Saturday, November 8, 2014

#88: Split Decision

Season: 7

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver is training his old foe-turned-friend Earl Dent for a boxing match.  Earl intends to use the prize money to demonstrate to social services that he is fit to take custody of his 14 year-old daughter, Veronica ("Ronnie").  Dent plans to throw the fight for extra money but then changes his mind to the chagrin of some crooked bookies who kidnap Ronnie in order to exert control over Dent.  

Memorable Quote:
Earl, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place.  I hate boxing.  I think it’s barbaric.  ~MacGyver
Some people say the same things about hockey.   ~Dent
Well I happen to have hope for hockey.  ~MacGyver

A two minute Rocky-like training sequence which includes Dent running on the beach (like in Rocky 3), jumping rope, and using MacGyver's contraptions, all while bonding with his daughter. There's good music, and it culminates with a big punch which shatters MacGyver's punching machine. MacGyver and Ronnie are elated, though if I were MacGyver I wouldn't be thrilled with my bright white shirt getting sprayed with grape juice. 

Not fun to watch Dent get mauled in the ring when he is throwing the fight.    

Best MacGyverism:
MacGyver creates a few homemade training devices, I guess you could call them, and puts them in his garage for Dent to train with.  They include the aforementioned punching machine with the juice that rises in a tube with each punch, and then there's a remote controlled machine with mechanical arms covered with hockey and baseball gloves that provide punching targets.  Of course MacGyver rigs this all up in the time that Dent and Ronnie go out for groceries.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • 5:22 mark – I like how at the Department of Children’s Welfare, MacGyver goes up the stairs on the left side and almost runs over the mother and son coming down.  
  • This is our 3rd and final Earl Dent episode.  We've already reviewed Harry's Will and High Control.  Dick Butkus does a great job in this episode - his acting is believable and nuanced.  Very impressive especially for a Hall of Fame linebacker.  Speaking of High Control, couldn't they have just called in Montana to vouch for Dent?  And funny how it's the second time that MacGyver has agreed to let Dent stay with him while in the presence of a social worker. 
  • I'm not sure what I think about Ronnie - she's kind of annoying but also likable at the same time. In the middle of the episode she turns really quickly from a mad-at-the-world teenager to a loving daughter.  It's reminiscent of the Tony Milani flip.  
  • The bookies arrive at MacGyver's garage, and it's Herb Edelman (who we've see in The Lost Amadeus) and Bubba Smith, another former all-pro of the gridiron.  Like Butkus, Bubba does well on screen - he doesn't say much but plays the role with seriousness and believability.  
  • If Dent was the 5th ranked heavyweight in the world at one point, you’d think he could do better than pocketing 4 grand and fighting as an undercard in a small gym.
  • 20:40 - I like this exchange after MacGyver gets punched by Crazy Eddie:
    • "Is it broke?"  ~Dent
    • "Leave me alone."  ~MacGyver (sounding like an 8 year old)
  • MacGyver is on the couch and pours some water in a plastic bag.  Dent comes over and touches it and says it feels cold.  MacGyver explains that it is Sodium Thiosulfate.  Just add water and it becomes an "instant cold pack."  If I were Dent I would have asked MacGyver why he didn't just buy a cold pack from the store.  
  • The ring announcer is none other than Jim Lampley.  
  • Ending where MacGyver rescues Ronnie in the Machine Shop has some good renditions of the Minor MacGyver.  
  • 43:27 – fun little clip when MacGyver cheers for Dent and then looks at himself with surprise for getting so excited about boxing.  
  • Why does Ronnie think Dent won the fight at the end?  He wasn't trying for the first 7 rounds!  

Here's my conversation with episode writer David Rich.

Final Analysis:
In retrospect, I should have had this one a little lower, like around 97 or 98.  The first half is fairly slow, Ronnie's a tad annoying, and the father/daughter dialogue is corny at times.  But Butkus is great as usual, and I like the ending when Dent sees Ronnie in his corner and starts trying.  It's not an episode that's going to blow anyone away, but it's got some good moments and I enjoy watching it.  And we're now officially over halfway done with Season 7!  Next up, I'll give my thoughts on a certain recurring female sidekick who will be making her first MacGyver Project appearance.  


  1. While my ranking of this episode is quite a bit worse than yours, we have the same general impression. It's an entertaining hour to be sure, but like so many of the episodes in the 7th season the story just seemed a little bit thin. Like you, I enjoy Earl Dent, although I think he's probably gained 50 IQ points in each subsequent guest spot as he's far smarter in this appearance than he was in "Harry's Will"! Ronnie's transformation to loving daughter was a little too abrupt and the idea that these bookies were so excited to hear this boxing match on the radio (what kind of radio station broadcasts a boxing match?!?!?) and carrying on about what a good fight it's gonna be when they've blackmailed Dent into throwing it all seemed a little hard to swallow. But I will say I enjoyed the ending. Earl's comeback after seeing Ronnie was safe was very exciting and high-energy, and the pro wrestler signing "Rocketman" to a professional wrestling contract was a clever ending I didn't see coming. Overall though, another episode from season 7 that just felt a little weary. I ranked it #125.

    1. Good call on the IQ point increase - he is much smarter than in Harry's Will.

  2. I would rank this one lower and definitely preferred High Control although Dick Butkus is fine in both. I like Mark's point about the IQ shift- he's way better than as the slapstick sidekick in Harry's Will (one of my least favourite episodes). I don't mind Ronnie and there are a few good moments but few great. I'm not so keen on MacGyver;s home in Season 7. Its more urban and a bit depressing compared to the cool houseboat, beachside apartment or amazing disused observatory.

    1. I agree on MacGyver's Season 7 apartment - it is depressing! I like the houseboat the best, just a great setting and a beautiful home, though I also like the Season 2 loft a lot with the basketball hoop and hockey table.

    2. Totally agree on the season 7 home. It was so stale and generic. I actually remember seeing stock footage of this place in other 90s series.

    3. I often wonder if production companies have residence sets that they can reuse for different shows. Some of the stuff is obviously soundstaged, but not always. You have to wonder how they manage to get use of all these houses and places in shows.

  3. This one is mid level for me. But watching it this time, I fell all warm and fuzzy at the end. Gotta love Earl. And the recurring actors. This was a solid episode for sure with uniqueness to it. I like Ronnie. Shes spunky and fun. Her voice is a bit strange to me, but her character is fine.

    Whatever happened to his partnership with Montana? I guess it didnt work out after all.

    And MacGyver really needs to get better locks or stop giving out his key. How do random people always manage to let themselves in? You could blame the landlord, but it even happens at the Houseboat.