Sunday, January 25, 2015

#52: The Heist

Season: 1

To Watch:  Click Here (dubbed)

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:

MacGyver goes to the Virgin Islands at the behest of a senator to track down 60 million dollars worth of diamonds that were stolen by a casino magnate.  He teams up with the senator's daughter, Chris, to steal the diamonds back.  After winning big in the casino and causing a riot, they parachute out of a plane with the diamonds in the trunk of a car. 

Memorable Quote:
Your name MacGyver?  It's amazing, so is mine.  ~MacGyver

Lots of fun things to choose from, but my favorite part of the episode is where MacGyver cracks the safe by using crystal glasses.  He fills them with different amounts of liquid and then runs his finger across the lid of the glass to create a pitch, and the right sequence of pitches opens the safe.  To make the scene even better, he elicits the help of a parrot for help with getting the exact pitch.  I'm adding this one to the MacGyverisms list

An outrageous scene outside the hotel as Catlin fights three guys at once as part of a show.  Of course, Catlin beats them easily.  They're all holding sticks that look like pool cues, and Catlin doles out some brutal shots that would put the guys in the hospital.  I'm guessing this was a deleted scene from the USA broadcasts as it doesn't seem familiar.  While it helps to build Catlin up as a strong and dislikable villain, I'm not sure that the average tourist on vacation would enjoy watching guys beat each other up with sticks.

And if you look closely, you can see two young boys on roller skates as part of the crowd. 

Best MacGyverism:
See highlight. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Make yourself comfortable, I've got a lot of thoughts on this one! 
  • Fun fact #1: it's our 4th straight episode (and 5th out of 6) featuring a title in the format of: "The [insert one word here]."
  • Fun fact #2: it's another episode directed by acclaimed director Alan Smithee! Actually he's not really acclaimed, in fact he's not a real person at all.  As we discussed in the comments section of the Pilot, "Alan Smithee" is the generic name that the director used when he was embarrassed to be associated with a particular body of work.  
  • We start things off with Catlin (played by the same actor in The Odd Triple) murdering an accountant who brought him 60 million in diamonds.  He says, "You're an accountant, Simms, figure it out," before pulling the trigger - a line that doesn't make much sense. Later when MacGyver first meets Chris, the dialogue is a little clunky also, almost like some things got edited out.  Maybe this is why Alan Smithee got involved.    
  • 3:50 mark - how nice of MacGyver to extend a hand to help the young lady off the bus.
  • 6:38: "What if I were to just go in and...take the diamonds...from Catlin?"  That's immediately followed by the chomping of an apple and shooting the core into the trash can on the first try. The season 1 swagger is reaching some new heights. 
  • 8:48 - nice little imitation Bond music as MacGyver puts on a tux.  
    • "You look like James Bond."  ~Chris
    • "I feel like..James Bond."  ~MacGyver (in a brutal accent)
    • This is followed by looking in the mirror and trying to get his hair to stay down.  I'm not sure what to say about this brief scene: it's intentionally amusing and unintentionally amusing all at once.  I also don't remember it from the USA broadcast.  
  • 9:40 - Chris rides by MacGyver on a motorcylce and says "I'm in disguise," before zooming past.  It's becoming more clear as to why Alan Smithee got involved. 
  • Chris is a likable character, but the combination of her acting and her dialogue makes her seem like a lightweight. 
  • Whoa, it's Ralph as a casino security guy!  MacGyver, please punch him in the face - please please please!  
  • I like how MacGyver spots the lady being rude to the waitress, and then he decides she'll be a good target to embarrass as part of his master plan.  This particular MacGyverism was one I really liked as a kid: tying some thread to a paper clip and then attaching it to her dress zipper, then holding down the end of the string with his foot so the dress unzips as she walks away. She is embarrassed to be seen in her black undergarments, but given today's standards she'd practically be overdressed with that outfit.   
  • Cool trick he does to rig the dice.  I'm not sure what thing is in the bathroom he uses - must be a relic of the 80's. 
  • At the craps table, MacGyver orders a Virgin Mary - in future years this would have been a water or a glass of milk.  
  • 14:00 - another Bond reference.  This one I remember well.  I would think this episode must have been a lot of fun for RDA.   
  • Not sure why Catlin shows MacGyver the vault before presenting him with the proof of cheating.  And was MacGyver trying to get caught?  I can't tell if that was part of his plan.  I'm not sure why he would want to, and if he wasn't, then it was dumb to put the crooked dice in the drink.   
  • Chris faints to provide a distraction, and then somehow MacGyver ends up in a hallway immediately afterwards.  
  • Whoa, the security guards have come out firing!  Nice move by MacGyver to gas propel the wheeled drink tray at them.  
  • 18:54 - whoa, she's grabbing the hand!  MacGyver's charm is melting away the heart of another first season lass!  And then he gives her a wry smile that says, "Oh yeah, I'm MacGyver!"
  • 22:26 - whoa, she's taking a page from MacGyver's playbook with the gentle hand to the face!
  • Cool MacGyverism with the wires on the old-school clock hands touching at 2:10.  If they remade MacGyver today, he'd probably be a computer genius since computers are so omnipresent nowadays.  Hopefully they would still have him use "old-fashioned" things like clocks and paper clips. 
  • Not sure why MacGyver has to play the trick on the security camera.  It's not pointing at the door to Catlin's suite, and he's able to sneak under the camera without any problem. 
  • Another good MacGyverism by bending the laser light with a tube (which fortunately is the perfect length).  
  • The heist itself is great, from MacGyver's cracking the safe as mentioned in the highlight to Chris's manipulation of the casino games to create a riot.  As a kid, I was fascinated by when she holds up the magnet to the back of the slot machine and the quarters pour out - I wondered if it was really that easy!  
  • 39:43 - Chris runs out of the casino twice (once before and after the commercial).  
  • 42:00 - somehow MacGyver gets from Catlin's suite to his getaway car in about 30 seconds. 
  • Not super wild about the ending since it feels rushed, though the car parachuting out of the plane is memorable albeit insane and ridiculous.  And why doesn't Chris fall out when the car flips over and she's in the fetal position?  I would have buckled my safety belt.  Hopefully the car will get to the bottom before Catlin's plane does, but MacGyver and Chris don't seem to be in a rush if you get my drift. 

