Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#81: Legend of the Holy Rose

Season: 5

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
Zoe, a college professor and childhood next-door neighbor of MacGyver, asks him to help her find the Holy Grail.  He agrees, despite having just gotten back from a rescue mission in Colombia. They traverse the globe in a race to find the grail before Erich Von Leer, a greedy magnate who will stop at nothing to get the grail in his hands. 

Memorable Quote:
Well, now.  Ain't you just the one, Ducky?   ~Eunice

See MacGyvervism.

What do MacGyver and I have in common?  Zoe drives us both a little nuts.  She's a nice person and means well, but I find her annoying, though I suppose that was how the character was supposed to be portrayed.  

Best MacGyverism:
Where to begin?  How about in the beginning when MacGyver builds a plane out of a fan, bamboo sticks, garbage bags, and duct tape.  That's right, an actual plane that he uses to fly himself and a prisoner off of a cliff.  Without a doubt, it's the craziest, most elaborate thing he's ever built in the history of the show.  And in just about any other episode, it'd be the top MacGyverism.

But I have something even more amazing in mind.  If you look at my top 5 lists I've been keeping, the MacGyverism category is technically the greatest MacGyverisms/Escapes.  And for my money, MacGyver's most astounding escape ever is when he's strapped underneath the Edgar Allan Poe-like swinging pendulum.  It's not his most elaborate MacGyverism ever.  In fact, it's not elaborate nor is it really a MacGyverism.  But it's the one that stuck with 10 year-old me as being the most challenging and miraculous of all his escapes.

Let's set the scene: the pendulum is swinging and is getting close to cutting MacGyver in half. Normally MacGyver is cool and calm under pressure, but here he's actually sweating and is visibly stressed, like he knows he's in a bad spot.  He looks around and gets an idea, but he's only 1% of the way there.  The other 99% lies in the execution of his plan.

He wriggles off his right shoe and flings good!  Now he takes his left shoe, wriggles it, and flings it too.  It flies in slow motion.  It hits a wooden handle which causes another handle to fall. This handle runs into a knight's sword.  The sword knocks a mask with a hairy wig from the shelf above into the water tank that controls the pendulum.  The hair clogs up the mechanism in the tank and the pendulum stops just in time.  If this ever actually happened, it would be the most amazing thing to ever happen in the history of humanity.

