Sunday, November 16, 2014

#86: Every Time She Smiles

Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is in Bulgaria to pick up microfilm from an underground leader that shows corruption among members of the military police.  At the airport, he meets Penny Parker, a ditzy and perky young lady who slips some jewels into his pocket, which in turn causes him to be detained by Stepan, Penny's boyfriend and a military officer.  MacGyver and Penny escape and go back for the microfilm, and then they attempt to leave Bulgaria with or without Stepan's help.  

Memorable Quote:
Wait a minute.  There's that machine, that they use to plow with.   ~Penny
A trac--tor?    ~MacGyver
Yeah, they keep it in the shed on the other side of the hill.  Don't tractors run on gas?  ~Penny
[Sigh].  They've been known to.   ~MacGyver

See memorable quote (38:25 mark).  It may only be two words, but "A trac-tor" is my favorite MacGyver quote of all time.  It's still funny no matter how many times I see it, and RDA's delivery is absolutely perfect.  I wrote in my FAQs how when I was a kid, my mother and I used to have a good laugh when talking about this scene (and in fact, we still do).  

The car chase scene at the end is too much for me.  MacGyver jumps onto the moving fuel truck and starts moving things around and cutting things open.  He says he is mixing diesel hydrocarbons with water to create "immiscible liquid" which he then sprays on the road behind him.  This likely causes long term environmental damage, but in the short term one of the police cars slides and the other explodes.  Then he jumps back off of the truck and into the car with Penny and Stepan.  Somehow the driver of the fuel truck has no idea any of this is happening.  

Best MacGyverism:
There are several good ones to choose from, but I'm partial to the escape from the airport holding room where MacGyver uses coat hangers tied to a chair to lasso the conveyor belt.    

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Cool opening (at least after the stock footage) with the Merry Go Round (nice foreshadowing) and microfilm exchange at the outdoor chess game.  And we see MacGyver's right hand in a cast, which he says resulted from a skiing accident in the Swiss Alps.  This was surely a previous injury to RDA, but I'm not sure from what (maybe from the previous episode where he was hanging out of the speeding car?).  If anyone knows more details, please let me know in the comments!  
  • Good to see Kai Wulff, a guest star in many episodes and always gives a strong performance.  Great voice too, no surprise that he has done voice acting.  
  • Some great dialogue between MacGyver and Penny in the airport holding room.
    • "Well, see, then you should be mad at me."  ~Penny.  
    • "All right, I'm mad at you!"  ~MacGyver.  
    • "You really didn't have to tell me that!"  ~Penny 

    • "Grab that chair"  ~MacGyver.   
    • "Well why don't I get two chairs so we can both sit?"  ~Penny.   
    • "It's not for sitting!" ~MacGyver

    • "Have you ever been to a rodeo?"  ~MacGyver.   
    • "Sort of.  I was Queen of the Future Farmers once."  ~Penny.  
    • "Later, Later."  ~MacGyver

    • "It's just like the ride at Disneyland!"  ~Penny
    • "Would you keep your head down!"  ~MacGyver
  • 14:52 mark - the passports are hard to make out, but it appears as if Penny was born in Iowa.  And MacGyver's birthday is 1/23.  But in Friends, his birthday is 3/23.  If I had to choose, I'd go with 3/23 and chalk up the 1/23 to being a fake passport.  
  • 17:00 - strange that Stepan doesn't get upset with his uncle after learning his name appears on a Swiss bank account with stolen funds
  • Also unclear why the Underground movement copied the documents they stole and then gave them back.  Why not just keep them?
  • Fun Merry Go Round scene as MacGyver lures the policemen on and then turns it up to warp speed.  Then he clogs the gears with some metal rings (which is cool, though I'm not sure why he couldn't have just shut it off) and the guys go flying.  
  • 26:20 - not sure why Stepan is surprised to hear the Underground leader mention Penny as being seen with MacGyver.  Where else would she be?
  • "Bouncing around Bulgaria with Penny Parker reminded me of playing dominoes. With every move, something else might fall."  This episode is chock-full of great quotes.  
  • 30:00 - a priceless reaction by MacGyver when learning that Penny entered Stepan's apartment through the front door. 
  • Good MacGyverism in the kitchen where he mixes kitchen materials to create a bubbling concoction that produces smoke and eventually explodes.  Amazing how few of these type of elaborate mixture MacGyverisms we've had in the first fifty episodes.  
  • Stepan's not such a bad guy after all.  Nice to see MacGyver and Kai on the same side for a change.  And I like how MacGyver calls him "Steve." 

