Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#87: Fire and Ice

Season: 3

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver's childhood friend is murdered after he gets too close to the truth in his investigation of a jewel thief with diplomatic immunity.  MacGyver teams up with his friend's sister, Nikki Carpenter, to get revenge and bring the thief to justice.  Their plan involves a con where they team up with the thief to steal diamonds and then catch him in the act.  

Memorable Quote:
I'm gonna nail 'em, Pete.  The diamond thief did this.  You know it, I know it, and I'm gonna nail 'em.   ~MacGyver

I like seeing MacGyver play squash, and even better that he wins.  It's all the more impressive given that his opponent (the jewel thief) is an accomplished squash player whereas I don't imagine MacGyver has the time to play too often.  Reminds me of how James Bond always bests his expert-level adversaries in whatever game (e.g. golf, cards, fencing) they choose.

Not to mention MacGyver is wearing a great track suit before the game.  

The scene toward the end where Amir leaves MacGyver and Nikki in the vault with the gas on is a little anticlimactic.  I didn't remember the details and was expecting a clever escape, but MacGyver just turned the gas off (albeit cleverly) and then they just walked out.  

Best MacGyverism:
This may seem mundane to some, but I love what he does with the garden hose and the rake, in part because it's clever and yet something that normal people could come up with.  His goal is to climb the exterior wall to get to the second floor of the building.  He finds a rake and a garden hose, and he unscrews the rake head from the stick and attaches it to the hose.  Then he throws the hose over the balcony and gets the rake head caught, which enables him to repel up the wall using the hose as a rope.  

This one captured my imagination as a kid, so much so that I vaguely remember trying something similar at home with a rake and our rain gutter.  Let's add it to the MacGyverism list.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • On my Key Terms page, I talk about Carikazes, which is what I call it when MacGyver jumps wildly out of the way of a car (and is usually preceded by him running in front of the car first).  We've only had one so far but I know there are more coming.  Anyway, my point is that in this episode, Danny would have been wise to learn MacGyver's technique for how to avoid a moving car.  Instead, Danny gets a deer in the headlights look and just covers his face as the car strikes him.  
  • Don't look now, but it's a Nikki Carpenter sighting!  If you want to read 500+ words on the Nikki experience, you've come to the right place!  My overall take is that I don't love her, but I don't hate her either.  I'd rate her as a 6 out of 10, a net positive.  Let's start with the good: 
    • Elyssa Davalos is an excellent actress 
    • I like the personality of the character and don't find her annoying.
    • The 6 episodes that she's in are good.  I thought she was in at least 10 episodes and was surprised to realize it was only 6 (not counting Lost Love, which stars the actress as a different character).  Anyway, I like the episodes she's in, though I think it's less due to her and more due to my enjoyment of Season 3 in general.  This was MacGyver in his prime: living in the houseboat, driving the jeep, wearing the brown jacket, and doing stuff for the Phoenix Foundation with Pete heavily involved.  I've written recently about how the episodes in the series were very diverse, and that's a good thing, but I also liked the consistency and steadiness of season 3, and perhaps Nikki plays a role in creating that sense of Phoenix community. And she must be doing something right considering that I've reviewed 49 episodes so far without having gotten to any of hers.  
  • The downside of the Nikki era?  That her character was effectively neutered after Fire and Ice, especially in two areas:
    • Romance.  This article is from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1988, the year after Nikki was on Season 3.  It's an interesting read, especially to see how open and honest RDA was in his displeasure with the way that ABC was handling the show.  He explains his frustration with the network trying to make the Nikki/MacGyver relationship "a tease" similar to the romantic show Moonlighting.  He also says how the show got hate mail about Nikki and that the fans didn't want MacGyver to be locked up with one person. Well, I must be really missing something because I didn't pick up on any romantic chemistry or tension between the two.  Other than the brief kiss in this episode (which is only to confuse the guard), I don't remember them kissing at all or even coming close at any time in Season 3.  I always thought of Nikki as MacGyver's platonic friend, and if the show's goal was to create romantic chemistry between them, then the writers failed in that department.  In fact, I think it would have been fun for them to have some romantic interludes, but then again, I'm not a woman who cares if MacGyver stays single.
    • Abilities.  Although Fire and Ice is my lowest ranked Nikki episode, it's the best episode for her character.  She is a total bad-ass, from intelligently disguising herself as a maid, to doing karate moves on the bad guys, to confidently delivering one-liners, to cleverly tricking MacGyver and getting him arrested.  She's charming, self-assured, and dynamic.  Unfortunately these traits don't carry over at all to the rest of her episodes, where she most often is completely helpless and in need of rescuing by MacGyver.   
  • One other interesting note - Elyssa's daughter, Alexa, has had some success in movies, including a lead role in Defiance opposite Daniel Craig. 
  • Back to the episode!   12:17 mark - "That chick is a real banana boat," the valet says to MacGyver as Nikki speeds away.  Not sure what that means but it sounds cool.  
  • 16:26 - I couldn't help but laugh out loud when MacGyver says "[of] course I'm a little ticked!" in his hick voice.  
  • 16:50 - Nikki and the restaurant attendant walk over to Amir.  "Excuse me sir, but I'm afraid you are sitting at a reserved table.  This is the lady's regular table.  Even though I've never seen her before in my life."  I made one of those sentences up.
  • At this point in the show, things start to go off the rails in a hurry.  A few of the plot holes include:
    • As part of the con, MacGyver and Nikki are roleplaying, but they're pretending to be actual people in the diamond industry who Amir has heard of.  Even before the days of Google images, you'd think he would be able to find a picture of them somewhere and realize that it's not really them.
    • MacGyver is playing the role of Claude Demerlier which sounds very French, yet he does not even attempt to sound French (which may actually be good for all of us).
    • They all go to "Blane Diamonds" with Pete playing the role of Blane.  So Amir is an expert diamond thief, yet there's this new diamond store in town that they just made up and he's not suspicious of the fact that he's never heard of it?
    • They go through the trouble of stealing Amir's diamonds just so they can have some diamonds that Amir can steal.  But wouldn't it have been easier to just find some good-looking fakes somewhere?  Amir never looks at them too closely.  And if he's stealing diamonds that were stolen from him but that he had already secretly stolen, can he get in trouble for that?  My head hurts.
    • When Pete formally accuses Amir at the consulate, the head diplomat is unwilling to search him.  But after MacGyver blows open the attache case using remote control, the diamonds fall on the ground and the diplomat instantly changes course and orders Amir to be arrested.  What does this prove - why can't Amir just say he had some diamonds in his case that belonged to him?