Final Analysis:
I loved this episode as a kid, and I still enjoy it as an adult.  Though I can somewhat understand why the director wanted to get all Alan Smithee'd up, I think he could have been proud of this.  It's fun as heck to watch, it's a great locale (casino in the Virgin Islands), Catlin is a solid villain, and there are MacGyverisms galore.  Next up, let's stay in Season 1 for another one I loved as a kid!   


  1. I should have seen this one coming with the "great director" teaser but I didn't. While I agree there were some clunky moments in this one, I'm still not quite sure why the director was ashamed to the point of going by "Alan Smithee". As I said, there was tremendous turbulence and turnover on the set in the first half of season 1, with only a couple of crew members surviving to the second half of the season so perhaps "Alan Smithee" was an offshoot of that squabbling. The script was solid and was the first contribution by my favorite season 1 writer--James Schmerer--who I just talked about from "The Assassin". MacGyver's first season "swagger" was hit or miss for me but I thought they got it right here. And while the actress who played Chris (Doran Clark) wasn't exceptional by any means (her "okay, okay I'm ready" line at the end when they were about to drive out of the airplane was particularly horrid) I thought she was good at bringing out that proper level of swagger, especially early in the episode.

    I'm by no means a gambler but I know that casinos don't let their customers handle the cards so the ring gimmick would never have happened in the real world, and I'm guessing the same could be said about the dice but it was all very clever and fun as hell. The actual heist was what made this episode a classic for me as the combination of the wine glass stunt (which despite seeming like the most ridiculous stunt MacGyver did when I was 8 is actually at least quasi-credible) breaking through Catlin's security system to the funneling of the diamonds down the drain pipe into the trunk of MacGyver's rental car is part of the reason I fell in love with this show in the fall of 1985 and why this episode still holds up despite its flaws nearly 30 years later.

    The ending did feel a bit off for whatever reason and I've never quite seen an airplane comparable to Catlin's but of course it was necessary for the great parachute escape at the end which was spectacular. Using a parachute on a car has been done before (they did it in a 1990s Oldsmobile commercial I believe) and is logistically doable despite the improbability of the scenario MacGyver encountered. At first I thought Chris was gonna throw up on MacGyver rather than kiss him in the final scene and it would have been pretty funny if she did but the kiss was decent too. The ratings were starting to blossom at this point after a dreadful start so audiences were starting to get in on the "MacGyver" secret and liking what they saw. Despite its warts, this one is all kinds of fun and I rank it #29.

  2. Also worth mentioning is that this was the first episode chronologically (or at least in the order that they aired) that didn't have an opening gambit and where Dennis McCarthy took over from Randy Edelman as composer. McCarthy is somewhat of a utility man in TV series compositions and didn't seem a likely candidate to sufficiently fill the shoes of Edelman, but I gotta say he impressed with most of his compositions on MacGyver, nicely capturing the science-meets-adventure tone of the show without sounding too much like Edelman. He repeated his compositions quite a bit but I really enjoyed some of his early work on this series in particular.

