Friday, December 19, 2014

#76: The Enemy Within



Season: 1

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Pete Thornton has been named director of operations of a federal organization, and he's under pressure to find a mole who is responsible for exposing American agents.  To help identify the mole, he enlists the help of a Russian defector, Viktoria, who is initially brusque with MacGyver but warms up to him soon after.  She identifies the American wife of MacGyver's co-worker as an undercover Soviet officer just as MacGyver and Viktoria become targets themselves. 

Memorable Quote:
Esel! Ich bin ein Soviet officer.  Und wir muss gehen zu dem Hause, bitte.  For es gehe eine Freunde sind there in de applesuss, or in der Flugplatz.  Und sie ist meinen Frau!  ~MacGyver

Highlight:
See memorable quote.  I loved this part as a kid, especially when he says "applesuss."  I asked KTI, a MacGyver expert and German native from the rdanderson.com community for help with the translation ("it's for German ears also difficult," she notes).  Here's what she said about each piece:
  • Esel! = means literally ass or donkey and can be used for 'idiot'
  • Ich bin ein Soviet officer. =  I'm a Soviet officer.  
  • Und wir muss gehen zu dem Hause, bitte. =  And we must go to the house, please
  • For es gehe eine Freunde sind there in de applesuss, or in der Flugplatz. =  ??????????? I think he tries to say that he wants to meet a friend in the house or at the airport (Flugplatz).  This sentence is without any sense and with terrible grammar. A german/english mix! Don't ask me what applesuss is. There's no german word like this, not nearly. For me it sounds rather like apple juice. 
  • Und sie ist meinen Frau! = And she is my wife!  That's correct, but there's no wife.

Lowlight:
The suggestive scenes between Viktoria and MacGyver always made me cringe as a kid, and they still do.  It's partly because of the excruciating dialogue ("in China if you're pretty they say you're ugly so I'd call you the ugliest woman in the world" - I'm paraphrasing since I don't want to rewatch it) and partly because of their perceived age difference.  Now I've got nothing against older women getting together with younger men, but she always seemed more like a grandma (to me at my young age) and old enough to be MacGyver's mom (even though the actress is only 4 years older than RDA).  I think it's the haircut more than anything.  But I do like it when she lays out Lynn-Holly Johnson with a nice open-field tackle.

Best MacGyverism:
One of the all-time memorable MacGyverisms as MacGyver hangs out the window of a brake-less car going 140 km/hr (~85 mph) and transfers the power steering fluid into the brake cylinder.  Is there anything even remotely possible about this scenario?  Of course not.  But that doesn't mean it's not a classic moment.  I'm placing it 2nd on the MacGyverism list right behind the pit and the pendelum escape and ahead of building a plane out of bamboo and duct tape.    

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • His contact in the East German forest is played by the same actor who briefly appeared as the Russian hockey coach in Jerico Games
  • I'm pretty sure the scene with Fritz the security guard in the federal building lobby was not in the USA Network version.  It's a good candidate for a deleted scene given that it doesn't relate to the rest of the episode and serves only to show that MacGyver is such a good guy that he would check in on the security guard's family while in East Berlin.
  • I wasn't sure at first if this building was the Phoenix Foundation, but they never mention it so I guess it's not.  
  • Runner-up for memorable quote: "Well I'll be dipped."
  • The scene in the apartment with MacGyver packing boxes has a strange feel to it due to:
    • RDA's not normally one to overact but it feels like he's on speed here
    • Pete mentions the possibility of the defector being a double agent even though she could walk in at any time (and later does)
    • MacGyver suggests using bait for the trap and doesn't object when Pete mentions the defector, but as soon as Viktoria enters the room he gets all high and mighty about how they can't risk her life under any circumstances. I love season 1 MacGyver and all his swagger, but sometimes Pete needs to remind him who the boss is. 
  • Bannister is a great character, and I like Lynn-Holly also (that's now two straight episodes with Bond girls, by the way).  Let's add Bannister to the wingman list
  • 26:25 mark - when talking about this episode with KTI, she alerted me to the scene in the morgue where you can briefly see the cast on MacGyver's right arm (he tries to cover it up with a jacket).  This is the same cast that can be seen in Every Time She Smiles and To Be A Man.  This must have been the last scene they filmed for the episode.  
  • The GRU's plan doesn't make much sense.  First they activate a reverend (whom they must have prepped for weeks) all so he could try to shoot someone (Viktoria?).  Then at the end they get Bannister to go in and kill Viktoria and MacGyver, but they could have just gone in and shot them on their own.  
  • Huge fan of the end credits with the funky interlude - let's add that to the music list.  

