Sunday, December 14, 2014

#78: Fraternity of Thieves

Season: 4

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
The Phoenix Foundation is working with the military on producing a hi-tech radar detection device. Pete's son, Michael, is working for Phoenix and is part of a group scheming to sell plans for the device to a buyer that goes by the code name of Papillon (French for butterfly).  Pete and MacGyver discover Michael's treachery, and they decide to use Michael as bait to lure Papillon out into the open.  

Memorable Quote:
We need search warrants.  We can't make a move without authorization.   ~Col. Collins
Yes we can.  We're talking about my son's life.   ~Pete

Great scene in Pete's office where MacGyver presents Pete with a connection he discovered between Michael and the other conspirators, followed by Michael getting caught red-handed by Pete and MacGyver staring at him through the window as the lights turn on (pictured above). Powerful stuff.  

I try not to critique the actors too much, but the guy who plays Chaz was in over his head.  And then how about the guy in the helicopter at the end who says, "it's too hot for me, we're out of here" with the enthusiasm of a pencil.  

Best MacGyverism:
Gets sodium thiosulfate from a photo machine and gives it to Pete to drink to negate the effects of the cyanide poison.  I wonder how safe it would be to really drink this but I guess Pete didn't have anything to lose at that point.  And it sure works fast - Pete is up on his feet in no time. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • 2:53 mark - I like the random lady who approaches MacGyver in the club and asks if he wants to dance. 
  • 5:19 - we see a quick shot of the Phoenix Foundation sign with snow on it, and then there's snow on the ground at the end of the episode too.  It made me think, why couldn't the show have just owned the fact that they were in Vancouver instead of pretending it was LA?  They could have said that the Phoenix Foundation was consolidating operations in Vancouver and MacGyver and Pete had to move there for work. Maybe they were concerned that an American audience wouldn't want to watch a show about Canada, but then they could have just called it Seattle or someplace else up there.  
  • Exchange at 9:57: 
    • "I gotta know whether this involves something I can sleep with."  ~MacGyver
    • "What can't you....sleep with, Mr. MacGyver?"  ~Col. Collins
    • Not to get all junior high humor on you, but I feel like some metaphors got mixed up here. 
  • It's pretty low of Michael to pull the "oh I got you this jacket" routine on his dad in order to steal the passcode.  His character is more unlikable than I remembered.
  • 24:05 - love it when MacGyver yells at people to settle down. 
  • Why would you take a pill as an antidote when you sprayed the gas in someone else's face?  Not the sharpest pencil in the box.
  • MacGyver is dropping some serious knowledge in the mall, first about Sarpedon as a warrior in ancient Troy, then about how butterflies are classified.  He even works "lepidopterous" smoothly into a sentence. 
  • If you're holding a shovel and digging your own grave, wouldn't you take a swing at the guy with the gun standing a foot away?  What do you have to lose at that point?
  • 42:53 - some good MacGyver action music that we hear many times throughout the series 

Final Analysis:
Solid episode here.  I generally like episodes centered around the Phoenix Foundation or Pete, and this one has both.  And in addition to Phoenix there are some good locales like the 80's dance nightspot, health club, shopping mall, and country estate.  Coming up, time to get out of Season 4 and head over to Season 2! 


  1. This was indeed a very solid episode and our rankings are almost identical. While you're right that the actor playing Chaz and the thug in the helicopter were bad actors, the rest of the acting performances were fantastic. Don Stroud was great as always, Hank Stratton was a more charismatic choice to play Michael Thornton than the actor who played him in "Family Matter", and veteran character actor James Karen was a great villain playing Sanborn. But Dana Elcar put in one of his best acting performances in the series as the aggrieved father whose son has taken a dark turn. Whether or not "we're all to blame" for that fact that Michael turned into an entitled brat selling secrets to his nation's enemies as Pete mused in the epilogue is very much open for debate, however. The craftsmanship of the story was very nicely layered though, with Michael's ploy to steal the RAINS secrets to MacGyver's investigation (with Pete's inadvertent help) leading to the Michael Thornton connection.

    Plus I'm a sucker for Cold War-era cloak-and-dagger spy themes and this was one of the series' coolest, complete with microfilm containing spy secrets hidden on the wings of butterflies to assassins carrying around cartridges filled with cyanide at your neighborhood shopping mall. Pete's revival from near death by way of photo fix-it cocktail was also very cool. Lucky for Pete he was sprayed in the face with sodium thiosulfate in the era of Kodak rather than the era of Instagram! To pick up on one of your criticisms though, I always wonder how these monstrous villains of Sanborn's ilk manage to keep any loyal lieutenants when they so quickly dispose of every subordinate as soon as they've executed their order, from Dave Edwards to the guy with the cyanide pill to Chaz and Michael. Why does the guy holding the gun on them as Chaz and Michael dig their own graves not think Sanborn isn't gonna put him in the ground next?!?! Anyway, fun episode that I ranked #77.

    1. I also need to put a plug in for the dramatic music that played out during Michael's interrogation scene, one of three times in the series that it was deployed. This show's feature-film quality soundtrack is one more thing that makes it a joy to revisit every few years when I rewatch them.

    2. Good point about the villain who takes out his lieutenants - I was thinking the same thing. And Pete does give a great performance for sure, as does Michael and Papillon. I went back and rewatched the interrogation scene and you're right, some great music there.

    3. If you love Cold War vehicles, then you must be a big fan of The Americans. If not, get thee to your nearest Netflix and catch up stat! :)

  2. Just watched this one again (we're up to mid season 4 on CBS action on UK tv!) and feel, on reflection, that I ranked it a little harshly at 107. Enjoyed Pete, MacGyver's and Michael's interactions although I heartily disliked the spoilt ex-college kid vibe of the health club. Pete did a good job as the disappointed Dad and you wouldn't want to be the object of that joint Pete/MacGyver stare of dissapproval through the window!
    Another episode where MacGyver displays some less than skilful tailing abilities at the beginning (what is it with him following bad guys into a disco-bar?)but its always amusing to see him out of his milieu in a drinking and dancing club.He makes up for it with some great computer (presumably he must have hacked into the two systems where he tries to track down info on Edwards) and detective work later. Loved his expert knowledge on butterflies (couldn't resist checking out Papillio Sarpedon - its really Graphium sarpedon and is black and turquoise and found in Asia/Australia) and the antidote to Prussic acid (although he seemed a bit slow on the uptake there - the Intelligence guy seemed to be telling Macgyver what the gas was from the smell and how quickly it would take effect). Agree on both your comments re some of the other acting.
    One bit I wasn't so keen on was MacGyver jumping down on Samborne; normally I enjoy a good leap-on-bad-guy-from-on-high but Samborne, although evil, seemed a bit elderly for a roughhouse and that always makes me a bit uncomfortable.(I didn't like the fight between the elderly guys in 'Gold Rush' either.)
    Always enjoy episodes with stuff to research and this one met the brief with Greek heroes, butterflies and cyanide poisoning (apparently some people can't detect the bitter almond smell through a genetic trait, so maybe that's why MacGyver didn't guess it first!). Would probably swap this one over with with 'Collision Course' if doing the rankings again.

    1. I've swapped this one and Collision Course on your rankings page!

  3. I am watching my favourites again too during this re-run, and now there is not long to wait until February and the start of season six, hopefully! The main thing that I liked about this episode was the appearance of Don Galloway as Colonel Collins. I love the old series Ironside, in which Don played Detectve Sergeant Ed Brown, so it was really nice to see him alongside MacGyver. He didn't have a huge role but had enough authority to play it really well as the by-the-book law enforcer whilst maintaining the cool style of Ed Brown.