Thursday, December 25, 2014

#74: Runners

Season: 4

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Jennifer (aka Crystal) is a teenager who was abused by her policeman father, and she has started working for a pimp named Snakeskin.  MacGyver has a chance meeting with her and tries to help her get off the street.  She ends up back at Snakesin's apartment, and MacGyver goes there to save her from both Snakeskin and her father. 

Memorable Quote:
Part of you is still trying to stop your dad and grandma from dying in that car accident.  And another part of you is still trying to get home in time to say goodbye to your mom.  Those things aren't your fault, MacGyver.  The first step is realizing that.  ~Jennifer 

Highlight:
Love the scenes where MacGyver messes with Snakeskin's car, his prized possession (the car doesn't look all that great to me, though I'm not a car aficionado).  The first time is when Snakeskin gets out of the car and MacGyver puts it in drive, and Snakeskin sprints after it but cannot stop it from hitting some large potted plants.

The second time, MacGyver ties the back of the car to a dumpster, and Snakeskin foolishly slams on the breaks which sends the dumpster crashing into the car.  I showed this scene to my high school Physics class to demonstrate Newton's first law of motion.  I don't remember if all the students had to give a presentation or if I just volunteered, but I do clearly remember my teacher's look of horrified shock as the scene was unfolding (in hindsight, perhaps it wasn't necessary to show the whole lead-up to the car scene where Snakeskin is threatening to cut Jennifer with a knife, but I was trying to provide the class with some context).

Given that MacGyver messes with his car twice and does some considerable damage the second time, it's hard to believe that Snakeskin wouldn't try to find and kill MacGyver.  

Lowlight:
Not fun to watch Jennifer screaming and getting hit by her dad.  

Best MacGyverism:
See highlight. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The most amazing thing about this episode?  And maybe about any episode?  The actress who plays Jennifer was 12 years old at the time this was filmed (born Oct 1976, episode aired March 1989).   Huh?????   Assuming her birthdate is 100% accurate, that blows my mind to pieces for several reasons:
    • She looks much older than 12.  I would have guessed at least 18.  
    • Why did the producers pick a 12 year-old for this grown-up role?   Normally teenagers in shows are played by people in their 20's, so it's strange that they would go so far in the other direction.  Though she does a great job in the role, so maybe they knew what they were doing.
    • Continuing with that point, how does she play that part so well at 12?  It's very impressive.  
  • When MacGyver is filling up the jeep with gas, the price looks to be about 50 cents a gallon. 
  • The part where he tells Cynthia that he hocked his watch at the gas station after Jennifer picked his pocket made an impression on me as a kid.  I wondered if I would ever have to hock my watch and if someone would accept my watch as payment.   
  • Cynthia responds to MacGyver's being pickpocketed with, "You should be more careful."  Thanks, Cynthia.  Never been a big Cynthia fan.  
  • MacGyver's "world famous whole wheat and banana pancakes" sound amazing.  Like, I'm getting hungry as I type this.  

Final Analysis:
Strong episode here.  Good story, good acting, and the aforementioned car scenes are great. Also the conversations between Jennifer and MacGyver about their pasts are poignant and take the episode to a higher place.  It's as low as it is because the last 15 minutes aren't that fun to watch for me (though I do like the bag lady).  Coming up, a trip to Season 5 and an appearance by mullet MacGyver! 

13 comments:

  1. I was scratching my head when I saw your preview of this episode where you cited the Newton's Law principle as I wondered what you were referring to. The scene from this episode with the dumpster crashing into Snakeskin's car never occurred to me. I think I mentioned in my review of "Hell Week" that I got my physics teacher to give me extra credit for showing that to the class and she loved it so much that she made a copy of it on VHS to show to future classes.

    Back to "Runners", I liked this episode well enough but it didn't rock my world. Interesting contrast on both of our parts to the episode that preceded it chronologically, "The Challenge", which you hated and I loved. Both of them were tough, dark, and envelope-pushing content-wise for a show like MacGyver with an audience that skewed younger. You surmised in your review of "The Challenge" that that was a good episode for "young Timmy" to skip, but I remember my mom being taken aback when we watched "Runners" together as she didn't want to have to explain the flesh trade and what a "whore" was to 11-year-old Mark. There was a certain campiness to Snakeskin that I thought made his character hard to swallow. I've known plenty of young women and girls who've fallen prey to the "bad boy" contrary to all evidence and common sense, but Snakeskin's routine seemed a little too transparent at times to believe that a girl as clearly intelligent as Crystal/Jennifer was could be buying into him.

    Beyond that though, the narrative unfolded nicely and I agree that the best scenes were on MacGyver's houseboat, where MacGyver and Jennifer's worlds clashed together as they got to know each other. Not sure what was going on in the writers' room on MacGyver during Season 4 that they decided to take the show in such a dark direction, but I largely welcomed it. This episode's tone didn't quite hit me as perfectly as some others but I remember the reviewers stood up and took notice over this one so perhaps, as is often the case, I'm the outlier. My ranking of #102 is by no means bad though.