So let's add the plane and the pendulum shoe escape to my MacGyverism list as #2 and #1 respectively.  Quite a memorable escape - I don't know if it will stay #1 until the end, but it will take something quite special to knock it off its perch.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The Season 5 opener gets going right off the bat!  MacGyver is rescuing an American hostage from a drug cartel in Colombia, one of the few times that he's in Latin America where they use a real country's name.  
  • If the government knew where the hostage was being held, wouldn't they forgo stealth and instead send in 100 commandos to blow things up?  The downside of that approach is that there could be collateral damage and the risk of the hostage getting caught in the crossfire.  Though one could say there is risk to the hostage going off a cliff in a plane made of bamboo and duct tape.  
  • Speaking of the plane, I like how MacGyver tells the hostage to buckle in with "the buckle" being a half-inch piece of rope around their waists, like that's going to do a darn thing when you're in a 5 foot, open-air plane.  
  • "It'll never fly," the hostage says as they're about to take off.  At this point if I were MacGyver I'd push him out of the plane and fly off myself.  
  • I didn't realize until after watching the episode and checking IMDB that the hostage is Robin Mossley, the same actor who played Wilt Bozer in several episodes.  I went back and looked at him and while I see the resemblance, I would have never spotted that the first time around.  
  • How in the world one would ever steer or land that plane, I'll never know, but now is not the time to bring the mood down with realism.  In fact, the same holds true of this entire episode - let's just sit back, relax, suspend disbelief and go off the ledge in the plane with MacGyver.
  • What is it with people?  First Jack Dalton cleans out MacGyver's apartment, and now Zoe disattaches his houseboat from the mainland.  Why can't they just ask for MacGyver's help like normal people?  And which one is worse?  I originally was thinking the latter because I had thought the houseboat ended up in the ocean, but it didn't go all that far.  Still, I wouldn't dream of helping Zoe after she pulled a stunt like that. 
  • And how did they film that scene?  Did they actually take the houseboat and set it adrift?  Today it would just be CGI'ed.  My mother actually saw the real houseboat on a trip to Vancouver, though she said it's in a gated area and you can't get too close. Apparently the outside has been painted gray.  
  • Runner up for memorable quote:
    • "Zoe, will you hold it?!"  ~MacGyver
    • "What?"  ~Zoe
    • "Just tell me what you want me to do!"  ~MacGyver
    • "Help me find the holy grail."  ~Zoe
    • "Indiana Jones already did that.  I saw the movie."  ~MacGyver
  • I love how MacGyver drops an Indiana Jones reference - they were two of my biggest heroes as a kid.  All he would have had to do was mention Crocodile Dundee and Robin Hood and I would have been set for life.
  • By the way, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is in my top 5 of favorite movies of all time.  The first 15 minutes especially are beyond brilliant.  I wish Zoe would have followed up MacGyver's quote with, "You saw the movie?  What was your favorite part?"  I'd love to know. Other Indy parallels with this two-parter include:
    • rope swinging through a castle window to rescue someone
    • stopping at the crossroads to discuss the next move
    • the brotherhood looking for the grail with their own motives
  • When Zoe has about 25 students doing an archaeological dig on the football field, I'd say the football coach's reaction is actually understated to what it would really be. And then I like how the coach tells her that she'd better have the field ready by tomorrow's game.  Uh, coach, there are giant holes all over the field - I think you better find an alternate location. 
  • It's the first MacGyver Project appearance for Christopher Neame, who also appears in episodes ranging from Season 1 to 7.  Great actor, and I'm putting his Erich Von Leer character as #2 for now in the villain list behind Murdoc.  And his brother, Nicolas Von Leer, attempts revenge on MacGyver in Eye of Osiris.  Getting back to Erich, I have to ask why he feels the need to kill frequent guest star Gerry Bean (unlike Robin Mossley, I recognized Bean right away - I guess I've been watching a lot of MacGyver lately).  Von Leer is upset that Bean was seen by Zoe and MacGyver, but it's not like they don't know that Von Leer is behind it.  
  • We're back at the University of British Columbia library where Hell Week was filmed. It would've been a nice touch if David Ryman had been around as an adjunct science professor and could have stopped by and said a quick hello to MacGyver.  
  • I've always been a fan of library treasure hunting research scenes.  I remember as a kid after watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for the first time, I went to the local library and got some books on the Holy Grail, hoping that maybe there'd be a clue I could follow.  
  • We've seen Claire Brown in at least 3 other episodes, and here she is in a fun role as a sarcastic English villain. 
  • The castle is a great setting, and I love all the action that happens there.  Now when MacGyver is crawling from the fireplace to the desk to get the artifacts back, there's no way that Von Leer and the Professor wouldn't hear him from 10 feet away.  No one is that quiet.  That is more unbelievable than building a plane from scratch.  
  • 18:30 of Part 2 - an amazing flying headfirst leap by MacGyver to take out Shima
  • 28:30 of Part 2 - "See that ring of rocks?  As far as I can tell, they're not indigenous to this area." Bet you didn't know MacGyver was also an expert in the geology of coastal France. 
  • How did MacGyver's hair get so dark?  It's practically black!  Maybe it was the soot from the fireplace. 
  • "Do regular lasers do that?"  ~Zoe.  "No, he must have impregnated his wall with gunpowder."  ~MacGyver.  Turns out "impregnate" can mean "to cause (a material) to be filled or soaked with something."  Learn something new every day from MacGyver. 
  • Maybe they should have thought to dismantle the laser before going into the cave. Fortunately for them the sun stayed behind a cloud the entire time until they were out of the cave and needed the sun to emerge.  And pretty impressive that the laser is able to knock Von Leer back off his feet like a defensive lineman would - that is one powerful optical pump! 
  • The grail looks less like the cup of Christ and more like a gravy boat.

Final Analysis:
I like these episodes - I don't get super excited about them, but the MacGyverisms are great and the action in the castle is fun and enjoyable.  The ending, however, I find to be anticlimactic and devoid of energy.  When I watch Indiana Jones "leap over the lions den", the music and the moment rise to the momentous occasion of what it must be like to find the Holy Grail.  Here, it's just like another day at the office.  Zoe says, "1 artifact," as in "I'm disappointed that all I got out of this was 1 artifact."  Zoe, you're holding the Holy Grail!!!  Show some excitement!

If you've read this whole thing, thank you!  Coming up next, one of RDA's favorite episodes and our first (hopefully of several) guest star interview!  


