episode:
    • My favorite episode had me falling into boggy quicksand and being rescued by MacGyver. Most of this was shot on location at Burn’s Bog, a beautiful wetland area close to Vancouver. There I sank in freezing bog water up to my armpits. Two weeks later, we went inside the studio to shoot my close-ups, where I submerged myself completely in fake bog water, heated to a comfortable bathtub temperature. It’s always fun when you get to do the physical stuff on a TV show, though I was washing sphagnum out of my ears for a week.  
  • Andrew Bartlett is a developer who wants to build Bartlett City from the ground up. Now he has a nice office, and his son Scott drives a Porsche, but does he have enough money to build a city?  I'd think you'd need like a trillion dollars to start a city from scratch.  Actually, the internet says it's only 45 billion.
  • Conversation at the 9:21 mark:
    • "That's why you have to convince Bartlett to stop building and have his environmental studies reevaluated."  ~Willis
    • I don't think he's gonna like the sound of that."  ~MacGyver
    • "I'd do it myself, but I have to catch a flight to Washington to present my findings at the environment conference."  ~Willis
    • "What you talkin' about, Willis?"  ~MacGyver
    • Yes, I know I used that joke before.  But c'mon Willis, your environmental conference is more important than convincing Bartlett not to build a city in the wrong place?  And you're making MacGyver go solo on the hard work after he just pulled your @#$ from the quicksand bog?
  • Good scene with all the Bartletts which lays out the tension between them, and knowing more about them creates a sense of anticipation when MacGyver comes into their world.  Clever use of the phone on Scott's part to call Laura and ask if MacGyver is going to be a problem.  Speaking of Scott, a great performance by John Pyper-Ferguson and the rest of the cast in this episode.  
  • This episode could also be called, "And You Thought Your Family Was Dysfunctional." Makes the father-son tension in Hell Week look like the end of Field of Dreams.   
  • After getting knocked out in the billiard room, why is MacGyver not a little more outraged with Laura and the weasely restaurant attendant?  In addition to suing them I would demand a free meal.  
  • 30:30 - "I think you're like a lot of people.  You can't see the trees because you're too busy cutting the forest."  Get off your high horse, MacGyver, the man is dying!    
  • When MacGyver swoops in on his flying parachute, somehow Scott doesn't hear him until he is practically right on top of him.  And even still, it looks like Scott has a few seconds with which to try and shoot MacGyver, but instead he just stands there like a statue waiting to be kicked.  
  • This is followed by MacGyver carrying Bartlett away between his legs as they fly away into the night.  I showed this clip to my wife and asked her if this was possible (I tell her to just focus on Bartlett and ignore the giant fan on MacGyver's back).   She says that it would take incredible strength on the part of the person being carried to hold on. I tell her that he's 60 years old and is about to die any second from being blown up and shot.    
  • I like Bartlett's plan to donate money for a local family counseling center.  I've never heard of anything like that which is free and open to the public, and it's a great idea.  

Final Analysis:
A dark episode in a depressing locale, but for whatever reason, I dig it.  Good acting, a creative story, awesome MacGyverism, and a dark element that works all around.  Next up, we're staying in season 6 for some more drama!  


  1. This was a bit better on rewatching than I had remembered; but not much. I find this episode just too bleak and depressing, both the unremittingly muddy scenery and the patricide plot. I'm not sure I find the villains as convincing as you and rarely enjoy watching spoilt-rich-kid characters. However, like most MacGyver episodes, it does have its good points. I agree the bog rescue was great and for a moment all that mud and water made sense as a foil for an exciting and realistic MacGyver escape. Unlike you, I enjoyed the pool room scene, especially the moment when MacGyver realises what's about to happen and then reacts so quickly but, as you say, why was he so forgiving? I'm afraid I couldn't see beyond 'ridiculous' regarding the para-glider-copter contraption and felt its craziness just didn't fit with the gloomy atmosphere and would have been better used in an episode that was meant to be slapstick. All-in-all, ok, but by no means a favourite, ranking, for me, somewhere between 90-100 - so not far off yours.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah I can't believe how forgiving he is after getting jumped in the pool room.

  2. While my impression of this episode is more favorable than not, it was an episode divided for me as I liked the first half much more than second, and tend to agree more with Al's take on the narrative pluses and minuses. The episode has an ass-kicking opening scene with the winch rescue of Willis from the quicksand. Even after that, I was intrigued by Bartlett's kids plans for a hostile takeover of his business, and how they had construction workers shanghai MacGyver in the pool room (I never assumed MacGyver felt he could legitimately pin the set-up on Laura and Scott as Laura basically denied it and pretended she didn't know that the angry workers were waiting there to ambush MacGyver....thus I never really found it a "forgiveness" scenario). Whatever the case, things were fun through the exploding van in the wasteland, but then the episode took an unfortunate turn for me. I was buying into Scott and Laura's scheming based on a perception that it was motivated purely by greed, but were they really gonna murder their father because he had the audacity to ask that they wear business suits at office meetings? As was the case in "Hell Week", I really thought they made too sympathetic this idea that these kids turned into murderous monsters because daddy didn't love them enough. And while the para-glider bit was clever to a degree, I couldn't get past the ridiculous of it either....especially MacGyver swooping down like a bald eagle and picking up Bartlett with his feet before going airborne.

    I ranked this episode #82, but for me it's a classic example of an episode that started brilliantly but lost its way. I always point to the transition from 1990 to 1991, basically the second half of the sixth season, as the point in time where MacGyver started to show its age as a series. I enjoyed this episode, but it definitely felt like the work of a show getting some gray hairs.

    1. Our numbers have been really close lately. At least until we get to the next Mama Lorraine episode. :)

    2. True....and so far you haven't gotten on my figthing side by giving a bad or mediocre ranking to anything in my top-10 :)

    3. Ha, I hope I don't get on your fighting side! But I think I'm safe since I'm past the point of bad/mediocre reviews since I like all the rest of the remaining episodes, it's just a question of to what degree.

  3. Many of Mark and Al's views match mine for the episode, although I would probably be a bit harsher overall because I did not find any of the Bartlett actors very good. The MacGyverism at the end would have been far better if the parachute had actually looked like a torn piece of tent fabric rather than an evenly shaped, multi segment stitched professional chute! It is one thing thinking, nay even expecting, MacGyver could think up and make something from those assorted parts but quite another to have to believe he would have time to carefully make a perfect parachute. At least they made the famous hot air balloon from GX-1 look as if it was patchwork, albeit very neat patchwork! MacGyver would have needed thighs as strong as Sir Chris Hoy's to have plucked the injured blokey from the ground, although not having the gun wielding son bother to shoot at him obviously made the process easier! Season 6 started well enough but I can see why some of the comments relate to the series losing it's way a bit by now.

    1. I needed Google to tell me who Sir Chris Hoy was!

  4. I love the powered parachute! My dream is to get one of them, but usually they are seated. I wonder how they did this stunt. It is technically possible to have a backframe based PPC, but Ive never seen it done outside this. Would be a fun project.

    I like most of this episode, but the son is a bit of a whiny twit and the daughter is a bit too stiff, plus I cant stand these 80s hairdonts. ugh. Certainly no standout, but Id put it in the solid middle.

    I have 12 rewatches left to go before I can start my rankings, and season 3 and 7 are done.