Saturday, January 24, 2015

#53: The Wall

Season: 6

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
An elderly toy-store owner, Otto, asks MacGyver to go to Germany to find his granddaughter, Maria, who he hasn't seen since she was captured as an 8 year-old during their attempted escape from East Berlin. MacGyver finds her and brings her to America, but he gets suspicious of her impressive knowledge of American customs.  Some former East German Stasi agents are using Maria to get at Otto's gold reserve, and Otto and MacGyver begin to wonder if Maria is even Otto's granddaughter at all.  

Memorable Quote:
It's hard to believe she was my little Leipzhin.   ~Otto
Well, she's definitely a woman now.   ~MacGyver

I like the part in the toy shop where MacGyver puts a sock puppet on his hand and moves the puppet's mouth before punching out the bad guy. 

I don't really like Maria all that much, and it's hard sometimes to figure out her motives.  

Best MacGyverism:
While tied up in the toy store, opens up a bottle of slimy goo gel and pours it on the rope to loosen the ties. 

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • This episode aired about a year after the Berlin Wall came down.  My sister got a piece of the wall as a Christmas gift that year. 
  • A strong opening with the grandfather (aka "Opa") cleaning the toy soldiers as some dramatic music plays highlighted by drums.  The toy store is a great setting, and the flashbacks to the escape from East Berlin lend gravitas to the opening and the episode in general. 
  • 3:50 mark - who doesn't enjoy a bustling German restaurant with some Polka playing? The production team did a nice job of making the beginning feel like Germany rather than Canada.  Even once they're back in the States, the episode still has a European feel to it with much of the action taking place in the German-style toy store.  
  • 5:25 - quite the suit MacGyver has on, looks like it's at least 3 sizes too big.  He's certainly trying to make a good impression on the Fraulein!  
  • 9:15 - "You took my picture!  Mein Pho-to!"  We haven't heard the German language spoken this eloquently by MacGyver since he was talking about Applesuss in The Enemy Within.  
  • I like the idea of the Child Finder Program, where the computer can predict what someone will look like when they get older based on a picture.  I doubt that would actually work, but a quick internet search yields some results for "age-progression software" so it's at least out there.
  • A lot of things in this episode don't quite make sense, such as:
    • Why does MacGyver fly all the way to Germany and then only talk to Maria for 5 minutes?  True, she does end up coming back to the U.S., but I would have insisted on more time or else prearranged a meeting with her beforehand. 
    • How can Maria just leave her teaching job and move to America on a moment's notice?
    • Why did the Germans give the old man their gold in the first place?  They said it was for "safe keeping," but surely there were other places closer than L.A. they could have stashed it.  
    • When MacGyver exposes the Germans' laser with the smoke from his flare, why didn't they shut it off beforehand once they saw what he was up to?
    • Does the German agent really land in a coma from falling down the stairs?
    • There are a few more little things, but I'll stop now.
  • Great denouement with MacGyver playing the old-school hockey video game, and then Maria comes in and puts some verbal moves on him, leaving him tongue-tied and sheepish.  Maria doesn't really seem like his type, but we learn in MacGyver's Women that they do begin a relationship (albeit short-lived).   

Final Analysis:
Strong episode that is fun to watch and well-acted.  Despite some questions about the plot, it has a nice flow, and it keeps the audience guessing until the very end as to whether Maria really is the long-lost granddaughter of Otto's memory.  I also like the European flavor and the intensity that flows from the music.  Next up, an episode from a well-respected director!  

And if you're looking for more MacGyver, check out a new podcast that debuted last night called the Phoenix Foundation podcast.  It's a 2 man pod, and each week they're reviewing an episode starting with the Pilot.  


  1. I really liked this one too and actually thought the story was very solid. While a few of the points you bring up were a little fuzzy there was nothing in the narrative that I found close to disqualifying. I imagine they could have found someone closer to home to launder their gold but I'm assuming they wanted someone out of the country so as not to get busted by the less-than-forgiving East German government and knew they had an easy patsy in Otto since his granddaughter was under their control. And Maria seemed pretty definitive when MacGyver approached her so I can see why he gave up and didn't press the hostile Maria any further after she said no dice in no uncertain terms.

    I also liked the music that opened the episode and which was sprinkled intermittently throughout the hour. It really added some authenticity to the production and had a certain Cold War sound to it (if that's a thing!). I was always impressed with how the composers on this show captured the geography of a given episode's setting perfectly. The haunting images of the Berlin Wall added to that authenticity and I thought the conflict between Otto and Maria was generally well-played as well. The closing scenes with MacGyver running wild in a toy store was a clever gimmick and I also enjoyed how he used the red goo to slither his hands out of the ropes. And the cleverest part of the hour was hiding the gold in plain sight in the window display under the paint of the toy soldiers. Very cool how that was the first image of the episode and the writers made it as relevant to the story as it would become. Otto's decision to spare Maria's life despite the ambiguity of whether she was his real granddaughter or not was also well played and I loved Pete's reaction when he realized his child finder program whiffed and his great "gotcha" moment fell flat.

    I had mixed feelings about the epilogue. It was fun to see MacGyver get all squirmy when the "pretty girl" started hitting on him, something we had seen in limited doses before but never as pronounced as here. Like you though, I don't think Maria was the woman for MacGyver. She was so full of anger and hate with the capacity to wasn't her fault as she was effectively brainwashed since she was a child but you can't just shut that off after years of having it drilled into you. Why would a pacifist hippie like MacGyver be into that kind of woman? I just don't get why producers thought fans--who hated the idea of MacGyver cozying up to Nikki Carpenter three years earlier--would be any warmer to the idea of him hitting it off with Maria Romburg. And after their embarrassing encore act in the odious "MacGyver's Women" a few weeks later, Maria's fate was sealed as a short-timer. Nonetheless this was a solid hour of "MacGyver"....kind of the final throes of first-rate episodes before the show started to go soft. I ranked it #64.