  1. Great episode! Thanks, Nick for the commentary.

  2. Now you've gone and done it! You've broached my top-10! Actually, considering I count parts 1 and 2 as separate episodes, you've done it twice! I ranked Part 1 as my #9 and Part 2 as my #10. Before I get to singing the episode's praises, I'll acknowledge a couple points of agreement that I thought stood out as minor problems with this episode. Like so many female characters on this show, Zoe was spectacularly annoying, and needlessly so. She made MacGyver act out of character in her presence to boot, particularly in Part 1. And the ending was a bit anti-climactic. The whole point of finding the Temple of the Holy Rose was to find the Holy Grail, yet Zoe acted like it was a letdown that they walked away with what Indiana Jones did not rather than all the goofy statues of peace-loving societies that were somehow supposed to "change the world as we know it". Also, the optical pump was sheer brilliance, but it cheapened the ingenuity of the concept when a beam of sunlight filtered through the lenses of the scepters managed to pick up and carry Von Leer to his death in the exploded mountain. They could have done better than took the fake mountain entry being "impregnated with gun powder" to cause the initial explosion so I'm not buying that a beam of filtered sunlight can subsequently work as some sort of superpowered weapon of death. Also good catch on how MacGyver's hair turned black in the middle of Part 2. Not sure what happened there, but since this was the first episode of Season 5, I suspect RDA has his hair colored that way during summer break and they filmed those scenes in Part 2 before the rest of the episode...perhaps because it was the only sunny day in gloomy Vancouver in the forecast!!!!

    Not onto why both parts of this episode are in my top-10. Everything about it had an epic feel to it.....a "this is above and beyond what episodic television does" sort of feel.....from the caliber of the MacGyverisms (two of the all-time top 10 which you capably sung the praises of) to the globe-trotting adventurism to the houseboat floating in the bay to the escapes from English castles to the incredibly clever quirks of Ambrose's vision being realized in the second half of part 2, optical pump and all. This was a big episode that transcended the scope of network television. Perhaps coming in the immediate shadow of a multimillion-dollar Indiana Jones movie undermined the episode's bigness though, which is a shame. Still, the suspense was gripping, the original music was fantastic, and the continuity of the episode's bigness from scene to scene rarely waned....standing out to me even when I was 12 years old watching it originally. Whatever modest grievances I had with the aforementioned narrative liabilities were and continue to be easy for me to ignore compared to the tremendous assets.

    I feel the need to point out that--with the possible exception of "Mask of the Wolf"--you've put all of the high adventure/big budget/treasure hunt episodes in your bottom half. I'm sure you're not alone in that preference among MacGyver fans, but the reason the crew made "The Lost Treasure of Atlantis" as one of the TV's post-series telefilms was the reverence among fans for those episodes based on fan mail. Our biggest disparity of opinion--thus far at least--is over the treasure hunt adventure episodes as I really think they bring out the best in the show, both creatively and in terms of production quality.

    1. Uh oh, I poked the bear! I was bound to crack your top ten sooner or later! I like your theory on RDA's black hair - seems very plausible. Regarding our high adventure episode differences, my rankings (and my decision-making processes in general) are done more out of feeling and emotion than rationality. So the episodes that are higher on my list generally are there because of the way they make me feel, and it's very subjective (I bet that many of the ones in my top 10 will surprise people). Stuff like production value and cinematography I am somewhat aware and can appreciate, but it doesn't do much for me on its own - it has to have a corresponding emotional component. But even though it's not in my top half, I definitely like this episode and all the ones from this point on, it's just a question of to what degree.

    2. I get it...just giving you a hard time. There are a number of episodes very high on my list that I suspect wouldn't be high on a lot of other people's lists for the same reason. Having seen the episodes as many times as I have though, I feel I've developed a greater appreciation for detail and that's why some episodes have really grown on me over the years while others have slumped.

    3. Maybe they used halloween costume hair color, the kind in the tube, or theatre paint on hair.

  3. Sorry Mark but the Indiana Jones style episodes are not my favourites. Saw an interview with RDA snatched in a carpark where he said that the bamboo airplane was his favourite MacGyverism but I find it way too complicated although miles better then the Wasteland contraption. Zoe is annoying. Poor MacGyver he comes back exhausted and she tows his house boat out to sea. Love his stripey t shirt in these scenes though. I do appreciate the build up of suspense as we see her creeping round the outside and assume its the Medellin cartel come to seek revenge. Not quite sure why MacGyver follows her around making out he's not going to get involved when we all know he is really. We then shift to England.... and the hilarious English accents, the like of which haven't been heard since Dick Van Dyke meets Victorian flower-seller! Why the writers peppered the script with Duckies and Dearies is a mystery to me no one has spoken like that here for about 100 years. If Zoe is an archaeology professor and well versed in church architecture why did it take MacGyver remembering a baptism to work out the clue was in the font? I didn't like his rather crass tipping of Eunice to get some extra time in the horror museum - it was rather insulting and smacked of American imperialism to me - not MacGyver's usual style. The 'traditional English breakfast' joke was also annoying - cold toast and prune juice - I think not! How did MacGyver manage to throw the flag rope and pole so high - the castle walls were much higher than anyone could throw up to! Not sure why he had to work out how to get Zoe to throw the rope down the other chimney - he should have been able to climb up -think of Victorian chimney sweeps. They escape and rent a plane remarkably quickly and easily - would you rent one to someone covered in soot? There's a whole lot of guff from MacGyver to Zoe about 'you're talking about changing the world as we know it' - how so? There's also some interpretation from Zoe of the ' ring o' roses' nursery rhyme linking it to the standing stones when as far as I know its about the plague and its symptoms. I also didn't like the artefacts they kept finding; they looked cheap, flimsy and over-elaborate.Like you I thought the ending was pretty poor too. Reading this back it all sound rather negative, I know,but there was some to be had too. I guess I was just disappointed that a UK episode wasn't better and would have rated this one somehere in the 90's.