Final Analysis:
Let's start with the good: a clever plot, memorable MacGyverism, and a fun Season 1 dose of energy and adventure.  All that said, I feel like this episode didn't reach its full potential and could have been much better.  It would have helped to learn more about the villains (Lem in particular) and of course to remove most of the dialogue between Viktoria and MacGyver.  Coming up, a sequel of sorts to a recently reviewed episode.   

11 comments:

  1. I concur that there were ebbs and flows to this episode. The opening sequence in East Germany was exciting (hat tip to recognizing his contact was the same actor who played the hockey coach in "Jerico Games"...I didn't make that connection). Bannister was great and I enjoyed the brake fluid bit a lot although I wouldn't put it in the same league let alone ahead of building an airplane out of bamboo, duck tape, and a cement mixer engine! There was plenty of first season "swagger" on MacGyver's part which I liked to a degree and largely did here. And while it wasn't a huge surprise that Ingrid was the villain, it was very clever to have "newlywed" Bannister be her hypnotized, inadvertent double agent. MacGyver reviving Bannister at the end with makeshift defibrilators was also highly entertaining. You're right, by the way, that the scene with the security guard is the one USA cut in reruns.

    But there were also hard to ignore downsides here. I wasn't buying MacGyver's would-be romantic tension with Victoria at all and, unlike you, I though Lynn-Holly Johnson's acting left MUCH to be desired here. And the middle third of the episode was a little slow with the build-up dragging on a bit before Bannister was revealed as the mole. It was an entertaining hour though and the pros outweighed the cons for me. I ranked it at #100 even.

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    1. thanks for the confirmation on the deleted scene - I feel like I usually can sense when I'm watching one but I'm never totally sure.

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    2. Back in 2005 when the DVD sets came out the most exciting part for me was identifying the deleted scenes from cable reruns back in the early 90s. I hadn't seen most of these scenes in nearly 20 years and some of the deleted scenes were quite good. I'd say I remembered them in about 50% of the instances while for the other 50% it was almost like my first new MacGyver content since 1992!

      However, Paramount screwed us in one episode in Season 1, giving us a cable edit rather than the full original episode. I was able to find the full unedited episode (which has not yet appeared in your countdown) on the online versions of the series but up by CBS.com, but still feel as though it was the typical Paramount indifference towards "MacGyver" that led to one of the DVD sets featuring a cable edit rather than an original.

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    3. Do you know if every episode from every season (other than the 1 episode you mentioned) have some deleted material on the DVD? There are some episodes that I remember better from when I was younger that I can't think what the deleted scene would be.

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    4. There were a few episodes in the early seasons that had very little in the way of deleted scenes simply because they were only in the 46-minute range in the original broadcast and thus USA didn't need to hack away at scenes to fulfill their increased commercial quota. The episodes that ran 48 minutes generally had more than two minutes of deleted scenes on the cable reruns but if they came in at less than 46:30 there's not gonna be much at all cut from the USA edits, possibly just the trimmed 50-second version of the theme song rather than the full song. For whatever reason the longest episodes were in season 4, where it was not uncommon for episodes to run more than 48:30. "The Challenge" was the longest episode and probably had three minutes of deleted scenes on USA.