    1. I also like the hiding the gold in plain sight with the soldiers - that was clever. Do you know if the show got anti-Maria letters similar to Nikki?

    2. Yeah it sounded like it was bad. RDA was on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee in February 1991 and said they got so much angry mail about Maria that they got rid of her very quickly. I think moreso than jealous women fans who didn't want to lose the fantasy of MacGyver being single and available, fans just wanted "MacGyver" to continue being a pure action-adventure show where the action was the main event and not have it turn into relationship drama.

  2. Age-progression software is used by law enforcement. (It probably doesn't work the way it does on TV though.)

    This one, we have ranked a lot closer to each other. I like this episode. And this is one of the ones that I remember watching during the original ABC run - b/c I remember the scene at the airport where Maria asks Mac for 'quarters' for the vending machine. That scene was removed from the USA version.

    And Maria - not one of the more favored guest stars and, tho she cozies up to Mac, they Put her on a bus b/c fans seemed to have issues with Mac having a regular g/f.

    1. Funny you mention that scene at the airport because I had a hunch that was the deleted scene since it wasn't as familiar to me as the rest of the episode.

    2. Yeah - it used to bug me b/c Mac's comment later about Maria asking him for quarters didn't make a lot of sense. It's a lot more believable to see her ask Mac and guzzle the root beer, *then* have Mac bring it up later.

    3. At least half of the deleted scenes on USA reruns were meaningful scenes that didn't serve the original production well to have deleted. It did make it that much more fun to explore the DVDs when they came out to "locate the deleted scene" close as any of us ever got to new MacGyver episodes in the new millennium. I was lucky in that I had recorded the original ABC broadcasts in seasons 5, 6, and 7 on VHS, so I only had to wait until 2005-2006 for full episodes for seasons 1-4.

  3. I agree, a solid episode here but not one that really resonates with me. There's something about MacGyver's styling in some of the later seasons that I'm not so keen on. The earlier episodes have a vintage feel of style and lighting whereas some of later ones just seem old-fashioned . However, I agree they created a good atmosphere in the Bierkellar and European feel to the toy shop and apartment,;maybe its the small-scale, confined setting of the latter that I don't like.
    Not sure why MacGyver interrupts Maria's working day and where did he get that awful suit? I'm not a fan of the overly-baggy jeans and black bomber jacket for that matter. MacGyver doesn't put up much of a fight considering he's the one with the element of surprise. He comes off worse later as well and its Maria who shows him how to do it with a very unconvincing karate chop on the stairs. Wouldn't the Phoenix foundation have checked out that Mosel(?) was an ex Stasi agent and I don't like the brutal scenes where they are questioning Otto.
    I quite like the clues about Maria's past gradually being put together, although it was confusing throughout and I actually thought the e-fit was exactly like her. The toy shop offered endless possibilities for MacGyver and I enjoyed the goo and the sock puppet but it all just seemed a bit too easy to defeat the supposedly ruthless ex Stasi agents.
    I enjoyed the ending with Macgyver playing the hockey game when he's supposed to be working and maybe he should have seen Maria's advances coming, but his reactions are amusing.
    Ranked about the same as Mark for me, slightly lower, somewhere in the early 70.s I'd say.

    1. I'm not a fan of the overly-baggy jeans and black bomber jacket for that matter.

      Alas - that was the style of the times. Kinda like in the 70's there were only bell-bottoms; in the 90's there were only baggy jeans. Not that MacGyver was ever a fashion plate by anyone's standards. =)

  4. "liebchen", not "Leipzhin". It's the dimunitive form of "loved one". Means something like "darling" in German.

  5. "Lowlight:
    I don't really like Maria all that much"

    Yeah I don't really like her all that much either!

    "and it's hard sometimes to figure out her motives."

    Yeah no kidding!

    "Maria doesn't really seem like his type"

    I agree with that!

  6. Just saw a rerun of this episode on Norwegian TV2.

    Actually liked this episode, as I could not remember the plot from the first time I saw it.

    This was much about that gold, I presume. With the implicants all playing their parts of a plot, taking part of some money business.

    Why was the old man hiding all the gold? Was there more gold passing through his store than just those toy soldiers.
    Guess that a toy store with all its small transfers can be exploited for so much more other suspicious business than just gold smugling?

    Is that girl really his granddaughter? A modern day DNA-test would have proveed for sure. Those tests were not available in 1990 off course?
    Despite her revealing the about the dog sleeping in bed, and the repair thread of the teddy, that still could have been information that the real Maria, could have told to the imposter...

    As she has been a Stasi agent for 15 years, she has probably been to NY before? Have they even met and had business with eachother, Phoenix foundation not knowing about it?
    Was that thing about Opa going to Phoenix to locate granddaughter, just a plot to get Maria into the Phoenix foundation?

    Anyone remember that joke the Stasi agent posing as a friendly, said, about Germany surveiling all americans? ....
    Was she originally intended to be a series regular, representing a double agent in their organization? Posing as a love interest of MacGyver?

    All these are typical loose ends, that would have been intersting to see follow up episodes to.