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    1. And by the way, I really have to believe that IMBD's listed age for Holly Fields has to be off as I really can't believe we were looking at a 12-year-old playing the role of Crystal/Jennifer. But her age is not listed on Wikipedia either so there's no way of knowing for sure. Still.....12? If she was really only a year older than me when she played this role in 1989 she was the most mature 12-year-old I've ever seen.

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    2. I wish my Physics teacher gave me extra credit! Instead he was not too thrilled by it which I could tell by the expression on his face as Snakeskin said, "I'll cut you! Where do you want me to cut you?" I did find Snakeskin campy as well, especially when he says, "you'll pay for this, pal." And I'm with you on Holly Fields - if I had to bet one way or the other, I'd say that IMDB is wrong because it's very difficult to believe that she was 12, or that the producers would knowingly cast a 12-year old to play a prostitute.

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    3. Just noticed on rereading you're "not a Cynthia fan". Interesting as I always really liked her. And yeah "you'll pay for this, pal" was what stood out for me as Snakeskin's character at his least believable.

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    4. Cynthia just rubs me the wrong way. And regarding The Challenge vs. Runners, I'd be more hesitant to show The Challenge to little Timmy because of the emotionally charged and disturbing act of violence. Back to Runners, similar to your experience learning about the "flesh trade," I remember asking my mother what a "pimp" was. Who knew MacGyver could be so educational!

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  2. The birthdate is apparently right (or really close), going by her bio and this line: At age 13, Holly went to Los Angeles for one month to see what would happen. A week after the move, she was cast in the CBS pilot CBS Summer Playhouse: Fort Figueroa (1988)...

    Still - I agree - very mature for a 12 y/o.

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  3. I agree with most of your comments. A good strong episode but not a favourite and ranked about right. A difficult subject for primetime telly and you have to admire them for tackling it and handling the theme pretty well. Some good, dark psychoanalysis of both MacGyver and Jennifer's past - I'm always a fan of exploring MacGyver's character and I agree that the houseboat scenes were excellent.Also a good moment where MacGyver, mundanely filling up his jeep with petrol just like anyone else, has the flashback to his own Dad's accident and his dawning realisation that Jennifer has pinched his money. On a more lighthearted note, I love the season 4 black leather jacket. I always enjoy the scenes when MacGyver pops his head up from behind cover and this episode is no exception as he suddenly appears from behind the display in surprise at Crystal propositioning Pete. Love the mess of wires behind the display, the result of Pete trying to fix it himself! Also enjoyed MacGyver's deft handling of Snakeskin's blade, Sometimes he just deals with the villain +weapon head-on and sometimes takes unnecessarily long detours to avoid direct confrontation. This happens later where MacGyver spend ages climbing the fire escape and opening the window when Snakeskin's gun was, at that point, safely tucked away in the drawer. I'm also surprised Snakeskin didn't come after MacGyver for messing with the car especially as the writers set up his pride in the car as a motif; it could have been a more exciting episode if he had. I'm also not a Cynthia fan; she's doing a great job but does she have to be quite so worthy and smug sounding? All in all, some great acting - it is indeed hard to believe that the actress playing Jennifer is so young, and a good job done.

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    1. I always wondered if the switch to the black leather jacket in season 4 was a deliberate effort by the writers to produce a "darker MacGyver" visual to go along with the direction of the stories that season. He went back to the traditional brown leather jacket the next season, interestingly.

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    2. I also like the part where he pops his head up - funny stuff.

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    3. "I also like the part where he pops his head up - funny stuff."

      Hahaha. Yeah that part cracked/cracks me up! :)

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  4. "I showed this scene to my high school Physics class to demonstrate Newton's first law of motion. I don't remember if all the students had to give a presentation or if I just volunteered, but I do clearly remember my teacher's look of horrified shock as the scene was unfolding (in hindsight, perhaps it wasn't necessary to show the whole lead-up to the car scene where Snakeskin is threatening to cut Jennifer with a knife, but I was trying to provide the class with some context)."

    ROFL! Did you get an A? :)

    "The most amazing thing about this episode? And maybe about any episode? The actress who plays Jennifer was 12 years old at the time this was filmed "

    What!!?! Get out of here! :) You are right she does not look 12 at all!

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    1. Not sure if I got an A on that one! And yeah, Holly Fields does not look or act 12!

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  5. "Nicholas Sweedo says Not sure if I got an A on that one!"

    Awww you don't remember? Too bad. I am really curious.

    "And yeah, Holly Fields does not look or act 12!"

    No she doesn't! I will have to look her up to see what she looks like now! :)

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