    1. Did Edelman only do the first 4 episodes or did he come back for more later?

    2. The early episodes aired out of sequence. The order USA aired the episodes was the order that they were produced. The first five episodes were all Edelman, according to production order...the Pilot, The Gauntlet, The Golden Triangle, Thief of Budapest, and Trumbo's World. McCarthy's first episode was Last Stand which was produced before The Heist, but The Heist was the first to air. Last Stand was originally scheduled to air on October 27, 1985, a week before The Heist, but was postponed until November 17 because the World Series, which was on ABC in 1985, went into a 7th game. Edelman returned to compose one more episode in the first season (The Prodigal) and then composed seven episodes in season 2 and three episodes in season 3.

    3. The out of order thing is interesting because I always associate in my head The Gauntlet as #2, Golden Triangle as #3, Thief of Budapest as #4, Trumbo as #5, Last Stand as #6, and The Heist as #7 (probably because of how they were on USA), but the DVD has switched things around.

      I'm curious to know what other ones Edelman did - I find it interesting and probably not coincidental that most of the ones you've mentioned he did are ones I haven't reviewed yet, and in both Trumbo and the Pilot I explicitly called out the music for being awesome. Don't feel like you have to type them all out - hopefully there's a link somewhere!

    4. In season 2, Edelman did Jack of Lies, Silent World, Three for the Road, Phoenix Under Siege, Out in the Cold, Bushmaster, and DOA: MacGyver. In season 3, he did parts 1 and 2 of Lost Love as well as Fire and Ice. There were nuggets of Edelman compositions stitched together in other episodes of seasons 1, 2, and 3 as well. Your favorite keyboard composition at the end of Trumbo's World came up again in another season 1 episode that was mostly composed with Dennis McCarthy, an episode you haven't yet reviewed. See if you can smoke it out as you progress up the list.

    5. Wow, Edelman was an absolute stud. I remember some of the season 2 episodes scores you mentioned as particularly good. I also remember well the keyboard composition in Slow Death when he makes the doll for the little girl on the train. And a variation of it comes up again in Ugly Duckling as he's comforting the young lady.

    6. Not sure if you're aware but Edelman won an Oscar (well, "co-won" anyway) for best sound on the early 90s movie "Last of the Mohicans". He's also married to 60s pop star Jackie DeShannon.

    7. I'm not familiar with her, but I do know Last of the Mohicans to be an awesome soundtrack. I know he did the Brisco County Jr. theme which is great too (and one that is heard all the time in the Olympics). I had never seen that show and actually got interested when I read about the music one day and saw that the show was supposed to be in the spirit of the Last Crusade (one of my favorite movies). I got about 3 episodes in and I'd like to keep watching, but I've been swept up in MacGyver fever lately so no time for that now!

    8. Let me know if you think Briscoe County Jr. is worth a look when you're done with it. I didn't get Fox back in 1993-94 when it was on originally so I never saw it. A friend of mine spoke highly of it though.

    9. Will do. After the first 3 episodes, I'd say it's not great, but it's good enough that I'd like to keep watching. It's very slapstick which I don't think both you and I particularly like, but I like Westerns and the music is good, so that's a plus.

  3. Another season 1 favourite languishing below your top 40! The setting is good, the swagger present in bucketloads and the MacGyverisms excellent including the classic detecting the laser with ash/cleaning powder/smoke technique. Like you, I'm not so sure about Chris but she a vehicle for some good MacGyver moments including the scene at the airport where she looks him up and down because he's not what she was expecting and the scenes in the apartment where MacGyver emerges tousled and appealing from under the duvet. (I don't think he'll be on the sofa next time!) The swagger is off the scale from the joke about his name to the apple core in the bin, the James Bond with an intriguing accent, and just about every scene! She's also another candidate for the pointless question 'What exactly is it you do MacGyver? to which no one ever gets a straight answer.

    I think Catlin says 'You're the accountant' before he shots his accomplice because he should be able to work out that Catlin's better off financially without having to share the proceeds.

    Like you, I enjoyed the whole casino business - you wouldn't think MacGyver would approve of gambling but he certainly knows all about it. The dice tampering with the (shoe?..floor?) polisher was great and I always enjoy a 'Think MacGyver' before he comes up with the solution.