Final Analysis:
Excellent episode here that probably should be higher.  As a kid, I remember enjoying the airport escape and "a tractor", but not as much stood out.  But as an adult, I am able to more fully appreciate the great acting, fun story, and rich dialogue.  Fantastic performance by RDA as the straight man, and great job by Teri Hatcher also.  


  1. This is one of my top 10 episodes. Great Review!

  2. Its great that your Mum enjoys this one too! As far as I'm concerned its a season 1, MacGyver has his 'swagger', as you have so aptly called it, is cool,.self assured with none of his later episode angst and its a fun plot. so its got to be in my top 60 at least. MacGyver's mixture of patience and exasperation with the ditzy Penny is enjoyable and there's some on screen chemistry between them ( I think RDA went on to date Terri hatcher so that might explain it). I'm not sure how I feel about Penny; she's very annoying but also quite sweet and charming so I guess she's ok. I like the restaurant scene where MacGyver leaves with a hard-to-describe kind of look on his face after a lingering good luck kiss from Penny P! As you say,some good MacGyverisms but why did he leave it so long before picking the handcuffs lock with the earring? I hadn't clocked the 'trac-tor' scene before you mentioned it but, I agree, its a good one and can see why its become a family in-joke for you. I think RDA did have an injury which happened during 'The enemy within' and, I have read, is apparent during the morgue scene but haven't checked that out yet. I don't know if it was a result of filming or not. Its also apparent in 'To be a man' where the cast is covered with a black glove and MaGyver is injured on his right shoulder and arm in the episode to disguise RDA's real injury. I think they usually put screen injuries on the left if possible to make it easier for a right-handed actor to cope.

    1. Good point about the handcuffs, I was wondering about that too! And I forgot about his injury in To Be a Man which makes sense since it was right after this one. And yes, RDA did date Teri Hatcher - as you said they do have good chemistry onscreen.

  3. I'm pretty much in sync with your current ranking here for this one as it's my #88 ranked episode. It's an episode that has much going for it, including a lot of action, clever MacGyverisms aplenty, a very complex and well-crafted story, and quite a bit of humor. But especially in the second half, some of the characters' actions just didn't make sense to me. How realistic was it for MacGyver and Penny to be able to sneak out of Stepan's apartment building simply by sounding the fire alarm when the guards knew who to look for? Why were they hanging around Stepan's uncle's place long enough to get caught and why did they seem so assured they could flip Stepan to the side of the angels? And most confusing of all, what was up with that Greek border guard that knew Penny? Were we to assume he was a former lover that preceded Stepan? While I admired the script overall here written by James Schmerer, season 1's best scriptwriter, it was really hard for me to get past the stuff that went on in the final 15 minutes. And I always have mixed feelings about the woman-child Penny Parker character. Teri Hatcher had enough charisma to make the character work and she usually had some pretty funny lines, did she really have to be THAT cartoonish and stupid?

    I hate to dwell on the negative here because this really was a good episode. I'm with you that the airport conveyor belt bit was my favorite part of the episode and I loved the merry-go-round scene and the passing of the microfilm during the chess game bit at the beginning. I even liked the car chase scene at the end, incredible as it was that MacGyver created an oil slick with diesel exhaust and a conveniently located truck hauling water (??!?!?). But for me there were just a lot of episodes that came together more smoothly than this one.

    1. I'm with you on having mixed feelings on Penny - sometimes she's just too cartoonish.

  4. This episode wasn't bad and I agree with most observations made above. Penny is certainly always verging on the completely annoying but still just about manages to remain annoying but likeable here.