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  2. I appreciate this episode more each time I watch it, probably because I spot something new each time. For me, it has to be good; its season 1 ( although by no means the best episode), MacGyver has his swagger by the bucketload and the lighting and feel is of a bygone, epic era. Is it my imagination or is his voice gruffer and deeper in this one? -perhaps RDA had a cold! I love the nonsensical spoken German which temporarily baffles the East Germans and the exciting opener and classic MacGyverism. I'm not usually good at spotting bloopers but the border post sign is spelt wrong; it reads Deutches Bunesrepublik instead of Bundesrepublik! What a guy bringing back pictures of the security guard's sister, separated by the cold war! MacGyver does seem uppitty in this episode beginning in Pete's office refusing the assignment (and fiddling with pot on Pete's desk, a trait I noticed in 'Fire and Ice' and said I would look out for} and continuing in his boxed -up apartment. I like your description of MacGyver on speed; he also behaves a bit like a sulky teenager. We then get to see him in a tux which is always enjoyable, his season 1 unruly hair (before the stylists got to it) temporarily smoothed down and with blokeish joshing from the other agents about his smart appearance. Unusually MacGyver accepts a glass of champagne and appears to know about wine something we would be unlikely to see in later series.I'm with you both; it seems unlikely that he would be smitten by Viktoria - what were they thinking of? MacGyver is very secret-agent competent in this scene where he tackles the gun-toting rev and seamlessly moves into CPR. The following autopsy scene is one of my favourites; Its a shame we don't see more of the pathologist who is so dismissive of 'civilians'.I love how MacGyver is so interested in the proceedings and diagnoses the problem at the same time as the expert. The egg roll is great fun and too much for Bannister to cope with. I did catch the cast on RDA's arm when he sneaks an egg roll and the coat shifts.His kitchen science explanation to Viktoria is good but not the hypnotism scene where he has to kiss her, look goofy and hold her hands! At the end a great demonstration of how friendship and loyalty can overcome the powers of brainwashing. ( When MacGyver's listing the things he and Bannister have gone through , he says something like 'we ran the Panchuk tgether' does anyone know what his means?) A fun episode and although most of the excitement comes early on, its still ok by me and I'd rank it in the top 60.

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    1. I'm impressed with your spotting the German sign misspelling - Europeans are so much better than Americans at learning foreign languages! No idea what running the Panchuk means, but it sounds exciting!

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  3. This one is a mix of high and low points for me. I too liked Craig very much and that we started with opening gambit-ish great action with MacGyver’s goofy German nonsense (the face of Jäger and the officer were priceless), cool car fix and his favour to Fritz. I only don’t know why the dobes weren’t involved. Unarmed suspects escaping on foot is the exact situation patrol dogs are used for, they would have caught Jäger and MacGyver in seconds if they had proper bitework training and they only let themselves get distracted by the bird and the pointer for a moment right next to them which is a good sign. It would have been pretty cool to see them getting let off, then the one after MacGyver flying at the car door as Mac gets in just in the nick of time (of course not because he outran the dog but because the officer thought about releasing them too late), like at the shed in The Prodigal.
    That’s already a lot more high than low lights. Good because I really disliked the women, the stroppy and obnoxious Viktoria lecturing MacGyver on courage (!) and not giving up (!!), and they kiss, ugh... and I think Lynn-Holly Johnson was talking in a really strange way most of the time, like reading out her lines, especially at the final confrontation. She was in more than 20 films so perhaps my judgement is off and that actually is the way she was supposed to sound but if I were to name the worst actress of the show, she would be my choice for this reason. X-Ray eyes from MacGyver again to know at a glance that Craig’s heart wasn’t damaged.
    But my biggest problem is this concept of mind control in films (I was sure it was done by earrings here until I realised upon rewatch that that was in Knight Rider...). While Craig being worked on for weeks and by someone very close to him is a decent explanation for his turn, I’m afraid this popular plot device can rarely be pulled off without fuellling irrational fears that keep many people from turning to hypnotherapy, which is currently the best aid to kick phobias, addictions and similar self-limiting behaviours. Persuading people who are not already predisposed to carry out questionable acts requires an amount convincing that could as well work with the subject in the waking state.
    “Most work on this problem has focused on the more specific question of whether a person can be induced under hypnosis to commit some antisocial or self-destructive act. Supporting this negative view is the classic experiment by Janet who asked a deeply hypnotized female to commit several murders before a distinguished group of judges and magistrates, stabbing some victims with rubber daggers and poisoning others with sugar tablets. She did all this without hesitation. As the company dispersed, however, she was left in the charge of some young assistants, who took a notion to end the experiments on a lighter note. When they told her that she was now alone and would undress she promptly awakened. The murders were play-acted, the undressing would have been real; and the subject had no difficulty discerning the difference.”

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    1. I didn't realize until recently that Lynn-Holly Johnson had a pretty distinguished acting career, but I thought she was quite bad in this.

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  4. That kiss was so bad!!! I can't understand why that actress missed that opportunity. 🤔RDA/MacGyver seems to be a good kisser (based on the other scenes with different actress), and there she was, not kissing him properly. That moment looks so fake...that I feel sorry for RDA. Come on lady!! He is Richard Dean Anderson, an extremely handsome gentleman, take advantage of that opportunity!! I hate that scene!!

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  5. Funny discovery when he was packing the boxes you can see a plastic spider with orange legs that wasa toy of the famous he-man toyline, i had one when i was a kid.

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