Final Analysis:
The first half of this episode is good, and as I mentioned, it's Nikki's finest hour.  There's a good MacGyverism (the rake), and I like the consulate as a setting for much of the action.  Things get a little goofy in the second half, but all in all it's a decent episode, though I probably have it a smidge too high.  Next up, we're heading across the pond for a European adventure!    


  1. I like this one. As you say, Nikki is at her best;cool,competent and sassy. Her best one-liner is after she's taken down the embassy goon - MacGyver, 'Where'd you learn to do that?' Nikki, 'Sunday school'.Not sure how she really did learn to do it as she apparently trained as a lawyer and worked on a senate sub-comittee! Also love the cops arresting Macgyver and his dawning realisation he's been had. I agree the story soon turns into a 'caper' movie with unbelievable strokes of luck and coincidences as the plot evolves. For someone who doesn't like to have a set plan, Macgyver can certainly come up with some complex ones at times. Still. any episode that has MacGyver sporting an 80's style suit and tie (with natty dress shoes) and playing squash and, of course,winning has to be a good one! My bset Macgyverism is the embassy safe break where he calculates the odds on the combination numbers. Always good when he demonstrates his expertise in science, maths or anything else. With regards the Nikki/Macgyver relationship its a puzzling one. Considering Elyssa Davolos was a playing a major romantic interest at the beginning of the season, she hides it well in this episode! They just don't like each other much here, although in GX1 there are more hints of a possible teasing romance which is still resisted by the characters, Poor MacGyver - I think the writers could have let him have more fun romantically - he's either still keen on an old flame but missed his chance and now its too late, the girl likes him but he' doesn't feel the same , they die in tragic circumstances or else they want to kill him! On another note, I've noticed MacGyver is always fiddling with things; he picks up Pete's golf trophy in his office and at the fake diamond dealers he fiddles with the phone on the desk. I shall watch out for more of these!

    1. Thanks for the comments! Of all the Nikki episodes, GX-1 is the one I remember the least (since it often wasn't on USA Network for some reason) so it's possible there were some romantic elements there that I don't remember - I can revisit it once I get to that episode. Regarding MacGyver's old flames, I agree with you and have always found it odd that ladies sent hate mail wanting MacGyver to stay single. You'd think they'd want MacGyver to be happy and find the right gal, plus he's a fictional characer so it's not as if his being off the market would ruin one's chances with him. I totally missed his fiddling with stuff on desks - good catch!

  2. I didn't care for this episode back in 1987 when I first watched it. I remember watching it at my grandma's place with my MacGyver fan cousin. Not sure if I was distracted or what but I couldn't get into the story. I like it more with grown-up eyes although as I said in the review of "Twice Stung", I find it so hard to buy the plot conveniences in these "sting" episodes and definitely agree with your episode "lowlight" for that reason. MacGyver told Nikki "human nature" was the reason he knew that Amir would steal the diamonds from them and "leave them to die in their own gas chamber" rather than simply shooting them. Uh-huh....and conveniently for the two of them, it allowed MacGyver to push a button and open up the vault seconds after Amir left and catch up with him before he made it back to the consulate. It's easier for me to accept Murdoc surviving a fall off of a 2,000 foot mountain than it is for me to accept that plot twist! Beyond that though I enjoyed the story and the "Miami Vice-esque" stylishness of the glossy 80s cocktail party scene the two of them immersed themselves in. And also liked Nikki to a degree, at least up until she and MacGyver became "Maddie and David" from Moonlighting in the next episode in succession. I did like the ending though and as tortured as the explanation was, I think they captured the accurate legal intricacies of searches allowed for diplomats.

    While this episode is certainly a lot more fun and cleverly crafted than it was for me at age 10, but it's still not one I love. I rated it #104.

    1. Yeah the "human nature" explanation was pretty weak - would have been better if MacGyver hadn't said anything at all.