    1. Sorry, that second to last sentence should read ' but there was some fun to be had too'

    2. Good observations, thanks Al. On behalf of all Americans, I apologize for the cheesy English stereotypes! Are you an English football fan? They now show a lot of games in the U.S. I've always been a Man U. fan (and I always feel like I should apologize for that, given that I normally support the underdog in other things) and the last few years I've grown to be a Swansea fan also.

      I've seen the RDA "interview" in the parking lot also. The poor guy was doing some grocery shopping when he got ambushed by someone with a camera phone looking to make a headline. I got the feeling that it wasn't necessarily his favorite MacGyverism but one that he remembered when put on the spot.

    3. Interesting to hear your interpretation as someone from England. I can sort of understand your nitpicks as I grew up in Minnesota--where MacGyver was from and where several of the episodes were set--and I had a few pet peeves about those episodes as well. The movie "Fargo" got on my nerves for a lot of reasons, but the goofy depictions of Minnesotans was at or near the top of that list.

    4. Apology accepted! I think I just wasn't in the best of moods when writing about this one - we can take a joke really! It's interesting to hear about Minnesotans too; I like the fact that RDA/MacGyver is proud to be from Minnesota maybe because it seems unusual for a tv hero and I don't know much about the state. With my untrained ear regarding US accents I often wondered why he seemed to sound so hick sometimes and not others - he often seems to put it on, especially in the earlier episodes when doing voiceovers - may be that was why, as you said once, he didn't like the voice-overs much- perhaps he was directed to over-emphasise the accent? And yes, my family are keen footie fans although they would say I'm a 'fairweather' supporter. However, I'm sorry but Man U is not considered a real fans' team by those of us whose teams are in the lower leagues like Brentford, now near the top of the championship. I'd stick with Swansea for some true footie cred!

  4. Thanks for your professional approach in your episode analysis,you were lucky to have seen this series first time.I really appreciate RDA's acting in SG 1 which prompted me to investigate this as soon as CBS action added this to their schedule.To stumble upon your website was lucky,you have made an Englishman appreciate your knowledge,keep it up........Dave.

    1. Thanks very much Dave, glad you discovered and are enjoying the site and the show!

  5. Back then when I watched the pendulum swinging down down down, oh man that was stressful!!!!!! I was thinking how is he going to get out of this one?!!?! Love how stressed Macgyver was and how sweaty he was! Great episode! Loved how the cleaning lady showed up and screamed when she saw him! Hahahaha! Zoe reminds me of Penny Parker. Talking way too much and too fast. I love Indiana Jones movies!!!! Snakes? I hate snakes! Hahaha!

    "I didn't realize until after watching the episode and checking IMDB that the hostage is Robin Mossley, the same actor who played Wilt Bozer in several episodes. I went back and looked at him and while I see the resemblance, I would have never spotted that the first time around."

    Really?!!?!?! I didn't recognize him! WOW!!!! Well thanks Nick! You are full of information! :) I love this blog!

  6. Just watched this one and noticed a hilarious resemblance between the hostage and Jim "Ernest" Varney.

  7. "Nicholas Sweedo says Haha, thanks Sonya!"

    You're welcome! :)

  8. Colombians with Mexican accent. Funny!! 😂

  9. That Zoe was really a horribly selfish person, wasn't she? Not only for messing with MacGyver's house, but she destroys the football field because she thinks football is stupid. One seriously self-centered chick!

  10. When I first watched MacGyver (about in my teenage years) I liked these puzzle treasure hunts. Now when I'm (much) older it's kinda hard to believe the plot but still it's fun and at least the nostalgic value is there. Eunice character is good in my opinion. Mac's extremely unlikely escape struck me as impossible even when I was a kid but I still was anxious all the way through if he can make it. Also the super-slow laser was really annoying even back then because I already knew light travels at enormous speed and would have never worked like that - I had to suspend a lot of disbelief. But all in all pretty good episode of one of my favourite genre (puzzle solving adventure) so I would rank this quite high if I ever ranked it :D