    The heist itself is great fun with MacGyver in his laid- back element from fooling the camera via the classic laser detection to the wine glass safe crack. Little does he know it but he'll be talking to a bird to get the answers in a few seasons time! Good moment when you think he's been rumbled but has in fact deliberately called the villains back to the penthouse to check his safe cracking theory. Minor nitpick - he drinks the wine to lower the pitch but wouldn't that have the opposite effect? Fun riot in the casino - it almost makes you want to join in (there's a lot of extras for a MacGyver episode). Some good suspense wondering if they'll get the diamonds out in time although the gems do seem to defy all the laws of gravity with what seems like minutes for them to fall down the guttering and a very cool leap into the driving seat of the equally cool car.
    The end is pretty ridiculous but a great stunt none the less. All in all lots of fun, a caper plot but not as reliant on coincidence as some, great MacGyerisms and that swagger. In the top 20 I'd say.,

    1. You're right about less wine should raise the pitch, not lower - good spot! At some point soon I'm gonna go back and make a page for you with your approximate rankings and we'll see if you have more than 20 in your top 20!

  4. "I'm not sure why he would want to, and if he wasn't, then it was dumb to put the crooked dice in the drink."

    Yeah! I have always wondered why he did that!

    "If they remade MacGyver today, he'd probably be a computer genius since computers are so omnipresent nowadays. Hopefully they would still have him use "old-fashioned" things like clocks and paper clips."

    Well this comment of yours is VERY ironic now! Hahahahhaha! :) And I just want to say, that I love your blog. Thank you for all of your hard work! :)

    1. Haha, that's funny, forgot I wrote that! Thanks very much for your nice comment and glad you're enjoying the blog!

    2. "Haha, that's funny, forgot I wrote that!"

      Hahahahaha! :)

      "Thanks very much for your nice comment and glad you're enjoying the blog!"

      You're welcome! :)

  5. From this episode I remembered most of the action, the whole process of getting in and getting the diamonds out, except that I was sure that the vault’s lock was the combination one from Fire and Ice. And I didn’t remember anything James Bond in it, so I think I didn’t know who James Bond was when I first saw this episode, just like it was with the Go for It movie which I first saw around the same time, and, much as I loved it, I didn’t realise at all how much of it was James Bond parody.
    Did MacGyver get himself caught to make them think he wouldn’t be back and Chris didn’t realise...? Hard to believe he’d be that sloppy hiding the dice. Season 1 swagger rules! I wish that apple core got tossed in one uncut move with both MacGyver and the bin on screen and as far apart as possible though, he did a lot more when he threw the rock through Murdoc’s windscreen!
    I don’t know how the bird’s chirping didn’t keep opening the vault if the correct notes were stored waiting for the next one, saving you having to find out the right order. Today the cracking would be done by a smartphone recording the sound from the closet. It’s nice to see MacGyver drinking A LITTLE. While the later episodes’ total abstinence is healthier, it always makes me think of it as a sign that the person is not confident in being able to drink in moderation. But here it looks like he simply doesn’t like the taste which is understandable, offer alcohol to someone young enough to not know that it’s supposed to be enjoyable and see how they like it...
    Of course back then I didn’t know that the parachute was stock footage and, after seeing the horse and the helicopter just a couple of episodes earlier, I would never have guessed it! My favourite MacGyverism in this episode is the wires on the clock hands as a mechanical trick that could be set up the same way decades earlier.
    Interesting as it looked, I still don’t know what the purpose of the mirror over the camera was but it just made me realise what could have inspired my ten year old self to look up at a bank’s security camera and try to come up with possible ways to disable it, until my mum pointed out that the other camera opposite would be watching me doing it all. They were positioned so they could see each other besides the area, MacGyver had it lucky!
    I think I only didn’t keep the whole episode because of Chris’ occasional weird acting, sometimes I couldn’t decide if her lines (“I’m in disguise!”) or her delivery (“Okay, okay, I’m ready!”) was more strange. I don”t know if that’s why this otherwise fine episode was directed by Alan Smithee, but that is what I would have put it down to. But it’s so full of action and memorable MacGyverisms that I still taped a record 28 minutes of it!

  6. The machine MacGyver uses on the dice in the restroom is a shoe polisher. I've never seen one in a restroom before, but maybe I just don't stay in the right hotels. :)

    Epic villain casting in this episode - Vernon Wells, fresh off being the lead villain in Commando, opposite Schwarzenegger.

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  8. I liked this one. It was exciting, even if I did find a few of the MacGyverisms a bit too much at times - especially the one at the end. They should definitely have strapped themselves in at the very least! (Or did they and I missed it?)