    One thing that I noticed that is worth mentioning is another incidence of MacGyver 'speaking' without moving his mouth, as in Gauntlet. It occurs during the climax of the scene in Stepan's apartment at around 43 minutes (TV timing including adverts). Smoke starts coming from the kitchen and Stepan investigates, saying "what have you done". MacGyver comes up behind him and says "burnt the roast" before hitting him on the back of the head. As he turns to run from the smoke he appears to be coughing but 'his voice' yells; "Penny grab a bathrobe, we'll mingle with the tenants"! His mouth certainly isn't saying those words and you can hear a difference in the timbre compared to his voice as he is speaking beforehand, as if it was done in a different studio setting!

    1. I see what you're talking about - good spot!

  5. As soon as I saw the name of this episode, I remembered, “this is the one with the clothhanger at the airport!”, which was a really cool escape. The one other thing I remembered was how I absolutely couldn’t stand Penny. Well that changed quite a bit. It looks like most of the humour went over my head. Watching it now this episode made me laugh so many times, at most of what Penny says and the way she says it (starting with the “they’re all foreigners here”, with a hushed voice and her eyes darting from side to side), at she totally doesn’t realise whenever she does something stupid or clever and at MacGyver’s exasperated while polite reactions. He’s really patient here, in later seasons there would have been a lot of yelling. The great chemistry between them is great.
    When they’re locked up at the airport, what is MacGyver mouthing right after Penny says “it was just one ring, how much could it be worth?” It looks like “one, okay”. Shortly after we can have a look at their passports, with Penny’s one covering MacGyver’s name.
    I like Kai Wulff and his voice too.
    I think the underground movement copied the documents with the hope that their temporary disappearance would go unnoticed and shutting the carousel off instead of clogging its gears would stop it gradually which would not be enough to send the guys flying.
    There are some overdone voiceovers at Stepan’s place as MacGyver climbs in (with his arm in cast. Wow.) and a possibly overcomplicated MacGyverism later to create smoke and an explosion, but there’s plenty to make up for it, like Penny’s “the doorman knows me” and MacGyver’s hilarious wordless reaction I completely misunderstood when I watched it as a kid, I thought it was because MacGyver realised that he could have just accompanied Penny to get in. I included this scene in a couple of minutes long original - Hungarian comparison video I put together and uploaded here because I got sooo excited to finally have found a few dubbed episodes that play in the UK!
    I also liked that, when MacGyver steps out of the kitchen, Stepan doesn’t shoot as he was supposed to, is not even mad, just tries to be convincing and calmly tells MacGyver to look outside the window. Somehow, this was what made me sure that he would not be a bad guy much longer. His later turn reminded me that of Trudy in Avatar. I also liked how he tracked them down and even made sure that he would find them first, for their own safety.
    It is interesting to note that in the Hungarian version the “Penny grab a bathrobe, we’ll mingle with the tenants”, which, as Al pointed it out, can be heard but is not being said on the screen, is missing. Makes sense.
    At the farm there’s another bunch of hysterical reactions from MacGyver to Penny, first, just his face when she says “so Stepan took it down to get it... refilled.” Then, just as I think “wow, he took this one well” when he casually answers “everyone forgets something once in a while”, he sits down and slooowly buries his head in his hand... then comes the trac-tor, the “they’ve been known to”, and an “it’s been rumoured” answer to Stepan’s “are you crazy?” question! In agreement with your Final Analysis, this episode changed perhaps the most for me too for the better!

    1. I like your Hungarian MacGyver video! How long has it been since you watched these episodes?

  6. Aww, thanks for watching! :-)
    I saw season 1-3 around 1990-92 (though, according to the way I remember the casting of The Wish Child, there could have been a rerun shortly after). For some reason the rest didn’t air so I only know season 4-7 from the current CBS Action reruns that air an episode a weekday, they just had Three for the Road on, and I have the first season on DVD.

  7. The passport is showing RDA's real birth date, only that MacGyver is a year younger (1951) than RDA (1950).